The Massacres of Chios (2)
Events & Massacres of 1822
The Greek War of Independence has already started. Now the islanders on Chios are asked to join the rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. Their decision is a difficult one but, within months, they find they have run out of time. Both the Greek revolutionaries and Constantinople regard the wavering as a betrayal and around 20,000 islanders are hanged, butchered, starved or tortured to death. Untold thousands more are raped, deported and enslaved. The Greek word katastrofi also meaning 'destruction' and 'ruin' is usually used to describe these events. The island itself is devastated and the few survivors disperse throughout Europe 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.
1822 When news of the situation on Chios reaches the Chian community in Constantinople they appeal for help to the Divan (Turkish Privy Council).
Bachet Pasha then deploys 1,000 troops under Elezoglou, with 100 bombardiers, to restore order. Many islanders return to find their homes looted and vandalised.
The first batch of 40 hostages within the Kastro are now exchanged after eight months.
A degree of normality begins to return. But Greek Chians are now subjected, for the first time, to a capitation tax, the haratch, payable by all other Orthodox subjects in the empire. In addition they have to pay a monthly tax of 34,000 piastres for community services and a further 10,000 piastres to pay for the presence of 'protective' troops who they have to feed free of charge.
The Turks now fear an invasion of Chios from mainland Greece or other islands and many ordinary Chians are now forced to work unpaid and frequently beaten improving the island's defences.
Additionally, three of the most prominent citizens, Pandély Rodocanachi, Michael Schilizzi and Theodore Ralli are arrested and taken to the Bostandgi Bashi gaol in Constantinople as hostages transported overland for fear of Greek attempts at a naval rescue.
With no shipping permitted, the islanders are deprived of any means of trade or income and cannot escape.
Within the Kastro, in appalling conditions, two of the hostages die Matthew Psiachi and Theodore Petrocochino.
During the previous winter a rift emerged among the leaders of the independence movement with Prince Alexander Mavrogordato pitting his political and military ambitions to become president of Greece against two brothers, Prince Demetrius Yspilantes and Prince Alexander Yspilantes. The latter claim to be among the secret leadership of the largely Russian-backed 'Friendly Society' which has mostly funded and fuelled the Greek rebellion.
Despite the fact that none of these leaders favours precipitate action on Chios, the rift is exploited by a hot-headed revolutionary, Lykurgos Logothetis, who once served under Napoleon and is now de facto commander of the island of Samos.
Logothetis sees scope in invading Chios, even though he must know that his limited forces cannot take and hold the island against the Turks and that the best they can achieve is to loot the wealth of fellow Greeks.
Logothetis, who claims the invasion of Chios is a sacred duty, effectively defies Yspilantes' instructions to postpone any invasion and is encouraged in this by Antonios Bournias a failed Chian merchant and a man named Salatas, both of whom have served with Napoleon in Egypt.
A Dr Glerakis, in Corinth, an enthusiastic supporter of Greek independence and who has practised medicine in Holland, Vienna and Paris, is approached for his support by the Samians.
The Samians claim that insurrection on Chios is essential to the independence campaign, but since the provisional Greek government in Corinth does not support their view they want Glerakis to persuade the leaders on Chios to revolt.
Glerakis asks a Chian merchant, Alexander Ralli on his way back from business in India to assess the mood of the island. Ralli reports that there is little enthusiasm for rebellion and Glerakis concludes that military or financial support for insurrection there should be abandoned.
March When the Chians hear that Logothetis and his Samian horde are on their way to Chios, the hostage Metropolitan (Bishop) Platon Franghiadi secretly sends priests and messengers to remote villages to urge inhabitants to resist any Samian incitement to revolt. They should do nothing to aggravate the Turkish authorities.
With the Pasha's permission the hostages also send envoys to Samos itself to investigate rumours of the threatened invasion. But almost simultaneously George Frangias, Thomas Tsiropinas and Pandély Manouso hear that eighteen Samian soldiers have been landed at Pirama, in the north-west of Chios.
These Samian insurgents evade arrest by Chians and Turks by hiding in caves while the Pasha calls together twenty of his hostages to explain the importance of catching them.
Alexander Parodi, Paraskeva Sechiari and Hantsi Polychrones Diamantari, who know the area well, are despatched to Volissos with fifteen chosen men.
11 March According to Alexander M. Vlasto, the second phase in the Chios disaster unfolds when Logothetis's Samian/Greek fleet consisting of sixteen brigs and around sixteen light craft rounds Cape Aghia Eleni and drops anchor at Karfas Bay near Thymiana.
Karfas Bay is close to the Kampos where the island's nobility have their country estates. Here Logothetis fires a few long range shots and lands around 2,000 troops.
The invaders, who are at first welcomed by a handful of villagers, kill the village head-man when he refuses to acknowledge their authority and then immediately advance on Chios city, the Chora, demanding surrender.
March The Pasha responds to the Logothetis invasion whose troops eventually number 4,000-5,000 by calling in more hostages from among the island's leading families. They are incarcerated in an appalling dungeon in the heart of the Kastro.
Michael Vlasto, still at liberty, is sent to bolster morale among the more scattered communities.
Meanwhile Elezoglou leads about 600 Turkish troops against Logothetis but is ambushed. His troops are driven back: some into the Kastro and some to the Burnt Tower between the city and the Kampos. Others hide in Turkish houses until they are captured.
March Relying on foreign consuls for information, the Turks are now effectively besieged within the Kastro with the hostages as their only valuable asset.
Around three hundred Turkish troops, sent to hold the strategic hill of Turloti, retreat to the Kastro when faced by fifty Samians. The Kastro is now under bombardment from ships at sea and by 5 lb. cannon operated by villagers from Vrontado (to the north) and from Thymiana (to the south).
The cannon do little damage to the Kastro which is out of effective range of Samian-held hill-top positions such as Asomaton to the north-west. At great expense the Samians acquire three more cannon and twenty barrels of powder, but no shot. Instead they re-use shot fired at them and melt down lead spoons.
In reply, the more effective Turkish gunnery operates night and day though it chiefly succeeds in killing inhabitants of the city around the Kastro and destroying many of its fine Venetian and Genoese buildings.
March Logothetis and Bournias, who have set up their headquarters in the Bishop's Palace Bishop Platon Franghiadi being a hostage of the Turks in the Kastro are now quarrelling.
Logothetis loses control of his 'troops' as he quickly adopts the role of a prince at court and neglects to take the Kastro, while Bournias, being a Chian, claims to be commander-in chief. They divide the island between them, Bournias taking the north and Logothetis the city and the south.
Between them they have only six cannon and two barrels of gun-powder apart from the weapons and ammunition carried by their men.
March/April Having alienated the demogeronts, whose support he was depending on, Logothetis summons them, deposes them and establishes an 'ephory' which, according to Spartan practice, consists of around five magistrates. The appointees are: Cosi Vouro, Pandély Zervudachi, Nicholas Frangopoulo, Frangouli Pallaki, Polychrones Diamantari and Stephen Gianoutso who are quickly treated with derision.
Now deprived of all responsibilities for their island, many former demogeronts and leaders take their families to their country estates in the Kampos, a couple of miles south of the city.
The loss of respected and familiar leaders further demoralises the general population who are required to demonstrate solidarity with the Samians by reluctantly placing lights in their windows on pain of severe punishment.
This remarkable illustration was found, in 1999, on the walls of 'The Mavrogordatico' once a house and estate of the Mavrogordato family in the Kampos which has, sadly, now lost nearly all its original features after its conversion into an hotel. It shows a nobleman and his family, surrounded by their servants and livestock as they flee their Kampos estate in 1822.
According to Constantinos Kavadas this was one of two large pictures by Vasos Germenis (1896-1966), commissioned by Philip Argenti in c. 1930: Flight From The Campos 1822 and Scene from the Massacre of Chios. Both are in the collection of Mr Kavadas.
March/April Logothetis proves to be an entirely ineffective leader as his troops now embark on wholesale destruction of the island. In the city, anarchic groups of Samians set about looting and killing Turks, destroying two mosques and all the Turkish coffee houses.
They set fire to the Customs House, the merchants' town houses and Venetian warehouses along the waterfront, stripping lead from the roofs of mosques and orthodox churches for ammunition. Anything of value from homes, offices and warehouses is shipped away on stolen Chian vessels which the Turks had confined to port.
In the Kampos, where there are few Turks to fight and most of the leading families have large country houses and estates, the majority of the victims of the widespread killings, looting, rape and robbery are fellow 'Greeks'.
Those who can escape head for the hills, to the monastery of Nea Moni and by hiding in caves and living off the land, the shore and rock-pools.
Faces with tales they would keep to themselves... Family portraits of some survivors and victims of the Chios massacres now hang in the Koraïs Library, Chios.
In this room are right to left: Zennou Vlasto (1795-1872) who married Pandély Nicolas Mavrogordato (1780-1855). They were the parents of Alexandra Mavrogordato (1819-1897) who married John Stephanos Schilizzi (1805-1892). After the massacre they settled in Marseilles, France. Another Ioanna 'Zennou' Vlasto (1798-1876), wife of Pandély Leonidas Argenti (1791-1830) appears as an older woman in the small picture third from right.
Second from left: John Schilizzi (1805-1892), who was the son of Stephanis Schilizzi (1757-1820) and Hypatia Calvocoressi (1765-1832). Far left and third from left: Alexandra (Pandély) Mavrogordato (1819-1897), daughter of Pandély Nicolas Mavrogordato (1780-1855) and Zennou Vlasto (1795-1872).
For hundreds of years (and until well into the C20th) these families nearly always married cousins from within the same twenty or so ruling families thus retaining power by achieving personal dynasties within a collective dynasty and ensuring that wealth was never dissipated.
Zennou Vlasto (1795-1872) and her husband Pandély Nicolas Mavrogordato (1780-1855). They were married in Chios in 1809. These portraits, painted soon after the catastrophe events of 1821-22, scarcely disguise the effects. Zennou was the daughter of Michael (Stephanos) Vlasto (1762-1849) and Alexandra (Jean) Caralli (1764-1851) and appears in several of the Argenti Collection portraits.
March/April Enraged by the 'Greek rebellion' on Chios, Sultan Mahmoud ll orders the execution of some of the Chian hostages in Constantinople and the killing or impaling of other Chians in the city.
Through the Porte and the Divan he now orders Capitan-Pasha Kara Ali's large fleet six battle-ships, two frigates, four corvettes, two Algerine brigs, two bomb-ketches and eight transports to sail, on 5th April, from Constantinople with 4,000 troops. They are to be joined by some 15,000 crack troops from throughout Asia-Minor currently unable to cross to Chios owing to Logothetis's 'Greek' Samian fleet blockading the channel.
The Turkish orders amount to a Jihad against infidel Christians. The orders include re-taking the island and killing all males over twelve, all women aged over 40 and all two year-old children. Then they are to lay waste the island.
The Pasha on Chios, alarmed at news of Greeks fleeing the island and fearing the loss of revenue under the rayah and haratch capitation tax, orders the arrest, as additional hostages, of any remaining prominent men who can be found as well as some women who are later released because he believes they will not leave without their men.
April Like scores of other prominent men on Chios who have escaped being taken hostage, a Mr Calvocoressi sends for his estate-keeper who arrives next day with mules which carry whatever valuables they can to his Kambos country house from where gunfire in the city can still be heard.
11th April Three weeks after the invasion by Logothetis and his Samians, Mr Calvocoressi peers through binoculars from an upper floor of his house to see the Turkish fleet in full sail appearing from the direction of the Oinoussai Islands, led by Kara Ali's flagship, the Maizural-Livo ("Victory").
These forces are clearly bent on revenge for the 'Greek' rebellion on Chios. They drop anchor in Chios harbour and bombard the city, which is never again to recover its former elegance.
Logothetis's 'Greek' Samian fleet which has meanwhile been preventing a Turkish invasion from the mainland promptly sails away for safety, abandoning its men.
The Pasha now offers the abandoned Samians an amnesty if they will surrender. They refuse and try to take the Kastro before the Turkish troops can be disembarked from their ships.
To make matters worse for the Greek Chians effectively trapped between two enemies on the previous day one of Kara Ali's feluccas sailed too close to the Chios coast, raised a white flag of truce and was attacked by Samians who killed every Turk on board.
Now it is clear that no mercy whatever will be shown. Many hungry Chians with most of their leaders held hostage think they have nothing to lose by joining the Samian hordes. It is this news, when passed to Constantinople, that later results in an order from the Sultan to kill the hostages in the Kastro.
12th April The next day 7,000 troops from Smyrna and other parts of the mainland are landed and disperse through the region south of the capital including the Kampos killing and destroying as they go.
Those too old or too young to run for cover in the hills are murdered in their homes while about 15,000 Turkish and Samian troops are killed in clashes. Corpses fill the streets and clog the harbour. When they can find no more Christians to kill, any Christian buildings, farms, churches or monasteries are burnt or destroyed.
However, young women, boys and girls are taken alive for their value as slaves and shipped to the mainland.
Around 2,000 women, children and priests seek sanctuary in the Byzantine Nea Moni monastery in the mountains founded by Constantine Monamacus in 1042-1048. Eventually the doors to Nea Moni burst open and all inside are slaughtered or burnt alive when the building is set on fire many of their skulls and bones being displayed to this day at the monastery.
Rather than fall into the hands of the Turks, many women commit mass suicide by jumping from the cliffs with infants in their arms.
The British, Austrian and French vice-consuls are now induced by the Pasha to convince about once thousand Chian survivors hiding in the 'mastic' villages that they are being offered an amnesty. The Pasha provides the diplomats with a bouyourdi and a coin for each survivor obtained from the hostages in the Kastro as evidence of his good intentions.
The hostages in the Kastro are persuaded of the Pasha's honourable intentions and sign a document encouraging surrender. Seventy emerge on the strength of this and they too sign the document. When a thousand more emerge a local commander Heles-Oga informs the Pasha who immediately orders them to be killed.
Heles-Oga is horrified and questions the order. But the order remains: "Innocent or guilty, all are to die, such is my wish". The diplomats are appalled. The Turkish admiral hangs the initial 70 to come forward from the yard-arm of his flagship.
April Now that they have no value as hostages the Pasha offers freedom to the demogeronts and other island leaders in the Kastro in return for two million piastres, payable in cash immediately. Under the circumstances this is impossible to arrange as the Pasha must well know.
23rd April In any case he now has the Sultan's orders to execute the hostages and this he does at 10.00 a.m. on Sunday 23rd April. Of at least 74 male members of the ruling families most of whom are related to each other at least 47 of them are publicly hanged.
Among the victims is Loukas Vlasto.
The author has this pearl and enamelled gold Breguet pocket watch which belonged to Michael Vlasto. According to M. E. T. D. Vlasto this may have been given to Michael by Loucas while the latter was imprisoned and shortly before he was hanged. Although the watch's movement and case were made in Paris, interestingly the numerals are designed to appeal to a market in Constantinople.
The route taken by the 47 innocent, condemned men... from the dungeon... across a few metres of courtyard... through the tunnel beneath the massive Kastro walls... past the main guard house... through the Porta Maggiore... and out into bright sunlight... where the scaffold would have been visible about 50 metres away. Were their wives and families required to watch the hangings in what is now the main square in Chios? We don't know. But just before his turn arrived, Meandre 'Méni' Zizinia is reported to have said: "If one hair of me survives it will be vengeance enough".
Bishop Platon Franghiadi and his deacon Makarios lead the condemned men from their underground dungeon into the sunshine.
They are all almost naked, barefoot and with their wrists tied behind their backs.
They pass under the Porta Maggiore (right), cross the draw-bridge (today the moat is dry) and assemble in Vounaki Square. A memorial above the door of the gaol in the Kastro at Chios today reads:
In this dark dungeon in the year 1822, 74 members of noble Chian families were kept prisoner as hostages of the Turks, and from here on 23rd April 1822 after untold suffering, the Bishop of Chios, Metropolitan Plato, and 46 others were hanged: they died for their faith and for their country."
"A long line of swinging corpses stretched along what is now known as The Way of The Martyrs, from the Porta Maggiore to where an obelisk in marble from Skyros now stands by a fountain close to the walls of the Kastro.
The obelisk names Loucas Vlasto among the forty-seven murdered there. To engender greater terror, the Turks hung the bodies from trees in the city centre for three days, having already ridiculed Metropolitan Plato by placing a Turkish cap, a tiara, on his head.
The heads of Metropolitan Plato and the leader, Makarios were put on pikes on the ramparts and pelted with stones by Turkish fanatics. The others too were decapitated and their heads shipped to Constantinople where the Sultan displayed them in 'pyramids' to demonstrate his great victory over the 'infidels' of Chios.
The headless bodies were given to the Jews who dragged them to the harbour's edge and threw them into the Aegean. Breasts, genitals, ears, noses and fingers were shipped to Constantinople and strewn about the streets. Only the nobility were hanged. Villagers were imprisoned until they died of malnutrition or disease. [from Greek Fire]
Of those released or spared, including Michael Vlasto, many are subsequently killed [see: next page for lists of those hanged or released].
This memorial to those hanged on 23 April 1822 stands beside the main square in Chios, all four sides covered with the names of the 47 victims.
Prominent on the front face left are the names: Metropolitan Platon Franghiadi, Deacon Makarios, Léontius Pandély Argenti, Nicolas Pandély Argenti, George Avierino and Loucas Vlasto. Three sides of the obelisk contain the names of the all the victims.
It's a poignant thought that the last thing Loukas would have seen from the scaffold was his own city-centre house, probably destroyed, across the Aplotaria square.
N.B. There is some dispute as to how many members of the Argenti family were in fact hanged or killed either on Chios or in Constantinople during the events of 1821-22. The number appears to have increased with the passage of time and the historical research of Philip Argenti!
The Ottoman decision to kill 47 heads of households is easier to understand when it is appreciated that the 'Chios families' were an impenetrably tight-knit, self-governing group.
Four centuries earlier they had adopted the Genoese 'albergho' system in which many separate households of the same family, usually occupying a particular quarter of the city, lived under the all-embracing influence of their elders hence, for example, the Vlasto quarter of Chios town was called the 'Vlastoudiko'.
These 'clans' owed allegiance in turn to a ruling council of elders the Demogeronts representing all the noble family groups and elected by their peers for a period of time. They were responsible for and to the entire 'Greek' Orthodox community.
Among their responsibilities the Demogeronts heard grievances, administered justice and settled 'family' disputes 'privately' without recourse to courts or public wrangling.
The 'albergho' system as adopted on Chios appears to have worked well. However, an almost identical system operated in Naples, Sicily and other parts of southern Italy (exported to the USA in the C20th) and commonly known as the 'causa nostra' or 'mafia'.
Any large community of families operating as a 'state within a state' and answerable only to each other conflicts with any present-day notions of a civil society and is very liable to corruption.
One reason for the Turkish 'over-reaction' in 1822 may be that they suddenly felt very threatened by the immense economic and political power these families could wield collectively throughout the Ottoman empire as well as on the island.
For hundreds of years the Chian Greeks had been granted unique freedoms and privileges within the empire and the public hanging of 47 hand-picked noblemen in the centre of the town was intended to demonstrate the Sultan's ultimate supremacy C.A.L.
25th April Writing before details of the Chios massacres have reached him, the British ambassador to Constantinople, Viscount Strangford, tells the British Foreign Secretary in London, the Marquis of Londonderry:
"My Lord, Consul Werry... writes to me (on the Seventeenth Instant) in the following terms: 'The tranquillity of Smyrna is now re-established. The diabolical practice of firing upon the Greeks who appeared in the streets, ceased on the day that intelligence arrived of the Turkish Fleet having reached Scio [Chios]. We have got rid of all our ruffians, who have gone to partake in the plunder of Scio'." [See: The Massacres of Chios Described in Contemporary Diplomatic Reports, Ed. Philip Argenti (London, 1932); Public Records Office: F.O. (Turkey) 78, vol. 107. no. 54
17th May But following the wholesale slaughter, rape and pillage, the same British consul in Smyrna writes to London with a graphic description of the massacres, as well as the plight of around 45,000 surviving women and children from Chios who are being sold into slavery in Turkey.
"My Lord, The Transactions at Scio [Chios] appear to have been of a most horrible description, and the ferocity of the Turks to have been carried to a pitch which makes humanity shudder. The whole of the Island, with the exception of the Twenty-four Mastic Villages [uniquely valuable to the Turks], presents one mass of ruin. The unfortunate inhabitants have paid with their lives, the price of their ill-advised rebellion. The only persons who have been spared are the women and children, who have been sold as slaves." [See: The Massacres of Chios Described in Contemporary Diplomatic Reports, Ed. Philip Argenti (London, 1932); Public Records Office: F.O. (Turkey) 78, vol. 108. no. 73
17th May Francis Werry, British consul in Smyrna, writes to the Right Worshipful the Levant Company in London:
"The disasters at Scio [Chios], and the death of the principal Sciots, the Sequestration of all property of Sciots in this place, induced the factory to address a letter to me under the [13th April] on the subject of claiming from the Ottoman Government indemnification for the debts due to British Merchants... The severe example at Scio has appalled the Greeks, terror seized them. But they know not to what point to direct their route for refuge. The Morea may resist for a short time but ultimately it must submit... Some thousand Sciots have escaped in the Ipsariots' [Psara] vessels, all the inhabitants of the Mastic villages 24 in number at an early period accepted the Pasha's amnesty all the females are Captives upwards of 2,000 are here, it is prohibited to sell them to Christians, notwithstanding many are redeemed by general subscriptions. The Turk fleet on the 12th was in sight of the Greek fleet consists of near 50 sail of all sorts off Scio. These endeavoured to avoid nor was it their intention to risk an attack to which their force is by no means competent they are watching an opportunity to send fire ships & fire machines among the Enemy... This place is perfectly quiet; the spoils made at Scio have apparently satisfied the rabble." [See: The Massacres of Chios Described in Contemporary Diplomatic Reports, Ed. Philip Argenti (London, 1932); Public Records Office: S.P. 105, vol. 140
Now the Sultan orders the execution of the three prominent Chian leaders (Theodore Eustratius Ralli, Michael Schilizzi and Pandély Rodocanachi) who were earlier arrested on the island and taken overland to Constantinople as hostages.
25th May Of these events in Constantinople, the British ambassador, Viscount Strangford, writes to London on 25th May 1822:
"The most tragical occurrence took place on the Eighteenth (Instant), when, in spite of the assurances so often given to me by the Porte, that she considered those unhappy men as perfectly innocent, and that no offence could be alleged against them, the Ten Sciot [Chian] Hostages residing here, were publicly beheaded. They were all persons of good repute, great connections in Trade, particularly with the English merchants, and of large and honourably acquired fortunes. Their fate is deeply regretted even by the Turks; the better class of whom do not scruple to inveigh against this transaction, as an unnecessary cruelty, and to attribute it entirely to the barbarous system of terrorism which Halet Effendi pursues for the sake of diverting public attention from his own misdeeds." [See: The Massacres of Chios Described in Contemporary Diplomatic Reports, Ed. Philip Argenti (London, 1932); F.O. (Turkey) 78, vol. 108. no. 74
Faced by the scale of the Turkish forces, Logothetis now runs for cover in the mountains less than a month after his disastrous arrival.
Following a brief skirmish at Aghios Georgios he heads for the northern beach of Elindas where he and his Samian troops kill their Turkish prisoners and embark in boats from Psara to return to Samos.
Having single-handedly provoked an entirely unnecessary catastrophe on Chios his own troops causing many of the deaths and much of the destruction he now abandons his surviving fellow 'Greeks' to face the Turkish armies undefended.
April & May Much criticised for not sending the Greek fleet to challenge the Turkish fleet before it landed, the Greek President Mavrogordato waits until 27th April (four days after the hangings of the hostages) before a fleet of fifty-six Greek ships sail for Chios under the command of Admiral Andreas Miaulis of Hydra.
31st MayMiaulis approaches the Turkish fleet at Chios harbour on 31st May and a brief, inconclusive skirmish takes place at sea.
May or early June Loula [Julie] Vlasto and her husband Iannis [Jean] Nicolas Zygomalas flee Chios for Syros.
Loula has a small gold and coral crucifix around her neck, a large oval diamond ring on her finger surmounted by a coronet and carries with her a collection of exquisitely embroidered silks and elaborately carved olive-wood icons.
But Iannis leaves a treasured silver-mounted icon buried in the grounds of their house. Some years later he returns to the island to retrieve it. These three items and others survive among the family to this day including Loula Vlasto's ring, its original diamonds now in a new setting.
Above: Like all refugees, Loula Vlasto and her husband Iannis Zygomalas fled the devastation of Chios with only those things they could carry. Although it is not known how she was related to the main branch of the Vlasto family, among her belongings were a small gold and coral crucifix bottom left, several carved olive-wood crucifixes bottom centre & right and exquisite silk embroidery. A silver mounted icon top left, which had belonged to Nicolas Zygomalas, was buried for safety on the island, to be recovered years later. The original mount of a Vlasto family diamond brooch top centre still exists (restored in the form of a ring in May 2000) though its original large central stone today adorns a more modern brooch top right.
4th June Twelve European warships tie up in the port of Smyrna, just a couple miles across the channel from Chios. They include the great American warship Constitution accompanied by a schooner and a corvette the first American vessels to visit the port. Despite the shocked reaction of their government to the Ottoman atrocities on Chios, the vessels sail away the next day.
12th June Alexandra Ralli (1801-1874) and her husband Manolis Petrocochino (1789-1860) one of the few hostages in the Kastro to have escaped and survived flee Chios with their child-in-arms, Demetrius, born in 1820.
She gives birth to a second son, Eustratios (1822-1897), just a few miles outside the port of Trieste. Eustratios later marries his cousin and fellow refugee, Angeliki Vlasto (1837-1868). His birth at sea is recorded on their tomb at South Norwood Cemetery, London.
18/19th June As the Turks celebrate the last day of Ramadan, 28 year-old Constantine Kanaris (born on Psara, but educated in France) acts entirely on his own initiative as he hugs the shore under cover of darkness to approach Chios to launch one of two fire-ships against the Turkish fleet.
In an epic chapter in the Greek War of Independence he destroys Kara Ali's 84-gun Turkish flagship Maizural-Livo as it lies at anchor.
The admiral himself dies in this extraordinarily daring attack but regrettably the vessel also contains 2,286 passengers who are mostly Chian women and children destined for slavery.
A second fireship, aimed by Captain Georges Pipinos of Hydra, fails to hit the Rear-Admiral's flagship, the Capitana Reala Bey but in the resulting confusion the Turks lose several ships and are left in disarray.
Miaulis and his large Greek fleet fail to take advantage of Kanaris's work and arrive to find the Turks have already sailed for the Dardanelles. They hang about for a few days and then disperse ineffectually.
The Turks seek to avenge the humiliation of their navy by intensifying the atrocities. Schools, libraries, churches, hospitals and beautiful villas are destroyed in an orgy of revenge though there are few Chians now left to mourn them.
The survivors now concentrate all their energy on escape, often via Aghios Georgios, Mesta and its harbour at Pasha Limani.
The small neighbouring island of Psara which lies to the west and within sight of Chios sends 250 troops on six ships to support the Chian resistance but its people soon realise that what is really needed is an evacuation service.
Psara then sends another eight vessels to pick up more refugees free of charge and along with boats from Syros do much to help many Chian survivors by secretly picking them up on the coast and evacuating them, despite attempts by Bournias to catch them.
However, the refugees speak of betrayal by some foreign diplomats Britain's consul among them.
Like other members of the extended ruling clan, the Vlasto family flees the island abandoning its many houses and estates in the city (at least four) and the Kambos (at least nine). Today most of these have either been crudely rebuilt or lie abandoned in ruins. The largest of their city centre houses, the home of Michael Vlasto, has been well-restored and today serves as a bank (see: Chios Houses). Another, now the Choremi estate, was rebuilt and is beautifully maintained.
June & July A mass exodus of survivors take any opportunity they can to escape the island. Among them, in June, is Emmanuel Rodocanachi whose father Pandély was hanged in Constantinople a few days earlier. He flees Chios with his young wife Oriettou Vlasto. Married when he was 23 and she just 15, she dies of exhaustion, aged 20, just a few days after they reach safety in Trieste.
Left: The author discovering the tomb of his great-great-great grandfather, Michael Vlasto (1762-1849) at the Greek Orthodox cemetery in Trieste.
Like almost every one of the scores of Chian refugee tombs in Trieste, Livorno, Marseilles, London and elsewhere, the inscription states emphatically and simply that he was from Chios.
The inscription also states that Michael Vlasto was one of several who 'survived' probably a reference to those heads of household held hostage but not hanged:
"A survivor among ten other companions, Michael Vlasto, From Chios, Hastened to the grave, When he was in all 87 years old, He lived piously and rests here, 11 November 1849" [The age has been interpolated, not translated from that on the tomb]
> Above the name of Michael Vlasto are those of his son Stephanos Michael Vlasto (1799-1886) and of his grandson Michael Stephanos Vlasto (1837-1885).
A flat slab at the foot of this monument, now illegible, probably bore the names of Vlasto wives and some of the eleven children borne by Michael Vlasto's wife Alexandra Caralli (1764-1851).
Among these may be their tragic daughter Oriettou Vlasto. Born in 1802, she married Emmanuel Rodocanachi when she was 15 and he 23, his father being Pandély Rodocanachi (1760-1822), one of the 'three prominent Greeks' in Constantinople who were hanged or beheaded as a warning to their families at home on Chios.
As the young couple were escaping the island she gave birth to a baby daughter, Zennou Rodocanachi. But, within a day or two of their safe arrival in Trieste, Oriettou died of exhaustion, aged just 22.
Left: Another of Michael Vlasto's children was Dr Alexander M. Vlasto (1814-1844), author of Xiaka A History of the Island of Chios AD 70-1822.
He witnessed the atrocities aged eight which may have influenced him to become a physician. While his father fled to Trieste, Alexander ran for Livorno marrying his cousin Zangolio Rodocanachi (1815-1846).
The stress they faced can be gathered from the fact that both died aged about 30, having lost two of their three children at the ages of one and seven. Their tomb is almost certainly among those being discovered by the author at the Greek Orthodox cemetery in Livorno.
June In reprisal for the sinking of the Turkish flagship, Chians remaining in Smyrna are rounded up and, to the horror of Turkish friends, subjected to systematic torture. This includes being slowly burned to death in huge ovens, the piercing of finger-nails, using screws to break limbs and joints, being suspended by hooks through the ears with weights on the feet and beatings to death after being bastinadoed and hung upside down.
9th July Lord Londonderry instructs the British ambassador in Constantinople to convey to the Sultan the "horror and disgust" felt by King George lV at the "painful and disgusting recital of bloody scenes" occurring on Chios and to Chians in Constantinople:
"Your Excellency's [earlier] Despatches which convey the painful and disgusting recital of bloody scenes growing out of the Scio War, which have been acted both within the island, and in the Capital of the Ottoman Dominions, have been received and laid before the King [George lV]. You will express, in the most pointed terms, to the Turkish Government , the grief with which H.M. has perused these afflicting details. The King does not feel himself entitled to regard the unfortunate Sciot Hostages as placed in any formal sense under H.M.'s protection, and consequently cannot consider himself called upon, or even entitled, to resent their fate; but after the assurances given by your Lordship, and the admitted innocence of these respectable men, nothing can palliate the atrocity of their execution, and the tidings of it has inflicted a sensible wound on the King's mind and filled the British Nation with horror and disgust" [See: The Massacres of Chios Described in Contemporary Diplomatic Reports, Ed. Philip Argenti (London, 1932); Public Records Office: F.O. (Turkey) 195, vol. 33. no. 6
By the end of the massacres and within a period of just six months approximately three quarters of the island's Orthodox population of 120,000 are killed, enslaved or die of disease. Of the survivors, almost all flee as refugees.
An estimated 20,000 are direct victims of the massacres. A further 45,000 are taken into slavery of whom about half are redeemed and half die, neglected and in poverty throughout the Ottoman empire.
In Constantinople some Chian slaves are offered for sale at 100 piastres each, though the sudden glut means that slave prices tumble throughout the region. Mass circumcisions of young Christian Chians takes place in Constantinople while women are despatched to the brothels. An unquantifiable number die on the island as a consequence of hunger, disease.
Around five thousand Chians, mostly prosperous merchants and diplomats, happen to be abroad at the time including many young men learning the family business in satellite trading houses in port cities around the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Around fifteen thousand manage to escape before Kara Ali's Turkish troops invade the island.
The only formal record of named victims is to those members of the island's aristocracy held hostage in the Kastro or hanged on 23rd April 1822. Sadly no monument acknowledges the thousands of deaths among the island's general population.
The following are those leaders of the Greek community who were arrested and held hostage by the Turkish authorities in the Kastro for various periods between April 1821 and April 1822 before being ceremonially hanged in the capital's Vounaki Square on 23 April 1822. In many cases they were closely related to each other by blood, marriage or both.
There is a discrepancy between the 47 reported hanged at the time and the 48 recorded by Philip Argenti.
He it was, in the C20th, who erected the monument in Vounaki Square. His 'assiduous' research finds, unsurprisingly, that an Argenti was also hanged on 23 April 1822. Lady Dominie Nicholls (née Vlasto) states in her memoirs that a Zorzis Franghiadi 'shared the same fate'.
The following are those leaders of the Greek community in Chios who were arrested, transported to Bostandgi Bashi gaol in Constantinople by the Turkish authorities where they were held before being hanged May 1822. (Soon after, the Ottoman government acknowledged to the British ambassador that these were entirely honourable and innocent men)
The following leaders of the Greek community in Chios were arrested and held hostage by the Turkish authorities in the Kastro (for various periods between April 1821 and 1822). Although they escaped being hanged, many were subsequently killed in the massacres that raged throughout the island in the period April-August 1822.
The following six members of the Roman Catholic community in Chios were arrested and held hostage by the Turkish authorities in the Kastro (for various periods between April 1821 and 1822).
What makes this story particularly tragic is that tiny Chios is probably the first victim of a turning-point in history the watershed between the disappearance of the age-old 'trade' empires and the emergence of the new 'national' empires. The great 'trade' empires of Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Genoa, Venice, the Ottomans, etc., were largely concerned with acquiring monopoly access to produce, ports and markets seldom imposing any particular social, religious or cultural status on their colonial populations. Not being 'citizens' of the occupying capital city nor 'subjects' of its state, people throughout Europe merely identified themselves as residents of a particular city or island (in this case as Chians). By contrast the new emerging 'nations' such as Britain, Russia and France obsessed by 'nationality', lines on printed maps and, eventually, passports are now beginning to require their colonial populations to identify themselves as 'subjects' of the occupying power within defined national borders. It's interesting to note the British Foreign Secretary's reference (9th July 1822) to how Turkish atrocities "filled the British Nation with horror and disgust". Now 'nations' speak for all their subjects rather than for the King and his government alone.
What remains unclear is whether Michael Vlasto, Demogeront on Chios in the crucial year 1821-22, appreciates that he is being asked to choose between an old and a new world order. He is certainly aware that Chios is a pathetically vulnerable nut between the massive jaws of Turkey and the emerging Greece nation (backed by the 'national' super-powers of Britain, Russia and France). He may hope that common sense will prevail: that his extended family of Chians will eventually be left in peace to resume lives as free citizens of a world they have done much to develop and where they have always felt free to trade, roam and settle.
[If this is so, a similarly innocent or naïve miscalculation is made long afterwards, through the C20th, by Armenians, Kurds and the predominantly Muslim leadership in Sarajevo]
In the long run the appalling massacres on Chios and the degradation of its few survivors does irreparable damage to both Turkey and Greece. The island and its source of wealth is devastated. And, though the drive for Greek Independence is given fresh impetus and justification, the surviving Chians never forget that fellow Greeks participated in the rape of their island. They form a diaspora which eventually re-establishes shipping, trading and banking empires elsewhere throughout Europe. The new Greek state is thus deprived of entrepreneurial skills and revenues it desperately needs. Finally, the already tarnished reputation of the Ottoman Turks is damaged for ever more the very word 'Turk' becoming an international synonym for a peculiarly mediaeval brand of inhumanity and brutality leaving relations between Greece and Turkey dangerously strained to this day.
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