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FAMOUS CRETANS

Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936), Politician, statesman and diplomat:
Eleftherios Venizelos was born at Mournies, near Chania. After studying law in Athens he became leader of the Cretan Liberal Party. He was instrumental in gaining Crete’s independence from the Ottoman empire, and the union of Crete with Greece in 1913. He became the islands first independent prime minister in 1905 and prime minister of Greece in 1910. After a turbulent career in what, for Greece at least,  were turbulent political times, he died in exile in France in 1936, after coming out of retirement to back a failed republican coup. Eleftherios Venizelos is buried in the Tombs of the Venizelos Family in the village of Akrotiri, overlooking Chania. Set in tranquil parkland (coach trips not withstanding) it is well worth a visit if only for the spectacular panoramic views over Chania town.



Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957),Writer and philosopher.

 

Now chiefly remembered as the author of “Zorba the Greek”, Nikos Kazantzakis was more of a philosopher than a novelist. He was influenced by the writings of Nietzsche and Bergson, and Christian, Marxist and Buddhist philosophy. His book, The Last Temptation of Christ, was considered highly controversial when first published in 1955, and prompted angry reactions from both the Roman Catholic Church which banned it, and from the Greek Orthodox Church which excommunicated him.

 


 

Domenico Theotokopoulos (El Greco),(1541-1614), Painter, sculptor and architect.


Born in the village of Fodhele, El Greco’s standing in the annals of international art history is without question. He studied the icon painters of Crete, and traveled between Venice (where he studied under Titian), Rome (where he was influenced by Michelangelo), and Spain where he settled in Toledo. He is regarded as the first great genius of the Spanish mannerist school.


 

 

 

 

Nana Mouskouri (1934 - ) Singer.


Arguably Greece’s most globally famous artiste Nana Mouskouri was born in Chania, moving to Athens when she was 3. In 1950 she was accepted at the Athens Conservatory, but was expelled in 1957 after it was discovered that she was singing with a jazz group at night. She was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in October 1993, and represented Greece in the European Parliament from 1994-1999

 

 

 

 

Mikis Theodorakis (1925 -) Musician.
A slightly tenuous connection this as Mikis’ father came from Crete whilst he was actually born on the Greek island of Chios. A musician and composer of international repute, his name may not be immediately familiar, but it’s unlikely anyone has not heard his music. He has composed over a 1000 songs, 5 symphonies, the ballets: "Greek Carnival", "Elektra", "Zorba", oratorios such as: "The March of the Spirit" and "Canto General" four operas: "Kostas Karyotakis", "Medea", "Elektra" and "Antigone", the Olympic anthem "Canto Olympico", and the film scores for "Phaedra", "Z", "Elektra", and "Serpico".
He also wrote the score for the film "Zorba the Greek", including the piece “Zorba’s Dance” Possibly the most famous musical work ever to come out of Greece.
Always politically active, in the 1980s he became a member of parliament with the centre-right New Democracy party.. He has received several offers to serve as President of Greece, but has refused them.

 

 

 

Nicholas Andreas "Nick the Greek" Dandolos (1883 – 1966) Gambler

Born in Rethymnon in 1883, the son of wealthy parents. He attended the Greek

Evangelical College and earned a degree in philosophy.When he was 18 years old his grandfather sent him to the U.S.A.with an allowance of $150 per week. Settling first in Chicago, he eventually moved to Montreal where he began gambling on horse races. After winning over $500,000, he moved back to Chicago where he promptly lost it all on card and dice games. Undaunted, he quickly mastered these games, and became a prime attraction at casinos he played in.
From January to May in 1951, Nick played a two-person "heads up" poker match against Johnny Moss. The game, set up by Benny Binion, at his “Horseshoe” casino in Las Vegas, as a tourist attraction, is widely credited as being the inspiration for the modern day World Series Poker. He died on Christmas Day in 1966 and was a charter inductee of the Poker Hall of Famein 1979. It's estimated that he won and lost over $500 million in his lifetime, donating over $20 million (over $400 million today) to education and charity.


 

Giannis Anastasakis (John Aniston) (1933 - )Actor.


Giannis moved from his Cretan birthplace to the U.S. where he pursued an acting career under his anglicized name, and is now a successful actor in a daily soap opera. His success has been overshadowed somewhat though by his daughter, the actress Jennifer Aniston, who shot to fame with the international phenomenon of the TV series “Friends”.

His best friend was the late actor Telly Savalas, who was godfather to Jennifer.

 

 

 

Michalis Damaskinos (1530-1591):
He is the best known painter of the Cretan school icon painters (1530-1591 AD), that were an early influence on El Greco. His works combined elements of Byzantine and Renaissance art. These icons are now exhibited in the Museum of Religious Art in Iraklion


Vitsentzos Kornaros (1553–1613) Poet.
A poet of the Greek Renaissance, and contemporary of William Shakespeare, though it’s highly unlikely the two ever met, Vitsentzos was the creator of the romantic epic poem Erotokritos. A narrative work comprising of ten thousand 15-syllable verses, it was the major inspiration behind the mantinades, traditional folk poems often narrated or sung to the sound of the Cretan lyra. Mantinades are still surviving today in modern Cretan culture, still using the form of 15 syllable rhyming couplets which are very often improvised.