In 1900, the great majority of Greeks inhabited a domain that could hardly be described as ‘modern’. The average person lived in a village or hamlet, where the typical family dwelling was nothing more than a single room with few amenities, and where everyday life followed timehonoured social preoccupations and cultural traditions. Since time immemorial, annual social events were fused with the religious calendar, particularly Lent and the various saints’ day commemorations. Popular devotional practices revealed an obsession for the supernatural, the healing powers of saints and angels, and the malign presence of demons. All believed in the power of the ‘evil eye’. The priest was usually a figure of influence, as were the handful of archontes who dispensed patronage and dominated the offices of the koinotita. Behaviour was also governed by values centred on female fidelity and male moral worth to uphold honour and avert shame. There was also grinding poverty. Farming techniques and technologies were primitive and yields were low. For the average peasant, zoi (life) was a euphemism for travail, a journey laden with personal sorrows and dominated by the ceaseless struggle to stave off ruin. As a moral community, the village could certainly provide comforting familiarity, but it was also seen as a dead end. As ever, the solution was emigration, and in 1900 the most likely destination was Athens or America.
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