The death of Nikitaras

Like today, on September 25, 1849, the most glorious and noble of all the fighters of 1821, Nikitas Stamatelopoulos, the legendary Nikitaras, dies blind and very poor in Piraeus.

For the Greeks he was the famous Turkophagus, while for his comrades-in-arms he was the poor Nikitas, who never agreed to take booty. His appearance on the battlefields aroused the enthusiasm of the Greeks and caused real terror to the Turks, who retreated, chanting only on his shield with a sword in his hand. Pure and selfless, he never agreed to get the slightest pay, even when his family was hungry. As Georgios Gazis, Karaiskakis’ grammarian, wrote, “Nikitas used gold to chase the enemy, happy to be called a glorious penny rather than a rich ignorant one.” After the revolution, when Nikitaras was asked why he never took his loot and now lives in such poverty, Nikitaras answered sternly “I was not a negotiator. My destiny wanted me to become a Captain. And it would not be right for me to make a note of my Captain in order to make a mess! “

For Otto and the Bavarians, the Bavarian locust as the common people called them, Nikitaras was more than dangerous. Not only because Nikitaras had stood wholeheartedly by the side of Kapodistrias, but mainly because in his face the ragged Greeks still found their heroic idol, the fearless lad who embodied their honor and pride. That is why the Bavarian parastate arrested and imprisoned him, subjecting him to horrific torture. And when his youngest daughter, in whom Nikitaras had a pathological weakness, saw her father being brought in tattered clothes on a stretcher to the courtroom where he was being tried, she lost her mind and from then on she went crazy saying “nice that you are all red My father”…

When, after public pressure, Nikitaras returned blind from the exile sent to him by Otto, he was forced to ask the government for a small welfare allowance for the first time in his life in order to be able to meet his daughter’s medical expenses. The government refused the allowance and gave him only a begging permit to beg every Friday afternoon outside the church of Evangelistria in Piraeus. Thus, the demigod of Dervenaki stood raked and blind every Friday afternoon in the churchyard and begged…

At dawn on September 25, 1849, Nikitaras’ wonderful heart stopped beating. His house in Piraeus was immediately flooded with crowds, as all ordinary people spontaneously came to see for the last time the legendary Nikitaras. In his small will he left only his sword to his son John and declared his last wish: to be buried next to his uncle Kolokotronis, in the First Cemetery of Athens.

Something unexpected happened on the day of the funeral. Outside the hideout there was a chariot that would transport Nikitas’ body to Athens. But as soon as the body came out on the doorstep of the house, the infinitely gathered crowd burst into tears and his old comrades who had initially lifted the body, did not put it in the cart but handed it to the countless anonymous Greeks who volunteered to stand up. the body of Nikitas. Thousands of men, young, old and children lifted the body successively and so, from back to back, the body was transported from Piraeus to Athens, while flowers fell on the coffin from the balconies of the houses where the huge procession passed. In this majestic and unique way, an entire Nation rose on its back and led this wonderful man to eternity. Only the Greeks could give such an honor to a dead man and such an honor could only be given to Nikitaras…

Unfortunately, today we do not know exactly where his tomb was, as well as what happened to the bones of Nikitaras. But as the historian Dimitrios Kampouroglou wrote, who tried in 1926 to find the tomb of Nikitaras, “Let the Greeks be comforted by the thought that for Nikitaran all the Greek Land has open arms”….

Text: George Th. Prachalias

Photo: Portrait of Nikitaras

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