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Greek Independence Day 2024: Selections from the Villanova Digital Library’s Newspaper Collection

Illustration featuring characters in nineteenth-century Greek outfits. Drawing by Albert Berghaus (1869–1880). Illustration for Nathan D. Urner's Dick and his double; or, "Not me, but the other fellow", published in Frank Leslie's Boys' and Girls' Weekly : An Illustrated Journal of Amusement, Adventure, and Instruction, v. XXII, no. 553, May 26, 1877.

Illustration featuring characters in nineteenth-century Greek outfits. Drawing by Albert Berghaus (active 1869–1880) for chapter IX in Nathan D. Urner’s “Dick and his double; or, Not me, but the other fellow,” published in Frank Leslie’s Boys’ and Girls’ Weekly : An Illustrated Journal of Amusement, Adventure, and Instruction, v. XXII, no. 553, May 26, 1877, p. [225].

Each year on March 25, Greeks in Greece and the diaspora celebrate Independence Day. The holiday, celebrated on the same day as the Orthodox feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), marks the anniversary of the start of the Greek War for Independence from the Ottoman Empire. This war took place from 1821 to 1829 and was the first of several major armed conflicts throughout the nineteenth century that liberated parts of what is now the nation state of Greece. The Villanova Digital Library, in particular its newspaper collection, preserves numerous articles and other works that highlight this period in history.

The Truth Teller, a Catholic newspaper published in New York, seemed especially interested in covering the War for Independence as it was occurring. The topics covered in this newspaper ranged from updates on decisive battles to reports of foreign involvement. The uncredited writers of these segments seemingly adopted a largely Philhellenic approach to their news coverage.

At the same time, The Truth Teller advertised newly published books covering the Greek Revolution. The following segment promotes A Picture of Greece in 1825 (1826) by James Emerson Tennent (1804-1869), Giuseppe Pecchio (1785-1835), and William Henry Humphreys. The advertisement provides an excerpt focusing on Kostas Botsaris (1792-1853), a Greek general and senator who was active during the revolution. It also makes reference to Kostas’ brother Markos Botsaris (1790-1823), who died during the revolution, as well as to the two brothers’ hometown of Suli, or Souli, in Epirus, Greece.

The following advertisement, published on September 13, 1928, in Philadelphia’s Saturday Evening Post, promotes Samuel Gridley Howe’s (1801-1876) An Historical Sketch of the Greek Revolution (1828). Howe was an American doctor, abolitionist, and education advocate who volunteered as a surgeon and commander during the Greek War for Independence. In this regard, he was similar to many Phihellenes of his time who became deeply invested in the Greek Revolution, such as English poet Lord Byron (1788-1824), who died in Missolonghi, Greece, during the war. (Among other poems by Byron, “The Isles of Greece” celebrates the cause of Greek independence, but remains disillusioned about the assistance offered by Western Europe: “Trust not for freedom to the Franks—/ They have a king who buys and sells; / In native swords and native ranks / The only hope of courage dwells”).

The National Gazette and Library Register was another newspaper that provided updates on the war in Greece. The following segment reprints a letter addressing the political dimension of the Greek uprising.

This segment, also from The National Gazette and Library Register, describes the situation at the fortified city of Missolonghi in 1853. Though the article seems hopeful about the city’s ability to defend itself, Missolonghi would fall to Turkish-Egyptian forces in 1826, following a lengthy siege that drove the city’s inhabitants, most of whom were ultimately slain, to exit their defensive position en masse. Missolonghi’s last stand has since held a prominent place in the Hellenic cultural memory and has been memorialized in works such as Theodoros Vryzakis‘ (1814-1878) painting The sortie of Messologhi (1853).

Throughout the rest of the nineteenth century, revolutions and political turmoil continued throughout Greece, with various parts of the mainland and islands gradually joining the newfound Hellenic Republic. Newspapers in the Villanova Digital Library report on many of these occurrences, ranging from political troubles surrounding King Otto of Greece (1832-1862) to an uprising on the island of Crete, and even a report that Greek Revolution veteran married famous French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923).

Even twentieth-century newspapers in the Villanova Digital Library address military conflicts in Greece. Issues of Philadelphia’s Public Ledger from 1928 were recently uploaded to the Digital Library, along with other titles that entered the public domain at the start of 2024. The January 15, 1928, issue includes an article by Adamantios Th. Polyzoides (1885-1969) on the European armament in the lead-up to World War II and how this phenomenon affected Greece. From 1907 to 1933, Polyzoides served as the editor of Atlantis, a Greek-language newspaper published in New York from 1894 to 1973. The Public Ledger article also relates to another major Greek holiday: Ohi Day (i.e., “No” Day), which commemorates Greece’s refusal to allow Italian forces to occupy strategic locations across Greece in 1940, a decision that brought Greece into the second World War.

These newspaper segments comprise a larger set of materials in the Villanova Digital Library that are relevant to Greek history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. (Examples include a 1914 English-Greek, Greek-English dictionary used by the Greek diaspora in the U.S. and an 1840 pamphlet on the British Empire’s presence on the island of Corfu, both of which have been previously featured on Falvey Library’s blog.) Additional coverage of Greek history is waiting to be discovered through keyword searches in the Digital Library’s Newspaper collection.


Weekend Recs: Greek Mythology

Happy Friday, Wildcats! Falvey Library is delivering you another semester of Weekend Recs, a blog dedicated to filling you in on what to read, listen to, and watch over the weekend. Annie, a graduate assistant from the Communication department, scours the internet, peruses the news, and digs through book stacks to find new, relevant, and thought-provoking content that will challenge you and prepare you for the upcoming week. 

Photo by deepigoyal on Unsplash

I don’t know about you, but if you’re anything like me, you probably had a Greek mythology phase, perhaps sparked by an interest in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Wonder Woman, Hercules, or maybe from this interactive book that tempted many a kid wandering around a bookstore. (And maybe you’re still in that phase, if you study the Classics). With their dramatic gods, ferocious monsters, and heroic champions, Greek myths make for captivating, animated tales that have stood the test of time. Greek mythology inspires countless movies, shows, and novels that we’ve come to love.

This weekend’s recs share some fun Greek myth analyses, retellings, adaptations, and other Greek-myth-inspired fiction.

If you have 53 seconds…and ever had a Percy Jackson phase, watch this teaser trailer breakdown to the upcoming Disney+ adaption, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. If you were a fan of the book series (and seriously let down by the film adaptations), you’ll be happy to know Rick Riordan is heavily involved in this adaptation, as a writer and executive producer.

Bonus: if you’re a fan of the book series, watch this trailer breakdown for some details you may have missed.

If you have 6 minutes and 45 secondswatch this video about the story of Medusa. Once considered a monstrous villain, Medusa has had a positive resurgence in the past few years as misunderstood and even heroic.

If you have 15 minutes…and have ever wondered who your godly parent is (for all the PJO fans) or which Greek god you’re most like, take this quiz. While there is an official PJO godly parent quiz, in my opinion, this one is better, and it includes minor gods and goddesses.

Photo by Nils on Unsplash

If you have 35 minutes and 24 seconds…and want a comical breakdown of Greek mythology, watch this video. If you’ve ever wanted Greek myths to be told like your friend would recount a story to you, this is for you.

If you have 2 hours and 10 minutes…and like superhero movies with a Greek mythology flair (or simply enjoyed the first film), watch Shazam! Fury of the Gods in theaters. In this sequel, Billy and his family fight against (without spoiling anything) powerful Greek mythological women. The film features some fun nods to Greek myth including Manticores, Cyclopes, Harpies, Minotaurs, and more, and, as with the first film, is a heart-warming found-family story.

Bonus: if you want to watch another DC Greek-myth-inspired film, watch Wonder Woman, available in Falvey’s DVD Collection.

If you have 6 hours…and love Greek retellings, read The Penelopiad. This Margaret Atwood novel is a witty retelling of The Odyssey told from the perspective of Penelope, the wife of Odysseus.

If you have 8 hours…and ever wondered what the story behind the constellations and other celestial bodies in our night sky, read this book, available online through Falvey. As a kid, my favorite was always the myth of the Draco constellation, which can be seen in early summer.

If you have a free weekend…and haven’t read them yet, read Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles and Circe. When it comes to Greek myth adaptations and retellings, Madeline Miller’s books reign supreme in recent years and for good reason. Looking for a review of these books? Check out Falvey GA Ethan’s Winter Break Reading reviews for The Song of Achilles and Circe.

Annie Stockmal is a graduate student in the Communication Department and graduate assistant in Falvey Library.

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Greek Independence Day: A Selection from the Villanova Digital Library

March 25 is Greek Independence Day. The holiday commemorates the start of the Greek War of Independence in 1821, which concluded a nearly 400-year period of Ottoman rule in Greece. The anniversary is commemorated with parades in both Greece and the diaspora. The Philadelphia parade, which is set for Sunday, April 2 this year, takes place along Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 22nd Street. The celebration includes Greek folk dance troupes, educational and religious organizations, government representatives, and members of the Evzones, or Greek Presidential Guard, who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens, Greece.

Vryzakis, Theodoros (1819-1878). "The Bishop of Old Patras Germanos Blesses the Flag of Revolution." 1865. Oil on canvas, 164 x 126 cm. National Gallery, Alexandros Soutsos Museum, Athens, Greece. Image in the Public Domain.

Vryzakis, Theodoros (1814/1819-1878). “The Bishop of Old Patras Germanos Blesses the Flag of Revolution.” 1865. Oil on canvas, 164 x 126 cm. National Gallery, Alexandros Soutsos Museum, Athens, Greece. Image in the Public Domain.

While Greece’s conflicts with the Ottoman Empire are more widely known, the British Empire also exercised colonial rule over parts of Greece in the nineteenth century, specifically in the Ionian islands to the west of the mainland. This region had been under Venetian control from the fourteenth to the late seventeenth centuries, before it was conquered by the French during the French Revolution and again during the Napoleonic Wars. However, in the Congress of Vienna of 1814-1815, the British Empire acquired the Ionian Islands as a protectorate, named the United States of the Ionian Islands, with the island of Corfu (or Kerkyra) as its capital. The protectorate existed until 1864, when Great Britain ceded the Ionian islands to Greece upon the enthronement of the Greek King George I. Sakis Gekas’ Xenocracy: State, Class, and Colonialism in the Ionian Islands, 1815-1864 (2017) explores this period in detail; Falvey offers digital access to the Gekas’ book. The legacy of the Protectorate period is still felt in several landmarks across the Ionian islands, especially in Corfu. For instance, the Old Fortress of Corfu includes the Church of St. George, an Anglican church built for British soldiers in 1840.

Church of St. George, Old Fortress, Corfu, Greece. Photograph by Christoforos Sassaris.

Church of St. George, Old Fortress, Corfu, Greece. Photograph by Christoforos Sassaris.

A rare pamphlet that was recently added to the Villanova Digital Library as part of the Joseph McGarrity Collection sheds further light on this part of modern Greek history. Titled A refutation of the assertions of Sir Howard Douglas, in his despatch of the 10th April, 1840, concerning the faction which he imagined to exist in the Ionian Islands, the pamphlet was written by Greek historian Giovanni Petrizzopulo and published by Morton’s English and Foreign Printing Office in 1840. The pamphlet’s author describes it as a “remonstrance against one of the outrages of despotic power in the Ionian Islands.” Petrizzopulo’s criticism is directed at Sir Howard Douglas (1776-1861), who served as Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands at the time. Douglas was responsible for an official search of Petrizzopulo’s house in Corfu under suspicion of rebellious activity.

Title page. Petrizzopoulo, Giovanni. A refutation of the assertions of Sir Howard Douglas... 1840. London : Morton's English and Foreign Printing Office.

Title page. Petrizzopulo, Giovanni. A refutation of the assertions of Sir Howard Douglas… 1840. London: Morton’s English and Foreign Printing Office.

Even though Petrizzopulo appeals to British authority (his pamphlet is addressed to Lord John Russell (1792-1878), Secretary for the Colonies), and attempts to defend himself from accusations of treason, his writing nonetheless adopts a critical tone toward British policy. In a book chapter titled “The Philorthodox Conspiracy in the British-Ruled Ionian Islands,” Lucien J. Frary draws on passages from Petrizzopulo’s pamphlet and argues that “Petrizzopulo was disgusted with the British government and accused it of exercising despotic power.” Moreover, Frary frames the incident at Petrizzopulo’s home as a part of a larger British attempt to suppress revolt in the Ionian Sea, writing that “Any suspicion of communicating with Greece served as a pretext for the government to carry out a search.” Falvey offers digital access to Frary’s full book.

Petrizzopulo’s pamphlet joins several other items on the Villanova Digital Library that are relevant to modern Greek history, such as an early-twentieth-century French souvenir photo album, which is discussed in a Falvey blog article, as well as Divry’s vest-pocket English-Greek and Greek-English dictionary (1914), which is likewise highlighted on our blog. Petrizzopulo’s pamphlet can be accessed digitally on the Digital Library. Alternatively, it can be consulted in-person in Falvey’s Rare Book Room during walk-in hours (Wednesdays 9:30-11:30 AM and Thursdays 2-4 PM) or by appointment.


Rare 1914 Greek-English, English-Greek Dictionary Added to Digital Library

The Villanova Digital Library recently added a title that had not been previously digitized elsewhere: a 1914 edition of Divry’s vest-pocket English-Greek and Greek-English dictionary, published in New York by Demosthenes Constantopoulos Divry (1877-1927). An introductory letter, written in the formal “katharevousa” form of Greek prevalent in writings of the time, describes the book as “a necessary and trustworthy advisor to the Greek in America.” To that end, the dictionary includes not only translations from English to Greek and vice versa, but also useful appendices on irregular English verbs, major holidays, units of measurement, currency exchange rates, epistolary conventions, USPS mailing conventions, and more.


Title page of Divry's dictionary

Title page of Divry’s dictionary

Introductory letter in Divry's dictionary

Introductory letter in Divry’s dictionary


It is evident that the book was heavily used by a previous owner, likely the “Andreas” mentioned in an inscription on the rear pastedown. As other inscriptions on the front pastedown and elsewhere indicate, a reader added words that were not already present in the dictionary. Moreover, the US map listed on the table of contents was seemingly torn out by a reader who presumably found it useful. It is uncertain whether the book was primarily used by a Greek immigrant adjusting to American society or a student of English in Greece. Inscriptions on the rear pastedown mention two streets located at the heart of Athens: Ermou and Papagianni. Ermou cuts through the Monastiraki neighborhood, which is adjacent to historic sites like Hadrian’s Library, the Stoa of Attalos, and the Acropolis of Athens. Monastiraki is known for its flea markets and shops that sell historical materials; Divry’s 1914 dictionary was found in one of these shops.


View of Monastiraki Square

View of Monastiraki Square, Athens, Greece. Courtesy of Aggelos1357 via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication)

The Villanova Digital Library preserves and offers access to rare materials that shed light on human experiences during various periods of history, such as Divry’s 1914 dictionary. The book joins the growing number of titles on the Digital Library that relate to modern Greek history, like the recently digitized early-twentieth-century souvenir album with photographs of Corfu.


Corfu Through the Ages

A French souvenir photo album recently added to the Villanova Digital Library offers views of the Greek island of Corfu (or Kerkyra) from the early twentieth century.

A particularly significant landmark depicted on the album is the Achilleion (Αχίλλειον), a palace named after the hero of Homer’s Iliad. It was built in the nineteenth century for Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837-1898). Since then, the palace has served as a military hospital for WWI troops, an orphanage for Armenian children leaving Turkey, an Axis-held military base, a conference hall, a museum, and even a casino, featured in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (1981) starring Roger Moore (1927-2017).

Achilleion patio in the 1910/1920s. Page [27]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

A 1907 issue of the Saturday Globe, published not long before the souvenir album, features a photograph of the palace patio and announces the building’s conversion into “a hotel and sanitorium” by a “German-Swiss syndicate.” In the early twentieth century, Corfu also received attention in Italian publications, which is not surprising, as the island was under Venetian rule for centuries and the Italian influence is evident in much of the island’s architecture. The fourth issue of the Italian dime novel series Petrosino (the “Italian Sherlock Holmes”), originally published in 1909, features a story titled “Un covo di delinquenti a Corfù” (“A den of criminals in Corfu”).

Achilleion patio. Page 6. Saturday Globe, v. 26, no. 50, Saturday, April 27, 1907.

Cover. Un covo di delinquenti a Corfù. 1948 Reprint.














The souvenir photo album makes for some nice comparisons to photographs from more recent decades. The following photographs of my grandparents on the Achilleion grounds were taken in the late 1970s, while the palace was both a casino and a museum.

Pigi Giannea-Filiou at Achilleion in the late 1970s.

Pigi Giannea-Filiou and Miltiades Filios at Achilleion in the late 1970s.











The following three photographs, two of them pulled from personal/family collections, depict the same statue of the dying Achilles in the early twentieth century, in 1994-1995, and in 2021. Note the deterioration of the color on the statue over time.

“Dying Achilles” statue (marble, Ernst Herter, 1884) at Achilleion in the 1910s/1920s. Page [31]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

My dad, Yiannis Sassaris, with “Dying Achilles” statue (marble, Ernst Herter, 1884) at Achilleion in the early 1990s.

My girlfriend, Samantha Walsh, with “Dying Achilles” statue (marble, Ernst Herter, 1884) at Achilleion in 2021.


Similarly, the following three photographs depict the front of the palace during the same three periods.

Achilleion entrance in the 1910s/1920s. Page [31]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

Achilleion entrance in the early 1990s.

Achilleion entrance in 2020.


Another significant landmark whose history may be charted throughout the past century is the Old Fortress, which was built by Venetians on top of an earlier Byzantine structure.

Old Fortress of Corfu in the 1910/1920s. Page [5]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

My mom, Dimitra Filiou, at the Old Fortress of Corfu in the early 1990s.

Old Fortress of Corfu in 2021.


The following 2020 photograph of Arseniou Street in the city of Corfu, compared to a similar shot in the French album, demonstrates that some of the same buildings still stand a century later.

Arseniou Street in the city of Corfu. Page [3]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

Arseniou Street in Corfu in 2020.


Corfu is an island rich with history, where various cultures have intersected across many centuries. These layers of history are evident in structures all throughout the island. Corfu has inspired the likes of Jules Verne, who used the island as a prominent setting in his 1884 novel about the Greek War of Independence, The Archipelago on Fire (L’Archipel en feu). The Villanova Digital Library initiative preserves the unique histories of places like Corfu by digitizing rare publications such as the French souvenir album. As the above comparison of historical materials and personal/family archives indicates, the Digital Library also allows users to historically contextualize their own lives.



Last Modified: November 10, 2022

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