History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


XV. Stirrings of Greek freedom movements and activities within Macedonia at the beginning of the 19th century



The Ottoman empire possessed, at the opening of the 19th century, a substantial reservoir of fighting men; men, moreover, who were strong, brave and enduring, and who even though lacking in discipline might have proved a tremendously powerful striking force, had they not been so poorly equipped. As it was, only the Turkish cavalry was of any real value in the field.


It was generally considered that the empire's best troops came from Macedonia; yet the province's most warlike elements, the Yürüks and the Janissaries, complained that they were inadequately armed to ensure even their own personal defence; and the consciousness of this deficiency embittered them and sapped their zeal. Indicative of the unwillingness on the part of the Turkish fighting men to join in a campaign was the fact that, in spite of repeated fermans reaching Thessalonica during the latter years, few Turks—and these with little enthusiasm—were disposed to march northwards against the Serbian rebels; for they felt that they would be leaving their own dependents behind them in an exposed position.


Those elements which in practice constituted the most experienced military forces in Turkey continued to be the Albanians, who held a poor opinion of the Turks compared with themselves [1]. Albanians were becoming once more a threat to the Turkish empire, and the danger of a fresh collision with these hardy warriors could be seen yet again upon the distant horizon. At the same time there was rebel activity in



1. Leake, Travels, 3, pp. 256-257.





Serbia, Bosnia, Greece, and indeed even within the environs of Constantinople [1]. The state of affairs was further complicated by the dramatic events taking place in Serbia.



1. The Serbian revolt and its echoes in Greek lands, particularly in Macedonia



The Serbian revolt, the most notable event of the beginning of the 19th century in the Balkans, found an enthusiastic response throughout Greek lands, especially in Thessaly and Macedonia, the parts most contiguous to Serbian territory.



Fig. 183. The house of Georgakis at Livadi on Olympus, before it was burnt down by the Germans

Fig. 183. The house of Georgakis at Livadi on Olympus, before it was burnt down by the Germans.

(From the album «Γεωργάκης Ὀλύμπιος 1772-1821», Μ.Ε.Σ. Λαρίσης «Ἀριστοτέλης»)



Once they had definite information of the Serb revolt, the armatoli and klephts of Olympus, Vérmion, Piéria and Hásia took fresh heart and forgot their sufferings. Discounting the formidable power of Ali Pasha, they now began to make their own preparations for a general prising against their oppressors [2].


If one follows the activities of these armatoli and klephts during the latter years, it is not difficult to understand why the inhabitants



1. See Bartholdy, Voyage en Grèce, pp. 107-108.


2. Kasomoulis, Ἐνθυμήματα, vol. 1, p. 68.





of Thessalonica and the rest of Macedonia came to pin their entire hopes upon them [1], and how their fame reached as far as Southern Greece, whose inhabitants hymned the praise of their exploits [2].


According to the information given by Anastasios N. Goudas in his 'Παράλληλοι Bíoı' (Parallel Lives'), the 'klephtarmatolos' Georgakis of Livádi on Olympus (see fig. 183) had joined himself with the bond of fraternal comradeship to Velko Petrovitch, Karageorge's commander-in-chief, and led into Serbia a large number of Greeks (mostly from Macedonia) including Nikotsaras and Karatasos. Combining with the Serbs, they made a night attack upon a force of several thousand Turks under Topal Pasha and forced them to retreat. After this, Georgakis of Olympus stayed on with the Serbs while his fellow-commanders returned home.


Later on, in October 1803, Georgakis travelled to Bucharest and had talks with Constantine Hypsilantis, the ruler of Wallachia, about organizing a movement on similar lines to the one in Serbia. Some years later, Georgakis returned to Serbia to take part in the battle against the Turks under Çali Pasha on the banks of the Morava, at the point where the river leads past Jagatina towards Belgrade. Once again the Turks were forced to give way. In this battle Georgakis distinguished himself both by his courage and by his tactical ability. Quite some time later (in 1813) he took part in the Serbs' struggle with Hurshid Pasha [3].


Α characteristic song by an anonymous author of the period, and imitating the style of Regas Pheraios, is that entitled "Battle Song":


Brave Epirotes, men of Mani, Thessalians,

And from all the parts around, few or many,

And you Macedonians and with you men of the Morea,

Let us show the whole wide world

That we are the sons of Greeks,

Worthy of renown and of all honour!

Come on, and do not tarry! The time has come

To cover ourselves with glory and live a life of fame! [4]



1. Κασομούλης, Ἐνθυμήματα, Ibid., vol. 1, p. 141. See also p. 150. See too M. Raybaud, Mémoires sur la Grèce, Paris 1825, vol. 2, p. 33. G. Finlay, History of the Greek Revolution, Edinburgh-London 1861, vol. 1, p. 23.


2. See Raybaud, ibid., vol. 2, p. 33. F. C.-H.-L. Pouqueville, Histoire de la régénération de la Grèce, Paris 1824, vol. 3, p. 357.


3. See Ap. Vacalopoulos, Νέα στοιχεῖα γιὰ τὴν ἀπήχηση τῶν ἀπελευθερωτικῶν ᾶγώνων τῶν Σέρβων στοὺς Ἕλληνες καὶ γιὰ τὴν συμμετοχή τους σ᾽ αὐτούς, «Μακεδονικὰ» 7 (1966-67) 264-265, where the relevant bibliography is to be found.


4. L. I. Vranousis, Συμβολὴ στὴν ἔρευνα γιὰ τὰ τραγούδια τοῦ Ρήγα καὶ τῶν μιμητῶν του, μ᾽ ἕνα ἄγνωστο "Θούριον ᾄσμα", «Νέα Ἑστία» 44 (1948) 1233.





Α good number of orders issued by the Sultan and Pashas to Flórina, Monastir, Prilep and other towns, disclose repercussions of the Serbian revolt within Macedonia. They concern the concentration of men, taxes, oil, etc., with a view to meeting the needs of the Turkish troops [1]. The year 1806 began with the threat of fresh insurrections on a wider front, and with new fears about the Greek population of Macedonia. On this subject Clairambaut, the French consul in Thessalonica, in an unpublished report to Talleyrand, dated 25th April 1806, writes: "The Greeks of Sérres and its surrounding districts have been disarmed and we are expecting similar instructions to reach hither. It is certain that the Turks are furious against the Greeks on account of their communications with the Serbs. I should not be surprised if some fearful disaster were to befall this race" [2]. In another report, dated 24 May, he writes: "The pashas of all these districts are on the march at the head of considerable forces. It is reported that their orders are to march against Bosnia. In the meantime bandits are devastating the area, stopping travellers and murdering them on the high roads. No one can go three leagues distant from the city without trepidation and the taking of numerous precautions... Our trade in Thessalonica simply does not exist; and the Greeks operate only a small number of ships, and even in this they exhibit considerable fears" [3].


In the North Aegean certain suspicious activity was to be observed: the Russian consul, Nedova, was on a visit to the Holy Mountain; an unknown vessel was sailing along the coast near the Monastery of Ivéron; at the celebration of the 15 August (the Dormition of the Virgin) at Karyés there was an undisguised attempt to recruit sailors. All these indications, although obscured by a veil of secrecy, no doubt took place with the consent of the Athos monks. But the Turks, scenting that something was afoot, sent an official (the vezir's cohadar), to the spot. The latter was, however, bribed and held his tongue [4]. Suspicious movements continued on Mount Athos: the unloading of military supplies and the provisioning of ships by all ten monasteries of the southern coast. And all the time the anxiety of the Porte grew, as did no less the fears of the Athos monks [5].



1. Turkish Documents, 2 (1803-1805) 88 ff. See also vol. 3, pp. 6 ff.


2. Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Correspondance Consulaire, Salonique, t. 15 bis (1795-1809) 312a.


3. Ibid., p. 314b.


4. Alex. Lavriotis, Τὸ Ἅγιον Ὄρος, ΕΕΒΣ 32 (1963) 170.


5. Ibid., p. 171.





With the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish war in December 1806, the situation worsened. There was created immediately an area eminently favourable to these pirate-klephts who had long been operating in the vicinity of Mount Athos, men like Vergos, Charisis, and others. The Russian fleet was now in action in the Northern Aegean, while the Turks took their measures to ensure a stricter watch on the indented shores of Chalcidice [1]. An encounter took place between squadrons of the Russian and Turkish fleets, which terminated in the defeat of the latter and the burning of three Turkish vessels at the head of Athos Bay, opposite Ouranoúpolis [2]. The Turks dispatched new officials to Mount Athos to make fresh inquiries and run to earth a possible implication of the Athos monks. Once again bribery took place and the evidences of guild were covered over. The Greek pirates were now in action and cooperating again with the Russian fleet [3]. One of these, the famous Nikotsaras, was operating around Mount Athos, though only for a short period.


Fearing their involvement in possible hostile activities, Ali Pasha divested of their authority the armatoli of Ágrapha and Kárleli. But Katsantonis and Kitsos Botsaris, at the head of 500 men, made an inroad as far as Klinovó in Western Greece proper and defeated a force of 5.000 Albanians (Kasomoulis has perhaps exaggerated the figures in his 'Military Memoirs'). At the same time, the armatoli and klephts of Olympus, with Nikotsaras at their head, dislodged the Albanian derven ağas (guardians of the passes) from their mountain positions. However, the news of a truce between Russians and Turks and an order from the Russian command for the ceasing of all hostile activity favoured Ali Pasha, who now set his mind upon the destruction of the Greek forces. He had little success, however; and while Katsantonis and Botsaris, in action again in Akarnania, routed everywhere the derven ağas and the Albanian troops, the klephts of Olympus reverted to piracy in the Aegean [4].



1. Alex. Lavriotis, Τὸ  Ἅγιον Ὄρος, p. 171.


2. Ε. V. Tarle, Three Expeditions of the Russian Fleet (in Russian), Moscow 1956, pp. 386-400. See also Alex. Lavriotis, ibid., p. 172.


3. Alex. Lavriotis, ibid., pp. 172-173.


4. See Ap. Vacalopoulos, Νέα στοιχεῖα γιὰ τὰ ἑλληνικὰ ἀρματολίκια καὶ γιὰ τὴν ἐπανάσταση τοῦ Θνμιου Μπλαχάβα στὴ Θεσσαλία στὰ 1808, ΕΕΦΣΠΘ 9 (1965) 245, where relevant bibliography may be found.


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