Georgios Karaiskakis

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Georgios Karaiskakis
Γεώργιος Καραϊσκάκης
Georgios Karaiskakis; lithography by Karl Krazeisen.
Nickname(s)The Nun's Son
Mavrommati, Karditsa or Skoulikaria, Arta, Ottoman Empire
DiedApril 23, 1827 (aged 45)
Phalerum, Attica, Hellenic Republic
Allegiance Greece
Years of service1796–1827
Battles/warsGreek War of Independence

Georgios Karaiskakis (Greek: Γεώργιος Καραϊσκάκης), born Georgios Karaiskos (Greek: Γεώργιος Καραΐσκος; 1782 – April 23, 1827), was a famous Greek military commander and a leader of the Greek War of Independence.


Early life

Karaiskakis was born in 1782 in a monastery near the village of Skoulikaria (Greek: Σκουληκαριά) close to Arta.[1] His father was the armatolos of the Valtos district, Dimitris Iskos or Karaiskos, his mother Zoe Dimiski (from Arta, Greece, who was also the niece of a local monastery abbot) and cousin of Gogos Bakolas, captain of the armatoliki of Radovitsi. He was of Sarakatsani[2] descent.

At an very early age he became a klepht in the service of Katsantonis, a famous local Agrafiote brigand captain. He excelled as a klepht — agile, cunning, brave and reckless — and rose quickly through the ranks, eventually becoming a protopalikaro, or lieutenant.

At the age of fifteen he was captured by the troops of the Albanian ruler Ali Pasha and imprisoned at Ioannina, where close to Ali Pasha he learned Albanian. Ali Pasha, impressed by Karaiskakis’s courage and intelligence, and sensing his worth as a fighter, released him from prison and put him in the care of his personal bodyguards. He served as a bodyguard to Ali Pasha for a few years.

During his service under Ali Pasha, he fought against another Ottoman warlord, Osman Pazvantoğlu, in 1798.[3]

Greek War of Independence

Karaiskakis served in the army of Ali Pasha in his war against the Ottomans, but after the defeat and death of the ruler of Ioannina, Karaiskakis fled to Vonitsa.[3]

In July 1821 he took part with the Greek rebels in the Battle of Komboti [el] against Pliasa Ismail Pasha,[3] but he soon left to pursue his long-held ambition of seizing the armatolik of Agrafa, then held by the family of Ioannis Boukouvalas.[3] Karaiskakis gathered supporters from Valtos and other areas, and was joined by Yannakis Rangos. In this way, he was able to take over Agrafa and was recognized as holder of the armatolik not only by the local captains, but also by the Ottoman authorities, who were too busy with suppressing the Greek uprising in the Morea (Peloponnese).[3]

Despite his recognition by the Ottomans, he attacked the Ottoman army retreating from the failed First Siege of Missolonghi in early 1823, defeating a 3,000-strong detachment [el] that tried to cross the Agrafa area at the pass of Agios Vlasios.[3] When Mustafa Pasha Bushatli, the Pasha of Scutari, arrived at Larissa in 1823, he ordered Karaiskakis to come before him and reaffirm his loyalty in person, rather than through a representative as was usual. Instead, Karaiskakis although heavily ill, left Agrafa with about 300 men and made for Prousos Monastery [el]. There he stayed to recuperate, while his men joined Markos Botsaris' Souliotes, and eventually fought with them in the Battle of Karpenisi.[3] As his health did not improve, Karaiskakis left for Ithaca, then ruled by the British, to consult physicians there. In his absence, Yannakis Rangos declared himself as leader of Karaiskakis' men.[3]

Karaiskakis's reputation grew during the middle and latter stages of the war. He helped to lift the second siege of Missolonghi in 1823, and did his best to save the town from its third siege in 1826.

That same year (1826), he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Greek revolutionary forces in Rumeli, achieving a mixed response: while failing to cooperate effectively with other leaders of the independence movement or with the foreign sympathizers fighting alongside the Greeks, he gained some military successes against the Ottomans.

His most famous victory was at Arachova, where his army together with other revolutionary leaders, crushed a force of Turkish and Albanian troops under Mustafa Bey and Kehaya Bey. Victories such as the one at Arachova were especially welcome amid the disasters that were occurring elsewhere.

In 1827, Karaiskakis participated in the failed attempt to raise the siege of Athens, and attempted to prevent the massacre of the Ottoman garrison stationed in the convent of Saint Spyridon in Piraeus.

He was killed in action on his Greek name day, 23 April 1827, after being fatally wounded by a rifle bullet during the Battle of Phaleron. According to Karaiskakis's expressed desire to be buried on the island of Salamis when he died, he was buried at the church of Saint Dimitrios on Salamis.

Honours and popular culture

King Otto of Greece posthumously conferred Karaiskakis the Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer.[4]

Karaiskakis was famous among the fighters of the revolution for his tirade manner of speaking.

Karaiskaki Stadium in Neo Faliro, Piraeus is named after him as he was mortally wounded in the area.

Dionysis Savvopoulos has written both music and lyrics to the popular Greek song "Ode to Georgios Karaiskakis" (Greek: "Ωδή στο Γεώργιο Καραϊσκάκη"). Savvopoulos wrote the song for Che Guevara, but he chose this title to pass the censorship of the Greek military junta.


Karaiskakis was married to Engolpia Skylodimou, and had three children: daughters Pinelopi and Eleni, and the only son Spyridon.

Sitsa Karaiskaki, a writer of the Interwar period, known for her pro-nazi beliefs, was also his descendant. She left Greece for Vienna with other collaborators after the Axis withdrawal in 1944, but returned later.

See also


  1. ^ Karl Mendelssohn Bartholdy,Geschichte Griechenlands, Volume 1, 1828, p.430 : «Georg Karaiskakis*), 1782 zu Skuli Karia in der Provinz Arta». – Camillo Ugoni, Vita e scritti di Giuseppe Pecchio, 1836, p.161: «Pecchio, descritte le visite e conversazioni da sè fatte in compagnia del generale Roche al generale Giorgio Caraiscachi, Epirota nativo di Arta». –Gustav Friedrich Hertzberg, Geschichte Griechenlands: Th. Von der Vollendung der osmanischen Eroberung bis zur Erhebung der Neugriechen gegen die Pforte (1470-1821), 1878, p.367 : «Georg Karaiskakis, ein Epirote aus Skylikaria, einige Meilen östlich von Arta». - Auguste Jean Raymond Fabre, Histoire Du Siege de Missolonghi: Suivie de Pieces Justificatives, 1827, p.191 : «George Karaïscaki, originaire d'Arta, s'était déja distingué, avant la révolution grecque, par ses exploits comme Klephte».
  2. ^ Clogg, Richard (2002). Minorities in Greece: aspects of a plural society. London: Hurst. “...klepth heroes of the revolutionary period such as Katsandonis and Karaiskakis were Sarakatsani, and the Sarakatsani themselves believed they were Greek patriots whose sense of freedom could suffer no restrains...”
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Hatzimichalis, Ch. (1929). "Καραϊσκάκης Γεώργιος". Μεγάλη Στρατιωτικὴ καὶ Ναυτικὴ Ἐγκυκλοπαιδεία. Tόμος Τέταρτος: Καβάδης–Μωριάς [Great Military and Naval Encyclopaedia. Volume IV: Kavadh–Morea] (in Greek). Athens: Ἔκδοσις Μεγάλης Στρατιωτικῆς καὶ Ναυτικῆς Ἐγκυκλοπαιδείας. pp. 57–59. OCLC 31255024 .
  4. ^ A.I. Kladis (1837). "Κεφάλαιον Ὄγδοον. Περὶ τῆς συστάσεως Τάγματος Ἀριστείας διὰ τὸ Βασίλειον τῆς Ἑλλάδος." [Chapter Eight. On the establishment of an Order of Excellence for the Kingdom of Greece]. ΕΦΕΤΗΡΙΣ (Almanach) τοῦ Βασιλείου τῆς Ἑλλάδος διὰ τὸ ἔτος 1837 . Athens: Βασιλικὴ Τυπογραφία καὶ Λιθογραφία. pp. 123–136.

Categories: 1782 births | 1827 deaths | Eastern Orthodox Christians from Greece | Greek generals | People from Karditsa (regional unit) | Greek military leaders of the Greek War of Independence | Greek military personnel killed in action | Sarakatsani

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