Charles Ogle (1851–1878) – English journalist and great philhellene

The SHP honors the memory of a great English philhellene, a journalist and report of the London Times, who was murdered by the Turks in Makrinitsa, during the revolution in Pelion in 1878. It was the first recorded death of a journalist – war correspondent in Greece.

Charles Chaloner Ogle (Charles Ogle), was born in 1851, in London of a wealthy family. He studied architecture at the University of London and worked with the famous architect Frederick William Roper. In addition to his profession, he developed remarkable writing / journalistic skills in collaboration with the “Builder” magazine and subsequently with the Times. In 1876 he asked to travel to the Balkans and soon became an official correspondent for the acclaimed British newspaper. His mandate started with an important mission in Serbia, where he covered the Serb-Turkish war; then he moved to Greece.

A copy of the Times in 1878

Charles Ogle had already become famous as a journalist. At the same time, he did not hesitate to express his philhellenic feelings and his love for Greece. In Athens, he collaborated with the famous architect Ziller, while also teaching English language classes for free. He was distinguished for his philhellenism and was honored by King George I with the medal of the Cross of the Savior.

In his capacity of the official Times correspondent, he also covered subjects related to Greece, notably in Crete and Thessaly, which were claiming their independence. He was known for the intense philhellenic character of his texts which had a great influence on the public opinion in Europe.

As of 1876, preparations for a liberation struggle had begun in Pelion. On 15 January 1878, the Greeks of Pelion declared their opposition to the Ottoman occupation, they set up the Provisional Government of Pelion and decided to fight for the independence of Thessaly and its union with Greece.

A large force of regular Turkish army under Recep Pasha rushed into the area, accompanied by hordes of irregular soldiers of Ammu Bey. Various battles took place, followed by a terrible slaughter of the population by the Turks.

Charles Ogle was only 25 years old at the time. He arrived in Pelion immediately to cover the battles under his capacity of journalist accredited by the Times.

The first major battle took place on 6 February 1878 in Makrinitsa and lasted three days. The Greeks were defeated and the Turks committed atrocities with many victims from the civilian population, even children. On 10 February 1878, a few days after the battle of Makrinitsa, the Turks assassinated a big number of inhabitants of the village of Vourgarini. Their corpses were burned and dismembered in an attempt to keep the crime secret. After an investigation, Charles Ogle found traces of the carcasses, and informed with a correspondence to the Times the public opinion about this horrible slaughter.

Makrinitsa in Pelion

Charles Ogle then went to Makrinitsa where he helped the local population in every possible way. He even commissioned 30 workers to build trenches covering the expenses on his own, to strengthen the Greek defense positions, and remained there until 17 March 1878, where he found a horrible death during the second Battle of Makrinitsa.

After the end of the battle many European diplomates visited Pelion to investigate the situation and to stop the massacres. The investigation revealed, among others, that Charles Ogle had been murdered by Turkish soldiers. At first the Turks hid his corpse, but his passport was found in the hands of a Turkish soldier, while another Turkish soldier was selling Charles Ogle’s clothes.

Finally, the corpse of this noble English journalist and great philhellene, was found headless. Doctors of an English and an Italian ship, carried out an autopsy and placed the corpse in a case to be transported to Athens by steamer for burial. The European consulates found though their interrogations in Pelion, as it was reported newspapers, that Charles Ogle was murdered after the end of the battle. A woman and a child who saw the scene of the murder testified that after the murder, Turkish soldiers cut off the head of the English correspondent, nailed it to a spear and paraded showing it around and shouting.

His body was transported to Piraeus from Volos by the English warship “Wizard”. Women from Volos had embroidered a textile, which was place in the coffin, bearing the following in ancient Greek:

«Ου σκεπάζεται αρετή σου, ουδ’ επίβουλος σφαγή σου, Ογλ φιλελεύθερε».

The news reached Athens, shocking the population. Charles Ogle’s death caused an unprecedented thrill. The merchants of Athens prepared a wreath with a tape bearing an inscription:

«Έκπρεπέ εν Βρετανοίς Κάρολον πολυδάκρυτον Ογλ Στίφεα κυκλώπων έκτανον ουχί οσίως Πηλίου εν κλιτύσιν κηρός μεμαώτα μελαίνης γης εξαρπάζειν Θεσσαλίης τέκεα».

Charles Ogle’s funeral took place on 29 March 1878 at the church of St. Dionysius, in the presence of the Catholic Archbishop. Many officials and people attended the ceremony.

The announcement of Charles Ogle’s Funeral

The funeral speeches were delivered at the cemetery by the Greek journalist and politician Timoleon Philemon and the French ambassador in Athens. Charles Ogle was buried next to the tomb of Admiral Kanaris, a hero of the Greek War of independence.

Charles Ogle’s family sent a telegram to the Greek Prime Minister Alexandros Koumoundouros, thanking the Greek government, and MP Harilaos Trikoupis, who organized the burial of their son.

The name of the great English philhellene is given to a street in Volos.

A monument with a cenotaph was erected in Makrinitsa in the memory of the great English philhellene

Makrinitsa in Pelion

The sacrifice of Charles Ogle and of hundreds of Greeks in Pelion in 1878, was not in vain. A few years later, the Berlin Conference (March 1881) granted Thessaly and Epirus to Greece. In his work on the “History of the Greek Nation”, the reputable Greek historian Paparrigopoulos confirms that this was achieved thanks to the efforts of England, and in particular of its Philhellene Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (1809–1898).

United Kingdom’s Prime Minister and great Philhellene, William Ewart Gladstone (1809–1898)

Gladstone expressed in public, after the expansion of the borders of Greece into Thessaly and Arta, the great joy he felt when Thessaly united with mother Greece.

His words are written in golden letters on the base of his statute, placed in front of the University of Athens, as an expression of honor and gratitude to this great Philhellene.

Le général Maison accepte la reddition des châteaux de Morée en 1828

Auteur: Anastasia Tsagkaraki

Lorsqu’en 1821 la révolution hellénique éclata, elle donna l’impression d’avoir été planifiée depuis longtemps et de répondre aux vœux de l’opinion publique européenne. Déjà, depuis l’époque où les premiers voyageurs européens commencèrent à visiter la Grèce, à la fin du XVIIIe siècle, le pays faisait partie de l’Empire ottoman, à l’Orient exotique. Pourtant, dans leur conscience, ces voyageurs n’identifiaient jamais la Grèce à l’Empire. Les Grecs se distinguaient de leurs conquérants turcs par leur langue, leur religion, mais principalement par leur héritage classique. Arrivant en Grèce, ils avaient l’impression d’arriver dans un pays familier. Par conséquent, dans leurs journaux personnels, rédigés avant l’éclatement de la révolution, ils se mettent en quête d’une vision de la Grèce antique par l’intermédiaire des ruines et cherchent systématiquement à associer les idéaux classiques et sublimes avec la réalité déchirante et décevante de la Grèce sous le joug ottoman. La littérature française reflète de manière éloquente la déception des voyageurs de l’époque, au moment de leur rencontre avec la misère qui démentait l’image idéale qu’ils avaient cultivée, basée sur leurs connaissances classiques ; la passion de ces admirateurs illuminés de l’Antiquité de revoir la Grèce « comme elle devait être » constitua la base du mouvement philhellenique de la fin du XVIIIe siècle.

Vous pouvez lire l’article ici.

This essay first appear in Athens Insider (Spring 2019). Republished in EEF with the author’s permission.

My father loved fine tools. Like many of the thousands of books on his shelves, his lathe and his Uzi were more a projection of the resourceful adventurer he dreamed of being than an accurate reflection of the life he led. When I started work on ToposText, I was making a tool for a person I wanted to be, a man who died in 1860 without ever owning a smart phone.

I am not the only diplomat who would rather have been Colonel William Leake of the Royal Artillery and Royal Society. The mission Leake accepted as a classically trained young artillery officer was to keep Napoleon off the Greek mainland by helping the Ottoman Empire defend itself. A keen military eye, material inducements to lubricate his welcome, and insatiable curiosity made Leake a highly effective diplomat to Ali of Tepelenë, the Sultan’s shrewd, unquiet pasha in northwest Greece.

Leake’s orders took for granted he would be out of contact with his superiors for months at a time, with war (or peace) breaking out unpredictably. As a U.S. embassy political officer two centuries later, I envied Leake’s long leash. But I envied more the uncharted territory it was his gift to explore:

“Tenth.—In pursuit of the same objects, you will pay particular attention to the general geography of Greece, with a view to acquire for the British Government and nation a more accurate knowledge than has yet been attained, of this important and interesting country.”

We can read the results of Leake’s archaeological curiosity in the thick books he wrote over the next forty years. The rigors of travel on horseback, with uneducated local guides, suspicious Albanian minders, lice, mud, river crossings, and diplomatic crises, survive as remarks in passing; what interested him instead was piecing together a jigsaw puzzle of ancient texts, fragmentary inscriptions, collapsed walls, corroded coins, and broken rooftiles into an accurate map of the Classical Greece he admired. He saw that record as the best gift he could offer the young Greek state, whose glorious past was its only diplomatic asset.

Like Leake (and more diplomats than you might expect) I am an introvert. We distract the hungry bats at the back of our soul by solving puzzles, and the most glorious puzzle imaginable is an unfamiliar landscape to decipher.

I had the good fortune to serve in Armenia in 1997-99. Our diplomatic mission, of brokering peace, reforming the economy, and democratizing the warlords, would have cost far more than America was prepared to spend. So on weekends I ventured out in search of megaliths and medieval monasteries. Maps were deliberately vague, and no English guidebook was in print, but the State Department had taught me Armenian. I scrounged books from the flea market and scanned Soviet military maps, then put my travel notes on line. “Rediscovering Armenia” became a small service to a country we wanted to help, emboldening Yerevan-bound expatriates and tourists to spend time and money exploring a beautiful, little-known country.

But ancient Greece was my first love. I came to Athens as an archaeology student in 1979 and was seduced. Every inch of the Greek landscape has a myth attached, or a battle, or has been sculpted into its characteristic beauty by the sweat and tears of a hundred generations. Unlike most societies, the ancient Greeks wrote down their tragedies as they happened, and we can still read some of them.

My dream of reading ancient texts in their proper setting became possible after 2012 thanks to new technology, digital maps, and selfless scholars who put the key ancient texts online. I was lucky to find an idealistic tech company, PAVLA A.E., that shared my dream, and ultimately the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation stepped in to make ToposText a traveler’s tool we could give away for free.

The nymphs may indeed have departed; certainly the ancient coins and inscriptions Leake was shown in every village have been gathered up and locked away. But the riddle of an ancient landscape remains fresh in Greece for each person who sets out to solve it. By arming visitors with ToposText, even if only to signal the existence of a ruined 4th century BC tower atop the viperous hillside behind their beach recliner, I hope to encourage them to experience a flicker of the joy Leake felt and I still feel at each encounter with antiquity.

Leake’s decoding of the Greek landscape was an amazing accomplishment. Had he been armed with ToposText’s searchable library of ancient texts and maps, research that took him a lifetime could have been carried out then and there, riding his horse amid the eloquently tumbled stones.

A more mundane use for ToposText will be by a generation too poor to buy the classics library Leake’s state pension afforded. Students can pull up in real time the paragraph their teachers are quoting, make Xenophon’s Anabasis more intelligible by following the Ten Thousand on the built-in map, or amuse themselves with 124 mentions of cats in 30 ancient texts.

The tool does not make the user. When my Snap-On socket wrenches, a Christmas gift from my father, were stolen in the port of Casablanca in 1985, I never replaced them because my skills as a mechanic did not justify such heavy, expensive beauties. My father’s Uzi, still virginal, went to the police station when he died.

Nevertheless, in creating ToposText as a free, weightless accessory, I was asserting my faith that an ancient tradition of curious travelers is still alive. People with the right tools in their pocket can become, for a few hours on a Mediterranean hillside, the resourceful adventurers they would like to be admiring in the mirror.

John Brady Kiesling

Athens, Greece

From the end of the 18th century, the Greek struggle for statehood found allies in a classically educated liberal elite in Europe and the United States. When Europeans visited Greece on the grand tour, they brought Homer or Herodotus or Pausanias with them. The Greek landscape, seductive always, was irresistible when connected with so rich a history and mythology. And crucially, back home in Europe, Periclean Athens was a powerful argument in their domestic political struggle against autocratic regimes.

Philhellenism proved a precious resource. The military impact of the philhellenes in the Greek War of Independence was small, but the debt modern Europe felt to Thucydides, Euripides, Plato, and Demosthenes was crucial in the gradual shift of the Great Powers away from anti-revolutionary hostility and toward active financial and ultimately military support for a reborn Greece. Even in the 21st century, Greece still derives enormous diplomatic and economic benefit from the philhellenism any broad liberal education encourages.

ToposText is a tool for keeping that tradition alive. It is a free mobile application (iPhone and Android) and website whose purpose is to allow any user to find the connections between the Greek landscape and the ancient authors that give that landscape its special magic.

ToposText is first and foremost a library of ancient literature in English translation, 750 works, about 20 million words, including all the important works that survive of Greek and Roman historians, geographers, mythographers, poets, and naturalists, but including many minor texts, even inscriptions, when they illuminate some place or idea. Some works are translated into English for the first time. In its size and scope, the ToposText library is unique. Almost every paragraph has a link to the ancient Greek or Latin original, and an accurate or approximate date for the events described.

Second, ToposText is a digital map, highly detailed and accurate for Greece, reasonably complete for Sicily, Cyprus, and the west coast of Turkey, sketchier for the rest of the ancient world, showing ancient cities, sanctuaries, mountains, rivers, fortresses, and other sites that left a trace in ancient literature. A tap on the map will zoom in to show the ancient places nearby. Tapping on the icon will summon up a list of every literary mention of a given place. Tapping on the extract will bring up the full text.

ToposText is also an index of more than 10000 proper names, a way to find every literary mention of a given historical or mythological figure. The search lists, of places, people, and texts, can be filtered or sorted by author, genre, language, or date, to focus on whatever is of particular interest.

Underlying ToposText is the belief that primary sources, the actual words of ancient authors, offer insights that guidebooks and Wikipedia do not. A unique feature of the website, designed for students and scholars, is a search tool that looks for any two words or phrases near each other in the ToposText library. Look for “Pericles” and “Aspasia” and discover what the ancient sources tell us about their relationship.

In creating ToposText as a free, weightless accessory, John Brady Kiesling was asserting his faith that an ancient tradition of curious travelers is still alive. People with the right tools in their pocket can become resourceful philhellenic adventurers, embracing the ancient Greek landscape along with its modern overlays. Such travelers become and remain the truest friends of Greece.


Subject of an article published in VOLTA magazine:

“Philhellenism in France and its influence on music and the arts during the Revolution of 1821”

Read the post


SHP pays homage to Clement Hugh Gilbert Harris (8 July 1871 – 23 April 1897), who fought like a hero and died for the independence of Greece in the Greco-Turkish War of 1897. Clement Harris was a wealthy and charismatic English pianist and composer.

He was born in London (Wimbledon) and educated at Harrow School. Then he studied music in Germany (Frankfurt), where he was a pupil of Clara Schumann (wife of composer Robert Schumann). He was a friend of Oscar Wilde and Siegfried Wagner (son of the famous composer Richard Wagner and grandson of pianist / composer Franz Liszt), who decided to choose a composing and conducting career, thanks to Harris encouragement.

During a voyage in Asia, Harris sketched “Paradise Lost” after Milton, his most important symphonic poem. The work was completed in 1895 and performed that year in Bad Homburg, Germany, in the presence of the Prince of Wales, the King of Belgium, and various Grand Dukes and Duchesses. The English premiere took place in 1905 in Birmingham Town Hall, eight years after Harris’s death.

Clement Harris was an enthusiastic admirer of Greek culture. He travelled to Greece and studied Greek during 1896 in Corfu. Then, at the outbreak of the Greco-Turkish war of 1897, he organized a battalion of mercenaries to fight for the independence of Greece. He went to the mainland with the prosecutor of Corfu, Kyrgousios, in a boat full of ammunition intended for the front in Epirus. The ship anchored about two kilometers before the Turkish-occupied border and Harris went to Arta, where he shouted proud: “Anglos Philhellen! (Englishman, philhellen!), when he entered the Greek army camp being cheered with enthusiasm by the crowd.

On 5 April 1897, Harris declared: “I act, of course, out of free choice. No one has persuaded me to put my life at the service of the Greeks; rather, well-intentioned friends have hindered me from doing my bid so far […]. The step I take may seem like an act of madness to many. For me, who has thoroughly considered the matter, this is the least that a man of honor can do for a country calling for freedom in the name of the cross, and in turn insulted and hindered by each of the so-called civilized powers”.

The Greek poet Lorenzo Mavilis became a friend of Clement Harris.

During his presence in Greece, Harris wrote to his mother, Elizabeth Rachel Harris: “Dear mother! I am now completely in my element, far from all the futile obligations of modern society, and enjoy it to the fullest.”.

In one of his letters to Siegfried Wagner’s half-sister Daniela Thode, he wrote on 9 April 1897 the following: “Who knows if we will ever meet again. I do not want to trade with anything in the world, though I’m well aware of the local dangers. I only hope that the Greeks will win the war, which now seems unavoidable, and if I do not come back, at least you will know that I gave my life for the freedom of a people to whom I have learned to pay my admiration and that I, like children who, over time, become noble and great men and, worthy heirs of their historical ancestors, will honor the country.”

He was killed in action on 23 April 1897 at the age of 25.

Harris’ unit was approached by Turkish troops, who presented themselves insidiously as Greek Epirotes, saluting and greeting Harris’ soldiers and comrades. The Turks entered the camp, they took Harris’ unit by surprise and opened fire against them, starting the battle of Pente Pigadia in Epirus (Five Wells). Harris organized the defense of the unit and fought as a hero. Although he was wounded early in the day, Harris refused to leave his post, even when many of his fellow officers and soldiers started withdrawing from their positions. He stayed there and died in action, setting an example of heroism.

He was buried in the graveyard of the Anglican Church of St. Paul’s in Athens. A plaque at the church commemorates Clement Harris.

One of the last photos of Clement Harris before his death.

Harris’ family discovered all this much later. The London Times reported on 22 May 1897: “The relatives of Mr. Clement Harris, who was wounded in battle with the Greek troops in Epirus, have received authentic news of his death on 23 April at Pente Pigadia.”.

SHP has in its collection a letter sent by a Harris’ brother from Athens, to inform friends in England about Clement’s death and the erection of a commemoration plaque at St Paul in Athens.

Harris (Walter B.) Autograph Letter signed to “Dear M.r Bowen”, 3pp., folio, Athens, 28 December 1900, “I am writing to tell you of a ceremony which took place here today, & which I cannot but feel may be of interest to Harrovians. It was the dedication, in the English church, of the tablet that has been erected to the memory of my brother Clement, who … was killed at Pente Pigadia on April 23rd 1897, fighting for the cause of Greece”.

Harris’s death was commemorated by the poet Stefan George in the poem ‘Pente Pigadia’ in his collection Der siebente Ring (The Seventh Ring). Stefan George (1868-1933), was an influential German poet, editor and translator.

During his life, Clement Harris, composed remarkable pieces for piano, including Il pensieroso and L’Allegro after Milton, romances for violin and piano and clarinet, cello and piano, and songs.

Greece honored Clement Harris memory in many ways. Decades after his death postcards with the portrait of Clement Harris were published. Harris’s symphonic poem “Paradise Lost” was performed on numerous occasions in Greece. It was first performed in 1937 in the ancient Odeion in Athens. Lately it was performed in 1999, in the Megaron Mousikis in Athens with the Orchestra Chromaton under Miltos Logiadis.

You may listen to a performance of Paradise Lost here.

Harris’ diaries were published in German by the Stefan George scholar Claus Bock.

We quote from his diary the following passage:

“Die meisten freien Nachmittage verbrachte ich in der Bibliothek. Ein anderer Lieblingsaufenthalt war der Kirchhof. Ich mag mich besinnen, wie ich einmal auf dem-selben Stein, auf dem schon Byron ge¬sessen und geträumt hatte, Tränen der Schwermut vergoss und wie dabei im Herzen die Sehnsucht erwachte, auch mein Name möge meinem Vaterland dereinst Ruhm und Ehre erwerben.“

(Free translation: “Most of the free afternoons I spent in the library. Another favorite stay was the cemetery. I recall that I once shed tears of melancholy on the same stone on which Byron had sat and dreamed, and how in my heart longing awoke, also my name may one day acquire fame and glory for my country.”)

In 1922–23 Siegfried Wagner composed the symphonic poem Glück as a memorial to Harris.

You may listen to a performance of Glück here.

Siegfried Wagner: Glück (dedicated to the memory of Clement Harris)