Calamos Supports Greece
GreekReporter.comGreeceWhen Greek Politicians Betrayed the 1821 War of Independence Heroes

When Greek Politicians Betrayed the 1821 War of Independence Heroes

Greek politicians who betrayed the Greek Cause
Some Greek politicians put their own interests above Greece and the heroes of the War of Independence. Portrait of Alexandros Mavrokordatos. Public Domain

While the heroes of the glorious 1821 Revolution fought and died for freedom, there were Greek politicians who betrayed them for money and high positions.

These were politicians who usurped the glory of the real warriors of the 1821 Revolution without even raising a pistol against a Turk. They were men who expropriated funds meant for the Greek struggle sent from foreign powers. They even had brave warriors killed or jailed because they did not fit into their treacherous schemes.

Furthermore, they were so corrupt that they shamelessly served their own interests as well as those of foreign powers even at the expense of Greeks who sacrificed everything, including their lives, for the cause of Greek liberation.

After the attainment of independence and establishment of the modern Greek state, these men were put in high posts in government and established themselves through dubious governing abilities alongside the young King Otto, who was too young to understand their machinations much less their guilt-filled past.

Yet, somehow, the names of the particular Greek politicians have been whitewashed in history books, and their portraits still appear next to the real fighters and heroes of the Greek War of Independence in the National Historical Museum, while streets in Athens and other cities are named after them.

Alexandros Mavrokordatos and realpolitik

Alexandros Mavrokordatos was the Greek politician who introduced Realpolitik (real politics) to Greece, as taught by Nicollo Machiavelli, wrote theologian and author Giorgos Papathanasopoulos. Real politics are based on cynicism and amorality in dealing with people, institutions, and states. Whoever applies it is ruthless towards the realization of his plans. “Realpolitik” is a rule in state and international relations and is applied worldwide.

Mavrokordatos joined Filiki Eteria while in Pisa, Italy. He arrived in Patras on July 21, 1821  with a group of people who wanted to fight for Greece’s liberty. At first, he insisted on being called “prince” as a sign of superiority. Then, he tried to become the leader of Morea (modern day Peloponnese). Naturally, the unquestionable leadership of Theodoros Kolokotronis and Dimitrios Ypsilantis (brother of Alexandros) could not be overlooked. However, Ypsilantis was fooled by Mavrokordatos’ hypocrisy.

He then moved to Western Roumeli (Central Greece), where there was a power vacuum, and easily became its leader there. Indicative of his use of Machiavellian tactics was that during the First National Assembly of Epidaurus and while Dimitrios Ypsilantis and Kolokotronis were away fighting the Turks at Acrocorinth, Mavrokordatos took the opportunity and succeeded in being elected president of the Executive Branch of All Revolted Greece, thus pushing Dimitrios Ypsilantis aside. At the Astros’ Second National Assembly, he had formed a group that deified him as “the other Washington.”

In his memoir, Theodoros Kolokotronis wrote that he advised Mavrokordatos to leave and not get involved in Greek politics. The politician did just the opposite. He went to Hydra, met the prominent Kountouriotis family, and convinced them to start a civil war to neutralize his own opponents, while he convinced them that they were their enemies, too.

Mavrokordatos took an English loan sent for the revolt and used the money to pay half the Greeks to fight the other half, according to historian Christos Stasinopoulos. He attempted to exterminate those he considered his enemies because they treated him as an equal. With his actions, he persecuted one of the greatest war heroes of the war, Georgios Karaiskakis, as a traitor. Indeed, a committee of military officers he appointed declared Karaiskakis a traitor, stripped him off his rank, and ordered him to leave Western Roumeli.

Georgios Karaiskakis, hero of greek war of independence
Georgios Karaiskakis. Public Domain

The shrewd Greek politician also assisted in the murder of great fighter Odysseas Androutsos, and although Ioannis Kolettis (discussed below) was seen more as the moral perpetrator, the participation of Georgios Kountouriotis in the execution of Androutsos is documented as well.

Mavrokordatos also spearheaded the imprisonment of Theodoros Kolokotronis in Hydra, the greatest war hero of the entire Greek War of Independence, pushed Miaoulis to burn the Greek fleet, and was among those who contributed to the assassination of Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias.

Greek politicians of 1821
Georgios Kountouriotis: One of the Greek politicians who schemed against the true heroes of the 1821 Revolution. Painting by Dionysios Tsokos. Public Domain

Georgios Kountouriotis: The scheming shipowner from Hydra

Georgios Kountouriotis, a wealthy shipowner from Hydra, reluctantly offered his ships for the cause because he believed it was too early for revolution. In 1823, when a civil war had broken out among the leaders of the revolution, he was convinced by Mavrokordatos to be part of his government. The true motive of Mavrokordatos was to use the clout of politically naive Kountouriotis against his own enemies.

Using his money, as well as the first installment of English loans, the Greek politician  gained advantage over his rivals and his own government with Mavrokordatos was installed in Nafplion. Much of the money from the loans was squandered, meeting the demands of his political friends, members of his family, and the civil strife between the government of politicians and rebelling generals like Kolokotronis and Karaiskakis. During the civil war, the politicians won, and Kolokotronis was jailed on Hydra where he frequently endured torture.

Kolokotronis, hero of greek war of independence
A lithograph portrait of Theodoros Kolokotronis by Karl Krazeisen. Credit: National Gallery of Greece. Public DOmain

In his presidency, few measures were taken to strengthen the rebelling regions. On the contrary, in 1824 the revolution on Crete succumbed to the Turkish-Egyptian troops, while in the same year, the islands of Kasos and Psara were destroyed. Following Ibrahim’s landing in Methoni in February 1825, instead of appointing an experienced military man like Kolokotronis or Karaiskakis, he named one of his seafaring compatriots, captain Kyriakos Skourtis, as head of the army sent against the Egyptians.

Kountouriotis headed to Messenia to be with the troops in their fight against Ibrahim’s army. He rode a fine horse, but, since he was not a skilled rider, he had two Egyptian captives, one on each side so that he would not fall. Behind him, he had a crowd of bodyguards and servants. However, he fell ill and could not reach the field of operations.

The Greeks were disastrously defeated by Ibrahim at Kremmydi in April 1825, and Kountouriotis returned to Nafplion in disgrace and amidst general outcry. After the self-sacrifice of Papaflessas in Maniaki in May, Kountouriotis was forced to release Kolokotronis, who was the only one able to face Ibrahim.

The lack of action of the Kountouriotis government during the last siege of Missolonghi and its inability to provide even rudimentary supplies to the city’s heroic garrison led to the historical exodus. The bankruptcy caused by the makeshift government forced Kountouriotis to resign on April 12, 1826 and retire disgruntled to Hydra.

After the liberation, Kountouriotis took an active part in the opposition against Kapodistrias. Following the assassination of the governor on September 27, 1831, he was appointed by the Senate as a member of the Administrative Committee, made up of representatives of all political factions.

During the years of King Otto, he was appointed vice-president of the Council of State and followed a more moderate policy. On March 1848, he was appointed by Otto as president of the cabinet minister of shipping.

Greek politicians of 1821 Revolution
Ioannis Kolettis: One of the Greek politicians who acted for their own interests. Portrait by Adam de Friedel (1830). Public Domain

Ioannis Kolettis: The ambitious Greek politician from Epirus

Ioannis Kolettis from Epirus studied medicine in Pisa, Italy. In June 1821, he participated in the failed rebellion of Syracos and Kalarriti, and when the two villages were destroyed by the men of Hursit Pasha, he fled to Missolonghi and then to Moria.

He took part in the First National Assembly of Epidaurus (December 20, 1821 – January 16, 1822) as a representative of the rebelling regions of Epirus and was elected a member of the committee for drafting the first Greek constitution. On January 15, 1822, the National Assembly appointed him Minister of the Interior.

An ambitious man, Kolettis sided politically with Alexandros Mavrokordatos. However, his unlimited ambitions provoked the reaction of some military officers, especially of Kolokotronis. To undermine the popularity of Kolokotronis, Kolettis convinced him to break the siege of Patras and then accused him of the same thing. When Kolokotronis visited Nafplion, he treated him disrespectfully. He also disliked Odysseas Androutsos because of his popularity among the revolutionary fighters.

During the first Greek civil war (1823-1824), the Greek politician sided with Georgios Kountouriotis. The power he acquired as a member of the Executive branch allowed him to extend his influence among the military, particularly among the chieftains of Roumeli  of Central Greece He appointed Yannis Gouras as guard of the Acropolis of Athens. In this way, he neutralized Androutsos, one of his main opponents, and contributed to the brutal murder of the hero of the Battle of Gravia in 1825.

His political influence increased when, in October 1824, Kountouriotis retired to Hydra and Vice-president Panagiotis Botassis died. The conflict between the Executive branch and the Parliament, which culminated in the devastating second civil war (1824-1825), increased his power. At his own suggestion, the Executive summoned Roumeliot troops to fight the “anti-government” army in Morea. After the end of the civil war, the influence of Kolettis was consolidated and rested mainly on the chieftains from Roumeli.

However, the third National Assembly (April 6 – 16, 1826), under the burden of the fall of Missolongi, abolished the Kountouriotis – Kolettis government. Not having an administrative position, he again turned to the military, but he failed in his campaigns against the Turks.

During Kapodistrias’ governing, he was appointed commissioner of the Eastern Sporades, which included Samos, Ikaria, Paros, Patmos, and Kalymnos. In 1829, he was also appointed a member of the “Panhellenium,” the governor’s advisory body. After the Fourth National Assembly (July 11 – August 6, 1829), he was appointed a member of the Senate.

The Greek politician was yet another member of the new Greek government that opposed Kapodistrias’ modern ideas and secretly joined the opposition. Following the assassination of Kapodistrias (September 27, 1831), he was appointed by the Senate as a member of the Three-member Administrative Committee together with Augustinos Kapodistrias, who was named president, and Theodoros Kolokotronis.

He didn’t sever his ties with the opposition parties of Hydra. In April 1832, Kolettis led 1,200 Roumeliot soldiers and  triumphantly entered Nafplion, while at the same time Augustinos Kapodistrias was leaving for Corfu.

In September 21, 1832, after bloody conflicts between the various factions, he was again appointed by the Senate as a member of the Three-member Administrative Committee, this time, but its authority was limited almost exclusively to Nafplion.

Overall, the presence of Ioannis Kolettis in the political life of post-revolutionary Greece was characterized by the practice of balancing between various factors. These included: the countervailing political and social forces, the decisive presence of the foreign factor (the French party), the stagnation in social development, and finally the degradation of political life in the name of personal gain and party benefit.

Nikitaras, hero of greek war of independence
Nikitaras, a 1821 Revolution hero who was disgraced by Greek politicians. Credit: Gepsimos / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

The Sad End of a Great Hero of the Greek War of Independence

After the liberation of Greece, one of the saddest events was the end of the most selfless hero of the Greek revolution, Nikitas Stamatelopoulos, commonly known as Nikitaras. Nikitaras was a nephew of Theodoros Kolokotronis who fought in most of the big battles against the enemy, with the most important being the sacking of Tripolitsa, and the battles at Doliana, Arachova, Dervenakia, Agionorio and Mehmetaga.

Nikitaras was the victim of Greek politicians who continued to work in shadowy ways long after Greece was free. Being partial to the Russian party it is said that he was among a group of people who were conspiring to overthrow the Bavarian King Otto. He was arrested and put to jail. Since he was suffering from diabetes and tortured while in prison, he lost a big part of eyesight. Meanwhile all the evidence that he was among the conspirators was destroyed so it could not be used against him.

King Otto, fearing that he would lose the support of the pro-Russian party, ordered his release. But when Nikitaras came out of prison, he was almost blind and broke. He was granted a license to beg for money every Friday outside the church of Evangelismos in Piraeus.

In 1843, when Otto was forced to sign a Constitution for Greece, Nikitaras was given the rank of lieutenant general and a scanty pension. In 1844 he served as Speaker of the House for three months and in 1847 he was appointed to a Senate seat. He died on September 25, 1849 at age 68.

His last wish was to be buried next to his uncle, Theodoros Kolokotronis, at the First Athens Cemetery. The Greek government failed to maintain records of his remains, resulting in their loss, and their current whereabouts remain unknown

See all the latest news from Greece and the world at Contact our newsroom to report an update or send your story, photos and videos. Follow GR on Google News and subscribe here to our daily email!

Related Posts