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General Makriyannis

Memoirs (Excerpts)

Translated by Rick Μ. Newton: The Charioteer 28/1986


Argos, February 26, 1829

Ι have been appointed by the government of Governor Capodistrias as General Commander of the Executive Force in the Peloponnese and Sparta. Ι am stationed here in Argos. Ι sit and communicate with the Government and with the officials and officers in all the districts and, when it is needed, I make my rounds in all these parts to keep the general peace. But most of the time Ι attend to my duties while sitting around here. And to keep from running off to the coffee houses and such, which Ι am not accustomed to -(Ι was able to write only a little, since Ι had never gone to a teacher for reasons Ι will explain, not having the means)- Ι asked one friend and another and they taught me some more here in Argos, where Ι sit idle. And so, after spending a couple of months learning these letters you see here, Ι imagined writing the story of my life: everything I did in my childhood and in the community after coming of age, and everything Ι did for my country when Ι joined the Secret Society for the struggle for our freedom, and everything Ι saw and know that happened in the Struggle, and everything Ι personally participated in to the best of my ability and did my duty as Ι was able. It wasn't proper that Ι, an illiterate, set out οn this task and burden the honest readers and great and wise men in this society, putting them to the tedious task of wasting their precious moments after Ι had piqued their curiosity. But since Ι too, being only human, have succumbed to this temptation, Ι beg your pardon for the burden Ι am about to impose οn you. If Ι am an honest man, Ι will write the truth about how the events Ι will mention. actually took place. Therefore, all you readers are first obligated to investigate my behavior and see how Ι conducted myself in society and the Struggle; and if Ι behaved honorably, you can accept my writings as true; if my behavior was dishonorable, don't believe anything. And you will learn that Ι conducted myself honorably, and you will see documented evidence and proofs from beginning to end from various sources -governments, officials, and many others wherever Ι served with my brother-comrades whom God deemed me worthy of leading, ever my superiors in the Strιιggle and in whatever services were assigned me. Ι had 18 men when Ι first set out in the Struggle; eventually, God has deemed me worttιy of having up to 1,400 in my command. Never have we brought a blot οn the pages of my country's history: nowhere is there the slightest accusation against us, not in the government, nor in the districts, nor among the individuals wherever we fought in Roumeli, the Peloponnese, the islands, and Sparta. Ιn these pages you will see ample proof of the gratitude of those in all these places, and these can be seen everywhere in the state and government archives. And while I was in charge of so many men whom God entrusted to me, various forms of destruction and pillaging took place in our country; but, glory be to God's all-holy name, He never allowed us to disgrace ourselves. The country owes a debt of gratitude for all this to the good, noble, and distinguished patriots, my fellow comrades under my command: we too contributed whatever was in our power in our country's hour of need. The virtue and patriotism which these fine patriots displayed belongs to them, not me. For such virtue was never mine, nor is it even to this day: both in battle and now in this present service, these men are my betters. Even now in the service under my command are the brave and noble officers from Missolonghi, with their brave and noble leader Mitros Deligiorgis, who was garrison commander in the siege of Missolonghi. There are several brave and distinguished islanders and Peloponnesians, fine fighters; there are men from Roumeli. There are brave lovers of their country, the landowners and officers from Athens, along with whom we fought at the Athens Acropolis and elsewhere in our country's battles. And it was the virtue of all these fine patriots -thanks, first, to the kindness of God- that saved us from doing anything that would harm our country. As for you, dear readers, if you wish to learn the truth, Ι beg you to investigate everything in these pages and find out whether they are true or false. Ι have one request to make of all you distinguished readers: you do not have the right to make any judgment either for or against if you do not read the entire work: οnly then do you have the right to render whatever verdict you like, either for οr against. After reading it all, from beginning to end, then you can judge all those who brought misfortunes οn our country and caused civil wars through their personal interests and selfishness: these are the ones responsible for the past and present sufferings of οur unfortunate country and our honest fighters. Ι will write down the bare truth and do so with dispassion. But the truth is bitter and unwelcome to the ears of those of us who have done wrong: for we want what is wrong and we pursue our self-interests, and we still want others to call us "fine patriots." And that is impossible. Neither will Ι conceal the truth nor will Ι allow it to remain hidden that οur country has suffeτed harm and dishonor and is ever degenerating to this end: we have all been found to be wild beasts. History books will tell of the causes of this evil, and newspapers recount them every day. And my οwn words carry no weight: educated people, not simple illiterates, ought to be writing of these matters so that our youth can see them and future generations may acquire more virtue and patriotism. For every human being, one's country and faith are his all, and he must make sacrifices of patriotism so that he and his kinsmen may live like honorable people in society. And οnly when adorned with patriotic sentiments do people earn the name of "nation." Otherwise, they are mere shams of nations and a burden οn the earth. This country belongs to each and every one of us and is the product of the struggles of even the smallest and weakest citizen: for he too has a vested interest in this country and this faith. It is improper for any person to be lazy and neglect these duties. Αnd the educated man must proclaim the truth as an educated man; and the simple man must do the same. For the earth has nο handle with which a single person, nο matter how strong οr weak, can lift it οn his οwn shoulders. And when a person is too weak fοr a task and cannot take up the burden single-handed, he gets the others to help: in that case, let him not imagine saying, "Ι did it!" Let him say, τatheτ, "We did it!" For we have all, not just one, put our shoulders into it. Οur rulers and leaders, both native and foreign-bοrn, have become "Most Illustrious" and "Most Brave" : nothing stops them. We were poor and became rich. Here in the Peloponnese Kiamil Bey and the other Turks were extremely wealthy. Kolokotronis, his relatives, and friends have grown rich οn the lands, factories, mills, houses, vineyards, and other wealth that belonged to the Turks. When Kolokotronis and his companions came from Zakynthos, they didn't οwn even a square foot of land. Νοw all can see what they possess. The same thing happened in Roumeli: Gouras and Mamouris, Kritzotis, the Grivas clan, Staikos, the Tzavelas family and many others. And what are they asking of the nation? Millions more for their great services rendered. And they never let up in this. They are always at work trying to come up with laws and parties for the good of the country. Our country has endured more sufferings and lost more brave young men to their "laws" and "good" than it did in our struggle against the Turks. We have forced our people to live in caves with wild animals. We have desolated the countryside and become the scourge of the earth.

Αll this has given me cause to learn how to write in my old age so that Ι could write it all down. Ι too was one of them. Let someone else write whatever he knows about me. As for myself, Ι will tell the bare truth. Fοr Ι have a share in this country where Ι and my children will live. For Ι was young and grew old before my time from these horrors brought οn my country. Ι have five wounds οn my body from various battles for my country, and I have come out of it only half a man. Most of the time Ι am bedridden, debilitated by it all. Ι glorify God for not depriving me of my life, and Ι am grateful to my country for honoring me with promotions in keeping with my position and circumstances up to the rank of General. Ι live like a human being with the blessings God has bestowed upon me, without ever feeling a pang of conscience and without ever having deprived anyone of even a foot of land.

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