translation by Constantinos Holiastos

Mesolongi (Geography) City of the southwestern Greek mainland, capital of the prefecture of Aetoloakarnania and seat of the municipality of Mesolongi.  The resident is called Mesolongitis. Adjective: Mesoloingitikos.  It is in the inmost part of the lagoon of Mesolongi, which is separated from the open sea of the Patraic Gulf by a sandy strip called Louros.  It was built on three islets, which were leveled up and connected, giving the shape of a peninsula to the city.

Theodore Vryzakis (1814-1878) ΄΄The Exodus of Mesolongi΄΄

Only one building survives today from the city that was destroyed in 1826 after the Exodos (Exit), decreed in 1950 a historical landmark; it is very close to the church of St. Spyridon.  In this house Spyridon Trikoupis, a historian and the first prime minister of Greece, was born.  By the same decree the area next to St. Panteleimon is declared a historical landmark as well; on it there was a small house where the heroic bishop of Pogoi and Kozili named Joseph lived. The space where was the home of Kapsalis, in which Lord Byron lived and died, is now surrounded by a fence while in the middle (in 1924) there was placed a commemorative marble pillar with the bust of the great philhellene.

<History of Mesolongi since 1571>

First siege … The city walls needed to be defended by at least 4000 men, while the number of defenders of Mesolongi was just 500 under the commend of Alexander Maurokordatos, Markos Mpotsaris, Demetrios Makris, Athanasius Razikotsikas.  On the defenses were included 14 older canons.

            On the 25 of October 1822 Omer Vryonis and Kioutahis (Turkish generals) coming from Peta arrived at Mesolongi with 20,000 men and 15 canons and barricaded the city.  For two whole days the canons fired, while the Turks presented to the besieged offers to give up.  The Greeks, however, expecting reinforcements, stalled the negotiations until the 8th of November, when the fleet of Hydra coming to Vasiladi and chasing away the Turkish fleet gave 1700 men to Mesolongi under Petrompeis Mauromihalis, Kanellos Deligiannis, Andreas Zaimis and Andreas Lontos.  A great number of the men were from Gastouni, Pyrgos and Kalavryta.  These reinforcements encouraged the besieged, who started to come out of the walls to attack the Turks, causing them large casualties.  On the 11th of November the city and its defenders were saddened by the death from injuries of a true hero Peta, a German General earl of Karl-Albert Norman d’Erenfels, from Vyrtemberg, who as a general had fought for Napoleon.  With great honors the Mesolongites buried Norman – that’s how they called the general – at the spot where today the monument of German philhellenes is, next to the grave of his compatriot Baigant.

            Starting December, the Turks started to come to a difficult situation in Mesolongi.  Constant rain, diminishing food supplies, delays in salary and constant attacks from the Greeks exiting the walls were lowering their morale.  Bryonis with Kioutahis decided to make an all-out attack against Mesolongi on the night of Christmas, thinking that the Mesolongites would be in their churches.  The decision for the attack was made known to the Greeks by the hunter of Omer Vrionis, Konstantinos Gounaris, and all measures were taken to face the attack.  In total, 2,250 men with two canon-carrying small ships at the ends of the walls in the sea resisted successfully the attack and the Turks were forced on December 31, 1822 to undo the barricade.

On January 6, 1824, Byron came to Mesolongi amid honors by the people and stayed in the home of Christos Kapsalis, next to the sea.  The government gave him command of the campaign against Naupaktos, and Lord Byron did what was possible for the defense of the city.  Later, though, becoming sick with pneumonia, he died on April 19, 1824, and his death sank the city in mourning.

Second siege On April 15, 1825, the first Turkish body came and set camp next to Kakavos, commanded by Kahagiampei and Ismael pasha Pliasa, while at the same time entering the city were (Greek) reinforcements under Mitros Bagias, Alexios Blahopoulos, Mitros Koutsogiannis, Ioannis Ragkos, Lampros Beikos, George Kitsos and George Bagia.  The first Turkish body was followed by the main body commanded by Kioutahis pasha, while the Turkish fleet, under Hosref and Giousouf pashas, blockaded the sea.  The force of the city’s defense in the beginning of May had reached 4,000 men, but there were another 8,000 residents in the city, flocking there from the surrounding area as the Turkish army was advancing.

            The Turks, reaching about 30,000, continuously attacked Mesolongi, but the defenders fended off the attacks heroically.  When the time came when there was no food and the reinforcements from the Greek fleet was not possible, the Turks suggested that the city can be given up by a treaty.  The besieged, to make time, stalled the negotiations, until seven ships from Hydra, under Niagras, on June 10, supplied the city with food.  Offers with favorable terms for the Greeks were given seven times by the Turks, but the Mesolongites always answered: “The keys to Mesolongi are hanging on the tips of our canons.”

            The besieged, reinforced by Kotsos Tzavelas (having come in with a body of Souliots on August 7), defended with incredible patriotism Mesolongi; the sultan, seeing the inability of Kioutahis to take it, asked the help of Ibrahem pasha of Egypt.  Ibrahem came to Mesolongi on December 12, 1825 with 10,000 Egyptians and made fun of Kioutahis, who had taken by the sultan the title “Roumeli valesi” with the order “either (give me) Mesolongi or (give me) your head”, because for eight months he could not take that fence – and pointed to the walls of Mesolongi.  He took alone the responsibility of the attack and stated that, in 14 days he would have the city; he ordered a general barricade from the land and the sea.

            The days for the besieged were now horrible.  The food and medicines were running out.  The fleet could not bring food, and due to the faulty command of the government officials in Nauplio, the necessary measures were not taken to help this only battle of the revolution taking place at the time.  The attacks, though, so powerful, and the constant bombing by Ibrahem, could not take the city.  As a result he was forced, before the 14 days were up, to seek the aid of Kioutahis, so that the two armies could attack Mesolongi united.

            After fierce fighting and as a result of the burning up of the gunpowder, first Vasiladi was taken in February 23, where general Spyridon Petaloudis, and policemens Spiridon Razis, Anastasion Papaloukas, and the Italian canon operator Pashalis Giakoumozi died.  Next, on February 28 Dolmas was taken, where general George Liakatas died, and finally, the Aetolikon.  On March 25 the Mesolongites, with Kitsos Tzavellas and Panagiotis Sotiropoulos, performed a miracle one more time in the battle of Kleisova.  But the hunger and diseases had weakened the fighters and had decimated the residents.  Every hope of reinforcements from the outside had disappeared.  The bombing continued non-stop.  The printing press, where the “Ellinika Hronika” was published, was destroyed in February 21 and many other homes were deserted.  The situation of the city described in his letter the editor of “Ellinika Hronika”, I. Mayer, to Stanhop, which was sent a little before the exit:

                “We have come into such a dire situation – writes Mayer – that we feed on the most dirty animals.  We suffer from hunger and thirst.  We are sick from a number of diseases.  1740 of our brothers have already died.  More than 100,000 bombs thrown from the enemy, have destroyed the bulwarks and our houses.  The cold tortures us since we have absolutely no wood.  With all these things missing it is incredible for one to see the courage and the high moral of our defenses.  In a few days all these brave shall only be shadows of angels, martyrs before the throne of God, the indifference of the Christian world for a matter that was its own.   On behalf of all our brave I proclaim the decision we made with an oath before God to defend inch by inch to land of Mesolongi and to be buried together under the ruins of the city, rather that hear any offer about surrender.  We live our last moments.  History shall justify our position and the future men shall lament our disaster.  As for me, it makes me proud to think that the blood of a Swiss, a descendent of William Tell, is to be mixed with the blood of the heroes of Greece.”

Nicolas Kasomoulis, an eye witness in the last moments of Mesolongi, writes in his “Military Reminders” (volume 2, page 240)

                “Since the middle of February 1826 many families had no bread to eat.  One Mesolongitissa, named Barbarina, who was taking care my sick brother Mitros, run out of food, and she secretly – along with two Mesolongitikes families – slaughtered a donkey and ate it.  I found them eating and asked where they found the meat, and I got scared when I heard it was a donkey.  A company of Kravariti soldiers had a dog and, also secretly, slaughtered and ate it.  This was found out as well.  Day by day hunger grew stronger, people did not any longer mind eating dirty foods, and started to openly sleughter horses, mules, donkeys and even their owners sold them for one lira per oke (1.3 kg), but these were not enough: they lasted three days and these animals were gone, also.”

                “(Page 242): … “The partner of G. Mastheneas the typesetter (from Smyrna, Nikolaides according to I. Vlahogiannis) residing in our home slaughtered and ate a cat, and had Stournaris’ son kill another one.  He suggested to the others to do the same, and in a few days there were no cats…  We started, around the 15th of March, (eating) pikralethres, a weed of the sea; we boiled it five times for the bitterness to disappear, and ate it with vinegar and oil like a salad, but also mixed in with juice from crabs.  They also gave in to rats, and whoever was able to catch one was joyful.  We unfortunately did not have any frogs.  From the absence of food sickness and arthritis became commonplace.”

The Exit  The defense leaders had a meeting on April 6, 1826 under the leadership of the bishop of Rogoi named Joseph at the Agia Paraskeyi square, to give an opinion on what should be done.  The Exit was decided unanimously and to that end the messengers Panos Ladias and Kostas Kanatas were sent to let Georgios Karaiskakis (who was in Derbekisti) know that he should be on the night of “Lazaros” before Palm Sunday with his force in the monastery of saint Symeon, to help them at the moment of the exit.  Of these messengers Kanatas reached Karaiskakis and came back, saying that the general shall be at the monastery of St. Symeon at the specified night to help them.  Karaiskakis’ answer was heard at the was council by all the army and civil leaders.  The idea was proposed that the women and children be killed, but the bishop of Rogoi, Joseph, with an excellent speech, came against this idea, which came from the heroic shooter Gournaras.  Hristos Kapsalis stated that he with everybody unable to come out with the army shall die by lighting the depot in his house, in which a large quantity of dynamite was stored.

            The decision of the Exit was written, dictated by bishop of Rogoi, Joseph, to the records by Nikos Kasomoulis (the secretary), and was signed by all.  This monumental document is as follows, as it was written:

“In the name of the Holy Trinity.  Seeing ourselves, the army and the citizens, in general small and old; with no hope, with an absence of all the necessary items for life for 40 days now, and seeing that we have fulfilled our debts as faithful soldiers of the country in this tight siege and seeing that, in we remain one more day, we shall all die standing up in the streets.  Considering on the other hand, that we have no hope for help and supply from the sea or land, so that we may remain, since we are victors of the enemy, we unanimously decided: Our exit to be at two in the morning of the 10th of April, Saturday, on the sunrise of Palm Sunday, according to the following plan, whether help comes or not.

A’ – All army leaders from the Group of Starnari to the Group of Makri, with their soldiers in the formation of a column, will attack the group of the enemy in the seashore, in our right.  The flag of general Notis Votziaris shall be flying, as a guide of this body.  General Makris will escort it with knowledgeable people, who know the land.

B’ – All leaders from the Group of General Makris up to the Marmaroun with their soldiers formed in a column, shall attack the section to the left of the enemy.  General Makris, with his flag flying, shall be the guide of this body.

C’ – In order that the army shall not be mixed up with the families,  the bridge shall be given to the soldiers of Stanaris, and from there the heads of all families, local and foreign, should guide them and cross from there. 

D’ – Every General shall start to raise his soldiers from the wall when the time comes one by one, so that the place shall not be unguarded until the last minute.

E’ – Those from the island of Marmaroun, when it gets dark, shall leave one by one and shall go to the army of Hormova.

F’ – Tziavelas, with his body, shall be last; he, with all his men, will go around last on the walls to give orders to the last men to go with him

G’ – The body of Klisova, guided by its leaders, shall come out with the ships, at one at night and slowly, and if it reaches land will stay until 2 when we begin here, and then it shall move, as well.

H’ – Our place of meeting shall be St. Symeon.  The guides must be careful to gather us all there.

I’ – The operators shall put fire on the wicks, estimating that they shall last one hour after our exit.  The same orders apply to all sick people in the arm depots.  We all know that Kapsalis has no need of our advice.

J’ - Because many of  us shall be wounded on the way, every man owes to help the wounded and to help him by carrying his weapons, even if he is not of the same body.

K’ – It is forbidden to take a weapon of another weak or wounded man, whether silver or iron, and to go away.  Whenever an guilty person like this is found, after we are safe he shall given back the item and shall be considered a traitor.

L’ – All heads of families, if they take their positions, and the other two columns, shall move immediately, so that they may be protected by the Greek army to their backs.

M’ – No one may talk or yell during our exit, until someone fires at Kioutahis’s tent from our help that we expect, and if we are unfortunate enough not to have help, those in the back need to move immediately when the flags move.

N’ – Those among the weak and wounded who wish to participate and can, will be informed of this by the military group to which they belong.

O’ – The small children shall be given opium extract by the parents, when it gets dark (so that they fall asleep)

P’ – This secret shall be known by the “Kastrinoi and Logisioi”

Q’ – Nikolaos Kasomoulis, secretary of Nikolas Stournaris shall go through the army bodies and shall read this to them individually to each, so that all leaders shall be aware of this plan.  If in this time suddenly we see our fleet fighting in the sea and winning, we shall remain until we communicate with it”

Bishop Joseph helped by archmandrite Zaloggitis and priests Platikas, Balbis, and Aglukantos, gave communion to all residents of the city, 10,500 in number, on the day before the Exit.  The sick, wounded with the women and children separated from fathers, husbands and brothers with sadness and pain.  Many women with men’s uniforms participated in the army formations, which under the leadership of generals Dimitrios Makris, Kitsos Tzavelas and Notis Mpotsaris came out at midnight through three bridges place at the canons of Lounetta, Riga and Montalemperg.

            The expected help at St. Symeon did not arrive, because Karaiskakis was replaced these days by the government by Kostas Mpotsaris, and was as Derbekista (today called Analipsis).  At the time of the Exit, through a Bulgarian traitor that was in the defenses but went to the Turks, the Turkish army attacked the Greeks as they were coming out.  Then a voice was heard:”Back! Back to our canons!” which brought considerable confusion.  Most of the fighters, with unstoppable force, went forward, to find close to Arakinthos (next to St. Symeon) an Albanian army with which it fought; the others, including bishop Joseph, went back to the city, where infinite explosions and wild slaughter took place.  An incredible noise shakes the ground from the explosion of the house of Kapsalis, and the next day, while everything was being burned, the last refuge of a few Mesolongites, the Anemomulos, is exploded by bishop Joseph.  Nothing is left.  Those who came out, after heroic fighting with the Albanians next to St. Symeon, reach Derbekista and from there, still with no food, reach Platanos of Naupaktia and then the Isthmus of Corinth, to reach Nauplion and to continue their fight for freedom.  Among the dead of the Exit were: Athanassion Razikostas, Papadiamantopoulos, Karpounis, Mager with his wife and children, Farantos, Kokinis, Palamas, Strounaras, and the German Philhellenes Baizer, Klab, Schipam, Lytrob, Spitselberg, baron Bentezel and many others.

A large number of prisoner women and children were sent to Egypt, while the European popular opinion expressed its admiration for the sacrifice of the citizens of Mesolongi.  In Paris the university students organized a demonstration upon the news that Mesolongi fell and forced king Karl to come to the balcony of his palace and to praise in favor of the Greeks saying that “with them we shall go into Constantinople”.  Palmerston in the English parliament and Satobrian in the French parliament gave excellent speeches for Mesolongi, while the philhellenic teachings of Neighbor and Theirs – inspired by the tragedy of Mesolongi – rose the German people in favor of Greece and fundraisers throughout Germany were done to aid the Greek war effort.  King of Barbary Lubdobikos placed a large fraction of his personal account to buy imprisoned women and children from Mesolongi, and ordered that festivities in favor of Mesolongi stop and instead the money to these be divided equally for the poor of the city and in honor of the dead of Mesolongi.  The Swiss Einard supported Greece immediately and called on the world for the freeing of the prisoners of Mesolongi.  Lafiz and Sain Ilair appeared in the French parliament as supporters of the rights of Greece as a result of Mesolongi, and wise German Bossio gave all his money for the victims of Mesolongi.  Poets, sculptors and painters, among which Victor Hugo, Gaete, Ozanaux, David d’ Anze, Delacroix, Eugene d’ Lansac, honored with their works the glory of Mesolongi.

            Mesolongi remained under Turkish rule until May 2, 1829, when it was given through an agreement to the Greeks.  The scattered Mesolongites came back, and the city started to be rebuilt, under tight economic conditions.  The events of Grivas in 1862 interrupted for a small period of time the peaceful life of the city, which however, gave to the government of the country big polititians, presidents of Greek governments: Spyridon Trikoupis, Zinobios Valvis, Dimitrios Valvis, Epaminondas Deligeorgis, Harilaos Trikoupis.  Also in the letters the important poets and writers: Kostis Palamas, Georgios Drosinis, Maltiadis Malakasis, Antonios Traulantonis.  In the war of 1940-41 and during the occupation it was bombed tens of times by air, with destruction to many homes and large damages to the port.

From another section of the same encyclopedia (paraphrasing): Mesolongi had become for all Greeks forced to move around due to constant fighting a small protection or break from the war of independence, since the two major armies were occupied with taking the city. 

Also in Europe people followed with feeling the dramatic fight in Mesolongi, getting their information from Nauplion and their own fleets in the Aegean, as well as from the Turkish-Egyptian sources.  Mesolongi and its fate had become the theme of the day in the European centers.

Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες επικοινωνήστε μέσω ηλεκτρονικού ταχυδρομείου με τον Κωνσταντίνο Χολιαστό.
Για τεχνικά προβλήματα σχετικά με αυτή την ιστοσελίδα επικοινωνήστε με τον Χρίστο Α. Νεοφύτου.
Τελευταία ενημέρωση: 08.20.2002 02:52:55 Ώρα Ειρηνικού Ωκεανού