Monemvasia was the first castle of Peloponnesus to be free from the Turks on 23rd July 1821.
Every year there is a great celebration with pomp and circumstance on the emancipation of the town that include among others the setting on fire of a warship of the time and the throwing of fireworks.
These celebrations illustrate the events of the era of the Greek revolution and create an amazing atmosphere at the same time.
The historic facts
The siege of Monemvasia from the Greek revolutionaries began before the “formal” declaration (25th March of 1821) of the Greek revolution on 15th March and lasted till 23rd March 1821.
According to F. Chrisanthopoulos’ version, the siege started after 25th March.
When the siege of Monemvasia began, there were 1.500 Ottoman inhabitants in the castle.
The Christian population of the county of Monemvasia was approximately 10.000.
The siege began on land with the leaders: George Michalakis Leonidiotis with 250 men, Nick Drivas with the Monemvasians, Kalogeraioi and Despotaioi with local fighters and Tzanetakis, Tsigourakos, Petropoulakaios and others with fighters from Mani.
In order for the Turks to be protected from the Greek revolutionaries, they broke down the bridge of the fortress and remained inside the fortress.
From there they aimed with their canons at the Greek fighters.
The most daring of them, approximately 150 people, left the fortress and headed towards Old Monemvasia in order to urge more Ottomans to get away and then attack from two different fronts against the besiegers.
The Ottomans’ plan, though, failed since the runaway Ottomans were captured.
The rest of the Ottomans remained in the fortress and after they had gathered provisions, they took to the acropolis and stayed there.
They refused to surrender even though they suffered from shortage of provisions and water.
In the middle of June, Dimitrios Ypsilantis arrived in Peloponnesus.
The Ottomans sent a delegate and requested a conclusion of a treaty in order to leave the fortress.
Alexandros Katakouzinos was Ypsilantis’ delegate, who managed to capitulate with the Ottomans of the fortress and made them surrender and convince those who occupied the acropolis to surrender as well.
This way, both the fortress and the guns were given back to the Greeks, while the Ottomans boarded on ships and left for Kousantasi in the Asia Minor.
The emancipation of Monemvasia was of crucial importance as far as the Greek struggle for national independence was concerned, as it infused the Greek fighters with hopefulness and confidence.
Furthermore, the ammunition from the castle proved absolutely helpful not only for the revolution of Crete but also for the siege of Tripolis, Nafplio and Korinth.
Monemvasia now belonged to the Greek revolutionary power after 358 years of foreign occupation, as it was under the successive rule of Venetians (1463-1540 and 1690-1715) and Turks (1540-1690 and 1715-1821)
In 1463 Monemvasia was the last byzantine territory of Peloponnesus that was dominated by a foreign supremacy while in 1821 it was the first castle that came under Greek domination.
This year’s celebration
The program of the celebrations of this year concerning the emancipation of Monemvasia on 23rd July, includes the setting on fire of a goleta (a type of commercial ship or warship of the time that had two sails) at 20:30, while there will be a concert at 21:30.
The celebration in the municipality will support the efforts of the voluntary organization “To hamogelo tou paidiou” which will hold an exhibition in the precincts.
Fireworks will be an impressive sight at the end of the celebration.
Look at the program here: http://www.nomikomonemvasias.gr/events/?event_id1=106
We wish to thank Michalis Karounis who gave us photographs from last year’s celebrations.