25th March Greek Independence Day – less known details: contributions of women to the Greek Revolution
This year on the 200th anniversary of the Greek Independence Day, all public celebrations are suspended due to the Covid-19 measures, which was also the case in 2020.
It was the film Manto Mavrogenous (1971) by Kostas Karagiannis broadcast on 25th March last year on ANT1, that inspired me to present some information about one of the two heroines of the War of Independence.
The heroes were many, but some of the leaders in the War of Independence stood out for bravery and contributed greatly to the cause .
Among these great fighters of the Greek War of Independence there were also two heroines:
Manto Mavrogenous and Laskarina Bouboulina.
Manto Mavrogenous, born in 1796 in Trieste, which was part of the Austrian Empire at that time, as the daughter of the merchant Nikolaos Mavrogenis and Zacharati Chatzi Bati.
She was a well-educated, multi-lingual and influenced by the Age of Enlightenment.
Her father was a member of the Filiki Eteria (Φιλική Εταιρεία), the Society of Friends, a secret organization founded in 1814 in Odessa, Russia (now in Ukraine) with the purpose of overthrowing Ottoman rule in Greece and establishing an independent Greek state. The Society’s members were mainly educated, young Phanariot Greeks from Constantinople and the Russian Empire, but also included Greek politicians and military leaders and affluent academics as well as several Orthodox Christian leaders from other nations.
Manto Mavrogenous, the heroine of the Independence War spent her entire fortune for the Greek cause. She encouraged her European friends to contribute money and guns to the revolution.
What is surprising, however, is that her contribution to the Greek revolution and her bravery are mostly praised by foreign historians, while the Greeks downplayed the importance of her role.
When she moved to Paros with her family in 1809 she learned from her father that Filiki Eteria was preparing what would later become known as the Greek Revolution. When the uprising started, she left Paros for Mykonos, her family’s origin. There she invited the leaders of Mykonos to join the revolution.
She equipped and manned two ships at her own expense. In 1822, under her leadership, the people of Mykonos repulsed the Ottomans who had debarked on the island, She also equipped 150 men to campaign on the mainland and sent forces and financial support to Samos when the island was threatened by the Turks.
She also spent money for the relief of the soldiers and their families, and on the preparation of a campaign in Northern Greece.
She later put together a fleet of six ships and an infantry consisting of sixteen companies, with fifty men each, and took part in the battlein Karystos in1822, and funded a campaign to Chios , but she could not prevent it from the massacre.
When the Ottoman fleet appeared in Cyclades islands, she returned to Tinos and sold her jewelry to finance the equipment of 200 men who fought the enemy and cherish two thousand people who had survived from the first siege of Missolonghi*.
Missolonghi remained under Greek control, and resisted another Turkish attack a year later. Its resistance achieved wider fame when Lord Byron arrived there and tragically died of fever in April 1824. Messalonghi was besieged a third time, resisting both Ottoman and Egyptian armies for almost a year, until it fell on 10 Apri 1826.
Mavrogenous left her family in 1823 and moved to Nafplio. When the war ended, Ioannis Kapodistrias*, who became the first head of state of independent Greece, awarded her the rank of Lieutenant General and granted her a dwelling in Nafplio. Manto’s life had a sad end, she died penniless in 1848.
In her letter to the women of Paris Manto Mavrogenous wrote:
“The Greeks, born to be liberal, will owe their independence only to themselves. So I don’t ask your intervention to force your compatriots to help us. But only to change the idea of sending help to our enemies. The war spreads the horrible death…” (mygreekspirit.blogspot.com)
Messolonghi in Western Greece is a town of 34,400 inhabitants, located between the Achelous and Evinos rivers and has a port on the Gulf of Patras.The town is almost canalized but houses are within the gulf and the swamplands. The Lagoonscomplex lies to the west. In the ancient times, the land was part of the gulf.
More about Ioannis Kapodistrias *, a Greek statesman who served as the Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire and was one of the most distinguished politicians and diplomats of Europe. After a long career in European politics and diplomacy he was elected as the first head of state of independent Greece (1827–31). He is considered as the founder of the modern Greek state, and of Greek independence:
Photo credit: greek reporter.com