Anafi, which lies to the east of Santorini and is the most southeasterly island in the Cyclades, was used as a place of exile from the 1920s onwards for a variety of people regarded as public dangers, from animal thieves to political dissidents. The Anafi exiles formed a commune which gave itself the acronym «ΟΣΠΕΑ» standing for Ομάδα Συμβίωσης Πολιτικών Εξορίστων Ανάφης (Commune of Political Exiles of Anafi). Anyone who had been exiled for «πολιτικούς λόγους» (“political reasons”) was eligible to belong. Prospective members had to agree to abide by the group’s rules and conditions, including taking turns on rotas of jobs and giving to the commune half of any money, clothes, or foodstuffs sent by relatives and friends. They also had to agree to obey the notorious “Rule 10” which forbade romantic or sexual relationships with locals, or with other members of the commune. The Anafiot commune was, in effect, a total institution inside another total institution and members were under two authorities according to Goffman’s definition: the state and the commune organizers.

Ironically, the only influence which their time on the island had on them was the opportunity to put their principles into practice, for it was only under conditions of exile that the communal cooperative forms of living which some exiles’ political philosophy advocated could be put into effect. Deprived by those in power of the freedoms to change their society, they imposed a kind of “semiotic colonization” on their place of exile through the use of banners and the name of buildings and animals, redefining their environment literally in their own terms. In exile, they gained a different freedom, the power to construct a new society on the margins of the old. (Excerpts from Margaret E. Kenna, “Conformity and Subversion: Handwritten Newspapers from an Exiles’ Commune, 1938–1943.” Journal of Modern Greek Studies, vol. 26 no. 1, 2008, p. 115-157, and “The Social Organization of Exile: The Everyday Life of Political Exiles in the Cyclades in the 1930s.” Journal of Modern Greek Studies, vol. 9 no. 1, 1991, p. 63-81.)



Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers. To achieve this, it is at once too much and too little that the prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector: too little, for what matters is that he knows himself to be observed; too much, because he has no need in fact of being so.

Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so. Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. And, in order to be exercised, this power had to be given the instrument of permanent, exhaustive, omnipresent surveillance, capable of making all visible, as long as it could itself remain invisible. It had to be like a faceless gaze that transformed the whole social body into a field of perception: thousands of eyes posted everywhere, mobile attentions ever on the alert, a long, hierarchized network. And this unceasing observation had to be accumulated in a series of reports and registers; and, unlike the methods of judicial or administrative writing, what was registered in this way were forms of behaviour, attitudes, possibilities, suspicions – a permanent account of individuals’ behaviour. (Excerpts from Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 1975/1977)



Several of the archeological artifacts found in Anafi, especially at the Kastelli site, are exhibited in a dedicated room near the town hall. The archeological room is a depot space of approximately 15 square meters and contains a series of headless statues, sarcophagi and fragments from the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods. There is also a small picture of the Strangford Apollo of Anafi from the British Museum collection hanging on the wall above the headless statues. In the summer of 2014, it was opened on Mondays and Fridays from 09:00 to 14:00. The guard told us that no photos were allowed. The picture shown here was found on the Internet. (Piergiorgio’s notes.)



We have no idea what his fantastic head
was like, where the eyeballs were slowly swelling. But
his body now is glowing like a gas lamp,
whose inner eyes, only turned down a little,

hold their flame, shine. If there weren’t light, the curve
of the breast wouldn’t blind you, and in the swerve of the thighs a smile wouldn’t keep on going toward the place where the seeds are

If there weren’t light, this stone would look cut off where it drops clearly from the shoulders,
its skin wouldn’t gleam like the fur of a wild animal,

and the body wouldn’t send out light from every edge
as a star does… for there is no place at all
that isn’t looking at you. You must change your life.

Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Robert Bly)



As Michael Astour has pointed out, just as Theras is clearly the eponymous ancestor of Thera (Santorini), the name Membliaros clearly comes from the toponym Membliaros or Bliaros –the old name of Anaphe, the island closest to Thera. He has demonstrated that the form Bliaros makes it impossible for Membliaros to derive –as has been suggested– from memblomai, a secondary present middle form of melô (to take care), which is in any event extraordinarily implausible on semantic grounds. Instead, he proposes that ‘it represents a very accurate transliteration of Ugaritic or archaic Phoenician mêm-bli-ar “waters without light” or shorter bli-ar “without light, darkness”.

There is little doubt that Astour has made his point and that not only the name Membliaros but the legend surrounding Anaphe indicate West Semitic cosmogonies. However Astour fails to explain why these Greek myths should be located north of Crete around Thera and Anaphe. The reason would seem to be that there was a memory of the great Thera eruption. Thus, as well as symbolizing the chaos before creation, Membliaros and ‘the Pall of Darkness’ which neither the stars nor moon could penetrate record the massive dust cloud emanating from Thera in 1628 B.C. (Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Archeological and Documentary Evidence, 1991)


January 2015