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Zeybeks or sometimes Zeibeks, were irregular militia and guerrilla fighters living in the Aegean Region of the Ottoman Empire from late 17th to early 20th centuries.The word Zeybeks is most likely Phrygian and taken from the god Zeus (Zey) and the word for bread (Bekos). It symbolizes the union of the spirit with the body. The Zeybeks originated in ancient Thrace, Greece, where during archaeological excavations and next to a tomb which the locals call the tomb of Orpheus, a rock called Gonikon depicts various symbols and figures that look like people dancing with arms stretche.
The Zeybeks migrated around the 17th century to the Anatolian shoreline of the Aegean Sea in Asia Minor where they had somewhat of a contradictory existence Before the Treaty of Lausanne and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, larger concentrations of Zeybeks could be found on the Aegean coast of western Anatolia, near the city of Smyrna. After the Greek invasion of Smyrna they fought against the Greek occupation of western Turkey. Following the formation of a Turkish national army, during the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, most of them joined the regular forces and continued their resistance.
They also acted, traditionally, as protectors of village people against landlords, bandits and tax collectors. A leader of a Zeybek gang was called Efe and his soldiers were known as either Zeybeks or Kızan. Kızan was generally used for newly recruited or inexperienced Zeybeks. There was generally a tribe democracy in group. Decisions was taken in a democratic way, after the decision was taken Efe has an uncontroversial authority. They followed definite rituals for all actions; for example, the promotion of a kızan to zeybek was very similar to Ahi rituals.
Zeybeks or Zeibekiko had a special dance in which performers simulated hawks. The dance would start off slowly with small stutter steps in a circular motion with hands raised, simulating the movements of a hawk or an eagle with its wings expanded. With one sudden movement of the tips of his fingers, the guerilla fighter would touch the ground, tap the heel of his boot, and hit his sword or whatever other weapon he was carrying.
- Efe, the leaders of bands of Zeybeks and Kızan
- Zeibekiko (Greek dance) and Zeybek (Turkish dance)
- Atçalı Kel Mehmet
- Yörük Ali Efe
- Çakırcalı Mehmet Efe
- Publication, "American-Hellenic Society", page 18 (English)
- Onur Akdogu, "Bir Başkaldırı Öyküsü Zeybekler, Cilt 1 - 3 Tarihi - Ezgileri - Dansları" ("A Story of Rebellion - Zeybeks" (3 volumes: History, Music, Dances)), İzmir, Turkey, 2004 (Turkish)
- Views of the "outlaw concept" in comparative perspective: "The American West" and the "Zeybeks" in the Turk lands, H.B. Paksoy