The Massacres of Chios (3)
1823 Onwards & Documentation
The Greek War of Independence against the domination of the Ottoman Empire was still raging in 1822 when one of history's most tragic and comprehensive acts of genocide took place in the Massacres of Chios. Around 20,000 islanders were hanged, butchered, starved or tortured to death. Untold thousands more were raped, deported and enslaved and the island itself devastated. Now the survivors set about rebuilding shattered lives and fortunes elsewhere throughout Europe and the Black Sea in what is now known as the Chios Diaspora.
Scenes from The Massacre At Chios
by Eugène Delacroix, first exhibited in 1824, two years after the massacre, and bought by King Charles X for The Louvre in Paris.
This and the works of Lord Byron did much to draw the attention of mainland Europe to the 'katastrophe' that had taken place on Chios.
It also captured the imagination of the author who was introduced to it quite suddenly, in 1961, at the age of twelve.
1824 Public outrage at the horrors on Chios in 1822 spreads through Europe and North America.
Eugène Delacroix exhibits Scenes of the Massacres of Chios, bought for the Louvre by King Charles X of France.
Victor Hugo writes The Child of Chios.
Lord Byron, whose prolific writing promoting Hellenism has inspired a generation, dies aged 36.
Two years later, Picauld's tragedy, Léonidas, is performed at the Théâtre Français with the young sons of the Greek admirals Kanaris and Miaulis as guests of the Duke of Orleans.
The famous Koraïs Library on Chios, founded by the scholar Adamandios Koraïs (right) in 1792, was sacked in 1822. Its treasured collection of books, records and exhibits were either destroyed or stolen. Among the few sources still available to historians of Chios now are the recorded testimony of survivors, the drawings and paintings of travellers and the archaeological evidence on the ground. Today the library houses the Philip Argenti Collection of Chios diaspora family portraits, as well as books, domestic artefacts, costumes, textiles and memorabilia.
In a repeat of the Chios massacres, the Sultan now orders the neighbouring island of Psara to be laid waste as a reprisal for the assistance it gave to Chios two years earlier.
Eighty frigates, brigs and transports carrying 3,000 Janissaries and 4,000 Asiatic troops invade the island, led by Mehmet Pasha,. Eight thousand men, women and children are butchered or wounded, being left to die of exposure, untreated wounds, starvation or disease.
Only 3,000 of the original population of 20,000 survive. Large numbers are captured as slaves and 500 heads and 1,200 ears are shipped to Constantinople to be displayed in 'victory pillars' at the Seraglio Gate.
Few Chian refugees are caught here since most have already moved on to Syros, Tinos, the Cyclades and elsewhere in Europe. However, some 12,000 refugees from Smyrna and Lesbos are caught up in a massacre for a second time.
Rather than fall into the hands of the Turks and the inevitable torture, rape and slavery, many choose to blow themselves up with their own gun-powder echoing accounts of women throwing themselves off cliffs with their children and infants on Chios. The few who escape flee to Momemvasia and found Nea (New) Psara.
1825 Many Chian refugees have set about establishing a 'second Chios' on the nearby island of Syros, a predominantly Catholic French protectorate.
Stephen Zygomalas, Ambrose Scaramanga and Emmanuel Scaramanga are among the committee of four the epitrope representing Chian interests.
In many respects Syros comes to resemble the way life had been conducted on Chios before the massacre. Concentrating around its excellent natural harbour, the Chians embark on rapid construction projects and re-establish their shipping and trading enterprises in Egyptian cotton and spices from the East.
Within a few years the city, renamed Ermopoulos by the community's leader, Luke Ralli, becomes the administrative centre of the Cyclades, the main coaling station of the Eastern Mediterranean and the premier port and warehouse in the new Greek state.
Today Syros still has the monopoly on the manufacture of Turkish Delight, made from the mastic plant uniquely cultivated on Chios and a 'Chian' speciality.
Two other important gathering points and trading centres for refugees from Chios are Trieste and Livorno. However, the preferred destinations for many of the island's most prosperous leading families are London, Liverpool, Manchester, Paris and Marseilles.
Of the Vlasto family, few settle in Syros other than Nicolas Vlasto (1805-1861) with his wife Marie Louca Mavrogordato and their daughter Angerou Vlasto (1835-1845) who dies aged 10 in Marseilles where most of the Vlastos have settled.
1827 Although an expedition by Fabvier to relieve Chios fails, the third and final phase of the Greek War of Independence ends with the defeat of the Turkish fleet at Salona and victory at Navarino for the combined British, French and Russian fleet under the command Britain's Admiral Codrington.
1828 The Turks evacuate mainland Greece after 400 years of Ottoman rule.
1829 Mahmoud, Sultan of Turkey, acknowledges the independence of Greece.
1830 The Protocol of London proclaims Greece an independent kingdom and a Greek Embassy is established in London.
The 'Greek Community of London' is founded predominantly by members of the Chios diaspora. Soon after a 'Brotherhood' of 24 (almost all Chians and including seven Rallis) establish their first church at Finsbury Circus, importing their Archimandrites from Chios. Similar churches are established by Chian merchants in Manchester and Liverpool.
1831-32 Austria, Britain and Russia recognise Greece as an independent kingdom (though Chios is still occupied by the Turks and not included in the new state).
1881 After the Chian massacre and the diaspora of 1822, another catastrophe hits Chios.
An earthquake (6.5 on the Richter scale) kills 3,550 and injures 1,320. Chios town is devastated and has never fully recovered bearing the deep scars of both man-made and natural catastrophes.
Only about 10,000 inhabitants survive the earthquake. Bodies lie piled in the streets in the summer heat while the inhabitants are too weak to bury them all. Eventually typhoid pits are dug.
Some 40,000 extra Turkish troops are dispatched to Chios to assess the situation and to preserve what remains of the island's previous wealth now mostly lost in rubble and fires but they have difficulty entering the harbour because of the number of corpses floating in the water. Turkish records show that every church apart from St Antoine is destroyed.
Bands of other Turks loot and harass the Chian survivors. Again, thousands of Chians flee to the island of Psara where, fifty years earlier, 20,000 Chians fled to escape the Turkish invasion. Again Psara provides a welcoming sanctuary.
1912-13 After the two Balkan Wars, Chios is liberated and, under the Convention of Athens, Turkey and Greece settle ownership of the Aegean Islands. Chios becomes part of Greece, though it should be noted that sovereignty of some of these Aegean possessions was still in dispute between Greece and Turkey as late as 1999.
Eugène Delacroix was born in Charenton-St-Maurice, France, on 26 April 1798. A pupil of Pierre-Narcisse Guérin in 1815, he produced more than 850 paintings and great numbers of drawings, murals, and other works. In 1822 he submitted his first picture Dante and Virgil in Hell to the important Paris Salon exhibition. A technique used in this work many unblended colours forming what at a distance looks like a unified whole was later used by the impressionists. His next Salon entry was Massacre at Chios in 1824. With great vividness of colour and strong emotion it pictured an incident in which 20,000 Greeks had been killed by Turks on the island of Chios two years earlier. The French government purchased it for Fr.6,000. Impressed by the techniques of English painters such as John Constable, Delacroix visited England in 1825. His tours of the galleries, visits to the theatre and observations of English culture in general made a lasting impression upon him. From 1827 to 1832 he continued to use historical themes in The Battle of Nancy and The Battle of Poitiers. Lord Byron's poetry inspired a painting for the 1827 Salon, Death of Sardanapalus. He also created a set of 17 lithographs to illustrate a French edition of Goethe's 'Faust'. The French revolution of 1830 inspired the famous Liberty Guiding the People, the last of his truly romantic works. He found new inspiration on a trip to Morocco in 1832. From 1833 to 1861 Delacroix painted murals for the king's chamber at the Palais Bourbon and panels for the Louvre and the Museum of History at Versailles. This involved long, uncomfortable hours on scaffolding in draughty buildings and his health suffered. He died on 13 August 1863 in Paris where his apartment is now a museum.
Above: The author at work at the 'Mavrogordatico' hotel in the Kampos, in Spring 1999. The appallingly kitsch conversion of this once grand home of the Mavrogordato family has set a poor example to those who might be considering restoring ruins in the Kampos.Argenti appears to have imported this concept from the system once used in Byzantine Constantinople. His reason for doing this appears to be connected with his life-long, obsessive need to establish the excellence of his pedigree and his own and his family's 'credentials' perhaps in order to obscure some aspects of its origins and the fact they were relative new-comers to Chios and to 'Greece'.
Much of the above is derived from 'Greek Fire The Massacres of Chios' (Abson Books, 1991) by Helen Long (née Vlasto), a direct descendent of the Vlastos mentioned above. It has a forward by Sir Godfrey Ralli, Bt, T.D., a director of Ralli Brothers Ltd (1946-62) and is dedicated to Christopher Long "who first was intrigued by this story of his forbears, and then encouraged and helped me to research and set it down" and who had in fact spent many years acquiring books and information relating to the Chios massacres.
In the light of this 'dedication' any reader will quickly devine that the experiences described in the first two pages of Greek Fire are a travesty of the truth. Helen Long claims to have come, unawares, face to face with Delacroix's painting of Scenes from the Massacre At Chios in The Louvre. She claims that although she knew nothing of its significance she was nevertheless haunted by it and felt impelled to learn more about these events in Chios. In fact this experience occurred to her 12 year-old son, some twenty-five years earlier, in 1961. A certain Mme. Delmas deliberately took him to see it, fully aware of its significance. She knew that four generations of this boy's family had been so traumatised by the events of 1822 that they had never discussed the subject. She herself had been cruelly tortured by the Gestapo for her work for the French Resistance in World War ll. She disapproved of such taboos and believed that someone from the fifth generation of the Chian diaspora should know what happened. Regrettably Helen Long did not leave this significant experience where it belonged, in the heart and mind of the person to whom it occurred.
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