Greek War of Independence



March 25, 1821 - The outbreak

Sacred Battalion

In April 1920, the Philiki Eteria had at last found a leader in Alexandros Ypsilantes, the dashing soldier of the tsarist army who had lost his right arm on the battlefield. Ypsilantes tried to talk to the tsar about the plight of the Greeks - Hellenes, but Tsar wouldn't do anything to disturb the peace in Europe, a peace of the Holy Alliance - Iera Symmahia of the then Great Powers who were indifferent about the sufferings of people. Ypsilantes was from a rich phanariot family, and his family lived in Kiev of Russia. His father Konstantinos Ypsilantes had been governor of Wallachia until 1802. His grandfather Alexander was tortured to death in turkish prisons in the same year. Phanariots were used by the ottoman government as translators - dragoumanos and in some cases they represented the ottoman state. Moldavia and Wallachia were semi-autonomous provinces and the Sultan was forbidden by treaty to send troops into the area without Russian aggrement. Also Russia had a basis for intervention in the principalities if there was a reason. On this counted Ypsilantes when he decided to start the revolution from Moldavia.

On 22 February 1821, Alexandros Ypsilantes passed the Prouthos river, (Moldavia's eastern frontier with Russia), and entered the capital, Iassio. All Greeks were gathered in the cathedral of the city and bishop Veniamin blessed the flag. Ypsilantes read his proclamation where he recalled the heroes of antiquity Leonidas, Miltiades, Themistocles, Pausanias who drove the barbarian Persians away. But the campaign didn't have a nice start. Vasilios Karavias, without any orders massacred some turkish merchants in Galatsi. Ypsilantes didn't remove him from his post, and that was a mistake he would later pay for. Yiorgakis Olympios, Athanasios Karpenisiotes and the macedon Giannis Farmakis were three capable military leaders but very few for a war against an empire to be succesfull. Ypsilantes proved to be inefficient. He didn't move quickly to capture Bucharest or the main turkish fortresses. His army was not well organized and the local moldavian people or neighboring Servs didn't participate in the war. And the worst was that the local military leaders Vladimireskou and Kaminaris betrayed him to the enemy. But they payed for their betrayal. Kaminaris was killed by turks, Vladimireskou was arrested by Yiorgakis Olympios, and later excecuted.

On 7 June 1821 a force under the command of Olympios and including 500 students of the Sacred Battalion - Ieros Lohos (in memory of Ieros Lohos of ancient Thebes), faced turkish forces in Dragatsani. Again, Karavias disobeyed orders and eager to secure glory for himself, lead the young students against the tactical ottoman forces. The inexperienced young men fell almost all in the battlefield. Yiorgakis Olympios and Giannis Farmakis with 300 men fought in monastery of Seku against thousands of enemies. Olympios blowed himself in the monastery and Farmakis was surrendered to the enemy. He was transferred to Constantinople where after torture was beheaded. Karpenisiotis was also killed in the village of Skuleni, near the Pruthos river. So ended the revolt in the dunabean provinces. Ypsilantes escaped into Austrian territory. Austrians then also under tyrannical regime of the notorius Metternich, were allied to the Turks and arrested immediately Ypsilantes. He remained in prison until 1827 and died very ill the following year. Nevertheless Ypsilantes was one of the first martyrs in the cause of independence and his expedition was the first step towards achieving it. But Hellenes had to face a certain fact: they were not going to get any help of outside powers.

In the Peloponnese, in the beginning of 1821, both Greeks and Turks lived in an uneasy atmosphere compounded of expectation and apprehension. The landscape of the Peloponnese is largely mountainous, with communication and transport easier by sea than by land. Well-established harbours had therefore become the main centres of population, with fortresses built by Byzantines, Franks and Venetians. Such were the castle of Patras, Rio, Akrokorinthos and the fortress of Palamidi at Nafplion in the north; Koroni, Methoni, Navarino and Kalamata in the south, Monemvasia in the east. But the seat of the Ottoman government was in the walled city of Tripolis. One province, in the south was autonomous for the whole duration of ottoman occupation and this was the Mani. The local leader was Petrobey Mavromichalis. Maniates were warlike and brave men, and their land was mountainous, rocky and barren. Tripolitsa

Two important arrivals took place during the during the winter of 1820-1821. Theodoros Kolokotronis and Gregorios Dikaios or Papaflessas, both members of the Philiki Eteria. Kolokotronis above all others personifies the revolution of Greece. He was 50 years old when he returned to his homeland, where his youth was spent as klepht in the mountains and where dozens of the Kolokotronis' family were killed fighting the turks. Papaflessas came from Kydonies of Minor Asia, with a shipment of powder. He tried to inspire all the reluctant notables to revolt with false promises about a great power which soon would send thousands of troops to liberate Hellas. In the famous discussion about the revolution that took part in Vostitsa - Aegion, with all dignitaries of Moreas (Andreas Lontos, Antreas Zaimis, Haralabis, Bishop of Patrai Germanos, Papadiamantopoulos, Roufos, etc), Papaflessas came in dispute with bishop Germanos. Everybody had in mind the dreadful events of 1770 and the loss of so many innocent people. Papaflessas blustered, threatening to start the revolution alone with the Maniots, and alas to whom Turks would find unarmed ("Alimono se opoion vroun oi Tourkoi horis armata"). The turkish governor of Morea, who was in the place of Hurshit pasha, issued an order with which he summoned all notables and bishops to Tripolis, probably to confine them. If they refused then would arouse turkish suspicions. So Germanos, 9th March set out with his fellow bishops from Kalavryta with a turkish escort for Tripolis, and on the road a previously fabricated letter ostensibly from a friendly turk in Tripolis, was delivered to them. The letter warned them that their lives were in danger. He gave the letter to the turkish escort and returned back to Kalavryta. So the leaders were free to organise the revolution that was ready to break.

Theodoros Kolokotronis The Greek Revolution broke out in a number of different places during the end of March 1821, in some places by the raising of a flag with a cross and the blessing in the local church and in others with attacks by Greeks on Turks. On 15th March in Agridi near Kalavryta, Nikolaos Soliotis attacked turkish soldiers who carried messages of kaimakamis Selih to Hursit. The same day, old Asimakis Zaimis, notable of Kalavryta and father of Antreas Zaimis, blessed two klephtes Hondrogiannis and Petiotis who attacked turkish tax-collectors on their way to Tripolis. Haralampis and Petmezas, raised the flag of revolution in Aghia Lavra Monastery and attacked against Arnaoutoglou pashas of Kalavryta who defended himself in three old towers in the city.

In Aeropolis of Mani, stands the byzantine city of Aghios Michael where, it was launched the uprising under the leadership of Petrobey Mavromichali on 17 March 1821. Outside Kalamata armed Greeks began to assemble under Papaflessas and Kolokotronis who stayed in the house of his friend Mourzinos in Kardamylle. Also the forces of Maniates with Petrobey and his son Ilias Mavromichales joined and on 23th March they entered Kalamata, without resistance. The liberation was followed by a great celebration in the byzantine church of Aghioi Apostoloi and all declared We will be free or perish.

At Vostitsa - Aigion the turks hearing rumours of insurrection, fled across the Gulf of Patras and took refuge in Glaxidion. Andreas Lontos did not hinder them and on 23th March, Aigion was liberated. In Patras the rising was not so succesful. Patras was the leading commercial town of the Peloponnese and contained 18000 inhabitants. There were eight European consulates, and the two consuls who played important role were those of France and Britain. Pouqueville, the french consul was philellene, while Green the british consul was philoturk. Philoturk was also the english governor of Ionian islands who forbade Ionian subjects to take part in the battles between greeks and turks. On 21th March the turks moved to the castle of the town, and the same day came 100 armed turkish soldiers from Rio, who set fire which began to spread to the whole city. Then they attacked to the house of a rich citizen Papadiamantopoulos. Karatzas and Koumaniotis exceled in the battle that followed. On 24th March, Paleon Patron Germanos, Antreas Lontos, bishop of Kernitsa, Antreas Zaimis, Roufos raised the flag with the cross and declared Liberty or Death - Eleuftheria i Thanatos near the Aghiou Georgiou church. The turks were now shut up in the citadel of Patras, while the town was held by some thousands badly armed Greeks. The castle would have fallen to the Hellenes if turkish reinforcements under Yussuf Pasha had not come to their aid. Yussuf entered Patras, 3 April and set fire to houses of the Greeks, burning what was left from the previous conflagration. Turks began to massacre and many refuges took refuge in the french and other consulates, and only the english consul Green rejected the defenceless women and infants showing every sort of inhumanity, according to Yermanos' memoirs. The citadel of Patras remained in turkish hands throught the war.

The outbreak of revolution in 1821 had as result the sufferings of greek minority to every place of ottoman state and especially in Minor Asia. Kydonies or Aivali was eliminated from the map. Most of Romeos were slaughtered. At Smyrna, which was a prosperous centre of international trade on the ancient Ionia - land of Homer, the whole Greek community was in danger. Turkish forces were assembled there before embarking to fight the rebels in Peloponnese. Soon they started to plunder the houses and slaughter the people. To justify the general massacre they asked fetva from the mullah, who refused. The barbarians killed the holy person and attacked to every christian not respecting age or sex. A father with his family of four daughters and one baby was running from roof to roof to escape, while the soldiers were practising on target to them from the street. They escaped by entering the house of a European. Turk were bully, they attacked the helpless but were afraid of the powerful. The worst were to come to Cyprus, Kos and Constantinople. In 3 May 1821, 4000 turkish soldiers landed in Cyprus. Koutsouk Mehmet pasha wrote a list with hundreds of names of rich persons, notables and priests. All these were arrested and hung or beheaded. Among the victims was the archbishop Kyprianos. Patriarch of Constantnople Grigorios

The most dramatic example of turkish cruelty, which came directly from the ottoman government and from the Sultan himself, was at Constantinople. Mahmut II, had ascended the throne in 1808, and held it until his death in 1839. He was a ruthless person and his acts were characterized by ferocity. To ascend to the throne he strangled the previous sultan Mustafa IV. When Lascarina Bubulina had visited his palace, according to her memoirs, except the usual ornaments on the walls one could see cut ears or noses. On the entrance of his palace was a pile of heads. This man was on the throne of the ottoman state, in March 1821, when reports were brought to Constantinople, of the outbreak of revolution in Moldavia and Peloponnese, and the killing of many turks. The Patriarch was ordered to denounce the revolution, which he did, with the hope that the 300000 Romeos in Constantinople would escape the wrath of the sultan. It was a right decision. But sultan was thirsty for blood of Orthodox Christians. He murdered bishops of Ephessus, Aghialos, Tournovo, Derkon, Sozopolis, Metron, Sophia. Many prosperous and educated Phanariots as Georgius Mavrokordatos who was hanged outside of his house, Nikolaos Skanavis, Theodoros Rizos, Levidis Tsalikis, Kostakis Mourouzis, Antonakis Tsiras, Dimitrios Skanavis, Michalis Hatzeris, Stavros Mavrogenis, Alexandros Rallis, Demetrios Sarris were beheaded and also two dragoumanos of the fleet, a number of merchants, bankers, monks and priests were murdered.

Patriarch Gregorius was born in 1750 in Dimitsana of Moreas. With the outbreak his position was a difficult one. Openly he was against the revolution and urged the clergy to submit to the government. But secretly he supported the struggle for freedom and according to Fotakos he was even a member of Philiki Eteria. A week before his murder, he was asked by his friends to escape to Odessa. He answered: 'Don't ask me to leave. My rescue will mean the death for thousands of christians in Constantinople.... May be my death bring more benefit to our people than my life.... lets eat our fish, the next week the fish are going to eat us...' In the early hours of Easter, 10th April 1821, the Orthodox were summoned to celebrate the risen Christ. Gregorius presided over the Easter Service and as down broke returned to his quarters. Immediately he was summoned by the dragouman of the Porte. He was hanged outside the central gate of the patriarchate, which remains closed until today. After three days the body was taken down and Jews dragged the body throught all the city mocking the dead, an act which still remains in the hearts of Greeks. Unfortunately Jewish people collaborated with the oppressor during the whole ottoman occupation. The body of the spiritual leader of Romiosini was thrown in the sea, and after some days it was retrieved by a captain from Kephalinia island and taken to Odessa, where on the instructions of the Tzar the funeral ceremony was conducted with every elaboration of ritual and every mark of respect. Patriarch was not a revolutionary but he was a brave man.

He was followed to the Hades by 10000 Greeks, who were massacred by Janissaries. Their bodies according to Russian ambassador Stroganov were hung like meat on the hooks of butcher's shops. Count Stroganov tried to enlist the support of the other ambassadors at Konstantinoupolis in his protests against these actions. He sought a collective condemnation of the execution of the patriarch, but to no avail. Britain's ambassador Strangford as usual was friendly to turkish state, a policy that was always kept by England and is still kept by USA. When Stroganov left him he addressed these words:'My Lord, I would wish you too, good-night, were I not assured that with such conscience you can never sleep'. Tzar Alexander tried to convince the other states to condemn ottoman attidute but in vain. Austria, Prussia and Britain even had in mind to send troops to repress the insurrection. But Ioannes Kapodistrias dissuaded them. Notorious austrian Metternich said:'In a week's days non of us will remember those Greeks.' Russia proceeded with an ultimatum which was drafted by the exterior minister Kapodistrias, and made the strongest case against the Turks:

the Ottoman government has placed itself in a state of open hostility against the Christian world; that it has legitimized the defence of the Greeks, who would be fighting solely to save themselves from inevitable destruction; Russia would find herself strictly obliged to offer them help because they were ececuted; assistance, jointly with the whole of Christendom, because she could not surrender her brothers in religion to the mercy of blind fanatism

Bibliography
Constantine Paparhigopoulos - History of Helenic Nation
Spuridon Trikoupis - History of Greek Revolution
Samuel Howe - Greek Revolution
Kolokotronis' memoirs
Makrygiannis' memoirs
Michel De Grece - Bubulina



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