Macedonia: The Inexperience of the Greek Revolution

The Greek Revolution for independence started in the 25th March 1821. After almost 400 years of Ottoman dominion, many revolts broke out in several regions, seeking to re-establish the Greek identity and sovereignty. In this series of articles, after a careful introduction about the political situation in Europe and Greece at the time, we will focus on the events which took place in EpirusPeloponneseAttica, and Macedonia.

The Greek Revolution found very inexperienced leaders in the region of Macedonia. The Greek population of Macedonia participated in the war of independence but Constantinople (which was the center of the Turkish army), was close and it did not result in success. 

The leader of the revolution in Macedonia was Emmanouel Pappas from the village of Dobista (Serres). Pappas was a member of the Filiki Eteria and offered a great amount of funding from his personal wealth to the cause, though he wasn’t a military expert. At that moment, the economic improvement of Thessaloniki and of the other urban areas of Macedonia took place simultaniously with a cultural and political renaissance of the Greek identity. The ideals and patriotic songs made an impression upon the Thessalonians and somehow it “exalted their spirits”.

Following the instructions of Alexander Ypsilantis, which was to prepare the ground and to incite the inhabitants of Macedonia for rebelling, Pappas loaded arms and munitions from Constantinople on a ship on the 23th March. He then proceeded to Mount Athos, considering that this would be the most suitable starting point for the insurrection. However, “adequate preparations for rebellion had not been made, nor were revolutionary ideals to be reconciled with the ideological world of the monks within the Athonite regime”. As mentioned before, Pappas lacked military background and experience, which could also represent an inconvenience.

Emmanuel Pappas, Drawing by the sculptor K. Palaiologos. (Macedonian Heritage)

On the 8th of May, the Turks, infuriated by the landing of sailors from Psara (a Greek island) at Tsayezi (Serres), by the capture of Turkish merchants and the seizure of their goods, rampaged through the streets of Serres, searched the houses of the notables for arms, imprisoned the Metropolitan and 150 merchants, and seized their goods.

In Thessaloniki, governor Yusuf Bey, the son of Ismail Bey, imprisoned in his headquarters more than 400 hostages, of whom more than 100 were monks from the monastic estates. In May 1821,Yusuf Bey ordered his men to kill any Greeks in Thessaloniki they found in the streets. Haïroullah Effendi reported that “for days and nights the air was filled with shouts, wails, screams”. It would take until the end of the century for the city’s Greek community to recover

What happened in Olympos and Vermion?

The revolt spread from Central to Western Macedonia, from Olympus to Pieria and Vermion. In the autumn of 1821, Nikolaos Kasomoulis was sent to southern Greece as the representative of South-East Macedonia, and met Demetrius Ypsilantis. He then wrote to Pappas from Hydra, asking him to visit Olympus to meet the captains there and to “fire them with the required patriotic enthusiasm”.

With the exception of the area around Mount Olympos, where the armed leaders had experience in uprisings, western Macedonia did not possess the power and necessary supplies that would have assured a successful revolution.

The Greek War of Independence in Macedonia
Map showing the battles of the Greek War of Independence in Macedonia, 1821-1822. Credits: Macedonian Heritage

The efforts of Nikolaos Kasomoulis, the local leader and a member of the Philiki Etaireia, to find help were of little consequence. The armatoli ( Greeks who discharged certain military and police duties under Ottoman authority in districts) of Olympos, with no organization, along with a force which had finally arrived from southern Greece, fought for a mere few weeks, from late March to early April 1822.

Shortly afterwards, they joined up with the Greek revolutionaries who had already mounted an uprising in Naousa, having taken up battle positions on the19th of February. Despite the reserves of arms and ammunition and the efforts of the Naousan notable Zafyrakis Theodosiou and the kapetans Tasos Karatasos and Angelis Gatsos, Naousa was captured on the 13th of April by Mehmed Emin Pasha. Two thousand Christians were slaughtered, and most of the surviving rebel leaders left to continue the fight in southern Greece.

What happened in Halkidiki?

The operations of the Greek revolutionaries in Halkidiki didn’t last more than one month and, again, the lack of experience was a crutial problem, in addition to the fact that there was not a surprise element. Pappas had the support of the monks of Athos and the inhabitants of Kassandra, Polygyros and the Mademohoria. But the difficulty was that the element of surprise had been completely lost, because the operations started in May, nearly two months after the revolution started in the Peloponnese (on the 25th of March 1821).

By early June the rebels reached the outskirts of Thessaloniki. Their triumph was brief, because they had to resist and contend with the army commanded by Bayram Pasha (and, later, with the forces of Mehmed Emin Pasha). They did not have support from the leaders of Olympos and western Macedonia.

The advance turned into retreats and was squashed with the Kassandra disaster (October 1821), with a decisive Ottoman victory. The survivors, among them Pappas, were rescued by the Psarian fleet, which took them mainly to Skiathos, Skopelos and Skyros. However, Pappas died en route to join the revolution at Hydra. His defeat, along with the repression of Karatassos’ revolution in Naousa in April, 1822 marked the end of the Greek war of independence in North Greece.

Post Author: Laura Andres Tallarda

Hello! I am Laura, a 27 years old journalist from Barcelona. I am addicted to chocolate and to travel. I have lived in Belgium and Canada, but I am allergic to umbrellas. I came to Greece looking for the sun and, above all, to discover hidden stories that still have not been told.

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