LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece
Chapter XXI

Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
‣ Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV
Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
Encampment at Ligovitzi.

On my return to Mesolonghi, I learnt, that, after passing without the slightest opposition, the defiles of Macrinoro, and Caravansera, properly speaking the key of Acarnania, Omer Pasha had descended into the plain, and pitched his camp on the borders of the Lake of Larpi. His army amounted to ten thousand men, without reckoning the Greek Armatolis under the orders of Vernachiotti and Gogo; traitors, who, by passing over to the enemy’s side, during the battle of Petta, became the principal cause of the defeat of their countrymen.

On receiving this information, the governor-general repaired in all haste to Ligovitzi, a central position, where he hoped to collect a force sufficient to check the enemy’s progress. Now that the invasion had taken place, the governor-general did, at last, think of placing the country in a state of defence; but it was like shutting the door of the stable, after the horse had been stolen. For if Omer Pasha had judged it convenient to continue his march, he might, in less than three days, without striking a blow, have subdued the whole country to the very walls of Mesolonghi. It cannot be alleged in excuse of the Greeks, that they were not informed of the preparations of the enemy in time. Every one knew, that this pasha had received orders from the porte to co-operate with
Dervish Pasha of Larissa, who, a month before, had arrived at Amblani, not far from Salona. After sweeping the whole country before them, they were to unite their forces at Epacto, and, seconded by the fleet under the Capitan Pasha’s orders, to undertake the siege of Mesolonghi.

But so inherent is want of foresight in the Greek character, so great is the blind confidence which a little success gives him, that, unless the blow be actually falling on his head, he will not think of avoiding it.

Rumours of war now assailed them from every quarter. Albania had already sent forth three armies. Negropont was preparing a fourth. Letter after letter gave information that the formidable Ibrahim had sailed from Egypt; their friends tremblingly entreated them to be on their guard; they requested them to consider, that this new opponent was not like those they had hitherto defeated; but was incalculably their superior in discipline, regular administration, unlimited wealth, exhaustless provisions, and submissive obedience. But no remonstrances could surmount the unaccountable indifference and contemptuous apathy, with which the whole mass of the nation, from the effeminate primate down to the lowest peasant, listened to these appalling news. In no country was less interest exhibited for Greece, than in Greece itself. A giant, informed of the machinations of a puny dwarf to destroy him, could not display more sovereign disregard. They compared the nation to a rock, against which the waves in vain exert their fury. “How can we fear?” I once heard a capitano say: “Almost unarmed, we have annihilated a whole Turkish population; taken fortresses; destroyed Dramali, and his thirty thousands, though led by seven pashas; repulsed Omer
Vrioni; Scondra Pasha; all the Rumeli Valesis; in one word, in every encounter, whether by land or sea, have we not proved victorious? Let them but come again and again, we are in want of fresh booty. As for Ibrahim Pasha—can you suppose, our fleet will allow him to land in Peloponnesus? He could not lately even disembark a few of his soldiers on Samos. But even should he effect a landing, is not one Hellen a match for ten blind Arabs?”

All replies to these and similar declamations were without effect. Will the intoxicated listen to reason? In vain it was observed to them, that the success of their arms arose rather from the folly and ignorance of their enemy, than from the superiority of the Greeks; that, granting even their confidence justifiable, yet prudence was the mother of safety, and nothing was worse than to underrate our enemy.

The recent loss of Ipsara, Casso, Candia, Negropont, Suli, &c. was in vain brought to their recollection. The magistrates and soldiers were as unconcerned, and acted as thoughtlessly, as if the country enjoyed the most profound repose, and were in permanent security. The different fortresses were without garrisons or provisions; Mesolonghi was in the same state; and although the enemy was almost at its gates, no measures were taken to procure ammunition and put the place in a state of defence. Before the arrival of the Loan, the Greeks would have pleaded poverty as an excuse for their imprudence; now, that they had money, why did their conduct exhibit so little alteration?

Having received orders from the governor-general to join the army, in my quality of surgeon-in-chief, I proceeded in all haste to the head quarters. We slept the first night on the banks of the Achelous below Aspropotamo; and, next morning, arrived at
the convent where the prince and his staff had taken up their quarters.

Ligovitzi is a mountain about 1500 feet in height, rising at the north-western extremity of the plain of Vrachori. It is almost in the centre of Acarnania and Ætolia; ten leagues distant from Mesolonghi, and five from Caravansera. A lake and extensive morass defend the approach of its eastern skirts. Towards the south they are covered by a thick wood; on the north, access is less difficult. This position might, by proper intrenchments, have been rendered very strong. The ancients had built a fortified town on the insulated knoll, that crowns its summit; its walls were yet sufficiently preserved to afford a strong defence; eight hundred men belonging to Macri, Pesli, Staino Staico, Costa Veli, and Mr. Jarvis, had intrenched themselves behind them, amongst the steep rocks commanding the platform on which the church and monastery are erected. Five hundred men were charged with the defence of this last position. Want of water, however, prevented its being susceptible of offering a long resistance; and notwithstanding Mavrocordato’s wishes to establish here a depot for provisions and ammunition, his endeavours were fruitless.

All this arose from a vice in the distribution of the rations. The most honest capitano was only satisfied when he could give in treble the number of men, under his orders, and receive pay and provisions for the fictitious, as well as for the existing, soldiers. Others went further; and, not to multiply instances, I shall mention Capitan Ciaoushi, who had the impudence to present himself before Mavrocordato with five instead of fifty followers, for whom he daily received allowances. The important outpost of Machala was occupied by a Chiliarch, who took rations
for thirty men; but on investigation, his company was found to consist merely of a palichari, an ass, and himself!

Thus nearly two-thirds of the provisions, brought to the camp, were regularly sent back by the same convoy that had brought them; and were sold at Anatolico, or any where else, for the benefit of the capitano and his favourites.

Vain was the attempt to put a stop to this abuse, by distributing to every man separately the ration, to which he was entitled. Vulpiotti, the commissary, having, in compliance with Mavrocordato’s injunction, refused to Macri’s men more than their proper share, was so ill-treated by their yataghans, that, during several days, he could not quit his bed. The other capitani, far from blaming this conduct, gave it plainly to be understood, that should the slightest alteration be made in the distribution of provisions, they would immediately quit the camp. They expressed much surprise to hear such a reform proposed, at a time when Alexachi Vlachopoulo continued to be the prince’s favourite, and Cazzaro the captain of his own body guard, although he knew sufficiently well, that neither of them kept even one-fourth of the appointed soldiers. They observed to him bluntly, that before reforming others, he should begin by setting a good example himself, and look into his own household; where the most degrading and barefaced spirit of depredation and prodigality reigned; that he had surrounded himself with the most immoral and interested set of men, the dregs of the corruption of Wallachia; and that if he did not rob himself, yet, by allowing his retinue to do it, and partaking the fruit of their injustice, he forfeited all claims to his boasted integrity, and was at bottom no better than the rest.


Hence it may be seen, that the insolent capitani esteemed Mavrocordato’s authority, in the light of a mere shadow. It became, indeed, the daily sport of their caprice; and was exposed to the grossest insults, which his hope of being useful to his country alone enabled him to bear with resignation. The common people partook, unfortunately, too much of the mode of thinking of the capitani, in regard to their governor. He had lost every consideration, because his authority never inspired fear, and because he never carried his threats or promises into execution. Few accused him of evil intentions; but every one looked upon him as the frogs in the fable looked on their logwood king.

Hence it arose, that the two proclamations, he issued from the monastery, produced no more effect than his other orders had done. In vain, did he threaten to punish those, who, capable of bearing arms, should refuse to listen to the appeal of their invaded country. Whosoever found it his interest to repair to Ligovitzi presented himself at the camp; but nine in ten consulted their personal safety by returning, some to Anatolico, Mesolonghi, and the islands, abounding in the Lake of Lesini, there loitering in the cafés; others to the plain of Vrachori, or the Ionian Islands; while the poorer classes removed, with their families and cattle, to the mountains of Cravari, Lidoriki or Apochoro. An appeal to the patriotism of the Etolians and Acarnanians was still more unsuccessful: it was an endeavour to rouse into vital action a corpse, from which the spark of life had long fled.

The private remonstrances and entreaties, Mavrocordato daily made to the capitani, tended only to render his presence in the army so intolerable, that they gave him to understand, that war not being his
department, matters would go on much better, if he would cease to interfere in their affairs; and allowing them to fight their own way, return to Mesolonghi, where he could be more useful, by providing measures to pay the troops, and supply them with ammunition and other necessaries.

Although Mavrocordato could not but feel, that he had become a mere cipher, he replied to the arguments of the capitani, that he acted as a keystone to keep them together. For he knew so well the jealousy and secret enmity, existing between them, that he was positive, that if he left the camp, they would all immediately disband; and each go his own way. If the dissolution of the army, which kept the enemy in countenance, took place, there was not a doubt but that the Albanians would instantly invade the country, and again destroy the harvests of its unfortunate inhabitants. Had Mavrocordato to do with a less demoralized band of barbarians, his counsels might have proved of essential service, since the plan of the campaign was well devised; but it is certain, that, had he even been the most consummate of generals, his orders would have been slighted in the same manner; and himself become the object of their mockery and derision.