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That Greece Might Still Be Free

William St Clair

25 ’No freedom to fight for at home’

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1At the beginning of 1823, the Italian Philhellene Brengeri, one of the survivors of the Battle of Peta, was surprised to meet at Tripolitsa a colonel in the Neapolitan service whom he had believed to be in Spain. The colonel, whose name was Poerio, took great care to keep his identity secret, being referred to in correspondence simply as ’a Calabrian’. He had come to Greece from Spain with a message from General Pepe, the leader of the unsuccessful revolution in Naples, who had now gone with a large number of his followers to help the constitutionalist Government in Spain.

  • 1 Brengeri, vi, p. 84. The name is supplied from Persat, who was involved in the project on his retu (...)
  • 2 Memoirs of General Pepe, London, 1846, iii, p. 251.

2In Greece no secret was safe for long and soon it was known that General Pepe had made a proposal to Mavrocordato. Brengeri believed that Pepe had offered to bring a regiment of Italian refugee officers to fight for Greek independence.1 In fact, from Pepe’s own version,2 it appears that he was asking for help, not offering it. He suggested that Mavrocordato should give him the command of a thousand Greeks so that he could attempt a constitutionalist counter-revolution in Naples by landing a force in Calabria. He apparently had no idea that Mavrocordato, then nominally President of Greece, could not at that time command a hundred Greeks in Greece itself, let alone send a thousand abroad.

  • 3 Brengeri, i, p. 466.

3The idea was, however, an interesting one and it was to reappear. Brengeri himself had come to the Morea as a political exile from Rome, hoping to liberate Greece ’and some day my own country which groans under the sacerdotal yoke’.3 Many other Italians were to dream that the struggle for Italian independence and for an Italian constitution could somehow be carried on from abroad.

  • 4 Ibid., vi, p. 91.

4The number of Italians who were compelled to leave their country by the upheavals of 1820 and 1821 is unknown, but there were many hundreds. Their history is a sad one. They had in many cases to leave home in a hurry without family or belongings or money and to find a refuge in any country that would take them. Dozens had crossed to Greece in 1821 only to die at Peta or to succumb to disease. Many had tried to find a home in the West, in England, France, Switzerland, or the Netherlands, but it was a hard life. In France they were harried by the police and the ambassadors of the absolutist powers complained to the smaller countries if they took too many exiles and appeared to be ’harbouring revolution’. Some found a new life in the New World, but there were very few who could afford the fare. The luckier exiles managed to cross to England where they were greeted with sympathy. Brengeri, who had been on the round of temporary refugees, spoke for many when he said of England ’Here unmolested I breathe the air of liberty and here, unless any unforeseen event should disappoint my expectation, I hope to end my days’.4

5But the refugee’s life is always hard. They had to learn to speak a foreign language and to try to earn a living. Soldiering was the only trade they knew. Even in England there is a limit to the number of people who want Italian lessons. The bread of charity soon turns sour. In a hundred ways they suffered the humiliations of poverty and the frustrations of being outsiders. In Italy they had been the leaders, both politically and intellectually, but now they had nothing to look forward to.

6In the first years after their expulsion from Italy there was still one hope to cling to. As long as there existed a constitutionalist Government in Spain with a need for officers of reliable political opinions, they might find employment. Many Italian refugees made their way direct to Spain and many others drifted there from their exiles elsewhere. In Spain, where they were enrolled, like Fabvier’s exiled Frenchmen, in the Liberal Foreign Legion, they felt at least that they were making a contribution. In particular they were keeping together, preserving some kind of organization and military structure against the day when they might return to their homeland. But with the collapse of the constitutionalist Government in Spain in 1823 they were obliged to move again.

7And so, just as Fabvier’s thoughts were turned to Greece because there was nowhere else in Europe to go, the Italian revolutionaries began to consider whether they too could not use Greece as a base from which to pursue their own policies; to set up in Greece the skeleton organization which had existed in Spain; and to continue their preparations for a new liberal revolution in Italy.

8In late 1824 a certain General Rossaroll arrived at Zante on his way to Greece from Spain. In the Ionian Islands he was a well-known figure since he had commanded the garrison during the French occupation of some of the islands during the Napoleonic War. A Neapolitan by birth, Rossaroll, like so many of his countrymen, had risen to high military rank in the service of Napoleon. When the peace came and the Bourbons were restored in the Kingdom of Naples, he joined the Carbonari and took part in the abortive revolution of 1821. He had been condemned to death but had escaped to Spain.

  • 5 Letter of Rossaroll, 10 December 1824, CO. 136/33 f. 28.

9Rossaroll’s plan was for the restoration of the family of Murat to the throne of Naples in exchange for the promise of a constitution. Murat, one of Napoleon’s marshals, who had been made King of Naples by the Emperor, was shot by firing squad after the Restoration in 1815. Rossaroll claimed that he could raise money from Murat’s widow to pay the Italian exiles in Greece. As he proclaimed, according to the curious translation sent to London by the interception authorities in the Ionian Islands: ’Many Italian Patriots would unite themselves to me as also here at Zante, besides the Moreotes who know me since seventeen years ago. Dissembling to fight the Turks we would not cause suspicion, keeping thus our enterprize’. When the little army was ready, an attempt would be made to invade Naples and put the young Napoleon-Achille Murat on the throne.5

10Rossaroll died of disease in 1825, but even in his few months in Greece his scheme made some progress. Meanwhile, it was natural that London should become the centre for the movement. The Greek deputies, Orlandos and Louriottis, were the only official representatives of the Greeks in Western Europe. They had at their disposal the proceeds of the two loans. In any scheme to keep the cause of Italian liberalism afloat that money would clearly be useful.

  • 6 Palma, p. v.
  • 7 Pecchio, Picture of Greece, ii, p. 10.

11During 1824 and 1825 a succession of prominent Italian revolutionaries made their way from England to Greece, most of them apparently on business connected with this plan. Count Palma, who had been a member of the short-lived liberal Government in Piedmont in 1821, paid a short visit to Greece in 1824 on a ’mission’ unspecified.6 Like Rossaroll he had been a successful Napoleonic officer, had been condemned to death in his absence, and had served in Spain until the collapse of the constitutionalists. Count Pecchio, another condemned Italian revolutionary, who had been in Spain, left his exile in England to go to Greece for a few weeks in 1825 because he was ’desirous of paying a visit to the members of the Government’.7 The Ionian Islands buzzed with intrigues and rumours connected with the same consultations.

  • 8 Millingen, p. 241.
  • 9 Dalleggio, p. 121

12Whether the missions resulted in any concrete agreements between the Italians and the Greeks is doubtful. The Greek deputies in London had notoriously little authority to speak for the Greek Government at home, whose policies and membership were in any case always changing. Until the decision to establish a regular force under Fabvier was taken in June 1825, the Greeks had no apparent need for foreign officers. But the Italians were insistent – they declared that they had no other theatre for their energies; that they would steer clear of politics; that the cost of living would be less in Greece than in England. The deputies were weak men, inclined to save themselves inconvenience in the traditional way, by making unfulfillable promises. It was said,8 too, that they calculated that the announcement that famous men were on their way to fight for Greece would give a puff to the Greek bonds. The members of the London Greek Committee, while they still had influence with the deputies, advised them against entangling themselves with the Italians.9 To send to Greece the condemned Italian revolutionaries who had been expelled from Spain, Bowring argued, was merely to provide evidence to the hostile absolutist powers that the revolutions of Italy, Spain, and Greece were all instigated by the same elements.

13Certainly it did all look suspicious. The Italian revolutionaries whether from Naples, Piedmont or elsewhere, were clearly acting together and had close ties with the Spanish. They now seemed to be concentrating in London. The members of the London Greek Committee were, by and large, the same men as composed the Committees which favoured the Italian and Spanish Revolutions and harboured their refugees. A glance at the collected works of Edward Blaquiere would have dispelled any lingering doubts about their political unreliability. Bowring had been instrumental in setting up a philhellenic committee in Madrid in 1821 along with the condemned Italian Count Palma. And then there was Fabvier who had attempted revolution in France and Spain and was now off to Greece. Had not Bowring been involved with him, too, in the affair of the four sergeants of La Rochelle and expelled from France as a result? Wherever you looked, everybody involved in the revolution business was connected with everybody else. Those inclined to the conspiracy theory of politics – a definition which includes most secret services – could be excused if they congratulated themselves on the astuteness of their perception.

  • 10 Froment, op. cit., i, p. 278.

14In November 1824, the most famous of all Italian Philhellenes set sail from London in the Little Sally, which was conveying an instalment of gold to Greece. Count Santa Rosa or, to give him his full style, Santorre Annibale di Rossi di Pomarolo Conte di Santa Rosa, one of the leaders of the revolution in Piedmont, had served, like Palma, as a minister in the short-lived Government. When the Austrians arrived in 1821 he fled to France, under sentence of death, and tried to go to ground as Paul Conty, a Piedmontese merchant. But when the French Government decided to expel all refugees the police soon tracked him down. His stammer gave him away. He was told that he could leave France for any country except Spain or Portugal, and he chose England.10 For a few months he lived quietly in Nottingham with his wife and eight children. Count Santa Rosa was accompanied to Greece by another prominent Piedmontese refugee, Count Giacinto Provana di Collegno who had also been an officer in Napoleon’s army. He had taken part in the disastrous Russian campaign of 1812 and the Waterloo campaign of 1815. Compelled to flee from Piedmont under sentence of death in 1821, he had gone to Spain and, on the collapse of the constitutionalists there, he had followed the usual path to England.

  • 11 For example, the author of Sketches of Modern Greece, i, p. 216.

15About the same time, another Piedmontese revolutionary who had been in Spain, Count Porro, made his way to Greece. Count Pecorara, yet another Piedmontese who had been in Spain, followed in 1826. Count Gamba, who had been Lord Byron’s secretary and had returned with his body to England, decided to return to Greece in 1825: he had been closely involved with Byron’s revolutionary activities in Italy. Observers of the Greek scene at this time felt that the country was being overrun by Carbonari Counts.11

  • 12 Quoted in Œuvres de M. Victor Cousin, Paris, 1849, iii, p. 414.

16Santa Rosa wrote to a friend the day before he set sail: ’Tomorrow I leave for Greece with Collegno. I must burst out. I do not know if I can be useful but I am prepared for all sorts of difficulties. Bowring and the others disapprove. But throughout history the destinies of Greece and Italy have been interwoven’.12

  • 13 Palma, p. vii.
  • 14 Pecchio, Picture of Greece, ii, pp. 190 ff.

17Here was a new aspect of philhellenism, the link between Greece and Rome. If Greece was being regenerated, was it not fitting that she should assist the men who were trying to regenerate Italy? Count Palma declared that he was motivated by ’the desire that I entertained to contribute to the welfare of Greece which we Italians must look upon as our mother country’.13 Count Pecchio wrote enthusiastically about Greece, ’the ancient sister of Italy’, and composed a historical appendix to his book to justify the phrase. He traced the links between Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome and the numerous occasions since ancient times when the Italians and Greeks had come into contact; Italy ’stretching out her arms’ to receive the exiles from the fall of Constantinople, the Renaissance in Italy, the campaigns of the Venetians against the Turks, and so on. These considerations, Pecchio declared, were ’not less dictated from the recollection of the past, than from the present feelings of the heart’. During two thousand years, he affirmed, there had been ’sympathy and fraternal affection’ between the two peoples.14

18This profession by the Italians of a special regard for Greece was to some extent merely a disguise intended to conceal their true motive which was to hold together in Greece some kind of Italian liberal organization in exile, but it was not entirely disingenuous. Santa Rosa, in particular (who took a copy of Plato with him to Greece), felt in some vague way that he had a duty to go to Greece, to repay some ancient debt; that simply to continue in his relatively comfortable exile in England would be a betrayal.

19The Carbonari Counts suffered from a worse delusion. They had a greatly exaggerated opinion of the welcome to be expected in Greece. They declared that they were ready for all sorts of difficulties but they had no idea of what conditions were really like. They naively imagined that the Greeks would want to make use of their experience. Santa Rosa thought, for example, that he might make his contribution by commanding a battalion or by reorganizing the finances. Porro talked hopefully about becoming a Privy Councillor. Others suggested that they had experience of this or that branch of administration or law which could be made use of.

  • 15 Ibid., ii, p. 7.

20The reality of Greek conditions came as a shock. Count Pecchio declared honestly that ’as soon as the stranger puts his foot on shore, his enthusiasm ceases, the enchantment disappears’.15 It was the fetid smell of Nauplia which disgusted him, especially as he realized at once that it was the ’nuisances’ littering the narrow streets which were mainly responsible for the endemic killing fevers which were sweeping the country. Then came the realization that there were no battalions to be commanded, no ministries in need of permanent secretaries; that men, however experienced, with no knowledge of Greek and no money, were unlikely to be able to contribute much to the Greek political scene. The Carbonari Counts forgot that, because a country is economically backward and its people poor, its politics are not necessarily simple.

21Most of the Counts gulped down their disappointment and adjusted their ideas to the situation. Porro took on the thankless task of trying to organize the commissariat for Fabvier’s little force – a job lacking in glamour but one of the most important and difficult in Greece. Collegno offered his skill as an artillery officer. But for Santa Rosa the shock was too severe. Far from welcoming the leader of the Piedmontese Revolution as a trusted adviser – as Santa Rosa had been led to expect in London – the Greek Government were frankly horrified at the arrival of this most famous carbonaro. He was asked to change his name, and Count Derossi hung around Nauplia waiting for the Government to decide what to do with him. He bitterly regretted his decision to come to Greece which he saw as a terrible mistake and talked about returning to England. To look at the miniature of his wife and children which he carried sent him into floods of tears.

22In April 1825, when the future of Greece seemed to depend upon the outcome of the siege of Navarino, Santa Rosa bought an Albanian dress and set off with the Greek forces to play his part in the wars as a simple soldier. It was a gesture only. The palikars themselves were incapable of resisting the bayonets of the Arab regulars. What hope had a middle-aged Italian who differed from the Greeks in every respect except their dress? Santa Rosa was duly killed on 8 May when he was caught in a cave on the island of Sphacteria and refused to surrender. It was a needless sacrifice. Ibrahim, at this time anxious to impress European opinion by his clemency, set free his prisoners including Collegno after offering them handsome salaries to change sides. Ibrahim even permitted Collegno to conduct a search for Santa Rosa’s body but it was never found. If the occasion had demanded a useless gesture, Santa Rosa’s death would have been magnificent. As it was, no one in Greece, apart from his sorrowing friends, paid much attention.

20a. Count Santa Rosa.

20b. Colonel Fabvier.

21a. A French Philhellenic poster.

21b. A collection for the Greeks in 1826.
On the wall is David’s famous picture of Leonidas at Thermopylae.

  • 16 Morandi, pp. 75 ff.
  • 17 * The father of Dante Gabriel.

23Meanwhile the lesser Italian revolutionaries were gathering in Greece. In the summer of 1825 two expeditions set sail from London, consisting in all of about forty men. Antonio Morandi, who came in one of them, described how one day in late 1824 he was invited to a meeting of Italian exiles in London at which Louriottis, the Greek deputy, was present.16 The news of the destruction of Psara had recently arrived and two exiled poets, Rossetti*17 and Pistrucci, were invited to recite verses in honour of the Greek Revolution. According to Morandi it was a sublime performance, the two poets reciting alternate passages of a long poem which sent the whole company into ecstasies of emotion. At the end Louriottis came up to Morandi and said, ’You too, my dear Morandi, who are an exile from your country for the cause of liberty, and have fought in Spain for the defence of liberty, will you not go to Greece to help the cause of liberty against the Ottoman?’ There and then several Italians clasped hands with Louriottis and decided to go.

  • 18 Dalleggio, p. 124.

24The Italian expeditions were well supplied with arms of all types and with money provided by the Greek deputies from the loan. They carried a letter of introduction from Orlandos and Louriottis addressed to the Greek Government. ’These gentlemen have all served in Europe and are desirous of a military career in our country; on their arrival they will put themselves at once under the orders of the Government, but they desire to be commanded by their compatriot Colonel Collegno who is in Greece’.18 A few months later, an expedition of sixteen Italian refugees who had been collected in France set sail from Marseilles under the command of the Neapolitan exile, Colonel Vincenzo Pisa. Numerous other Italians made their way to Greece independently from their places of exile all over Europe.

  • 19 Collegno, Rossaroll, Santa Rosa, Palma, Romei, Barberis, Barandier, Aimino, Morandi, Ritatori, Isa (...)

25Altogether, probably sixty or seventy Italian refugees arrived in Greece in 1825 and 1826 determined there to continue the struggle for liberty. They were a remarkable body of men from all over Italy, Colonels and corporals thrown together by a common fate. For the majority of them only three facts are known about their careers before they reached Greece: that they had served in the armies of Napoleon; that they had taken part in the military revolts in Piedmont or Naples in 1820-1; and that they had subsequently served in Spain, like the Bonapartists, they were already three-time losers. Approaching middle age, they were professional soldiers by upbringing but by now professional revolutionaries as well. They paraded their revolutionary experiences like battle honours. At least a dozen of them enjoyed that ultimate cachet of the international revolutionary, a sentence of death in absentia.19

26Some of these men, one might imagine, would already have had enough of the military life. Vincenzo Aimino had been decorated for his part in twelve years of active service prior to Waterloo before his condemnation to death in 1821 and subsequent service in Spain. Giacomuzzi Pasquale, grey from thirty years’ active service, had spent a period in a French prison after being captured in Spain. He took command of one of the outer batteries at the siege of Missolonghi and spent four and a half hours in the water swimming back when it was overcome. Antonio Forsano, an Under-Officer of Napoleon’s army, exiled from Piedmont in 1821, had lost an eye in the fighting in Spain.

  • 20 Hahn, quoted in Barth and Kehrig-Korn, p. 199.

27Count Collegno, who was to have taken command of the exiles, had already left Greece before most of them arrived. Like Santa Rosa he was disgusted at the welcome he received and the low opinion of his talents which the Greeks seemed to hold. He did his best to serve them during the siege of Navarino, but left Greece soon afterwards to return to England. The leadership of the Italian exiles was taken up by Colonel Vincenzo Pisa. His military career dated back to the Battle of Marengo in 1800 at which he had been wounded. After the collapse of the Revolution in Naples in 1821 he went on the usual circuit of Spain, capture, imprisonment in France, then to England, and finally to Greece. He was now weak from encroaching age and from the effects of innumerable wounds and, it was said cryptically,20 from time to time he suffered bouts of physical and moral disintegration.

  • 21 Georges Douin, Une Mission Militaire auprès de Mohamed Aly, Cairo, 1923, p. 4.

28There was another class of Italian refugees. In their search for employment the victims of the 1821 diaspora had wandered through the Mediterranean region and beyond. Italian officers were to be found all over the Levant, sometimes posing as doctors, sometimes acting as advisers (more properly as status-symbols) to some pasha. In particular, Mehemet Ali in Egypt was always on the look out for suitable men to act as instructors. At the end of 1824, that is before the Egyptian invasion of the Morea, there were in Mehemet’s service five Neapolitans and sixteen Piedmontese, all refugees, as well as a few French and four Spaniards.21 Some of these men accompanied Ibrahim’s army to Greece.

  • 22 Most of the details about Romei and Scarpa are extracted from correspondence among the Colonial Of (...)

29Giovanni Romei was now a Colonel of Engineers in the Egyptian service.22 He had been condemned for his part in the Revolution in Piedmont and had drifted to Egypt. From the first day he set foot in Greece he felt that he was on the wrong side. One of his lieutenants, Scarpa, an exile from Venice, shared his view.

30It was just at this time that General Rossaroll had established himself at Zante to act as a rallying point for the Italian refugees who were arriving from their scattered exiles in Europe. Shortly after the Egyptian invaders arrived, Rossaroll was surprised to receive a letter from Romei, whom he had known in Spain, intimating that he wanted to change sides. By the hand of the same messenger (a French merchant who was supplying the Egyptian army) he received another letter from another Italian refugee in Ibrahim’s service suggesting that Rossaroll should join the Egyptians!

31Romei was at once recruited to the ’Army of the Liberals’, as Rossaroll called his little force of exiles, but he was not permitted to change sides at once. Rossaroll wanted to exploit the opportunity to the full. And so, while Ibrahim’s army was besieging Navarino, an extremely dangerous correspondence was conducted between the Italian refugees in the opposing armies. At Rossaroll’s request, Romei supplied intelligence about the strength, disposition, and intentions of Ibrahim’s forces. With this information Rossaroll was able to build up his own influence with the Greek Government and the other Philhellenes, at this time mainly French, who were intensely suspicious of his intentions. Rossaroll claimed that if he were allowed to handle the situation in his own way he could arrange for a wholesale desertion of Ibrahim’s officers or, at worst, destroy completely his confidence in their loyalty.

32The operation involved extreme danger for Romei and Scarpa. They must have realized that their line of communication to Rossaroll was insecure, although they could hardly have guessed that their letters were being intercepted by the British authorities en route and copies sent to London.

33One of the most surprising features of the correspondence is the unquestioning assumption on the part of General Rossaroll that, because he was Romei’s superior in the masonic hierarchy, he was entitled to demand total obedience even to the extent of ordering Romei to perform tasks of extreme danger. It is a measure of the intense loyalty which the Italian refugees felt for one another, a result of years of practice in secret societies, freemasonry, and carbonarism, that Romei seems never to have doubted that his duty was to give instant obedience.

34The following extracts from one of Rossaroll’s letters to Romei give an indication of the relationship: Dearest Confrere Romei

Your honour is saved in spite of the horrific crime you have committed by selling yourself to the sacrilegious enemies of Greek and universal liberty. I, as you know, am 33 [apparently a masonic rank] and my friend Count Dionisio Roma [an Ionian nobleman] is a 31 [apparently another masonic rank]. Touched with pity by the phrases you have used in your letter to me, we assembled a lodge and after giving an assurance that you were commissioned by us to join the cursed people, we passed an unanimous resolution, that the Grand Inquisitor, the S. Roma, should give you an attestation of your masonic virtues, and should declare the services you have rendered to the liberty of Greece, under the guise of the turban….
In virtue of the project and plan of campaign, I shall proceed to join Conduriotti, the present head of the Greek Government, in order to direct the movements of the Army of the Liberals, and Roma will remain at Zante and be the medium of our correspondence.
In the meantime we being old soldiers and wretchedly poor, having lost all we possessed at home in the sacred cause of liberty, it is not right we should find ourselves at the close of the war without reward for our operations, and therefore Roma and the F.F. [Fratelli] will stipulate with the Greek Government for a grant of as much landed property as shall ensure to ourselves and families a decent and easy subsistence and a compensation for our heavy losses in Italy. We will arrange then when the moment arrives for your leaving those brutes, you shall, on joining me, be at the head of the état major, or commanding officer of the Corps of Engineers and Artillery.…

I will open to you the road to honour under the Ensign of true Glory, and you will fly to our beloved Mother, Liberty, who holds out her arms to receive you, once the most undutiful of her sons, into her bosom…..

  • 23 Gordon, ii, p. 199.

Send me the cross of the Eagle of the two Sicilies and the large medal of honour of Giachino, which you promised me at Barcelona: they will be useful to me at this moment and can be of service to you.23

  • 24 Dakin, British Intelligence, pp. 50 ff.

35Romei supplied Rossaroll with a steady stream of military intelligence which would have been extremely valuable if the Greeks had been in any position to take advantage of it. He deliberately arranged Ibrahim’s siege artillery at Navarino so far back from the defences that they did little damage. It is said too that he directed the artillery fire of the Greeks – which was commanded by Count Collegno – to try to hit Ibrahim’s headquarters.24

  • 25 Ibid.

36Scarpa succeeded in changing sides and joined Colonel Fabvier. He took part in the campaigns of 1826 and 1827, but died of disease before the end of the war. Albertini, another Philhellene, who is recorded as having died at Nauplia, is probably the same as the Piedmontese revolutionary Albertini who came with Ibrahim’s army. Romei himself was detected before he could make the move. He was arrested and sent to Egypt in chains, but is said to have suffered no other punishment than dismissal from Mehemet’s service.25

  • 26 Collegno’s diary in Ottolenghi, pp. 242 ff. Collegno gives the Pole’s name as Schutz. The same inc (...)
  • 27 Villeneuve, pp. 120 f.

37A soldier must sell his labour where he can. Service in Greece might give a warm feeling of moral righteousness but few other rewards. As one of Ibrahim’s officers remarked sadly to Collegno during his capture after the fall of Navarino, ’The liberty for which I fought for thirty years in every country left me without bread. At my age I cannot do anything else. I am a soldier’. This man, a Polish colonel, had known Collegno in Turin in 1821 during the brief ecstatic days of the Piedmontese Revolution.26 Increasingly, the Italians felt that the cost of their principles was too high, that they could not afford to join a losing side for a fourth time. Eight men from one of the expeditions of Italians sent from London left immediately for Smyrna after they had taken a quick look at the pitiful little army they were to join in Greece.27

  • 28 Pecchio, Picture of Greece, ii, p. 274.
  • 29 Gordon, ii, p. 257.

38Monteverde, a refugee from the Austrian part of Italy, who had been in Greece since the early days of the Revolution, was described by a fellow Philhellene in 1825 as among the few men of ’great bravery and leading a life of unrewarded hardship, danger, and unceasing privation that does honour to their constancy and courage’.28 During the battles near Missolonghi in March 1826 the Suliotes brought in the head of a European who was directing the Turkish artillery which was recognized to be that of the former Philhellene.29

  • 30 Calosso appears in the Thouret-Fornezy list of Philhellenes as having taken part in the Battle of (...)

39The Piedmontese Calosso had the classic background of an Italian Philhellene.30 Captain of hussars in Napoleon’s Grand Army, he took part in the Revolution in Piedmont, was exiled, drifted to France, Spain, England, and then on to Greece when the Italian revolutionaries began to reassemble there. He joined Fabvier and took part in one of the Greek campaigns but quarrelled with him and left Greece in 1826. He turned up in Constantinople in a miserable state, with hardly a pair of shoes, hoping for help from the large Italian merchant colony. The Italians, fearing to involve themselves with an acknowledged carbonaro, treated him as an outcast. For a while he was employed by a Swiss businessman who had the idea of establishing a brewery at Constantinople, but the sherbert-loving Turks were disgusted by their first taste of beer and the enterprise was a failure. Calosso again joined the ranks of impoverished Italian exiles who were to be found all over the Ottoman Empire. Suddenly an unexpected opportunity for employment appeared.

40It had been obvious for generations that the Corps of Janissaries on whose strength the Ottoman Empire had been built centuries before was now a dangerous anachronism. Not only were their traditional fighting methods repeatedly proved useless against European armies, but they had turned themselves into a dangerous internal political force. Sultan Selim III had been put to death in 1807 mainly as a result of his attempt to impose reforms on the Janissaries. Ever since Mahmoud’s accession in 1808 he had been preparing for the day when he too could make the attempt. In 1826 the moment seemed right.

41In June, with scrupulous attention to the exact letter of the law, Mahmoud published a decree requiring some of the Janissaries to begin new military exercises, according to the European style. The effect was as expected. The Janissaries of the capital refused to obey and began to march on the Seraglio demanding that the Sultan’s ministers should be beheaded. Mahmoud was ready. He unfurled the Sacred Standard of the Prophet and called on all True Believers to rally to their Padishah and their Caliph. As the Janissaries surged through the narrow streets, Mahmoud’s artillerymen whom he had for years been building up as a specially loyal force, opened fire on them. The Janissaries lost many men but the remnant retired in good order to their barracks. Now Mahmoud showed the full extent of his ruthlessness. His artillery was drawn up before the barracks and blasted it ceaselessly until the last of the Janissaries of Constantinople had perished among the blazing bloodstained ruins. Four thousand men are said to have been killed on this day in Constantinople. Many thousands more were put to death in cities throughout the Empire as the ancient corps of Janissaries was systematically exterminated.

42Having destroyed the old system, Mahmoud immediately began to build a new one. An army of 40,000 was formed to be trained in European tactics. If the Egyptians had been taught European methods and the Greeks were belatedly learning them, now it was the turn of the Turks.

43Calosso now came into his own. It was known in Constantinople that he was a superb horseman. Mahmoud was determined to have European cavalry. On the recommendation of the French Ambassador, who saw it as in the interest of France to resettle distressed Philhellenes in the Turkish service, Calosso was engaged to run the military riding school and then, when he had made a success of that, to train the new cavalry. Mahmoud, who did nothing by halves, was determined to be the best horseman in his own new army. He put himself under Calosso’s instruction and quickly became an expert. Calosso grew in influence – he was handsomely paid, wore the uniform of the new guard distinguished by a diamond crescent, and was given one of the best houses in Pera. It was even said that he once received the unprecedented honour of being permitted to kiss the imperial feet.

44But it would be wrong to leave the Italians with such an exceptional case as Calosso. The contingents of the little Italian revolutionary army in exile, as they arrived in 1825 and 1826, joined Fabvier and his Frenchmen and played a major part in helping the Greeks, at last, to build up a regular force. Many were to be killed or to die of disease in the closing years of the war. Others later found a way of breaking out of the international revolutionary circuit, on which so much of their lives had been spent, and of returning home. But whereas the Bonapartists were reabsorbed into the main stream of French life after the July Revolution of 1830, if not before, the Italians for the most part had no such good fortune. The longed-for day when a new liberal revolution would break out in Italy, the day for which they had been organizing since 1821, did not come until 1848. By then Greek independence had long since been won and there was little room there for professional foreign officers, but a few remained. In 1848 Antonio Morandi, who had been condemned to death in 1821 and then gone on to Spain and England, set off from Greece to attempt again the liberation of his own country.


1 Brengeri, vi, p. 84. The name is supplied from Persat, who was involved in the project on his return from Greece.

2 Memoirs of General Pepe, London, 1846, iii, p. 251.

3 Brengeri, i, p. 466.

4 Ibid., vi, p. 91.

5 Letter of Rossaroll, 10 December 1824, CO. 136/33 f. 28.

6 Palma, p. v.

7 Pecchio, Picture of Greece, ii, p. 10.

8 Millingen, p. 241.

9 Dalleggio, p. 121

10 Froment, op. cit., i, p. 278.

11 For example, the author of Sketches of Modern Greece, i, p. 216.

12 Quoted in Œuvres de M. Victor Cousin, Paris, 1849, iii, p. 414.

13 Palma, p. vii.

14 Pecchio, Picture of Greece, ii, pp. 190 ff.

15 Ibid., ii, p. 7.

16 Morandi, pp. 75 ff.

17 * The father of Dante Gabriel.

18 Dalleggio, p. 124.

19 Collegno, Rossaroll, Santa Rosa, Palma, Romei, Barberis, Barandier, Aimino, Morandi, Ritatori, Isaia, Gambini, and Ferero are all said to have received a death sentence. Pisa, Porro, Pecorara, Pecchio, Andrietti, and Giacomuzzi may also have been condemned.

20 Hahn, quoted in Barth and Kehrig-Korn, p. 199.

21 Georges Douin, Une Mission Militaire auprès de Mohamed Aly, Cairo, 1923, p. 4.

22 Most of the details about Romei and Scarpa are extracted from correspondence among the Colonial Office records, the more important of which are reprinted in Dakin, British Intelligence. Scarpa was met in Crete before the invasion by R. R. Madden (Travels in Turkey, London, 1829, i, p. 172), and his name appears among the defenders of the Acropolis in 1827.

23 Gordon, ii, p. 199.

24 Dakin, British Intelligence, pp. 50 ff.

25 Ibid.

26 Collegno’s diary in Ottolenghi, pp. 242 ff. Collegno gives the Pole’s name as Schutz. The same incident seems to be referred to by the author of Sketches of Modern Greece, ii, pp. 39 ff., who says the Pole – a former Philhellene with a long white beard, whom he calls Statoski – told Collegno ‘For forty years I have bared my arm for liberty and never gained a para’.

27 Villeneuve, pp. 120 f.

28 Pecchio, Picture of Greece, ii, p. 274.

29 Gordon, ii, p. 257.

30 Calosso appears in the Thouret-Fornezy list of Philhellenes as having taken part in the Battle of Chaidari in 1826. For his later career see MacFarlane, ii, pp. 175 ff. and Slade, i, pp. 132 ff. The destruction of the Janissaries is described by Walsh.

Table des illustrations

Légende 20a. Count Santa Rosa.
Fichier image/jpeg, 179k
Légende 20b. Colonel Fabvier.
Fichier image/jpeg, 138k
Légende 21a. A French Philhellenic poster.
Fichier image/jpeg, 231k
Légende 21b. A collection for the Greeks in 1826.On the wall is David’s famous picture of Leonidas at Thermopylae.
Fichier image/jpeg, 291k


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