Aesculapian Society Honored Kostas Athanasiades

by Catherine Tsounis

‘Our honoree is a great man of stature,” said Michael Trahanis, president of the Aesculapian Thessalian Brotherhood. “He is a pioneer in establishing the Athanasiades Foundation that gives scholarships to Greek-American undergraduate students. He is an example for others to follow.” Mr. Athanasiades was recently honored at the 102nd Annual Dance of the organization at the Crystal Palace. Prominent persons included: Cyprus Consul General Martha A. Mavromatis; Apostolos Zoumpaniotis; Dennis and Rita Syntilas; George Kitsios, president of the Greek-American Homeowners Association and Board of Directors; Christos and Vivi Tzelios; Dr. Nicholas and Mrs. Gianaris; Dr. Demitri Dais and daughter Dr. Anita Dais; Dr. John Siolas and family, and others.

(Photo at left: Mr. Kostas Athanasiades thanking Aesculapian Thessalian Brotherhood, as his wife, Maria, third from left, and community leaders look on.)

The Folklore Society of America performed the dance in festive costumes to a spellbound audience. This dance takes its name from "kara" which means black in Turkish and "younani" which means Ionian or Greek in Persian. When the Ottomans reached Thessaly they called the people "Karayounan" because they wore black clothes and head scarves. Karayounan evolved into Karagouna, which the people of Thessaly call themselves to this day. It is also the name of this most popular dance from the region. The Karagouna dance is danced at festivals and at celebrations of religious holidays such as Saints' Days and is a traditional dance done at weddings. Website describes the dances of Thessaly.

The Folklore Society of America performing the karagouna dance.

A woman’s society called “H Thessalia” is under the presidency of educator Rita Syntilas, who has taught generations of Greek-American students in Astoria, New York. Thessaly is the land of Asclepius (Aesculapius). The Greek god of medicine, Asclepius—in Latin, Aesculapius—appears in art holding a staff with a serpent coiled around it. The serpent, which was sacred to him, symbolizes renewal of youth because it casts off its skin. Aesculapius was the son of Apollo and Coronis. The centaur Chiron brought him up and taught him the art of healing. His daughter Hygeia personified health, according to scholars Jason and the Argonauts. and Achilles, the most admired warrior of the Iliad who was Alexander the Great’s role model, were born in Thessaly.

To Rigas Feraios, the famous hero of the 1821 Greek Revolution, is attibuted the quote, according to a Thessalian of the 1970's, “Better one hour of a free life than forty years of slavery and imprisonment.” The legendary kleftes (Greek guerilla fighters), such as Katzantonis and Georgios Karaiskakis, mobilized the youth to begin a rebellion against Ottoman Turkish enslavement that lasted four centuries. Nikolaos Plastiras, military commander of the feared 5/42 Evzone Division from Agrafa, Thessaly, saved Western Thrace from a Turkish invasion in 1922, in the aftermath of the Asia Minor Catastrophe (Mikrasiatiki Catastrophe).

The Aesculapian Thessalian brotherhood was founded in 1905. Today its center is located at 28-52 31 St., Astoria, N.Y. 11102. The 2007 Dance Journal is an excellent resource book on the history of a Greek-American organization.

“Our ancestors’ contributions are not appreciated,” said Mr. Kostas Athanasiades. “I have tried for 65 years to bring the glory of Greece to all mankind. The Greek nation must be remembered for their contribution. Greek scientists and scholars have enriched all fields. Technical inventions made by the Ancient Greeks are now being recognized."

Mr. and Mrs. Athanasiades with Rita (standing)
and Dennis Syntilas.

Costas Athanasiades is a brilliant journalist, philologist, author and contemporary voice of Hellenism in the United States. The Veterans of the Foreign Wars of the United States honored the journalist in 2004 for his “faithful support of America’s deserving veterans and their families.” The organization stated in the citation that “patriotic Americans like you, Mr. Athanasiades, ensure that our nation remains ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave for generation to come’.” The benefactor was inducted as a member of the “National Library of Congress”. The Honorable Carolyn B. Maloney honored the author in the March 2001 “Congressional Record”.

Costas Athanasiades was born in Kalavasos, Cyprus on March 3, 1921. He studied in Italy and acquired a degree as an agriculturalist. He served valiantly with the Cypriot troops of British Commander Montgomery during W.W.II. He immigrated to the United States in 1959. Mr. Athanasiades purchased the Campana newspaper in 1961. He has authored more than a dozen books over the years. He has been cited for his insights and contributions by prestigious institutions, including the National Library of Congress and the United Nations.

Read about the success of the
14th Annual 
Foundation Awards
Click here.

The Athanasiades Foundation scholarships are unique. They are based solely on the academic record of each student. Economic background and community service are not criteria. One’s hard work in achieving a high G.P.A. is the deciding factor. “Our Foundation gives scholarships with the hope that others will follow our example.” he said. "One hundred universities have honored me with their presidents giving me the highest honors. Whatever we do, we do without publicity. From the Day I came to America, I do everything from the heart for my adopted country.” Scholarships applications for 2007 will commence in September. For more information, contact the Athanasiades Foundation at 30-96 42 St., Astoria, NY 11103.

(Posting date 29 April 2007

HCS encourages readers to view other fine articles ( ) penned by Dr. Catherine Tsounis and press releases about the Modern Greek Studies program at St. John's University, where she is an adjunct professor. For more information about Dr. Tsounis, see her biographical sketch at

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