January 2, 2010

How the Turks Stole Christmas?

Saint Nicholas in Bari 
For now this is only in the talking stage, but if the Italian government timidly caves in to this absurd demand, will a future Dr. Seuss write of… How the Turks Stole Christmas?

Monday 28, December 2009 – A Turkish archaeologist is calling on his government to demand the return to Turkey from Italy of the bones of the late Christian Saint Nicholas of Myra (i.e. Santa Claus).

Speaking to the Anatolian News Service, Prof. Nevzat Çevik (who seems to have a knack for pointing out the obvious) stressed that St. Nicholas is widely revered in the Christian world and many churches have been built in his honor.

According to Prof. Çevik, Turkey’s claim to St. Nicholas’s earthly remains rests on the following:

•  Nicholas of Myra was born, lived and died in Anatolia, and made it quite clear he wished to be laid to rest there.
•  Anatolia, of course, now (sadly) lies under the dominion of the Turks.
•  His bones were stolen (!) by Barese sailors in 1087 AD and taken to the city of Bari, where they were reinterred in a church dedicated to him.  

There are several flaws in Prof. Çevik’s argument, which I shall be more than happy to expose.  For starters:

•  At the time of Nicholas’s birth (December 6, 270 AD), Anatolia rested comfortably within the borders of the eastern part of the Roman Empire.  At the time of his death (346 AD), the Empire, while plunged into civil war (hardly an aberration if you know anything about Roman history), still from the perspective of its denizens looked stalwart against foreign invasion.
•  There were no Turks in Anatolia during his lifetime, none whatsoever!  Not one square inch of Anatolian real estate was in Turkish hands.  Case closed in that regard.
•  In the year 1087 AD the Byzantine (Greek) Empire, the successor state to the Roman Empire in the East, was fighting for its very life!  Caught between an invasion of Seljuk Turks to the East and Normans to the West, it was only due to the able leadership of Alexios I Komnenos, one of the greatest emperors Byzantium ever had, that it survived at all.  Some historians have tried to paint the Barese sailors as “pirates and thieves”, but taking into account the fact that Nicholas of Myra was already widely revered in Christian Europe, it is more likely the so-called “theft” was in fact an attempt to prevent the bones of one of Christendom’s greats from falling into the hands of heathens.

Given the fact Nicholas of Myra was most certainly an Anatolian Greek, the only people with a legitimate claim to his bones are the Greek people themselves.

One also has to ask why the Turks have waited this long to lay claim to something they suddenly feel was theirs all along.  The answer, ironically enough, comes to us from the mouth of Prof. Çevik himself.

‘Çevik has also urged state authorities to take steps to contact their Italian counterparts. “The ministries should work to move the bones back to Turkey.” The scholar also emphasized the significance of St. Nicholas’s grave in terms of tourism and said that the number of tourists visiting the church in Demre will drastically increase when the bones are returned.’

There you have it: money!  Turkey’s economy is a basket case!  That’s the reason they want his bones, and that’s also the reason they want EU membership, because they’re utterly incapable of governing their own economic affairs (and to provide a place to dump their surplus population).  It remains to be seen whether the native peoples of Europe still have some of the backbone of their forefathers to stop both of these outrages.

By Niccolò Graffio

Further reading: