Athanasios Diakos

Infobox Military Person |name=Athanasios Diakos
lived=1786–1821
placeofbirth=Artotina, Phocis
placeofdeath=Alamana, Phthiotis


nickname=Diakos
allegiance=Greece
serviceyears=1821
rank=Captain
commands=
battles=Greek War of Independence
awards=
portrayedby=Dionysios Tsokos

Athanasios Diakos (Greek: Αθανάσιος Διάκος) (1788–1821), a Greek military commander during the Greek War of Independence and a national hero, was born Athanasios Nikolaos Massavetas (Greek: Αθανάσιος Νικόλαος Μασσαβέτας) in the village of Ano Mousounitsa, Phocis.

Diakos became a major national hero and martyr for the Greek national cause, the focus of a powerful nationalist myth both during the War of Independence itself and later. Therefore, all accounts of his life - and in particular, of his last days, his last words, and the manner of his death - must be treated with some caution, like all accounts of famous admired heroes (as of notorious hated villains).

Early life

The grandson of a local outlaw, or klepht, he was drawn to religion from an early age and was sent away by his parents to the Monastery of St. John The Baptist (Greek: Αγίου Ιωάννου Προδρόμου), near Artotina, for his education. He became a monk at the age of seventeen and, due to his devotion to his faith and good temperament, was ordained a Greek Orthodox deacon not long afterwards.

Popular tradition has it that while at the monastery, an Ottoman Pasha visited with his troops and was impressed by Athanasios's good looks. The young Athanasios took offence to the Turk's remarks (and subsequent proposal) and the ensuing altercation resulted in the death of the Turkish official. Athanasios was forced to flee into the nearby mountains and become a klepht. Soon afterwards he adopted the pseudonym "Diakos", or "Deacon".

Klephtis and Armatolos

Diakos served under a number of local klepht leaders in the region of Roumeli, distinguishing himself in various encounters with the Ottomans. He also served for a time as a mercenary in the army of Ali Pasha at Ioannina, Epirus, where he befriended Odysseas Androutsos, another klepht. When Androutsos became the captain of a unit of armatoloi at Livadeia, Diakos served for a time as his "protopallikaro" (literally "first warrior", or lieutenant). In the years leading up to the Greek War of Independence, Diakos had formed his own band of klephtes and, like many other klepht and armatoloi captains, had become a member of the Filiki Eteria.

Independence fighter

Soon after the outbreak of hostilities, Diakos and a local brigand captain and friend, Vasilis Bousgos, led a contingent of fighters to capture the town of Livadeia. On 1 April, 1821, after three days of vicious house-by-house fighting, and the burning of Mir Aga's residence, including the harem, the town fell to the Greeks. Hursid Pasha sent two of his most competent commanders from Thessaly, Omer Vryonis and Köse Mehmed, at the head of 8,000 men with orders to put down the revolt in Roumeli and then proceed to the Peloponnese and lift the siege at Tripolitsa.

Diakos and his band, reinforced by the fighters of Dimitrios Panourgias and Yiannis Dyovouniotis, decided to halt the Ottoman advance into Roumeli by taking defensive positions near Thermopylae. The Greek force of 1500 men was split into three sections. Dyovouniotis was to defend the bridge at Gorgopotamos, Panourgias the heights of Halkomata, and Diakos the bridge at Alamana.

Setting out from their camp at Lianokladi, near Lamia, the Ottoman Turks soon divided their force. The main force attacked Diakos. The other attacked Dyovouniotis, whose force was quickly routed, and then Panourgias, whose men retreated when he was wounded. The majority of the Greek force having fled, the Ottomans concentrated their attack on Diakos's position at the Alamana bridge. Seeing that it was a matter of time before they were overrun by the enemy, Bousgos, who had been fighting alongside Diakos, pleaded with him to retreat to safety. Diakos chose to stay and fight with 48 men; they put up a desperate hand-to-hand struggle for a number of hours before being overwhelmed.

The severely wounded Diakos was taken before Vryonis, who offered to make him an officer in the Ottoman army if he converted from Christianity to Islam. Diakos refused the offer, replying "I was born a Greek, I shall die a Greek" ("Εγώ Γραικός γεννήθηκα, Γραικός θε να πεθάνω" transliterated as: "Ego Graikos yennithika, Graikos the na pethano"). The next day he was impaled. According to popular tradition, as he was being led away to be executed, he said:

"Look at the time Charon chose to take me, now that the branches are flowering, and the earth sends forth grass (Greek: Για δες καιρό που διάλεξε ο Χάρος να με πάρει, τώρα π' ανθίζουν τα κλαριά και βγάνει η γης χορτάρι - Ya thes kero pou dialexe o Haros na me parei, tora p' anthizoun ta klaria kai vganei i yis hortari)."

This was a metaphor for the independence and freedom of Greece.

The brutal manner of Diakos's death initially struck fear into the populace of Roumeli, but his final stand near Thermopylae, echoing the heroic defence of the Spartan King Leonidas, made him a martyr for the Greek cause. A monument now stands at the bridge near Alamana, the site of his final battle. His birthplace, the village of Ano Mousounitsa, was later renamed "Athanasios Diakos" in his honour. Also streets and statues in several parts of Greece as well as nearly every larger towns and cities bears his name.

References

*Diamantopoulos, N. and Kyriazopoulou, A. "Elliniki Istoria Ton Neoteron Hronon". OEDB, (1980).
*Brewer, David. "The Greek War of Independence". The Overlook Press (2001). ISBN 1-58567-172-X.
*Paroulakis, Peter H. "The Greeks: Their Struggle For Independence". Hellenic International Press (1984). ISBN 0-9590894-1-1.
*Stratiki, Poti. "To Athanato 1821". Stratikis Bros, (1990). ISBN 960-7261-50-X.


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