Saturday, April 10, 2010

10 April 1826: The Exodus of Messolonghi - Eleftheroi Poliorkimenoi

Greece Standing on the Ruins of Messolonghi 
Eugene Delacroix 1826

Today, 10th of April marks the anniversary of the Exodus of Messolonghi - another bloody chapter in the Greek struggle for Independence from the Turks.

During the Orlov Revolt in 1770 the fleet of Messolonghi was defeated and the town passed to the Turks. Messolonghi revolted against the Turks on May 20, 1821 and was a major stronghold of the Greek rebels in the Greek War of Independence. Its inhabitants successfully resisted a siege by Ottoman forces in 1822. 

  Exodus of Messolonghi (1855) - Theodoros P Vryzakis  
National Art Gallery - Athens, Greece
The second siege started on April 15, 1825 by Reşid Mehmed Pasha whose army numbered 30,000 men and was later reinforced by another 10,000 men led by Ibrahim Pasha, son of Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt. After a year of relentless enemy attacks and facing starvation, the people of Messolonghi decided to leave the beleaguered city in the "Exodus of its Guards" (The Sortie) on the night of April 10, 1826. 

At the time, there were 10,500 people in Messolonghi, 3,500 of whom were armed. Very few people survived the Ottoman pincer  movement after the betrayal of their plan.

La Missolonghienne - Η Μεσολογγίτισσα - Woman of Messolonghi
 E. De Lansac 1828 - Town Hall, Messolonghi

Due to the heroic stance of the population and the subsequent massacre of its inhabitants by the Turkish-Egyptian forces, the town of Messolonghi received the honorary title of Hiera Polis (the Sacred City), unique among other Greek cities. 

Celebrated French painter Eugene Delacroix and  British poet Lord Byron were famous philhellenes who lent their support to the Greek cause. Lord Byron actually died in Messolonghi from malaria in 1824.

 Lord Byron on his Deathbed
J D Odevaere c 1826, Groeninge Museum, Bruges

A cenotaph containing his heart and a statue located in the town were built to pay tribute to this great poet's generous support of Greece's struggle for Independence.

The  Exodos of Messolonghi Memorial Day is a significant anniversary and is held annually on Palm Sunday in the presence of the President of the Republic, politicians and Ambassadors. 

Read what the French Ambassador to Greece wrote about his visit to Messolonghi for the annual celebrations, on Palm Sunday, 28th March 2010, in his blog Le Blog de L'Ambassadeur de France en Grece.

Listen to Nikos Xylouris sing the magnificent poem, Eleftheroi Polyorkimenoi (Free Besieged) which was written by national poet, Dionysios Solomos in honour of the heroic people of Messolonghi, and set to music by composer Yiannis Markopoulos. 

Άκρα του τάφου σιωπή στον κάμπο βασιλεύει·

λαλεί πουλί, παίρνει σπυρί, κι η μάνα το ζηλεύει.

Τα μάτια η πείνα εμαύρισε· στα μάτια η μάνα μνέει·

στέκει ο Σουλιώτης ο καλός παράμερα καί κλαίει:

«Έρμο τουφέκι σκοτεινό, τι σ' έχω γω στο χέρι;

οπού συ μού ΄γινες βαρύ κι ο Αγαρηνός το ξέρει».

Source: Wikipedia

1 comment:

  1. Is it true that nobody from the US Embassy attended this year's commemoration?


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