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Snapshot of the life of the sailors of the Sea of ​​Marmara

Introductory statements

Some intresting details

“Ι wonder how, without knowing me, you described me so accurately.”

Th. Valtinos, Three portraits, ed. Kastaniotis, p.11

The time and the place of his birth

The Greek War of Independence of 1821 lasted seven whole years. This period of time was enough to destroy those places whose inhabitants dared to raise their stature in the central administration of the Ottoman Empire. Like any similar war, the one that broke out in March 1821 had, apart from its final outcome, many tragic consequences. The southernmost parts of the Balkan peninsula, which were at the center of events and later became the territory of the new Greek state, were slow to find their “steps” and for many decades were inhospitable places, plagued by poverty and anarchy.

His father

Many of those who survived chose to leave once and for all the land that gave birth to them, since the future was extremely ominous. One of them was a man named Antonis Kaliantzis or Kaliontzis, who left a small village in Tripoli, Peloponnese, to settle, after many wanderings, on an island in the sea of Marmara. This island is Coutalis, which today is within the borders of Turkish territory and is called Ekinlik.

(“Athletic Echo” March 9, 1951/ February 22, 1951) Coutalianos’ father was rumored to be very powerful (so possibly the gift of strength was hereditary). When he happened to be in Izmir in Asia Minor, he killed a bear with his own hands, because it had attacked him while he had gone hunting with some of his friends. The naive painter E. Spatharis depicts exactly this scene in this particular sketch. Unfortunately, a little later, the power of this man will attract the envy of a nobleman of the island of Lesvos, who killed him by poisoning him. The father of the painter Sotirios, who was himself a painter and shadow theater actor, happened to see Coutalianos up close and he describes this experience in his memoirs (publications: ΠΕΚ/ 2020).
The father (Sotirios/left), with his son (Evgenios/right) working as shadow theaters actors and  artists.

His mother

At that time, only Romans lived on this island, that is, Greek-speaking citizens of the Ottoman state who were mainly engaged in fishing and trade. Among them was Antonis Kaliantzis, mentioned in our text, who took root on the island and started a family. His wife, who was called Zacharenia, came from a village in Thrace, Myriophytos (today’s Murefte, Turkey) and with her he had four children, two boys and two girls. When she was pregnant with her fifth child, Antonis left the island to work as a sailor on a ship.We know about this man that he was naturally strong and in fact, whenever he had the opportunity, he participated in various wrestling matches organized by various itinerant athletes, as it was customary in many places at that time. On one of his journeys, when the ship he was on reached Lesvos, he happened to fight against three Turkish wrestlers whom he defeated. The fact that a gavur, that is, an infidel, managed to defeat three Muslims, caused the vengeful fury of the Pasha of Lesbos, who planned the poisoning of Antonis and his unjust death.

Article from the Greek language newspaper “Atlantis” published in the USA. In this article entitled “Myriophyto” a historic description is given of this city which today is in the territory of Turkey and is now called Murefte. This city in the past was mainly inhabited by Greeks and in this city Coutaliano’s mother was born. Atlantis, May 8,1913.

His birthday

In the meantime, however, back in Koutali on March 7, 1847, his wife Zacharenia had given birth to their fifth child who did not have time to meet his father. This child, named Panagis, is the hero of our story.

The port of Mytilene in Lesvos. Coutalianos’ father was murdered on this island. The sketch is drawn by F. Kontoglou.
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