Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία
Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Τετάρτη, 3 Οκτωβρίου 2018

Greek Klephts and Armatoloi : The yeast of liberty against Ottoman Empire

Greek Christian families were, subject to a  Ottoman system of brutal forced conscription known as the devshirme. The Ottomans required that male children from Christian peasant villages be conscripted and enrolled in the corps of Janissaries for military training in the Sultan's army. Such recruitment was sporadic, and the proportion of children conscripted varied from region to region. The practice largely came to an end by the middle of the seventeenth century. Under the Ottoman system of government, Greek society was at the same time fostered and restricted. With one hand the Turkish regime gave privileges and freedom to its subject people; with the other it imposed a tyranny deriving from the malpractices of its administrative personnel over which it exercised only remote and incomplete control. In fact the “rayahs” were downtrodden and exposed to the vagaries of Turkish administration and sometimes to the Greek landlords. The term rayah came to denote an underprivileged, tax-ridden and socially inferior population. The economic situation of the majority of Greece deteriorated heavily during the Ottoman era of the country. Life became ruralized and militarized. Heavy burdens of taxation were placed on the Christian population, and many Greeks were reduced to subsistence farming whereas during prior eras the region had been heavily developed and urbanized.
The Sultan regarded the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church as the leader of all Orthodox, Greeks or not, within the empire. The Patriarch was accountable to the Sultan for the good behavior of the Orthodox population, and in exchange he was given wide powers over the Orthodox communities, including the non-Greek Slavic peoples. The Patriarch controlled the courts and the schools, as well as the Church, throughout the Greek communities of the empire. This made Orthodox priests, together with the local magnates, called Prokritoi or Dimogerontes, the effective rulers of Greek towns and cities. Crypto-Christians officially ran the risk of being killed if they were caught practicing a non-Muslim religion once they converted to Islam. After the 16th century, many Greek folk songs (dimotika) were produced and inspired from the way of life of the Greek people, brigands and the armed conflicts during the centuries of Ottoman rule. Klephtic songs or ballads, are a subgenre of the Greek folk music genre and are thematically oriented on the life of the klephts.
Klephts (pl. kléftes, which means "thief") were highwaymen turned self-appointed armatoloi, anti-Ottoman insurgents, and warlike mountain-folk who lived in the countryside when Greece was a part of the Ottoman Empire. They were the descendants of Greeks who retreated into the mountains during the 15th century in order to avoid Ottoman rule.They carried on a continuous war against Ottoman rule and remained active as brigands until the 19th century. The terms kleptomania and kleptocracy are derived from the same Greek root, κλέπτειν (kléptein), "to steal". After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 and then the fall of Mistra in the Despotate of the Morea, most of the plains of present-day Greece fell entirely into the hands of the Ottoman Empire. The only territories that did not fall under Ottoman rule were the mountain ranges (populated by Greeks and inaccessible to the Ottoman Turks), as well as a handful of islands and coastal possessions under the control of Venice. This situation lasted until at least 1821, although there were some parts of Greece, such as Macedonia and Epirus, that still remained in Turkish hands until the 20th century. This period of time in Greece is known as the Turkocracy. Ottoman lands were divided up into pashaliks, also called eyalets; in the case of the lands that form present-day Greece, these were Morea and Roumelia. Pashaliks were further sub-divided into sanjaks which were often divided into feudal chifliks (Turkish çiftlik (farm), Greek tsifliki). Any surviving Greek troops, whether regular Byzantine forces, local militia, or mercenaries had either to join the Ottoman army as janissaries, serve in the private army of a local Ottoman notable, or fend for themselves. Many Greeks wishing to preserve their Greek identity, Orthodox Christian religion, and independence chose the difficult but liberated life of a bandit. These bandit groups soon found their ranks swelled with impoverished and/or adventurous peasants, societal outcasts, and escaped criminals. Klephts under Ottoman rule were generally men who were fleeing vendettas or taxes, debts and reprisals from Ottoman officials. They raided travelers and isolated settlements and lived in the rugged mountains and back country. Most klephtic bands participated in the Greek War of Independence. During the Greek War of Independence, the klephts, along with the armatoloi, formed the nucleus of the Greek fighting forces, and played a prominent part throughout its duration. Yannis Makriyannis referred to the "klephtes and armatoloi" as the "yeast of liberty". Klephtic songs or ballads, were developed in mainland Greece.They are part of the Greek folk music genre, which includes folk poetry, and are thematically oriented on either the achievements and death of a single klepht or the generic life of the klephts as a group. The famous Greek dish klephtiko (or kleftiko), a dish entailing slow-cooked lamb (or other meat), can be translated "in the style of the klephts". The klephts, not having flocks of their own, would steal lambs or goats and cook the meat in a sealed pit to avoid the smoke being seen.
Armatoloi (singular Armatolos) were Christian Greek irregular soldiers, or militia, commissioned by the Ottomans to enforce the Sultan's authority within an administrative district called an Armatoliki (plural Armatolikia) Armatolikia were created in areas of Greece that had high levels of brigandage (i.e. klephts), or in regions that were difficult for Ottoman authorities to govern due to the inaccessible terrain, such as the Agrafa mountains of Thessaly, where the first armatoliki was established in the 15th century. Over time, the roles of the armatoloi and klephtes became blurred, with both reversing their roles and allegiances as the situation demanded, all the while maintaining the delicate status-quo with the Ottoman authorities.They actually were the equivalent of today's Gunlords, armed men who were enforcing the law according to their desires with the force of their guns- armata- , since the authority of the Ottoman Empire was very limited in the areas that they were acting, actually the Ottoman empire where the Armatoloi were present was a Failed state. During the Greek War of Independence, the armatoloi, along with the klephts, formed the nucleus of the Greek fighting forces, and played a prominent part throughout its duration. Yannis Makriyannis referred to the armatoloi and klephts as the "yeast of liberty" (μαγιά της λευτεριάς).
The word armatolos first appeared in the 15th century during Venetian times. It is derived from a medieval loan from Latin arma ('weapon'), via Greek αρματολόγος ('someone who deals with arms', 'an armed person') → αρματολόος → αρματολός.
Administrative districts known as armatolikia were created in areas of Greece that had high levels of brigandage (i.e. klephts), or in regions that were difficult for Ottoman authorities to govern due to the inaccessible terrain. An armatoliki was commanded by a kapetanios (meaning captain), often a former klepht captain who had been hired by the governing Ottoman pasha to combat, or at least contain, brigand groups operating in the region. In most cases, the captain would have gained a level of notoriety as a klepht to force the Ottomans to give him amnesty and the privileges that came with an armatoliki. Therefore, it was not surprising that armatolos units were organised in very much the same way as the klephts, with a captain assisted by a lieutenant called a protopalikaro, who was usually a kinsman, and the remaining force made up of armatoloi.
As mentioned earlier, the armatoloi were organized based on a feudal system under which they maintained their military/police duties in exchange for titles of land. When the Ottomans conquered Greece in the 15th century, they established treaties with the armatoloi in order for them to maintain their military/police functions. The Ottomans would have units of armatoloi or kapetanioi (καπετάνιοι, captains) function as peace-keepers in territories near difficult terrain (i.e. mountain passes) or in areas where resistance to foreign rule entailed acts of theft by the klephts. The armatoloi were mostly concentrated in Macedonia, Thessaly, Epirus, Acarnania, and Aetolia (Agrafa). In the Peloponnesus, armatolismos did not develop in the same manner as it did in Roumeli and Epirus. In the Peloponnesus, the kapoi (κάποι) and the meintanides (μεϊντάνηδες) were similar to the armatoloi. If in certain regions, the institution of armatolismos was not implemented, the territories were divided into armatolikia (αρματολίκια) or protakta (προτάκτα). These territories extended from the Axios River (Αξιός) to the Ambracian Gulf and up to the Corinthian Gulf. The kapetanioi would often have authority over these territories via inheritance/succession. A single kapetanio was at first forced to submit his authority to the pasha who controlled the periphery. Later, all kapetanioi were forced to submit to Dervedji pasha (Δερβετζή πασά). During the 18th century, there were around seventeen armatolikia. Ten of them were located in Thessaly and the eastern regions of Central Greece, four of them in Epirus, Acarnania, and Aetolia, and three in Macedonia. Every kapetanio had his rank-and-file soldiers known as palikaria (παλικάρια, from ancient Greek pallix) and section leaders among these palikaria were known as protopalikara (πρωτοπαλίκαρα). The palikaria would train with their weapons on a daily basis. The main weapon the palikaria utilized was the kariofili (καριοφίλι). Marksmanship was the proverbial hallmark that defined the palikaria. They were also capable in the art of ambushing and mobility. The palikaria were resilient toward thirst, hunger and even the painful difficulties in their encounters with the klephts. The term klephtopolemos (κλεφτοπόλεμος) was used to name the strategies/tactics that both the klephts and armatoloi utilized. These tactics are used today for unconventional military campaigns by small guerrilla groups. The armatoloi would conduct campaigns during nighttime. This strategy was known as "going out to pagana" (έβγαιναν στην παγάνα). The armatoloi would usually do this when the klephts were coming out of their dens. The armatoloi would defend themselves in improvised forts (meterizia; μετερίζια) against the guerrilla tactics utilized by the klephts (klephtouria; κλεφτουριά). A general offensive campaign by the armatoloi was known as giourousi (γιουρούσι). During one of these campaigns, the armatoloi would make effective use of swords and warcries.
For the Ottomans, it became progressively more difficult for them to distinguish the armatoloi from the klephts. Both groups began to establish relations with one another under a common ethnic Greek rubric. This collaboration was also based on mutual sentiments against foreign conquerors. Since both groups were armed and possessed military experience, they helped Greeks become better warriors before the advent of the Greek Revolution of 1821. The first recorded appearance of collaborations between armatoloi and klephts goes back to 1585 during the wars fought between the Venetians and the Ottomans. During this time, Theodoros Boua-Grivas incited an insurrection in Acarnania and Epirus with armatoloi Poulios Drakos and Malamos from Epirus. The Sublime Porte continued to have trust in armed groups such as the armatoloi up until 1684. During that year the armatoloi became carriers of nationalist ideas. Prominent armatoloi from the 17th century were Soumilas, Meintanis, Livinis, Kourmas, the Balaorites, etc. Though these individuals engaged in failed rebellions, their attempts became an inspiration for future armatoloi to follow.
Since the 1770s, the Russian Empire tried to inspire a rebellion in Greece (Orlov Revolt). During these attempts, many armatoloi took up arms. With the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, a number of prominent armatoloi abandoned any allegiance to the Ottoman state and formed the nucleus of the Greek land forces. Among them were Odysseas Androutsos, Georgios Karaiskakis, Athanasios Diakos, and Markos Botsaris. There were armatoloi (such as Karaiskakis) that were initially employed by Ali Pasha, and of whom some fought with him against the Ottomans. In 1820, when Ali declared his territory’s withdrawal from Ottoman influence, he depended heavily on the Greek armatoloi to help him. Though Ali’s insurrection failed, this bold experiment did not weaken the ability of the armatoloi to fight for independence and contribute to the Greek Revolution.
Palikari”, is a Modern Greek word, taken from the ancient Greek “pallax, pallex or pallix”, meaning, a lad, or, a youth, in his prime, just before adolescence, and unmarried. A “palikari’, or, “palikar”, is a young, Greek military man, who fought against the Ottomans (Turks) in the Greek Revolution, or, Greek War of Independence, 1821, a brave, valiant warrior, daring and courageous, one who never shies away from danger. Today, in Greece, when you hear someone using the word "palkari", or calling someone a “palikari”, it’s invariably in an affectionate manner, and more often than not, a compliment for a young boy or man, who has accomplished a strenuous or honourable task.
Leventis is a Greek word for describing a handsome man, derived from the Greek name for the Levant. Because nt is pronounced /nd/ in Greek, the name is sometimes spelled Levendis. The etymology of Leventis is given in the Oxford Dictionary of American Family Names: " From Italian levanti ‘Levantine’, ‘people from the East’, i.e. the eastern Mediterranean, in particular armed sailors or pirates during the Middle Ages. In Italian the word took on a negative connotation and came to mean ‘pirate’ and hence ‘undisciplined youth’, but in Greek the term has positive connotations of fearlessness and gallantry. It is also a reduced form of surnames with Levento- as a prefix, e.g. Leventogiannis ‘John the gallant’."
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  1. My family had two "Klephtes"around 1800's. Elias Demetrios Flessas and Nikitas Demetrios Flessas the brothers of Papaflessas.
    They were fighting the Tourks with another famous "Klephtes", Zacharias from Eastern Mani, Peloponnisos.