History of the Greek Revolution

"History of the Greek Revolution" by Harris J. Booras -- Supreme Counselor of the Order of Ahepa at the time -- was published spanning multiple Ahepan Magazines throughout 1931. The following is published in its entirety in one single publication.

"The mountain looks on Marathon,
And Marathon to the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
I thought that Greece might still be free;
For standing on a Persian grave.
I could not deem myself a slave."

By the London Protocol of February 3, 1830, a small part of the Hellenic homeland was internationally recognized as an independent state. After four long centuries of inhuman tortures and enslavement Old Hellas again rose from the grave of nations. She gained her independence after an heroic struggle of seven long years, and her liberty was purchased by greater sacrifices than any recorded in any war, either ancient or modern.

On the centenary of this great event, it is only fitting and proper that a few chapters be dedicated to this most glorious revolution.

So the story I am about to present is one of war, -- cruel, merciless, relentless war; therefore repulsive, and only interesting from the magnitude of the issues, fought out, indeed, on a narrow strip of territory. What matter, whether the battlefield is large or small? It is the greatness of a cause which gives a war its only justification. A cause is sacred from the dignity of its principles. The struggle for Greek Independence was as grand in its ideas as our own American Revolutionary War.

It was different from other revolutions in Europe in this respect, that it was a struggle not to gain political rights from oppressive rulers, but to secure national independence.

Moreover, it was most glorious, since it was successful, after a dreadful contest with the Ottoman Empire for seven long years, during which half of the population was swept away. It was a struggle of a little enslaved country of less than a million people, against a semi-barbaric military nation of over twenty-five million. It was more than this: it was in many important respects, a war between Asia and Europe. Kindred in spirit with the old Crusades, it was a war of races and religions, rather than of political principles; and hence it was marked by the most inhuman atrocities ever recorded in history. It was a tragedy at which the whole civilized world gazed with blended interest and horror.

Hellenes under Turkish Tyranny

The Turks are a warring race inspired to conquests "through sword and culter." Battling their way from the plains of inner Asia, they became masters of Asia Minor and Eastern Europe, to the very doors of the Austrian capitol of Vienna. On May 12. 1453, they captured Constantinople, the citadel of the Hellenic Empire, and thus "the majesty of Greece fell under the scimitar of Mohamet II." Gradually, they conquered the entire Grecian peninsula.

No invader has been so ruthless and destructive to Greece, as the Turk. The impositions of the conqueror were many and severe.

Everyone above the age of twelve was obliged to pay a head-tax called "haratsi." Upon payment, a receipt was given as follows: "The holder hereof may bear his head on his shoulders for one year."

All the fertile lands were seized by the Turks; the Greeks were permitted to cultivate the barren lands and were obliged to pay one-fifth of the produce to the community treasury. No Greek could dress in new attire, and whenever a mounted "raghia" -- the Turkish word for a Christian -- met a Moslem, he should immediately dismount, bow, offer his horse to the Turk, and say, "Long may you live, O, master."

No Greek could receive justice in the Turkish courts. All the schools and churches were ransacked and closed by the oppressors. Worst of all was the abduction of the youth. The Turks would seize the male infants from the parents, raise them in the Moslem religion and then enlist them in the terrible army of the "janitsari." In the space of four centuries over half a million children were so abducted and trained to be the fiercest enemy of the Christians. The most attractive maidens of the Christians would also be wrested from the parents and thrown into the Turkish harems.

Armatoli and Klephtai

By nature, the Greeks are perhaps the most patriotic and freedom-loving people of the entire world. On that account, many of them, who could not endure the bondage of servitude, took up arms and made their abode in the hills and mountains and were called "klephtai" (or robbers).

The klephts had no fixed encampment; wandering in summer among the higher, in winter, over the lower mountainous regions. But they had always a spot for their rendezvous and occasional sojourn called "limeri." The rank of captain among them was hereditary. The members of each band were called "Palikaria" (bravos or heroes), and the "protopalikari" (first hero) acted as lieutenant and secretary to the "capitanos" (the leader). When not engaged in an expedition against the Turks, their chief resource of amusement was found in martial games, and particularly in firing at a mark. Constant practice in this led to a remarkable degree of skill. By daylight they could strike an egg, or even send a ball through a ring of nearly the same diameter, at a distance of more than two hundred paces; and in the most pitchy darkness they could hit an enemy, directed by the flash of his musket. The activity of their limbs equaled the correctness of their eye. Niko Tzaras, the famous capitanos, could jump over seven horses standing abreast, and others could clear, at one leap, three wagons filled with thorns to the height of eight feet. Their powers of abstinence were not less surprising. A band of klephts have been known to combat during three days and three nights, without either eating, drinking or sleeping, -- the instance referred to being of the famous Thessalian klepht. Niko Tzaras, who on the road to join Prince Ypsilanti in Wallachia, at the head of 300 klephts, was stopped at the bridge of Pravi, on the banks of the Karason, by 3,OOO Turks; he broke through them, crossed the bridge, and entered Pravi, where his gallant band refreshed themselves after a fast of four and a fight of three days. Pain found their courage as untameable as thirst and hunger, although every klepht taken alive by the Turks was inevitably subjected, before death came to his relief, to the most dreadful and protracted tortures. The klephts were very pious. Even in their wildest solitudes, in their most pressing dangers, they performed the ceremonies of their Orthodox religion. Never did a klepht hesitate to prefer captivity, death, and even torture, to the denial of his Redeemer. Next to their touching piety, the most striking qualities among the klephts were generosity to their poorer and more timid countrymen, and especially to the herdsmen who shared the mountains with them; devoted love to their country in general, and of their own rugged haunts in particular; and tenderness to those domestic affections which formed a beautiful relief to the stern and rugged parts of their character. The only and greatest foes of the klephts were the Turks, against whom they waged continuous warfare.

The Armatoli were a species of militia established by the Turks for the chief purpose of guarding the roads and mountain passes. The Armatoli were all Greeks, chiefly from the ranks of the klephts. with whom the Turks, because of their great fear, came to compromise. All Greece from the river Axius to the Isthmus was gradually divided into seventeen armatoliks (or territorial subdivisions). Of these, ten were in Thessaly and Livadia, four in Etolia, Acarnania and Epirus, and three in Southern Macedonia. The Morea (or ancient Peloponysus) never had any. The rank of capitanos, protopalikaro, and palikari prevailed among the armatoli as in the klephts. The armatoli always distrusted the Turks, and with the slightest disagreement they would abandon their arrmatoliki and become klephtai.

Previous Attempts for Independence

Twice previously the Greeks had dared raise the standards of insurrection against the mighty Turkish Empire. These unsuccessful attempts were in the years of 1770 and 1787, and both were instigated on the promises for assistance by the Czar of Russia. But no aid came from Russia, and thousands were mercilessly slaughtered by the Turks.

Two outstanding heroes of the latter insurrection were Lampros Katsonis and Androutsos. For two years Katsonis pursued his war against Turkey by sea, and destroyed many a Turkish armada. Near the island of Andros, he dared attack the combined Turkish fleet with only fifteen frigates, and there suffered great reverses. Heart-broken, Katsonis finally abandoned his heroic but hopeless warfare, and returned to Russia where he died at the age of thirty-two. A common expression still significatory of the defeat of this valiant seaman at Andros is as follows: "If you'd dare Uncle Lampro, pass again by the island of Andro."

An outstanding and illustrious patriot during the period preceding the final revolt of 1821 was Regas Fereos, who was born in the town of Velestinlis, Thessaly, in the year of 1757. Fereos was a poet of high merit, and all of his poems were written to inspire his fellow-countrymen to revolt against their oppressor. He did more to plant the seeds of insurrection than any other of his contemporaries. His poems and songs were recited and sung by all the people of Greece. Finally, in 1797, he was captured it Vienna, cast in prison, and there he was put to death.

Ali Pasha and His War With the Suliots

Ali Pasha, the "lion of loannina" was born at Tepeleni, in year of 1748. In early life be was a professed robber and a fratricide, but through treachery and timely design, he succeeded to be recognized by the Sultan as the ruler of Epirus.

A more barbarous and inhuman ruler than Ali has never been recorded in history. He destroyed whole cities, he slaughtered many families, he stole numerous fortunes, and he cast thousands into prison and treacherously butchered them. He was known as the Nero of Epirus. The seat of his "empire'' was the beautiful city of loannina. His subjects were held in restraint through fear and terror and no one dared take issue with the terrible Ali. Through such means he held under subjugation two millions of Geeks, Albanians and Turks. Only the little republic of Suli, situated amidst the mountains of Epirus, did not bow to the rule of the tyrant. Ali considered this a personal insult and could not tolerate this independent Greek state of the Suliots amidst his great satrapy.

The Suliots were genuine klephts, and nothing was more inevitable than that their proceedings should dash with the official duty and private interests of the dervenji-pasha, in which capacity the Vizir of Epirus, whose primary duty was to exterminate all klephts, had a most genuine excuse for waging warfare against them. In the spring of 1790, Ali sent his first force against these mountaineers, but his army was defeated with great slaughter, and pursued to the very plain of loannina.

Ali now decided to attempt the capture of Suli by treachery. At the head of an army of 15,000, Ali set out from loannina, on July 1, 1792, and to conceal his designs, he began his march in the direction of Argyrocastro. He had scarcely proceeded twenty miles when he halted and encamped. From there he sent a letter to Botzuri and Tzavella, two of the most distinguished Suliot leaders, requesting them to join his army at the head of their palikars, and promising them double pay. Suspicious, as it should seem, of his real intentions, Tzavella only obeyed the summons at the head of seventy palikars. All of these were now seized and bound, except one, who escaped by swimming the river Kalamas. and gave the alarm at Suli. When Ali made his appearance in that district, therefore, he found the Suliots fully prepared to give him a warm reception. Having ordered Tzavella to be brought before him. the wily Pasha now offered him the amplest reward if he would procure the submission of the republic, holding out the horrible alternative of being flayed alive. Tzavella represented that his countrymen would never consent to parley while he remained a prisoner, and offered his son Foto as a hostage, if Ali would let him return to Suli, to endeavor to bring about a negotiation. His proposal was accepted, and as soon as he bad regained the mountains, and consulted the other captains, he sent back a letter of defiance, in which, anticipating the sacrifice of his son, he swears to avenge him. The Pasha now prepared to attack Suli by force of arms. Meanwhile, a detachment of these brave mountaineers, to the number of 200, having learned that Ali was encamped with his bodyguard at some little distance from his main army, marched out with the determination to take him alive or dead. But for the timely information conveyed to Ali Pasha by a traitor, they would have succeeded. Ali, now infuriated to the utmost, put his troops immediately into motion.

The Suliots being obliged to retreat before superior numbers were closely pursued by Ali's forces down the valley to a narrow pass called Klissura. where they made a stand. Here Ali's Albanian troops were assailed by such volleys of musketry from the Suliot fortress of Tichos and from behind the rocks which formed the defile, that the passage became nearly choked up with the slain. The ammunition of the Suliots at length beginning to fail, they were compelled to retire further towards Kako-Suli, their capital. The great fort of Aghia Paraskevi, which commands the Tripa, a deep chasm, was at this time so thinly garrisoned, that Suli would have been lost but for an act of female valor, which well deserves comparison with that of Telesilla and her Argives. The heroine Mosco (the wife of Tzavella), arming all her female warriors, rushed out of the town, sword in hand, stopped the retreat of husbands and brethren, headed them in a valiant attack upon the assailants, now breathless from their pursuit of the fugitives up these steep acclivities, and in a moment turned the tide of war. Ali's Albanians in their turn retreated and fled; the garrison of Paraskevi, reinforced by a number of fugitives, made a sally to increase their confusion; heaps of stone were rolled down upon the fleeing foe who were again intercepted at the fort of Tichos, and almost annihilated. Hundreds of dead bodies were rolled into the bed of the Acheron, whose torrent was encumbered with the slain.

Mosco discovered the body of her favorite nephew, who had been killed in the first attack on this position. Animated with a desire of vengeance at the sight, she kissed the pale lips of the corpse, and calling on the Suliots to follow, she led them like a tigress bereft of her whelps, against those troops who remained about the Pasha in the upper regions of the valley. Terrified by the fate of their companions, they took immediately to flight, and were pursued by the victorious Suliots as far as the village of Vareatis, within seven hours from Ioannina. They lost all their baggage, ammunition and arms which were thrown away in the flight. An immense number of prisoners were captured by the Suliots, whose ransom served to enrich the conquerors. Ali himself killed two horses in his precipitate escape, and when he arrived at his capitol, he shut himself up in his harem for several days. About 6,000 men were slain and taken prisoners; the remainder having been dispersed over the woods and mountains, did not collect together at loannina for several weeks. This occurred July 20, 1792.

Ali now saw that the conquest of Suli must be given up for the present, he was forced to make peace on most degrading terms, ceding to the Suliots possession of their acquired territory, and paying a large sum as ransom for his captive troops, besides restoring the palikars whom he had trepanned. And Foto Tzavella among them.

Several years passed and Ali, in 1800, again determined to recommence operations against the little republic of Suli. He took the field with about 18,000; the number of Suliot palikars never exceeding at any time 3,000. With Foto Tzavella as their head, the Suliots again threw Ali's army in terror and slaughtered over 3,000 of them. Despairing to subdue such valiant and determined enemies in open warfare, Ali turned the siege into a blockade, resolving to trust to famine and treachery. But his troops began to desert; and while the Suliots lost in nine months but twenty-live men, Ali Pasha lost by defection and in various skirmishes within the same period, nearly 4,000. Again, Ali began to negotiate proposals of peace. Whether a peace was or was not nominally concluded, or whether the Suliots were still in a state of blockade, is not very clear; but in May of 1803, the Suliots made a vigorous attack upon an Albanian fortress at Villa, which served as the principle magazine for Ali's army. This they succeeded in taking, and destroyed by fire and sword nearly the whole garrison. So daring an achievement could not but inflame their implacable enemy to the utmost height of fury. Ali immediately raised an immense army, which he brought into the field against this small band of mountaineers. treachery opened to the invaders the otherwise impenetrable passes, and the Suliots, worn down at length by war and famine, and strictly blockaded, were reduced to the necessity of accepting terms of capitulation, which Ali never meant to fulfill. The treaty was ratified on the 12th of December, 1803, by which the whole population was to be allowed to emigrate and settle wherever they might please. Men, women and children being gathered together, they separated into two bodies; one taking the direction of Parga, the other that of Prevesa. Both parties were waylaid by the troops of the perfidious tyrant; the former fought their way through, but the latter all eventually perished. A party of about one hundred women and children, being cut off from the rest, fled to a steep precipice near the monastery of Zalongu; there, the children were first thrown over the rocks by their mothers, and then the matrons, joining hand in hand, and raising their minds to the highest pitch of enthusiasm by native songs, whirled round and round in a species of frantic dance until they approached the edge of the cliff, from which they one and all threw themselves headlong. The scattered remains of the tribe took refuge, some at Santa Maura, others with the Albanian beys; but the greater part retired to Parga and Corfu, to subsist on chartly, or to enroll themselves in the service of their protectors. Their native mountains then formed the strongest post in their conqueror's dominion, and a splendid fortified serai adorned the highest top of Kiaffa, as a monument of Ali Pasha's base triumph.

Ali Pasha finally became supreme lord over the whole of Epirus with the exception of the City of Parga, which was in possession of Great Britain. Ali, secretly negotiated a treaty for the purchase of the city from the English for 150,000 British Pounds. When the Pargiots discovered the treacherous acquisition of their city by Ali, they resolved not to live under the Turkish despotism. Consequently, when Mi Pasha reached the walls of the city on May 1, 1819, he found the city silent and deserted

The whole population had embarked, voluntary exiles, to the Ionian Isles. But the career of this modern Herod was now drawing to a close. Failing to submit himself to the dictates of the Porte and the Sultan, he was placed under the ban of the empire; unless within forty days he should appear at the golden threshold of the Gate of Felicity, to answer to the charge of high treason. Having thus failed, the Sultan ordered his armies against him, and Ali was besieged in his capital. For two years he resisted the imperial troops until he was finally assassinated through treachery, on the 26th of January, 1822. The fall of Ali was the occasion of high satisfaction and triumph to the Porte. The exhibition of his head at the imperial gate in February 1822, and the triumphant conveyance into the capital of part of his spoils, excited a high degree of popular enthusiasm at a critical moment.

It appears pretty certain, that the rebellion of Ali Pasha determined, more than any other known event, the period of the extensive Greek insurrection, for which things had long been in a course of preparation; and it seems equally clear that the explosion was premature. Other circumstances had occurred to excite that fermentation, which led to the first movements in the cause of Grecian independence.

Philike Heteria

An association of Greeks, styling itself as Philike Heteria (Society of Friends) was formed in Odessa, Russia, in the year of 1814, under the leadership of three great patriots named Scoufas, Tsakalof and Xanthos. The liberation of their country, which had long been the cherished object of the Greeks settled in foreign countries, was the project to which the members of the Heteria bound themselves by oath to devote their lives and fortunes.

The principal oath, or form of adjuration, contained the following clauses:

"In the presence of the true God, spontaneously I swear, that I will be faithful to the Heteria in all and through all; I will never betray the slightest portion of its acts or words; nor will I ever in any manner give even my relatives or friends lo understand that I am acquainted with them.

I swear, that hence forward I will not enter into any other society, or into any bond or obligation; but whatever bond, or whatever I possess in the world, when compared with the Heteria, I will hold as nothing.

I swear, that I will nourish in my heart irreconcilable hatred against the tyrants of my country, their followers and favorers; and I will exert every method for their injury and destruction."

Thence, after two or three clauses binding the members to acts of friendship and mutual assistance, and referring to the introduction of others into the society, it proceeds:

"I swear that I will ever so regulate my conduct, that I may be a virtuous man; I will incline with piety towards my own form of worship, without disrespectfully regarding those of foreigners; I will ever present a good example; I will aid, counsel, and support the sick, the unfortunate, and the feeble; I will reverence the government, the tribunals, and the ministers of the country in which I may be residing. Last of all, I swear by thee, my sacred and suffering country, I swear by thy long endured tortures, I swear by the bitter tears which for so many centuries have been shed by thy unhappy children, I swear by the future liberty of my countrymen that I consecrate wholly to thee; that henceforth thou shall be the scope of my thoughts, thy name the guide of my actions, thy happiness the recompense of my labors."

The aspiring Heterists naturally cast their eyes on Russia for aid -- and which aid never came except at the end of the war -- since there was a religious bond between the Russians and the Greeks, and since the Russians and Turks were mortal enemies, and since, moreover, they were encouraged to hope for such aid by a great Grecian nobleman, who was the private secretary and minister, as well as an intimate, of Emperor Alexander -- Count Capo d'lstrias. In the year of 1819, the count visited Corfu, his native island, to strengthen the status of the Heteria, and his journey excited intense interest and sanguine expectation on the part of the Heterists, who regarded him as their great patron and protector, and were ready to hail his appearance as the hour of their redemption. Capo d'lstrias, however, allayed the effervescence thus unintentionally excited, and prevented any premature insurrectionary movement, by the publication of a singular document through which he inculcated the necessity of an entire devotedness to the Greek Church, and of doing nothing except through the medium and with the concurrence of the priests. The publication had its intended effect. Everything remained tolerably quiet till the period of the rebellion of Ali Pasha, a year later. A new fermentation was then perceived throughout Greece, and springs of the Heteria were once more put in motion. The hour had instantly come for the explosion of the glorious Greek Revolution.

The First Year of the War (1821)

The time originally fixed by the Heteria for carrying its great enterprise into execution, is said to have been in the year of I825. The quarrel between Ali Pasha and the Porte, the seditious attitude of Serbia, and the discontent in Wallachia and Moldavia -- both Turkish provinces north of the Danube -- which, in February, 1821, had broken out into open acts of violence, were the chief circumstances which led to the firing of the train. In February, of 1821, therefore, Prince Alexander Ypsilanti, a distinguished general in the Russian army, descended from an illustrious Greek family and son of a former governor of Wallachia, entered Moldavia with a Greek corps. At Jassy, the capitol, he raised the standards of insurrection, to which flocked the whole Christian population of the province. Close to twenty thousand soldiers were soon enrolled under the standard of the liberator. Ypsilanti then attempted to excite the Serbians to revolt; but his papers were intercepted by the Turkish authorities at the passage of the Ada on the Danube, and discovered his designs. The Emperor Alexander of Russia, moreover, then at the Congress of Laibach, convened to put down revolutionary ideas, was extremely angry at the conduct of Ypsilanti and his followers, and against all expectation, stood aloof. The Czar, having thus disavowed the proceeding, the issue of the attempt could long be doubtful. After a most heroic encounter with the Turks, Ypsilanti was compelled to retre into the Austrian dominions, where he was seized by the government, and thrown into a dungeon. He was released from prison in 1827. and a year later he died at Vienna.

This apparently successful revolt produced an immense enthusiasm throughout Greece, the inhabitants of which now took up arms.

On March 25, 1821, Germanos, Archbishop of Patras, openly raised the standards of independence at the monastery of Aghia Lavra. This was immediately followed by a manifestation at Patras, and the Turkish garrison was forced to shut itself up in the castle. The Maniates, descending from their rugged mountains speedily occupied the plains of Laconia and Messenia. In a few days the Turks occupied nothing in the Morea, but their fortresses. By the end of April, a senate had assembled at Kalamata, the islands of the archipelago hoisted the standard of the Cross; and the strongest of them – Hydra, Psara and Spetzia -- armed and sent out cruisers to prey on the commerce of the enemy. Like a spark hidden in ashes, the revolt instantaneously burst to flame and was carried to every corner of Greece. In a short space of time the entire country was enveloped in this flame.

At Constantinople the news of the insurrection excited both consternation and rage. Orders were immediately transmitted by the Porte to all the pashas, instantly to disarm all the Greek population; and the signal for a war of extermination was given by Sultan Mahmoud.

On the 22nd of April, Easter Sunday, the greatest of the Greek festivals, Gregorious, Patriarch of Constantinople, the head of the Greek Church, was seized and hanged before the patriarchal church in which he had been officiating; and, as a consummation of ignominy in the eyes of the Greeks, his body was delivered to the Jews to be dragged through the streets.

The atrocities which the Turks now inflicted have scarcely ever been equaled in horror. The Christian churches were entered and sacked. At Adrianople, the Patriarch was beheaded, with eight other ecclesiastical dignitaries. In ten days, thousands of Christians in that city were butchered, and their wives and daughters sold into slavery; while five archbishops and three bishops were hanged in the streets. There was scarcely a town in the empire where atrocities of the most repulsive kind were not perpetuated on innocent and helpless people.

In Asia Minor the fanatical spirit raged with more ferocity than in European Turkey. Al Smyrna, a general massacre of the Christians took place, and thousands were mercilessly slaughtered; fifteen thousand fled to the islands of the Archipelago to save their lives.

The Island of Cyprus, which once had a population of more than a million, was reduced at the breaking of the revolt to seventy thousand, was nearly depopulated; the archbishop and five other bishops were ruthlessly murdered. The island, one hundred and forty-six miles long and sixty-three wide, was converted into a theatre of rapine. violation and bloodshed.

All Greece was now aroused to what was universally felt to be a death struggle. There was no thought of mediation or compromise. It had become a "war to the knife, and the knife to the hilt." No quarter was asked or given.

The people eagerly responded to all patriotic influences, and especially to war songs, some of which had been sung for more than two thousand years. Certain of these were reproduced by the great English poet, Lord Byron, who, leaving his native land, entered heart and soul into the desperate contest.

"Then manfully despiring
The Turkish tyrant's yoke,
Let your country see you rising,
And all her chains are broke.
Brave shades of chiefs and sages.
Behold the coming strife!
Hellenes of past ages;
Oh. start again to life!
At the sound of trumpet, breaking
Your sleep, oh. join with me!
And the seven-hilled city seeking,
Fight, conquer, till we're free!"

Those who now took the lead in the Peninsula were Petros Bey, better known under the name of Mavrotmikhalis, who had been nominated Bey of Mania by the Sultan; Constantinos Kolokotronis in person an Ajax, who like his father, had long been a capitanios, and had held military rank in both the Russian and the English service; Demetrius Ypsilanti, who like his brother Alexander, wax an officer in the Russian army; and Alexander Mavrokordatos, of a distinguished Fanariot family. Demetrius, who hire a commission from his brother, appointing him general in chief of all the forces in Greece, assumed the command of the patriot army before Tripolitza.

The Battle of Valtetzi and Doliana

Rhourshid Pasha, the Vezir and tyrant of Peloponesus, was, at the commencement of the revolt, in command of the imperial armies that were besieging Ali Pasha at loannina. Unable to retire to Morea personally and quell the insurrection, he dispatched thither an immense army in charge of his able lieutenant, Moustafa Bey.

Upon his arrival to Tripolitza, Moustafa Bey learned that a company of 845 patriots, under the leadership of Elias and Kiriakos Mavromikhali were entrenched at the distant town of Valtetzi. With an army of 12,000 soldiers anil 1,500 horses, he immediately set out and attacked. A fierce engagement ensued and was carried on for two days. The patriots at length, being reinforced by Kolokotronis with 700 men and Plapoutas with another 800, set the enemy to flight and pursued them to the very walls of the capital. Six hundred Moslems were slain, and many wounded, and a great part of their baggage, ammunition and arms, which were thrown away in the flight, fell into the hands of the conquerors. The Greeks lost four men and seventeen were wounded. The victory produced immense enthusiasm in the ranks of the patriots, who were now eager to march out and meet the enemy in open battle. This occurred on the 12th of May, 1821.

In order to redeem himself from this disgraceful defeat, on the evening of May 18, Moustafa Bey, with 6,000 men, made a surprise attack on a band of 200 Greeks near Doliana, who were commanded by the famous Nikitas Stamatelopoulos, better known as Nikotsaras. The battle lasted for eleven hours, when finally the brave patriots repulsed the attack and put the enemy to flight.

Athanasios Diakos and His Heroic Death

As in the Morea, so in Thessaly and Epirus, the insurrectionary movement rallied many a brave soldier to the banner of liberation. One of these was the immortal Athanasios Diakos, who, warlike from early childhood, although ordained to the priesthood, stripped himself of the clerical robes and joined the ranks of the klephtai. In April of 1821, he raised the standard of the cross and reduced to submission the Turks of Livadia. He thence proceeded to blockade the city of Ipaty, which he had brought to the point of capitulation, when intelligence reached him that an immense Turkish army, in command of Omer Vrioni, was proceeding from Lamia to Phocis. He immediately abandoned the blockade of Ipaty, and retired thither to impede the march of the enemy.

He encountered the Turks at the bridge of Alamana, near the historic Thermopylae, where a fierce battle was waged. So overwhelming was the number of the enemy that his little band of 48 men that remained was surrounded on all sides. There, like Leonidas and his Spartans, they fought to the last man, and Diakos, mortally wounded, fell in the hands of the Moslems. Omer Vrioni offered him the amplest reward and honors if he would become a Moslem, holding out the horrible alternative of being flayed alive. The response of brave Diakos was similar to that of Leonidas to the Persian Emperor: “Hellene I came to earth, and Hellene I shall die.” Thus did this great patriot give his life for the liberation of his fatherland, and like a true stoic, without sign of pain or agony, he suffered the horrible torture of death by flame and fire! This occurred on the 23rd day of April, 1821.

The Battle at the Hanie (Inn) of Gravia

The progress of Omer Vrioni was finally impeded by the brave and famous Capitanos, Odyseas Androutsos, on May 8, 1821. at the Hanie (Inn) of Gravia. This brave klepht, with 117 palikaria, shut himself up in an inn on the road of march of Omer Vrioni, and there encountered the great army of infidels. The Moslems made repeated attacks on the stronghold and were forced to action by the force of whips from their officers, but they were severely repulsed with great losses. At length night came, and the Turks encamped to renew their attack on the morrow. The brave Androutsos, perceiving that both ammunition and supplies were failing him and that it would lie impossible to hold out longer, marched his army in the stillness of the night, clear through the Turkish camp and escaped to the mountains. Omer Vrioni fearing the unsafeness of his position, abandoned his campaign and retired to lamia. In this heroic encounter, the Greeks lost four men, while the Turkish dead and wounded surpassed one thousand.

The Capture of the Fortresses of Malvasia and Navarin by the Patriots

In the meantime, important events occurred which greatly enhanced the cause of independence. The strong fortresses of Malvasia and Navarin, surrendered to the patriots in August. The former, situated on the eastern coast of Laconia, was a place very difficult to reduce, being built on rock washed on every side by the Aegean Sea, and communicating with the continent only by bridge. The Greeks had kept it closely blockaded both by land and sea since April; Prince Cantacuzene, an Italian nobleman in the service of the great cause, arrived in the camp about the middle of July, and took command. Famine had already made a dreadful havoc amongst the Mohammedans, and they finally opened negotiations to capitulate. Consequently, on the 3rd of August, the gates were opened to the besiegers.

Navarin, also, soon after surrendered to the patriots. Well fortified, and possessing a fine harbor, this city was built in the immediate vicinity of the ancient Pylos. The siege was conducted by the famous Cephalonian, Tipaldo, and it was his presence that chiefly induced the Turks to treat about a surrender. It was while negotiations were being carried, that the news of the Patriarch's murder, and that of the Greek clergy at Adrianople, together with the profanation of the Christian churches throughout the empire, spread through Greece; the fury of the troops, worked up to madness, was, therefore, vented on the garrison of whom a considerable number perished.

In the meantime, Samos and most of the islands of the Archipelago had followed the example of Hydra, and the presence of Ottoman garrisons reinforced from Anatolia alone kept Lesbos, Rhodes and Chios in subjection. Ten thousand Syrian troops were also transported to Cyprus, and the horrible atrocities committed there formed a counterpart to those of the capital.

In the month of June, the Greek marines, under the command of the famous admiral, Jacob Tombazi, emboldened by their many successes and particularly the burning of the large Turkish frigate at Mytilene in the month of May, were meditating an attack on Smyrna, when intelligence was brought to them that Haivali was menaced by the Turks. The contest which followed by which that opulent and flourishing town on the Asiatic coast was reduced to a heap of cinders, forms a melancholy episode in the history of the Revolution.

The Investment of Tripolitza

The capture of Navarin and Malvasia was followed by the investment of Tripolitza, the capital of Peloponnesus, of which Kolokotronis, Ypsilanti and Mavromikhali undertook the superintendence. This place was built on the southern edge of a long and elevated plain surrounded with the bleak and rugged mountains anciently known as Mount Maenalus. About half way between the ancient Arcadian cities of Mantineia and Tegea. The city was well fortified by walls, a citadel on the western side, and demi-towers at different points where cannons were placed.

Besides its own population of 25,000 persons, Tripolitza now contained an influx of Turks from all quarters. In addition to these the city was garrisoned by between three to four thousand men, half of them Albanians under command of Khourshid Pasha. The Greeks were inferior in number and many of them scarcely armed; they had no cavalry, and their artillery consisted of only five or six cannon and two mortars managed by European adventurers. The hopes of the besiegers depended on cutting off the supplies of the town; but their opponents had a formidable cavalry which prevented the Greeks from occupying the plain. Kolokotronis bravely managed to ruin the Mussulman cavalry and the patriots were enabled to render the blockade closer by posting themselves in the hamlets around the city. Provisions soon began to get scarce, and the besiegers having cut the pipes that conveyed water to the city, the distress of the garrison and the other inhabitants became excessive. An epidemic disease committed great ravages and symptoms of mutiny were discovered among the Albanians. At length, the Ottomans began to make some indirect overtures of capitulation, while the Albanians were secretly treating with Kolokotronis, who allowed them to return to Epirus and enter the service of Ali Pasha.

On the 5th of October, a sudden assault was made on the walls of the northern side, and the whole besieging army soon rushed into the city. For two days, the city was given up to the unbridled fury and vengeance of the retaliating victors. The Arcadian peasants, who had long suffered every species of outrage anil indignity from the haughty Moslems of Tripolitza, showed themselves both cruel and relentless toward their fallen oppressors. About 7,000 Turks are said to have perished, and some thousands were made prisoners, while numbers escaped to the mountains.

The fall of Tripolitza was an occasion of great joy among the populace. because, not only was the city, as the capital of Morea, a very strategic point, but it surrendered to the Greeks innumerable stores of ammunition and supplies that were wanting in the ranks of the patriot army.

© Order of AHEPA

Next Post The Greek Struggle for Independence by Byrd Mack