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November, 2012

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The Mill of Stylianou ©

By Andreas C Chrysafis

November 2012  

LET ME TELL you a story about a man… but not just any man, but a man with super human strength and as powerful as an obstinate ox. Blessed with wide shoulders and bulging muscles, Stylianos stood six-feet tall and had arms as thick as a gnarled olive tree. At first sight of him, people moved aside fearful of his awesome presence; a single stare with those riveting black eyes of his, always sent shivers down their spine!

Stylianos was born in the timeless village of Neon Chorion perched at the very fringes of the Akamas forest overlooking the azure sea of the Bay of Chrysochous. Two hundred years ago times were harsh and rural communities experienced utter poverty. Putting bread on the table was everyone’s priority.

Other than fishing, goat herding or carob and olive picking, there was hardly any other work

available. Desperate peasants risked anything for survival and often had their lands confiscated by devious moneylenders in repayment of small debts. Two year ago, Stylianos fell victim to those same scoundrels but thanks to his old friend Ibrahim Bei, he helped him rescue his patch of olive trees.

Unfortunately, he was unable to repay his friend back as promised.

They agreed that the honourable thing to do was to seek the advice of a Judge on how Stylianos could repay his friend ‐ after all, the Judge was a wise man! Early one morning, dressed in their Sunday best the two of them mounted their mules and rode side by side for the two‐day trek to Paphos.

On the way there they stopped at the village of Androlikou where Greeks and Turks lived in harmony, intermarried and equally struggled to scrape a living. They dismounted at Kochos’ kafenio and sat under the shade of a massive grape vine to have a rest and share a meal before departing again. From the veranda, they had a clear view of the long road that snaked down the slope and vanished into the gorge and beyond

Unexpectedly and without a warning they heard the distant sound of Turkish folk music drifting into the air. Everyone pricked their ears to listen and gazed towards the gorge. Curiously enough, a long trail of camels, animals and rickety carts were seen heading up the slope. At the forefront of the entourage a belly dancer was leading the way to the sound of zumas, baglamas and tambourines played by a band of elderly musicians.

Quickly the word went around pronouncing that Arab‐Ali the champion strongman of Cyprus and

Turkey chose Androlikou as his next stop to challenge anyone into a fight for large prize money. On approach, the noisy entourage camped in an adjacent field next to the main square and in no time at all the place was jam‐packed with the locals, while children quickly climbed up the trees to get a better view. The lively belly dancer danced to the sound of music alluring others to come from afar.

Nothing like this had ever happened in their sleepy village before and the locals could not contain

their excitement The moment Stylianos heard about the prize money he decided this was an opportunity send by God.

If he won the prize money, he would then pay off his friend and both could return to their families!

His eyes gleamed at the thought of winning and stood up. He took a deep breath and as his chest

expanded, suddenly each and every button of his tight waste‐vest popped and flew into the air like bullets. He gave out a loud holler and challenged Arab‐Ali. The music instantly stopped in

anticipation of the wrestling to begin.

The priest together with the imam quickly drafted a disclaimer so neither could claim damages

against the other; after all, this was an open fight and anything could happen! They both signed the paper and Stylianos removed his black vraka and undressed down to his long underwear. The Turk, a shapeless but fearsome strongman stared at his opponent with a steely look sizing him up and down.

Undeterred he made a sly smirk at Stylianos and slowly walked away. He disappeared into his

caravan followed by the belly dancer. An exuberant and noisy crowd began to place their bets.

Standing in the middle of the square, Stylianos waited and waited but no sign of Arab‐Ali. Suddenly the music started again and the strongman made his grand entrance; to everyone’s amazement he was covered in black grease from head to toe. He looked as black as charcoal! Seeing the sight of him, Stylianos got startled but then realized whom he was dealing with: a cunning fighter who knew all the tricks on how to win! He was trapped!

The clash of the giants had begun but it was no use. Stylianos was unable to get a firm grip on the Anatolian Turk who was slippery like a slithering snake! The fight continued forever it seemed and Stylianos was in deep trouble. Self‐assured Arab‐Ali often entered into a wild roar mocking Stylianos who was taking an awful beating. At one point Stylianos was grabbed so tightly by the waist he felt his rib cage cracking! He gave out a loud growl of pain and fell to the ground in agony. Immediately Arab‐Ali seized the opportunity and grabbed a massive millstone from the nearby mill and with brute force he lifted it above his head. Nobody but nobody could lift up such a heavy millstone with his bare hands; onlookers could not believe their eyes! Suddenly, they turned silent! They realized what the strongman was about to do and began to yell at him to stop but it was no use.

Sensing the danger, Stylianos quickly stood up and jumped aside avoiding the stone almost crashing him like a lizard. He realized his end was near and a sudden spark of thought flushed through his mind. Wounded he struggled toward the village fountain and agitatedly begun to splash water all over his body and hands, leaving Arab‐Ali wondering what he was doing. He then hastily covered his whole body with sand from a pile. This was his last chance! Covered in sand, he approached his opponent and stiffened his thick fingers together and with one powerful thrust he swung and dug both hands under Arab‐Ali’s rib cage and grabbed his ribs; his hands instantly turned red with blood!

The strongman gave out a loud growl but Stylianos showed no mercy and pulled both hands apart ripping his rib cage in two. Arab‐Ali, the unbeatable champion of them all, lay dead and defeated on the ground!

And so, the Legend of the “Mill of Stylianou” was born…



Caption: THE STRONGMEN: 61 x 91cm 09/2011 © Andreas C Chrysafis

THIS original oil painting has been inspired by the Stylianou family legend that took place nearly two

hundred years ago between Stylianos and ArabAli,

a travelling strongman.