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Passport of the Etaireia, bearing its insignia and written in its coded alphabet

The Filiki Eteria, (Greek: Φιλική Εταιρεία or Εταιρεία των Φιλικών, meaning "Society of Friends"), was a secret 19th century organization, whose purpose was to overthrow Ottoman rule over Greece and to establish an independent Greek state[1]. Etairia members were mainly young Phanariot Greeks from Russia and local chieftains from Greece. One of the leaders of the Etaireia was Alexander Ypsilantis.[2]

The name has various other transliterations with the word Filiki also appearing as Philiki or Philike; Etaireia or Hetairia being other transliterations of the word Eteria.


The Beginnings

In the context of ardent desire for independence from Turkish occupation and with the explicit influence of similar secret societies elsewhere in Europe, three Greeks met one another in 1814 in Odessa and decided the constitution of a secret organization in a freemasonic fashion; its purpose was to unite of all the Greeks in an armed organisation, in order to eventually throw off the Ottoman rule. These men were Nikolaos Skoufas from Arta province, Emmanuil Xanthos from Patmos and Athanasios Tsakalov from Epirus.[1] Soon after they initiated a fourth member, Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos from Andritsaina.

Skoufas had already particular contacts with Konstantinos Rados who was initiated into Carbonarism. Xanthos was initiated in a Freemasonic Lodge of Lefkada ("Society of Free Builders of St. Mavra"), while Tsakalov was a founding member of the Hellenoglosso Xenodocheio (Greek: Ελληνόγλωσσο Ξενοδοχείο, meaning Greek-speaking Hotel) an older but unsuccessful society for the liberation of Greece.[3]

At the beginning, during the 1814–1816 period, there were roughly twenty members. During 1817, the Society spread mainly among the Greeks of Russia and of Moldowallachia (the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia), which had a strong Greek element. The lord (hospodar) of Moldavia Michael Soutzos himself, became a member[4]. Massive initiations began only in 1818 and by early 1821, when the Society had expanded in almost all regions of Greece and Greek communities abroad, the membership numbered in thousands[5]. Among its members were tradesmen, clergy, Russian consuls, Ottoman officials from Phanar and occasionally Serbs, one of them the revolutionary Karageorge[5]. Among the instigators of the revolution, notably Theodoros Kolokotronis, Odysseas Androutsos, Dimitris Plapoutas and the metropolitan bishop Germanos of Patras were members.

Hierarchy & initiation

The Oath of Initiation into the Society, painting by D. Tsokos, 1849.

Philiki Etaireia had strong influence from the models of Carbonarism and Freemasonry.[3] The leading team was called the "Invisible Authority" (Αόρατος Αρχή) and was surrounded from the first moment with such secret glamour that everybody believed that a lot of important personalities participated, not only eminent Greeks but also foreigners like the Russian Tsar Alexander I. The reality was that initially, the Invisible Authority was composed only of the three founders. Then, from 1815 until 1818, five more were added and after Skoufas' death three more. In 1818 the Invisible Authority was renamed to "Authority of Twelve Apostles" and each Apostle shouldered the responsibility of a separate region.

The whole structure was pyramid-like in form and in the top dominated the "Invisible Authority". No one knew it or had the right to ask who created it. Her commands were executed unquestioned, and members did not have the right to make decisions. The society was called «Temple» and it had four levels of initiation: a) Brothers (αδελφοποιητοί) or Vlamides (βλάμηδες), b) the Recommended (συστημένοι), γ) the Priests (ιερείς) and d) the Shepherds (ποιμένες).[6] The Priests were charged with the duty of initiation.[7]

I swear in the name of truth and justice, before the Supreme Being, to guard, by sacrificing my own life, and suffering the hardest toils, the mystery, which shall be explained to me and that I shall respond with the truth whatever I am asked.

—The Oath of Initiation into Philike

The Great Oath of Philike, written on a monument at Kolonaki, Athens

When the Priest approached somebody, it was first to make sure of his patriotism and catechize him in the aims of society; the last stage was to put him under the lengthy principal oath, called the Great Oath (Μέγας Όρκος).[7]. Much of the essence of it was contained in its conclusion:[6]

Last of all, I swear by Thee, my sacred and suffering Country,—I swear by thy long- endured tortures,—I swear by the bitter tears which for so many centuries have been shed by thy unhappy children, by my own tears which I am pouring forth at this very moment,—I swear by the future liberty of my countrymen, that I consecrate myself wholly to thee; that henceforward thou shall be the cause and object of my thoughts, thy name the guide of my actions, and thy happiness the recompense of my labours.

—Conclusion of the Great Oath of the Philike

When the above was administered the Priest then uttered the words of acceptance of the novice as a new member:[7]

Before the face of the invisible and omnipresent true God, who in his essence is just, the avenger of transgression, the chastiser of evil, by the laws of the Hetairia Philike, and by the authority with which its powerful priests has intrusted me, I receive you, as I was myself received, into the bosom of the Hetaria.

—words of acceptance into Philike

Afterwards the initiated were considered neophyte members of the society, with all the rights and obligations of his rank. The Priest immediately had the obligation to reveal all the marks of recognition between the Vlamides or Brothers. Vlamides and Recommended were unaware of the revolutionary aims of the organisation. They only knew that there existed a society that tried hard for the general good of the nation, which included in its ranks important personalities. This myth was propagated deliberately, in order to stimulate the morale of members and also to make proselytism easier.

The course of the revolt

1821 Fighting in Bucharest

In 1818, the seat of Philiki Etaireia had migrated from Odessa to Constantinople, and Skoufas' death had been a serious loss. The rest of the founders attempted to find a major personality to undertake the reins, one who would give prestige and fresh impetus to the Society. In the beginning of 1818, they had a meeting with John Capodistria, who not only refused, but later wrote that he considered Philiki Etaireia guilty for the havoc that was foreboded in Greece. Alexander Ypsilantis was contacted and asked to assume leadership of Filiki Eteria[4], which he did in April 1820 and began active preparations for a revolt, as well as for setting up a military unit towards that purpose named as the Sacred Band. The Filikoi especially wanted to take advantage of the involvement of significant Turkish forces, including the pasha of the Moreas, against Ali Pasha.

Further reading

  • Vournas Tasos, Friendly Society: her illegal organisational and persecution by the foreigners, Tolides Bros, (Athens 1982).
  • Metropolitan of Old Patras Germanos, Memoirs, (Introductory note, index, ref. Ioanna Yiannaropoulos – Tassos Gritsopoulos), (Athens 1975).
  • Yannis Kordatos, Rigas Feraios and Balkan Federation, (Athens, 1974)
  • Xanthos Em., Memoirs for the Friendly Society, (facsimile reprint of 1834 ed), Vergina, (Athens 1996)


  1. ^ a b Alison, Phillips W. (1897). The war of Greek independence, 1821 to 1833. London : Smith, Elder. pp. 20,21.   (retrieved from University of California Library)
  2. ^ Greek War of Independence. A Dictionary of World History. 2000.   retrieved 9 May. 2009
  3. ^ a b Ioannis Michaletos (2006-09-28). "Freemasonry in Greece: Secret History Revealed". Retrieved May 2009.  
  4. ^ a b Berend, Tibor Iván (2003). History derailed. University of California Press. p. 125.  
  5. ^ a b Cunningham, Allan; Ingram, Edward (1993). Anglo-Ottoman encounters in the age of revolution. Routledge. p. 201. ISBN 0714634948, 9780714634944.,M1.  
  6. ^ a b Waddington, George (MDCCCXXV). A visit to Greece, in 1823 and 1824. London: John Murray. p. xviii (28).,M1. Retrieved May 2009.  
  7. ^ a b c Waddington, George (MDCCCXXV). A visit to Greece, in 1823 and 1824. London: John Murray. p. xx,xxi (20,21).,M1. Retrieved May 2009.  
This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Greek Wikipedia published under the GFDL (contributors).


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