網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

THE SIEGE OF THE ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS,

IN THE YEARS 1821-22.

BY AX BYB-WITNESS.

Much has been said and written for and against the Greeks. Some have lavished extravagant praises upon them as the immediate and worthy descendants of Miltiades and Themistocles,whilst others, from the beginning of the war, have depreciated their character, blamed, decried, and condemned their conduct, either because they had taken a dislike to them from hearsay, or because, acting up to the spirit of the Holy Alliance, they hate every revolution, whatever may ho its cause or object. The former laid themselves open to painful disappointments; they had forgotten that the slave is seldom better than the masterthat the Greeks were little better than slaves, a long time before the Turks conquered Greece-that a long slavery will not improve the moral condition of a people—and that a revolution, after centuries of slavery, will rather show forth the sore parts of the body, than heal them. But if these were led astray by the enthusiasm of their minds, and the intemperance of their wislies, the others evinced an absence of feeling for the true interests of humanity.

Whoever doubts the possibility of regeneration by good government and wise laws, uiters blasphemy against human nature, or wishes the causes of degeneration to be perpetual.

Athens ranks first among the cities in Greece. Attica is one of its finest provinces; and the siege of the citadel of Athens may be considered as one of the great incidents of the Greek revolution, little known in its details, but intimately connected with the whole drama of the present war, and not devoid of interest, even after a considerable lapse of time, for those whose attention is not absorbed by the events of the day. The present narrative is drawn from the Journal of one who passed above a year in Greece, shortly after the beginning of the war; who had an adequate knowledge of the language to carry on a familiar intercourse with all classes, and was therefore enabled to collect information whenever it was wanted, from different quarters.

Those who planned the revolution of Greece could certainly not have ehosen a better moment than when the Sultan was involved in a war with Ali Pacha. The first efforts of the Greeks would have been erushed, if the Ottoman Porte could have commanded the Albanese against them at the beginning. It is well known, that the insurrection of the Morea broke out at Calavrita, a little town nearly in its centre. It spread itself over the whole of the Peninsula, before the Turks of Athens could persuade themselves that the disturbance in the Morea was of a truly serious nature; they believed, and the belief was carefully instilled into them by the Greeks of Athens, that a numerous gang of robbers had started up, but that tranquillity would soon be restored. In a country like Turkey, and especially in this part of Turkey, such things do not strike the imagination as they would in a well-regulated state. The people of the mountains had always maintained themselves as independent robbers, and often had the Pachas been obliged to Feb. 1826.

0

march with a large body of troops to chastise their boldness; the modern walls of Athens had been built in former times against them, and the profession of a robber (klephtis) was altogether, in the eyes of the Greeks, a dignified one, being blended with a defence of faith, and a struggle for liberty, that had never died away entirely in Greece. The Turks of Athens had therefore no correct idea of the object and extent of the disturbances in the Miorea; and the Turks of the Morea having retired into the several forts of Modon and Coron, Napoli di Romania, Monembasia, Patras, Corinth, and Tripolizza, the former could not get any other information than that which came from the Greeks.

The communication with Corinth had been cut off since the first days of April ; (the insurrection in the Morea began on the 25th of March;) the Turks of Salona, after a short siege of a fortnight, were obliged to surrender, and were killed by the Greeks, those of Livadia met with the same fate, those of Thebes fled to Negropont, Tripolizza was blockaded, and the islands of Spezzia and Hydra, the latter not till after Captain Constantin had been murdered at Constantinople, had also raised the standard of insurrection.

The Athenians had already, by a letter dated the 31st March, and signed by three bishops, been summoned, in the name of the Cross and Leonidas, to take up arms to kill the Turks within their town, and to send troops for the defence of the Thermopyla. The Turks, although the Greeks endeavoured, with artful dissimulation, to keep them in ignorance of the danger of their situation, thought it prudent to retire every evening into the castle, and to come down into the town only in the day-time; they carried provision and furniture up into the Acropolis, where a number of families had small houses; all the other Turks, who lived at Salamis, or on the isthmus, or in Attica itself, joined them, and their flocks were taken away by the Greeks, and their country-houses plundered and destroyed. The bazaar was closed, and all business stopped; and the Turks, after having been kept long under the delusion that all would soon be settled, perceived at last that they had been duped by the Grecks; but these being superior in number within the town of Athens, the Turks did not venture to make the first attack, and still less as the Greeks had retired within strong houses, four or five families together.

At the distance of nine miles, at the foot of the mountains northeast from Athens, the village of Menidi, on the site of the ancient borough of Acharnes. There the flag of liberty was hoisted, first by the inhabitants of Cassia, another village, twelve miles from Athens, surrounded on all sides by mountains, in the vicinity of which the ruins of Phyle are to be seen, where Thrasybulus assembled his men against the thirty tyrants. The Turks, when they saw from the Acropolis the crowds of Rajahs encamping in the plain of Menidi, made no efforts whatever to dispel the rebels by a bold attack: which would not have been difficult, as few of the Greeks were properly armed; but they seized three primates, two priests, and other Greeks of distinction, twelve all together, and carried them up as hostages into the citadel.

The camp of Menidi, whose numbers had been increased by people from all Attica,' was broken up on the 7th of May, in order to make an attack upon the town of Athens.

Athens is defended by a wall, flanked with towers; but as the Greeks of Athens amounted to two-thirds of the population, the Turks gave up all idea of defending the town. The Greeks, after a few shots, escaladed the wall between the gate of Thebes and Marathon, with the Cry: “Χριστός ανέστη, ελευθερία!!” The Greeks of Athens rushed out of their houses to join their brethren, and the Turks shut themselves up in the castle. On this day one Greek was killed, seven or eight wounded. The conduct of the Turks evidently betrayed pusillanimity and cowardice. But the Turks of Athens had a long time ago ceased to be warlike; the mildness of the climate, and a life spent in luxury and pleasure, without exertion or labour, had subdued and broken the original vigour of their character; they fed upon the produce of a country, in the conquest of which their blood had not been spilt. Women, and good fare, were all they cared about; and whenever the Sultan was involved in war, their contingent was made up with rajahs or the poorest rabble among themselves, whom the Pacha was obliged to send home again. The Turks of the Morea, especially those of Lala, who defend, up to this moment, Patras, were much more warlike than those of Attica. Such people, it was believed, would not hold out a long siege. Some eighty men, Albanese soldiers, the body-guard of the waiwode of Athens, were alone supposed to be capable of making a vigorous resistance.

All was merriment and joy the first day among the Greeks. The Turkish houses were ransacked and plundered, and the booty deposited in the churches, to be divided afterwards. The Turks fired a few cannon-shots upon the town, but did it no harm.

However, the Albanese did not remain long quiet within the castle. The next day, the 8th of May, they made a sally towards the heights of the Pnyx, but were repulsed, the Greeks being so much superior in number. A vessel from Hydra arrived a few days after in the Piræus, carrying ten guns, two of which were brought up to erect a battery on the Museum, which is the highest hill south-west of the Acropolis, with the monument of Philopappus upon it. The Greeks endeavoured to dislodge the Turks from the outer forts of the castle between the theatres of Bacchus and Herodes Atticus, but without success.

The 14th of May, forty or fifty people from the island of Zea arrived, well armed, as auxiliaries of the Greeks; and about the same time, a Turkish woman, that had fallen into the hands of the Greeks, was burnt by them as a witeh.

The Turks on their side killed nine of the Greek hostages, but the remaining three were at last, through the influence of the Cadi, after having suffered repeatedly all the terrors and agonies of death, sent back into the town.

The Turks, from the beginning of the siege, hoped that Omer Bey of Caristo, the Seraskier of the Archipelagus, would come to their relief. The short distance of Caristo from the coast of Attica enabled him, who was well known as a courageous and active man, to make a sudden and powerful diversion in behalf of the Turks of Athens. The coast of Attica opposite Negropont, the ancient Eubea, offers several points, where a landing can be effected with little difficulty. T'he villages of the Greeks are seldom near the shore, where they would be more exposed to the pirates than at a few miles in the interior. The plain of Porto Mendra, (the ancient Thoricos, or Porto Raphti, (the ancient Prasiæ,) or the celebrated fields of Marathon, all lay open to the enemy, who crosses the straits between Attica and Negropont, and from each of these points is a single day's journey to Athens. Egripo, on the situation of the ancient Chalcis, where the Turks of Thebes had taken refuge, is also a strong and populous place, and the Turks of Negropont in general are supposed to be brave soldiers. It was necessary, therefore, to inform the Turks of Negropont of the precarious and perilous situation of the citadel of Athens. The provisions had become, after a three months' siege, so scanty, that each individual received, as a daily allowance, only seventy-five drachms of corn, and an occha of brackish water, which they got from a single well; and even that might fail, (the season being now very advanced,) or might be taken by the Greeks, it being defended only by a miserable wall.

Whilst the Turks were threatened with the horrors of starvation, the Greeks began their harvest on the banks of Ilissus, and near the columns of the temple of Jupiter Olympius, in sight of the Turks. But the Albanese immediately rushed out, drove off the Greeks by a furious attack, and some Arabian women they had taken with them gathered the corn ; but before they could reach the citadel again the Greeks rallied, the Albanese were put to flight, little or nothing of the corn was carried to the fortress, and several women killed. It became high time to get succours from any part whatever. In the middle of the night, a dozen men well armed left the citadel, and, unobserved by the Greek posts, ran down over the fields to the sea. They entered a boat that was laying close by the shore, and killed the Greeks that were on board, in profound sleep; they got out of the Piræus, sailed round Cape Colonna, and reached Caristo, the Greeks being too late in pursuit of them. A short time after, the approach of Turkish troops forced the Greeks to raise the siege.

Choursit Pacha, who commanded the Turkish forces against Ali Pacha, detached five thousand men under the order of Omer Pacha (formerly in the service of Ali Pacha, but since he deserted him, appointed Pacha of the Aulona) and Mehmet Pacha, who had been appointed Pacha of the Morea. These forced the Thermopylæ, took and burnt Livadia, and arrived without resistance at Thebes. Thence Omer Pacha went with a small division into Negropont, to bring to obedience the rebels of that island; and having been joined by Omer Bey of Caristo, they marched against Athens with a detachment of one thousand four hundred men, well armed, the greater part mounted on horseback or mules. Omer Pacha left Oropus on the 30th of July, and arrived by a different road between Decelia and Marathon (called the Descent, karópopoc) the same day at Menidi, eighty miles distant from Oropus. The Greeks heard of his arrival at midnight. Resistance was thought impossible, because few of them were, as yet, well armed, and the troops of the Pacha were all Albanese, or Geggides, and Dgiamis, and supported by the cavalry of the Delis. It was impossible to defend the walls of Athens without a very numerous garrison, and at the risk of being harassed and attacked in the rear by the Turks of the castle. Some of the inhabitants of Athens had retired to Salamis, Ægina, Zea, or Syra, at the beginning of the revolution; others as soon as they heard that the two Pachas had forced the Thermopylæ; but if Omer Pacha had not lost his time in the island of Negropont, and had immediately marched from Thebes to Athens, the Athenians might have suffered greatly. Now, those that had remained at Athens had time to escape the same night the Pacha arrived at Menidi; the last gun-shots were fired from the battery on the Museum at daybreak, when the Turks appeared already from behind the Anchesmus on the road of Kephissia ; at that moment all the Turks of the citadel appeared on the battlements, and filled the air with cries of joy, the high voice of the Imam was heard, offering up prayers above the rest, and the remainder of the Greeks hastened with their flags to the Piræus. Soon the cavalry of the Delis were seen galloping round the walls, and some pursuing the Greeks on the road to the harbour. Some of them were overtaken and killed. The besieged having opened the gates, murdered a few old men, women, or children, in the streets, that had been forgotten and left behind, set fire to several houses, forced the doors and plundered the churches. The houses of the French, Austrian, and Dutch Consuls were alone respected. The Dutch and Austrian Consuls had remained at their posts, the latter having kept thirty-four Turks in his house, who had fled there the day the town was taken by the Greeks of the camp of Menidi, and who had remained there unmolested, even after the Turks had killed the nine hostages. A Turk, who during the siege had deserted the castle, was killed within the precincts of the Austrian Consulate by an Albanese soldier.

In the middle of the day arrived the Pacha himself, and took his quarters in the house of the Austrian Consul: there he received the chiefs of the Turks of Athens, and there also the heads of the Greeks were brought, that had been killed, for every one of which he paid twenty-five piastres. Some neighbouring villages were plundered, and the churches destroyed every where, since the Greeks on their side had not spared the mosques. Even the church of the Catholics in the hospice of the Capuchins was burnt down, and the beautiful monument of Lysicrates (called the Lantern) damaged by the fire. This monument, only six feet in diameter, had a triangular apex for a tripod, and had been erected by the Choregus Lysicrates in commemoration of a musical prize gained in the theatre of Bacchus, and the frieze, in beautiful workmanship, represented the destruction of the Tyrrhenic pirates by Bacchus. It was built in the time of Alexander the Great, and contained the oldest specimen of the Corinthian order. The temple of Theseus, where several English travellers are buried, was plundered, and the graves opened by the wantonness or avarice of the Turks. In the month of May the lightning had struck this temple, and thrown down a part of the cornice of the north-east angle, and split its columns.

The Pacha soon after made several excursions to different parts of Attica; Eleusis, Cassia, and Menidi were burnt. Once, however, he had a narrow escape himself: an old Greek, who had concealed himself

« 上一頁繼續 »