The War of Independence (1821-1833)
The news of the French Revolution and the disturbances of the Napoleonic Wars excited political passions across Europe. In 1815 in Odessa the secret Friendly Society was founded to organise revo1ution among the Greeks. Many influential phanriotes, rich Greeks associated with the patriarchate, wished take the empire over from within, while many leaders of the Church rightly foresaw the prospect of loss of the privileges and influence they enjoyed in the setting up of a modern state. Then in March Ι82Ι, taking advantage of the difficulties the Ottoman government was having with the powerful and unruly Αli Pasha of Ioannina, revolt broke out in the Peloponnese.
As news of the revolt reached Attica the people of the villages rose immediately. Preparations had already been made, centred upon Menidi (ancient Archarnon) in the foothills of Mount Parnes. Many of the Greeks of Athens sent their families to Salamis. The Turks, about six hundred, withdrew onto the acropolis, taking with them Greek hostages.
Α Greek force entered Athens on May 7th and laid siege to the Acropolis. But in early August a large Turkish army under Omar Vriοni passed through, forcing the Greeks to withdraw to Salamis and Aegina and restocked the Acropolis with food. When his army left, the Greeks returned and resumed the siege. They made no attempt to storm the citadel, and even resumed cultivation of their fields. On 21st June, 1822, the Turks were forced to surrender because they had run out of water.
By the terms of their surrender the Turks were to hand over most of their money and property and all their weapons, and be transported to Anatolia in neutral ships. Fearing reprisals for generations of oppression, they asked the Austrian, Russian and French Cοnsuls to guarantee their safe conduct, and the archbishop required the leaders of the Greek forces to swear to observe the truce. The Turks were held in the voivode’s residence in the ruins of the Library of Hadrian while awaiting the ships. But a few days before they arrived a rumour of an approaching Turkish army triggered a general massacre. George Finlay wrote: ‘The streets of Athens were stained with the blood of four hundred men, women and children. From sunrise to sunset during a long summer day, the shrieks of tortured women and children were heard without intermission.’ The survivors were only saved by the arrival of French marines from warships, who escorted them to safety.
When the Greeks began to quarrel over the spoils, a message was sent to Demitrios Ypsilanti to take command. The chieftains, however, chose to elect one of their own number, Odysseus Androutsos of Epiros, as commander in Athens. Α former member of the bodyguard of Αlί Pasha of Ioannina, he arrived in September with about one hundred and fifty followers.
The Turks had been forced to surrender the Acropolis because of lack of water. In case they should find themselves in a similar position, the Greeks began a search for a source of water they knew from ancient tradition lay inside the ancient defences of the citadel. The archaeologist Kyriakos Pattakis located the Κlepsydra Spring, and Androutsos had the fortifications modified to enclose it, constructing a stairway to provide access. He also laid in supplies of food and weapons.
The fiercely independent Androutsos soon found himself at odds with the Greek government in Nauplia. After leading a campaign against the Turks in Euboeia he made his own truce with them, and even took some Turkish cavalry into his employ. In spring 1825 he attacked some villages around Attica. In April 1825 he was arrested by one of his own men, loannis Gouras, and imprisoned in the
Frankish Tower. On 5th June 1825, his body was found near the church of the Metamorphosis in Theorias Street. He was supposed to have ‘fallen’ to his death from the wa1ls of the acropolis while trying to escape, when the rope broke. It was generally assumed that he had been strangled, and his body thrown down to make it look like an accident.
During 1826, the war went badly for the Greeks. Egyptians, under Ibrahim Pasha, devastated the Pelopoηηese, and only Korinthia and Attica remained free. In late summer a Turkish army under Mehmet Reshid Pasha (‘Kioutahis’) and Omar Vriοni entered Attica. So oppressive and cruel had Gouras been that the villagers welcomed them. Gouras withdrew into the Acropolis, making no attempt to defend the town. John Makriannis, a peasant from the mountains of Central Greece, orphaned by the Turks, led the defence of the lower town. For thirty-four days they repaired the damage to the walls inflicted by Reshid’s cannon. When the town fell, in August, they retreated onto the citadel.
Thus a second siege of the Acropolis began. On 13th October, Gouras was killed by a sniper. Faced with failure everywhere, the government decided that the Greeks needed for the sake of morale to rescue this symbol of national pride and Western values. Α number of regular soldiers were assembled at Salamis under the French Philhellene, Colonel Charles Fabνίer and 2,500 regulars under George Karaiskakis, a chieftain from the mountains of Roumeli.
Fabνίer and Karaiskakis moved their forces near to Piraeus in an attempt to force the Turks to raise the siege, but Karaiskakis unexpectedly pulled back his forces, leaνίng Fabνίer and his men dangerously exposed, and forced to pull back. Afterwards there were mutual recriminations.
The Turks continued the bombardment of the Acropolis. Under the leadership of Makriyannis the Greeks secretly placed gunpowder in a Turkish outpost close to the defences, and then tried to lure the Turks to that place for talks. When one of his men got drunk, drew his knife and started shouting, the Turks became suspicious and pulled back. The Greeks attacked nevertheless, and the gunpowder went off harmlessly. When the Turks counterattacked ‘Makriyannis cried out to supposed hidden companions to ‘Fire off the other mine,’ which frightened the Turks, who fled. The Turks planted a mine of their own under the citadel but it was discovered by a young Athenian who went down on a rope to investigate.
In October some of Gouras’ men fled to Salamis. When Gouras was killed by a stray bullet, a committee of five, including Makriyannis, was set up to administer the garrison until the government could send a new commander. Α letter was smuggled out which told them of Gouras’ death and begged for reinforcements. Six days later a battle took place which lasted from dawn to sunset, during which Makriyannis was badly wounded several times, but kept his men fighting. His wounds were so serious that at first the surgeon refused to operate as he considered his case hopeless, but he finally succeeded in saνίng his life. The government sent four hundred and fifty men to reinforce the citadel, who managed to enter secretly.
Αt the end of November, supplies were running short, especially ammunition, fuel and medicine. It was decided that someone would have to break through the Turkish lines and report to the government on Aegina. Makriyannis agreed to go with an escort of five men, aIthough his wounds had still not healed. The six charged the enemy and succeeded in breaking through the Turkish lines. Makriyannis warned the government that the need for help was urgent if the Acropolis were not to be lost. He then went to Methana to ask Fabvier to organize an expedition to take fresh supplies of gunpowder into the Acropolis. Fabvier agreed, but insisting that he and his men would withdraw as soon as their mission was completed.
He landed with six hundred and fifty men at Phaleron on a moonlit night in December. Each man had tied a sack of gunpowder on his back, and had received instructions to move swiftly and silently. They reached the outposts of the Acropolis safely and delivered the gunpowder, but before they could withdraw, the alarm was raised. Fabvier and his men, unable to fight their way through the Turkish lines, were forced to withdraw inside the Acropolis. Afterwards, Fabvier could never be convinced that the garrison had not deliberately alerted the Turks in order to compel him to remain with them. He later complained that every time they tried to slip away, the Turks were always somehow alerted, frustrated their getaway.
Captain Frank Abney Hastings, an officer of the Royal Navy, arrived in Piraeus in February 1827 in his own steamship, an iron paddle steamer, the Karteria, accompanied by six smaller ships, with George Finlay and Samuel Howe. Two land forces were assembled, one on Salamis and the other at Eleusis. Ιt was hoped that these, with supporting fire from the ships, would be ab1e to move the Turks from their positions and relieve the Acropolis. One force commanded by Colonel Gordon landed at Phaleron, where his Greek irregulars ignored orders to remain silent and fired off their guns to let the garrison know that help was on the way. Thus alerted, the Turks were able to force Gordon and his men to withdraw. After a Turkish cavalry charge had killed five hundred men of the Eleusis force, the rest fled. Reshid Pasha had the heads of the dead Greeks displayed before the defenders on the Acropolis to reduce their morale.
In March General Sir Richard Church and Admiral Lord Cochrane, the newly appointed army and navy commanders-in-chief, arrived. Karaiskakis was disgusted that these positions had been given to foreigners. Nevertheless, eighteen thousand men were assembled at Piraeus, Phaleron, and Megara, the largest fighting force to be gathered in anyone place since the start of the war. About five thousand troops, led by Karaiskakis, stationed themselves at Keratsίnί, on the plain to the west of Piraeus. Church, assembled a second force often thousand at Piraeus; while Lord Cochrane, hired a thousand Hydriots, who occupied the hill of Munychia, overlooking the port.
One day when Cochrane was reconnoitring the enemy positions at the head of a small force, a skirmish with an enemy patrol took place. Spying an opportunity for a quick victory with a determined charge, he forthwith led his men into battle. Convinced by what appeared to be a stupid act that fresh forces they had not yet detected must have come to support the Greeks, the Muslims abandoned their redoubt. Three hundred Albanians under Turkish command fled for shelter to the monastery of Saint Spyridοn, where they were soon entirely surrounded.
After two days intense fire, Cochrane offered them terms. They would be sent as prisoners of war to the ships if they surrendered. Karaiskakis agreed to this, and so they did surrender Unfortunately, the Βritish commanders had failed to ensure that the terms of this agreement wou1d be observed by their own forces. When the Albanians emerged, and some Greeks tried to rush past them into the monastery to lay claim to spoils, one of them bumped into an Albanian, and shooting broke out. Over a hundred of the Albanians were killed then and there, while the rest scattered and were hunted down individually.
Some time afterwards, the commanders met to plan their attack on the Turks besieging the Acropolis. The approach to the city from Piraeus lay through vineyards and olive groves, which would provide excellent cover, and the enemy could not use their large cavalry force against them. But Cochrane suddenly decided to move the troops at Piraeus to Faliron by boat, and then advance from there towards the city across the open heath land of the area then called Analatos.
Then during the night before the attack a totally unexpected disaster occurred. Some Hydriot soldiers got drunk and attacked a Turkish outpost near Faliron. Karaiskakis went out to investigate and was hit by a stray bullet. He did not want to alarm his men, so he got back onto his horse, and said that his injury was not serious. Shortly afterwards, he had to dismount and walk, supported by a companion, whom he asked to make sure that no foreign doctors were allowed anywhere near him He was taken on board ship to Salamina and died when they disembarked at Koulouri. The loss of this able leader, who had the respect and affection of aIl the Greek fighters, was a great tragedy for Greece.
During that same night, three thousand men and nine field guns were transported by ship from Piraeus to Faliron; but the operation was only completed just before daybreak, so that it was clear that it would be too late for them to be able to reach the enemy forces before sunrise. In spite of this, Cochrane and Church insisted that the attack go forward, choosing to superintend operations from the decks of their boats.
Thus dawn found the Greek forces strung out across the open heath, half way between the coast and the Acropolis. It was a perfect opportunity for the Turkish cavalry, and they did not fail to seize it. The initial two cavalry charges were resisted by the advance guard of regular troops. But at the third, the enemy broke through, and a panic retreat began. The Greeks were cut down as they fled towards the sea Only the desire of the Turks to celebrate their victory allowed many Greeks to escape.
This was one of the greatest disasters of the entire war. Within two hours, between one thousand and fifteen hundred men had fallen in battle. Two hundred and forty prisoners had been taken by the Turks, and were beheaded, one-by-one. The heads were sent to Constantinople as a evidence of Kioutahis’ victory. George Finlay noted: ‘It dispersed their last army, and destroyed all confidence in the military skill of their English commander-in-chief.’
On 27th May 1827, Fabvier agreed to surrender the Acropolis to Kioutahis. The besieged had run out of food. The inhabitants were evacuated by French and Austrian warships to Salamina. For the remainder of the war, the Turks retained their hold over Athens. [Read about the battle of Analatos in Athens: The Suburbs.]
In order to end the war without massacres of Christians which would be unpopular with Philhellenic public opinion at home, the Great Powers then decided to make Greece semi-independent under Ottoman sovereignty. The Turks, with victory clearly in their sights, refused to compromise. Α few months later, in October 1827, the Turkish-Egyptian fleet was destroyed by the combined British, French and Russian fleets at Navarino. The withdrawal of Turkish forces was arranged, and the French Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Mediterranean Fleet sailed in to supervise their evacuation.
Α series of agreements among the great powers, concluded between September 1829 and July 1832 established the limits and nature of the new state. For much of that time, it was by no means certain that Athens would be included. Kapodistrias, leader of the provisional government, saw that the issue might in the end be settled on the basis of each party keeping what they had. So he encouraged Ypsilantis to enter Attica and Boiotia, where, in September 1929, he won the last battle of the war between Thebes and Livadia. The Turks were forced to cede the territory to September, by the Treaty of Adrianople.
At that time, Thomas Alcock was in Athens, which lay in ruins. He wrote: ‘The few monuments of past grandeur standing amid a mass of ruin, as if saved by magic, -the wretched huts of some Albanian soldiers, -a paltry bazaar, -and five or six tolerable dwellings, in which the Bey and the chief officers reside, form the exact state of Athens in 1829…’
Only after the treaty which created an independent Greece signed at the Convention of London in 1832, was the Turkish hold on the city loosened. Even then, a year was to pass before they finally left. During this time, Christopher Wordsworth wrote: ‘The town of Athens is now lying in ruins. The streets are almost deserted; nearly all the houses are without roofs. The churches are reduced to bare walls and heaps of stones and mortar. There is but one church in which the service is performed. Α few new wooden houses, one or two of more solid structure, and the two lines of planked sheds which form the bazaar are all the inhabited dwellings that Athens can now boast. So slowly does it recover from the effects of the late war.’
He described his lodgings as in the nearest building to the Temple of Theseus on the extreme edge of the modem town. There were few other buildings near. At a little distance to the south he described a peasant engaged in ploughing the earth with a team of two oxen: the soil along which he was driving his furrows covering part of the ancient agora.
The bazaar was a long street, the only one of any importance. It had no foot-pavement; there was a gutter in the middle, down which, in wintry weather the water ran in torrents. The houses were generally patched together with planks and plaster. Looking up the street, you could see the commodities with which the market was supplied: ‘Barrels of black caviar, small pocket-looking- glasses in red pasteboard cases, onions, tobacco piled up in brown heaps, black olives, figs strung together upon a rush, rices, pipes with amber mouth-pieces and brown clay bowls, rich stuffs, and silver-chased pistols, dirks, belts, and embroidered waistcoats. ..’ There were ‘no books, no lamps, no windows, no carriages, and no newspapers.’ There was no post-office. The letters which arrived from Nauplia, after having been publicly cried in the streets, if they were not claimed by the parties to whom they were addressed, were committed to the flames.
He was perhaps the last Westerner to observe Ottoman Athens: ‘The muezzin still mounts the scaffolding in the bazaar here to call the Mussulman to prayer at the stated hours; a few Turks still doze in the archways of the Acropolis, or recline while smoking their pipes, and leaning with their backs against the rusty cannon which are planted on the battlements of its walls; the Athenian peasant, as he drives his laden mule from Hymettus through the eastern gate of the town, still flings his small bundle of thyme and brushwood, from the load which he bags on his mule’s back, as a tribute to the Mussulman toll-gatherer who sits at that entrance to the town; and a few days ago the cannon of the Acropolis fired the signal of the conclusion of the Turkish Ramadan – the last which will ever be celebrated at Athens.’
The countryside was still dangerous. It was regarded an act of incredible rashness for a traveller to venture on a ride from Athens to Menidi, for there resided the Greek captain, Vasso. His men indemnified themselves by robbing without mercy whoever fell into their hands. Many of the villages were deserted; their population has left them, either to take refuge in the mountains, or to swell the numbers of the robbers. Even the immediate neighbourhood of Athens itself was in such a stale that excursions into its environs were difficult and dangerous. Just a few days previously, he recorded, two Greeks coming from the Piraeus in the evening were p1undered and severely wounded on the road.
Α series of agreements among the great powers established a small nominally independent state under the ‘protection’ of the Great Powers, and chose as its ruler Prince Otho, second son of the Phihellene king Ludwig Ι οf Βaνaria. Otho arrived in Greece with 3,500 Bavarian troops at Nauplia on 1st February. On 12th Αpril 1833, the Turkish garrison left the Acropolis – only to be replaced by the a Bavarian garrison. [Read reports of other travellers to Athens during this period in Travellers’ Greece: Memories of an Enchanted Land.]
Since he was only seventeen years of age, a regency was established on behalf of Prince Otho. Count Joseph νοn Armansperg presided over the government, Professor Ludwig νοn Maurer oversaw the creation of systems of central and local government, and a minimal justice system; while General Karl Wilhelm νοn Heideck oversaw military matters, including the Bavarian soldiers.
Athens under the Bavarians I
The New Capital City (1833 – 1843)
Othonian Athens: The Bazaar
It was only on 14th June 1833 that it was finally decided that Athens would be the capital city of the new state. Nauplia was already functioning as the provisional capital, and many other places, such as Syros and Megara had been proposed as the permanent seat of government Α proclamation to that effect was read out, on 11th February 1834 at Thiseion.
In December 1834 King Otho arrived in Athens. After being received at the arch of Haman, thought of as the entrance to the city, he went to the Thiseion, where a doxology was held. This was the last religious service to be held in the converted temple. The king took up temporary residence in two mansions side by side, now the Museum of the City of Athens, on the present Klafthmonos Square. The area in front of his house was planted with the trees which are still to be seen on the square.
Stamatios Kleanthes and Gustav Edouard Schaubert had been appointed state architects, with a commission to design a new capital city. They produced a plan based upon a grid pattern, intended to stress the modern, western character of the new state, and point out its difference from the old, labyrinthine Turkish town. Their grand design initially involved the appropriation of most existing properties, which were to be demolished. This provoked strong opposition from the residents, who wanted to rebuild their homes or erect new ones on their original sites. King Ludwig of Bavaria invited his court architect, Leo νon Klenze, to modify the plans by leaving the original town as it was and building another modern town to the north.
Plans for a royal palace seem to have been given absolute priority by the government. Several sites were considered: one near the present Omonia Square and another near the Thiseion. When Otto’s brother, Maximilian visited Athens, he proposed that the royal palace be sited on the Acropolis. He asked the architect Schinkel, who had never been to Greece, to design one. He submitted his remarkable designs in 1834. These included a large classical villa on the south-eastern part of the Acropolis, with a sunken hippodrome between the Parthenon and the Erechtheion To serve as a ceremonial forecourt. Α monumental bronze statue of Athena Promachos was to tower over the whole. The new palace was mostly limited to a single storey in order not to compete with the ancient monuments, and there were many colonnades and open courts. Luckily, King Ludwig insisted that ‘nothing new should be allowed on the Acropolis.’
Accordingly, in 1835, the Bavarian State Architect, Friedrich νon Gartner, was commissioned to design a palace, the king promising to provide the necessary finance in the form of a long term loan. The site for this was finally chosen by Ludwig himself during his visit to Athens from December 1835 to March 1836, following a suggestion of Klenze. Unfortunately, either Ludwig’s benevolence, or his pocket, could not rise to the design νon Gartner produced, and much of the decorative embellishment had to be abandoned. The architect complained that what remained resembled an army barracks. King Otto and Queen Amalia moved into the palace in 1843, although it was not finished for another four years. Many maintained that the building was never really habitable. [Read about the uninhabitable palace in Athens: The City.]
Meanwhile, Queen Amalia busied herself with the palace gardens. Α Roman mosaic unearthed was used as the floor of a pergola called the ‘Garden Room’, and the king and queen occasionally held dinner parties there. Initially, the public was admitted into the gardens during certain times, but the queen decided that the privilege was being abused, and on 21st June 1851, it was decided in future to restrict admission to those holding special permits. When this provoked public outrage, the idea was quickly dropped. The French writer Edmund About remarked in 1854: ‘It will never be known how much work and water is required to maintain a lawn in Athens in July. It is truly a royal luxury. To water her plants the Queen has taken over several reservoirs that supplied the city and satisfied Athenians’ thirst. The people of the capital are suffering but the lawn is doing well.’
Paradoxically, the grandeur of the palace and its gardens had the opposite effect than that originally intended. Out of proportion in a city the size of Athens and for the head of a kingdom the size of Greece, the ostentatious building and its luxuriant gardens served only to stimulate resentment towards its foreign occupants.
There was for many years, as was to be expected, an acute housing shortage as affluent Greeks from Constantinople and elsewhere moved into the new capital. The Dane Christian Hansen arrived in 1833, and was soon appointed state architect. In 1838 he was joined by his younger brother Theophilus. Wide boulevards were laid out, with neoclassical buildings to stress a connection with Athens’ classical past. The Hansen brothers, aware of the other strand of the Hellenic inheritance, also designed many Byzantine-style buildings, such as the ophthalmic Hospital on Panepistemiou. The main avenue laid out was Εrmου, crossed by Athinas and Aiolou.
The new houses tended to follow the ground plan of the houses of the Turkish period, except that their outward looking sides were in the neo-classical style, with symmetrical doors and windows and antifixae, which became a fashion, placed along the edges of the roofs. Perhaps the most striking change in what had been entirely inward-looking dwellings was the addition of a balcony. If they could be afforded, palm trees were placed in the courtyards, usually two: one on each side of the main entrance.
Quite a few of the Philhellenes who had fought for Greek independence, often ineffectually, took up residence in or near the city: including Sir Richard Church and the historian James Finlay. To these were added a variety of foreign residents who settled there for various reasons, including Sophie de Marboise, the eccentric duchess of Plaisance. Lord Carnarvon noted the heterogeneity of the new population: ‘Chiefs, respectable for their past exploits but who are disposed to lament that ever sons of theirs should read or write, jostle against their children, the disciples of young France. There seems as yet no principle of cohesion, not even a growing tendency To amalgamate; and even in the king’s palace, the honest but slow and formal Bavarian sits side by side with the intelligent but less scrupulous Greek, with little courtesy on their lips, and with real aversion in their hearts.’
The American visitor J. L. Stephens lamented the cosmopolitan nature of the new city: ‘But already Athens has become a heterogeneous anomaly; the Greeks in their wild costume are jostled in the streets by Englishmen, Frenchmen, Italians, Dutchmen, Spaniards; and Bavarians, Russians, Danes, and sometimes Americans. European shops invite purchasers, by the side of eastern bazaars, coffeehouses, and billiard-rooms; and French and German restaurants are opened all over the city. Sir
Ρultney Malcolm has erected a house to hire near the site of Plato’s Academy. Lady Franklin has bought land near the foot of Μουnt Hymettos for a country-seat. Several English gentlemen have done the same. Mr. Richmond, an American clergyman, has purchased a farm in the neighbourhood, and in a few years, if the ‘march of improvement’ continues, the Temple of Theseus will be enclosed in the garden or the palace of King Otho; the Temple of the Winds will be concealed by a German opera-house, and the Lantern of Demosthenes by a row of three-story houses.’
New town houses were built by wealthy immigrants, for the city was top-heavy with the wealthy and bureaucrats, while the artisan and servant class built homes, often mere shacks, outside the town centre Thus the affluent core quickly became ringed with poorer districts. One of the first sources of immigrants was the Maltese community of Nauplia, which moved into the district immediately around Ayiou Filipou, in the Monastiraki area as soon as the capital was transferred To Athens. They hired themselves out for labouring jobs around the former mosque in the Wheat Market.
Soon islanders were attracted to the city to ply their traditional trades: stonemasons from Anafi, workers in marble from Tinos, carpenters from Andros. At first, they built themselves houses on the edge of the city in the neighbourhood of the present church of Zoodochos Pigi on Akademias, an area that became known as ‘the Suburb.’ Next they settled at the eastern fool of the Acropolis in a rocky area which would have reminded them of their island homes. Two such men from Anafi built themselves a hovel overnight. Soon others followed, and a (typical island village emerged, now known as Anafiotika. [Read more about the building of Anafiotika in Athens: The City.] Jews settled in the area of Melidoni Street, and set up shops on Ermou.
Development was planned for the districts to be named Neapolis and Nea Sfaira during the 1840s and 1850s. In Nea Sfaira, planned as a working class district, special apartment blocks with courtyards were built for workers from the provinces. This area came to be known as Metaxurgeio, from a silk factory founded in 1853. New working class suburbs grew up in the area of Thisio and Petralona beyond the boundary of the eighteenth century wall. Petralona was for a long time a shanty town where stockbreeders lived. They kept the goats that provided the city with milk.
Most of the churches of Athens were demolished during what has been called the ‘barbarous wave of modernism that swept over Athens during the early period of Otho’s reign. Even the beautiful church of Kapnikareas in Ermou Street was earmarked for demolition, and only saved by the University, which took it over.’ Some churches, however, were ‘restored’ although often the ‘restoration’ was not in keeping with the original design. The Byzantine-style cathedral was only finished in 1862, at the end of Otho’s reign.
Development in Piraeus was swift. As early as 1836 Charles Βracebridge could describe: ‘several large houses have been built: some good streets, flanked by low but respectable dwellings, have already been completed. Α large customhouse has been built, and a quay and lazaretto are in immediate contemplation; the population may be about 1,500. Though trade cannot be said to flourish at the Piraeus, still it has become a bustling place.’ By 1840 Bavarian soldiers had built a road to linking the port to Athens, which was served by a horse bus and hire carriages.
Although Athens was supposed to be the capital city of an independent state of Greece, at that time ‘independent’ did not signify very much. The Bavarian triumvirate of regents was, in effect, the government of Greece. When they wanted advice, they sought it from the young king’s father, Ludwig of Bavaria. The administration was entirely dominated by Bavarians. The regents engaged in rivalry among themselves until two were recalled, leaving Armansperg in control. Behind the Bavarians were the three ‘Protecting Powers: Britain, France and Russia.
In addition, three of the Great Powers: Britain, France and Russia, vied for influence through their representatives in Athens. They sought supporters among the leading Greeks, to whom they offered their patronage. To the Russians gravitated the supporters of Κapοdίstrias, such as Kolokotronis and the klefts. This conservative group believed that as the leading Orthodox state, Russia was the natural patron of Greece. loannis Kollettis led a ‘French party’, which promised to support the interests of island ship-owners and Peloponnesian landowners. The pro-English group, led by Alexander Mavrogordatos, saw themselves as the modernising ‘Westernisers’, and were strongest in Athens, as bureaucrats, intellectuals and those in commerce favoured this group. Athens became the hub of the rivalry and manoeuvring between these factions, something that was to continue for many years.
Armansperg deliberately created a social milieu built around the court. Balls were frequent; but during the earliest years the ladies had to be carried through the alternately dusty and muddy streets to the dances in their finery on the backs of the Maltese porters or on donkeys. Hotels soon sprang up for the increasing number of visitors. The first, the Hotel l’Europe, was opened on Ermou Street in 1832. Βy 1835 there were three.
In 1837 the University of Athens was founded. The building chosen, high in the Plaka, was in the hands of the architects Schaubert and Kleanthes, who had bought it from a Turkish woman, Sante Hanum. It was at that time known as the ‘Little Acropolis’ because the pair had filled it with casts of ancient monuments. It opened with thirty-three professors and fifty-two students in law, arts, theology and medicine, and another seventy-five who just attended classes. During the 1840s the magnificent building on Panepistemiou was erected with money largely provided by Baron Sinas. Lectures were often delivered on the lawns in front of the building.
Baron Sinas was taking up an ancient tradition of private benefaction for the good of the city, one which other prominent Diaspora Greeks were also to espouse. Unfortunately, there works were usually prominent, but of limited value to a city lacking almost all amenities Baron Sina’s bizarre donation of an astronomical observatory on the summit of the Hill of the Nymphs, for example, fulfilled no urgent or obvious public need in the 1840s, while many urgent and obvious public needs went wholly unsatisfied.
The work of archaeological conservation – and destruction – began immediately. In August 1834 the German archaeologist Ludwig Ross was appointed to ‘restore’ the remains on the Acropolis. He immediately tore down indiscriminately Byzantine, Frankish and Turkish buildings to expose the classical site. In so doing, he began the process which was to result in the bare marble wasteland of today, in which the classical remains seem to have no continuity with the present, and which exists in a strange isolation from the rest of the life of the city.
In 1836 Edward Giffard wrote of the Frankish Tower: ‘This tower is in the rude style of the fortifications of Western Europe in the Middle Ages; and judging from all the views prior to the last year or two, the Franks had surrounded the whole summit of the Acropolis with walls and towers of the same character; so that, but for the pediments of the Parthenon peering above these works, the Acropolis must have looked like an old European fortress. In the progress of the labours, in which the present government is assiduously employed for clearing the Acropolis, all these Frank constructions, as well as those which the Turks superadded, have already, with the exception of this tower, disappeared.
The first persons we met on the Acropolis were parties of Greek labourers excavating and removing the rubbish, in order to dig the summit to its original levels. ..All the Frank and Turkish ramparts, which formed as it were a parapet to the fortress, having been already removed, the ancient temples now stand conspicuous down to their bases from quarters, (except on the westward, where the Propylaea intercepts the view) and the workmen, employed in the levelling, wheel their barrows to the very edges of the precipice, and empty their contents into the valley below.’
Much of the excavation was chaotic. The historian George Finlay described how ίl was decided to excavate one half of the existing town in order to search for antiquities, though it was calculated by a French engineer that the expense would exceed the excavation of Pompeii. ‘The proprietors of the houses in the district marked out for the purpose of this excavation were for two years prevented from completing them, even though some of them were half finished before the plan was adopted. At length the government changed its mind, and without any public communication, commenced building a large barracks in the middle of the ruins of Hadrian’s library, exactly in the spot where excavation might have been attended with some success; and to cure its successors from a wish ever to repeal its own folly, it filled up that part of the enclosure near Lord Elgin’s lower and nearly booed the church of the Megale Panaghia in which are many antiquities and some very curious paintings, with ten feet of additional rubbish..’
In 1835 the Thiseion was laicised and turned into the National Archaeological Museum. In 1837, the Greek Archaeological! Society took up responsibility for all archaeological work.
Outside the city there remained little law and order. The Bavarian contingent had become the core of the new Greek national army. The kleftes would hijack carriages containing foreign dignitaries behind the royal palace, near Αmbelokipi. However, since the kleftes preyed chiefly on the poor country people, neither the Bavarians at the royal court nor the king’s Greek ministers, were inclined to consider the problem an urgent one. When a certain Bibisi took to robbing travellers at Αmbelokipi, within sight of the royal palace itself, however, a price was put on his head; and he was finally shot by a gendarme – himself a former brigand.
Inevitably, Kifissia became a summer resort for high society. The British diplomat Sir Thomas Wyse reported: ‘… the diplomatic corps spent their summers in Kephissia …the king too passed months (here whenever the Queen went to visit her relations in Germany.’ Christopher Wordsworth described how, each summer, the ‘fifty-two’ leaders of Athenian society moved To Kifissia ‘in the pine woods, where there are many pleasant, and some very fantastic, villas, and where picnics, tennis and card parties, theatrical performances and dances, fleet the hours, which are always golden, away.’ While such things were expected of foreigners, the people of the district were shocked to witness the French songs, the piano playing, and the western-style dancing of the educated and urbanised Greeks who had recently entered the country. In time, the danger from brigands was to prove a deterrent to visitors, and for a time, Kifissia went into a temporary decline.
Athens under the Bavarians II
The Constitutional Monarchy (1843 – 1862)
Although King Otho tried to function as an absolute monarch, as Thomas Gallant writes: he ‘was neither ruthless enough to be feared, nor compassionate enough to be loved, nor competent enough to be respected.’ By 1843 public dissatisfaction with him had reached crisis proportions, and several plots were hatched.
On 3rd September 1843, led by Kallerges and Makriyannis, the troops in the infantry barracks mutinied and marched to the open square outside the palace. It was one o’clock in the morning. The king ordered the troops back to their barracks, promising to consider their request for a constitution; but they were not inclined to disperse. Then the crowds swelled, civilian leaders arrived, and artillery was brought up. The king agreed to dismiss all foreigners from his service except for those who had assisted in the War of Independence, and to produce a constitution. The crowd insisted that the king personally thank the leaders of the mutiny, which he did, no doubt reluctantly. Finally, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the troops marched past the palace shouting ‘Long live the constitutional king Otto Ι’. The revolution was a victory for the old leaders of the National Revolution.
In the new constitution, Otho retained considerable power, but agreed that his successor must be of the Christian Orthodox religion. There was a two-chamber parliament, the vouli and gerousia. The square outside the palace was renamed Syntagma Ρlataia (Constitution Square). Makriyannis praised ‘the blessed people of our capital, who were all involved, yet no one even had a nosebleed.’ This apparent social harmony was not to last. [Read more about the peaceful revolution in Athens: The City.]
Unfortunately, the prime ministers who followed paid scant attention to the constitution. In 1844 Ioannes Kolettis became prime minister. This former brigand set the tone for what was to follow by using a mixture of bribery and intimidation to govern. Political life was organised through a system of patronage. People would attach themselves to a political leader and offer him their loyalty and support as their patron, in return for favours such as jobs, government permissions, etc. For their part, the politicians regarded public office as a means of enriching themselves and their clients. The system came to be known as clientism. Kolettis also employed the bands of listes to ensure that if elections had to be held, they produced ‘acceptable’ results. His example was soon copied by other leading politicians, leading to a system of government in which politicians and criminals cooperated with each other to their mutual advantage (a type of governmental system not as rare as one might imagine, and by no means extinct today in the capitalist Western world).
Ever alert to the need to manipulate public opinion, Kolettis took up and publicised the ‘Great Idea’; the liberation of all lands of the Greeks and the recovery of Constantinople. Even King Otho espoused it enthusiastically, probably as a cheap means of gaining some legitimacy in the eyes of his subjects. Kollettis could say to the National Assembly in January 1844: ‘There are two great centres of Hellenism. Athens is the capital of the kingdom. Constantinople is the great capital, the City, the dream and hope of all the Greeks.’ The idea that Athens was only a temporary capital probably held back the development of the city and its institutions. David Holden writes: ‘It is hard nowadays for foreigners to take the Great Idea seriously, so patently absurd does it seem.’ But it was no more absurd than a united Italy or Germany would have seemed at the beginning of that century. Α typical nineteenth century romantic nationalist dream, it seems absurd only because it was never realised.
Such grandiose schemes came up against the reality of national powerlessness in the infamous Don Pacifico incident of 1847, when the house of this Portuguese Jew was burned down by an indignant crowd after he had insulted the Good Friday funeral procession of the dead Christ. His demand for a ridiculous amount of compensation from the government was rejected. Pacifico then used his birth on Gibraltar to claim British citizenship, and appealed to the chauvinistic British Foreign secretary, Lord Palmerston. In a classic example of ‘gunboat diplomacy’ the British navy blockaded Greek ports for three months. After a threat to bombard Athens, Otho capitulated to this bullying.
In October 1853, hostilities broke out between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. When Turkish forces were withdrawn from Greece’s northern borders, in accordance with the ‘Great Idea’, Otho invited Greeks to cross the border to liberate their brothers still in bondage. The prisons were opened and klefts and other prisoners streamed across the mountains into Thessaly and Epirus with the aim of extending the boundaries of the small Greek state. Naturally, many of them decided to opt for the much less risky choice of staying inside the kingdom and resuming their vocation as brigands. Unwilling To see the ottoman Empire broken up and fall under Russian control, Britain and France sent a naval force To Piraeus, and imposed upon Greece a government compliant to their policies; while larger allied force landed in the Crimea. The Anglo-French force remained in Greece throughout the duration of the Crimean War, until February 1857. Thirty British and twenty-three French sailors and soldiers died in Greece during that time. They had brought with them a cholera epidemic, which swept Attica and killed many thousands.
By 1855 Athens was a small town of 20,000 inhabitants and 2,000 dwelling houses. The population remained heterogeneous, differences of origin and status still being distinguished by dress. The most prominent citizens, gathered around the court, were from well-educated, sophisticated Phanariot families, rich merchants from Syra and Hydra, and uneducated foustanella-clad chieftains famous from the war. Below these were the traders and artisans who served them, many from the islands. Athens was the capital city of a country of only 800,000; while 2,500,000 Greeks still lived outside the kingdom, and for all of them, ‘the city’ remained not Athens but Constantinople. Most Greek trade was conducted in Smyrna and Thessaloniki. Syra was the most important port in the kingdom. Nevertheless, Merchants of the Greek Diaspora were increasingly beginning to open offices in Athens, send their sons to Athens University, and even act as public benefactors.
Βy the end of Otho’s reign, some of the most distinctive forms of Athenian life had already begun to emerge. Edmund About was struck with the outdoor life of the Athenians. In the centre of the town, the branching of the streets of Aeolos and Hermes, the citizens were to be found sitting before the coffee-houses, or standing up in the middle of the street, discussing politics and, smoking cigarettes. Students would collect in groups before the University and debate on the lawns. The shops of the grocer, the barber, or the chemist he called ‘the drawing-rooms for the use of the people.’ The bazaar was the most frequented part of the town. ‘In the morning, all the people, of what ever rank, go themselves to market. If you wish to see a senator carrying kidneys in one hand, and salad in the other, go to the bazaar at eight in the morning. ..They walk from shop to shop, getting information as to the price of apples and onions, or giving an account of their vote the day before to some money-changer, who stops them as they go by. At eight o’clock in the evening, in summer, the bazaar has really an enchanted aspect, It is the hour when the workmen, the servants, the soldiers, come to buy their provisions for supper. The more dainty divide among seven or eight a sheep’s-head for sixpence; the frugal men buy a slice of pink watermelon, or a large cucumber, which they bite like an apple. The shopkeepers, from the midst of their vegetables and their fruits, call the buyers with loud cries; large lamps, full of olive oil, throw a fine red light on the heaps of figs, pomegranates, melons, and grapes.’
About was surprised by the widespread practice of sleeping out on the streets in cloaks from the middle of May till the end of September. The women, who went out rarely, and never to the bazaar, slept on terraces or on the roofs, if they were flat. The streets were lighted with oil, except on the nights on which the moonlight was expected. If the night was cloudy, people were in danger of breaking their necks.
The hackney-coaches of Athens were rickety, dirty, and in bad repair; seldom with window glass. They were all to be found together in a muddy place called the square of the carriages, the present Monastiraki Square, where one would be besieged by eager coachmen. An agreement had to be made with them for each ride, for there was no fixed fare.
The fashionable world of Athens had for its principal diversion the walk on the road to Patissia. People would show themselves there in winter, from three to five; in summer, from seven to nine. On a bare open space was a little wooden rotunda where a band played every Sunday. The people would stand around to listen, and watch the King and Queen ride out with the high society. [Read reports of other travellers to Athens during this period in Travellers’ Greece: Memories of an Enchanted Land.]
The signs of the impending end of Otho’s reign were evident for some year before he was driven from the throne. The students of Athens University followed the popular struggle for national liberation in ltaly with particular enthusiasm, and were dismayed by Otho’s support for the Austrians. Fired by the idealism of the French Revolution, they became increasingly indignant at examples of oppression by the foreign court. In addition, a new generation of politicians, such as Deligeorgis, were beginning to demand modernisation.
In May 1860 the students demonstrated. In February 1861 someone tried to assassinate Queen Amalia. In February 1862, the garrison of Nauplia staged a brief mutiny. Then the chieftains in Arcarnania and Patras declared themselves in rebellion. In October, while the royal family were touring the country, Athenians rioted and broke open the prison. When the king returned by sea to Piraeus he was refused admittance. When the commander of the port tried to let him in, he was killed by his own men. Accepting the inevitable, Otho sailed away in a British ship. The garrison in Athens announced the formation of a provisional government under the Hydriote Dimitris Vοulgaris, and called for a National Assembly to be elected to frame a constitution
In Athens order began to break down. The Minister of War occupied the Palace while mutineers took over the nearby Villa Ilissia. Forces loyal to other politicians took the Acropolis and the National Bank respectively. On 1st July about forty people were killed in confused fighting before an armistice was arranged and the army pulled out of the city. Then the party leader Voulgaris employed the brigand chief Κyriakοs to menace the capital. Large bands of brigands gathered on Mount Pendeli, and then moved en masse to the Tourkovounia hills before being dispersed by cavalry. During that year, when arrangements were being made for Prince George of Denmark to take up office, the brigands became convinced that the new king, on taking the throne, would grant an amnesty for all illegal acts committed before his arrival in the country, which led to a feverish burst of lawlessness.