Presented by

The Atlantic Selects

A Century-Long 'War' in the Greek Islands

Dec 02, 2015 | 683 videos
Video by Salomon Ligthelm

As Easter Sunday nears, a palpable tension descends upon the Greek island of Chios. For over a century, members of the island’s two rival churches have annually taken up arms against one another as part of a conflict with uncertain origins. Once the sun goes down on Holy Saturday, the two churches launch more than 100,000 homemade rockets at each other’s bell towers in a tradition the locals call Rouketopolemos.

However, despite its outwardly violent appearance, Rouketopolemos has always been a peaceful tradition in nature. The “rocket war” is a mock conflict staged by both sides in celebration of the resurrection of Christ. While the history of the event is unclear, one theory suggests that the first “rocket war” was a clever ruse employed by the Greeks to distract the Turkish army occupying the island at the time. While explosions dominated the landscape outside, parishioners of each church were able to peacefully attend Easter Mass within.

This short film was produced by Variable and directed by Salomon Ligthelm.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Author: Greyson Korhonen

About This Series

A showcase of short films curated by The Atlantic