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300 > “Molon lave!” April 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life.
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“Molon lave!” Come and get them!

Thump, thump, thump, the heavy thudding shook the Greek soil. The date is set to 480 B.C. and the Persian King Xerxes heads one of the mightiest armies the world has ever seen. His eyes are transfixed on the task ahead. Just ten years back the mortifying defeat at Marathon still stings his heart. Stubborn and pitiless are words that embody this Persian king who expanded the kingdom to it’s present might. He smells the Greek aura and that itself is enough to choke his lungs for the rage that drives this monster has no bounds. He successfully crossed the Hellespont in a way Homer would love to exaggerate, yet it was not fiction. Due to the large number of the army they bridged the strait with boats so they could march through to Greece.

Thump.. Thump.. the footsteps of 500,000 men resound the Greek peninsula as it faces utter annihilation from the face of the earth. Northern Greece submits to the Persian invaders without resistance for the sight of an enormous Persian army demands fear. One shepherd reported, “I watched them march for a dozen day and more and still the men kept coming and coming.”

300spartanslife1.jpg  At another side of Greece a solitary state, self-sufficient and fertile basks in the scorching sun. Military traditions engulf this state which can be summed by just one word, Sparta. Here it is believed that one should ask what he could do for the state and not what the state can do for him. Sparta was, above all, a militarist state, and emphasis on military fitness began virtually at birth. Shortly after birth, the mother of the child bathed it in wine to see whether the child was strong. If the child survived, it was brought before the elders of the tribe by the child’s father. The elders then decided whether it was to be reared or not. If found defective or weak, the baby was left to die on the wild slopes of Mount Taygetos. In this way the Spartans attempted the maintenance of high physical standards in their population. From the earliest days of the Spartan citizen, the claim on his life by the state was absolute and strictly enforced. Children as young as 7 years old are subjected to military training until he finally earns the right to battle under the Spartan flag. And on that day he is given his shield and armour.

It was customary in Sparta that before the males would go off to war, their wives or another female of some significance would present them with their shield and say: “I tan, i epi tas”, which translates to “Return back with this, or upon this.” The idea was that a Spartan could only return to Sparta in one of two ways: Victorious or dead. If a Spartan hoplite were to return to Sparta alive and without his shield, it was assumed that he threw his shield at the enemy in an effort to flee; an act punishable by death or banishment. It is interesting to note the story about the Spartan who fled in defeat and came back home with an arrow in his back, upon receiving the son home the mother stabs the son in shame and commited suicide herself for raising a coward. However a soldier losing his helm, breastplate or greaves, leg armor, was not similarly punished, as these items were personal pieces of armour designed to protect one soldier. However the shield not only protected the individual soldier but in the tightly packed Spartan Phalanx, a military formation, was also instrumental in protecting the soldier to his left from harm. Thus the shield was symbolic of the individual soldier’s subordination to his unit, his integral part in its success, and his solemn responsibility to his comrades in arms, messmates and friends, often close blood relations. It could not be lost.

300spartanslife2.jpg  Thus was the breed of the Spartan race that controlled the area known as Laconia. But now not only was their existence threatened but also that of the whole of Hellas. The Spartan King Leonidas takes the charge to defend the whole of Greece having absolute faith in the Spartan army. Religious scruples prevented him from deploying the whole army yet not wanting to give up on his word he takes his personal bodyguard of 300 men to the narrow strech of Thermopylae. Earlier it was decided that this narrow stretch would be the best point of defence as the large Persian army had no advantage.

Spartans were by tradition known to have sharp tongues with concise yet cutting comments. When the Persians sent envoys to the Spartans demanding the traditional symbol of surrender, an offering of soil and water, the Spartans threw them into a deep well, suggesting that upon their arrival at the bottom, they could “Dig it out for yourselves.” Surprised comments on this act raised the question, “This is madness” for which Leonidas swiftly answered, “Madness? This is Sparta”. On another occasion the Persians threatened a Spartan named Dienekes saying, “today our arrows will blot out the sun” to which he replied, “then we will battle in the shade”.

The 300 men finally reached their ground high spirited, blood hungry and honoured to battle under the Spartan flag and red armour. The whole of Greece had new born hope as they saw the Spartans march with fervour and valour. By tradition the Spartans wore red armour so that no enemy will ever see Spartan blood.

The next day dawns and the die is cast, for an army of 500,000 were about to be defended by 300 men. Battle begins and history records one of the most grueling yet tactical warfare that still amazes the world. King Leonidas uses techniques never seen before, the Persians draw back but Leonidas is not merciful enough to let them go alive. Thousands are pushed to the river and drowned and more slaughtered. There is turmoil in the Persian camp for a mere 300 men had humiliated them, Xerxes sits on his high throne and stares at an unforgiving scene, half of his mercenaries lie lifeless on Greek soil. Xerxes is given a Hobson’s choice, to use his immortals. The immortals were the personal bodyguard of the Persian emperor, and known for their “immortal” quality on the battle field.

Thump… thump…. Yet again the sound reverberates the air. The immortals are on the march towards the Spartans. Leonidas forms his army into a diagonal formation with himself at the front and cuts deep into the immortals, and yet again another tactic raises a wall of fire behind the immortals preventing them from retreating and the whole garrison is burnt and slain. The Spartan King has achieved something no one ever before him did, he had defended Greece with just 300 men and also defeated the unconquerable immortals. The Persian moral is down and Xerxes desperate for hope.

As is in every war treachery shows the way when everything else fails. For a handful of gold coins a Greek mountaineer named Ephialtes shows Xerxes a secret goat path that falls right at the rear of the Spartans. Finally a dual attack from the Persians break the bold defence of King Leonidas. At dawn knowing of the inevitable end Leonidas exhorted his men, “Eat well, for tonight we dine in Hades(hell).” Xerxes seeing the Spartans surrounded acclaimed “Spartans lay down your arms” to which Leonidas replied “Molon lave!” Come and get them!

And finally one by one the Spartans were killed and they boldly fought to the last man and there they lay 300 plus one man who lead them, dead. A stone momento was laid in honour of these few men who helped change the course of history for the delay that was caused by them helped the rest of Greece evacuate and re-group. Later on at the battles of Platea and Salamis the Persians suffer total defeat and the invasion is successfully defended by the Greeks. Hence it is accurate to say that the Spartans lost the battle but won the war.

“Sir, I saw them camp, thousands of them… and at night their campfires made it seem as if the stars had fallen from the sky and strewn across the plain”. Leonidas replied, “Good, for when I was a child I always fancied one day to throw my spear to the stars.”

Source > With a little bit of help from Herodotus’ Histories

Film festival kicks off in Cyprus today April 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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Screenings will include films about sports, such as the documentary on French soccer legend Zinedine Zidane. The event will run to April 19.

Cyprus’ Second International Film Festival kicks off at the island’s Cineplex cinemas today. Hoping to reflect all contemporary film production, the event will run to April 19.

After a careful selection from applications by 600 filmmakers from 50 countries, this year’s program includes shorts and feature films, documentaries, films for children, video art, music videos and films about sports. A new category, that of video dance, also has been added this year.

Films from all sections will compete for the great prize of the Golden Aphrodite. Screenings, which take place in Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaca, will also include films distinguished at international festivals, so as to inform local film buffs of up-and-coming filmmakers’ tendencies.

Therefore, there will be films from Patras’s 8th Panorama of Independent Filmmakers, films and documentaries about social problems, documentaries about sports legends such as Diego Maradona and Zinedine Zidane, important productions about dance and a large tribute to Aliki Danezi-Knutsen, a Cypriot director who was born in Lyon, grew up in Cyprus and studied in California.

Various directors, producers and film experts will honor the festival with their presence, such as director Nikos Koundouros who is also head of the committee, Aliki Danezi-Knutsen, actress Chloe Liaskou as well as Lilette Botassi, Virginia Diakaki, Dimitris Koukas and others.

Orchestra with a family spirit in Athens April 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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Cuba’s legendary Orquesta Aragon, now seven decades old, in Athens for one show this Saturday

‘I’m not looking for virtuosos, but musicians with quality,’ said Rafael Lay Bravo, band leader of the decades-old orchestra, a pioneer in the development of Cuban styles over the years.

Rafael Lay Bravo makes no distinctions between Cuba and music, nor between Orquesta Aragon and family. His life has been entwined with the legendary act’s work and travels, no matter where, for the past 25 years. The orchestra, now an incredible seven decades old, will be in Athens for one show this Saturday at the Iera Odos club.

Since Orquesta Aragon’s inception, younger members have been added as needed for its uninterrupted course. Bravo, the band leader on vocals and violin, makes it clear that he does not perceive the project as an orchestra, but as family, “a big family,” in his own words.

“Orquesta Aragon was not established for the money. It was not created so that its members could make a living. All of us who serve it love music with a passion which we want to share with others,” Bravo said in an interview. “Rhythm for us equals ideology. We believe that rhythm exists everywhere. Without rhythm, life has no essence, or flavor,” he continued.

The group’s members not only consider it an obligation to keep alive their homeland’s tradition, but also to groom and condition younger musicians for successful integration into this evergreen musical whole. Inevitably, there has been some change in the band’s sound. “Even we were forced to change our sound. We also added other styles,” Bravo explained.

In earlier times, the orchestra was renowned for its cha-cha numbers. It has provided sultry sounds, be it danzon, cha-cha, or cha-onda, the latest development, for three generations of dancing Cubans.

“We play all the Cuban styles, but our selections are determined by the audiences,” said Bravo. “I remember a show in Milan a few years ago. We’d prepared a set made up of rhythmic songs and a few wonderful Cuban ballads. The audience didn’t let us play any of them. The night developed into a wild party. Audiences know what they want and guide you.”

This orchestra’s long-running history began to take shape when Bravo’s father took the baton from Orquesta Aragon’s founder, Oreste Aragon, who established the act in the city of Cienfuegos. The project was originally known as Ritmica de 39, then Ritmica Aragon, before settling with Orquesta Aragon in the late 40s. The band’s repertoire has in the past included waltz numbers and contemporary Spanish songs.

“I’m interested in having a musical family. I’m not looking for virtuosos, but musicians with quality. In the late 40s, everybody had turned to American jazz and the orchestra’s music was not that popular. But my father never stopped believing in it. He changed the sound, worked hard, and was vindicated soon after,” said Bravo. “He signed a record deal with the major label RCA in the 1950s, which was the big breakthrough.”

Asked to comment on the differences between Orquesta Aragon and one of Cuba’s other major musical ambassadors, Buena Vista Social Club, Bravo remarked: “Buena Vista is a collection of great Cuban musicians that changes constantly. Orquesta Aragon features specific musicians who have known each other for years, which makes for greater versatility in the repertoire and adjustments in line with the audience’s mood. So, there’s a little more communication here.”

Nicosia Mayor disappointed over Turkish statements April 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Cyprus Occupied.
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Nicosia Mayor Eleni Mavrou yesterday expressed her disappointment over statements made by the Turkish Cypriot so-called and illegal mayor Cemal Bulutoglulari of the currently Turkish military controlled and occupied northern area of Nicosia, that he would call off joint projects in the capital.

Bulutoglulari said he could no longer cooperate with Mavrou since she sent a letter to organisers of the Fourth World Mayors’ Summit to be held in Istanbul today, asking them not to refer to him as “mayor”, because of what she described as the municipality’s “non-recognised” status.

Mavrou also took exception to being referred to by the organisers as; ‘The Mayor of the Greek Cypriot Municipality’.

“From now on I will not build the Mia Milia refinery with Mavrou, despite the pressures to be exerted by the EU”, said Bulutoglulari. He also threatened to close the valve of the refinery to the Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriot press reported yesterday.

“We are not obliged to clean their dirt. In any case they are not paying the 35 million euros which are in their share. In this case we will build the part of the project which falls into our share. And we will close the valve to them.”

Speaking after a meeting with President Tassos Papadopoulos yesterday, Mavrou said tensions would harm efforts for cooperation between the two sides.

“Both sides gain from such cooperation and I am sure that more dispassionate thoughts will prevail in the future. We have the will to cooperate with full respect to the other side” she said but added that these had nothing to do with respect to international law which could not be ignored.

The Mayor reiterated that she would not be attending the Istanbul conference.

“We want to attend the meeting, we believe in cooperation especially among members of civil society. We cannot however close our eyes to ignorance of international law,” she said.

Mavrou said on Tuesday that although the so-called and illegal Turkish Cypriot Nicosia municipality was mentioned in the 1960 constitution, the constitution was not in force in the north, and therefore, as far as the Cypriot government was concerned, it could not be recognised. She said she did not expect Bulutoglulari to recognise her Municipality either, and that she hoped the issue would not sour relations between the two.

In her meeting with Papadopoulos Mavrou discussed developments in Nicosia and the future opening of the Ledra Street crossing.

“It is an issue which the political leadership is handling, in addition to the restoration of nearby buildings and security concerns in the area,” she said. “There are still difficulties, especially as regards the position of the soldiers. I hope there will be an outcome,” she added.

EP Committee hears proposals to save Cypriot cultural heritage April 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Cyprus Occupied.
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The European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education in Brussels heard a series of proposals yesterday for the protection of the cultural heritage of Cyprus, at the initiative of the Committee’s Chairman Nicos Sifounakis.

According to CNA, the idea for yesterday’s public hearing came after a visit of a Committee delegation to Cyprus in June 2006, during which the MEPs were informed on the situation much of Cyprus’ cultural heritage came into as a result of the Turkish military invasion of 1974 and occupation of the northern part of the Republic.

The most important of the proposals was submitted by MEP of the European People’s Doris Pack, who suggested the adoption of a resolution which will call upon the German presidency of the EU to intervene so that Germany returns the cultural treasure stolen from 46 churches in the Turkish occupied areas by looter Aydin Dikman.

German historian Klaus Gallas said the implementation of a decision by the German courts was still pending regarding the return of the stolen icons, and called on the Committee to intervene in the direction of the German presidency for the repatriation of 40 crates of heirlooms currently in Munich.

Sifounakis referred to Turkey’s responsibility, as a candidate for accession to the EU, to protect the cultural heritage of Cyprus.

US journalist Michel Jansen accused Ankara of cultural catharsis and British MP Edward O’Hara called for immediate action on behalf of the European Parliament in order to avert the transformation of monasteries in the occupied areas into hotels.

Professor Vasos Karayiorgis said there was still time to intervene in order to salvage the cultural heritage of Cyprus, and accused the University of Ankara of illegal excavations in Turkish occupied Salamis.

European People’s Party MEP Yiannakis Matsis proposed the allocation of funds to save the cultural heritage in the occupied areas. Matsis is planning to hold contacts and organise contacts concerning the destruction of the cultural heritage of Cyprus and ways to salvage it.

Austrian MEP Karin Resetarits agreed with Matsis and criticised the fact that the Turkish side was not heard at the public hearing. She furthermore said that the Turkish Cypriots were “cultivated” and not looters.

Replying to Resetarits, Democratic Rally MEP Panayiotis Demetriou said he expected her to show some sensitivity seeing the photographs and the film presented at the hearing with the plundered churches and cemeteries.

Demetriou criticised the European Parliament for not promoting the decision to grant 500,000 euros for research into the saving of the cultural heritage in the occupied areas, and said Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn had ”done nothing” in this direction.

EDITOR’S NOTE > See related photos in our Flickr Photo Gallery. Use the related link provided on the navigation bar on your right hand side.

Cyprus to host European Masters Weightlifting Championship April 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Martial Arts.
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Cyprus has been given the honour of hosting this year’s European Masters Weightlifting Championship after original hosts Bulgaria was stripped of the right to put on the event due to lack of communication with the European Masters Weightlifting Association.

The 17th Men’s and 15th Women’s European Masters Weightlifting Championship is scheduled to take place at the Spyros Kyprianou Athletic Center in Limassol from 19th to 26th of May.

This is the first time Cyprus will host a weightlifting event of such magnitude and it is expected to draw more than 500 athletes and 1500 supporting staff, including personal coaches, physiotherapists and fans, to the island during the week.

FIA Middle East Rally Championship heads to Cyprus April 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Racing & Motors.
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The eastern Mediterranean holiday island of Cyprus will again welcome many of the world’s top rally drivers this month for the 2007 Troodos Rally.

An annual highlight of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), this year’s Troodos Rally is round 3 of the 2007 calendar and once again offers the perfect opportunity for rally fans to enjoy a holiday in the sun while spectating at a tough, challenging and entertaining rallying event.

Since its inception in 2000, the Troodos Rally has provided rallying thrills and spills to many thousands of rally fans, as well as providing an excellent opportunity for local and regional talent to shine.

Organised by the Cyprus Automobile Association (CAA) and sponsored by Chevrolet, Valvoline, and the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, the 2007 Troodos Rally is set for Friday 20th and Sunday 22nd April.  Based in the island’s cosmopolitan capital Nicosia, it promises to be a weekend packed full of excitement with plenty of opportunity for rally fans to enjoy the action.

Always a popular event, local drivers Andreas Tsouloftas and Andreas Peratikos have both taken victory here, while recent years have been dominated by the defending FIA Middle East and PWRC champion, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah. Al-Attiyah’s victory at the 2006 event marked his 4th consecutive Troodos Rally win!

Al-Attiyah and co-driver Chris Patterson will be hoping that they can repeat this impressive feat in their Subaru Impreza WRX STi this year as they currently sit 4th on the leaderboard, 8 points behind the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Nick Beech and their Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

Al-Attiyah and Patterson can be expected to go all out for victory here, making this a crucial round of the 2007 championship. But it won’t be easy. Competitors and their cars really are tested to the limit here. The Troodos Rally is considered one of the toughest events in the MERC, with the punishing stages proving a real test of man and machine. Attrition rates are often high, with the 2004 event seeing just 13 of 37 teams finishing!

The Troodos Rally marks the first of two rounds of the 2007 MERC to be held in Cyprus, with the competitors set to return to the island again between the 12th and 14th October to compete the Cyprus Rally. Cyprus is the only country to host two rounds of the MERC -proof of the island’s exceptional rallying pedigree.

The 2007 Troodos Rally gets underway with the Ceremonial Start at Nicosia’s Eleftheria Square on the evening of Friday 20th April. The competing crews face early starts on the Saturday and Sunday, with prizegiving scheduled to take place in Nicosia on Sunday afternoon. The Service Park will once again be based at Nicosia’s International State Fair, while the Press Office will be located at the nearby Hilton Park Nicosia hotel.