Abravanel, the Blog

Jewish life and not only in Greece / Εβραϊκή ζωή και όχι μόνο στην Ελλάδα

Today’s Sunday, wanna go to the yousouroum?

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 25/05/2008

Each Sunday athenians and tourists flock to the famous Flea Market of Monastiraki in the heart of Athens, affectiοnatelly called «yousouroum«/ «γιουσουρούμ«, (alternate spellings in english: yiusurum/ giousouroum). Originally the term «yousouroum» was limited to Avissinias Square which was the traditional area of the old-curiosity shop dealers; it was used to describe both the old-curiosity market and the square itself. This fleamarket became so famous in Greece that the term «yousouroum» has come to be an accepted term to symbolize any fleamarket or bazaar in all of Greece. The term is so popular that, even though it is considered a folk term, it is used today in important newspapers or even at meetings of town councils discussing the institution of fleamarkets. The fleamarket of Avisinias Square although it has expanded to the whole Monastiraki area, it is still referred today by athenians as Yousouroum.

Apart from introducing itself in modern greek in everyday speech, dictionaries also do not fail to mention it; Tegopoulos-Fytrakis dictionary of the greek language defines the term as:

«γιουσουρούμ»: the market of old-curiosity shops, (η πιάτσα των παλιατζίδικων); etymol: name of a Jewish curiosity shop dealer (όνομα Εβραίου παλαιοπώλη της Αθήνας)

My personal experience tells me that it used not only to describe any fleamarket, but also the very action of auctioning something or visiting any disorganized colorful market or bazaar. Greek songwriter Nikolas Asimos was the author of an album entitled «Στο Φαλιμέντο του Κόσμου – Γιουσουρούμ«. There are even greek blogs that are named «yousouroum«. :)

But where did this term derive from? Our best source is the «Union of old curiosity shop owners of Athens and surrounding areas». They state that the first president of their association was a Jewish Greek whose surname is Yousouroum and whose shop was located in the Avisinias Square which was known simply as Yousouroum because of him.

Other sources tell us that one of the first and maybe most important old-curiosity shops was run by Noe (Noah) Yousouroum; his shop existed already from the 19th century, together with other old-curiosity jewish dealers. It also tells us that it was his son Elias Yousouroum who became vice-president of the «Union of Old curiosity shops of Athens» mentioned earlier. I wasn’t able to locate exact dates but everybody concords that there was an old shop operated by the Yousouroum family – it was this shop that gave it’s name to the Square+market – they also were involved in the institution of the Union of the old curiosity shops. Also the magazine of the Central Board of the Jewish Communities had an article written on Yousouroum market in their magazine dedicated to Athens becoming the Cultural Capital of Europe in 1985 but I seem to have misplaced it, (if anyone has a pdf copy please send it :) ).

The Yousouroum family eventually gave up the shop but the name still is used either to denote the Avisinias Square in Athens or any fleamarket in Greece. Searching the internet I found that members of the family still exist, while at least one member of the Yousouroum family, Yacov Yousouroum, perished in the Holocaust. To my knowledge the term «yousouroum» is the only jewish name of a landmark in Athens and impressively enough maybe it is the only jewish term to survive in the greek language today because of the presence of greek jews and not generically because of the jewish religion.

So next time you ask where the local yousouroum is, smile at the thought that you’re actually talking in hebrew!

Sources

Various tourist guides on Yousouroum, both by foreigners and greeks. 1 [EN], 2 [GR], 3 [GR], 4 [EN]
A yousouroum in Rhodes. [EN]
Denying a yousouroum in Macedonia by a town council. [GR]
The Union of Old Curiosity Shops in Athens and Surrounding Areas. [EN][GR]
An article of Vima on Avisinias Square.
Using the term yousourum in Eleftherotipia newspaper. [GR]
Nikolas Asimos record. [GR]
Yacov Yousouroum dying at Auschwitz. [EN]
A greek blog named Giusurum. [GR]

9 Σχόλια to “Today’s Sunday, wanna go to the yousouroum?”

  1. mamastaverna said

    Very interesting read, Abravanel!

  2. plagal said

    You know, I think I learned something today!

  3. Thank you. Very interesting !

  4. Abravanel said

    I’m glad you all liked it! Talking about Athens is always entertaining and less problematic than other places in Greece. :)

  5. Angelos said

    I happen to know one Noe Youssouroum personally (we work for the same institution). I think he does come from that family.

  6. Abravanel said

    That’s impressive – if he has any corrections he’d wish to make in the story I’d be more than willing; thanks for letting me know! :)

  7. […] Η συνοικία του Γιουσουρούμ […]

  8. if we are talking about the same Noe Youssouroum he is the great great great grandson of the one mentioned in abravanels story.

  9. […] αργά κάνοντας μια βόλτα στο νέο γιουσουρούμ, (εδώ η προέλευση του όρου), που άρχισε να λειτουργεί στη Νικηφόρου Ουρανού στη […]

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