On this day in 1825, Odysseas Androutsos passes away

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Odysseas Androutsos was born on the Ionian island of Ithaca in 1788 and was the only son of the famous Arvanite bandit Andrea Verousi, also known as Captain Androutsou.

His mother, who was from Preveza, had taken refuge in Ithaca, which was then Venetian-held, to escape Turkish persecution because Androutsos' father had followed the sea warrior Lambros Katsonis on their piracy across the Aegean. There he was baptised in 1792 by Katsonis' wife Maroudia, who for the same reason had also sought asylum on the island.

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In honour of the Homeric hero, he was given the name Odysseus.

When Ali Pasha learned that Captain Androutsos, who had meanwhile been beheaded by the Turks in 1797, had left a son, he took him to his court in Ioannina, which was also a great military school where several Greek fighters of the 1821 revolution had studied. In this environment, little Odysseus grew up. There he also learned Italian and Albanian.

In 1816, Ali Pasha sent him to Armatolo in Livadia after first marrying Eleni Kareli. He stayed there until the eve of 1821, but not before becoming a member of the Friendly Society, a conspiracy organisation to liberate Greece from the Ottoman Empire.

As soon as the Revolution broke out, he immediately found himself at the forefront of the struggle and organised Greeks in Eastern Roumeli.

However, on May 8, 1821, he and another 115 other Greek warriors participated in what was perhaps the most glorious battle of the Greek Independence struggle.

The Ottoman army, led by Omer Vrioni and 10,000 men strong who were high on confidence after winning the Battle of Alamana just weeks earlier, had the plan to enter the Peloponnese in southern Greece and the heartland of the revolution and put an end to the rebelling Greeks who had liberated large swathes of territory.

However, en route to the Peloponnese, they came across 116 freedom fighters led by Androutsos, who locked themselves inside an inn in the tiny village of Gravia.

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Gravia Inn

The Ottoman army surrounded the inn, and Vrioni sent an Islamic Dervish to negotiate with Androutsos. The Dervish was shot dead at the inn's door, and Vrioni ordered an attack on the inn.

Heavy fighting ensued with the Ottoman forces attempting to storm the inn, but the Greek warriors repeatedly repulsed them back. Wave after wave of attacks failed to dislodge the few defenders, forcing the Ottoman army to bring some powerful cannons to the front lines. The lull in fighting to prepare the cannons gave Androutsos and his warriors time to escape the inn, knowing that it would be destroyed once the cannon fire began.

The battle was a huge morale boost for the Greeks and a morale blow to the Ottomans, who killed at least 300 men and 800 wounded out of their 9,000 troops. There were only six Greek martyrs.

More importantly, the morale blow to the Ottomans made Vrioni significantly rethink his plan to go into the Peloponnese, and instead, he decided to go to the island of Euboea. By Vrioni not entering the Peloponnese with such a huge force, the Greeks in that region could consolidate their gains, and more importantly, they had time to liberate the capital of the Peloponnese, Tripoli.

This was due to Androutsos and his brave stand despite being outnumbered about 100 to 1. The battle imposed him as the military leader of Roumeli.

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Odysseas Androutsos

His heroism, progressive spirit and Homeric name were why all the European Philhellenes who arrived in Greece wanted to meet him. He collaborated with many of them on various public benefit projects.

His controversy and marginalisation by his opponents forced the stubborn and irritable warlord to take his men and go to Boeotia after his political enemies accused him of betraying the revolution by collaborating with the Turks. The Greek government sent a strong military force against him, led by his old friend Giannis Gouras, to capture him.

Androutsos, systematically avoiding any conflict with government bodies not to shed precious Greek blood, was eventually captured and handed over to Gouras on April 7, 1825. He was imprisoned in Athens at the Acropolis. Various other warlords, including Karaiskakis, revolted against the unjust treatment of Androutsos. However, Gouras ordered his execution on June 5, 1825.

To cover up their crime, they dumped his body on the cobblestones of the Temple of Apterou Nikis and spread the word that the prisoner tried to escape and was killed. He was temporarily buried in the church of the Savior in Rizokastro. The truth did not take long to be revealed, and history restored him, placing him among the leading heroes of the Greek Revolution.

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The state finally honoured him in 1865 with great formality and military honours. His bones were moved to the First Cemetery of Athens, where his tomb now stands to this day.

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