March 25 is Greek Independence Day when the Greeks decided they had enough of Ottomon Rule and rose up to start the Greek revolution. Normally when Greeks think of Independence Day, they think of General Theodoros Kolokotronis, Petros Mavromichalis and Georgios Karaiskakis. Heroes of the Revolution but people forget the heroines of the revolution. These women helped shape the course of Greece’s fight for freedom in 1821.
Laskarina Bouboulina has been a heroine of mine. Here is her story.
Laskarina was born in a Constantinople prison on May 11, 1771. She was the daughter of Stavrianos Pinotsis, a captain from Hydra island, and his wife Skevo. The Ottomans had imprisoned her father for his part in the failed Orlof Revolution of 1769–1770 against the Ottoman rule. During one of her mother’s visits, she was born. Her father died soon afterward and the mother and child returned to Hydra. They moved to the island of Spetses four years later when her mother married Dimitrios Lazarou-Orlof. Bouboulina had eight half-siblings.
It is said that Bouboulina joined the Filiki Etaireia, an underground organization that was preparing Greece for revolution against Ottoman rule. She would have been one of a few women, but she is not named in historical members lists.
She bought arms and ammunition at her own expense and brought them secretly to Spetses in her ships, to fight “for the sake of my nation.” Construction of the ship Agamemnon was finished in 1820. She bribed Turkish officials to ignore the ship’s size; it later became of the largest warships in the hands of Greek rebels. She also organized her own armed troops composed of men from Spetses. She used most of her fortune to provide food and ammunition for the sailors and soldiers under her command.
On March 13, 1821 Bouboulina raised on the mast of Agamemnon her own Greek flag, based on the flag of the Komnenos dynasty of Byzantine emperors. The people of Spetses revolted on April 3, and later joined forces with ships from other Greek islands. Bouboulina sailed with eight ships to Nafplion and began a naval blockade. Later she took part in the naval blockade and capture of Monemvasia and Pylos. Her son Yiannis Yiannouzas died in May 1821, in battle at Argos against superior numbers of Ottoman troops.
She arrived at Tripolis in time to witness its fall on September 11, 1822 and to meet general Theodoros Kolokotronis. Their children Eleni Boubouli and Panos Kolokotronis later married. During the ensuing defeat of the Ottoman garrison, Bouboulina saved most of the female members of the sultan’s household.
When the opposing factions erupted into civil war in 1824, the Greek government arrested Bouboulina for her family connection with Kolokotronis; her son-in-law was killed during the events. Eventually, she was sent back to Spetses. She had exhausted her fortune for the war of independence.
Bouboulina spent most of her riches to supply ammunition and food for sailors and soldiers under her command. She would go on to participate in other naval blockages and the capture of Monemvasia and Pylos.
But in 1825, she was killed on the balcony of her house on Spetses during a family feud by an unknown assassin.
Check out the video of the Museum for Laskarina