In the run of many years Poseidonians have been mixing with the Tirrinians, Latin’s and other foreigners and lost their Greek language as a result of this. Only one Greek holiday they inherited from their forefathers and then they would play harp and flutes, arrange competitions and make wreaths. At the end of the holiday they would remember the age-old traditions and customs mentioning some Greek names that only a few of them could remember…
(Poet K.P.Kavafis, "Poseidonians", 1906).
The Greek spoken populations of Low Italy have settled in this area as far back as the 8-th century. It was the time when Great Greece had its colonies there. The language traditions and the history of their origin represent an interesting point for scientific investigation.
The linguistically and lexicological elements of the Greek language, the Dorian dialect in particular, used in the «Greek» idioms of such areas as Saleto and Kalavria made some linguists, G.Xatzidakis namely, to speak of the linguistic continuation.
Some scientists believe in the Byzantine origin of the Greek spoken population of these areas, according to the others the Greek colonies appeared in the ancient days and later were strengthened by numerous migrants of the Byzantine period.
Under the fascist regime it was forbidden to use the Greek language and thus in the post-war time it gradually disappeared as the residents of these villages had to accommodate themselves to the Italian way of life including the language as well. Later great efforts were made to save and popularize the Greek but only few old people still remember and use it.
In the province Saleto the Greek spoken sites are found on the South of the city Lecce, once an important Byzantine center of the 10-th century. These are the villages Kalimera, Martano, Kastriniano de Gretsi, Martiniano, Tsolini, Soleto, Sternatia and Melpiniano.
The Greek spoken villages of Amigdalea, Gallitsiano, Bova, Rocoforte del Greko, Rokhudi and Penditatilo are located on the North-West of Petsio, the poorest and the most problematic place in the whole of Europe.
The musical traditions of these villages became known to the wide public after the release of two records with Greek songs of villages Martano and Kalimera. The songs of the Salento province include lullabies, weeping songs, labor and love songs, religious songs and so on.
One kind of folk dances -tarantella pitzika- has a magical and religious touch. Other special dances are danced for curing from the bite of a poisonous spider. The musical tradition in Kalavria is pourer, their songs are limited in number and have no musical accompaniment.
In 565 B.C. after Ionia was conquired by the Persians the Fokians have founded their first colony, the city Alalias.
The second colony was founded in the 17-th century by the Maniot family Stefanopoulos from Itilou. This happened after the end of vendetta between this family and another powerful Maniot kin of the Yatrians (Medici). 700 people left Mani and went by sea to Genoa. There after some negotiations with the Genoa administration and after accepting the Italian conditions they went to Corsica.
In five years the colonists built a village Paomia where they were engaged in agriculture and weavery. They lived in a close society and got married only between themselves.
Very soon clashes with Corsicans began. After the Maniots have refused to support the Corsicans in one of the local uprisings against the Genoa administration they were forced to leave their village and move to another one, to Aiaccio. 44 years later after Corsica was sold to France the Maniots returned to their original area and settled in the new village Cargese.
During the French revolution as well as during the reign of Napoleon the French protected the Greek population of Corsica. According to recollections of Laura Stefanopoulos the family of Bonaparte came from the kin of the Kalomeros, a branch of the Stefanopoulos. The Kalomeros first settled in the Toscana region.
Later one member of this family moved to the village Aiaccio and became an ancestor of the Corsican family of the Bonaparte’s. After the death of Carl Bonaparte general Dimitrios Stefanopoulos (according to recollections) was a guardian of orphan Napoleon.
Though the residents of Cargese don't speak Greek they have Greek consciousness and mentality. Their central street is named Mani, old people still sing songs about Mani and in the St. Spiridon's church built in the Greek style one can hear Greek psalms.
In 1986 for the first time the villagers of Cargese as real worshippers visited the city of Itilos.
(Meetings arranged by the administration of Kalomaris «Greek Communities»).