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Bouboulina

Laskarina Bouboulina (1771-1825) was a Greek revolutionary and naval commander.

An Arvanite Greek born in a Constantinople prison, Bouboulina was the daughter of a ship captain from the island of Hydra. When she was a child her father died in the Orlov Revolution, a failed Greek rebellion against Ottoman rule. After this her extensive family moved to the island of Spetses. She married twice, first to a wealth shipowner and later to a Captain Bouboulis, whose name she took. When Bouboulis was killed by pirates, Bouboulina took over his trading business and began to amass her own fleet, commissioning the construction of four new ships.

In 1816 the Ottomans tried to seize Bouboulina’s property as her husband had fought with the Russians against them during the Turko-Russian wars. She managed to thwart these attempts with the help of Count Pavel Strogonov, the Russian Ambassador in Constantinople. However she was actively working against the Ottomans as a member of the Filiki Eteria, a secret organisation plotting to overthrow Ottoman control over Greece. Her principal role was as a smuggler, bringing food, weapons, and ammunition into Spetses. She also used her wealth to construct her own personal warship named the Agammennon, one of the largest vessels of the period.

In early 1821, the Filiki Eteria and other revolutionaries began the Greek War of Independence with support from Russia and other European powers. Twelve days before the war started Bouboulina was the first to raise the revolutionary flag, flying a modified Greek flag from the mast of the Agamemnon. She assisted the people of Spetses in their revolt before sailing with eight ships to Nafplion to begin a naval blockade. She later took part in the blockade and capture of the coastal cities of Monemvasia and Pylos. She was also present at the fall of Tripoli in September 1821, and during the subsequent attack on the Ottoman garrison she gave protection to the female members of the sultan’s household. In the aftermath of the battle she bore witness to the creation of the new Greek state, the First Hellenic Republic.

Over the course of the war Bouboulina was considered an equal with other revolutionary commanders and was involved in planning their strategy. She became good friends with General Theodoros Kolokotronis and their children later married. She settled in Nafplion, the new Greek capital, until 1824 when the Greek factions turned on each other in civil war. Kolokotronis was imprisoned by his former allies and Bouboulina was arrested twice due to her association with him. She was exiled to Spetses, her fortune having been exhausted from fighting for Greek independence.

On the 22nd of May 1825, Bouboulina was killed in an argument with the head of the Koutsis family, whose daughter Bouboulina’s son had eloped with. While confronting the family from her balcony she was shot through the head and died instantly.

After her death the Emperor of Russia gave her the honorary rank of Admiral in the Russian Navy, at the time the only woman in history to hold the title.

Today she is remembered as a Greek national hero without whom the Greeks might never have gained their independence.

*Source: The Female Soldier

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