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The poet G. Souris and his dedication

When power causes inspiration

In the grass that covered
causes and effects 
one must lie down
with an ear of a corn in his teeth
and stare at the clouds.

A stanza of the poem "End and Beginning", 
by the Polish poet Wisława Szymborska

In the spring of 1883, our athlete after many years’ absence on the American continent, returned to Europe with a very glorious reputation accompanying him. He first appeared in Marseilles, which was his first European stop, and from there he travelled reaching Constantinople, where he gave presentations of his supernatural power both in public places and in the Yildiz palace where he presented himself before the Sultan and his courtiers. His presence in the capital of the Ottoman Empire had caused a pan-Hellenic frenzy and a great commotion both in Europe and in Turkey. Newspapers – the only mass media at the time – wrote glowing comments about Panagi’s performance, even trying to convey to their readers every detail about him. So we know that during those glorious days, Coutalianos achieved triumphant victories against the Sultan’s most famous wrestlers. Among them stood out such names as that of the Armenian porter Simon, who was reputed to be the strongest of all in Constantinople, the arch-equestrian of the saddle Halil, the French wrestler Doublier who had placed himself in the service of the Sultan, the famous wrestler and army officer Kel Alico as well as many others about whom we will speak more extensively in our upcoming articles. The reactions and comments about Panagi’s victories in the heart of the Ottoman Empire were varied and as one would expect, the inhabitants of the small newly formed Greek kingdom had every reason to be proud of their athlete. Among the Greek artists who in those days drew inspiration from the triumphs of Coutalianos, was also another great Greek poet. Georgios Souris (1853-1919), the great satirist, who few know was nominated as a candidate for the Nobel Prize, by the philosopher Max Nordau (1849-1923).

G. Souris in a chinise ink sketch, drawn by the hand of blogger K. Michos.

Souris’s poems circulated through the pages of the newspaper “Romios”, the only publication in the world philological periodicals, which described the daily news using exclusively metered verses.

The logo of “Romios” newspaper

With his inexhaustible sense of humor, Souris wrote a cheerful poem entitled “Panagis Coutalianos”. Its lyrics take us to the Sultan’s palace, where Panagis, as we mentioned above, achieved great victories. The poet concludes by hinting at the Greeks’ desire for national integration, asking the Ottomans to hand over Constantinople to the Greeks. We note of course that approximately forty years later, the attempt to achieve this goal will end in the devastation of the Asia Minor Catastrophe (1922). Below is Souri’s poem, both in its original version and translated into English.

In Constantinople a certain Panagis is a lad
and can by himself choke a lion
he found himself fighting before the Sultan
with an Armenian wrestler very tall.
Ultimately, however, the Armenian was defeated
and Panagis received the applause.
The women of the palace watched him secretly
the Sultan and the other courtiers shouted "well done" to him
while Panagis was proud of the cheers
and the earth shook at his every step.
But then the pro wrestler of Sultan Abdul Hamid also appeared
asking that he also confront Panagis,
but he too was defeated, like the previous one.
In front of Panagi everyone looked weak.
I forgot to tell you that the mighty Panagis
comes from the Greek race
but even without telling you, I think each of you feels it,
that only the Greeks possess such bravery.
The others were not fortunate enough to have such grace
And every lad is a proper Greek.
So let the glorified Sultan learn from me,
That in Greece there is not only one Panagis.
Here I am like him many
and he would do very well to give us back Constantinople.
April 1883
Kostas Michos

Kostas Michos



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