Pella, Greece – Lives like a Novel..

The daily life of Pella from the time of the Ancient Macedonians to the present day is imprinted on written texts that left their mark on literature. The eerie quiet of the River Loudias, the blossoming cherries of Edessa, the forests and the plain of Almopia link the space with the time and present the layers of history, according to the inspiration of each writer.

The 58-acre palace complex of Pella was built by King Archelaos I of Macedonia, when he transferred the Macedonian capital from Aigai to Pella in the 5th century B.C. The Royal Court hosted important personalities of art and culture making Pella a famous intellectual center. One of them was the tragic poet Euripides who wrote his plays "Archelaus" and "Bacchae" there. Euripides - who according to Aristotle - was "the most tragic of the poets” died in Pella and was buried with honors by the King.

On a summer night, approximately in the mid-4th century BC, the palace was celebrating the birth of Prince Alexander, while in another house a woman was writing the first text found of that period. The text was a curse written on a sheet of lead with which the woman invoked the demons so that her beloved one would not marry someone else. Although the content of the text is not considered a masterpiece of literature, the value of the object that is exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Pella, is simply incalculable.

Millions of words have been written for Alexander the Great. Most books describe his epic accomplishments after launching his Asia campaign. One of the books that refer to his childhood describing the conditions that shaped his character is entitled "Alexander the Great - Fire from Heaven". This historical novel is the first part of a trilogy written by the British author Mary Renault in 1969. The other two books are titled: "The Persian Boy" and “Funeral Games”. The author's in-depth research on Alexander the Great and the places he is connected with such as Pella, Aigai, Mieza, was the raw material for the award-winning American filmmaker Oliver Stone to produce his movie “Alexander”.

The end of the Hellenistic era is followed by the rise of the Roman Empire. The cities of Pella region were growing alternatively. Pella of the Macedonians became Pella of the Romans. The Byzantines upgraded Edessa into a city of strategic importance for the Empire. On the 14th century Giannitsa became a sacred city of the Ottomans. According to the Ottoman chronographer Evliya Celebi, Giannitsa of the 17th century was the city of philosophy and poetry.

The Macedonian Struggle, which took place from 1904 to 1908 against the Ottoman occupation, was the inspiration for Penelopi Delta to write the children's novel "The Secrets of the Swamp". The book focuses on the human stories of two children helping the soldiers during the battles that took place in the Giannitsa swamp. It is one of the most popular children’s books for the last 80 years not only due to the patriotism of the author but also because Pinelopi Delta lost a lot of friends during the Struggle with Pavlos Melas being one of them.

In October 1912, the First Balkan War brought Ion Dragoumis to Giannitsa. He was an author and a politician serving undercover as a diplomat and officially as an army officer. He was the brother-in-law of Pavlos Melas and the greatest love in Pinelopi Delta’s life.

Edessa was described as “The City of Waters and Cherries” by Ho Chi Minh. The Vietnamese leader revealed that he knew the area from his term in the French army during WWI and that it reminded him of his homeland. Ho Chi Minh mentioned Edessa when he was interviewed by the Greek journalist Solon Grigoriadis in 1965.

Gordon Smith, an American correspondent for the “New York Tribune” also was in Pella during WWI to broadcast about the “SALONICA FRONT”. Smith was quite impressed with the new railway that the French army had constructed in just five months time to connect Edessa and the nearby regions with the war front line in Voras Mountain. This line that was called “Decauville” was smaller than the regular one and very useful for quick refueling.

Between the refugees from Asia Minor who were settled in Pella in 1922, was the Valassiades family. Their fifth child, Takis, stood out in school. He had to change many professions for survival reasons but always found time to publish several collections of poems and short stories.One of his jobs was worker at the construction of Loudias Dam. From the name of the river he inspired his nickname and the young Takis Valassiades became Menelaos Lountemis, one of the most important Greek writers of the 20th century.

The power of literature in Pella remains unchanged in the 21st century. Makis Tsitas is one of the contemporary writers, born in Giannitsa. He wrote 22 children books which have been translated in eleven languages and he is Award-Winner of the European Union Literature Prize.

This land inspires the imagination. The people of Pella use the past to create the future exactly as Alexander the Great had done. When he set out for his campaign, Alexander bestowed all his possessions. His friends asked him: "Will you keep nothing for yourself?" And he replied: "I hold the most precious thing: Good hopes for the future. I don't need anything from the past."

Text - Photos: Sofia Bournatzi


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