Giannis Stathas

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Giannis Stathas
Γιάννης Σταθάς
Born 1758 (1758)
Dounista, Ottoman Empire (now Stathas, Greece)
Died 1812
Karvassaras, Ottoman Empire

Giannis Stathas (Greek: Γιάννης Σταθάς; 1758–1812) was a Greek armatolos during the pre-Greek Revolution era in Greece. He later became leader of a small fleet in the Aegean Sea.

Family background[edit]

His father was Gerodimos Stathas, head of the Stathaioi family in the Valtos region in Central Greece. Gerodimos took part in the unsuccessful Orlov Revolt. After the Russo-Turkish War ended, Gerodimos successfully defended against the Turkish reprisals that followed.

Revolutionary acts[edit]

In 1804 he formed a regiment to help the Serbs that were rebelling against the Ottoman rule.[1] After that he and some other armatoloi in the Olympus area, declared the revolution against the Sultan. The Russian Emperor Alexander I had promised them help, but they were again left to their fate.

Stathas and a group of Greek military commanders fled to the Aegean sea. In 1807, Kolokotronis met with them in Skiathos. There, Stathas and Nikotsaras were initiated to the Filiki Eteria.

The Black Ships[edit]

The group built up a fleet of 70 small ships divided into 10 squadrons. Giannis Iskos was named Admiral of this fleet with Nikotsaras second in command. The fleet allegedly hailed the flag that was to become the Greek national flag after the revolution. All 70 ships were painted black. As, at the time, they were not serving a State and no war was declared, they were considered pirates.

They took action in the Aegean sea, harassing the Turkish navy and blockading major ports in Thessalia, Macedonia and Asia Minor. During their 10 month reign, Salonica suffered from a loose blockade as the "pirates" captured most of the ships entering or leaving the port.

After 10 months, heavy winter and lack of ammunition obliged Giannis Stathas to disassemble the fleet.

End of life[edit]

He returned to Valtos and little is known for him thereafter. He was allegedly killed in Amfilochia in 1812.

Giannis Stathas in Literature[edit]

Giannis Stathas was immortalized in the klepht poem (Κλέφτικα τραγούδια), Tou Gianni tou Statha.[2]

Black ship was sailing around Kassandra
Black sails covered it and a sky blue banner
And ahead a corvette with a red flag appears
"Bring down, they yell, the sails, throw the sails down".
"I do not bring down the sails neither do I throw them down.
What, you think I am a newlywed bride, a bride to bow down?
I am Giannis of Stathas, the son-in-law of Boukouvala"
The rope, brave lads, throw it, the infidels do not fear."
And the Turks sailed around and turned the stern.
First Yannis sprang, sword in hand.
Down deep in the ship flows the blood, the ocean turns red,
and alla! alla the infidels cry and they bow down
(N. G. Politis, 1924, literal translation by Michael Nikoletseas[3])

Goethe's translation of poem Giannis Stathas:

Jannis des Stathas

Schwarzes Fahrzeug theilt die Welle
Nächst der Küste von Kassandra,
Ueber ihm die schwarzen Segel,
Ueber ihnen Himmelsbläue.
Kommt ein Türkenschiff entgegen,
Scharlachwimpel wehen glänzend.
»Streich die Segel unverzüglich,
Nieder laß die Segel du!
«Nein, ich streiche nicht die Segel,
Nimmer laß' ich sie herab.
Droht ihr doch, als wär' ich Bräutchen,
Bräutchen, das zu schrecken ist.
Jannis bin ich, Sohn des Stathas,
Eidam des Bukovalas.
Frisch Gesellen, frisch zur Arbeit!
Auf zum Vordertheil des Schiffes!
Türkenblut ist zu vergießen,
Schont nicht der Ungläubigen. –
Und mit einer klugen Wendung
Beut das Türkenschiff die Spitze;
Jannis aber schwingt hinauf sich,
Mit dem Säbel in der Faust;
Das Gebälke trieft vom Blute
Und geröthet sind die Wellen.
Allah! Allah! schrein um Gnade
Die Ungläubigen auf den Knieen.
Traurig Leben, ruft der Sieger,
Bleibe den Besiegten nun![4]

In poem Tou Gianni tou Statha, we have a vivid reenactment of the totemic dynamics of the male soul, similar to that in the Iliad.[5])


  1. ^ The establishment of the Balkan national states, 1804-1920 by Charles&Barbara Jelavich
  2. ^ Politis, N. G. Selections from the songs of the Greek people (Ν. Γ. Πολίτης, Εκλογαί από τα τραγούδια του Ελληνικού λαού), second edition, 1924; First edition 1914
  3. ^ Nikoletseas, Michael M. (2014). The Male Totem in Klepht Poetry:: Parallels with the Iliad, ISBN 978-1500934729.
  4. ^ Goethe, W. von. Johann Wolfgang Goethe: Gedichte -Neugriechisch-Epirotische Heldenlieder, Gedichte, II. Theil, Philipp Reclam jun., Leipzig, ca. 1885, pp. 163-167
  5. ^ Nikoletseas, Michael M. (2014). The Male Totem in Klepht Poetry:: Parallels with the Iliad, p. 16 ISBN 978-1500934729.