Friday, 17 June 2016

A Little Slice of Cyprus

The largest village on Rhodes, outside of the urban sprawl of Rhodes Town and Ixia/Trianda Bay, is Arhangelos. It has a population of around 5,000, but if you factor in the villages of Massari, Haraki and Malona, which come under its jurisdictional oversight, you can increase that to 7,000.

If you've lived on Rhodes for long and speak Greek (even if you don't, probably) you soon come to identify the Arhangelos accent. They have a very distinctive way of extending the last syllable of a word that quickly reveals that the person speaking is an Arhangelitis.

Regional accents are of course common in every language group on the planet. I may not be an American, but I can recognise the Texas 'drawl' or the NY 'Yankee' accent instantly. In the UK the eagle-eared listener can very quickly discern if the person they are hearing speak is from the West Country, the far South West (Cornwall, Devon), Norfolk, the North West (Lancashire, Cumbria) or the North East (Yorkshire, Northumberland). Very often those wishing to put on a Scottish, a Welsh or Irish accent may not realise that they are actually only mimicking a small region of that country. Having lived in South Wales for a quarter of a century, we soon came to discern that there were individual accents for every valley south of the "Heads of the Valleys Road", the A465. People from Sennybridge or Brecon have a much more musical lilt to their accent than do those from Cardiff. During our first few months living in Cardiff we found ourselves wondering why so many 'scousers' were living there. Then we realised that the Cardiff accent sounds more like 'Liverpool' than anything Welsh.

Here on Rhodes you'd be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the 'Rhoditis' accent is island-wide, but you'd be wrong. What I never realised until this very week was that the Arhangelos accent is not merely due to it being a region of the island of Rhodes, but that it actually derives from Cypriot roots.

A recent article in the island's own newspaper, the 'Rodiaki' revealed that the Arhangelites are actually descended from a group of Cypriots who moved to this island a long time ago. The village is distinctive in quite a few ways. They adhere to many old traditions that pay no mind to the modern world, they have their own FM Radio Station, playing modern Greek pop, Laika and Nisiotika music at various times of the day. Nisiotika [islands] music is characterised by the use of the violin, the lyre, the Greek versions of those of course, plus a clarinet-like woodwind instrument and something that resembles a zither. They don't use the bouzouki in island music, that's primarily from the Rebetiko dens of Athens and Thessalonika.

Thus, the accent from Arhangelos is descended from the Cypriot way of speaking, which still pervades the way the villagers talk today. Those who have studied such things think that the similarities between the Arhangelian accent and that of Paphos in western Cyprus indicate that a few centuries ago it was a group of Paphians who settled in this part of Rhodes in an attempt to escape the Ottomans. There are even local words that are common only to the two locations, thus lending weight to the theory. If you can read the link to the Rodiaki Newspaper's web site that I placed further up, you'll see there toward the bottom an extensive list of words that are peculiar to the two places.

Arhangelos isn't the only place on Rhodes that has a community descended from a community that came here from another island. In the 15th century a group of people from Crete (Kriti) came to Rhodes in an attempt to escape the Turks on their own island and set up the community now known as Kritinia (literally, 'New Crete'). 

So, there you are folks, a little history lesson that will perhaps encourage you to check out the places mentioned above some time. I'll tell you one thing, since Arhangelos isn't on the main tourist trail (although it is being discovered gradually with each passing season), the prices for drinks and food there go easier on your pocket than in other parts of the island where tourism is evidently the main source of income.


  1. Indeed John,having learnt my Greek on Tilos I find it difficult when I go to Rhodes to make myself understod,met usualy by ,you live on Tilos, !!

  2. Not sure I follow you there Eddi. Must be your accent...