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Hydra Honors Greek Heroes of Argentina’s War of Independence

Greek heroes of Argentina
Plaque of Nickolas Kolmaniatis on Hydra. Credit: Spilios Spiliotis

The island of Hydra honored the Greek heroes of the Independence War of Argentina, Nickolas Kolmaniatis and Samuel Spiro, in a special event on Friday.

The event was organized by Hydra Mayor Georgios Koukoudakis in memory of the two national heroes of Argentina from Hydra.

After the laying of wreaths at the Monument of Nickolas Kolmaniatis by the Argentinian ambassador, a conference on the Navy of Hydra and the life of the two Hydriot national heroes of Argentina.

Hydriot Nickolas Kolmaniatis

Nicholas Kolmaniatis, later Nicholas Jorge, fled Hydra in 1810 after killing a man in a duel,  over an insult to his then-wife. Previous to that, he was serving in the Turkish Navy.

Hydriots, known as the finest sailors in the Ottoman Empire, were at that time obligated to turn over an annual levy of sailors for service in the Ottoman fleet.

Kolmaniatis was in some ways typical of the Hydriot of the era — a skilled mariner, trained to arms and combat, but also inclined to commerce.

Although transatlantic voyages were less common for Hydriots and their ships, they nonetheless did make the perilous journey, engaging in the trade of bringing Brazilian coffee and sugar to Europe.

Kolmaniatis, however, ventured a bit further south, to Argentina.

At the time, the Spanish possessions in America were in turmoil, with large sections of the population rebelling for independence from Spain, which had grown corrupt and feeble.

At the time, Spain was also at war with Napoleonic France. The American and French revolutions provided further inspiration for the Spanish American colonies to break from colonial rule.

Into this fray sailed a young Hydriot merchant with valuable naval experience. A fellow like this was bound to find his skillset of use.

Coming himself from a place that was smarting under foreign rule, Kolmaniatis found that his sympathies clearly lay with the Argentinian revolutionaries.

Under the name Nicholas Jorge, he fought the Spanish fleets, rising to the rank of Colonel of the Marines, as Argentinian ranks are different than in other militaries. Hence Hydriots speak Kolmaniatis as an Admiral.

The service of the Greek hero of Argentina did not end there; he continued to serve his adopted country, with a regional command, service against the Empire of Brazil, and in the Argentine Civil Wars between federalist and unitary forces.

According to Villamayor Revythis, there were Greek sailors on all sides of these conflicts, and it is his mission to try to bring their stories to life.

Kolmaniatis/Jorge had a family in Argentina and some of his children followed him into the Navy. The family was quickly absorbed into the multiethnic mosaic of Argentina.

Greek hero Samuel Spiro

Another Greek hero of Argentina was Samuel Spiro, who also emigrated to Buenos Aires with his two brothers in 1810. After a while he became an early supporter of the May Revolution.

Spiro had also served in the Turkish Navy in Greece as a Captain. In Argentina, he took part in organizing the naval forces of the United Provinces of South America.

Spiro was one of the main Argentinian navy commanders in the United Provinces’ victory at Martin Garcia.

He died on March 28, 1814 during the naval battle of Arroyo de la China, on the Uruguay river, near Concepción del Uruguay, when he decided to scuttle the yawl he was commanding rather than surrender her to the royalists.

The Argentinian navy has named two ships in his honor, the most recent being the corvette ARA Spiro (P-43), commissioned in 1988.


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