Arcadia is a regional unit within the region of Peloponnese, in Greece. Tripoli, the capital of Arcadia, is also the capital city of Peloponnese. The regional unit Arcadia is subdivided into 5 municipalities. One of these five municipalities is Gortyna, a collective of smaller villages, like for instance Dimitsana. The hamlet Zátouna belongs to the village Dimitsana. Map.
Together with his wife Myrto, and their children Margarita and Yorgos, Mikis Theodorakis was living in exile in Zátouna, during the years 1968-1969. In the former post you can listen to a recording of an interview made in New York City, July 1970, in which Mikis Theodorakis speaks about the junta, how they chased him, imprisoned him, and finally sent him to Zatouna, on August 21, 1968, a year after he was arrested. Go to the post. For the chronological order of facts from the moment Mikis Theodorakis went underground, on April 21, 1967 till the 13th of April 1970, when Mikis Theodorakis lands on Paris Airport: go here.
Video: In October 1968 a film team managed to shoot this hidden camera footage of Theodorakis and his family (daughter Margarita and son Yorgos) in the small village of Zatouna. The fascist regime kept him there under house arrest. Some of his most impressive music was written in Zatouna; the Arkadia cycles. In this footage you can hear Theodorakis read and sing the song Pelago which was composed only days after the coup of 1967. (Source: Pieter Hendriks)
A group of ten police officers kept an eye on them, constantly. These guards were part of the Regime of the Colonels. also known as The Junta (/ˈdʒʌntə/ or /ˈhʊntə/; Greek: Χούντα [ˈxunda]), The Dictatorship (Η Δικτατορία, I Diktatoría), a series of far-right military juntas that ruled Greece following the 1967 Greek coup d’état led by a group of colonels on 21 April 1967. The dictatorship ended on 24 July 1974.
While living in exile, Mikis Theodorakis composed several songs. These songs are categorised as “Arcadia”: Arcadia I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII. IX, X and XI. In the post: The Spirit of Freedom you can find information about these Arcadias in the last paragraph.
Natural environment of Zátouna and the god Pan
When studying on the map the surroundings of Zátouna, one becomes aware of an extremely mountainous area, with roads that prove the difficulty to drive up: the roads have many hairpin bends which means that the mountains are very steep on these spots. One can also see the far distances between villages and hamlets, in fact not any really big city can be found in Arcadia. Nature in this region is wild, and rich. The vast forests of Arcadia are enormous, and are the home of “Pan“, the Greek god of nature, wilderness.and his court of dryads, nymphs and other spirits of nature.
Being a rustic god, Pan was not worshipped in temples or other built edifices, but in natural settings, usually caves or grottoes such as the one on the north slope of the Acropolis of Athens. These are often referred to as the Cave of Pan. The only exceptions are the Temple of Pan on the Neda River gorge in the southwestern Peloponnese – the ruins of which survive to this day – and the Temple of Pan at Apollonopolis Magna in ancient Egypt. In the 4th century BC Pan was depicted on the coinage of Pantikapaion.
There is even a village, a hamlet, nearby Zátouna, with the name Pan. The forests are creating a deep impression of their strong natural elements, energies, sounds and smells, of their vastness, into the own human feelings of solitude within this environment, which can be so overwhelming that one can panic. The term “panic” is derived from Pan, and these forests of Arcadia. This explains also the impact of this environment on Mikis Theodorakis, and his family.
In the lyrics of one of his songs written in Zatouna: Θούριον, from Aracadia VI, Mikis Theodorakis writes about the surroundings, about the river Lousios (is also a gorge), about vineyards, the cuckoo. Soundtrack from the video Μίκης Θεοδωράκης-Christina Cünne 1) Θούριον uploaded by channel ctpcmh:
Lyrics can be translated here.
Μεγαλοπρεπή βουνά αγκαλιάζουν,
βράχους, γκρεμούς, ανθρώπους, έλατα.
Είδαν φουσάτα Τούρκων κι άλλων νικηφόρα,
πτώματα ηρώων εδέχθησαν και βλαστήμιες γενναίων.
Μένουν τα δέντρα που σκίασαν τον ύπνο του πέρδικα
κι ο κούκος που δεν άκουσε ο Κολοκοτρώνης ήρθε και φώλιασε στη Ζάτουνα.
Μάταια οι φρουροί μου προσπαθούν να εγκλωβίσουν το τραγούδι του,
οι χαράδρες το παίρνουν στους ώμους και γρήγορα τ’ οδηγούν στους ελαιώνες.
Έιναι πανύψηλα τα βουνά της Αρκαδίας.
Εξουσιάζουν τις θάλασσες
και το σουραύλι του Πάνα σκεπάζει τα γρυλίσματα των στρατώνων.
Βόες, ουρακοτάνγκοι, μαϊμούδες
τιβένους φορούν, κρατούν σκηπτρα.
Αρχιεπίσκοποι κι αρχιστράτηγοι “αέρα” φωνάζουν
και υψώνονται πίσω τους πτερά ορνίθων.
Έντρομοι ήρωες εγκταλείπουν τα μάρμαρα,
δραπετεύουν από τους στίχους των ποιητών,
καταφεύγουν ξανά στις όχθες του Λούσιου,
στις πηγές του Μαινάλου μοιράζονται τους ίσκιους με τον κορύδαλο.
Μένουν τα δέντρα που σκίασαν τον ύπνο του πέρδικα.
Πού να `ν’ θεματοφύλακες της αντριωσύνης σου πατρίδα.
Όνειρό σας το Θούριο και τραγούδι σας το ντουφέκι.
Arkadia, an utopia
Wikipedia: Arcadia refers to a vision of pastoralism and harmony with nature. The term is derived from the Greek province of the same name which dates to antiquity; the province’s mountainous topography and sparse population of pastoralists later caused the word Arcadia to develop into a poetic byword for an idyllic vision of unspoiled wilderness. Arcadia is a poetic shaped space associated with bountiful natural splendor and harmony. The ‘Garden’ is often inhabited by shepherds. The concept also figures in Renaissance mythology. Although commonly thought of as being in line with Utopian ideals, Arcadia differs from that tradition in that it is more often specifically regarded as unattainable. Furthermore, it is seen as a lost, Edenic form of life, contrasting to the progressive nature of Utopian desires.
The inhabitants were often regarded as having continued to live after the manner of the Golden Age, without the pride and avarice that corrupted other regions. It is also sometimes referred to in English poetry as Arcady. The inhabitants of this region bear an obvious connection to the figure of the noble savage, both being regarded as living close to nature, uncorrupted by civilization, and virtuous. Source.
Zátouna, the perfect exile
All information about Arcadia and Zátouna explains why Mikis Theodorakis has been brought there. There is not any possibility to escape, or to find him. The citizens of the village were considered to be not-communists, and were therefore not seen as possible friends of Mikis Theodorakis’ views on politics. I found this information in a brilliant Greek article that will be translated in its total length in the next post.
My personal note on the people of Zátouna in that time: Mikis Theodorakis says in the video that they were cowards, not daring to help him, but people who live so extremely isolated from the rest of the country, the world, are not interested in the politics of Athens. People who lived their entire life in an area without military, or police officers, were of course scared to death, exactly the same as Mikis Theodorakis and his family when these men in uniforms started to live in their village.
Before Theodorakis arrived, they lived their own life in their own world. Wikipedia: “Arcadia was a district of mountain people, culturally separated from other Greeks.” Source.
In 1968-1969 there was not even a TV in Zátouna. Maybe not even a newspaper, if so maybe a local one. Their isolated existence was based on a system that forces all inhabitants to cooperate with each other. Watch a short documentary about life in Arcadia.
Their way of living was sustainable and ecological: they had all they needed in their own small village. We must not forget the possibility that they did not even know Mikis Theodorakis and it is possible that they learned about him much later, when finally also isolated villages, including Zátouna, became lesser isolated and TV was finally also installed there: in the seventies!
Mikis Theodorakis’ “Arcadia” compositions have been influenced by the traditional music of the district of Zátouna, Dimitsana, I read (forgot to bookmark the webpage where I read it, but hopefully I will find it back). How did (does) that traditional music sound? Note: I do not hear any “Arcadia” sound or rhythm in the Theodorakis compositions with the same name.
More with Arcadia in a playlist with 80 videos.
Next post: The translation of: Οι Αρκαδίες του Μίκη Θεοδωράκη
Additional information and references
- Wikipedia: Arcadia
- Wikipedia: Peloponnese
- Wikipedia: Tripoli
- Wikipedia: Gortyna
- Wikipedia: Dimitsana
- Wikipedia: Zátouna
- Official Website: Mikis Theodorakis’s life in Chronology I – XVII (1925-present)
- Blog post: Myrto Altinoglou
- Wikipedia: Regime of the Colonels (Junta)
- Website: Pieter Hendriks
- Blog post: The Spirit of Freedom
- Wikipedia: River Lousios
- YouTube channel ctpcmh
- Google Translate
- Wikipedia: Arcadia (Utopia)
- Wikipedia: Utopia
- Orfeas website: Οι Αρκαδίες του Μίκη Θεοδωράκη
- Wikipedia: Pan (Greek mythology)
- Playlist: Arcadia (videos with Arcadian nature, villages, locals, culture, food, animals, agriculture)