Markos Botsaris

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Markos Botsaris
Μάρκος Μπότσαρης
A portrait of Markos Botsaris.
Native name
Μάρκος Μπότσαρης
Bornc. 1788
Souli, Ottoman Empire (now Greece)
Died21 August 1823
Karpenisi, Ottoman Empire (now Greece)
Allegiance First French Empire
Greece First Hellenic Republic
Service/branchEmblem of Napoleon Bonaparte.svg Imperial French Army
Greek Revolution flag.svg Greek Revolutionary Army
Years of service1804-1823
RankGeneral of the Greek Army
Commands heldChieftain of the Souliot Forces
Commanding General of Western Central Greece
Battles/warsAli Pasha’s Rebellion
Greek War of Independence
ChildrenDimitrios Botsaris (son)
Katerina Botsari (daughter)
RelationsKitsos Botsaris (father)
Kostas Botsaris (brother)
Other workAuthor of a Greek-Albanian lexicon
SignatureMarkos Botsaris signature 1820.svg

Markos Botsaris (Greek: Μάρκος Μπότσαρης, c. 1788 – 21 August 1823) was a Greek[1] hero of the Greek War of Independence and chieftain of the Souliotes.[2] Botsaris is among the most revered national heroes in Greece. He was posthumously awarded the title of general.

Early life[edit]

Botsaris was born into one of the leading clans of the Souliotes, in the region of Souli, Epirus.[3] He was the second son of captain Kitsos Botsaris, who was murdered in Arta in 1813 under the orders of Ali Pasha.[4] The Botsaris clan came from the village of Dragani (today Ambelia), near Paramythia.

French Army and repatriation to Souli[edit]

In 1803, after the capture of Souli by Ali Pasha, Botsaris and the remnants of the Souliotes crossed over to the Ionian Islands, where he served in the Albanian Regiment of the French army for 11 years and became one of the regiment's officers.[5] In 1815 he returned to Epirus.[4]

Epirus (1820-1821)[edit]

In 1820, with other Souliotes and his uncle Notis Botsaris, he came back to Epirus and fought against Ali Pasha and the Ottoman army at the Siege of Ioannina, but soon the Souliotes changed side and fought the Ottoman army together with the troops of Ali Pasha, in exchange for a promise of regaining their former region, the Souli.

Botsaris, with about 300-350 men appeared on Mount Satovetza, opposite the sultan's camp, and attacked in December 1820. The fortress of Variades was captured, and Botsaris fortified himself in it. From there, he attacked a convoy at Kompsades, followed by taking the position of Pente Pigadia, defeating a force of thousands of Albanians. Negotiations began with the Turks and the Albanians and continued until March 1821, when Christoforos Perraivos arrived at Epirus and informed the Souliotes about the existence of Filiki Eteria and the upcoming war of independence.[6]

Greek War of Independence[edit]

Flag raised by Markos Botsaris, in Souli, October 1820, depicting Saint George and with the words: Freedom-Religion-Fatherland in Greek.[7]
Markos Botsaris by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1874)
Botsaris surprises the Turkish camp and falls fatally wounded by Eugène Delacroix
Botsaris dying in Karpenisi by Peter von Hess

In 1821, Botsaris took part in the revolution against the Ottoman Empire. He and other Souliot captains, including Kitsos Tzavelas, Notis Botsaris, Lampros Veikos, and Giotis Danglis only enlisted fellow Souliot kin into their bands.[2] At the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, he distinguished himself by his courage, tenacity and skill as a partisan leader in the fighting in western Greece, and was conspicuous in the defence of Missolonghi during the first siege of the city (1822–1823).

Recognizing his bravery and excellent military skill, the Greek Government made him General of Western Greece. This infuriated the rest of the unranked Greek chieftains, so Botsaris responded by tearing his military diploma apart in order to show them that he did not care for ranks, but only for the greater good of his country.[8]

On the night of 21 August 1823 he led the attack on Karpenisi by 350 Souliotes, against approximately 4,000 Albanian troops who formed the vanguard of the army of Mustafa Pasha, the Pasha of Shkoder (modern northern Albania).[9] Botsaris' men ambushed the enemy camp and inflicted serious casualties, but Botsaris was shot in the head and killed.[10]

Botsaris was buried with full honors in Missolonghi. After the Ottomans captured the city, in 1826, his grave was desecrated by Ottoman Albanian groups.[11]

Family and companions[edit]

Many of his family members became key figures of the Greek political establishment. Markos' brother Kostas (Constantine) Botsaris, who also fought at Karpenisi and completed the victory, lived on to become a respected Greek general and parliamentarian in the Greek kingdom.[12] He died in Athens on 13 November 1853. His daughter, Katerina "Rosa" Botsari, was in the service of Queen Amalia of Greece. Markos's son, Dimitrios Botsaris, born in 1813, was three times minister of war Kings Otto and George I.[13] He died in Athens on 17 August 1870.

Evangelis Zappas, the renowned benefactor and founder of the modern Olympic Games, was the aide-de-camp and close friend of Markos Botsaris.[14]


Botsaris is also widely considered to be the author of a GreekAlbanian lexicon written in Corfu in 1809, at the insistence of François Pouqueville, Napoleon Bonaparte's general consul at the court of Ali Pasha in Ioannina.[15] The dictionary is of importance for the knowledge of the extinct Souliot dialect.[16] However, although the book is known as the Botsaris dictionary, scholar Xhevat Lloshi has argued in several works that Botsaris couldn't have possibly written that dictionary by himself, both because of his young age, and because of a note of Pouqueville that clearly says that the dictionary was drafted under the dictation of Marko's father, uncle, and future father-in-law.[17] The Albanian part is connected to the Tosk Albanian dialect with many archaic elements which are related to Arbëresh dialects of southern Italy. The dictionary of Botsaris belongs to the pre-ethnic phase of the history of the Balkans.[18] Titos Yochalas, a Greek historian, knowledgeable in Albanian, who studied and edited the manuscript, noticing that some Greek words are translated into Albanian in more than one way, believes that Botsaris was writing the Greek words and the elders were translating into Albanian. As many of the entries seem unlikely to be useful either for the Suliotes or the Albanians of that time and circumstances, Yochalas believes that the dictionary was composed after Pouqueville's initiative, possibly as a source for a future French-Albanian dictionary.[19] According to Doris Kyriazis, Botsaris transcribed the lexicon, but he was not the author of it.[20]


Many Philhellenes visiting Greece had admired Botsaris' courage and numerous poets wrote poems about him. American poet Fitz-Greene Halleck wrote a poem entitled Marco Bozzaris, Juste Olivier also wrote an award-winning poem for him, in 1825.[21] The national poet of Greece, Dionysios Solomos, composed a poem titled "On Markos Botsaris", in which he likens the mourning over Botsaris' body to the lamentation of Hector, as described in the last book of the Iliad.[22] His memory is still celebrated in popular ballads in Greece.

In Greek music, the Zakynthian composer Pavlos Carrer composed in 1858 the opera “Marco Bozzari” to his honour. In 1858 excerpts from the opera were performed in Athens in the presence of King Otto.[23] Also, there are several folk songs dedicated to Botsaris, like a Tsamiko from Central Greece, named (Song) Of Markos Botsaris (Greek: του Μάρκου Μπότσαρη),[24] and from the Greek minority of southern Albania (Northern Epirus) (Καημένε Μάρκο Μπότσαρη).[25] Popular dramas and school plays were written soon after his death.[26][27] The Song of Marko Boçari is an Albanian folk song of the 19th century that narrates and laments his death.[28][29]

Botsaris was depicted on the reverse of the Greek 50 lepta coin of 1976–2001.[30] He often adorns posters in Greek classrooms, government offices, and military barracks, as a member of the Greek pantheon of national heroes.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ F. C. H. L. Pouquevile, "The History of the Greek Revolution, the Resurrection of Greece", volume IV, Athens 1890, page 239-248.
  2. ^ a b Brigands with a Cause, Brigandage and Irredentism in Modern Greece 1821–1912, by John S. Koliopoulos, Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1987. p. 53. ISBN 0-19-822863-5
  3. ^ Katherine Elizabeth Fleming. The Muslim Bonaparte: diplomacy and orientalism in Ali Pasha's Greece. Princeton University Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-691-00194-4, p. 99"The Souliotes, a Greek-speaking tribe of Albanian origin... Ali had tried off and over..."
  4. ^ a b Nikos Giannopoulos, "Markos Botsaris, the absolute exemplar of heroism", Military History, issue 138, 2008, page 11, Publications Periskopio
  5. ^ Zamoyski, Adam (2000). Holy madness: romantics, patriots, and revolutionaries, 1776–1871. Viking. p. 232. ISBN 0-670-89271-8.
  6. ^ Nikos Giannopoulos, "Markos Botsaris, the absolute exemplar of heroism", Military History, issue 138, 2008, page 12, Publications Periskopio
  7. ^ Χατζηλύρας, Αλέξανδρος-Μιχαήλ. "H Ελληνική Σημαία. H ιστορία και οι παραλλαγές της κατά την Επανάσταση - Η σημασία και η καθιέρωσή της" (PDF). Hellenic Army General Stuff. p. 12. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  8. ^ Nikos Giannopoulos, "Markos Botsaris, the absolute exemplar of heroism", Military History, issue 138, 2008, page 16, Publications Periskopio
  9. ^ Nikos Giannopoulos, "Markos Botsaris, the absolute exemplar of heroism", Military History, issue 138, 2008, page 17, Publications Periskopio
  10. ^ Dakin, Douglas (1973). The Greek struggle for independence 1821–1833. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 102. ISBN 9780520023420.
  11. ^ Βαρβαρήγος, Ποθητός. Θρησκεία και Θρησκευτική Ζωή κατά τον πόλεμο της Ανεξαρτησίας (in Greek). University of Thessaloniki. pp. 73, 98. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  12. ^ University of Chicago (1946). Encyclopædia britannica: a new survey of universal knowledge, Volume 3. Encyclopædia britannica, inc. p. 957. Marco Botsaris’s brother Kosta (Constantine), who fought at Karpenisi and completed the victory, lived to become a general and senator in the Greek Kingdom. Kosta died in 1853..
  13. ^ University of Chicago. Encyclopædia britannica: a new survey of universal knowledge. Encyclopædia britannica, inc., 1946, p. 957
  14. ^ The Modern Olympics, A Struggle for Revival, by David C. Young. p. 13. 1996 The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5374-5
  15. ^ Markos Botsarēs, Titos P. Giochalas: To Hellēno-Alvanikon lexikon tou Markou Botsarē: (philologikē ekdosis ek tou autographou), Grapheion Dēmosieumatōn tēs Akadēmias Athēnōn, 1980, 424 pages.
  16. ^ JOCHALAS, Titos, To ellino-alvanikon lexikon tou Markou Botzari, Athens 1980.
  17. ^ Lloshi, Xhevat (2008). Rreth Alfabetit te shqipes. Logos. p. 107. ISBN 978-9989582684. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
  18. ^ Kyriazis, Doris (2019). "Greek-Albanian and Albanian-Greek Lexicography during 18th and 19th centuries". Studies in Greek lexicography. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. 1: 48. In reality, the lexicons composed by Kavalliotis, Moschopolitis and Botsaris belong to the pre-ethnic phase of the Balkans, which is also manifest in the way the term έθνος ‘nation’ is rendered.
  19. ^ Yochalas Titos (editor, 1980) The Greek-Albanian Dictionary of Markos Botsaris. Academy of Greece, Athens 1980 (in Greek). Γιοχάλας Π. Τίτος, Το ελληνο-αλβανικόν λεξικόν του Μάρκου Μπότσαρη (φιλολογική έκδοσις εκ του αυτογράφου), Ακαδημία Αθηνών, 1980.]
  20. ^ Kyriazis, Doris (2019). "Greek-Albanian and Albanian-Greek Lexicography during 18th and 19th centuries". Studies in Greek lexicography. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. 1: 46. Markos Botsaris transcribed the Lexicon (but was not the author); we presume that the compilers were himself and the company of his friends who replied alternately to the questions submitted by Pouqueville (Γιοχάλας 1980, Lloshi 1995).
  21. ^ Poetry Archive - Marco Bozzaris
  22. ^ Mackridge, Peter, ed. (1996). Ancient Greek myth in modern Greek poetry : essays in memory of C.A. Trypanis (1. publ. ed.). London: Frank Cass. pp. xvii. ISBN 978-0-7146-4751-7.
  23. ^ A. Xepapadakou, “The Marco Bozzari by Pavlos Carrer, a ‘national’ Opera”, in Moussikos Logos, 5, Corfu: Ionian University-Dept. of Music Studies, 2003, 27–63.
  24. ^ Antōnēs I. Phlountzēs Akronauplia kai Akronaupliōtes, 1937–1943. Themelio, 1979, p. 286 (Greek)
  25. ^ Nikolaos V. Dēmētriou, Eleutherios N. Dēmētriou. Voreios Ēpeiros: tragoudia kai choroi. Trochalia, 2000, p. 45.
  26. ^ Enangelides Tryfon, The education during the Turkish occupation, Athens, 1936, vol. 2, p. 79. A school play titled "Markos Botsaris" was played in Greece in 1825.
  27. ^ Alkaios Theodoros, The death of Markos Botsaris, published in Athens, undated. The author died in 1833.
  28. ^ American Folklore Society (1954). Memoirs of the American Folklore Society. American Folklore Society. Vol. 44. University of Texas Press. p. 173.
  29. ^ Pllana, Shefqet (1972). "Studies". Gjurmime Albanologjike:Folklor Dhe Etnologji (Albanological Research: Folklore and Ethnology). 15: 41. Retrieved 8 June 2010.
  30. ^ Bank of Greece Archived 28 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Drachma Banknotes & Coins: 50 lepta Archived 1 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine. – Retrieved on 27 March 2009.


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