“Koutalianos” nickname is synonymous with men of special power. It marks the origin of the legendary Greek wrestler and weightlifter Panagiotis Antoniou. He was born in the 1840s in the small island of Koutali in the Maramara Sea, hence his nickname.
It so happened that at the age of 20, without knowing his powers, he was on a ship that was anchoring off a port in South America. A sudden gust created an urgent need to release the anchor or the ship would wreck; a group of sailors vainly tried to lift the chained anchor out together, but then a sense of immediate danger prompted Panagiotis’ muscles and he alone overcame the stubborn anchor and saved the ship. From that point he turned to sports.
Panagiotis began giving wrestling competitions throughout America and Europe, defeating wrestling champions. After men came beasts; he boasted that he could even overcome beasts, and indeed he did succeed to kill a tiger, after three and a half hours of struggling which had left him seriously wounded but with newfound glory and a sizable amount of money.
He overcame this injury and his career boosted in the fourth quarter of the 19th Century, entertaining arenas of enthusiastic crowds with various feats, like lifting cannons, fighting bulls and, especially popular with his “Spanish dance” – which he performed while wearing extremely heavy iron shoes.
He got married and had four boys. Panagiotis was a gentleman, socially educated and brilliant person who spoke many languages; as he retired he wanted to live quietly in his native place Koutali, but the First World War had caught up with him. His traces were lost after 1916 as he, like other Greeks, was expelled by the Ottomans to the interior of Asia Minor.
So every man with strong arms was called “Koutalianos”, and some of them showed their powers in street shows for passers-by. One such fictional itinerant wrestler became the hero of a famous very short movie. “Jimmy the Tiger” is strong and admired in the streets but becomes very small and frightened in front of his oppressive wife.
This Jimmy became an inspiration for a satiric song by Lefteris Papadopoulos and Manos Loizos. 1972 was the time of a dictatorship in Greece. When the following lines were written they were as referring to “Jimmy the Tiger”, but that was just a way to bypass the censorship. Actually, as Lefteris had said, his arrows targeted the leader of the military government Georgios Papadopoulos who behaved wildly to the Greeks and threatened them continuously, but people used to say that at home, in front of his wife Despoina, he was sitting in full attention…
Irons he chews, the Koutalianos
trains he stops, the Koutalianos
stones he gnaws, the Koutalianos
and he tears up mountains, the Koutalianos
And what if he chews iron and acts like the lion
in his house the Koutalianos
is trembling like a fish in front of his lady
o, how he fears her, the poor Koutalianos,
is trembling like a fish in front of his lady
but don’t tell anyone…
He ties his body in knots, the Koutalianos
lamps he swallows, the Koutalianos
he is a lad, the Koutalianos
a tiger and a lion, the Koutalianos
Vangelis Douvalis sings:
The Beautiful Adriana of Athens
Underneath some of Athen’s streets flows a river – the Ilissos. At one time it ran over ground. In the mid 19th century, as Athens was not dense and crowded but a spacious town with much open space, the Ilisos separated two neighborhoods: on one bank there were the mansions of the nobles and the rich, and on the other bank there was Vatrachonisi –the area of the poor people.
In one of those mansions there was a maid, Adriana. She was very beautiful, vivacious, with a white, tidy appearance. All young men loved her. Every day she would go to Varachonisi for shopping and for water.
Needless to say that she was hearing many words of love and admiration from men on her path, and they were willing to carry her basket or bucket of water. One devoted lover wrote then, in 1860, some verses that became very popular in the following decades:
Take me my Adriana to help you in washing
and carry for you the water from Vatrachonisi
my sweet Adriana from Vatrachonisi
Why fiddle, my whitish goose
with grime and coal inside the kitchen?
I hear the thunder of the plates when you wash them
and I think that you are slowly walking down the stairs
isn’t it a shame and unfair for a cutey like you
to wash the plates, barefoot (miserable) in the kitchen?
Giannis Lebesis sings:
This young lover from Vatrachonisi should have been disappointed. Adriana was aware of her merits, and preferred to improve her present life and to get a man from the noble side of the river. So she became acquainted and popular within all the high society and all members of government.
There was no happy ending. She married a rich man but the marriage had not last since she was looking to satisfy her explosive temperament outside of it… Then she became a lover of a rich Egyptian Pasha, but there also she could not restrain her passions, looking for other arms. The angry man punished her brutally, deforming her face… what happened to her in the end is unknown – like Panagiotis Koutalianos, her traces were lost.
Around 1930 the folk painter Theophilos painted, in a unique way, the beautiful Adriana of Athens to play her mandolin sitting on a bench. He also painted “The Koutalianos ” above. Inspired by this painting of Adriana here is a beautiful song on Adriana composed by Notis Mavroudis, lyrics by Akos Daskalopoulos, sung by Alexandra: (English subtitles)
– Notis Mavroudis and Akos Daskalopoulos also created a song based on the painting of Koutalianos and is at (with many pictures)
The stories are based on the book “A story a song” by Iraklis Efstratiatis, and on researches made by Nata Ostria and me in the internet and I would like to mention one link on Adriana at
Thanks very much to Nata Ostria for the investment she made in this post and to Shahaf Ifhar for the editing work.