Ioannis Velissariou

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Ioannis Velissariou
Nickname(s)Hero of the Heroes
Black Rider
BornNovember 26, 1861[1]
Ploiești, Romania
DiedJuly 13, 1913
Gradevo, Bulgaria
Allegiance Kingdom of Greece
Service/branchHellenic Army
Years of service1887–1913
RankGR-Army-OF3-1912.svg Major
Commands held3rd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment
9th Battalion, 1/38 Evzone Regiment
Battles/warsGreco-Turkish War of 1897, First Balkan War (Sarantaporos, Bizani), Second Balkan War (Lahanas, Kresna)

Ioannis Velissariou (Greek: Ιωάννης Βελισσαρίου, 26 November 1861 – 13 July 1913) was a Greek Army officer and hero of the Balkan Wars. He is considered to be one of the most important figures in the military history of modern Greece. He is considered to have had a decisive role in the Battle of Bizani during the First Balkan War (1912–1913), forcing the Ottoman Army to surrender unconditionally.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Velissariou was born in Ploiești, Romania, to Greek parents from Evia. He spent much of his boyhood in Ploiești. At the age of 19 he joined the Greek Army as a volunteer, while in 1887 he was promoted to Second Lieutenant of Infantry. He acquired his first experience in combat during the Greco-Turkish War of 1897, where he distinguished himself at the battles of Melouna and Derven-Fourkas, covering the Greek positions. In the following years he was posted as gendarmerie commander in the island of Skopelos and in 1909 he participated in the Goudi military coup.[3]

First Balkan War[edit]

With the outbreak of the Balkan Wars, Velissariou was appointed commander in the 3rd Battalion of the 4th Infantry Regiment. At the Battle of Sarantaporo he managed to advance rapidly with his unit against the Ottoman forces and cut their withdrawal, causing general unrest to the enemy.[3]

After Sarantaporo he was placed as commander in the 9th Battalion of the 1st Evzone Regiment. Velissariou then was transferred to the Epirus front and was deployed at the east flank, in Aetorachi sector. On February 19, 1913, the Greek headquarters ordered a general attack against the Ottoman fortifications in Bizani, which covered the city of Ioannina.[3] The Evzone battalions of Velissariou and Georgios Iatridis penetrated rapidly north and managed to cut off the only escape route of the enemy troops with the capture of the village of Aghios Ioannis, between Bizani and Ioannina. Soon the Ottoman headquarters in Ioannina, was unable to transmit any communication message to the Ottoman forts, causing major panic.[4] At the following night the units of Velissariou and Iatridis managed to capture 37 officers and 935 soldiers in their attempt to withdraw north. As a result, the next day, the Ottoman commander Esad Pasha surrendered, while Velissariou personally led the Ottoman delegation to the Greek headquarters.[5]

Second Balkan War[edit]

Painting depicting the battle of Summit 1378, with Velissariou pictured right, among the Evzones.

Velissariou participated in the Second Balkan War against Greece's erstwhile ally Bulgaria, initially in the Battle of Lahanas and then in the Battle of Kresna Gorge.[3] After the Greek Army managed to break through the Kresna pass, it captured the town of Simitli, while the battalion of Velissariou, together with other two of the 1st Evzone Regiment, fought at Summit 1378, 20 kilometres (12 mi) northeast of Simitli.[6] Although the specific sector suffered constant attacks by the Bulgarian Army, the Evzones managed to repel them. During the conflict of 13–15 July, the Regiment suffered numerous casualties; Major Velissariou was one of the officers killed.[7] He was buried near the battle site.[2]


  1. ^ Note: Greece officially adopted the Gregorian calendar on 16 February 1923 (which became 1 March). All dates prior to that, unless specifically denoted, are Old Style.
  2. ^ a b "Biography of Major Ioannis Velissariou (Infantry)". Hellenic Military Academy. Archived from the original on 6 September 2013. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d Bouklas, Christos. "Ταγματάρχης Ιωάννης Βελισσαρίου (Major Ioannis Velissariou)" (PDF) (in Greek). Hellenic Army General Staff. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  4. ^ Gedeon (1998), p. 196
  5. ^ Gedeon (1998), p. 198
  6. ^ "H Μάχη του Υψοδείκτου 1378 13–15 Ιουλίου 1913 Ταγματάρχης Βελισαρίου I. (Battle of H Ypsodeiktou 1378 13–15 July 1913; Major Ι. Velisariou)". Hellenic National Defence General Staff (in Greek). Archived from the original on 6 September 2013. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  7. ^ Gedeon (1998), p. 259