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Third Siege of Messolonghi
Part of the Greek War of Independence
Eugène Ferdinand Victor Delacroix 017.jpg
Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1827, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux)
Date 15 April 1825 - 10 April 1826
Location Messolonghi, Greece
Result Decisive Ottoman-Egyptian victory
Belligerents
Flag of Greece (1828-1978).svg Greek revolutionaries Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1844).svg Ottoman Empire
Egypt flag 1882.svg Egypt
Commanders
Flag of Greece (1828-1978).svg Notis Botsaris Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1844).svg Reşid Mehmed Pasha
Egypt flag 1882.svg Ibrahim Pasha
Strength
5,000 20,000 Ottomans
15,000 Ottoman auxiliaries
ca. 15,000 Egyptians
Casualties and losses
8,000+ soldiers and civilians

The Third Siege of Messolonghi (Greek: Τρίτη Πολιορκία του Μεσσολογίου, often erroneously referred to as the Second Siege) was fought in the Greek War of Independence, between the Ottoman Empire and the Greek rebels, from 15 April 1825 to 10 April 1826. The Ottomans had already tried and failed to capture the city in 1822 and 1823, but returned in 1825 with a stronger force of infantry and a stronger navy supporting the infantry. The Greeks held out for almost a year before they attempted a mass breakout, which however resulted in a disaster, with the larger part of the Greeks slain.

Contents

Prelude

Messolonghi was first besieged by the Ottomans in 1822. The Ottomans blockaded the city from the sea with their navy and their infantry and artillery bombarded the walls. However, the Admiral Andreas Miaoulis with his group of ships kept on slipping in and out of the city to bring supplies. Amongst the defenders was Lord Byron. In late 1824, the Ottomans retreated to their bases in Thessaly. In 1824, however, Lord Byron died of an illness.

Siege

Shortly after Byron's death in 1824, the Turks came to besiege the Greeks again. The commander of the Turks, Reşid Mehmed Pasha was joined by Ibrahim Pasha who crossed the Gulf of Corinth. During the early part of 1826, Ibrahim had more artillery and supply brought in. However, his men were unable to storm the walls. The High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, Sir Frederick Adam, tried to make both forces sign a treaty, but his efforts were unsuccessful. The Greek Admiral Andreas Miaoulis kept breaking through the Turkish naval blockade and bringing in supplies. However, when the Turks captured the fortress island of Anatolikon, Miaoulis was not able to bring in supplies.

Sortie

The situation soon became desperate for the defenders. After around a year of holding out the leaders of the Greeks, Notis Botsaris, Kitsos Tzavelas and Makris made a plan to escape the city. When all food supplies had run out and there was no hope of relief, the besieged Greeks decided that some of the menfolk of fighting age should burst out of the gates and attempt to lead the women and children to safety, while the rest would remain to defend the town to the death. Georgios Karaiskakis would attack the Turks from the rear and create a diversion while the besieged Greeks would escape the city. Of the 9,000 inhabitants only 7,000 were strong enough to take part.

The Turks had been made aware of the escape plan. When the refugees charged out of the city gates they were fired upon by Turks and Egyptians from defensive positions. Many of the Greeks panicked and fled inside the walls. Of the 7,000 people that tried to escape only 1,000 made it to safety. The next morning Palm Sunday the Turks entered the city. Many of the Greeks killed themselves by blowing themselves up with gunpowder rather than surrender. The rest were slaughtered or sold into slavery. The Turks displayed 3,000 severed heads off the walls.

Aftermath

The fortifications of Messolonghi

Though a military disaster, the siege and its aftermath proved a victory for the Greek cause, and the Ottomans paid dearly for their harsh treatment of Messolonghi. After this incident, many people from Western Europe felt increased sympathy for the Greek cause, as manifested for example in the famous Delacroix painting Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Messolonghi (1827). The siege of Messolonghi also inspired Cioachino Rossini's opera Le siège de Corinthe.

This public sympathy for the Greeks had a significant influence on the eventual decision of Britain, France and Russia to intervene militarily in the Battle of Navarino and secure Greece's independence - with the result that, among other things, within four years Messolonghi fell into Greek hands again.

The unfinished poem The Free Besieged by Dionysios Solomos is dedicated to the siege. The siege is referenced in the ALPHA 60 song Ruins of Messolonghi.

Sources

  • Paroulakis, Peter Harold. The Greeks: Their Struggle for Independence. Hellenic International Press, 1984. ISBN 0-9590894-0-3.

Coordinates: 38°22′06″N 21°25′42″E / 38.36833°N 21.42833°E / 38.36833; 21.42833

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