Σάββατο 23 Μαρτίου 2024

Theodoros Kolokotronis ( Geros tou Moria / The "Old Man of Morea")

Theodoros Kolokotronis is the pioneer and the most emblematic figure of the Struggle. His father was Constantis Kolokotronis, from Limbovisi, Arcadia, and his mother, Zambia Kotsaki, from Alonistaina, he himself was born in Ramovouni, Messinia.
The equipment, weapons and personal belongings of Theodoros Kolokotronis.

Fourteen-year-old left his village to sell wood in the enslaved Tripolitsa and when he was beaten by a Turk, he vowed that he would return one day and free her, and he succeeded on September 23, 1821.
Η υπογραφή του Θεόδωρου Κολοκοτρώνη (1770-1843), Έλληνα στρατηγού και ηγέτη της Επανάστασης του 1821. Από επιστολή του με ημερομηνία 26 Μαΐου 1827.

In the year 1818 he was initiated into the Friendly Society in Zakynthos, where he was serving in the English army. His name was associated with the most important battles fought in the Peloponnese. Dervenakia, Valtetsi, Karytaina, Trikorfa, Palamidi, Grana, Patras and other places speak of his bravery, his strategic thinking and his selflessness.

He was unjustly imprisoned twice by his opponents, Greeks and foreigners, they killed his son Panos in the civil war, he held no grudge against anyone and continued to fight for justice and the homeland.
Painting by Dionysios Tsokos

Theodoros Kolokotronis (Ramovouni, Messinia, April 3, 1770 - Athens, February 4, 1843) was a Greek commander-in-chief and leading figure of the Revolution of 1821, commander-in-chief, plenipotentiary, Councilor of the State. He acquired the nickname Old Man of Moria. Posthumously he was honored by the Greek State with the rank of Marshal
Άγαλμα του Κολοκοτρώνη στο Ναύπλιο

Theodoros Kolokotronis came from the famous Kolokotronis family that came from the village of Rupaki, on the Messinia-Arcadia border. Kolokotronis was born in Ramovouni in Messinia, although his family lived in Limbovisi in Arcadia and he spent his childhood in the tower of Kastanitsa in Mani. He saw his father very rarely. The name Theodore was new in his generation. It was given to him in honor of the Russian officer Theodore Orlov (Фёдор Григорьевич Орлов), who during the Orlov revolution had become very popular by constantly telling the population about the ancient Greek glory. He was baptized by Ioannis Palamidis from Stemnitsa, father of Rigas Palamidis. Theodoros' father, Constantis Kolokotronis, took part in the armed rebellion of the Orlofiki, which was instigated by Catherine II of Russia in 1770 and was killed together with two brothers and the famous Panagiotaros in the tower of Kastanitsa by the Turks.
The imposing statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis in Ramovouni, Messinia, his birthplace.

From a young age, Theodoros Kolokotronis followed his father in his various actions against the Turks. After the death of his father, he moved with his mother, sister and uncle Anagonis, to the village of Milia. At the age of 15, he became a charioteer in the province of Leontario. Five years later, in 1790, he married in Akovos the daughter of the provost of Akovos, Aikaterini Karoutsou. He lived in Akovo for the next 7 years until 1797 as a family man and householder, he acquired estates, a house and property. His first children were also born there.

Kolokotronis' activity slowly spread, along with his reputation, throughout the Peloponnese. In 1802 he had become so dangerous to the conquerors that the voivode of Patras succeeded in having a sultan's firman issued condemning him to death and entrusted the execution to the provosts, who, if they failed to kill him, would be executed themselves.
Having also gained experience at sea as a corsair, in 1805 Theodoros Kolokotronis took part in the naval operations of the Russian fleet during the Russo-Turkish war. In January 1806 and while he was in the Peloponnese, a decree was issued to prosecute him. As a result of this, he was followed by many months of adventurous and dramatic pursuit by the Turks in many villages and towns of the Peloponnese. When the inhabitants of Verbena refused to help the pursued thieves, they destroyed the village. Kolokotronis mentions the event in his Narrative: "we sent to the Verbenas to send us bread and livestock, and they answered us: we have cannon and gunpowder, and we went and destroyed them.". He finally managed, fighting, to escape by boat, leaving an area to the west of the Laconian gulf and crossing to Russian-occupied Kythira with a stopover in Elafonisos due to bad weather. From 1810 he served in the Greek military corps of the English army in Zakynthos, where he quickly distinguished himself for his action against the French and reached the rank of major.
Letter from Kolokotronis to Plapoutas (June 10, 1822).

The equipment, weapons and personal belongings of Theodoros Kolokotronis.
Friendly Society.
In 1818 he was initiated into the Philiki Etaireia and in January 1821 he returned to Mani where he began to prepare the Revolution in the Peloponnese knowing that the day of initiation was March 25. It was found in Kalamata during the bloodless occupation of the city on March 23, 1821 under Petrobeis Mavromichalis and the pompous eulogy. The next day he moved towards Megalopolis with Nikitaras and on the 25th of March in the morning they were in the Kampos of Karytaina or Megalopolis of Arcadia. Kolokotronis stayed in the village of Tetempei, while Nikitaras stayed in the "back villages" or Siabazika. It was fixed on March 25 that all the chieftains should be in their provinces, so that the Revolution could be proclaimed, as it was.
The statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis in Dervenakia.

In the Revolution
He starred in many military operations of the Agon, such as the victory in Valtetsi (May 13, 1821), the fall of Tripolitsa (September 23, 1821), the destruction of the army of Dramalis at Dervenakia (July 26, 1822), where he saved the Agon in the Peloponnese, since the intelligence and boldness of his strategic mind were rectored. These successes made him commander-in-chief of the Peloponnese. During the Civil War, he tried several times to soften the opposition between the rivals, but still he did not avoid the rupture. After armed conflicts, he and his son were arrested and imprisoned in Nafplio.

The mention of Kolokotronis in his memoirs about the capture of Tripolitsa is noteworthy:

When I entered Tripolitsa, they showed me Platanos in the bazaar where the Greeks were hanged. I sighed and said: "Look, how many of my soi and of my nation hanged there," I ordered and they cut it down.
Lithograph by Giovanni Bozzi (1825).

The Sultan asked for the help of Egypt to suppress the Revolution, so his son Mehmet Ali and heir to the Egyptian throne Ibrahim landed in 1825 in the Peloponnese. Sphakteria and Navarino fell into the hands of the Egyptians and then Kolokotronis was released from prison to face Ibrahim together with Petrobeis Mavromichalis. Without a large army, he started the stealth war again, which lasted until 1828, when the army of general Maison arrived in Greece with the order of Charles I of France to rescue Greece from the Egyptian troops (the French Campaign of Moria).
Lithograph by Karl Kratscheisen (1828).

The 3rd National Assembly of Ermioni is called the National Assembly with part of the proxies of Greece, which took place from January 18, 1827 to March 17, 1827 in Ermioni, Argolis. Kolokotronis participated as a proxy in the last, 11th Session of March 17, 1827.

It is worth emphasizing the strategic personality of Kolokotronis, as he commanded the troops in a genius way, using the tactics of stealth warfare, so that the army could cope with the numerical superiority of the opponent. Indicative of the difficulty of the struggle of 1821 is the following excerpt from his memoirs:

Ibrahim ordered me once "why don't I stand and fight (face to face)". I answered him, let him take five hundred, a thousand, and I also take as many others, and then we fight, or if he wants, let him come and we both duel. He didn't answer me to anyone. And if he wanted to accept it, I did it with all my heart, because I said if I was lost, let me go, if I spoiled him, I would save my nation.

He also attached great importance to the destruction of the enemy's resources (food/fodder), as well as to securing food for his army. He recognized many times the work and importance of the Greek breeders, who provided food with their thousands of animals to support the fighters and the Revolution in general.
THEODOROS KOLOKOTRONIS. On a document of June 7, 1825 from Kamares (GAK Vlach. f.29)

Greek state
Until the end of the Revolution, Kolokotronis continued to play an active role in the military and political affairs of the time.

He was an ardent follower of the policy of Kapodistrias and took the lead in the events for the enthronement of Otho.

In 1832, not recognizing the administrative committee, he had proceeded to auction the production from the national lands, as well as demanded the retention of the tithe, while he had power in the countryside.

In 1833, however, his disagreements with the Viceroyalty led him, together with other fighters, to the prisons of Akronaflia in Nafplion on the charge of high treason. So on May 25, 1834, together with Plaputas, he was sentenced to death, but soon the sentence was changed to 20 years in prison. He was pardoned after Otto came of age in 1835, at which time he was named a general and received the office of "Councillor of the State". In the last years of his life, Kolokotronis dictated to George Tertsetis his "Memoirs", which were published in 1851 under the title "Narrative of events of the Greek race from 1770 to 1836" and which are a valuable source for the Greek Revolution. Theodoros Kolokotronis died on the morning of February 16, 1843, from a stroke, having returned from a celebration at the royal palaces, where in recent years he had been Otto's assistant.
The burial monument of Kolokotronis in the First Cemetery of Athens

Kolokotronis was buried with all solemnity in Athens. The coffin with his dead body was followed by a procession of thousands of people in an overwhelming route that passed through Ermou and Aiolou streets to end up at the -then- Metropolitan Church of Agia Irini, where the funeral procession took place. Around him were all his surviving comrades-in-arms, such as Georgios Kountouriotis, Tzavelas, Dimitris Plapoutas, Rigas Palamidis, Makrygiannis, Giatrakos, Deligiannis and others. A Turkish flag had been placed at his feet to symbolize his great victories over the Ottomans throughout the revolution. Devastated, the two sons of the "Old Man of Moria", Gennaios and Kolinos, who broke down in sobs at the moment when the funeral speeches were being delivered, watched the ceremony, while the latter also lost consciousness.

The reference point of Theodoros Kolokotronis' speech in Pnyka (1838) is the following passage:

When we decided to make the Revolution, we didn't think about how many of us there are, or that we don't have chariots, or that the Turks besieged the castles and cities, and no wise man said to us: "Where are you going here to fight with a wheat car vatsela?", but it fell like a rain. in all of us the desire for our freedom and we all (both the clergy and the provosts and the captains and the educated and the merchants, small and big, all) agreed to this purpose and made the Revolution.

Trial of Kolokotronis
Before Otto's arrival in Greece, Mavrokordatos and Kolettis (considering Kolokotronis as an obstacle to their plans to fill positions of power) slandered him and sent a letter to Munich that he was allegedly preparing an army to prevent Otto from setting foot in Greece. When Kolokotronis perceived this, he put on his uniform and helmet and went to Nafplio to welcome Otho and pay his respects. Then he left for a farm he had outside the city, as he writes:

As long as I sold I paid my debt. I saw my homeland free, I saw what I and my father and my grandfather and my whole generation and all Greeks longed for. And so I decided to go to an orchard I had outside Anapli. I went, studied and spent my time cultivating. And I was pleased to see the progress of the little trees I planted.

In his confession, when asked what his profession is, he answers:

Military. For 49 years I hold the suldado (s.s.: rifle) in my hand and fight for the homeland. I fought night and day for the motherland. I was hungry, I was thirsty, I didn't sleep for a lifetime. I saw my relatives die, my brothers tyrannized and my children die before me. But I didn't panic. I believed that God had put his signature on our freedom and that he would not take it back.

While regarding the accusations, he denies them all and characteristically says:

After the governor's murder, the homeland was divided in two. I did everything I could to stop the civil strife. When I learned of the king's election, I sent him with my friends a petition declaring our devotion. When he came to Annapli, I scattered my people and I retired to my orchard to be quiet.

The prosecutor of the seat was the Scottish Philhellenic Edward Masson, who - as the German historian Karl Mendelsohn-Bartholdi mentions - was a "passionate opponent of the Russian side" and "had passionately defended the murderer of Kapodistrias, Georgios Mavromichalis". Of the five members of the bench, Dimitrios Tsoutsos, Dimitris Voulgaris and Fokas Fragoulis were convinced of the conviction of Kolokotronis and Plaputos, while Athanasios-Anastasios Polyzoidis (who was also the president of the trial) and Georgios Tercetis considered him innocent . During the meeting of the judges, Polyzoidis says to the other three: "I consider your decision completely unfair. It is not based on evidence, but on a false basis and is an insult to this sacred name of truth". The three judges did not change their minds and invited him to sign the sentence. After he refused, the Minister of Justice who was present ordered the gendarmes to seize him and bring him up to the seat. Even there he refuses to read the sentence and then the minister gives it to the secretary to read. The conviction was passed with 3 votes in favor and 2 against. Upon hearing the death sentence of both Kolokotronis and Plaputos Kolokotronis will continue to play with his rosary and make his cross and say "Lord have mercy. Remember me, Lord, when you come in your kingdom." Then he took a cigarette out of his snuffbox and smoked. However, due to the uproar caused by the decision throughout Nafplion, the sentence three days after the trial was changed to 20 years in prison. But with Othon's coming of age at 1835 the king signs the release of both Kolokotronis and the other fighters.
Kolokotronis on his deathbed.
Johann Jacob Weber (Eds.), 1803–1880 - Illustrirte Zeitung, Nr. 4 vom 22. Juli 1843, J. J. Weber, Leipzig 1843. MDZ München
Theodor Kolokotroni auf dem Paradebette

The Turks chased his family, which was forced to leave the tower - Theodoros was then ten years old - and find refuge in Milea, Messinian Mani. Kolokotronis was married from 1790 to Ekaterini Karoutsou, daughter of the provost and Morogianni of Akovos, Dimitrios Karoutsos. His children with Ekaterini were Gennaios (Ioannis), who became a soldier and later prime minister, Konstantinos, Panos (who was murdered in 1824) and Eleni, wife of Nikitas Dikaios. Kolokotronis had another son (also Panos Kolokotronis) who he had out of wedlock with Margarita Velissaris, daughter of Aggelis Velissaris. He became an officer and commander of the Evelpidon school.
Kolokotronis in a work by the popular painter Theofilos based on a painting by Peter von Ess (1933). Theophilos Museum.

Recruitment and assessment
The common acceptance that Kolokotronis had acquired thanks to his strategic abilities during the first years of the Revolution and especially with his victory over Dramalis in 1822 was damaged in the following years with his involvement in civil conflicts and his emergence in the following years as a leader in the form of one of the conflicting portions in Greece, until his amnesty by Otho and his inclusion in the royal environment marked the easing of these chronic rivalries. In Kolokotronis' circle were several writers, such as Ambrosios Frantzis, Fotakos et al., derogatorily called "Kolokotronists" by his critics, who wrote the history of the revolution attributing a leading role to Kolokotronis, who nevertheless found himself the target of criticism of the candidates who dealt with the recording of the revolutionary events. Already in the middle of the 19th century with the contribution mainly of Tercetis and others, who saved anecdotal incidents of his life, an image of Kolokotronis with the basic characteristics of popular wisdom and cunning had begun to form, which was consolidated during the rest of the century in a multitude of laudatory biographies and other accounts of the Revolution. At the same time, the figure of Kolokotronis began to be considered a personification of the Greek nation, based on the mythical image that he had presented in his Narrative as relentlessly resisting the Ottoman power, adopting a heroic perception of his thieving action and motivations, a development that was reflected in the embellishment of his popular depictions.
The equestrian statue of Kolokotronis in front of the Old Parliament

This common acceptance of Kolokotronis was disturbed in the interwar period, when Giannis Vlachogiannis restated the accusations of the Roumeliotes against the Moraite thieves, but only temporarily, thanks to the apologetic apologetics in favor of Kolokotronis by Peloponnesian scholars and the widespread dissemination of Spyros Melas' fictional biography, The Old man of Moria, 1931. The adoption of different attitudes by Kolokotronis at different moments of his life towards the royalty, foreigners and the Kotzabasides allowed his ideological appeal on a case-by-case basis. Militant, non-academic left-wing historiography adopted the portrait of Kolokotronis crafted by traditional historiography by modifying it into that of the defiant popular fighter, especially during the years of resistance and civil war, and during the post-war period of the communist persecution of the persecuted for relations with Russia.
Lithograph by Adam Friedel (1824).

The figure of Kolokotronis has been widely used in Greece on coins, in education and in the field of art, but also for the naming of various landmarks and has been depicted in many Greek cities on busts and statues, the best known of which are the bronze equestrian statues of, which were designed by Lazaros Soho and erected in Athens and Nafplio in 1901 and 1904 respectively.
5,000 drachma banknote, 1984

Narration of events of the Greek Tribe from 1770 to 1836, dictated by Theodoros Konstantinou Kolokotronis (to G. Tertseti) (in Greek). Athenian Typos H. Nikolaidou Filadelfeos. 1846. pp. 3–4. One from Rupaki, near the village of Turkoleka, after destroying his village, left and came to Limbovisi, to the first of the village, here for 300 years. He appeared to be intelligent and the Demogeront made him a son-in-law and heir to the whole estate. It was called Tzerginis - there are sixty families with this name in Messinia. He had given birth to a very beautiful child and an Arvanite from Bouloumbas had caught him and chained him. His name was Dimitrakis. The Arvanites, who were guarding him, jumped at three o'clock and Bouloubasis told him, if he jumps, to take off his chains. Dimitrakis replied that he would also jump with the chains, and if he passed them, to let him go free. Arvanitis promised to free him if he jumped past the others, but he promised it as impossible. He jumped, passed them and they set him free. He became a man, we had three children, named Chronis, Lampros and Demos. These were householders, with their fields, with 500 sheep and 60 horses. They were caught up with their opponents and killed. They passed into Roumelin; they spent 12 years with the Thieves, they return to the Peloponnese with 15 Roumeliotas. The Turks guessed it, besieged them, killed one and the others escaped. Demos took as his wife the daughter of captain Chronis from Chrysovitsi, a large house. It was then, when Morozini conquered Morea. And on Venezano there were only captains. The child of this Municipality was named Botsikas and he left the name of his family, which they had, Tzerginaioi; he was named like that because he was small and dark-skinned. In the time of Botsikas, the Turks entered Morea. The Chrysovitsiotai, Limbovitsiotai and the Arkurodematitai went and fought 6,000 Turks at Dara the Tower. They were spared and Botsikas was spared. He had a child, John, and an Arvanite said: "Look, what a Bithekouras he is." I mean, his ass is like a cotron, and that's how he got the name Kolokotronis. Botzikas was killed, Giannis was hanged in Androsan, so that from 1553, when Turks appeared in our parts, they never recognized them, but were in eternal war.