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He was born in the village of Kolindros, then in the Ottoman Empire (today in West Macedonia, Greece) in around 1867. He was the son of Fotios Zorbas, a wealthy landowner and sheep-owner and had three siblings, Katerina, Ioannis, and Xenophon. He worked in his fields and flocks at Katafygi, became a woodcutter, and later left for Palaiochori, Chalkidiki, where he spent the most decisive years of his life, 1889–1911. He worked as a miner for a French company in Gisvoro (Γήσβορο) and became friends with the foreman, Giannis Kalkounis (Γιάννης Καλκούνης). He eloped with Kalkounis's daughter Eleni and eventually had eight children. By the end of this period, war and the death of his wife brought great unhappiness to his family.
After all this, he left Palaiochori for Eleftherohori, Pieria, only 8 km from Kolindros, where his brother Ioannis, a doctor, lived. In 1915, he decided to become a monk and left for Mount Athos. It was there that he met Nikos Kazantzakis and they become close friends. They went to Mani together, where they worked as miners in Prastova. It was their experiences here that Kazantzakis later wrote into The Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas, later translated as Zorba the Greek and also adapted into Zorba musical (1968) and an Academy Award-nominated film, Zorba the Greek (1964) wherein his role was played by Anthony Quinn. His eventful life ended in a village near Skopje (today's Republic of Macedonia), where he settled, remarried, and had more children. He died on September 16, 1941. and was buried in the Butel cemetery (P-17), near Skopje, (then annexed by the Kingdom of Bulgaria).
His great-grandson was Pavlos Sidiropoulos.
- Thomas R. Lindlof. Hollywood Under Siege: Martin Scorsese, the Religious Right, and the Culture Wars. Lexington, Ky.: University of Kentucky Press. p. 16. ISBN 0-8131-2517-0 – via Google Books.
- Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek, Publisher Simon and Schuster, 2014, ISBN 1476782814, p. 349.
- Brown, K. The Past in Question: Modern Macedonia and the Uncertainties of Nation, Publisher Princeton University Press, 2003, ISBN 0691099952, p. 134.
- The real Zorbas and Nikos Kazantzakis by Giannes Anapliotes. Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1978. ISBN 90-256-0803-5.