Report: The last of the Calabrian Greeks

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Report: The last of the Calabrian GreeksThere exists nowadays a tiny enclave of Greek-speaking people in the Aspromonte Mountain region of Reggio Calabria that seem to have survived millennia

By: John Kazaklis, http://istoria.life

Italian as we know it today was not always spoken throughout Italy, greekreporter.com notes in the following article:

The Italian language did not become the staple language until well into the end of the 19th Century during the process of Italian unification, or the Risorgimento. Until then, the Italian peninsula was made up of Italo-Romance dialects and smaller minority languages that were differentiated by region and historical influences. Once unification was total, the Tuscan dialect was ushered into power as the official language of the Italian nation. This became the beginning of the modern end of the Greek language in Calabria, or what it is known today as Greko.

WHY SHOULD IT MATTER?

There exists nowadays a tiny enclave of Greek-speaking people in the Aspromonte Mountain region of Reggio Calabria that seem to have survived millennia…perhaps since the Ancient Greeks began colonizing Southern Italy in the 8th and 7th Centuries BC. Their language is called Greko. They survived empires, invasions, ecclesial schisms, dictators, nationalistic-inspired assimilation, and much more. Greko is a variety of the Greek language that has been separated from the rest of the Hellenic world for many centuries. There are various population estimates circulating, but after I visited the region in April 2017 and sat down with several community leaders, the clearest estimate of remaining Greko speakers seems to be between 200-300 and numbers continue to decrease.

To help bring more perspective, Greek was the main language and ethnic element all throughout what we know today as Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia, and Eastern Sicily until the 14th Century. Since then, the spread of Italo-Romance languages, along with geographical isolation from other Greek-speaking regions in Italy, caused the language to evolve on its own in Calabria. This resulted in a separate and unique variety of Greek that is different from what is spoken today in Puglia.

A BRIEF HISTORY

The struggle for the survival of Hellenism after antiquity is usually associated with Ottoman occupation in the Eastern Mediterranean, not the Italian peninsula. Few history books I read growing up ever mentioned any type of Greek history or presence in Italy after the glorious era of Magna Graecia. But to dig a little deeper means that we must look at what happened to this ethno-linguistic group after antiquity.

There are many theories or schools of thought regarding the origin of the Greko community in Calabria. Are they descendants of the Ancient Greeks who colonized Southern Italy? Are they remnants of the Byzantine presence in Southern Italy? Did their ancestors come in the 15th-16th Centuries from the Greek communities in the Aegean fleeing Ottoman invasion? The best answers to all of those questions are yes, yes, and yes. This means that history has shown a continuous Greek presence in Calabria since antiquity. Even though different empires, governments, and invasions occurred in the region, the Greek language and identity seemed to have never ceased. Once the glorious days of Magna Graecia were over, there is evidence that shows that Greek continued to be spoken in Southern Italy during the Roman Empire. Once the Roman Empire split into East (Byzantine) and West, Calabria saw Byzantine rule start in the 5th Century. This lasted well into the 11th Century and reinforced the Greek language and identity in the region as well as an affinity to Eastern Christianity.

Today, there is more evidence of a Byzantine legacy rather than an Ancient Greek or Modern Greek footprint.

Read full article here.

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: Marcus Andersson  License: CC-BY-SA

Source: greekreporter.com

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