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Markos Botsaris
Μάρκος Μπότσαρης
Born c. 1788
Died August 21, 1823(1823-08-21)
Place of birth Souli (Epirus), Ottoman Empire
Place of death Kefalovryso near Karpenisi
Buried at Missolonghi
Allegiance  France (1807-1814)
Greece Revolutionary Greece (1821-1823)
Rank General of the Greek Army
Commands held Commanding General of Western Central Greece
Battles/wars Greek War of Independence:
First Siege of Missolonghi
Battle of Peta
Battle of Karpenisi

Markos Botsaris (Greek: Μάρκος Μπότσαρης, c. 1788 – 21 August 1823) was a general and hero of the Greek War of Independence and captain of the Souliotes.[1] Botsaris is among the most revered national heroes in Greece.

Early life

Botsaris was born into one of the leading clans of the Souliotes, in Epirus.[2] He was the second son of captain Kitsos Botsaris, who was murdered in Arta in 1809 under the orders of Ali Pasha. The Botsaris clan came from the village of Dragani (today Ambelia), near Paramythia.

French Army and repatriation to Souli

In 1803, after the capture of Souli by Ali Pasha, Botsaris and the remnants of the Souliotes crossed over to the Ionian Islands, where he served in the Albanian regiment of the French army for 11 years and became one the regiment's officers.[3]

In 1814, he joined the Greek patriotic society known as the Filiki Eteria. In 1820, with other Souliots, he came back to Epirus and fought against Ali Pasha in the Ottoman army at the Siege of Ioannina, but soon the Souliotes changed side and fought the Ottoman army with the troops of Ali Pasha, in exchange of their former region, the Souli.

Greek War of Independence

Flag raised by Markos Botsaris, in Souli, October 1820, depicting Saint George and with the words: Freedom-Religion-Fatherland in Greek.[4]

In 1821, Botsaris took part in the revolution against the Ottoman Empire. He and other Souliot captains, including Kitsos Tzavelas, Notis Botsaris, Lampros Veikos, and Giotis Danglis only enlisted fellow Souliot kin into their bands.[1] At the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, he distinguished himself by his courage, tenacity and skill as a partisan leader in the fighting in western Greece, and was conspicuous in the defence of Missolonghi during the first siege of the city (1822–1823).

On the night of 21 August 1823 he led the celebrated attack on Karpenisi by 350 Souliots, against around 1,000 Ottoman troops who formed the vanguard of the army with which Mustai Pasha, the Ottoman Albanian Pasha of Shkoder, was advancing to reinforce the besiegers. Botsaris managed to take Mustai Pasha as a prisoner during the raid,[citation needed] but he was shot in the head and killed in battle.[5][full citation needed]

Botsaris was buried in full-honors in Missolonghi. After the Ottomans captured the city, in 1826, his grave was desecrated by Ottoman Albanian groups.[6]

Family and Companions

Many of his family members became key figures of the Greek political establishment. Markos' brother Kostas (Constantine) Botsaris, who also fought at Karpenisi and completed the victory, lived on to become a respected Greek general and parliamentarian in the Greek kingdom.[7] He died in Athens on 13 November 1853. Markos's son, Dimitrios Botsaris, born in 1813, was three times minister of war during the reigns of Otto of Greece and George I of Greece. He died in Athens on 17 August 1870. His daughter, Katerina "Rosa" Botsari, was in the service of Queen Amalia of Greece.

Markos' son, Dimitrios Botsaris became three times Minister of War of Greece, under Kings Otto and George I.[8]

Evangelis Zappas, the renowned benefactor and founder of the modern Olympic Games, was the aide-de-camp and close friend of Markos Botsaris.[9]


Many Philhellenes visiting Greece had admired Botsaris' courage and numerous poets wrote poems about him. American poet Fitz-Greene Halleck wrote a poem entitled Marco Bozzaris, Juste Olivier also wrote an award-winning poem for him, in 1825.[10] The national poet of Greece, Dionysios Solomos, composed a poem titled "On Markos Botsaris", in which he likens the mourning over Botsaris' body to the lamentation of Hector, as described in the last book of the Iliad.[11] His memory is still celebrated in popular ballads in Greece.

Botsaris is also widely considered to be the author of a Greek-Albanian lexicon written in Corfu in 1809, at the insistence of François Pouqueville, Napoleon Bonaparte's general consul at the court of Ali Pasha in Ioannina.[12] The dictionary is of importance for the knowledge of the extinct Souliot dialect.[13] However, although the book is known as the Botsaris dictionary, scholar Xhevat Lloshi has argued in several works that Botsaris couldn't have possibly written that dictionary by himself, both because of his young age, and because of a note of Pouqueville that clearly says that the dictionary was drafted under the dictation of Marko's father, uncle, and future father-in-law.[14]

In Greek music, there are several folk songs dedicated to Botsaris, like a Tsamiko from Central Greece, named Song of Markos Botsaris (Greek: του Μάρκου Μπότσαρη),[15] and from the Greek minority of southern Albania (Northern Epirus) (Καημένε Μάρκο Μπότσαρη).[16] In Albanian music (Albanian language: Marko Boçari)[17][18] there is a polyphonic song of the 19th century titled Song of Marko Boçari from Suli (Albanian language: Kënga e Marko Boçarit nga Suli) lamenting his death.[19] Popular dramas and school plays were written soon after his death.[20][21]

Botsaris was depicted on the reverse of the Greek 50 lepta coin of 1976-2001.[22] He often adorns posters in Greek classrooms, government offices, and military barracks, as a member of the Greek pantheon of national heroes.

The Greek-Albanian dictionary

The original manuscript of the dictionary is at the National Library in Paris (Supplément Grec 251). Botsaris titled his dictionary “Lexicon of the simple Romaic and Arbanitic language” (Λεξικόν της Ρωμαϊκοις και Αρβανητηκής Απλής (sic)). The Greek terms are in columns on the left of the pages, not in alphabetical order, and the Albanian words on the right, written in Greek letters. Apart from single words, the dictionary includes complexes of words or short phrases. The Greek entries are in total 1701 and the Albanian 1494.
On the first page there is a hand-written notice by Pouqueville: “Ce lexique est écrit de la main de Marc Botzari à Corfou 1809 devant moi.” This manuscript, which includes also a kind of Greek-Albanian self-teaching method with dialogues written by Ioannes Vilaras and a French-Albanian glossary by Pouqueville, was donated by the latter to the Library in 1819. The dictionary was dictated to the young M. Botsaris by his father Kitsos (1754-1813), his uncle Notis (1759-1841) and his father-in-law Christakis Kalogerou from Preveza. Titos Yochalas, a Greek historian who studied and edited the manuscript, noticing that some Greek words are translated into Albanian in more than one way, believes that M. Botsaris was writing the Greek words and the elders were translating into Albanian. As many of the entries seem unlikely to be useful either for the Suliots or the Albanians of that time and circumstances, Yochalas believes that the dictionary was composed after Pouqueville’s initiative, possibly as a source for a future French-Albanian dictionary. He also observes that the Albanian phrases are syntaxed as if were Greek, concluding that either the mother tongue of the authors was the Greek or the Greek language had a very strong influence on the Albanian, if the latter was possibly spoken in Souli (Yochalas, p. 53). The Albanian idiom of the dictionary belongs to the Tosk dialect of south Albanian and retains many archaic elements, found also in the dialect spoken by the Greco-Albanian communities of South Italy and Sicily. In the Albanian entries there are many loans from Greek (approx. 510), as well as from Turkish (approx. 190) and Italian (21).[23]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Brigands with a Cause, Brigandage and Irredentism in Modern Greece 1821-1912, by John S. Koliopoulos, Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1987. p. 53. ISBN 0-19-822863-5
  2. Katherine Elizabeth Fleming. The Muslim Bonaparte: diplomacy and orientalism in Ali Pasha's Greece. Princeton University Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-691-00194-4, p. 99"The Souliotes, a Greek-speaking tribe of Albanian origin... Ali had tried off and over..."
  3. Zamoyski, Adam (2000). Holy madness: romantics, patriots, and revolutionaries, 1776-1871. Viking. p. 232. ISBN 0-670-89271-8. 
  4. Χατζηλύρας, Αλέξανδρος-Μιχαήλ. "H Ελληνική Σημαία. H ιστορία και οι παραλλαγές της κατά την Επανάσταση - Η σημασία και η καθιέρωσή της.". Hellenic Army General Stuff. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  5. Academie of Sciences of Albania (1979). "Studia Albanica" (in French). p. 73. 
  6. Βαρβαρήγος, Ποθητός. "Θρησκεία και Θρησκευτική Ζωή κατά τον πόλεμο της Ανεξαρτησίας" (in Greek). University of Thessaloniki. pp. 73, 98. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  7. University of Chicago (1946). Encyclopædia britannica: a new survey of universal knowledge, Volume 3. Encyclopædia britannica, inc. p. 957. "Marco Botsaris’s brother Kosta (Constantine), who fought at Karpenisi and completed the victory, lived to become a general and senator in the Greek Kingdom. Kosta died in 1853.." 
  8. University of Chicago. Encyclopædia britannica: a new survey of universal knowledge. Encyclopædia britannica, inc., 1946, p. 957
  9. The Modern Olympics, A Struggle for Revival, by David C. Young. p. 13. 1996 The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5374-5
  10. Poetry Archive - Marco Bozzaris
  11. Mackridge, edited by Peter (1996). Ancient Greek myth in modern Greek poetry : essays in memory of C.A. Trypanis (1. publ. ed.). London: Frank Cass. pp. xvii. ISBN 978-0-7146-4751-7. 
  12. Markos Botsarēs, Titos P. Giochalas: To Hellēno-Alvanikon lexikon tou Markou Botsarē: (philologikē ekdosis ek tou autographou), Grapheion Dēmosieumatōn tēs Akadēmias Athēnōn, 1980, 424 pages.
  13. JOCHALAS, Titos, To ellino-alvanikon lexikon tou Markou Botzari, Athens 1980.
  14. Lloshi, Xhevat (2008). bocari rreth alfabetit&hl=en&ei=QAIFTNfqAcH-8AaswL3UDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=book-thumbnail&resnum=1&ved=0CC8Q6wEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false Rreth Alfabetit te shqipes. Logos. p. 107. ISBN 9989582688. bocari rreth alfabetit&hl=en&ei=QAIFTNfqAcH-8AaswL3UDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=book-thumbnail&resnum=1&ved=0CC8Q6wEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  15. Antōnēs I. Phlountzēs Akronauplia kai Akronaupliōtes, 1937-1943. Themelio, 1979, p. 286 (Greek)
  16. Nikolaos V. Dēmētriou,Eleutherios N. Dēmētriou. Voreios Ēpeiros: tragoudia kai choroi. Trochalia, 2000, p. 45.
  17. D'Istria, Dora ([1866] 2006). "The Albanian nationality on the basis of popular songs ('La nationalité albanaise d'après les songs populaires')". In Trencsényi, Balázs; Kopeček, Michal. Discourses of collective identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770-1945): texts and commentaries. Late Enlightenment — Emergence of the Modern National Idea. 1. Central European University Press. p. 173. ISBN 963-7326-52-9. 
  18. Clayer, Natalie (2007) (in French). Aux origines du nationalisme albanais: la naissance d'une nation majoritairement musulmane en Europe. KARTHALA Editions. pp. 309–10. ISBN 2-84586-816-2.çari&lr=&as_brr=3&hl=en&cd=7#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  19. American Folklore Society (1954). Memoirs of the American Folklore Society. American Folklore Society. 44. University of Texas Press. p. 173. 
  20. Enangelides Tryfon, The education during the Turkish occupation, Athens, 1936, vol. 2, p. 79. A school play titled "Markos Botsaris" was played in Greece in 1825.
  21. Alkaios Theodoros, The death of Markos Botsaris, published in Athens, undated. The author died in 1833.
  22. Bank of Greece. Drachma Banknotes & Coins: 50 lepta. – Retrieved on 27 March 2009.
  23. Yochalas Titos (editor, 1980) The Greek-Albanian Dictionary of Markos Botsaris. Academy of Greece, Athens 1980 (in Greek)


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