Laskarina Bouboulina

I believe that the woman below deserves a place in your “Heroes and Heroines” section.Even if the reason that she was the only woman Admiral in the whole history worldwide,could be enough,her life was really bigger,much bigger than this achievement…Read her story and you won`t feel that you lost your time…

Coming from the island of Hydra, she was born inside the prisons of Constantinople (Istanbul) on May 12th, 1771, when her mother, Skevo, visited her dying husband, Stavrianos Pinotsis, who had been imprisoned by the Turks due to his participation in the Peloponnesian revolution of 1769-70 against the Turks. After Pinotsis’ death, mother and child returned to Hydra, where they lived for four years, thereafter moving to Spetses island when Skevo married a Spetsiote captain, Dimitrios Lazarou-Orlof. From childhood, Bouboulina had a passion for the sea and loved to listen to the stories of the sailors and their talk of freedom for the nation. Greece had been under Turkish occupation for 400 years.

Pale in colouring, and with a regal stature and untamed character, Laskarina Bouboulina married twice, first at the age of seventeen to Dimitrios Yiannouzas and again at the age of thirty to Dimitrios Bouboulis.Life though was very cruel to Bouboulina and both her husbands, captains of their own ships, died in sea battles with Algerian pirates who were then raiding the coasts of Greece.

By the year 1811, Bouboulina was twice widowed and the mother of seven children, but at the same time, extremely rich from the fortunes of ships, land and cash inherited from her husbands. She managed not only to keep this fortune intact but also to increase it, due to her successful trading.

She became partner in several Spetsiote vessels and in time managed to build three of her own – one of which was the later famous Agamemnon, the first and the largest Greek battleship during the 1821 War of Independence against Turkey.

In 1816, Turkey attempted to confiscate Bouboulina’s fortune, using the excuse that her second husband had taken part in the Turko-Russian wars by using his own vessels alongside the Russian fleet.

In her efforts to save her fortune, Bouboulina traveled to Constantinople, where she met the Russian Ambassador, Strogonoff, a known filhellene [lover of Greece]. She sought protection from Strogonoff because of her husband’s services to Russia but also because her ships were under the Russian flag at the time.Strogonoff, in his efforts to protect her and save her from imminent arrest by the Turks, sent her to the Crimea for three months, to an estate given for her use by Tsar Alexander.

Whilst in Constantinople, Bouboulina had become a member of the underground organisation, Filiki Etairia (Friendly Society) which for a number of years had organised and prepared the Greeks for the revolution against the Turks. Thus, on her return to Spetses, she began her preparations for the coming revolution. These preparations included the illegal buying of arms and ammunition from foreign ports, which she brought to Spetses in secrecy with her own vessels, and hid them in her own home. She also built her flagship Agamemnon, a corvette armed with eighteen heavy cannons.

By the beginning of the revolution she had assembled a private fleet made up of Spetsiotes – her “brave lads” as she used to call them – which she herself armed, fed and paid, as well as her own vessels’ crews. This continued for a number of years and she spent thoughtless amounts of money on food and ammunition, which she sent to help the Greek armies surrounding the Turkish strongholds of Nafplion and Tripolis. This explains why Bouboulina spent all her large fortune during the first few years of the revolution.

On March 13, 1821, the first revolutionary flag was raised on Spetses island by Bouboulina on the main mast of the Agamemnon and she saluted it with cannon fire. On May 3rd, the island of Spetses, which along with the islands of Hydra and Psara were the leading naval forces of the Greek revolution revolted.

Bouboulina herself commanded her own fleet plus others, and a total of eighteen vessels sailed towards Nafplion to begin the naval blockade of this massive fort which was armed with 300 cannons at the time. Landing her forces at nearby Mili, her fireful words and great enthusiasm gave courage to the Greek land forces to keep on with the siege of Nafplion.

Her naval attacks on the seaside fortifications were actions of unrivaled heroism – as told by historian Anargyros Anargyrou in an eye witness account:

“…Indeed the very rare fact in the history of nations, of a woman to take arms, a very rich woman who decided to offer a sacrifice to the altar of her country, her ships, her money and her sons. This woman was Laskarina Bouboulina, whom the nations of the world saluted as a heroine. She was indeed lionhearted. On December 4th 1821, as I remember, on board her own vessel, she alone gave orders for the boats to attack the fort.

“They immediately sailed forward but a rain of bullets and cannon fire from the seaside fortifications made her brave lads fall back for a moment, and an angered Amazon, watching the battle over the side of her boat, she then shouted: ‘Are you women then and not men? Forward!’

“Her officers obeyed, regrouped and attacked — they fought, but died in vain since the fort was impregnable by sea. For this reason she herself landed with her forces and stayed until the fall of the fort on 22nd November 1822, leading her men in battle, spending her fortune….”Another historian by the name of Filimon, in a phrase describing her bravery, stated: “…against her, the unmanly were ashamed and the brave stepped back…”

Apart from the naval blockade of Nafplion, Bouboulina took part in the blockade of Monemvassia and the surrender of its castle, also the battles of Pilos,Galaxidi and Haradros, near Nafplion, where her eldest son, Yiannis Yiannouzas died heroically, and at the siege and fall of Tripolis.

Here, during the terrible massacre that followed the fall of the city of Tripolis, Bouboulina managed to save the harem of Hoursit Pasha, the city’s ruler. This she did at the risk of her own life after she received a plea from the Pasha’s wife to save the lives of the Turkish harem women and their children.

After the fall of Nafplion to the Greek forces, Bouboulina stayed on there, in a house given to her by the state as a reward for her services to the nation and received the title of “Admiral of the Hellenic Navy”. Later though, due to fighting between opposing political factions for the leadership of the newborn country, and the imprisonment of General Kolokotronis, one of the leading figures of the Greek revolution, and a man whom she always deeply respected and followed, Bouboulina, as a protest, gave back the house in Nafplion to the state and returned to the island of Spetses.

The year 1825 found Laskarina living in her house in Spetses, bitter with the politicians and without her fortune. Suddenly the nation was again in grave danger – the Egyptian admiral, Ibrahim, commanding a massive Turko-Egyptian fleet, landed on the Peloponnese in a final effort to kill the revolution. Bouboulina’s love for her country suppresses all other emotions and while she was again making preparations to lead the Hellenic fleet against the Turko-Egyptians, death came – sly and unexpected.

From a dark bullet she fell, in a dispute with members of the Koutsis family of Spetses. The reason for this was the elopement of a Koutsis daughter with Bouboulina’s son, Georgios Yiannouzas. Her implacable and angry words were enough to offend the manhood, and arm the hand, of her killer.

Thus an unjust and inglorious end for this woman who did so much for her country, the love for which was above all in her life and filled her heart. Her name remains forever linked with the siege of Nafplion –her name, whose fame traveled the whole world, can still be heard above the sound of the cannons.

On her ship, standing fearless and undaunted, with her piercing look, she points to the fortifications of Nafplion and urges her sailors to charge, and with her warm and deep voice gives the command to fire against the forts!!!

After her death the Russians gave her also the title of Admiral,so she became Admiral of two nations` navys,an honour unique even now in world naval history for a female figure.

Our nation owns too much to this outstanding woman.A true patriot,warrior,mother,companion,leader.

Best regards

Phallanx

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