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Mousaios, Michael

Author(s) : Pigou Evangelia (9/7/2005)
Translation : Velentzas Georgios

For citation: Pigou Evangelia, "Mousaios, Michael",
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Asia Minor
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=8361>

Μουσαίος Μιχαήλ (1/23/2006 v.1) Mousaios, Michael (2/15/2006 v.1) 

1. Birth – Family

Michael Mousaios was born in 1829 at Livisi, Lycia, in Asia Minor. Son of Ioannes Konstantinos Karagiannis, he grew up in a poor family. His family, just like the rest of the families living in that small town, spoke Greek1 and were Orthodox Christians.

2. Education – Upbringing

He spent his childhood in Livisi and his first teachers were monks. His father later sent him to Rhodes to study, helped by an Alexandrian monk, but he is said to have sold his donkey to meet the cost of his studies.2 Before a year passed his father had died and Mousaios had to return to Livisi. He then served the metropolitan of Pisidia as his secretary. Throughout that period, he read systematically, studied Byzantine music, Ottoman writing, etc., while study became his passion and aim in life.3

3. Activities

After three years as the secretary of the Diocese of Pisidia and upon request of the metropolitan, he returned to Livisi to offer his services as a teacher. This must have happened in 1848, when a primary school started to operate in Livisi on his initiative;4 it is worth mentioning that until then the elementary Greek language was taught in private by grammarians, priests and monks. In 1864, following Mousaios’ actions the first school was built in Livisi and promoted education in the area.5

Mousaios was not a teacher confined to the classroom. When in church, he explained the Bible in simple language, while when he was in the coffee shops and the market he criticised any attitude he considered morally corrupt. He tried to raise the prestige of education among the local population as well as to promote both the acts of charity for their homeland and national identity through his frequent references to the Greek history and culture. However, those attempts and activities often met with reactions.

He had a clear view of his role as he felt “modest because I contributed to the renaissance of letters in this town, which is my birthplace”, “I was the one to enhance education, which today is powerful and growing”.6

The following incident is typical of Mousaios’ attitude. When the first graduate teacher arrived at Livisi, Mousaios handed the direction of the school over, as he considered himself inferior, and went to Athens to obtain his diploma. He graduated from the University leaving very good impressions thanks to his vast range of knowledge, particularly of the ancient period, and returned to Livisi, where he became headmaster again.

4. Relationships

His activities were supported by the metropolitan of Pisidia, Parthenios, while his financial attempts to help his homeland progress were based on the economic contribution from wealthy citizens (such as the chrome merchant Chatzinikolaos Louizides). However, he also met with reactions. Some of his contemporaries were annoyed by the fact that his texts and words did not hesitate to decry attitudes and mentalities. Reactions to his work became very strong in two cases. The first time his criticism annoyed the communal potentates, who asked the metropolitan to expel him. But in an open vote in Livisi the majority of the community took sides favouring Mousaios.7 The second time three former students of Mousaios denounced him to the Ottoman authorities accusing him of “insulting Islam and propagating Greek convictions” through the press.8 Mousaios refused to be helped to escape despite the risk of being hanged. Finally, the kadi of Makri acquitted him of the charge.

Because of these incidents he tried to be more careful and preferred, for example, to publish his article anonymously in 1896 in the journal Xenophanes.9

5. Ideology

As part of his activities, Mousaios took particular care of the way the language was spoken in Livisi and neighbouring Makri and considered it an obstacle for the development of his homeland, thus he discouraged his fellow citizens from using it. This local idiom was described by the existence of linguistic forms of the Medieval Greek language as well as by the influence of the Turkish language.10 Apart from his oral teaching, the works “Battarisms (Βατταρισμοί)” (1884) and “The Wedding of Malonis Antiphatos (Ο γάμος του Μαλώνη Αντιφάτου)” (1889) are among the significant attempts of Mousaios to put down in words and “correct” the idiom. In these works he tried to accurately deliver the language of his homeland, which was greatly helpful in studying the language of Livisi.11

In parallel to the “correction” and “purification” of the language in a more “Greek” and literary direction, Mousaios dealt with history with a view to promoting the Greek character of his birthplace. The rest of his written works (articles, studies, manuscripts) –along with his oral teaching– deals with the history of Lycia, through which he tries to prove the Greek character of the region already from the ancient times and promote it among his fellow citizens.

6. Personal and Family Life

A few things are known about his personal life.12 He had a family with at least two children, Plato and Basileios. The latter was born in 1866 and became a doctor. Plato was killed by the Ottoman authorities in 1919.13

7. Works

In “Βατταρισμούς” the strategy of Mousaios towards the language is clear:14 in the Preface the writer exposes the purpose of his work, which is to “restore the corrupt language of Livisi”. Then he presents the references made by ancient writers to Lycia in order to prove the Greek character of the region (“Lycia was early on inhabited by Greeks”) and proceeds with general judgements about the idiom of his homeland (see quotation). The chapter of grammar includes both the original words and the corrections: the “correct” form is given beside the “corrupt” form of grammar. Then there is a correctional dictionary, which includes an alphabetical list of words as they were used in everyday language, while these words are translated into the “correct” Greek language. Finally, the “Appendix” includes the following Terminology, valuable for studying folklore: The House and its Parts, The Furniture of the Room and the Chamber, All about the Reading Room, All about the Kitchen, All about the Table, Men’s Clothes.

Only the first Act (the Betrothal) has survived from the comedy “Ο γάμος του Μαλώνη Αντιφάτου”, since the rest of the work has not been found. The structure of the work follows the traditional custom of matchmaking, while the story takes place at Livisi in 1823, a year not selected by chance as regards the patriotic message of the work. The play is full of proverbs and expressions and provides a faithful image of the idiom spoken in the area. The dialogues offered the writer the opportunity to faithfully deliver the local idiom in the way it was used exclusively in oral speech. There is only one character in the play talking about the common Greek Katharevusa of the time, who, as the writer’s persona, undertakes to criticise the authorities, the illiterate priesthood and the disadvantages of the local society. Apart from its linguistic value, the work is also important thanks to its theatrical style, for it is the only example of dramaturgy coming from the district of Lycia.

Particular interesting is the article of Mousaios on Lycia and its inhabitants published in the journal Xenophanes (Ξενοφάνης) (1896) of the Club of Anatolian Greeks “Anatoli”, Athens, where he tried to historically validate the Greek character of Lycia. According to him, it was written in 1891, but since he wanted to avoid criticism, as already mentioned above, he did not sign it, “because the truth is bitter”.15

After his death, the journal published the part of the article not printed in 1896. In that part, Mousaios talked about the life of Christians and Muslims, at the same time criticising the disadvantages of the Greek Orthodox communities: the discords that divided them, the lust of the potentates for leadership and honour, the ignorance of the lower priesthood, etc.

8. Death

Michael Mousaios died in 1896 from bronchopneumonia. He was buried at public expense in the yard of the Church of the Taxiarch in the central square of Livisi. The following epigram was inscribed on his tombstone:

Here lies the glory of the Homeland,

MICHAEL MOUSAIOS, the old teacher16

9. Evaluation and Judgements

A proverbial phrase of the area reports Mousaios as the “light of Livisi”.17 He was a notable figure in local society, as evidenced by the fact that when he went to Athens to obtain his diploma (1887), thirty former students of his honoured him through a resolution, in which they called him by the symbolic name “Mousaios” (related to the Muses).18 After his death his memory was kept alive in local society.19

Michael Mousaios was one of the most gifted scholars in Asia Minor. Apart from the works he left behind, several cultural projects, such as the establishment of schools in Livisi in the second half of the 19th century, are attributed to his attempts and encouragement. The fact that his actions to “purify” the language and establish schools took place in a region relatively isolated from the rest of the Greek territories, such as Lycia, and aimed at forming the national identity of the Christian Orthodox population includes him, according to Professor Kitromilidis, in the movement of the “delayed” or “late” Enlightenment.20

1. The inhabitants of the region of Makri and Livisi spoke a Greek idiom with several Medieval Greek elements and strong Turkish influences. In order to “correct” it, Mousaios worked for almost half a century, as it becomes clear below.

2. Μουσαίου-Μπουγιούκου, Κ., Παραμύθια του Λιβισιού και της Μάκρης (Mousaiou-Bougioukou, “Fairy Tales of Livisi and Makri”) (Athens 1976) p. 310.

3. It is said that he deposited his personal savings to buy the library of a doctor’s widow so that he could have his own books to study. See Μουσαίου-Μπουγιούκου, Κ., Παραμύθια του Λιβισιού και της Μάκρης (Athens 1976) p. 310.

4. Μουσαίου-Μπουγιούκου, Κ., Παροιμίες του Λιβισιού και της Μάκρης (Athens 1961) p. 13, and Δελησάββας, Μ., Λαογραφικά Μάκρης και Λιβισιού Λυκίας Μ. Ασίας (Athens 1988) p. 10.

5. Τhe second school of Livisi was founded on the expense of the chrome trader Nicholas Louitzides or Louizides, the so-called “Louizideios Scholi”. In 1896, when Mousaios died, there were two schools with 400 students operating at Livisi; see Σολδάτος, Χρ., Η εκπαιδευτική και πνευματική κίνηση του ελληνισμού της Μ. Ασίας, 1800-1922, vol. 1 (Athens 1988) p. 179.

6. Μουσαίος, Μ., Βατταρισμοί, ήτοι λεξιλόγιον της Λειβησιανής διαλέκτου μετ' εγχωρίων παροιμιών εν τέλει (Athens 1884) p. 10.

7. It is said that the metropolitan turned to the members of the dimogerontia and told them: “I think you have to change so as not to burden the people”. After that incident, the inhabitants of Castelorizo asked to take the teacher to their island offering a large amount of money and gifts. Mousaios answered: “My Homeland is thirsty and I have to serve it”. See Μουσαίου-Μπουγιούκου, Κ., Παραμύθια του Λιβισιού και της Μάκρης (Athens 1976) p. 310.

8. Μουσαίου-Μπουγιούκου, Κ., Παραμύθια του Λιβισιού και της Μάκρης (Athens 1976) p. 311.

9. He signed as “a Lycian”. See ‘Περί Λυκίας και Λυκίων. Περί Μάκρης και Λειβισίου. Γεωγραφική θέσις, αρχαία Λυκία, πληθυσμός, επιτηδεύματα, γλώσσα, εκπαιδευτική κατάστασις’, Ξενοφάνης 1 (1896) p. 93.

10. In the την preface of his work “Ο γάμος του Μαλώνη Αντιφάτου” he writes: [the language was] “very corrupt and mixed with several Turkish words, phrases and proverbs, although it preserved the Medieval Greek character. Because I have been a teacher in this small town for more than forty years, I paid my attention to the local idiom, as a basic means of teaching, and I have been correcting both the oral and the written form of this idiom ever since”. See Μουσαίος, Μ., Ο Γάμος του Μαλώνη Αντιφάτου, (introd. by Β. Πούχνερ), Δελτίο Κέντρου Μικρασιατικών Σπουδών 5 (1984-1985) p. 275.

11. Several Greek and foreign researchers dealt with this idiom as well as with the idioms of regions of southern Asia Minor (before Mousaios P. Kretscmer, G. Hadjidakis and after Mousaios Ι. Charitonidis, R.M. Dawkins and others). See also the study by Ανδριώτη, Νικ., Το ιδίωμα του Λιβισιού της Λυκίας (Athens 1961), which the writer dedicates to Michael Mousaios. In the same work, on pages 104-106, Μ. Andriotis (Ανδριώτης) cites a text connected with the 1822 events at Livisi, taken from a manuscript by Mousaios. The story was told by elderly people and was recorded by Mousaios in 1855. The idiom of the period is obvious.

12. It is known, for example, that on September 25, 1889, he went to Athens for reasons of health. See “Εγκαίνια της εν Μάκρη νεοδμήτου Λουιτζιδείου Αστικής Σχολής”, Ξενοφάνης 4 (1906) p. 225.

13. Δελησάββας, Μ., Λαογραφικά Μάκρης και Λιβισιού Λυκίας Μ. Ασίας (Athens 1988) pp. 12-13.

14. βατταρίζω: v. intrans. (anc.) = a) talk with poor articulation, b) talk like a baby, talk stupidly; see Μπαμπινιώτης, Γ., Λεξικό της Νέας Ελληνικής Γλώσσας (Athens 1998) p. 360. The “Βατταρισμοί” is dedicated to his father. See Μουσαίος, Μ., Βατταρισμοί, ήτοι λεξιλόγιον της Λειβησιανής διαλέκτου μετ' εγχωρίων παροιμιών εν τέλει (Athens 1884).

15. This is what he wrote in a letter to the journal accompanying his article; the letter was published by the journal after his death, while the writer of the study “On Lycia and Lycians” (‘Περί Λυκίας και Λυκίων)’, volume I (1896), was also revealed; see “Κραυγαί Πόνου υπέρ της μορφώσεως των Μικρασιατών Ελλήνων εκπεμπόμεναι εκ του τάφου”, Ξενοφάνης 6 (1909) pp. 516-518.

16. Μουσαίου-Μπουγιούκου, Κ., Παραμύθια του Λιβισιού και της Μάκρης (Athens 1976) p. 311. According to another source, the epigram is slightly different: “Here lies the glory of the Homeland, the unfailing mind, Michael Mousaios”. See Καραγεωργίου, Ν., Δελησάββας, Μ., Μάκρη και Λιβίσι Μ. Ασίας. Τόποι, ήθη, έθιμα, ενθυμήματα, εξορίες (Athens 1986) p. 18.

17. Proverb: “The three merits of Livisi: the teacher Mousaios –the light of Livisi–, the bell of the Taxiarch and Christofis, the violin-player”, see Μουσαίου-Μπουγιούκου, Κ., Παροιμίες του Λιβισιού και της Μάκρης (Athens 1961 ) p. 166, no. 560.

18. From the resolution it is concluded that this happened in 1887. About the text of the resolution, see Μουσαίου-Μπουγιούκου, Κ., Παραμύθια του Λιβισιού και της Μάκρης (Athens 1976) p. 313.

19. For example, see the speech delivered by Nicholas Louizides about 10 years after Mousaios’ death, during the opening of the “Louizideios Scholi” in neighbouring Makri, on January 7, 1907): “αϊδιος έστω η μνήμη του Διδασκάλου δύο όλων γενεών ημών Μιχαήλ του Μουσαίου ου η ψυχή αγαλλομένη πέτεται νυν περί ημάς, και ευλογεί την Ιεράν ταύτην τελετήν, τον καρπόν των προς εμέ υψηλών αυτού διδαγμάτων”. See “Εγκαίνια της εν Μάκρη νεοδμήτου Λουϊτζιδείου Αστικής Σχολής”, Ξενοφάνης 4 (1906) pp. 198-199. During this opening, in another speech it was said that he worked “for the benefit of his homeland, which he adored and defended for half a century”; as above, p. 204.

20. See Κιτρομηλίδης, Π., Η Έξοδος 2. Μαρτυρίες από τις επαρχίες της Κεντρικής και Νότιας Μικρασίας (Athens 1982) pp. 35-37 and Μουσαίος, Μ., “Ο Γάμος του Μαλώνη Αντιφάτου” (introd. by Πούχνερ), Δελτίου Κέντρου Μικρασιατικών Σπουδών 5 (1984-1985) p. 275.


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