The Origins of the Greek Revolt
The news of the French Revolution and the disturbances of the Napoleonic Wars excited political passions across Europe. In 1815 in Odessa the secret Friendly Society was founded to organise revo1ution among the Greeks. Many influential phanriotes, rich Greeks associated with the patriarchate, wished take the empire over from within, while many leaders of the Church rightly foresaw the prospect of loss of the privileges and influence they enjoyed in the setting up of a modern state. Then in March ╔82╔, taking advantage of the difficulties the Ottoman government was having with the powerful and unruly ┴li Pasha of Ioannina, revolt broke out in the Peloponnese.
The First Siege of the Acropolis
As news of the revolt reached Attica the people of the villages rose immediately. Preparations had already been made, centred upon Menidi (ancient Archarnon) in the foothills of Mount Parnes. Many of the Greeks of Athens sent their families to Salamis. The Turks, about six hundred, withdrew onto the acropolis, taking with them Greek hostages.
┴ Greek force entered Athens on May 7th and laid siege to the Acropolis. But in early August a large Turkish army under Omar Vri´ni passed through, forcing the Greeks to withdraw to Salamis and Aegina and restocked the Acropolis with food. When his army left, the Greeks returned and resumed the siege. They made no attempt to storm the citadel, and even resumed cultivation of their fields. On 21st June, 1822, the Turks were forced to surrender because they had run out of water.
By the terms of their surrender the Turks were to hand over most of their money and property and all their weapons, and be transported to Anatolia in neutral ships. Fearing reprisals for generations of oppression, they asked the Austrian, Russian and French C´nsuls to guarantee their safe conduct, and the archbishop required the leaders of the Greek forces to swear to observe the truce. The Turks were held in the voivode's residence in the ruins of the Library of Hadrian while awaiting the ships. But a few days before they arrived a rumour of an approaching Turkish army triggered a general massacre. George Finlay wrote: 'The streets of Athens were stained with the blood of four hundred men, women and children. From sunrise to sunset during a long summer day, the shrieks of tortured women and children were heard without intermission.' The survivors were only saved by the arrival of French marines from warships, who escorted them to safety.
The Victors Quarrel among Themselves
When the Greeks began to quarrel over the spoils, a message was sent to Demitrios Ypsilanti to take command. The chieftains, however, chose to elect one of their own number, Odysseus Androutsos of Epiros, as commander in Athens. ┴ former member of the bodyguard of ┴l▀ Pasha of Ioannina, he arrived in September with about one hundred and fifty followers.
The Turks had been forced to surrender the Acropolis because of lack of water. In case they should find themselves in a similar position, the Greeks began a search for a source of water they knew from ancient tradition lay inside the ancient defences of the citadel. The archaeologist Kyriakos Pattakis located the ╩lepsydra Spring, and Androutsos had the fortifications modified to enclose it, constructing a stairway to provide access. He also laid in supplies of food and weapons.
The fiercely independent Androutsos soon found himself at odds with the Greek government in Nauplia. After leading a campaign against the Turks in Euboeia he made his own truce with them, and even took some Turkish cavalry into his employ. In spring 1825 he attacked some villages around Attica. In April 1825 he was arrested by one of his own men, loannis Gouras, and imprisoned in the Frankish Tower. On 5th June 1825, his body was found near the church of the Metamorphosis in Theorias Street. He was supposed to have 'fallen' to his death from the walls of the acropolis while trying to escape, when the rope broke. It was generally assumed that he had been strangled, and his body thrown down to make it look like an accident.
The Second Siege of the Acropolis
During 1826, the war went badly for the Greeks. Egyptians, under Ibrahim Pasha, devastated the Peloponnese, and only Korinthia and Attica remained free. In late summer a Turkish army under Mehmet Reshid Pasha ('Kioutahis') and Omar Vri´ni entered Attica. So oppressive and cruel had Gouras been that the villagers welcomed them. Gouras withdrew into the Acropolis, making no attempt to defend the town. John Makriannis, a peasant from the mountains of Central Greece, orphaned by the Turks, led the defence of the lower town. For thirty-four days they repaired the damage to the walls inflicted by Reshid's cannon. When the town fell, in August, they retreated onto the citadel.
Thus a second siege of the Acropolis began. On 13th October, Gouras was killed by a sniper. Faced with failure everywhere, the government decided that the Greeks needed for the sake of morale to rescue this symbol of national pride and Western values. ┴ number of regular soldiers were assembled at Salamis under the French Philhellene, Colonel Charles FabÝ▀er and 2,500 regulars under George Karaiskakis, a chieftain from the mountains of Roumeli.
FabÝ▀er and Karaiskakis moved their forces near to Piraeus in an attempt to force the Turks to raise the siege, but Karaiskakis unexpectedly pulled back his forces, leaÝ▀ng FabÝ▀er and his men dangerously exposed, and forced to pull back. Afterwards there were mutual recriminations.
The Turks continued the bombardment of the Acropolis. Under the leadership of Makriyannis the Greeks secretly placed gunpowder in a Turkish outpost close to the defences, and then tried to lure the Turks to that place for talks. When one of his men got drunk, drew his knife and started shouting, the Turks became suspicious and pulled back. The Greeks attacked nevertheless, and the gunpowder went off harmlessly. When the Turks counterattacked, Makriyannis cried out to supposed hidden companions to 'Fire off the other mine,' which frightened the Turks, who fled. The Turks planted a mine of their own under the citadel but it was discovered by a young Athenian who went down on a rope to investigate.
In October some of Gouras' men fled to Salamis. When Gouras was killed by a stray bullet, a committee of five, including Makriyannis, was set up to administer the garrison until the government could send a new commander. ┴ letter was smuggled out which told them of Gouras' death and begged for reinforcements. Six days later a battle took place which lasted from dawn to sunset, during which Makriyannis was badly wounded several times, but kept his men fighting. His wounds were so serious that at first the surgeon refused to operate as he considered his case hopeless, but he finally succeeded in saÝ▀ng his life. The government sent four hundred and fifty men to reinforce the citadel, who managed to enter secretly.
┴t the end of November, supplies were running short, especially ammunition, fuel and medicine. It was decided that someone would have to break through the Turkish lines and report to the government on Aegina. Makriyannis agreed to go with an escort of five men, aIthough his wounds had still not healed. The six charged the enemy and succeeded in breaking through the Turkish lines. Makriyannis warned the government that the need for help was urgent if the Acropolis were not to be lost. He then went to Methana to ask Fabvier to organize an expedition to take fresh supplies of gunpowder into the Acropolis. Fabvier agreed, but insisting that he and his men would withdraw as soon as their mission was completed.
He landed with six hundred and fifty men at Phaleron on a moonlit night in December. Each man had tied a sack of gunpowder on his back, and had received instructions to move swiftly and silently. They reached the outposts of the Acropolis safely and delivered the gunpowder, but before they could withdraw, the alarm was raised. Fabvier and his men, unable to fight their way through the Turkish lines, were forced to withdraw inside the Acropolis. Afterwards, Fabvier could never be convinced that the garrison had not deliberately alerted the Turks in order to compel him to remain with them. He later complained that every time they tried to slip away, the Turks were always somehow alerted, frustrated their getaway.
Captain Frank Abney Hastings, an officer of the Royal Navy, arrived in Piraeus in February 1827 in his own steamship, an iron paddle steamer, the Karteria, accompanied by six smaller ships, with George Finlay and Samuel Howe. Two land forces were assembled, one on Salamis and the other at Eleusis. ╔t was hoped that these, with supporting fire from the ships, would be able to move the Turks from their positions and relieve the Acropolis. One force commanded by Colonel Gordon landed at Phaleron, where his Greek irregulars ignored orders to remain silent and fired off their guns to let the garrison know that help was on the way. Thus alerted, the Turks were able to force Gordon and his men to withdraw. After a Turkish cavalry charge had killed five hundred men of the Eleusis force, the rest fled. Reshid Pasha had the heads of the dead Greeks displayed before the defenders on the Acropolis to reduce their morale.
The Death of Karaiskakis
In March General Sir Richard Church and Admiral Lord Cochrane, the newly appointed army and navy commanders-in-chief, arrived. Karaiskakis was disgusted that these positions had been given to foreigners. Nevertheless, eighteen thousand men were assembled at Piraeus, Phaleron, and Megara, the largest fighting force to be gathered in anyone place since the start of the war. About five thousand troops, led by Karaiskakis, stationed themselves at Kerats▀n▀, on the plain to the west of Piraeus. Church, assembled a second force often thousand at Piraeus; while Lord Cochrane, hired a thousand Hydriots, who occupied the hill of Munychia, overlooking the port.
One day when Cochrane was reconnoitring the enemy positions at the head of a small force, a skirmish with an enemy patrol took place. Spying an opportunity for a quick victory with a determined charge, he forthwith led his men into battle. Convinced by what appeared to be a stupid act that fresh forces they had not yet detected must have come to support the Greeks, the Muslims abandoned their redoubt. Three hundred Albanians under Turkish command fled for shelter to the monastery of Saint Spyrid´n, where they were soon entirely surrounded.
After two days intense fire, Cochrane offered them terms. They would be sent as prisoners of war to the ships if they surrendered. Karaiskakis agreed to this, and so they did surrender Unfortunately, the ┬ritish commanders had failed to ensure that the terms of this agreement wou1d be observed by their own forces. When the Albanians emerged, and some Greeks tried to rush past them into the monastery to lay claim to spoils, one of them bumped into an Albanian, and shooting broke out. Over a hundred of the Albanians were killed then and there, while the rest scattered and were hunted down individually.
Some time afterwards, the commanders met to plan their attack on the Turks besieging the Acropolis. The approach to the city from Piraeus lay through vineyards and olive groves, which would provide excellent cover, and the enemy could not use their large cavalry force against them. But Cochrane suddenly decided to move the troops at Piraeus to Faliron by boat, and then advance from there towards the city across the open heath land of the area then called Analatos.
Then during the night before the attack a totally unexpected disaster occurred. Some Hydriot soldiers got drunk and attacked a Turkish outpost near Faliron. Karaiskakis went out to investigate and was hit by a stray bullet. He did not want to alarm his men, so he got back onto his horse, and said that his injury was not serious. Shortly afterwards, he had to dismount and walk, supported by a companion, whom he asked to make sure that no foreign doctors were allowed anywhere near him He was taken on board ship to Salamina and died when they disembarked at Koulouri. The loss of this able leader, who had the respect and affection of aIl the Greek fighters, was a great tragedy for Greece.
During that same night, three thousand men and nine field guns were transported by ship from Piraeus to Faliron; but the operation was only completed just before daybreak, so that it was clear that it would be too late for them to be able to reach the enemy forces before sunrise. In spite of this, Cochrane and Church insisted that the attack go forward, choosing to superintend operations from the decks of their boats.
Thus dawn found the Greek forces strung out across the open heath, half way between the coast and the Acropolis. It was a perfect opportunity for the Turkish cavalry, and they did not fail to seize it. The initial two cavalry charges were resisted by the advance guard of regular troops. But at the third, the enemy broke through, and a panic retreat began. The Greeks were cut down as they fled towards the sea Only the desire of the Turks to celebrate their victory allowed many Greeks to escape.
This was one of the greatest disasters of the entire war. Within two hours, between one thousand and fifteen hundred men had fallen in battle. Two hundred and forty prisoners had been taken by the Turks, and were beheaded, one-by-one. The heads were sent to Constantinople as a evidence of Kioutahis' victory. George Finlay noted: 'It dispersed their last army, and destroyed all confidence in the military skill of their English commander-in-chief.'
On 27th May 1827, Fabvier agreed to surrender the Acropolis to Kioutahis. The besieged had run out of food. The inhabitants were evacuated by French and Austrian warships to Salamina. For the remainder of the war, the Turks retained their hold over Athens. [Read about the battle of Analatos in Athens.]
The Intervention of the Great Powers
In order to end the war without massacres of Christians which would be unpopular with Philhellenic public opinion at home, the Great Powers then decided to make Greece semi-independent under Ottoman sovereignty. The Turks, with victory clearly in their sights, refused to compromise. ┴ few months later, in October 1827, the Turkish-Egyptian fleet was destroyed by the combined British, French and Russian fleets at Navarino. The withdrawal of Turkish forces was arranged, and the French Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Mediterranean Fleet sailed in to supervise their evacuation.
┴ series of agreements among the great powers, concluded between September 1829 and July 1832 established the limits and nature of the new state. For much of that time, it was by no means certain that Athens would be included. Kapodistrias, leader of the provisional government, saw that the issue might in the end be settled on the basis of each party keeping what they had. So he encouraged Ypsilantis to enter Attica and Boiotia, where, in September 1929, he won the last battle of the war between Thebes and Livadia. The Turks were forced to cede the territory to September, by the Treaty of Adrianople.
Athens and Attica after the War
At that time, Thomas Alcock was in Athens, which lay in ruins. He wrote: 'The few monuments of past grandeur standing amid a mass of ruin, as if saved by magic, -the wretched huts of some Albanian soldiers, -a paltry bazaar, -and five or six tolerable dwellings, in which the Bey and the chief officers reside, form the exact state of Athens in 1829...'
Only after the treaty which created an independent Greece signed at the Convention of London in 1832, was the Turkish hold on the city loosened. Even then, a year was to pass before they finally left. During this time, Christopher Wordsworth wrote: 'The town of Athens is now lying in ruins. The streets are almost deserted; nearly all the houses are without roofs. The churches are reduced to bare walls and heaps of stones and mortar. There is but one church in which the service is performed. ┴ few new wooden houses, one or two of more solid structure, and the two lines of planked sheds which form the bazaar are all the inhabited dwellings that Athens can now boast. So slowly does it recover from the effects of the late war.'
He described his lodgings as in the nearest building to the Temple of Theseus on the extreme edge of the modem town. There were few other buildings near. At a little distance to the south he described a peasant engaged in ploughing the earth with a team of two oxen: the soil along which he was driving his furrows covering part of the ancient agora.
The bazaar was a long street, the only one of any importance. It had no foot-pavement; there was a gutter in the middle, down which, in wintry weather the water ran in torrents. The houses were generally patched together with planks and plaster. Looking up the street, you could see the commodities with which the market was supplied: 'Barrels of black caviar, small pocket-looking- glasses in red pasteboard cases, onions, tobacco piled up in brown heaps, black olives, figs strung together upon a rush, rices, pipes with amber mouth-pieces and brown clay bowls, rich stuffs, and silver-chased pistols, dirks, belts, and embroidered waistcoats. ..' There were 'no books, no lamps, no windows, no carriages, and no newspapers.' There was no post-office. The letters which arrived from Nauplia, after having been publicly cried in the streets, if they were not claimed by the parties to whom they were addressed, were committed to the flames.
He was perhaps the last Westerner to observe Ottoman Athens: 'The muezzin still mounts the scaffolding in the bazaar here to call the Mussulman to prayer at the stated hours; a few Turks still doze in the archways of the Acropolis, or recline while smoking their pipes, and leaning with their backs against the rusty cannon which are planted on the battlements of its walls; the Athenian peasant, as he drives his laden mule from Hymettus through the eastern gate of the town, still flings his small bundle of thyme and brushwood, from the load which he bags on his mule's back, as a tribute to the Mussulman toll-gatherer who sits at that entrance to the town; and a few days ago the cannon of the Acropolis fired the signal of the conclusion of the Turkish Ramadan - the last which will ever be celebrated at Athens.'
The countryside was still dangerous. It was regarded an act of incredible rashness for a traveller to venture on a ride from Athens to Menidi, for there resided the Greek captain, Vasso. His men indemnified themselves by robbing without mercy whoever fell into their hands. Many of the villages were deserted; their population has left them, either to take refuge in the mountains, or to swell the numbers of the robbers. Even the immediate neighbourhood of Athens itself was in such a stale that excursions into its environs were difficult and dangerous. Just a few days previously, he recorded, two Greeks coming from the Piraeus in the evening were p1undered and severely wounded on the road.
┴ series of agreements among the great powers established a small nominally independent state under the 'protection' of the Great Powers, and chose as its ruler Prince Otho, second son of the Phihellene king Ludwig ╔ ´f ┬aÝaria. Otho arrived in Greece with 3,500 Bavarian troops at Nauplia on 1st February. On 12th ┴pril 1833, the Turkish garrison left the Acropolis – only to be replaced by the a Bavarian garrison. [Read reports of other travellers to Athens during this period in Travellers' Greece: Memories of an Enchanted Land.]
Since he was only seventeen years of age, a regency was established on behalf of Prince Otho. Count Joseph Ý´n Armansperg presided over the government, Professor Ludwig Ý´n Maurer oversaw the creation of systems of central and local government, and a minimal justice system; while General Karl Wilhelm Ý´n Heideck oversaw military matters, including the Bavarian soldiers.
ę John L. Tomkinson