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George Zorbas (c. 1867–1942) (Greek: Γιώργης Ζορμπάς) was the character upon whom Nikos Kazantzakis based his fictional Alexis Zorbas, the protagonist of his novel Zorba the Greek.

He was born in the village of Katafygi, West Pieria, Central Macedonia, (now part of Velventos municipality), in what was then the Ottoman Empire in around 1867. He was the son of Fotios Zorbas, a wealthy landowner and sheep-owner and had three siblings, Katerina, John, and Xenophon. He worked in his fields and flocks in Katafygi, became a woodcutter, and later left for Palaiochori, Chalkidiki, where he spent the most decisive years of his life, 1889-1911. He worked as a miner for a French company in Gisvoro (Γήσβορο) and became friends with the foreman, John Kalkounis (Γιάννης Καλκούνης). He eloped with Kalkounis's daughter Eleni and eventually had eight children. By the end of this period, war and the death of his wife brought great unhappiness to his family.

After all this, he left Palaiochori for Eleftherohori, Pieria, only 8 km from Kolindros, where his brother George, a doctor, lived. In 1915, he decided to become a monk and left for Mount Athos. It was there that he met Kazantzakis and they become close friends. They went to Mani together, where they worked as miners in Prastova. It was their experiences here that Kazantzakis later wrote into The Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas, later translated as Zorba the Greek. His eventful life ended in Skopje, Yugoslavia, where he settled, remarried, and had more children. He died in 1942 and is buried in the Butel cemetery.


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