Theodore and Mabel Bent meet the Lorentziadis
On January 24th 1884, Theodore and Mabel Bent arrived in Ios, armed with a letter of introduction to the demarch, Michalis Lorentziadis, whose family showed them great hospitality:
. . . never in all our wanderings did we meet with a family so genial and gay as the Lorenziades. One brother was demarch, another ex-demarch, and a third the schoolmaster; and the ex-demarch had three charming daughters — Marousa, Ekaterina, and Callirhoë — who administered tenderly to our wants, and saw to the fitting up of an empty house where we were to sleep during our stay, whilst meals were provided for us at the ex-demarch’s house.
At that time, the Lorentziadis were clearly the ‘First Family‘ of Ios with two demarchs and the schoolmaster as members and an uncle who’d also been demarch. note 1
Theodore omits to tell us the names of the brothers but we’ve learned that the demarch’s name was Michalis, the ex-demarch Lorentzos, and the schoolmaster was Louis (Loudovikos). Lorentzos, in addition to the three daughters, Marousa, Ekaterina, and Callirhoë, had two sons, Stefanos and Spyros (Spyridon).
The family proudly showed them the sights of the island and the girls entertained them with stories of the games that the local maidens would play in their pursuit of romance. One night, the Bents were regaled with a display of the island costume by a beautiful young lady who turned out to be Ekaterina. This costume still exists – read about Ekaterina’s costume.
The last we hear of the family from Theodore is when they leave Ios and the girls present them with parting gifts.
Marousa came with a lovely piece of red Cretan embroidery as a present, and her handkerchief full of pine nuts, that we might never forget her; Callirhoë gave us her pocket handkerchief full of sesame seeds; and Ekaterina wrote a touching little poem with the same intent. The three brothers and the three girls went down with us to the harbour, where our boat was waiting, bringing with them a fresh mysethra, wine, and figs for our journey.
V. C. Scott O’Connor meets Stefanos Lorentziadis
In 1929, V. C. Scott O’Connor published his book, Isles of the Aegean, in which, although he doesn’t explicitly state it, he followed in the footsteps of Thedoore and Mabel Bent throughout the islands of the Cyclades.
From VC’s visit to Ios in 1927, just over forty years after the Bents said their goodbyes to the family, we learn that the formerly prominent Lorentziadis family had all but disappeared from the island. VC tells of a chance meeting with an elderly man, Stefanos Lorentziadis, the younger brother of the three girls. He would have been 14 years of age at the time of the Bents’ visit, which he fondly remembered in his conversation with VC:
On my return in the cool of the evening from Homeros, and as I neared the town of Ios, I saw an elderly man seated alone upon the doorstep of his house, with something about him that was almost English — or at least not Greek. He looked a little wistfully upon the world, regarding the passers-by, and this led me to stop my mule and wish him the time of day . . . “My name is Stefano Lorenziades.” “What?” I said, “Lorenziades? of the same family as Maroussa, Ekaterina, and Callirhoe?” “Yes! Yes!” he replied astonished, “my sisters. But how Kyrios is it that you know about them?” “Quite simple,” I said. “There was once a good Englishman named Bent who came to these islands and wrote a book about them.” The tears came into his eyes. “ . . . I remember very well Theodoros and Virginia; the memory of their visit is enshrined in my heart.”
In the intervening forty or so years, tragedy had struck the family that had so impressed Theodore and Mabel.
“Ekaterina,” he replied, “died at twenty-two; Maroussa became blind from an explosion of dynamite, and took to playing the violin for a living; Callirhoe is old and lives in Athens, but she has a son at Andros whom you may see if you are going there.”
“Our family,” he said, “is not of Greek origin. My grandfather came from Valetta as physician to King Otho, and we eventually settled here. But there are none of us now in the island. This garden was left to me by my brother at his death, and I keep it because it is a quiet place, away from the town in which I have no friends. My life has been spent in Egypt and I come here only in the summer months.”
Through the dim orange groves there gleamed the white marble of his brother’s tomb. “Were it not for that,” he said sadly, “I would give up this place. I have no friends in Ios.”
VC quotes Stefanos as saying that his grandfather came to Greece from Valetta as physician to King Otho (O Όθων, Βασιλεύς της Ελλάδος), however, looking back at the family tree, and considering ages, it is more likely that it was his great-grandfather, Lorentzos.
The other brother of Marousa, Ekaterina, Callirhoë and Stefanos, who had left the house and garden to Stefanos, was called Spyros (Spyridon). From an inscription on a headstone near the Lorentziadis family tomb in the churchyard in Chora, we learn that he died as a soldier in Thessaloniki, possibly on the Macedonian Front, tragically just weeks before the end of the First World War. Assuming that Spyros’ remains are in the churchyard in Chora, one wonders whose tomb was in the garden of the house.
What happened to the Lorentziadis family?
Fast forward another 90 years to the present day and we learn from our researches more of the intriguing story of what happened to the family.
The three brothers who met Theodore Bent, Louis (Loudovikos), Michalis and Lorentzos, also had another brother named Mattheos (Matthew) and a sister named Maria. Maria married Frangoulis Kortesis who built a very successful cigarette manufacturing business in Egypt. He was awarded one of the highest honours of the Greek Kingdom, the Silver Cross of the Order of the Saviour (Τάγμα του Σωτήρος), awarded to Greek citizens who have excelled in defending the country’s interests or offered excellent services in the public sector in Greece or abroad. In 1899 he became demarch of Ios and financially contributed substantial amounts to many municipal projects. In 1904, he founded the ‘Old Archaeological Collection’ (Παλαιά Αρχαιoλoγική Συλλoγή) from items turned over to the authorities, and from other donated items; the collection forms the basis of the present exhibits of the Archaeological Museum of Ios. Frangoulis and Maria helped and encouraged her brothers, and most of their families, to emigrate to Alexandria in Egypt and helped them establish themselves there. He provided funding for the education of the children, sending several of them to the best schools and universities in Europe to become engineers, doctors and businessmen.
Stefanos was one of those émigrés to Egypt. The meeting with VC, on one of his return summer visits to Ios, was therefore an incredible stroke of good luck and fortunate timing, without which, VC’s visit to Ios would have been much the poorer.
Over successive generations in Egypt, knowledge of the Ios connection dimmed in the collective family memory. The Lorentziadis family thrived in Egypt, prospering as businessmen, engineers, doctors and farmland owners. Despite living in Egypt, they remained essentially Greek as part of the sizeable Greek community in Alexandria, a city founded over 2,300 years ago by Alexander the Great.
The Egyptian Revolution and the rise of Nasser saw an exodus of Greeks from Egypt from 1952 onwards. The majority of the Lorentziadis family returned to Greece during this period but others dispersed worldwide; sizeable branches of the Lorentziadis family tree, descendants of Loudovikos, the schoolmaster, are now to be found in Brazil and in France. One of the returnees to Athens was the young Spyros (Spyridon) Lorentziadis, the great grandson of Louis the schoolmaster, who had been born in Alexandria.
The return to Ios
Spyros recounts the story of a spear-fishing expedition with some friends to one of the Cyclades islands which had a reputation for good fishing. In an uncanny twist of fate, that island was Ios, and Spyros tells of setting foot on the island for the first time and immediately feeling a sense of home-coming. His subsequent researches turned up the forgotten family history and the story of his return to his native island began.
On their departure to Egypt, the family had left houses and land in Ios, a substantial part of which fell to the responsibility of Margaro, who had remained in Ios, and to the Amoiradakis family that she’d married into. In terms of ownership and inheritance, each of those properties was owned equally by all six of the children of Loudovikos, the schoolmaster, cascading down the generations. Spyros’ return prompted a process of sorting out the tangled ownership rights of the individual properties – a process which was amicably achieved.
Spyros now divides his time between his home in Athens and the house in Ios, not far from where he first stepped ashore on that fateful spear-fishing expedition. Spyros’ son, Louis, and his daughter, Natalia, are a new generation of the ‘genial and gay’ family described by Theodore Bent, a generation with knowledge of the family’s roots and a love for its island home.
A touching tribute?
VC relates Stefanos’ reaction when he mentions Theodore and Mabel (who often used one of her middle names, Virginia, to avoid pronunciation problems):
The tears came into his eyes. “ . . . I remember very well Theodoros and Virginia; the memory of their visit is enshrined in my heart.”
Stefanos died in 1944 aged 74. Of his four sons, one he named Theodore. There had been no previous Theodores in the Lorentziadis family line. Is it too much to assume that this was a tribute to Theodore Bent? If so, that tribute continues on today. Stefanos has a great grandson who lives in Athens. His name – Theodore, of course!
Return from Note 1