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Military Entrepreneurship in Central Greece During the Greek War of National Liberation (1821-1830)x John S. Koliopoulos The role of the military in the Greek War of National Liberation has traditionally been examined from the point of view of their role in battles or their role in politics, but very seldom in the context of the pursuits and attitudes associated with the immediate interests and objectives of their class. Contemporary Western observers, although they usually praise the fighting qualities of the Greek military, generally disliked and condemned their usual pursuits and general attitude toward the war. Westerners considered the military to be undisciplined , perfidious, self-seeking and rapacious, and their opinion influenced contemporary and subsequent Western evaluations. The standard for performance and conduct was, of course, that provided by Western military institutions and more particularly by the prevalent norms for a regular army. In Greece, on the other hand, the early glorification of the military allowed little or no critical examination of their actual pursuits and attitudes during the war, and stressed instead only those features that appealed most to national sensibilities and corresponded to the qualities of the national hero. In this article I propose to examine the military of insurgent Greece, and particularly of central Greece,2 on their own terms, i.e., as military contractors and as commanders of bands of irregular troops in the service of the revolutionary government. Central Greece presented at the outset of the period under consideration certain features that were the product of historical devel1 This article is based on research for a book in preparation about Greek banditry and irredentism in the period 1821-1912. 2Central Greece is neither a political nor an administrative delimitation, but an arbitrary regional term used here to distinguish a strip of land to the north of the Gulf of Corinth and to the south of a linguistic and cultural frontier running through southern Albania in the west and southern Macedonia in the east. 163 164 John S. Koliopoulos opments and of geography. One was the existence of numerous mountain communities in contrast to a sparse population in the lowlands . Diminishing productivity and general unhealthiness resulting from environmental neglect and decline in early modern times, in conjunction with the hazards associated with Turkish conquest and rule, had led to the relocation of a large part of the population toward the highlands.3 There, the majority took up animal husbandry. This was an ecological adjustment with far-reaching consequences for the course of modern Greek history, for flight to the mountains was accompanied by the consolidation of landed property in the lowlands into large estates and the conversion of extensive tracts to pasture at the expense of plowland. The plain's loss was the mountain's gain (Yannopoulos 135-58; Lawless 518-20; McGowan 134). The main pastoralists of the region, the Sarakatsans and the Vlahs, practiced transhumance, moving large herds of sheep and goats late in April from lowland to mountain pastures, and then returning them to the lowlands in November. Sheep and goats were kept for milk, wool and meat in that order of priority. The ewes were milked until the end of July to make several kinds of cheese. Shearing was done in the spring, and the wool was cleaned and worked into rugs and clothing. Horses and mules were used as pack-animals for the transportation of the shepherd families and their possessions in spring and autumn. Their real home was Mount Pindus, easily accessible from the plains and valleys of the region. Nevertheless, the need for snow-free winter pasture compelled shepherds to maintain a link with the lowlands, where they camped in temporary huts for some five months each year, from November until April. Large estate holders preferred to rent land to shepherds, because they were unable to maintain grain cultivation for lack of sufficient labor, and were also disinclined to manage their own properties directly. This contributed to the development of a symbiotic relationship between their class and migratory shepherds, favoring the expansion of animal husbandry at the expense of agricultural cultivation . It did not, however, reduce the competition, tension, and conflict characterizing pastoralist societies in general; on the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 163-187
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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