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Spiridon Loues, the Modern Foustanela, and the Symbolic Power of Pallikaria at the 1896 Olympic Games

From: Journal of Modern Greek Studies
Volume 23, Number 1, May 2005
pp. 139-175 | 10.1353/mgs.2005.0010

Abstract

Most who are familiar with the subject of modern Greek identity or the history of the modern Olympic Games are familiar with the character of Spiros Loues. The significance of his win in the marathon at the first modern Olympiad in1896 is thoroughly discussed in popular discourse as well as in academic publications. How and why he was elevated to such an exalted level, what cultural notions—such as pastoralism, παλλιχαρια (pallikariá), and φιλοτιμο (philótimo)—he was associated with, and how this powerful association has affected Greek people over the course of the past century, however, are questions that remain largely unanswered. A brief ethnographic analysis of the event—Loues's victory, his choice of clothing, as well as his behavior in the immediate aftermath of that victory—is worth undertaking in the context of the broader and important topic of Ελληυιχοτητα (Ellinikótita, Greekness). Loues's act was not only a significant one; it was also a thoroughly modern Greek act.