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Sterea Ellada - Messolonghi Page 1

area mapMessolonghi has around 12,000 inhabitants, and is capital of the nomos of Etolo Akarnania, as well as the seat of a bishopric. The English speaking world has heard of this city mostly in connection with Lordos Vyronos (Lord Byron) who died of fever here in this marshy place after ten months of labor in behalf of the Greek revolution against the Turks. byronByron (graphic) had spent much of his personal fortune to help the Greeks, as well as his fame, which inspired other Philhellenes in the rest of Europe.

Messolonghi was the center of resistance against the Turks during the Independence struggle and the area suffered three sieges. In 1822 it was defended by Mavrgordato against a force of 10,000 led by Omer Vrioni and Reshid Pasha. In 1823, Markos Botsaris was the Greek defender. The next year Byron came here and his enthusiasm gave inspiration to the Greek defenders; about fifteen months later he died before the final siege began. During the same month as Byron's death, Reshid Rasha attacked with 15,000 troops, the Greek resistance numbering only 5000. Between lack of supplies and the fierceness of his opponents, Reshid made no headway for six months. Then Ibrahim Pasha appeared on the scene with an extra 10,000 soldiers-Egyptian reinforcements. After a full 12 months of siege, the population of Messolonghi decide to break out. They managed to get past the town, but a Bulgarian deserted forewarned the besiegers, and the townspeople, believing themselves safe, were ambushed on a hillside by 1000 Albanians. Out of the 9000 who had escaped Messolonghi (both civilians and soldiers) only 1800 succeeded in escaping to Amphissa. Those left behind ignited their ammunition, killing both themselves and their enemies. In 1828, the Turks surrendered the town peacefully.

What is less known about Byron's huge effort to help the Greeks in their struggle, is that he had to deal with internal divisions among them, the brigand generals each soliciting money from him. Much time was wasted while he dealt with their quarreling and separate claims, while his plan to march on Nafpaktos and take control of the Gulf of Corinth was delayed. He drilled the soldiers in his charge, having been made commander in chief of the force of 5000, and, rowing in the lagoon, caught a fever and died. Other Philhellenes had already left, disgusted by the squabbling Greeks, and by the damp, stagnant town. The news of his death had an intense effect all across northern Europe, which is believed to have changed the course of the war and led to Greek victory.

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