Billy Cotsis on his new book, The Aegean Seven

The long-awaited return of the stolen Parthenon Marbles has been increasingly in the news lately and is the subject of several books. The Aegean Seven Take Back the “Elgin” Marbles by Billy Cotsis presents a revisionist historical fiction approach to the story of the Parthenon Marbles, calling it “Ocean’s Eleven minus Brad Pitt meets Dan Brown, Byron and Thucydides”. The author spoke with The National Herald about the book, his latest film and his Greek heritage.

When asked how long the process took from the idea to the publication of his latest book and documentary film, Cotsis told TNH, “With the book, it was conceptualized in 2015. My friends and I had just finished the short film, Draconian Decision. of the German drachma where Germany is poor and Greece rich, and my friends and I thought why not make a film where we “steal” the marbles. We never made the movie, but last year during a lockdown in Sydney I decided to sit down and write it like a novel. Took 3-4 weeks to write in June and July. Edited in August and September by friends in Cyprus and Melbourne and final touches made in Los Angeles. Which makes it a very international book.

Billy Cotsis. Photo by Ana Marcia

“Magna Graecia: Calabria’s Greko was filmed on location in 2018,” Cotsis continued. “We added new elements in 2019 and 2020 with my friend from London, Basil Genimahaliotis. It is part of a trilogy of documentaries, one in Puglia and one in Reggio, which have already been shown on television and at international festivals. We have a contract offer from a distributor for Calabria, but we haven’t made a decision yet. We hope to publish it in the next few months online. He has acted in international film festivals. Its predecessor, Magna Graecia: The Griko of Puglia won a few awards.

Asked about his Greek roots, Cotsis told TNH: “My in-laws come from amazing Lesvos, where I spent a year of my life, and we also have a heritage from Aivali and Smyrna, which is poignant. as the centenary of the end approaches Smyrna.

Billy Cotsis was born in Sydney in 1977. He spent almost a year of his childhood in Greece. Upon entering university in 1995, he joined the well-organized and active Greek club, the Macquarie University Greek Association. He spent four years learning and promoting his own culture before traveling to Greece again in 1999. The love affair with Greece was rekindled. From then on, he spent most of his free time researching his own Greek roots in Asia Minor and Lesvos, as well as being fascinated by the remnants of Greek colonies in countries other than Greece. At last count, he had visited nearly 60 countries and 79 Greek nisia. Cotsis is a prolific writer with over 350 of his articles appearing in Greek media from various countries. Since 2012, he has written 17 short film and documentary projects, contributes to a blog, which features all of his history articles, and has written or participated in six book titles.

Of her latest book, Aegean Seven, Cotsis said, “I wanted to write a story based on the timeline of real events leading up to the theft of artifacts from the Parthenon and other parts of Greece in the early 1800s. , a period which coincides with the movement towards the Greek Revolution – the book ends in 1817 as things progress for Filiki Eteria.

“As the journey to retrieve the marbles unfolds, the reader will see a few points about the Filiki Eteria and how it happened,” he continued. “I visited their headquarters in Odessa, Ukraine, which inspired me to draw inspiration from the impending Greek revolution in the novel.”

The stolen marbles and artifacts lead to a series of twists that bring the “Aegean Seven” together to help reunite the artifacts with their homeland. The Aegean Seven is a composite group of Hellenes and Philhellenes, including Lord Byron.

Magna Graecia: The Greko of Calabria is the seventh film collaboration between Basil Genimahaliotis and Billy Cotsis. Photo: Courtesy of Billy Cotsis

Cotsis wrote the novel as a way to draw attention to the fact that the Marbles were illegally removed from Greece and must return home.

He also hopes not to step on the toes of committees around the world and in Australia who are working hard to push for the return of the Marbles. “I’m just a writer taking in a range of stories from the era,” Cotsis said. “The Aegean Seven is a novel with some controversy as it involves reverse heist and some violence. I didn’t want the novel to be a burden on those working hard on the restoration committees.

After The Aegean Seven, Cotsis and his filmmaker friend Basil Genimahaliotis will release their third documentary Magna Graecia which is set in the Greek cities of Calabria. This is to help raise awareness of this ancient language with a call to action for Hellenes to learn more about Greko and Griko (in Puglia) and find ways to support them.

The Aegean Seven Take Back the “Elgin” Marbles by Billy Cotsis is available through the Bilingual Greek Bookshop, on Amazon, Belmore and Kingsgrove Newsagencies.

Angela C. Hale