By Catherine Tsounis
“They never fail who die in a great cause.” – Lord Byron
In 2021, Greeks and their descendants are free because of the sacrifice of a man who had it all: Lord Gordon Byron. Looking at the history of Eastern Orthodox communities of Europe, Asia, and Africa, I realize the significance of what Lord Byron did for all. Now in 2021, official documents reveal, he gave part of his fortune to create a modern Greece. Lord Gordon Byron is the real spiritual and economic savior of Greece, inspiring England, France, and Russia to come at the last moment to save the revolution at Navarino. His letters and official documents from the March 1976 “Pilgrimage” magazine and www.Guardian.com present an image of a patriot, who did not join factions, but created a nation.
Byronism or Byron’s poetry was the major force in 1800’s Byron’s reform and liberalism found a place in America. Greek classical scholarship was the same in England and America. His poetry excited Americans. Byron’s correspondence showed respect and the conventional view of Americans (peasants).2 Lord Byron was planning to visit the USA in 1817, He visited an American frigate docked in Montenegro 1822, with pleasure seeing a copy of his poetry in officers’ quarters. In a letter to a friend, he said that he would prefer “a nod from an American than a snuff-box from an emperor.”3
Lord Byron after the war, wanted the Greeks to “. invest me with the character of their ambassador or agent: I will go to the United States, and procure that free and enlightened government, to set the example of recognizing the Federation of Greece, as an independent state. This done England must follow the example and then the fate of 4great commonwealth of Christian Europe.”
His death shocked America and Europe. Magazines, such as the North American Review has a 50-page review of his poems. His poetry increased in popularity after his death in Missolonghi. American Philhellenes Edward Everett, Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Webster, Jarvis, Miller, Howe, and others kept the American interest alive after Byron’s death. Sympathy expressed in the Monroe Doctrine did not result in military aid.
“I have given her [Greece] my time, my means, my health,” he is recorded as saying in a moment of lucidity. “And now I give her my life! What could I do more? A banknote unearthed by the Observer in the country’s state archives 2021 sheds new light on the poet’s fabled generosity. It also offers indelible proof of his commitment to the Greek cause.
In the cheque Byron stipulates that £4,000 – roughly £332,000 today – be paid to Giovanni Orlando, a representative of the provisional government that, alarmed by the way the war was going, had approached the British peer for funds The money was to go towards emergency needs – notably financing a fleet to defend Missolonghi from besieging Ottoman Albanians. Both sides agreed it would be repaid against a much bigger loan to be raised in London where Orlando was headed. unnoticed in the country’s archives for years. The money funded a squadron of 14 vessels, nine Hydriot and five Speziot, put into sea action.”
Roderick Beaton, emeritus professor of modern Greek studies at King’s College London, explained “Greece did not follow the example of other parts of the Ottoman Empire that became nominally independent, but were run by local warlords…But Byron’s willingness to part with such a large slice of his personal fortune also had an immediate impact – one that Beaton believes helped change the course of events.
“His financial contribution was crucial,” said Beaton in his book, Byron’s War. “No historian of the war has really paid attention to this fact. The Ottoman Albanian troops who were besieging Missolonghi suddenly disappeared as soon as word got out that Byron had lent this money and the fleet was sailing out of Hydra and Spetses.”
“The Garden of Heroe
s” in Missolonghi is not on the Beaten Trail of recommended Greek sites by excursion agencies. I went with Kapogiannis Tours of Tripoli, before the 2020 covid 19 Pandemic, to discover the Greek Soul of Independence on an excursion with guide Kostoula. It is located at the entrance of Missolonghi. The Garden has a large section dedicated to the fighters of the Greek War of Independence, who fought for the freedom of Missolonghi. I was impressed with a marble statue of the great poet Byron, above the place where his heart is buried. Lord Byron died in Missolonghi in 1824, during the second siege of the town. His heart was buried in Missolonghi. Every year, on Palm Sunday there is a Memorial March. The march starts from the church of Agios Spyridon and ends in the Garden of the Heroes.6
Byron’s loan, combined with a loan later raised in London, had the effect of “tipping the scales crucially in favor of the elected Greek government and against the warlords”.5 Lord Gordon Byron who had it all, giving up wealth and life, inspired the creation of modern Greece.
2. Myrian, Peter. “Byronism, and other Influences in American Philhellenism 1821”, Pilgrimage, March 1976, p14.
3. Pilgrimage, p14.
4. Pilgrimage, p. 14.