The story of Maria Pentagiotissa contains all the elements of an urban legend, yet she was a real person, with some considering her to be the first femme fatale of the new Greek State or even the first Greek feminist.
Maria Daskalopoulou is said to have been born in 1821 in the village of Pentagioi, in the Fokida region of Central Greece, hence her name Pentagiotissa.
It is said that she was a woman of exceptional beauty and also openly erotic, at a time when Greek rural communities were so conservative that a woman parading her sexuality could even get stoned to death in certain extreme cases.
Only a few stories have survived from her youth. Her father is said to have been a schoolteacher, hence her characterization in a folk song as a “baby teacher.” She was a beautiful and dynamic woman for her era. Her story was a source of inspiration for theatrical plays, films, and poems.
Sophisticated and gentle, Pentagiotissa was a real temptation. Men spoke about her in hushed tones. When she was walking around the village, men gazed at her full of lust. Candidate suitors even crawled to their knees to win her love.
Her erotic behavior shocked the conservative society of the village, and the actions of her attention-seeking suitors were frequently the talk of this conservative society. Ultimately though, she seemed to have found her man. She fell in love with a young man from her village, Giorgos Papageorgiou, who went by the nickname Tourkakis. Maria did not hide her feelings for him and a torrid affair began.
That was also her big mistake. Their budding love and the blossoming of the relationship upset the villagers who would not accept any kind of premarital relationships. Pressure towards the family soon followed. They urged her brother, Thanasis Daskalopoulos, to take action and to put an end to this “forbidden” affair. They feared that such a relationship would be a bad example for other girls in the village.
Maria Pentagiotissa came under great pressure from her brother to end the relationship. This pressure came to a tragic end though when Tourkakis killed her brother. The two men had a violent argument and Tourkakis threw Daskalopoulos off a cliff, then covered his dead body with rocks.
When a villager found her brother’s body, Maria and Tourkakis were immediately accused of the crime and the couple was arrested. Maria was considered to be the accomplice and the couple was tried by a Messolonghi court. Tourkakis was sentenced to a long prison sentence, but Maria Pentagiotissa was acquitted. It is said that the judges were partial to her because of her beauty. Others said that one of the jurors was an ex-lover.
After the loss of her brother and her love interest, Maria married a widower in the nearby village of Paleokatouno and raised and educated his four children from his previous marriage. Maria Pentagiotissa died in 1885 without ever having children of her own. According to others, she spent the last years of her life in a monastery.
The legend of Maria Pentagiotissa in art
The story of Maria Pentagiotissa became famous all over Greece and her legend began to grow. Kostis Palamas, in the poetic collection “My Eyes of the Soul” (1890), dedicated a poem to her celebrating her beauty.
Acclaimed writers Pavlos Nirvanas, Dimitrios Kambouroglou, and Andreas Karkavitsas wrote about Maria Pentagiotissa and her legend.
In addition to inspiring a folk song with dozens of versions and variations, her life was a source of inspiration for theatrical plays, films and poems. In the late 1920s, director and actor Achilleas Madras visited Pentagioi to gather material for a film about Maria’s life, but villagers kept their mouths shut. The film, however, was eventually shot and screened in 1929. Titled “Maria Pentagiotissa,” it starred Frida Poupelina (with the nickname Nena Mae), Emilios Veakis, and Achilleas Madras
In a cinematic turn, the plot makes Maria’s love a brave bandit and she leaves the village to follow him to the mountains where he was hiding.
In 1957, Costas Andritsos produced “Maria Pentagiotissa,” starring Aliki Vougiouklaki along with Andreas Barkoulis, Stefanos Stratigos, Lambros Konstantaras, Kostas Hadjichristos, and Thanassis Vengos. The film sold 31,254 tickets and boosted Vougiouklaki’s popularity.
The popularity of the film and the legend of Maria Pentagiotissa led to a 1967 film entitled “The Daughter of Pentagiotissa,” written by Nestor Matsas and directed by Antonis Tempos. It stars Giota Soimiri, Theodoros Moridis, Stefanos Stratigos and sold 55,483 tickets, serving as further proof that the legend of Maria Pentagiotissa still intrigued the Greek public.