A recent discussion on the Facebook page, HellenicGenealogyGeek, centered around the various ethnic groups that populated the Peloponnese in the late 1800’s. My friend and historian, Giannis Michalakakos, posted this map which shows the areas where various languages and dialects were spoken.
In a subsequent telephone conversation, Giannis told me many interesting facts. Alfred Philippson was a German geologist who took yearly journeys through various areas of Greece and Asia Minor to study geology. His maps provided valuable information not readily found during that time frame. In the Peloponnese, he visited many ancient sites such as Olympia and Mistras. More information about Philippson can be found on Wikipedia here.
Giannis explained the various colors on the map:
– Purple: Greek language
– Blue: Tsakonian dialect, one of the oldest in Greece (more here)
– Rose: Arvanitika, spoken by people of northern Epirus and Albania who migrated and settled in several areas, most notably around Corinth. This language is a mixture of Albanian and Greek. Those who speak this language call themselves Greek Arvanites to distinguish themselves as Greek rather than Albanian (more here).
– Darker Rose: Mixed Greek and Arvanitika.
– Pale Rose: Also Greek and Arvanitika.
– Yellow lines: denote areas where the Slavic population existed during the years 800-1200.
This map intrigued me for several reasons. First, it is a visual depiction of the major ethnicities populating this area after the Revolution of 1821. Second, it helps me understand the various dialects which continue to exist to this day, particularly in the less-accessible mountainous regions.
But the third reason is the most profound one for me, personally. I have taken DNA tests which show my ethnicity to be:
9% Eastern Europe
2% Western Europe
less than 1% Jewish
Science doesn’t lie! I am a mixture of many ethnicities. What Philippson’s map reveals is just because I am a mix, that does not mean that my ancestors came from all of these various countries. Some or all of them could have lived in the Peloponnese for many generations, yet intermarried with people from other cultures.
It is an eye-opening and fascinating perspective of who they were; and consequently, who I am.
I express my deepest appreciation to Giannis for his patience in teaching me and expanding my horizon of knowledge. In his blog, Maniatika, Giannis posted Philippson’s map and included an in-depth description of it written by Elli Skopeteas. That Maniatika article can be found here.