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The Historical and Aesthetic Value of the Weapons of the Greek Revolution

 

 

Nikos Vasilatos - Ph.D. Professor in History - Honorary Lawyer


The article was written by a member of the Association, Nikos Vasilatos.


   At the beginning of the 19th century, Greek freedom was conquered with weapons, after a fierce and bloody war, during which many Greeks and many philhellenes lost their lives.

   The sacrifices of the Greeks impressed and moved the entire civilized world at that time and especially the Europeans who considered enslaved Greece as the cradle of European culture.


   These means of the war of independence were left in the hands of the descendants of the fighters, as eternal presumptions of sacrifice and family pride..


   It is no coincidence that our National Anthem, respecting the Struggle for the Greek Renaissance, begins with a reference to the weapons of this Struggle.


   With the outbreak of the Greek revolution in Mainland Greece, weapons were brought mainly by the Maniates and the Souliotes who were also experienced in their use.


   Also, weapons were carried by the armatoloi, who essentially served the Ottoman power until then, and by the thieves, that is, the Greeks who disobeyed the Ottoman rule.


   With the permission of the Ottoman authorities, breeders also brought weapons to protect their herds from savages and animal thieves.


   On the islands, things were better, the oppression of the Ottomans was not so intense and there was more prosperity as well as information about the political and social currents of that time, in Europe.


   After the treaty of Kyutsuk-Kainartzis (1774), the Greeks raised the Russian flag on their ships and had Russian shipping documents, with the result that the Turks no longer had jurisdiction over them.


   In fact, if the islanders wanted to build larger than the usual sailing ships, they asked permission from the Russian commander of Odessa without the Ottoman authorities being able to intervene.


   As a result of the outbreak of the revolution, the Greek revolutionaries had a remarkable merchant fleet that was immediately transformed into a warship, since the ships of that time, in addition to crews familiar with the use of weapons, also had guns capable of protecting passengers. and the goods they carried, from pirate attacks, which were not uncommon at the time, as piracy was endemic to the Mediterranean, served particularly by the populations of North Africa (nicknamed the Algerian pirates).


   Thus, with the outbreak of the Greek Revolution, more than 28,500 sailors and ships armed with 6,000 guns were mobilized.


   Greek sailors had another formidable weapon, the firearms, the use of which they had learned from the Russians during the Russo-Turkish wars of the 18th century.


   Of course, the weapons of the fighters of Mainland Greece were different from those of the sailors.


   In mainland Greece the main weapon of the fighters was the kariophile and the best armed had one or two front pistols and a scythe or an oriental sword.


   The decoration of the weapons was commensurate with the financial strength of their owners.


   Silver and brass were usually the raw material of the decorations and more rarely gold, ivory and semi-precious stones.


   Many of them have remarkable micro-sculpture works on their surfaces. The decorative themes, those involved in their decoration were taken mainly from the plant world, the animal kingdom and from the daily life of people but also from mythology, while there were also geometric patterns, but always created with symmetry and aesthetic harmony. . The artists still carefully took care of the color contrasts to emphasize the decorative themes and at the same time to give the weapons a brilliant look.


   The silversmiths of Epirus were nicknamed for the plasticity and the elegance of their works. Thanasis Tsimouris, Ioannis Davaroukas, and Bafas stood out from the Epirote silversmiths.


   The sailors procured their weapons from Constantinople and other cities of the Ottoman Empire and in the Middle East in general, but also from Italy, Spain as well as from Marseille in the South of France.


   Their decoration, in contrast to the weapons of the fighters of Mainland Greece, seldom had rich decorations, but they were distinguished for a subtle discreet aesthetic. Usually, the inlaid and adjective silver was the raw material of the decorations, which gave the silversmiths the opportunity to go beyond the established aesthetic and decorative values ​​and to create particularly elegant works which mobilize even today the aesthetic pleasure.


   At the end of the 19th century and during the 20th century, exhibitions on the weapons of the Struggle were organized which always aroused the interest of the visitors and created feelings of emotion for their historical value and impression for their decorative value.

"The Greek Child Swords", a work of romantic style by the French painter A. Colin (1798-1873), Benaki Museum.

Dimitrios Mavromichalis hangs his sword, engraving by L. Dupré (1789-1837), Private Collection.