Tomorrow will be 25th of March, which commemorates the Greek War of Independence of 1821, when Greek Irregulars, comprised of Klephts (Greek equivalent of Hajduks) and Armatoloi (Greek Militia formed my the Ottomans to counter the Klephts) successfully rebelled against the Ottoman yoke and formed the first Greek State of Modern History. The sketch is inspired by a story narrated by Theodore Kolokotronis, one of the chieftains of the Revolution in his memoirs:
During a time when things looked particularly bleak for the Revolution, Theodore Kolokotronis asked the British Admiral Hamilton's advice on what the best course of action would be. Hamilton responded (quite truthfully) that the most prudent thing to do would be to negotiate the Greek surrender with Great Britain guaranteeing for their lives.
"That can never be" Theodore responded "We've already pledged Freedom or Death! Our Basileus was slain, he signed no treaty!
Ever since his Guard was always at War with the Turks and two forts remained forever indomitable"
Hamilton was baffled by this statement. What Basileus, what King? The one who fell in battle 400 years ago?
"What Royal Guard, what forts are you talking about?" he asked.
Theodore responded "The Guard of our Basileus are those they call Klephts, the forts are Mani and Souli and the mountains"
Then Hamilton spoke no more...
Concerning the figures appearing here:
Top Right: Constantine "Dragases" XI Palaiologos: The Last Byzantine and by extension Roman Emperor. A skilled and energetic ruler, he did his best to restore his Empire, including launching a successful campaign against the Latin Duchy of Athens. However his achievements were nullified by the Aggression of the Turks and the Indifference of the West. The deaths of both his first and second wife, convinced the people that he was "born under an unlucky star". Considering his final fate it is not unlikely... During the final Siege of Constantinople, Patriarch Athanasius II and Giovanni Justiniani tried to convince him to leave the City, but he refused: "How can I abandon my people? What will the world think of me? I beg of you friends, don't ask me such a thing again but say only "No Lord! Do not leave us!" I will never leave you! I have decided to die here with you..."
Top Left: Krokodeilos Kladas: A Byzantine Greek of the noble house Kladas. During the Ottoman–Venetian War of 1463–1479 he rebelled against the Turks and fought on the Venetians' side, hoping to establish a Greek State in Mani. Sultan Mehmed II tried to win him back, offering him the rich valley of Elos, but Kladas refused stating: "I only have interest in land liberated, not enslaved". In the end the Venetians signed a treaty which included a full pardon for Kladas, but he refused to stop figting, which earned him the (astronomical for the time) bounty of 10.000 gold ducats. He managed to defeat a superior Ottoman army in 1481 but could not win a war of attrition on his own. He was captured in battle in 1490 and flayed alive.
Bottom Left: Dionysios the Philosopher: A Greek Metropolitan Bishop, well learned in medicine, philosophy, philology, logic, astronomy, and poetry. He led two anti-Ottoman revolts, one in 1600 and the other in 1611 when he was captured in battle. When asked the motives of his rebellions he responded: "I rebelled to rid the people of your tyranny and torments!" Like Kladas before him, he was flayed alive. His skin was filled with hay and was paraded around the countryside, rebuked as the "skylosophos" (a pun between "philosopher" and the Greek word "skylos" meaning "dog").
Bottom Right: Theodore Kolokotronis, "the Old man of Morea": One of the most successful and popular Chieftains of the Revolution of 1821 and also the most recognizable, thanks to his cuirassier helmet (which he obtained during his service in the then British-occupied isle of Zakynthos). He was also illiterate until the twilight of his life, when he learned to write in order to complete his memoirs. Perhaps one of my favorite quotes of him was after the Revolution, when his political opponents managed to sentence him to death (he received a pardon by King Otto):
The Old Man crossed himself, evoking the name of the Lord, but more in puzzlement than fear. Within minutes he was surrounded by people from the crowd seeking to comfort him, but he seemed to be the one doing the comforting: Offering tobacco from his snuff box to anyone interested and saying: "I didn't fear Death then (during the Revolution), I do not fear it now..." A man from the crowd broke out in tears, yelling "They are killing you unjustly, my general!" to which Kolokotronis replied "Is that the cause of your grief? Better they kill me unjustly than justly..."