The Italian Philhellenic Society (Società Filellenica Italiana) organizes an international conference, ‘’Dante e la Grecia’’, in collaboration with organizations and institutions from Greece, Cyprus and Italy. The conference is chaired by Professor Carlo Ossola and a Scientific Committee.

The project ‘’Dante e la Grecia’’ aims to highlight the relevance of Dante Alighieri with the ancient and modern Greek culture.

The conference will take place between 27.09.2021 and 11.11.2021 in Nicosia, Athens, Bari, Salerno and Milan.

You may find below information on the conference :


The conference will end on November 20, 2021, at the tomb of Dante in Ravenna with the recitation of the poet’s lyrics in Greek.

You may find information and follow the speeches of the conference using the following addresses:


SHP and the Philhellenism Museum, express their deepest sorrow for the loss of the great Philhellene archaeologist Stefanos Miller, to whom the State honorably granted Greek citizenship in 2005. Miller has discovered with his work since the early 1970s, important antiquities in Nemea, he educated many generations of students from all over the world, and deeply loved the culture of ancient and modern Greece.

We pay tribute to a great Philhellene and an emblematic personality.


Anton Prokesch von Osten


Austrian philhellenism during the 18th and 19th centuries has not been extensively researched so far. It is not widely known, that although the Austrian government took in 1821 a negative stance towards Greek revolutionaries, numerous Austrian Philhellenes supported the Greek cause, and volunteers came to fight in Greece.

During the 18th and 19th centuries Greeks and Austrians coexisted harmoniously in Vienna. Much earlier, in the 17th century, the Greek diplomat Nikolaos Spatharis Milescu had helped the Austrians defend Vienna against the Ottomans, by informing them of the enemy’s war plans. After the peace treaties of Karlovic (1699) and Passarovic (1718), Vienna developed into an important commercial center, where Greeks flocked mainly from Epirus, Macedonia and Thessaly.

Famous Greek benefactors from the Greek community in Vienna supported both Greece and Austria. During the Napoleonic wars, George Sinas, the Greek General Consul in Vienna after 1833, supported the Austrian government financially. Johann Strauss composed his masterpiece Blue Danube in the house of the Greek Nikos Doumbas. Another known fact is that the famous conductor Herbert von Karajan comes from the Greek family Karagiannis. Many streets of the Austrian capital honor the presence of Greeks in the city.

Due to this Greek presence, Vienna was developed into a place of preparation for the Greek war of independence. Greek Enlighteners, such as Rigas Feraios, Theoklitos Farmakidis, Iosipos Moisiodakas or Neophytos Doukas, lived and worked there. In 1815, the later governor of Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias, along with the Archbishop Ignatios, Anthimos Gazis and Roxandra Stourtza, founded the philhellenic Philomuse Society in Vienna which favoured the uprising of the Greeks.

Metternich´s police closely monitored every publication, thus targeting any reference to revolutions, liberal ideas and the Greek question. Although the government was negative, many Austrians expressed sympathy for the Greeks.

Between 1780 and 1790, Vienna was already the center of the publishing production in the Greek language. Greek and Austrian publishers publish works with a patriotic content. The Austrian publishers Thomas Trattner and Joseph Baumeister publish works by Greek enlighteners.

Joseph Franz Hall, a person who had received a Greek-centered education, was appointed as an official book censor. In parallel, he was publishing two newspapers with philhellenic content: The News in the East, and The Hellenic Telegraph. Because of his philhellenic stance, he was under the risk to see his newspaper closed. Another Austrian Book censor, Bartholomäus Kopitar, tried his best to avoid censoring Greek works with revolutionary messages, by hiding the name of the publisher and the place of publication of some works. Together with the Austrian Hellenist, Franz Karl Alter, they strengthened the interest in the Greek language and the Greek culture in Vienna. In fact, Alter did not hesitate to publish many philhellenic articles in the magazine Allgemeiner Litterarischer Anzeiger (1796-1801).

Apart from philhellenic articles, philhellenic poetry also appeared. For instance, count Anton Alexander von Auersberg, signed an Ode to the death of Ypsilantis under the pseudonym Anastasius Grün. In Berlin, the Austrian-born Moritz Gottlieb Saphir, a satirical author and journalist, published four volumes under the title Griechisches Feuer auf dem Altar edler Frauen […] (1826), in which philhellenic poems by Müller, Stieglitz, Fouqué and others were published for the first time. Christian Freiherr von Zedlitz, who translated Lord Byron´s works, also wrote some philhellenic poetry.

The restless spirits of the time, the European Youth which suffocated in the Europe of the Holy Alliance, people with a liberal mind, and veterans of the Napoleonic wars, were not only moved by the Greek cause, but volunteered to fight in Greece for its Freedom. The Philhellenes came from different countries of Europe. Until recently they have fought against each other on the battlefield; yet now in Greece they allied for a common cause, fighting against a common enemy, under a common flag. The seed for the later birth of a united Europe was planted during these years, in these battlefields.

The Philhellenes often traveled to Greece through Marseille and Livorno, as the ports of Trieste and Venice were under strict control by the police. Despite the negative circumstances, we know the names of fifteen Austrian volunteers who came to fight in Greece.

The first Austrian volunteer who participated in the Greek revolution was Brazky, from Siebenbürgen in Transylvania. He was a retired captain of the Austrian Army, who joined the forces of Alexander Ypsilantes in March 1821.

Three members of the German Legion, Baumgarten from Vienna, Ignaz Schömbach and Miowilowitsch, participated in the famous Battle of Peta in July 1822. Another member of the German Legion, the Viennese J. Schönsel, was also probably there.

Four Austrians died for Greece´s liberation from the Turkish yoke. Count Anton von Pecorara, who fought in Charles Fabvier´s regular Army in Greece, fell heroically at the Battle of Haidari in August 1826. The Austrian Philhellene Geoffroy Resinilt died in Salamina in August 1823. The Viennese Philhellene Friedrich Beo died in Amfissa in September of the same year. Nussbaum, a student of the Austrian Artillery School, died in Tripoli in the summer of 1825.

Other Austrian Philhellenes were more fortunate and survived the war.

For example, the Philhellene Ernst Mangel, who in 1822 or 1824, came with his son, Michael, to Greece. He took part in many battles and was wounded many times. He organized the first Greek military band, to animate Greeks and Philhellenes before the battle. After the end of the revolution he lived in Athens, as his son Michael did, who was even honored with three medals for his outstanding deeds.

Count Ludovici Porro, an aristocrat with a classical education, from Milan (which was under Austrian control at that time), was placed as an officer in Fabvier’s regular army to manage its finances. The Austrian Philhellene Londonio fought in the Greek navy and participated in the campaign of Chios in December 1827. Another three names of Austrian Philhellenes are known, without more information about their actions in Greece: Cornero, Ivanowitsch and Lutek.

The Society for Hellenism and Philhellenism and the Philhellenism Museum have taken the initiative to erect a monument to the Philhellenes in front of the War Museum in Athens, on Vasilissis Sofias Street. The aforementioned names of the Austrian Philhellenes will be engraved on the marble of the monument, along with those of other known Philhellenes.

The Greek revolution was the only one among the revolutions in South Europe that was crowned with success. In fact, it led to the establishment of the modern Greek state. Austria recognized the Greek independence after April 1830, and developed diplomatic relations with the new state. The first Consul of Greece in Vienna was George Sinas in 1833. A year later, the ardent warm Philhellene, Count Anton Prokesch von Osten was appointed First Austrian Ambassador in Greece.

Prokesch von Osten first visited Greece in 1824 in order for him to be close to the revolution. He knew the Greek leaders and King Otto personally. From 1834 to 1849 he remained in Athens as the Ambassador of Austria. Prokesch wrote a six-volume History of the Greek Revolution, based on his experiences as a diplomat. The Society for Hellenism and Philhellenism, the Philhellenism Museum and the Ζωγράφειο School from Epirus, created, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Greek revolution, an honorary medal to pay tribute to Prokesch von Osten.

The Austrian – German Philhellene and diplomat, Georg Christian Gropius served as an Austrian Consul in Athens and Nafplio. From 1840 onwards he served as the General Consul of Austria in Athens. He participated in archeological excavations in Aegina and in Vasses Figalia. Like Prokesch, Gropius supported the Greek struggle for independence and was honored by the Greek state with the Greek Order of the Redeemer in gold.

This brief review of certain names indicates that contrary to the official policy of the Austrian empire towards the Greek revolution, several Austrians, military men, diplomats and even simple citizens, joined the Philhellenic movement of their time. The main reason was probably their classical education and admiration of the values of Greece, and their acquaintance with the Greek Expatriates. The liberal spirits of the time associated the Greek case with a “fair and legitimate struggle”. That is why many of them offered their support to Greece.

Austria and Greece are linked by ties of mutual friendship and respect for longer than the 200 years of existence of the modern Greek state. They are based on the common principles and the values of Greek culture and the western world, which go beyond the political choices of any specific historical period.

Thus, the two countries now cooperate side by side as allies and friends, within the framework of a United Europe, which largely owes its existence to the great legacy left by the European Philhellenes.

Professor Nikos Apostolidis, member of the Advisory Committee of SHP, talks about his important ancestor and his contribution to the Greek Revolution.



The Hungarian government recently erected a monument to Pay tribute to the fallen Hungarian Philhellenes in favor of the struggle for the independence of Greece, in the Municipality of Nikolaos Skoufas (Peta). At the same time, the Hungarian Parliament sent the national flag of the country to the Museum of Philhellenism in Athens.

The history of the two countries is of particular interest and has many coincidences.

Before referring to the Hungarian Philhellenism and its contribution to the Greek Revolution, it is important to recall the roots of the slogan of Alexander Ypsilantis, with which the Greek Revolution began.


This slogan has deep roots in Hungarian history.

The Hungarian Kingdom, after the beginning of the 16th century, was divided and politically unstable. It included the present-day Romania before its occupation under the Ottomans. In 1514 the revolt of György Dózsa took place in the area of ​​present-day Hungary. He was a Hungarian nobleman from Transylvania, similarly with his many of his haiduks (the haiduks were the “Thieves” of the Northern Balkans), who were mainly farmers and monks or priests. Their main purpose was to defend themselves against the Turks. At the same time, the uprising had social inspirations. In this context, the haiduks farmers were fighting for the first time with the slogan “for the Christian faith and for their country”.

In 1552, during the Turkish occupation of Timisoara in Romania, the leader of a Hungarian military corps led his fighters into a hopeless unequal battle. In order to encourage his warriors, he asked them to fight for a glorious death for their faith and homeland (pro fide, pro patria). The history of this war was written by the contemporary Hungarian Franz von Forgách-Ghymes (1530 – 1577).

In 1605, the Hungarian Haiduks of Transylvania revolted under the leadership of the Hungarian Prince Istvan Bocsksai against the Emperor of Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire, Rudolf II. In a letter, Bocskai explained that the uprising was in defense of the “ancient freedom of the nation and the faith” and that they wanted the progress of their homeland (patria) Transylvania, which they considered “the light of the nation”. The same is explained by two other Hungarian chieftains of the Haiduks in their own letter:

“We rebelled and took up arms for the Christian religion, and for the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and our sweetest homeland”.

In 1703-1711 the revolt of the Hungarian Francis (Ferenc) Rákóczi II (1676 – 1735) against the Austrians took place. The slogan was “with God for the homeland and freedom”. This uprising resulted in the provisional independence of Hungary and Transylvania. Armed forces from various ethnic groups in the Northern Balkans and Eastern Europe also fought with Rákóczi’s army.

A series of moving historical coincidences link the national hero of Hungary Rákóczi with Alexander Ypsilantis:

(a) The first lived his childhood in the castle of Mugats (today’s Western Ukraine) and later fought for it. Ypsilantis was imprisoned in the same castle and lived there the last years of his life.

(b) They both adopted the same slogan. FIGHT FOR FAITH AND HOMELAND.

(c) Rákóczi left Austria-Hungary after being defeated. In 1717 he went to the Ottoman Empire. The following year Austria and the Ottoman Empire signed the Treaty of Pasarovic, under which the Austrians asked the sultan to extradite Rákóczi. The sultan refused Austrian’s request. The same happened in reverse, when Ypsilantis went/fled in Austrian territory and under the same treaty, the Turks asked to hand Rákóczi over to them. The incident with the Hungarian revolutionary was the excuse for Austria not to hand over Ypsilantis to the Turks.

Rákóczi is a national hero in Hungary and the great Hungarian composer Franz List composed in his honor the Rákóczi procession, which is the unofficial anthem of Hungary.

The Philhellenism Museum has an important document dated in 1790. It is a letter sent by the French ambassador to Istanbul, Choiseul-Gouffier, in Austria. He had rescued a Hungarian noble officer, de Saint Jvani, from certain death in Turkish prisons, and after he recovered, the French ambassador tried to flee him to Trieste. It is reminded that Choiseul-Gouffier is the Philhellene author of the important work ‘Travel to Greece’ (‘Voyage Pittoresque sur la Grece’) and later, the president of the Greek-language Hotel in Paris. Ιt was the first secret organization for the liberation of Greece.


Choiseul-Gouffier, Marie Gabriel Florence Auguste, French ambassador and scholar of ancient Greece (1752-1817). Letter signed. Constantinople, 5. IV. 1790. 2 pp. on bifolium. Folio. To “Monsieur le Comte de Czapari” about Mr. de Saint Jvani whom Choiseul-Gouffier saved from certain death from the Turks’ hands one year earlier. St. Jvani, a Hungarian nobleman and officer, was helping Choiseul-Gouffier to care for the Austrian prisoners and plans to rejoin his comrades in battle.


We recognize the common fate and the struggles of the two countries for their freedom.

In 1820, the Hungarian nobleman Szechenyi visited Greece. He  admired the ancient Greek civilization, but also expressed his sorrow for the sufferings of the enslaved Greeks.

And we now come to the Greek Revolution.

The struggle of the Greeks moved the Hungarian people, who had contact with the action of the Greeks in Austria-Hungary, from the work of the Bishop  Ignatius of Hungary, Anthimos Gazis, from the Society of Philomuses in Vienna, Hermes Logios, etc.

From 1821 onwards, many Greek refugees found refuge within Hungarian territory, while in the spring of 1824 Count Laszlo Festetich delivered an enthusiastic speech to the Hungarian Parliament in favor of the Greek cause.

The Paradicsom cafe in Pest was, together with the University of Pest, the fermentation points between Greeks and Hungarians, and the centers of dissemination of Greek positions. The Greek-Hungarian legion was gradually organized there, aiming to sending volunteers to Greece.

Many Hungarian volunteers came to Greece. First they were present in the battle of Peta.


Representation of the battle of Peta. Work of Panagiotis Zografou, commissioned by General Makrygiannis (EEF Collection / Museum of Philhellenism).


Dobronoki, Emeryk (-1822). Polish Philhellene of Hungarian descent from the town of Dłużniewo (near Płońsk) or Suwałki. He came to Greece in February 1822. He served in the 2nd Corps of the Battalion of Philhellenes as a lieutenant and fell heroically in the battle of Peta on July 4, 1822. He is also incorrectly referred to as “Tabernocky”.

Czernianky, von (of unknown name). Hungarian Philhellene. Physician. He arrived in Greece in July 1822.

Descheffy, Karl von (-1822). Hungarian Philhellene. Also referred to as “Doeschessy” and “Deschettis”. Lieutenant of the Austrian Army during the Napoleonic Wars. Via Livorno, he arrived in February 1822 in Messolonghi. He served as an officer in the Infantry Regiment of the Regular Army. He fell heroically in the battle of Peta on July 4, 1822.

Radice or Radics (name unknown). Hungarian Philhellene. He arrived in Greece via Constantinople. Soldier of the German Legion since April 1822. His participation in the battle of Peta on July 4, 1822 is not testified.

However, many Hungarian Philhellenes also participated in many other phases of the Greek struggle.

Christotulo and Georg (name unknown). They fell heroically during the siege of the Acropolis of Athens on May 6, 1827.

Jeremias, Janos. He participated in the Greek Revolution. At the end of the National Uprising, he settled permanently in Greece. He retired in 1859 as a civil servant of the Greek state.

Kommaromi, Siegmund arrived in Messolonghi at the same time as Lord Byron did. Among the Hungarians who defended Messolonghi in the last siege were two women (only Maria Barotti’s name has survived). These women were injured and imprisoned during the Exodus. Another Hungarian Philhellene, known as Carl, was killed during the Exodus.

Lasso or Lasky, Christoph was a Hungarian volunteer from Budapest. He came to Greece in 1826 and was enlisted in the Regular Army. He fought in the battle of Haidari on August 6, 1826 and took part in the siege of the Acropolis of Athens. He fell heroically in the battle of Analatos on April 24, 1827.

Another Hungarian, Marc (of unknown name), was also killed in this battle.

Especially important is the story of a Hungarian Philhellene who came to Greece with his son.

Mangel or Mankel, Ernst. Hungarian Philhellene from Pest or according to other sources, from Transylvania. He came to Greece in 1822, with his son Michael Ernst Mangel. He participated in many battles and was wounded many times. He took part in the first siege of the Acropolis (as a messenger), in the battle of Dervenakia, in the siege of Nafplio (1822), in the military campaigns of Karystos, Chios, as well as in the battle of Haidari. He organized the first Greek military band that cheered the Greeks and Philhellenes up, before each battle. It has to be emphasized here that the military band was a central element of the operation of the regular army of the time. He was then appointed chief musician in the Greek Army. After the National Uprising he lived in Athens. He had a total of 22 children. Today many of his descendants live in Greece and in other European countries.

Mangel, Michael Ernst (1800-1887). He came to Greece with his father Ernst Mangel. After the Revolution he served as a major in the Greek Army and lived in Athens, where he died in January 1887. He was honored with 3 medals of outstanding deeds (Struggle, Bravery and the medal of the Redeemer). His son was a judge in Thebes in 1881. Today many of his descendants live in Greece.

Moreover, Hungarian artists also honored the struggle of the Greeks. One of them is Adalbert Schaffer. An important painting of his can be found today in the Philhellenism Museum in Athens.


Painting by the Hungarian painter Adalbert Schäffer (1815-1871), Greek revolutionary fights in defense of his father, oil painting on canvas (SHP collection / Philhellenism Museum)


Of special interest if the work of the Hungarian linguist JÓZSEF ACZÉL, whose studies show the long-term historical relationship of the Hungarian and Greek people.

In 1926 in his book “Szittya-görög eredetünk”, he wrote, among other things:

1) “The Hungarian language has three thousand word roots, which are identical to the Greek ones”.

2) “The ancient Greek texts, the texts of Byzantium and Scythia are identical”.

3) “Some of the words, when written, are surprisingly similar”.

And he continued:

“All over the world, except for the classical ancient languages ​​(Greek and its “child “, Latin), only in Hungarian can poems be written in classical hexameter. This is a unique linguistic phenomenon!

(…) In some of the Hungarian folk songs, the melody is old and comes from the Scythian era (meaning the Thracians of the area)”.

The Society for Hellenism and Philhellenism, and the entire Greek people, thank the people of Hungary for their commitment to the values ​​of Greek culture, and their contribution to the Greek Revolution.


Sources – Bibliography:

  • Article by George Argyrakos, “The slogan of Alexandros Ypsilantis”
  • Konstantin Soter Kotsowilis: Die Griechenbegeisterung der Bayern unter König Otto I. München 2007
  • Emanuel Turczynski: Sozial- und Kulturgeschichte Griechenlands im 19. Jahrhundert. Von der Hinwendung zu Europa bis zu den ersten Olympischen Spielen der Neuzeit. Mannheim and Möhnesee 2003


Video presentation of the Philhellenism Museum.

Presentation by Eulambia Revi, director Maria Rizou, editorship Sotiris Skouloudis, camera Nikos Patelaros, sound George Argyris, drone Lazaros Tambouzos. The production is signed by Domenica Production and Iris Studios.



The African – American Philhellene James Jakob Williams, (SHP / Philhellenism Museum collection)


This article is presented in the context of the Special Exhibition on American Philhellenism organized by the Philhellenism Museum for 2021, in collaboration with the US Embassy in Athens @USEmbassyAthens

The Greek fever experienced by the United States in the 1820s and the contribution of American philhellenism to the Greek Revolution have already been highlighted. What is less known is that the struggle of the Greeks was also supported by the African-American community and that an African-American fought bravely on the side of the Greeks.

It is also not known that the Greek Revolution formed the basis, and the Greek slaves became the symbols, of the struggle for the abolition of slavery in the USA.

James Jakob Williams was an African-American Philhellene from Baltimore, Maryland, in United States. He served as a Marine in the U.S. Navy. In this capacity he participated in the war between the United States and Algeria that took place in 1815. He fought bravely and distinguished himself in the battles. He served in Algeria under the command of U.S. Admiral Stephen Decatur, who had recognized his value and bravery. At the end of the operations in Algeria, and after completing his military service in the U.S. Navy, Admiral Decatur suggested that he go to Greece, where slavery had been abolished.

Williams arrived in Greece in January 1827 and was appointed assistant to the British Philhellene Admiral Thomas Cochrane. Williams followed Cochrane everywhere, in all his military campaigns, until the latter left Greece in December 1827. Williams remained in Greece and took part in various battles and naval battles. In many cases, he secretly infiltrated the enemy ranks to collect and convey to the Greeks valuable information, risking his life.

During military operations to liberate Nafpaktos, Williams was seriously injured by a cannon fracture in his arm and leg and was taken to the hospital in Poros. At a critical moment of the conflict, he led a group of Greek fighters and took control of the Greek ship Sotir (Savior), which was unmanned. In fact, he took over the bunny himself, attracting enemy fire. This saved the boat from being captured.

This brave African-American Philhellene offered his life in the struggle of the Greeks. He died in 1829 in Greece.

SHP pays tribute to James Jakob Williams who lived the last years of his life as free man in a free Greece.

But let’s see what the climate was like in America, more particularly in the African American community at the time.

The impact that the Greek Revolution had, arises from the articles published by the first newspaper of emancipated Black Americans in the United States, the Freedom’s Journal, published since March 1827 in New York. That newspaper, interested mainly in the anti-slavery movement, saw in the Greek Revolution a struggle of slaves against oppressive masters. It attached in the news from Greece an importance, comparable to the news from Haiti, Africa and the West Indies. On December 21, 1827, the Freedom’s Journal published with great satisfaction the news on the Naval Battle of Navarino.

Interestingly, this newspaper also expressed sympathy for the Ottoman janissaries, whom it considered (not falsely) slaves that were slaughtered by the “tyrant” sultan Mahmut II a year earlier, and the women of the harems

It is worth noting that the Freedom’s Journal, also published philhellenic poems, like the “Greek Song”, the “To Greece” and the “Song of the Janissary”. These poems make allusions to the motto, “liberty or death” and the universal symbols of oppression, the chains. We present below a few verses:


TO GREECE (F.J. 12/10/1827)

Hail! Land of Leonidas still,
Though Moslems encircle thy shore; […]
Yet quail not, descendants of those,
The heroes of Marathon’s plain;
Better lay where you fathers repose,
Than wear the fierce Ottoman’s chain. […]


GREEK SONG (F.J. 7/9/1827)

Mount, soldier, mount, the gallant steed,
Seek, seek, the ranks of war.
‘Tis better there in death to bleed,
Than drag a tyrant’s car.
Strike! Strike! Nor think the blow unseen
That frees the limbs where chains have been.



For a time – for a time may the tyrant prevail,
But himself and his Pachas before us shall quail;
The fate that torn Selim in blood from the throne,
We have sworn haughty Mahmoud! Shall yet be thy own.


News excerpts from the philhellenic action of various “Greek Committees” in the USA. Top: A 12-year-old boy donates his watch to the Pittsburgh Philhellenic committee, requesting that the proceeds may be sent to the starving Greeks (Freedom’s Journal).


The sad fate of hundreds of thousands of Greek slaves, sold daily in the slave markets of the Mediterranean sea, shocked the American society in the first half of the 19th century. The American Philhellene volunteers who experienced this horror (Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, Jonathan Pecham Miller, etc.) became leading figures of the abolitionist movement against the slavery of African Americans in the United States. This struggle used a central symbol. The Greek slave.

The Greek slave was the famous sculpture created by the great American sculptor Hiram Powers in 1844. It is the story of a young girl from Psara.

Garyfalia Mohalvi (1817 – 1830), comes from Psara. Her parents were slaughtered during the Chios massacre and little Garyfallia was sold by the Turks as a slave. She was discovered by chance by the American Consul Joseph Langston in Smyrna. After much effort, he managed to release her and he sent her to Boston in 1827.

The history of Garyfalia and her beauty, inspired the sculptor Hiram Powers to create, in 1844, one of the masterpieces of 19th century sculpture internationally, entitled “the Greek Slave”.


The Greek slave, a work of 1844 by the American sculptor Hiram Powers


Today the original statue is in the Brooklyn Museum. A copy of the statute is in the Philhellenism Museum in Athens, Greece (

This statue of the Greek slave became the central emblem of the struggle and the campaigns for the abolition of slavery in the United States.



Article by Theo Dirix


Resumé: Since medieval times the city of Liège in Belgium has been a centre of armament manufacturers. After the French period that lasted until the fall of Napoleon in 1814-1815, the Dutch King William I of Orange-Nassau invested heavily in the metal and weapon industry of the former Prince-Bishopric of Liège. Officially neutral in the Greek conflict, the government formally denied, and claimed to prevent, the exports of arms to the Greek insurgents, carefully protecting its Ottoman market. Initially commercial motives prevailed among all manufacturers, but soon, inspired by the Greek struggle for Freedom, Belgian nationalism also grew in Liège, facilitating weapon deals to Greece.[1]


“My friend,” said the child, the Greek child with blue eyes,

“I wish but for some powder and balls!”[2]

In one of his Philhellenic verses, Victor Hugo, the best-known French author of the era, stages a child who desires weapons more than toys. More than a poetic or romantic myth, the history of Philhellenism also tells the story of economic gain and human loss.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the city of Liège hosted seventy to eighty manufacturers of weaponry, exporting pistols, guns, cannons, knives, bayonets, ammunition, flints, powder and uniforms, mainly to France.

Once in power of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands,  comprising todays Kingdoms of Belgium and the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, the business minded Dutch King William I of Orange-Nassau invested heavily in the industries of the southern provinces: in the textile industry in Ghent in Flandres and in the metal and the weapon-industry of Liège. Another key of his policy was the promotion of exports.

In 1823, the Dutch Chargé d’affaires in Constantinople, Gaspar Testa, informed his home office that a Dutch ship, le Brisier under Captain Piet Bakker, had sailed to Milo(s) with a cargo of weapons sent by Stephano Paleologo(s) to the Greek insurgents in the Peloponnese. Together with that other Greek merchant in Amsterdam, George Tomasachi (Tomazinos), he already played a pivotal role in the support of the Greek cause. As a matter of fact, Paleologo had sent donations from the Greek committees in Amsterdam and Londen to his family, the Xeno’s linked to the leadership in Hydra. This particular arms deal reported by the Dutch envoy,  however, alerted the central government, emphasising its neutrality.

Obviously this didn’t prevent King William I to further develop the trade with the “East” and the “Black Sea”. One of his representatives, Jean-Baptiste De Lescluze, a trader from Bruges and President of the Chamber of Commerce in Ostend, travelled to the region between 1821 and 1825.  Unknown to the public but confirmed by Dutch diplomatic archives, it also appears that a manufacturer of Liège, D. D. Ancion and Co, had signed a profitable contract of three years with the Ottoman Court. The goods passed through a trading house in Amsterdam, Sigritt. By the end of 1824, so the Dutch envoy reports, the first orders had arrived. The Ottoman market was so lucrative that other arms manufactures from Liège, Philippe-Joseph and his brother Louis (Jean-Louis) Malherbe, also approached the Dutch envoy in Constantinople, after their introduction to the Ottomans by Jean-Baptiste De Lescluze had failed. His commercial mission to the court, indeed, had been aborted in 1821. Sailing to Athens instead, he had sold some of the weapons he carried to the insurgents. When later that rumour circulated in Constantinople, it was strongly denied.[3]


Pistols from Liege (Philhellenism Museum / SHP collection)


While the King and his Government scrupulously protected their commercial interests in the Ottoman market, the Greek cause had started to stir the minds of the people.

In 1972, the Belgian academic Lutgard Wagner-Heidendal unveiled that the Malherbes, mentioned above, were members of the masonic lodge La Parfaite Intelligence, one of the major catalysers of the Greek Committee of Liège. It also appears that the Committee approached committees elsewhere in Europe with the suggestion of providing weapons against donations. With the contributions they had raised in two successful concerts and some other events in Liège, a cargo of weapons manufactured by Mathieu-Joseph Malherbe de Goffontaine had been shipped to Greece in July 1826, as proven by Wagner-Heidendal.


The program of June 3, 1826, of one of the many concerts that took place in favor of the Greeks in Europe. The aim of these events was to raise money for the financial support of the Greeks, and to promote the rights of Greece (Philhellenism Museum / SHP collection).


More details about that shipment stem from a letter, recently rediscovered by the author, in which Nestor Aron announces the imminent departure of La Jeune Emilie with 43 Philhellenes under the command of Raybaud and a cargo of: “4,000 boxes of biscuits, 500 rifles from the city of Liège, 30000 (x) of gun powder, flints, trousers and medical supplies”.[4]

For diplomatic and political reasons, the Government officially denied the weapon trade with Greek insurgents. We can only guess in how far it tolerated or monitored the deals, as did the French and Italian authorities when shipments passed through Marseille or Livorno. Studying the matter, a former Greek Consul in Liège only discovered one small piece of papier, half burned, unsigned and dated 1826, in a private collection outside Liège. The snippet is a rare illustration of the secrecy but also reflects an honest bargain with reasonable prices, so he concluded.


List of a shipment of weapons sent to Greece in 1826


Killing two birds with one stone (pun intended), a section of Liège’s industrials and elite made the transition from commercial interests to political involvement, undermining the policy of the Dutch occupation, as an omen of its complicity in the Belgian revolution in 1830.

Theo Dirix[5]



[1] For this introductory article the author relied on three sources: 1) the exhaustive but forgotten study in Dutch by Lutgard Wagner-Heidendal: Philhellenism in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, published in 1972 by the Royal Academy for Science, Literature and Arts of Belgium; 2) a short article in French by Efstratios Mavroudis, a former Greek Consul in Liège: Relations de Liège avec l’insurrection Hellénique La Presse – La Fourniture d’armes (no further references, with the illustration, assessed here: ), and 3) B. van de Walle, J.B. De Lescluze, in: Handelingen van het Genootschap voor Geschiedenis, Brugge, 1959, p. 76-88, 1960, p. 154-188.

[2] Closing verses of the poem The Greek Child from Victor Hugo’s Les Orientales, as translated by G.B.: in: The Metropolitan Magazine, Volume 36, Saunders and Otley, 1843, p. 375.

In The Greek Boy (Les Turcs ont passés là.) {XVIII, June 10, 1828.}, that same verse has been translated as: “Oh, give me your dagger and gun!”, as a reply to ”Would’st thou a trinket, a flower, or scarf, Would’st thou have silver? ( )

[3] The story of Jean-Baptiste De Lescluze who saved the lives of at least 1100 Greeks who fled the occupation of Athens in 1821 by evacuating them from Pireaus to Salamina, and his offer to negotiate a commercial treaty with Ypsilanti surely merit a separate article.

[4] Recently rediscovered letters addressed to a Belgian Philhellene, (to be published here soon).

[5] Theo Dirix, freelance author, ;

The Philhellenism Museum presents, in cooperation with the American Embassy, American Philhellenism



In 1912-1913 a group of Greek-Americans and American Philhellenes arrived in Thessaloniki from New York to support the liberation struggle of the Greeks. This postcard, which belongs to the collection of SHP and the Philhellenism Museum, depicts these volunteers in traditional Greek costumes.

The group formed a company which joined the Greek army and participated in military operations during the Balkan wars. This company used an American flag, which survives to this day.


The flag of the Company of Greek-Americans and American Philhellenes who participated in the Balkan wars on the side of the Greeks.