The Giaour of Lord Byron, 19th century, bronze composition (SHP collection)

 

The symbol of Philhellenism of Lord Byron, the fighter of 1821 Eggelis and the sword of Kolokotronis

The most central emblematic figure of the Philhellenic movement during the Revolution of 1821, is undoubtedly that of the Giaour who defeats Hassan and seizes his horse and weapons. This form emerges from the emblematic work of Lord Byron “the Giaour”.

This story and a multitude of related depictions in Philhellenic art, inspired and excited thousands of Philhellenes around the world during the Greek war of independence.

However, as we will show, the Giaour of Lord Byron also inspired Greek fighters in 1821.

We remind that Lord Byron lived for a while in Athens (1810 – 1811), which at that time was a small town with few inhabitants, to whom the presence of the English Lord certainly did not go unnoticed.

From this journey, Byron gathered images, experiences and material to write many of his works. First of all the emblematic Childe Harold. In 1813 Lord Byron published the Giaou. It is very possible that copies of this book were sent to Athens and circulated to the Athenians or that they enriched the library of the Society of Friends of Music (Etairia Philomouson).

 

Book by Peter Edmund LAURENT (1796 – 1837), entitled “Recollections of a Classical Tour through the various parts of Greece, Turkey, and Italy made in the years 1818 and 1819”, from the library of the Etairia Philomouson in Athens. Accompanied by an application for membership in the Etairia Philomouson which is signed by well-known Athenians of the time (SHP collection).

 

In any case, as this image of the Giaour inspired the Philhellenes, so it enlivened the Greeks who sought an opportunity to claim their freedom and shake off the Ottoman yoke.

In this article we present the story of an Athenian family of freedom fighters of 1821, whose action gave flesh and blood to the emblematic Giaour of Lord Byron, offering to the Greek Revolution the only scene where a known Greek fighter achieves the feat of Giour, and in particularly intense battle conditions.

In the Archives of Fighters of the National Library in Athens, box 53 contains information about the Eggeli family, which gave four fighters in the struggle for National Independence.

File 1 contains a particularly enlightening request from Dimitrios Eggelis, son of Aggelis Eggelis, dated 1865 “to the Extraordinary Committee on the Rights of Fighters“, referring to the services of Dimitrios Eggelis and his brothers, Georgios and Ioannou, who fought at the Acropolis of Athens.

 

Aggelis Eggelis and Eleftherios Eggelis

With the document no. 926 of the file, signed on 24 September 1860 in Athens, by N. Zacharitsas, B. D. Kallifronas, K. Vryzakis, D. Sourmelis, Stavros Vlachos, G. Psyllas, S. Venizelos, Palaiologos Venizelos and S. Galakis, the Mayor of Athens Ioannis Santorinios confirms the following:

“Aggelis Egelis excelled in Kamatero in the battle against Omer Vryonis. He managed to get his infamous Byzantine sword, which he later offered, at the urging of the Elders of Attica, to the Leader of the Eastern Greece, Odysseas Androutsos”. Aggelis Eggelis fell “during the memorable Invasion, near the Third Gate of the Acropolis and for a long time, he remained fatally wounded in front of it, and it was not remove the body of this brave man”, neither by the Greeks, nor by the enemies. “But in the end the Greeks managed to pick him and bury him with honour a brave man deserves”.

 

Greek fighter defends his fatally injured father. Painting by the Hungarian painter Adalbert Schaffer (1815-1871). Oil on canvas (SHP collection).

Clock with a young fighter defending his wounded father (second quarter of the 19th century). Gold plated bronze, height: 46.5 cm (SHP collection).

 

According to another document, in the same file (file 1), it appears that Eggelis’ son was used to break the enemy lines to deliver letters from the government to General Karaiskakis and returned with a response inside the besieged Acropolis.

Some bibliographic sources state that the date of death of Aggelis Eggelis was December 15, 1821, while they add that one of his sons, also a fighter, Eleftherios (or Lefteris) was killed around the same time in the battles of Attica.

The 1961 edition of the Police Chronicles refers to a fighter named Eggeli (apparently one of Aggelis’ sons), and cites the year of his death to be 1827. D. Sourmelis places Eleftherios Eggelis among those who fell during the siege, but outside the fortress of the Acropolis.

Dimitris Kampouroglou, in his study on Daphni in the magazine ESTIA, refers to the fighter Eggelis and identifies him as “still living” and “a resident of Kolykynthou”, in 1920 (“… the sword was rescued falling on the enemies a friend of Eggelis, living until previous years in a very old age in Kolokynthou (Athens)”). Apparently it refers to the surviving son of Aggelis Eggelis.

A note at the end of the file states that Aggelis Eggelis from Attica was an officer of 5th class, with registration number 3085. Indeed, the Eleftheroudaki Encyclopedia in its entry on Aggelis Eggelis, volume 9, p. 16, states: “Eggelis Aggelis, Chieftain, originating from Attica. He excelled in various battles, becoming an officer of 5th class. He died during the raid against Athens (Registration No. 949, 3035, 3139 – 3145)”, confirming the facts.

From other sources (Koutsonikas, Sourmelis, Lappas), we learn that Aggelis Eggelis was born between 1770 and 1780, and died in 1821. He was a fighter of 1821 from Athens. With the beginning of the National Uprising, he was included in the body of the Chief Meletios Vassilios (1778-1826) from Menidi, great-great-great-grandfather of the mayor of Aspropyrgos, Mr. Nikolaos Meletios. He took part in many battles in Attica, fighting first with Meletios Vassilios, and then with Odysseus Androutsos. In September 1821, when the Turks ended the siege of Athens, he was the deputy leader of the group of the Athenian chieftain Dimos Roubesis, who fell heroically in a Battle against the Ottomans, led by Omer Vryonis himself. Roubesis rushed with Eggelis against Omer Vryonis, and they managed to throw him off the horse and snatch his sword. Roubesis was mortally wounded and died leaving the sword to Eggelis. The Eggeli family handed over this sword in September 1822 to Odysseus Androutsos, who was in Athens during the ceremony naming him General of eastern Central Greece. This sword was donated by Androutsos to Theodoros Kolokotronis in October of the same year, while he was visiting Nikitaras in Nafplio.

 

A clock with a Greek fighter identified with the image of Giaour (second quarter of the 19th century). Gold plated bronze, height: 54 cm (SHP collection).

 

Later, the sword was given to his grandson infantry Major Kolokotronis (PZ) and leader of the 1888 class of the Cadets School, George Panos Kolokotronis. He handed it over to the Historical and Ethnological Society of Greece, according to his will, which he had drawn up in September 1912, shortly before leaving for the front of the Balkan Wars, where he fell heroically in Kresna, on July 12, 1913.

Aggelis Eggelis and his eldest son Eleftherios, fell heroically in December 1821, during the siege of the Acropolis.

 

George Eggelis
One of his sons, the fighter Georgios Eggelis, undertook dangerous missions as a military messenger. “George also fell as a messenger sent from the besieged Acropolis to the surrounding Greek camps”.

Dimitrios Eggelis
Dimitrios Eggelis fought from the Acropolis during the siege by Kioutachis, and he was there when the Philhellenes and Fabvier broke the lines to bring food and amunition. “Although he survived, Dimitrios has a lot of scars from the fight on his body. He managed twice to cross the besieged lines of Kioutachis as the Messenger of the besieged to those outside and back again”. Soumerlis Dionysios (former notary) seems to have kept records of Dimitrios (Mitros) Eggelis. This includes a document belonging to the file and certified by important persons, which  states:
“The undersigned certify that Mitros Eggelis from Athens, fought from the beginning of the Revolution and was wounded and risked his life many times in various battles against the enemies, offered during the last siege of the Acropolis of Athens, two times in a row to pass through the enemies, as a messanger in the most critical circumstances of the Acropolis guard”.

Ioannis Egelis

“Ioannis finally, having his body full of wounds, became a farmer he m=survives with his three sons, without demanding compensations”.

Many documents referring to him are found in file 2 of the box, among them a report dated 19 April 1865, to which is attached a certificate with no. 26894, with confirmations by various fighters bearing their signatures, among them General Makrygiannis. According to the report and other certificates that we find in the file, some of which in many copies, Giannakos Eggelis served as an officer in the flagship of the Greek fleet “Hellas” during the years 1828 and 1829, under Miaoulis. He also fought on the Acropolis with 300 other Athenians, in the Peloponnese, and specifically in Neokastro where he was wounded, in Central Greece, in the campaign of Karystos and in the campaign of Chios, where he served as an officer under the French Philhellene Fabvier. The certificate dates back to 1843.

The participation of Aggelis Eggelis in the battle of Kamatero and the episode with Omer Vryonis, is confirmed by most of the historians of the Greek war of independence, especially those who wrote essays on the struggle in Attica, such as Sourmelis, Kokkinos and others.

Kokkinos in particular notes that “Vryonis’ terror from the personal attack he received from the chief Roubesis was such that his sword with which he tried to defend himself fell from his hand. The sword was taken by the comrade of Dimos Roubesis, Eggelis and later given to Odysseas Androutsos, as mentioned above, who in turn offered it to Kolokotronis“. In fact, after this incident, Omer Vryonis remained in all the battles in the rear.

The family tree of the Eggeli family follows:
1) Aggelis Egelis (first fighter).
2) his sons: Dimitrios (Mitros), Georgios and Ioannis (Giannakos) based on the archives, and Eleftherios based on the bibliography.
3) Dimitrios, left after his death two orphaned children, Panagi and Chrysoula and three orphaned grandchildren of his deceased son, Aggeli Eggeli (he was named after Dimitrios’ father and first fighter). These grandchildren were named Spyros, Eleni and Panagoula.

Today, the names of Eggelis and Roubesis were given to two streets that intersect in Neos Kosmos of Athens.

 

Kolokotronis’s sword; it was given to him by Androutsos, who had received it as a gift from the Eggeli family (National Historical Museum).

The point where Eggeli Street and Roubesi Street intersect in Neos Kosmos, Athens.

 

The history of the Eggeli family is identified with the most emblematic Figure of Philhellenism and the common struggle of the Greeks and the Philhellenes for the liberation of Athens and Greece.

 

 

SOURCES – BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Αστυνομικά Χρονικά έτους 1961.
  • Εγκυκλοπαίδεια Ελευθερουδάκη, Τόμος 9, έκδ. 1979.
  • Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη, Αρχείο Αγωνιστών, Κουτί 53, Φάκελοι 1 και 2.
  • Καμπούρογλου Δημήτριος, το Δαφνί, Εστία, 1920, σ. 73.
  • Κόκκινος Α. Διονύσιος, Η Ελληνική Επανάστασης, Αθήνα, Μέλισσα, 1957.
  • Κορδάτος Γιάννης, Ιστορία Νεώτερης Ελλάδας, 1957.
  • Κουτσονίκας Λάμπρος, ”Γενική Ιστορία της Ελληνικής Επαναστάσεως”, εκδ. Δ. Καρακατζάνη, Αθήνα, 1863, γ’ τόμος, σελ.78.
  • Λάππας Τάκης, ”Ελληνικά Ιστορικά Ανέκδοτα 1750-1862”, εκδ. Μ. Πεχλιβανίδη, Αθήνα, 1971, σελ. 24 και σελ.135.
  • Μαραβελέας Γ. Α, Η επανάσταση του 21 σε σαράντα μονογραφίες, 1983.
  • Σουρμελής Διονύσιος ”Ιστορία των Αθηνών κατά τον Υπέρ Ελευθερίας Αγώνα”, εκδ. Νικολάου Αγγελίδου, Αθήνα, 1853, σελ.24.