Christophorus Plato Castanis
Christophorus Plato Castanis was born April 1, 1814 on the island of Chios. His family was from the Chian village of Livadia and they also lived in Paleo Castron. He was one of eight siblings – three older brothers, two younger brothers, and two sisters.
On Holy Thursday – April 11, 1822 – the Turks began their invasion of Chios and their ensuing massacre of Chios' inhabitants would continue throughout Easter weekend. Christophorus' life was spared due to his young age, but was sold into slavery as were the other children. He was brought by a Turk named Soliman Aga, and the Turkish name Mustapha was given to Christophorus and he was forced to be a Muslim. He was subsequently sold and passed on to two other masters. Like other slaves, he was forced to attend Turkish schools. He eventually escaped his third master, Delhi Mustapha, and found refuge at the English Consulate on Chios where he was reunited with his mother. Christophorus' mother secured his escape from Chios; he first wound up on the island of Paros, then eventually wound up in Nauplion where he lived peacefully for four years.
It is in Nauplion, where Christophorus first met Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe. Dr. Howe eventually hired him as his attendant and subsequently sponsored his voyage to America. Amongst the others that travelled along with Christophorus was John Zachos.
Christophorus Plato Castanis first arrived in New York and stayed with the family of Peter Stuyvesant. From New York, and on his way to Boston, he stopped in New Haven, Connecticut, and met fellow Chiotes who had come to the United States as young refugees – the Galatis brothers (Stephanos and Pantelis) and the Ralli brothers (Constantine and Pandias). The brothers were attending Yale University at the time. Upon arriving in Boston, he stayed with Dr. Howe's father.
Subsequently, he was admitted into the Mount Pleasant Classical Institution at Amherst. Several Greeks were at Mount Pleasant at the time – Gregory Perdicaris, who taught modern and ancient Greek; and fellow students John Zachos, Christopher Evangeles, and Alexander George Paspatis. After two years, he left Mount Pleasant and returned to Boston where he went to work at Crocker & Brewster's printing office. The Boston climate "proved prejudicial" to his health and kept him from his occupation.
In 1830, he left Boston given his health condition he decided to return to Greece. Traveling thru Malta, Patras, Loutraki and other intermediate destinations he finally arrived in Nauplion where he was reunited with his mother after being apart for nearly seven years. Although his father was dead, his siblings were still alive and his family was returning to some sense of normalcy albeit not in Chios. In 1831, he embarked for Athens to continue his studies. He arrived in Athens "soon after the death of Capodistrias." He attended the schools of American Missionaries, Robertson, Hill and King until 1835.
However, he came back to Boston in 1837 and was reunited with Dr. Howe who was now head of the Perkins Institute for the Blind which he founded in 1829. With Dr. Howe's help, Christophorus quickly became a tutor of modern and ancient Greek in Cambridge and Boston.
In 1839, Christophorus Plato Castanis embarked on a lecture tour "as a living monument of Turkish cruelty and American philanthropy" where he spoke before groups on the subject of the Greek War of Independence, the massacre in Chios, and the needs of Greece. He started at Harvard, and wound up lecturing throughout the country that included stops in New York, Princeton University, Rutgers University, Philadelphia, Delaware, Baltimore, Washington DC (where he personally thanked Senators Henry Clay and Daniel Webster for their eloquent speeches in support of Greek Independence and those that suffered), Georgetown University, Alexandria, Mount Vernon, New Orleans, Bangor, New Hampshire, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Christophorus Plato Castanis married Rutha H. Clark in Worcester, Massachusetts on October 22, 1844. He became a United States Citizen on June 17, 1851.
In 1851, Castanis' autobiography "The Greek Exile" was published.
"The Greek Exile" tells the story of a young Christophorus Plato Castanis who endures the Turkish massacre of the people of Chios. He details his experience through this terrible atrocity perpetuated by the Ottoman Turks upon a defenseless people. The background to his story is the rest of Greece which is in a state of rebellion against Ottoman rule during the Greek War of Independence. He provides a first-hand narrative of his enslavement; how he then manages an amazing escape from his Turkish captors; and his travels to the United States.
As an 8-year-old boy on the island of Chios in the Spring of 1822, Christophorus Plato Castanis, sees thousands of Chians killed or sold into slavery during the massacres at Chios. He is captured by the Turks, sold several times as a slave before managing to escape. With the help of American philhellenes, Castanis is educated in the United States where he lectures extensively on the cause of the Greek Revolution.
Orators, poets and travellers have written on the sufferings of Chios from Turkish injustice, but of all the eye-witnesses of these scenes, not one except [Christophorus Plato Castanis], has ever published a [detailed] account of all the events from the beginning to the end of the great massacre.
This work contains a biography of the author, leading events of the Greek Revolution, the great massacre on his native island, voyages, adventures, anecdotes, description of Greek and Turkish life, scenery, manners, customs, religion, language, superstitions, traditions, and classic associations ; the American relief agents and missionaries in Greece; and arrival at Boston on the second visit to America.
In his book, Kastanis also mentions that about forty Greek orphans were brought to the United States by American philhellenes, and that they studied at Yale, Harvard, Amherst, Princeton, Kenyon College (Ohio), Eastern College (Pennsylvania), and at Knoxville, Tennessee. He says that these 40 young Greek lads were from Chios, Epirus, Athens, Macedonia, and Asia Minor, and that most of them returned to Greece after completing their studies in America.
In addition to "The Greek Exile," He authored several other books including An Essay On The Ancient And Modern Greek Languages (1844) Interpretations Of The Attributes Of The Principal Fabulous Deities: With An Essay On The History Of Mythology (1844), and An Essay On the Ancient and Modern Greek Language,