Graikia Salentina

The Graikia Salentina (Salentine Greece) or the Ta dekatria choria, as the inhabitants say, is the enclave south of the city of Lecce, were Griko, a New-Greek language, which has Byzantine and Latin elements in it, is spoken. The Graikia consists of the villages of Calimera, Castrignano dei Greci, Corigliano d’Otranto, Martano, Martignano, Melpignano, Soleto, Sernatia and Zollino. However, it formerly included the whole area from Gallipoli to Otranto and the villages of Galatina, Strudà, Galatone, Nardo, San Nicola and Ruffano. Greek minorities also lived in the cities of Maglie, Lecce, Brindisi and Taranto.

There are two different theories on the development of the Graikia. The first one sees its origin in the Old-Greek colony of Μεγάλη Ελλάδα (Magna Graecia), the second one sets the Greek minority in connection to the colonial policy of the Byzantine emperor of the 5th and the 11th century.

In the past, the Griki and their language had no support by the authorities. This and other reasons brought an existential crisis on this culture in the 60ies and 70ies of the 20th century. Nowadays, the Griki have a status of an ethnical and linguistic minority, which is fortunately preserved by a new law developed in order to save minorities, such as for example the Albanian Arbëresh and the Slovene in Friuli. During the past few years, the consciousness for the Greek heritage and its preservation has increased. However, although circumstances have improved, the future of Grika as a language is not certain.

31.03.2005 / Translated from italian by Giorgia Guarini

Image taken from the book:
Grecia Salentina: Arte, Cultura e Territorio; Congedo Editore