The lion's tail

Lion in the Greek manuscript of the Physiologus (see below), made in Venice in the early 16th century, which in 1587 come from the property of the great Hungarian humanist and doctor Johannes Sambucus (János Zsámboki) to the Viennese Imperial Court Library (today Austrian National Library) (Cod. Phil. Gr. 290)

I have already mentioned, that the translator of Umberto Eco sometimes comes across passages, where the master (and his editor), similarly to good Homerus, fell asleep, or rather did not check in the impetus of the narration whether the facts only vaguely living in his memory conform to the reality. Earlier I used to add my corrections in footnotes, until the publisher, shocked by the number of notes, asked me to rather correct the text itself, since Eco (and his editor) would have written the same, had they looked after it. Since then I have done so, but to keep track of what I do, I write the more complex cases here in the blog. Like the last time I did with Eratosthenes’ well, or I will do now with the lion’s tail.

The lion’s tail came here, or rather into the chapter on bestiaries of Eco’s new book, from the Physiologus. The Physiologus was a Greek-language compilation from the second to third century AD, which was translated into several languages, and became one of the bestsellers of the Middle Ages and the forefather of all bestiaries. It described forty animals, plants and minerals, still on the basis of the Hellenistic tradition, but already interpreted in Christian spirit. Eco mentions an example:

Dopo avere descritto questi esseri, il Fisiologo mostra come e perché ciascuno di essi sia veicolo di un insegnamento etico e teologico. Per esempio il leone che, secondo la leggenda, cancella le proprie tracce con la coda per sottrarsi ai cacciatori, diventa simbolo di Cristo che cancella i peccati degli uomini.After describing them, the Physiologus also explains how and why each of them carries some ethical and theological teaching. The lion, for example, which erases its own footprints with the tail, so as to hide from the hunters, becomes a symbol of Christ, who erases the sins of mankind.

The lion erasing its own footprints with the tail. Physiologus, Codex Sambucus

An attractive parallel indeed, which connects the signifier with the signified by way of the naive association of “erasing” – just like St. Isidore of Seville does in his Etymologies, so indulgently referred to by Eco –, but which does not further expand the analogy (the footprints of Christ =/= sins of mankind). However, when we open the Physiologus at this place, we read something absolutely different: a fully expanded metaphor, which refers to a Christological doctrine living throughout the whole Middle Ages:

The first two pages on the lion from the 1588 Plantin edition of the Physiologus (the Greek and Latin original of the cited text is on the second page)


“When the lion roams the mountains, and he feels the smell of the hunter, he erases his footprints with his own tails, to prevent the hunters following him up, finding his abode, and capturing him … In the same way our Lord Jesus Christ, the spiritual lion … sent by the Father, erased His spiritual footprints, that is, His divinity; He emptied himself, and descended into the womb of Mary to save the deceived mankind.”

The unknown author (identified in the Middle Ages with the fourth-century Bishop of Cyprus and Church Father St. Epiphanius) relates the “scientific observation” accepted from Plutarch and Aelian with a popular theological doctrine which we find in several church fathers – Athanasius, St. Gregory of Nazianzos, Dionysius Areopagita, and even Epiphanius himself – as well as in later writers referring to them: that Christ assumed a human body so as to cheat the devil, the cheater of mankind, who, knowing nothing about His divinity, sought to destroy him as a man and as a (purely human) Messiah, thus actively contributing to His death on the cross and thereby the salvation of mankind.

The theologians recall this great trick with pleasure and by coloring the details. The fourth-century Rufinus of Aquileia, translator of Origen and friend (and later bitter debate partner) of St. Jerome, connects this doctrine with the metaphor of the hook in his commentary on the Apostles’ Creed:

“The object of the mystery of the Incarnation was the divine virtue of the Son of God, as a hook, concealed beneath the form of human flesh. He being found in fashion as a man (Phil 2:8), lured the Prince of this world to a conflict, offering His flesh as a bait. … As a fish seizes a baited hook, it not only does not take the bait off the hook, but is drawn out of the water to be itself food for others. So he, who had the power of death, seized the body of Jesus in death, not being aware of the hook of Divinity enclosed within it, but swallowed it and was caught. The bars of hell being broken apart, he was drawn out as it were from the abyss to become food for others. Ezekiel foretold this under the same figure, saying, ‘I will draw you out with My hook, and stretch you out on the earth. The plains shall be filled with you, and I will set all the fowls of the air over you, and I will satiate all the beasts of the earth with you’ (Ez 29:4-5, 32:3-8). … Job in like manner says in the person of the Lord speaking to him, ‘Will you draw forth the Leviathan with a hook, and will you put your bit in his nostrils?’” (Job 41:1-2)


We see this version of the metaphor in one of the beautiful pieces of thirteenth-century Parisian miniature painting, the Reims Missale (1285-1297) preserved in St. Petersburg, on whose complex iconography I once held an entire semester at the university. On Folio 59v – also an illustration of the Creed – Christ fishing in a boat with Job puts the same question to him, while with the fishing pole hanging in front of the devil He already proves that He does draw forth the Leviathan. And the long scroll of Prophet Oseas, standing to the right, tells us how to understand this: O mors ero mors tua, morsus tuus ero inferne, “oh, death, I will be your death, I will be your sting, oh hell”. Accordingly, this verse became the first antiphone of the Holy Saturday Laudes, the the morning office.


Guillaume Bouzignac (ca. 1587 – 1641): O mors ero mors tua, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie


Other times they referred to the trap set to the devil with a different tool. St. Augustine says: “The Lord’s Cross was the devil’s mousetrap, the bait that caught him, the Lord’s death.” This is what we see in Robert Campin’s Mérode Altarpiece (between 1425 and 1428): while in the middle the scene of the Annunciation, that is, of Christ’s incarnation takes place, on the right side St. Joseph is knocking together mousetraps.



Supported by the authority of all this tradition, I have thus changed Eco’s text in the Hungarian translation, carefully erasing the traces of his slip-up:

After describing them, the Physiologus also explains how and why each of them carries some ethical and theological teaching. The lion, for example, which erases its own footprints with the tail, so as to hide from the hunters, becomes a symbol of Christ, who hides His divine nature from the devil.

After the Middle Ages, the motif of Satan cheated by Christ’s human nature and then bitterly disappointed, receded into the background, but hit has not completely disappeared. Its distant echoes can be heard even in so unexpected places, as Carman’s Carman Sunday’s on the way.


The demons where planning on having a party one night.
They got beer and Jack Daniels and pretzels, a little red wine, and some white.
They were celebrating how they crucified Christ, on that tree.
But Satan, the snake himself, wasn’t so at ease.
He took his crooked finger and he dialed the phone by his bed,
To call an old faithful friend, to know for sure, that he was dead.

He said, “Grave, Grave tell, did my plan fail?”
Old Grave just laughed and said, “Oh man, the dude is dead as nails.”

Chorus:
Well hey, hey, hey on Friday Night, they crucified the Lord at Calvary,
But He said, “Don’t dread, in three days, I’m gonna live again, you’ll see.”
When problems try to bury you and make it hard to pray,
It may seem like Friday night, but Sunday’s on the way!

A tranquilizer and a horror flick could not calm Satan’s fear.
So Saturday night, he calls up the grave… scared, of what he’d hear.
“Hey, Grave, what’s goin’ on?” Grave said, “Man, you called me twice,
and I’ll tell you, once more again boss, the Jew’s on ice!”

Devil said “Man grave, do you remember when old Lazarus was in his grave?
You said everything’s cool and four days later, BOOM, Ol’ Lazarus, he was raised!
Now this Jesus, He is much more trouble than anyone has ever been to me.
And look Grave he’s got old Devil shook cuz He said, he’s only gonna be dead for three!”

Chorus

Sunday morning Satan woke with a jump, ready to blow a fuse.
He was shaking from the tips of his pointed ears, to the toes of his pointed shoes.
He said “Grave tell me is He alive? I don’t want to lose my neck!”
Grave said, “Your evilness, maintain your cool. You are a wreck!”
Grave said, “Now just cool your jets, Big D, my sting is still intact,
You see, Jesus is dead forever, he ain’t never coming back,
so just mellow out man, just go drink up or shoot up, but just leave old Grave alone,
and I’ll catch you la… la… oh no! OH no! OH NO! OH NO…
SOMEBODY’S MESSING WITH THE STONE!

Then the stone was rolled away and it bounced a time or two,
and an Angel stepped inside and said, “I’m Gabriel, who’re you?
And if you’re wondering where the Lord is, at this very hour,
I’ll tell you he’s alive and well, with resurrection power!”

“The third characteristics of the lion: when its female gives birth, the puppy comes dead into the world, and she keeps it until, on the third day, the father comes and, by breathing onto its face, resuscitates it.” Physiologus, Codex Sambucus

Cola de león

León del manuscrito griego del Physiologus (ver más abajo), copiado en Venecia en el s. XVI, y que en 1587 pasó de las manos del gran humanista y médico húngaro Johannes Sambucus (János Zsámboki) a la Biblioteca de la Corte Imperial Vienesa (hoy Biblioteca Nacional de Austria) (Cod. Phil. gr. 290)

Ya hemos contado cómo el traductor de Umberto Eco ha de vadear a veces pasajes donde el maestro (y su editor), al igual que el buen Homero, se adormila; y hay otros lugares en que llevado por el ímpetu del relato no comprueba si lo que le dicta la memoria se ajusta a la realidad. Al principio solíamos añadir las observaciones en notas a pie de página hasta que el editor, sorprendido por su elevado número, prefirió que corrigiéramos directamente el texto, considerando que Eco (y su editor) habría escrito lo mismo de haber realizado él la comprobación. Así lo hacemos pero para mejor guardar registro del proceso anotamos algunos casos complejos también aquí. La última vez fue el pozo de Eratóstenes, y hoy es la cola del león.

La cola del león ha llegado hasta nuestra mesa –o mejor dicho hasta el capítulo sobre los bestiarios del nuevo libro de Eco– desde el Physiologus. El Physiologus, compilación en lengua griega elaborada en los siglos segundo y tercero, traducida luego a varios idiomas y convertida en uno de los best-sellers de la Edad Media, es la matriz de todos los bestiarios posteriores. Describía cuarenta animales, plantas y minerales, siempre sobre la base de la tradición helenística pero interpretada ya en clave cristiana. Eco menciona un ejemplo:

Dopo avere descritto questi esseri, il Fisiologo mostra come e perché ciascuno di essi sia veicolo di un insegnamento etico e teologico. Per esempio il leone che, secondo la leggenda, cancella le proprie tracce con la coda per sottrarsi ai cacciatori, diventa simbolo di Cristo che cancella i peccati degli uomini.
Después de describir a estos seres, el Physiologus muestra cómo y por qué cada uno de ellos conlleva una enseñanza ética y teológica. El león, por ejemplo, que según la leyenda borra sus propias huellas con la cola a fin de esconderse de los cazadores, se convierte en símbolo de Cristo, que borra los pecados de la humanidad.

El león borra el rastro de sus huellas con la cola. Physiologus, Codex Sambucus

Un paralelo atractivo, en efecto, que une significante y significado por la asociación ingenua de «borrar» –tal como hace san Isidoro de Sevilla en sus Etimologías, citado con cierto desdén por Eco– pero que no desarrolla la analogía apuntada (huellas de Cristo =/= pecados de la humanidad). Sin embargo, al abrir el Physiologus por la página correspondiente leemos algo bien distinto: una metáfora mucho más expandida que recoge una doctrina cristológica viva a lo largo de toda la Edad Media:

Las dos primeras páginas sobre el león en la edición del Physiologus de 1588 impreso por Plantin (el original griego y latino del texto citado se ve en la segunda página)


«Cuando el león vaga por las montañas y nota el olor del cazador, borra sus huellas con su propia cola para evitar que le persigan, que encuentren su morada y lo capturen ... De la misma manera nuestro Señor Jesucristo, el león espiritual ... enviado por el Padre, borró sus huellas espirituales, es decir, su divinidad; se despojó totalmente y descendió al vientre de María para salvar a la humanidad engañada».

El autor desconocido (identificado en la Edad Media con el obispo de Chipre del siglo IV y Padre de la Iglesia san Epifanio) relaciona la «observación empírica» aceptada por Plutarco y Eliano, con una doctrina teológica popular que exponen varios Padres de la Iglesia –Atanasio, Gregorio Nazianzeno, Dionisio Areopagita, e incluso el propio Epifanio– y, citando a éstos, otros escritores posteriores: que Cristo asumió un cuerpo humano con el fin de engañar al diablo, el engañador de la humanidad, que así, sin tener conocimiento de su divinidad, querría matarle como hombre y como un Mesías exclusivamente humano, contribuyendo de esta manera activamente a su muerte en la cruz y por tanto a la salvación de la humanidad.

Los teólogos cuentan este truco con gran placer y vívidos detalles. Rufino de Aquilea, también en el siglo IV, traductor de Orígenes y amigo (aunque luego entablarían una fuerte disputa) de san Jerónimo, conecta esta doctrina con la metáfora del anzuelo en su comentario sobre el Credo de los Apóstoles.

«El objeto del misterio de la Encarnación era la virtud divina del Hijo de Dios como anzuelo oculto en la forma de la carne humana. Estando Él bajo la condición de hombre (Fil. 2:8), atrajo al Príncipe de este mundo hacia una celada, ofreciendo su carne como cebo ... Como el pez que se traga el anzuelo no sólo no separa el cebo del gancho sino que él mismo sale fuera del agua para convertirse en comida para otros, así él, que tenía el imperio de la muerte, se apoderó del cuerpo de Jesús en la muerte, sin ser consciente de que el gancho de la divinidad estaba encerrado dentro, y se lo tragó y fue capturado. Al romperse las barras del infierno se vio arrastrado, por así decirlo, desde el abismo para convertirse en alimento de otros. Ezequiel profetizó esto bajo la misma figura, diciendo: «Voy a sacarte con mi anzuelo, y te extenderé sobre la tierra. Las llanuras se llenarán de ti, y dispondré sobre ti a todas las aves del cielo, y saciaré a todas las bestias de la tierra contigo» (Ez 29:4-5, 32:3-8) ... Job de la misma manera dice, en la persona del Señor que le habla: «¿Podrás tú atrapar con anzuelo al Leviatán, y le pondrás una anilla en las narices?» (Job 41:1-2)


Vemos una versión de la metáfora en una de las mejores muestras de la miniatura parisina del siglo XIII, el Misal de Reims (1285-1297) conservado en San Petersburgo, cuya compleja iconografía enseñamos durante un semestre en la universidad. En el folio 59v –también ilustración del Credo– Cristo pesca desde una barca con Job y le plantea la misma pregunta. Pero con la caña tendida ante el diablo ya le está demostrando cómo es capaz de atrapar al Leviatán. Y la larga filacteria del profeta Oseas, a la derecha, nos dice cómo interpretar el conjunto: O mors ero mors tua, morsus tuus ero inferne, «oh, muerte, seré tu muerte; seré tu dolor, oh, infierno». En consecuencia, este versículo se convirtió en la primera antífona de las laudes del Sábado Santo, en el oficio matutino.


Guillaume Bouzignac (ca. 1587 – 1641): O mors ero mors tua, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie


Otras veces se alude a la trampa tendida al diablo con un instrumento diferente. Dice san Agustín: «La cruz de Cristo fue ratonera del diablo; el cebo que lo atrapó, la muerte del Señor». Es esto lo que vemos en el Retablo de Mérode, de Robert Campin (entre 1425 y 1428): mientras que en el centro tiene lugar la escena de la Anunciación, es decir, de la Encarnación de Cristo, en el batiente derecho san José arma unas trampas para ratones (y fijémonos cómo se cruzan sus herramientas, la presencia de los clavos... sobre su banco de carpintero).



Apoyados en la autoridad de toda esta tradición hemos cambiado así el texto de Eco en la traducción al húngaro, cuidando de borrar las huellas del desliz:

Después de describir a estos seres, el Physiologus también muestra cómo y por qué cada uno de ellos conlleva una enseñanza ética y teológica. El león, por ejemplo, que borra sus propias huellas con la cola a fin de esconderse de los cazadores, se convierte en símbolo de Cristo que esconde al diablo su naturaleza divina.

Pasada la Edad Media, este motivo de Satanás engañado por la naturaleza humana de Cristo y amargamente burlado, quedaría en segundo plano. Pero no desapareció del todo. Sus ecos lejanos se escuchan hasta en lugares tan inesperados como esta sorprendente Sunday’s on the Way (el domingo está en camino) de Carman.


The demons where planning on having a party one night.
They got beer and Jack Daniels and pretzels, a little red wine, and some white.
They were celebrating how they crucified Christ, on that tree.
But Satan, the snake himself, wasn’t so at ease.
He took his crooked finger and he dialed the phone by his bed,
To call an old faithful friend, to know for sure, that he was dead.

He said, “Grave, Grave tell, did my plan fail?”
Old Grave just laughed and said, “Oh man, the dude is dead as nails.”

Chorus:
Well hey, hey, hey on Friday Night, they crucified the Lord at Calvary,
But He said, “Don’t dread, in three days, I’m gonna live again, you’ll see.”
When problems try to bury you and make it hard to pray,
It may seem like Friday night, but Sunday’s on the way!

A tranquilizer and a horror flick could not calm Satan’s fear.
So Saturday night, he calls up the grave… scared, of what he’d hear.
“Hey, Grave, what’s goin’ on?” Grave said, “Man, you called me twice,
and I’ll tell you, once more again boss, the Jew’s on ice!”

Devil said “Man grave, do you remember when old Lazarus was in his grave?
You said everything’s cool and four days later, BOOM, Ol’ Lazarus, he was raised!
Now this Jesus, He is much more trouble than anyone has ever been to me.
And look Grave he’s got old Devil shook cuz He said, he’s only gonna be dead for three!”

Chorus

Sunday morning Satan woke with a jump, ready to blow a fuse.
He was shaking from the tips of his pointed ears, to the toes of his pointed shoes.
He said “Grave tell me is He alive? I don’t want to lose my neck!”
Grave said, “Your evilness, maintain your cool. You are a wreck!”
Grave said, “Now just cool your jets, Big D, my sting is still intact,
You see, Jesus is dead forever, he ain’t never coming back,
so just mellow out man, just go drink up or shoot up, but just leave old Grave alone,
and I’ll catch you la… la… oh no! OH no! OH NO! OH NO…
SOMEBODY’S MESSING WITH THE STONE!

Then the stone was rolled away and it bounced a time or two,
and an Angel stepped inside and said, “I’m Gabriel, who’re you?
And if you’re wondering where the Lord is, at this very hour,
I’ll tell you he’s alive and well, with resurrection power!”

«Tercera característica del león: cuando la hembra da a luz, el cachorro viene al mundo muerto, y así permanece hasta que, al tercer día, se le acerca el padre y, echándole su aliento en el rostro, lo resucita» Physiologus, Codex Sambucus.

The Greek Odessa

Odessa, the Greek Street – the first street parallel with Deribasovskaya – in the early twentieth century

We actually wanted to publish this post some days ago, on March 25, the feast of the Greek independence, but it’s not yet too late. The reason was that the Filiki Heteria, “Friendly Society”, founded in 1814 in Odessa, one of the most important Greek cities of the era, played a decisive role in launching the Greek Revolution of 1821, as we will se below. We have illustrated the article of the Hellenist expert Tamás Glaser, written for our journey to Odessa, with pictures selected from Russian and Greek sites.

The history of Odessa was intertwined since its foundation with that of the Greeks. On May 27, 1794 Empress Catherine decided the founding of the city on the place of an earlier Ottoman fortress, and, incidentally, of an ancient Greek colony. It was first mentioned by the name of Odessa in January 1795.

As to the origin of the name, a number of versions compete with each other. According to one, the name refers to the ancient Greek settlement of Odēssos, a little further away, around the modern Varna in Bulgaria, and Catherine deliberately gave this name to the city to be found, so as to attract the hoped-for Greek settlers, whom – besides the many other invited ethnic groups – she intended to provide with a special role.

The settlement of the Greeks on the territories annexed to Russia as a result of the Russo-Turkish War of 1792 was part of Catherine’s “Greek plan”. According to this idea, Russia, acting as the advocate of the oppressed Christians of the Ottoman Empire, would undermine the Sultans’ rule by referring to its own historic rights going back to the co-religionist Greek Byzantium, with the ultimate aim of “erecting the cross on the dome of the Hagia Sophia again”, that is, to include the region in the Russian sphere of influence.

Greeks already lived since the seventeenth century on the northern Black Sea coast. Their number increased toward the late eighteenth century, when the territory gradually went under Russian rule, and when, during the repeated Russo-Turkish wars, the Greeks serving in the Russian army or those rebelling against the Turks (often on Russian instigation) and then fleeing the reprisals, mainly settled in this region with favorable climatic and economic characteristics. The majority of the immigrants at that time came from Epirus, Macedonia and the Peloponnese.

Greek women from the Little Arnaut Street. The Arnauts, settling in the mid-1800 at the then edge of the city, in the Little and Great Arnaut Streets, were Greeks originating from the northern Balkans and Moldova, often speaking Albanian or Vlach, who participate in a large number in the anti-Turkish wars.

On April 19, 1795 Catherine issued a decree, in which she offered various privileges (tax exemptions, low cost loans, commercial advantages, free land, and – not least – such personal and political freedoms, of which the majority of the Russian population could not even dream) to the Greeks and Christian Albanians who were willing to settle in the newly established city. From then on the number of immigrants dramatically increased. This time, most of them came from the islands of the Aegean Sea. The Russo-Turkish war of 1806-1812 brought about a new wave of immigration.

In the newly conquered southern Russian territories, the Russian state considered the co-religionist Greek population as a stabilizing factor, and thus from the outset sought to give them an advantageous position. Typically, the area of the city was divided at the beginning of its construction into a “military” and a “Greek” district. They set up a special committee for Greek affairs. In parallel, a volunteer Greek military formation was recruited, which took part in the wars of the following decades.

Odessan Greek soldiers in the early 20th century. From Katy Georgiou’s article on the Northern Greek diaspora.

At the foundation of the city the proportion of the Greeks was 9.5% (224 persons in a total population of 2349 persons), which by 1817 sunk to 5%, and in 1910 was only 1.8% (which, of course, was a growth in absolute terms in the dynamically growing city, at least until the mid-nineteenth century). The Greek consulate’s annual report of 1910 estimated the number of the Greeks at 10 thousand. (By comparison, the 1897 census puts the number of Jews at around 120 thousand.) The influence of the Greeks, however, was always considerably higher than their proportion: their role in the city’s commercial and cultural life remained dominant for a century.

The Greek trade from the outset was based mainly on the sale of the rich grain harvest of the South Russian black soil. During the Napoleonic wars, the Greek ships carried grain by breaking through the French and British blockades to Western Europe, struggling with the disruption of supply, by which their owners laid the basis for huge fortunes. In 1819 Odessa received free port status (the goods could be imported and exported with a significant reduction of duties, or sometimes even duty-free), which further boosted trade.

The port seen from the top of the Giant (later Potemkin) Stairs

Thus the Greeks had a leading role from the beginning in the city’s commercial and economic life. In the 1850s, the Greek trading companies conducted the most traffic. The resulting, often fabulous wealth was invested, in addition to the development of their own companies, into real estate acquisition and construction, but they also generously supported the Greek communities in Odessa, and in the Ottoman Empire, and later the Greek state, too.

At this point it is worth to mention, that one of the first and defining episodes of the series of events leading to the formation of the Greek state is also linked to Odessa. In 1814 three Greek merchants founded here the secret (somewhat Masonic-style) organization called Filiki Eteria (“Friendly Society”) with the aim to prepare the uprising against the Turks and the liberation of Greece. The uprising broke out just seven years later, in 1821, and it reached its goal by the end of the decae. The house where the Society was founded, together with the two other building attached to it, today host the Filiki Eteria Museum and the Greek Cultural Institute (Krasny Pereulok 16-20).

The history of the Filiki Eteria in the Russian Greek high school history book: membership certificate and seal of the society; taking an oath (in the picture, F. Koloktronitis, later chief commander of the Greek army); the founders of the society: Emmanuil Xanthos from Patmos, Nikolaos Skoufas from Arta and Athanasius Tsakalov from Joannina (wax figures in the Society’s museum in Odessa)

The families playing the greatest role in the city’s prospering settled there between 1819 and 1825. Many of them soon established merchant houses, which in a few years arrived to a dominant role. Some families from among the best known are: Rhodokanakis, Rallis, Papudov, Iraklidis, Mavros, Maraslis, Inglesis, Skaramangas, Sevastopoulos… In 1835, the Greek merchant houses transacted 37%, and in 1860 46% of the import and export passing through Odessa.

The merchant house as a business form had great advantages, which the Greeks could exploit more than the other groups. This was due partly to their leading commercial methods (contracting the crop in advance, continuous monitoring of the demand and the markets, organization of the flow of information, etc.), and partly to their extensive family and business networks covering the markets of the Middle East and Western Europe, but for example in the case of the London-based Rallis family, also India, Japan and even Northern and Southern America. In addition, the Greek merchants invested large sums in ship building and hiring, which allowed commercial shipping being separated as a separate business from other commercial activities.

From the early nineteenth century, the Greeks took the initiative in the establishment of banks and insurance companies as well. At that time they set up in Odessa, among others, the Greek-Russian Insurance Association, the Commercial Loan Fund and the United Hellenic Skaramangas Bank.

Some Greek monuments in Odessa, as shown in the Russian Greek high school history book: the port of Odessa in the early nineteenth century; the building of the Greek Cultural Foundation in the Greek Street; house number 1 in Greek Street; the Filiki Eteria Museum (the other facade of the Foundation, overlooking the Greek Square)

The Greeks were also at the forefront of the industry and industrial innovations. The products of K. Saliangas’ silk weaving factory, working with modern machines, were highly sought after both in Russia and abroad. The bakery of N. Ambatielos used the most modern equipment, Spiridon Patsiolas operated a well-established pasta factory. Several tannery and tobacco factories were in Greek ownership, but there were also Greek-owned shoe factories and salami producers, fish oil processing and wine production companies.

From the 1870s the Jewish merchants overshadowed the Greeks in the Odessan transit trade, and the American grain raised a massive concurrency to the Russian one. However, the role of the Greeks was far from being over, and was even expanding in retail commerce: they owned increasingly more shops and department stores in the heart of the city. The most famous was Petrokokkinos’ department store on the Deribasovskaya, which, according to contemporary descriptions, was nothing short of its Western European counterparts. It traded with colonial and industrial goods, and it had also Chinese and Japanese products on its shelves. Its stately, richly decorated building was one of the city’s attractions. The Greek businessmen, who became wealthy in the previous decades, now increasingly turned to real estate and construction business. The memory of their activity is still preserved by luxurious villas, elegant neoclassic and eclectic buildings.

The Greek church dedicated to the Holy Trinity at Ekaterinskaya 67, between Bazaar and Great Arnaut Streets
The Greek colony was served by a number of small and large restaurnts, cafes, pastry shops, of course often visited also by the members of Odessa’s other ethnic groups. The cafes – such as the famous “Konstantinopol” – were the centers of social, literary and artistic life. Several hotels also were in Greek ownership, such as Odessa’s finest hotel, the London on the Primorsky Boulevard, owned by the London-based Rallis family.

The Greek community settled in Odessa soon started to organize its religious and cultural institutions. Already in 1795 they built a wooden church, and in 1808 they consecrated the Holy Trinity Church, uniting neoclassical and Byzantine elements. In the following decades a lot of community organizations worked in the city, among which the most important were the Holy Trinity Greek Church Brotherhood (1864), the Greek Philanthropist Society (1865), the Odessan Greek Charitable Association (1871), which also operated a home for elderly people, and the Omonia (“Consent”) Club (1900), including the richest members of the Greek community.

The community also financed several high-quality educational institutions. The most important among them was the Greek Commercial School, founded in 1819, which also offered secondary and higher education, and gave education to several important future businessmen, scholars and politicians. This school existed until the Bolshevik seizure of power, and it had a rich library as well as – from 1827 – its own press. The other famous Odessan Greek school was the Rhodokanakis Girls Educational Institute (1872). Its professors included Kalliopi Siganu-Parrain, a forerunner of the Greek feminist movement.

Already from the late 1810s a thriving Greek cultural life evolved in the city. The Greek theater opened in 1814, and soon it became a focal point not only of Odessa, but of the intellectual life of the whole Greek world. Many important figures of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Greek intellectual elite visited Odessa, and several of them spent here a longer life, learning and teaching in the Greek schools. Some of the most important among them are the leading 19th-century historian Konstandinos Paparrigopoulos, the famous poet and polymath Alexandros Rizos Rangavis, the popular author and first IOC president Dimitrios Vikelas, as well as Iannis Psicharis, born in Odessa, who played a major role in the renewal of the Greek language. Interestingly, the Greek press in Odessa received an impetus only from the 1890s, but then they published five Greek daily newspapers and several journals until as long as 1919.

Grigorios Maraslis (1831–1907)
The Greeks played a role in the public life of the city which was appropriate to their economic weight and cultural importance. Between 1796 and 1879 Odessa had six Greek mayors. The most important of them was the last, Grigorios Maraslis, who held this position for 17 years, from 1878 to 1895. During his tenure the city developed rapidly, and was enriched with a number of impressive public buildings (Opera, libraries, home for elderly people, etc.), some of them founded from the mayor’s own wealth. His name is preserved by the Marazlivska Street, not far from the Bulvarny district, once inhabited by the Greeks.

The Greeks lived almost everywhere in Odessa, but most of them in the Bulvarny (today Primorsky) district. Here was also the “Greek market”, while the Greek Street running through the district still preserves the memory of its former residents.

The Greek Street seen from Richelieu Street in the early twentieth century

The prosperity of the Odessan Greeks was ended by the Bolshevik revolution and the intervention following it. In early 1919, a a Greek army also landed with the intervention troops, and the majority of the Greek population, which had few sympathy for the Bolsheviks, enthusiastically welcomed them. However, the fortunes of war turned, and the intervention forces retreated. They were followed by nine-tenth of the Greek population of Odessa and its surroundings, ca. 28,000 people. The survivors tried to adapt themselves to the new circumstances: the Girls Education Institute now housed the Greek Workers’ School, and some other schools and clubs were also allowed to operate. In 1937, however, the Greek communities were declared “capitalistic elements”, their institutions closed, and thousands of them deportated to Central Asia. This was the fate of the Odessan Greeks as well. Some of the survivors could settle back to their former place of residence only at the time of Khrushchev’s “thaw”.

Maria Karavia’s Οδησσός, η λησμονημένη πατρίδα (Odessa, the forgotten homeland, 1999) is a comprehensive book on the former Greek Odessa

In Odessa still there live some Greeks who are descendants of the old settlers, although we have no exact data on their number (according to unconfirmed press information, they might be about a thousand). Since 1988, they have also run a Greek club. Not far from the city, the inhabitants of a small village, Sverdlovo (Maly Buyalyk) are also descendants of the Greeks settled two hundred years ago. About a quarter of the inhabitants speak the language of their ancestors, and recently they have made serious efforts to preserve their dialect and culture.

Greek peasants of Sverdlovo in the early twentieth century

Oscuridad


Estoy sentado en una pequeña habitación, la noche cae despacio en una de mis ciudades favoritas donde sólo un puñado de personas celebrará la Pascua católica. Pero aunque la celebraran, no podrían asistir a la antigua liturgia propia de la Semana Santa desde el Miércoles de Pasión, las Tenebrae u Oficios de Tinieblas que, desde el Concilio Vaticano II han sido eliminadas, tanto que la mayoría de católicos ni ha oído hablar.

Rebusco obsesivamente en aquellas ciudades cuya población fue sustituida, cuyos siglos de historia sólo los recuerda una sinagoga en ruinas, una iglesia fortificada de la Transilvania sajona, una catedral polaca vacía. La memoria de las Tenebrae habla de la oscuridad que desciende en silencio la tarde del miércoles. Desde época gregoriana en este momento se encendían las quince velas del candelabro triangular en la iglesia oscura, con las imágenes cubiertas por paños. Entonces se entonaban quince versos cuidadosamente seleccionados de los Salmos y de los Evangelios que ilustraban, con un cúmulo de desgracias bien experimentadas en la vida de cada uno, la oscuridad del alma humana, y anunciaban la oscuridad que iba a desplegar la liturgia en los tres días siguientes. Después de cada verso se apagaba una vela, y con la decimoquinta toda la iglesia quedaba a oscuras.

• la oscuridad cayó cuando fui crucificado
• La señal con que mi amigo me traicionó fue un beso
• dijisteis que estabais ansiosos por morir por mí, y no pudisteis velar conmigo ni una hora
• uno de mis discípulos me va a entregar hoy, a pesar de que metió las manos conmigo en el mismo plato


Hace cincuenta años que las propias Tenebrae se apagaron; yo mismo nunca he asistido a unas en directo. Su memoria se mantiene aún en parte de la liturgia, en esta oscuridad gradual de la noche del miércoles y, también, en aquellas composiciones renacentistas entre las cuales las más conocidas deben ser las Tenebrae de Tomás Luis de Victoria, contemporáneo de santa Teresa de Ávila. Y ya que hablamos de cosas más recónditas, quiero mostraros las de Charpentier, que prefiero en la versión de Gerard Lesne. Pero mi CD de Charpentier está a cientos de kilómetros de aquí, así que os dejo la de Le Parlement de Musique, ya en la oscuridad total, sólo a la luz de la pantalla del portátil.


Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704): Tenebrae factae sunt, cantadas por Le Parlement de Musique

Tenebrae factae sunt, dum crucifixissent
Jesum: et circa horam nonam exclamavit
Jesus voce magna:
Deus meus
ut quid
me dereliquisti
se hicieron las tinieblas cuando Jesús
fue crucificado: y hacia la hora nona clamó
Jesús con voz muy fuerte:
Dios mío
por qué
me has abandonado

Darkness


I’m sitting in a small room, evening slowly descends in one of my favorite cities, where today only a handful of people celebrate our Easter. But even if they celebrated it, I could not hear any more the Holy Week Wednesday evening liturgy, the Tenebrae, which since the Vatican Council has disappeared from the tradition, so much that even the majority of Catholics have never heard of it.

I’m obsessively looking for the cities, whose population was replaced, whose several centuries of history are only remembered by a ruined synagogue, a Transylvanian Saxon fortified church, an empty Polish cathedral. The remembrance of Tenebrae is the darkness silently descending on Wednesday evening. Since the Gregorian times, at this time they lit on the fifteen candles of the triangular candlestick in the dark church, at this time they sang the carefully selected fifteen verses from the Psalms and Gospels, which illustrated with consecutive disasters, well known to everyone from his or her own life, the darkness of the human soul, and heralded the darkness unfolded by the liturgy of the following three days. After each verse they spent out a candle, and after the fifteenth the whole church fell in darkness.

• darkness fell when I was crucified
• the sign by which my friend betrayed me was a kiss
• you told you’re eager to die for me, and you could not watch one hour with me
• one of my disciples will betray me today, although he dipped his hands with me in the dish


It’s fifty years since the Tenebrae itself was also spent out, I myself have never heard it live. It’s memory is kept, besides the darkness descending on Wednesday evening, also by those Renaissance compositions, among which the most well-known is the Tenebrae by Tomás Luis de Victoria, a contemporary of Saint Teresa of Ávila. But once I am talking about hiddenness, I prefer to show you the less-known version by Charpentier, which I love the most in the presentation by Gerard Lesne. Since, however, that CD is now many hundreds of miles away from me, I include it in the performance by Le Parlement de Musique, already in total darkness, only at the light of the laptop screen.


Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704): Tenebrae factae sunt, sung by Le Parlement de Musique

Tenebrae factae sunt, dum crucifixissent
Jesum: et circa horam nonam exclamavit
Jesus voce magna:
Deus meus
ut quid
me dereliquisti
darkness fell when they crucified
Jesus: and about the ninth hour cried
Jesus with a loud voice:
My God
why
hast thou forsaken me

Dissolving: Conquering everywhere

“To conquer the world. By the Pathé brothers, 1894-19…”

An early advertisement of the Pathé brothers, mentioned yesterday, with cine-projector, phonograph, and the French rooster which was chosen as the company’s logo. It is a secret why the company, founded on September 28, 1896 calculates the time from 1894. Maybe they want to indicate their precedence to the Lumière brothers, who appeared on the scene a year before them. But that they took seriously the conquering of the world, is shown by the fact that by the early 20th century they became the world’s largest cinematograph and film producer and distributor, as well as one of the largest phonograph record producers.


“Pathé News presents the official images of the Great War and the news of all the world.”

Twenty years later the motto of “conquering” is omitted, since the situation makes it self-evident, but the posture is the same. The Pathé brothers put on uniform, and while our heroic boys conquer the enemy with weapons, they conquer the heartland with the images of the newsreel, invented by them in 1908.

On Deribasovskaya, at the corner of Rishelievskaya…



Vyacheslav Kruk and Valentin Kuba: Раз на Дерибасовской, угол Ришельевской (Once on De Ribas street, at the corner of Richelieu street). Performed by the ensemble Одесский Дворик (Little Courtyard of Odessa)

Thus begins one of the most famous Odessan pub songs, written by Sosnov, Yadov and Yampolsky, the great triumvirate of the Odessan variety show, with which the young Leonid Utesov achieved his first great success in 1917 in the Rishelievskoi Bolshoi Teatre at 47 Rishelievskaya. The lascivious song, in which the burglar arriving to the above place and finding nothing else, takes away the honor of the hundred-year old lady, and since then all the old women in the street leave the door open all night, is emblematic not only because it stresses the Odessan underworld and the typical Odessan will to live. But also because the above mentioned scene summarizes in miniature the whole history of Odessa. It is no coincidence that Valery Smirnov, the popular local historian gave this title to the collection of twentieth-century Odessan anecdotes, or that the city’s Jewish cultural association publishes with this title their literary and cultural magazine.

“Odessa. The corner of Deribasovskaya and Rishelievskaya streets from bird’s eye view.” Around 1900


As these two streets define the two main axes of the city center, so their names immortalize the beginnings of the history of Odessa. Osip Mikhailovich Deribas, that is, the Catalan Admiral José de Ribas joined the Russian army in 1772, at the beginning of the Russo-Turkish war, and then, having won the favor of Empress Catherine, he came to the imperial court. In 1789 he occupied Khadjibey, the Ottoman fortress standing on the site of the modern Odessa, and a few years later he proposed to Catherine to establish in this place the empire’s first warm-water harbor, also navigable in winter. The Empress asked him in return to found the city, and namely – as a wedding gift – on the anniversary of the day when, a year earlier, she married him with the daughter of her favourite, Duke Potemkin. De Ribas remained Odessa’s military governor until his death in 1800, and he was the founder of all what we see in Odessa’s old town spreading from the Deribasovskaya to the sea: the Primorsky Promenade and its neoclassical buildings from the city hall to the governor’s palace, the square with Catherine the Great’s statue, and at the end of the street named after him the elegand City Park, the evening meeting place of the Odessans.

The person giving his name to Rishelievskaya, Duke Armand-Emmanuel de Vignerot du Plessis Richelieu even has some relation with Hungary, since until 1789 he served in the French king’s Esterházy Hussars Regiment. When the revolution broke out, he went to Vienna to ask for help for the royal house, and when his mission failed, he joined the Russian army together with some other French emigrants, including Count Langeron, who would later give his name to the popular beach of Odessa. He distinguished himself in a number of battles against the Turks, and in 1803 Tsar Alexander I appointed him governor of Odessa. Another two years later he became the governor of the new governorship composed from the territories occupied from the Turks, the fertile New Russia, stretching from Moldva to the Volga, the later pantry of the empire. Odessza owes him not only its new, French-style, chessboard-like downtown, but also its dynamic development, during which in two decades it became Russia’s third largest city – and at the same time the third largest Jewish city in the world, because the Jews settling here were exempt from any constraint that struck them in the other provinces of the empire: it was here that they were emancipated for the first time in Russia. In 1828 the grateful people of Odessa erected a statue to Duke Richelieu on the top of the famous stairs which he had built from the seafront promenade to the harbor, and which bears the name of Potemkin only since Eisenstein’s world famous movie.

The statue of Richelieu, viewed from the sea, ca. 1900

The statue of Richelieu and the beginning of the Primorsky Promenade, 1903.

The statue of Richelieu and the sea in a postcard sent to Budapest in June 1901:
“It is a famous place, because you can get a great beefsteak for 50 kopeiki.
And the ladies walk here in the night, with stretched parasols.
Many kisses for Little Mum and the chicks. Little Dad.”


But the Rishelievskaya gained even more glory to the Duke after his death. His successor, Prince Vorontsov, whose wife is considered one of Pushkin’s “four great muses”, and who introduced the horse-races to enhance the culture of the nobility in the coastal cities, organized along this boulevard the yearly races, the big event of the local social life, for which the Odessan golden youth prepared throughout all the year, and whose needs were satisfied by the Horse Market, the Staraya Konnaya. Like many other historical sites, it still works in Odessa, although with a changed, and more exciting function, as a weekend antiques, pet and flea market.

The statue of Pushkin at the end of the Primorsky Promenade, in front of the neoclassical building of the City Hall

Nina Gofman, playing Sonya in the first Russian crime film series Sonya Golden Hand (1914-15)
Pausing on Deribasovskaya, at the corner of Rishelievskaya we look around wondering: which was the house featuring in the song? The one to the right when looking toward the suburb was certainly not, because this one, now the building of the National Bank, was the Puritz jewelry house at that time, Odessa’s most elegant fashion store, after which the Odessan language – because there exist a language like this – coined the term bolshoi puritz, ʻa great puritz’ for the most luxuriously dressed playboys. However, the store also owes his fame to the fact that this was the site of the first great success of Sofia Blyuvshtein, that is, Sonyka Golden Hand, the legendarily beautiful and dangerous burglar of the Jewish underworld. In 1883, presenting herself as the wife of a famous Odessan psychiatrist, selected jewels in the value of thirty thousand rubles, and then asked the jeweler to bring them to their flat where her husband would pay for them. The jeweler, drunk with the big business, rushed to the flat, where Sonya opened the door, and taking over the jewels asked him to sit down for a minute in her husband’s study.
Sofia Blyuvshtein, that is, Sonya Golden Hand
Within a short time the “husband” arrived with four male nurses, who pounced on the jeweler and carried him to a mental hospital. It took a long time while it turned out that Sonya had arrived not much earlier to the psychiatrist, where she presented herself as the jeweler’s wife, and asked the doctor to do something with him, as he went crazy, and keeps offering nonexistent jewels for sale to a wide variety of people. The emblematic character of the story is shown by the fact that the Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi also included it in her beautiful film My Twentieth Century.

Opposite the former Puritz store, where now the UniCredit Bank works, was in Utesov’s time one of Odessa’s most elegant cafés, the Fanconi (its namesake opened recently one corner away, on the Yekaterinskaya). This was one of the established meeting places of the Odessan Jewish businessmen, just two blocks from the central synagogue, and it would not have been a really significant institution, had it not been bled for forty-three thousand rubles by Sonya Golden Hand, just one year after the Puritz case. Its long flowering came to an end in 1920, when its best patrons fled from the city, and the Red Army plundered it to the last silver teaspoon. I mean, not exactly. The last silver teaspoon was taken by one of the patrons to America, from where one of its heirs sent it back in 2005 to the newly formed Jewish museum. Today it hangs on the wall of the nearby museum, in the foreground of the archive photo of Café Fanconi, enlarged to life-size.


At the third corner, towards the city center, there stands a two-storey house built in 1886, which is called “Clock House” after its former tower-clock. However, its real fame came from the fact that here worked the Odessan office of the Pathé brothers, the largest film distribution company in Odessa. The four Pathé brothers founded their company in Paris in late 1896, one year after the Lumière brothers invented the film. In the early 20th century it became the world’s largest movie machinery and film producer and distributor, and one of the largest phonograph record producers. They introduced the newreels in 1908. Shortly after the turn of the century, they already had seven subsidiary companies in Russia, beginning with Odessa, where the first movie theater – iljuzion – of Russia had been opened already in June 1896 by an agent of the Lumière brothers, and where a serious local film industry developed by the early 20th century.


The snow-covered Moscow, 1908. One of the earliest Russian films of the Pathé brothers.

The ground floor of the building facing the Rishelievskaya was occupied by the Kayander & Co. store, owned by Berngard Gotlibovich Kayander, a councilor of the City Hall. Some pieces of the councilor’s luxurious porcelain tableware, ordered from London, still show up on auctions sometimes.


Today all three corner buildings house a bank, but already at the turn of the century this intersection was considered one of the everyday financial centers. As Vladimir Zeev Jabotinsky describes it in his memoirs Five (Пятеро), in the most Odessan novel, written in emigration in Paris:

“The next corner was the Rishelievskaya, and the first sign that heralded the specific nature of the road were the tables of the money-changers standing right there, on the sidewalk, under the acacias. On the glass-covered tables one could enjoy the sight of gold and of the bills of exchange from all the planets in the solar system. And the whiskered banker sitting in the wicker chair with a bowler or felt hat, readily broke away from the overseas newspaper, and quickly served or cheated you in any language. The newcomers could touch here the supreme commercial artery of the Black Sea. Passing by here, I always cast an envious glance to the left, where both sides were shining with the golden shop labels of the banks, the inaccessible stores, and the Olympian barber shops…”

Money changers at the corner of Rishelievskaya, in front of the Kayander store

Looking towards the city center from Deribasovskaya, the Theater Square opens before us. The square is named after the Opera and Ballet Theater, built in its center in 1887 by the Viennese duo of star architects, Fellner and Helmer. Thus the building has a relationship to the Comic Theater in Budapest, designed by them. The two-storey high arch of the facade, which is common in both buildings, was a hallmark of the Viennese architects, adopted in more than forty public buildings designed by them throughout Europe. But the predecessor of the theater dates back to the times of Duke Richelieu. It is a signal of Odessa’s cosmopolitan culture and its European level that less than fifteen years after its foundation, in 1810 there was already a huge demand for an opera house. Prince Vorontsov ordered the revenue of the port quarantine, paid by the ships stationed there, for the maintenance of the opera house, and as the chief medical officer of the quarantine was also a shareholder of the opera as well as a passionate opera fan, and so when he saw it necessary, he ordered a long-term general quarantine in the port. The extra income was used to invite some great European singers every year, and the Odessa Opera has retained its fame up to this day.



Luxury and underworld, cafés, couplets, zest for life, theater and iljuzion, Catalan, French, Italian, Jewish culture on Deribasovskaya, at the corner of Rishelievskaya, the emblematic point of Odessa. Here starts our walk to explore the past and present culture and history of the city.

This year we organize two trips to Odessa, April 4 to 11 with the Hungarian Jewish Cultural Association, and April 25 to May 1 with the readers of Río Wang. The first bus is about full, while for that of late April there are still some free places. Deadline for application: the day after tomorrow, Friday evening.

The Passage, the most famous department store of the city at the end of Deribasovskaya, opposite the City Park