The Shepherd of Keros passed on

Dimitris Artemis, known to most of those who visited the Small Cyclades and especially the Koufonisia as the “shepherd of Keros”, died on January the 24th, 2012, and was buried in his little homeland, “Potamos of Amorgos”.

That’s how I met him myself, about thirty years ago, we became friends and I devoted more than a few writings to him and the island, Keros. At about the same time, our common friend Marina Kounenaki directed a film entitled “The Aethers of Keros” (Aerika tis Kerou) starring Dimitris and Antonaros (Antonis Mauros) from Koufonissi, also known for his love of his land of origin. Since then, many years have passed but our communication never ceased and there was not a single year that I did not visit Keros.

Dimitri was the last in a series of shepherds who kept their flocks on the sacred island of Keros and informally, he was also the keeper of antiquities there. His origin was from the “Potamos tis Amorgou” (River of Amorgos) and his brother Michael is a shepherd of Asfontyliti; he was the person who helped me the most with the creation of my book “Kentima stin Petra” (Embroidery in stone).

Being a shepherd in Keros was not easy as the weather will often not allow a person to pass on Koufonisia, so supplies should always be kept in numbers. Even worse, the island lacks clear water. But Dimitris was coping well and his flock prospered as he only left it for short periods of time, when he visited his family in Amorgos, during the holidays.

Dimitris, who got sick last year, was admitted to a hospital in Rhodes where one of his daughters lives. He remained there after the admission to be close to the doctors. Unfortunately, he failed to overcome his illness and he died far from Keros and his flock. With him, ended the last page of the pastoral life on this island, as was maintained over thousands of years up until today.

The history of Keros  

The history of Keros is inversely proportional to the present abandoned and deserted picture. In the Early Cycladic period (3rd millennium BC) Keros became one of the most important centres of the Cycladic civilization. Together with the settlement and the cemetery of Chalandriani of Syros, they determined the development of the mature period of the Cycladic civilization, the Early Cycladic period II, dated between 2800-2300 BC and internationally known as “Keros-Syros phase”. The famous figurines (the “Harpist”, the “Flute player” and the “Cup bearer”), as well as the variety of marble and ceramic wares and objects from the island (Kavos Daskaleiou, Konakia) prove the central and decisive role of Keros in the prevalence and spread of the Cycladic features. Not much is known about the other historical periods, except that the island joined the Athenian League after the Persian wars, as most of the Cyclades did, under the name Kereia. In the Middle Ages, Keros, just like the entire cluster of the Small East Cyclades, became a base and den of pirates, resulting in the economy and life of its inhabitants being determined by piracy. During the early modern period, Keros belonged to the monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa of Amorgos. In 1952, the island was assigned to shepherds by the Agricultural Service of Greece.

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