Sunday, 7 October 2007

The occupied mountain


The Pentadaktylos mountain range runs 100 miles (160km) along the entire north coast of Cyprus, from Cape Kormakiti in the west, traversing Kyrenia, its satellite towns and villages, and shooting along the Karpas peninsula to the peninsula’s easternmost tip, at which is located the island’s most revered Christian shrine, the monastery of Apostolos Andreas.

Pentadaktylos is adorned with monuments to Cyprus’ Christian and Byzantine heritage – such as the castles of Bufavento, St Hilarion and Kantara – and the monasteries of St John Chrysostomos, Panayia Absinthiotissa and Antiphonitis – all of which since the Turkish invasion in 1974 have endured looting, vandalism and desecration, victims of a crude and widespread campaign by the Turkish occupation regime to wipe out the Greek and Christian heritage of northern Cyprus.

Pentadaktylos’ relationship with Cyprus’ Byzantine culture is also revealed in the myths associated with how the peak of the mountain received its five-fingered shape, after which the range is named – Pentadaktylos is Greek for five-fingered.

These myths are invariably connected to the peripatetic hero of Byzantine epic poetry, Dighenis Akritas, who, drowning in the sea between Cyprus and Asia Minor, is said to have reached for land and left the imprint of his hand on the mountain; or, in pursuit of a Saracen who had fled to Famagusta, beyond the mountain range, grabbed the top of the mountain with his hand and leaped over it, again leaving his five-fingered mark; or, to escape Arab raiders, dug his hand into the mountain and vaulted to the safety of Asia Minor.

And it is to the mythical Pentadaktylos that Costas Montis, Cyprus’s leading modern poet, appeals in his poem, Moments of the Invasion, for help to throw out the Turkish invaders, whose assault on the island began on Kyrenia’s shores.

Στιγμές της εισβολής
Είναι δύσκολο να πιστέψω
πως μας τους έφερε η θάλασσα της Κερύνιας,
είναι δύσκολο να πιστέψω
πως μας τους έφερε η αγαπημένη θάλασσα της Κερύνιας.

Ανασήκωσε την πλάτη
και απόσεισέ τους, Πενταδάκτυλέ μου,
ανασήκωσε την πλάτη
και απόσεισε τους.

It is hard for me to believe
That the Kyrenia sea brought them to us.
It is hard for me to believe
That the beloved Kyrenia sea brought them to us.

Raise your back
And shake them off, Pentadaktylos.
Raise your back
And shake them off.

Montis’ poem, set to music by Marios Tokas and sung by Giorgos Dalaras (see video above), illustrates the symbiotic relationship that has always existed between Cypriot landscape and culture, and the alienness and brutality of the Turkish presence in Cyprus since 1974; a brutal and alien presence symbolised by the painting of giant Turkish flags and slogans on the southern slopes of Pentadaktylos,
which loom over Nicosia, a stupid defilement, supposed to daily remind Cypriots of Turkish omnipotence but in fact daily remind Cypriots of how shameless and obnoxious the occupier is.

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