George Zorbas

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George Zorbas
Γεώργιoς Ζορμπάς
Grave of Georgios Zorbas in Skopie, Republic of Macedonia.jpg
The grave of Zorbas in Skopje
Georgios Zorbas

DiedSeptember 16, 1941(1941-09-16) (aged 75–76)

Georgios Zorbas (Greek: Γεώργιoς Ζορμπάς; 1865 – September 16, 1941) was a Greek miner upon whom Nikos Kazantzakis based Alexis Zorbas, the protagonist of his 1946 novel Zorba the Greek.[2]


He was born in 1865 in Kolindros, Sanjak of Salonica, Ottoman Empire (now in Pieria, Central Macedonia, Greece). He was the son of Photios Zorbas, a wealthy landowner and sheep-owner and had three siblings; a sister, Katerina, and two brothers, 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 there that Kazantzakis later wrote into The Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas (Βίος και πολιτεία του Αλέξη Ζορμπά) which is a fictionalized version of the life of 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.[2]

His eventful life continued in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, where he settled in 1922 with his 10 years old daughter Catherine. He bought mines near Niš and near Skopje and began to deal with mining.[3] In 1940 his daughter married a wealthy merchant with whom he went to live in Belgrade. He died on September 16, 1941,[4] and was buried in the cementry of Vodno (quarter) near Skopje (then part of the Kingdom of Bulgaria).[5] Because of the change of the urban plans, the bones of Zorbas were transferred in 1954 to the Butel cemetery (P-17), near Skopje.[6] His great-grandson was rock musician Pavlos Sidiropoulos.


  1. ^ Nikos Kazantzakis, Peter Bien, The Selected Letters of Nikos Kazantzakis, Princeton University Press, 2012, ISBN 0691147027, p. 66.
  2. ^ a b 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.
  3. ^ „Етнос“: Гробот на вистинскиот Грк Зорба е во Скопје. 18.11.2013, А1он.
  4. ^ Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek, Publisher Simon and Schuster, 2014, p. 349., ISBN 1476782814
  5. ^ Brown, K. The Past in Question: Modern Macedonia and the Uncertainties of Nation, Publisher Princeton University Press, 2003, p. 134., ISBN 0691099952
  6. ^ Катерина Блажевска, Дојче Веле, Зорба почива во Македонија, но не живее на нејзината сцена. Нова ТВ, January 18, 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Real Zorbas and Nikos Kazantzakis by Giannes Anapliotes. Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1978. ISBN 90-256-0803-5.

External links[edit]