The name of the village

(By Mr. Dimitris Parassiris, retired schoolteacher)



This is the order of the names that the village took starting from its formation until today. Let us see how it took the afore-mentioned names.

It is generally accepted that every myth and legend is based on a real historic or religious fact, which in the course of time fades, especially when it is related to prehistoric facts. Nothing is accidentally said. Ghosts, hidden treasures, fairies etc. they all have a basis. In our case the legend related to the formation and the name of the village says: a shepherd called Zas (genitive: (son of) Zou) was grazing his flock of sheep and goats in the area where the village is today situated. At that time there was a thick forest and he was watering his flock at Diskouriou spring which is 3 kilometers farther down. However, every day he lost a goat and he had no idea where it went. He kept an eye on it and found out that the goat had discovered a small spring from which it drank water. Since he had secured water he then settled on the spot and the place was named after him in the form of ZOULIANA. (The ending -ianắ is quite common in Cretan village names like Aggeliana, Apladiana, etc. and they always refer to the name of the founder.) Even today the south-eastern part of the village is called Zouliana. Because of the fact that the name of the goat which discovered the spring was Amalthi (Amalthea), the spring took its name and until today it is called ‘Amalthea’s Water’. There is also some old folk Cretan couplets which say: ‘Passer-by, if you happen to pass through Zoniana, you should drink water and quench your thirst from Amalthea’s Water’. In this way Zas (Zeus) became both the founder and godfather of the village. When he died, he was buried there and from his tomb, his pit which is a synonym of his grave, the place was named “Zou’s Pit” (“Zeu’s Pit’’), in other words Zou’s (Zeus) grave. For instance a common phrase in Greek used when someone is at death’s door is that ‘He/she has one foot in the grave’ or when someone is already dead that ‘He/she has filled one’s pit’.  Soon enough this name prevailed and until the second decade of the 19th century it was named “Zou’s Pit’ (Tou Zou to Lakko) and that is how Zouliana was named and still is the afore-mentioned neighbourhood. In this way it becomes clear that both names ZOULIANA and ZOYTOLAKKO derive from ZA which is one of the numerous names of ZEUS; among other names he was called Zeus, Dias, Zas, Zis, Zan, Dan, Tan, etc. Today the village is named Zoniana which name also derives from Zeus as we will find out. The village’s inhabitants, the so-called Zoulakkianoi or Zoulakkites, when they wanted to say: “Oh my God” (as we say today) or “Listen to me God”, they used to say: “Zone God” (Zone Thee) or “Listen to me Zone God” (Listen to me Zone Thee). Only Zoulakkianoi used this kind of appeal to address God. The inhabitants of Anogeia used to say: “Zane God” (Zane Thee). The village of ZON – IANA took its third name from that last name of Zeus (Zone) just like Parassiris – Parassiriana, Klinis – Kliniana, Kavvalos – Kavvaliana etc. In order to prove that what I have said so far is not idle fancy but that the history and prehistory of the village are closely related to Zeus, I will now cite some extracts from the works of historians, sagacious people, researchers, etc. on the matter.

1) Pherecydes of Syros, an ancient Greek philosopher of the 6th century BC, in his work entitled “Heptamychia” says: “Zas men kai chronos isan ai ke xthonii” which means “Zeus and time have existed from time immemorial and the Chthonic which was named Earth… (Diogenes Laertius 1.119).

2) Mauer Das Griechische Volk 1st Vol, p. 3 “Zeus Thal oder Jupiter” (1835). Even today one of the valleys of Mount Ida in Crete is named “Zeus’ Valley – Zoulakkos” and a common invocation of the inhabitants is: “May Zeus lend a favourable ear to me” (“Ikoute me Zone Thee”).

3) V. Psillakis (footnote: M. Chourmouzis) Vol. A, p. 390, cites: “in the area of Milopotapos there are even today ancient locations and villages such as the monastery of Diskouri (the Dioskuri) where probably there is a sanctuary of the Dorian Krana (Krini), next to which lies the important village named Zoutolakko. He also refers to the fact that very near the village of Anogeia there is the HOME OF IDAEAN ZEUS OF MOUNT IDA, BORN IN CRETE. According to the local accent the name “Stou Zou to Lakko” means in Zou’s pit (Zeus).   

4) Ioannis Prombonas cites that in “Stou Zou to Lakko” the inhabitants invoke Zeus with the invocation “Zone Thee”.

5) Bounialis in the “Cretan War”, p. 235, cites in free translation in English: “And I am on my way to tell you about Amnato, Tou Zou to Lakko (Zou’s pit) which is on the foot of Psiloritis Mountain. (In the Cretan accent “Ke erchomai na sase po o gia ke tin Amnato tou Zou to Lakko pou tone ston Psiloriti kato”).

6) Vassilikata in the “Monuments of Cretan History”, p. 131, the complete name with the Cretan accent Laco tu Zu is cited.

7) Chourmouzis Vizantios in the “Cretan Issues”, 1842, p. 46 cites Zoutolakko. In the mountainous villages of Milopotamos for instance in Axos, Livada (not Livadia), Zoutolakko and Krana the inhabitants do not pronounce the letter l before a, o, u. Consequently, they pronounce gaa instead of gala (=milk), kao instead of kalo (=good) and so on.

8) Kastrofilakas (K. 183) cites it in the catalogue of duties that needed to be performed AXO ET SO = Axos ka Zo with 1,200 duties to be carried out whereas it is not cited in the population catalogue, apparently because it was regarded as the same location as Axos. (By the word duties it is meant the compulsory rendering of services by the farmers to their master without any exchange.)

9) Alexandros Soutsos in his book “The History of the Greek Revolution”, Paris, 1829, p. 158, cites: “…the other location is the so-called Zoutolakkos, which is inhabited by the warlike tribe of Zoulakkites. According to the Cretan tradition, Zeus used to go down there when he visited the summits of Mount Ida. That is why this place was named Zoulakkos which means Zeus’ Pit. And something which is also strange is that the inhabitants of the village are still using the following invocation of their ancestors, altered by the course of time: “Ikoute mou Zone Thee” which means “Listen to me Zeus”.    

10) Even more worth noticing is the oath that the shepherds would use until quite recently when they had a dispute or when in doubt: “Ni Za, fasko sou kai kateche to, de fteo sto prama sou, ergo i vouli mou” which means “I’m telling you by God and you should know that I haven’t done or known anything about what you are asking me”. (“The expression ergo vouli is still used nowadays”.)  In other words they take an oath by Zeus without knowing that the expression “Ni Za” means “By Zeus” as we today say: “By God”. The word Za was supposed to be the corrupted form of the word zoa (animals) as the Cretans call their sheep and goats. All the shepherds from Zoniana over 70 or 80 years old remember this oath. My father who died in 1987 told me that when he was a young shepherd, the oath mentioned above included the following: they used to make a cross on a stone, put their hands on it as we do today on the Holy Gospel and said the oath. The only difference was that after ‘Ni Za’ they added the name of St. George. “By Zeus and Saint George”. Apparently the Christian elements of the Cross and Saint George were added after the establishment of Christianity.