Greek War of Independence 1821 in Art 

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Klephts (/klɛfts/; Greek κλέφτης, kléftis, pl. κλέφτες, kléftes, which means "thief" and perhaps originally meant just "brigand"[2]) were highwaymen turned self-appointed armatoloi, anti-Ottoman insurgents, and warlike mountain-folk who lived in the countryside when Greece was a part of the Ottoman Empire.[2][3] They were the descendants of Greeks who retreated into the mountains during the 15th century in order to avoid Ottoman rule.[4] They carried on a continuous war against Ottoman rule and remained active as brigands until the 19th century.[4][5]

The terms kleptomania and kleptocracy are derived from the same Greek root, κλέπτειν (kléptein), "to steal".[6]


After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 and then the fall of Mistra in the Despotate of the Morea, most of the plains of present-day Greece fell entirely into the hands of the Ottoman Empire. The only territories that did not fall under Ottoman rule were the mountain ranges (populated by Greeks and inaccessible to the Ottoman Turks), as well as a handful of islands and coastal possessions under the control of Venice. This situation lasted until 1821. However, the newly acquired territories of Greece, such as Macedonia, Thrace and Epirus, were in Turkish hands until the 20th century. This period of time in Greece is known as the Turkocracy.

Ottoman lands were divided up into pashaliks, also called eyalets; in the case of the lands that form present-day Greece, these were Morea and Roumelia. Pashaliks were further sub-divided into sanjaks which were often divided into feudal chifliks (Turkish çiftlik (farm), Greek τσιφλίκι tsifliki). Any surviving Greek troops, whether regular Byzantine forces, local militia, or mercenaries had either to join the Ottoman army as janissaries, serve in the private army of a local Ottoman notable, or fend for themselves. Many Greeks wishing to preserve their Greek identity, Orthodox Christian religion, and independence chose the difficult but liberated life of a bandit. These bandit groups soon found their ranks swelled with impoverished and/or adventurous peasants, societal outcasts, and escaped criminals.

Klephts under Ottoman rule were generally men who were fleeing vendettas or taxes, debts and reprisals from Ottoman officials. They raided travelers and isolated settlements and lived in the rugged mountains and back country. Most klephtic bands participated in some form in the Greek War of Independence. During the Greek War of Independence, the klephts, along with the armatoloi, formed the nucleus of the Greek fighting forces, and played a prominent part throughout its duration. Yannis Makriyannis referred to the "klephtes and armatoloi" as the "yeast of liberty".[7]

John Koliopoulos studied the klephts in the 19th century, and stated that the principle of kinship and honour seen in Albanian besa could be seen among the klephts after centuries of contact with Albanian irregulars.[8]
Antonis Katsantonis (Greek klepht) by Theophilos Hatzimihail.

Klephtic songs (Greek: κλέφτικα τραγούδια), or ballads, were developed in mainland Greece.[9] They are part of the Greek folk music genre, which includes folk poetry, and are thematically oriented on either the achievements and death of a single klepht or the generic life of the klephts as a group.[9] Klephtic songs are especially popular in Epirus and the Peloponnese. The Czech composer Antonín Dvořák wrote a song-cycle named Three Modern Greek Poems: the first one is entitled "Koljas – Klepht Song" and tells the story of Koljas, the klepht who killed the famous Ali Pasha.

The most famous klephtic and modern Greek folk song is The Battle of Mount Olympus and Mount Kisavos, a ballad based on a musico-poetic motif dating back to classical Greece (specifically to the poetic song composed by Corinna pertaining to a contest between Mount Helicon and Mount Cithaeron).[9]

The famous Greek dish klephtiko (or kleftiko), a dish entailing slow-cooked lamb (or other meat), can be translated "in the style of the klephts". The klephts, not having flocks of their own, would steal lambs or goats and cook the meat in a sealed pit to avoid the smoke being seen.
Famous klephts

Antonis Katsantonis
Giorgakis Olympios
Odysseas Androutsos
Athanasios Diakos
Geórgios Karaïskákis
Theodoros Kolokotronis
Dimitrios Makris
Nikitas Stamatelopoulos

See also

Ottoman Greece


Dontas 1966, p. 24: "Born in 1800, Demetrios Makris, a kleftis, had succeeded his father to the kapetaniliki in the district of Zyghos. A simple yet very stubborn man, like Dimo - Tselios he was a great patriot."
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc 1995, p. 564: "Other Greeks, taking to the mountains, became unofficial, self-appointed armatoles and were known as klephts (from the Greek kleptes, "brigand")."
Sowards 1989, p. 75: "Greek irregulars had operated as bandit klephts and anti-Ottoman insurgents since before the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s."
Cavendish 2009, p. 1478: "The klephts were descendants of Greeks who fled into the mountains to avoid the Turks in the fifteenth century and who remained active as brigands into the nineteenth century."
Encyclopedia Americana 1919, p. 472: "KLEPTHS, klēfts (Greek, "thieves"). Greek bandits who, after the conquest of Greece by the Turks in the 15th century, kept themselves free in the mountains of northern Greece and Macedonia, and carried on a perpetual war against Turkish rule, considering everything belonging to a Turk a lawful prize."
Encyclopedia Americana 1919, "KLEPTOMANIA", p. 472.
Vacalopoulos 1961, p. 333: "Οί πυρήνες τών μαχητικών του δυνάμεων είναι οί άρματολοί καΐ οί κλέφτες...ν'άποτελέσουν τήν «μαγιά της λευτεριάς», όπως παραστατικά λέγει ό άγωνιστής τοϋ 21 Γιάννης Μακρυγιάννης."
Reid, James J. (2000). Crisis of the Ottoman Empire: Prelude to Collapse 1839-1878. Franz Steiner Verlag. p. 114. ISBN 978-3-515-07687-6. Retrieved 10 April 2020.

Trypanis 1981, "The Klephtic ballads", pp. 592–594: "The Klephtic ballads developed in mainland Greece, and in the eighteenth century represented the final and supreme stage in the evolution of modern Greek folk poetry. They can be separated into two groups, one dealing with the achievements or the death of an individual Klepht and the second with the life of the Klephts in general...Among them is a notable series of songs that deal with battles between mountains, a motif that goes back to antiquity, as we know from a fragment of Corinna found on a second-century papyrus in which Mount Helicon and Mount Cithaeron are fighting. Such battles of mountains in Greek folk songs have survived in Crete and in Carpathos, but the most famous of all is the Pan-Hellenic ballad of The Battle between Mount Olympus and Mount Kisavos."


Cavendish, Marshall (2009). World and Its Peoples. Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 978-0-7614-7902-4.
Encyclopedia Americana (1919). The Encyclopedia Americana: A Library of Universal Knowledge, Volume 16. New York and Chicago: Encyclopedia Americana Corporation.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc (1995). The New Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1. Encyclopædia Britannica. ISBN 0-85229-605-3.
Dontas, Domna N. (1966). The Last Phase of the War of Independence in Western Greece (December 1827 to May 1829). Thessaloniki: Institute for Balkan Studies.
Sowards, Steven W. (1989). Austria's Policy of Macedonian Reform. East European Monographs. ISBN 0-88033-157-7.
Trypanis, Constantine Athanasius (1981). Greek Poetry: From Homer to Seferis. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-81316-9.
Vacalopoulos, Apostolis (1961). Ιστορία του Νέου Ελληνισμού [History of Neo-Hellenism]. 2. A.E. Vakalopoulos.

Further reading

Baud-Bovy, Samuel (1958). Études sur la chanson cleftique, avec 17 chansons cleftiques de Roumelie transcrites d'après les disques des Archives musicales de folklore (in French). Athens: Inst. Francaises d'Athènes.
Dupré, Louis (1825). Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection des portraits, de vues et costumes grecs et ottomans (in French). Paris: Dondey-Dupré.
Esenbeck, Nees von; Pauls, J. J.; Gottlieb, C. (1825). Mittheilungen aus der Geschichte und Dichtung der Neu-Griechen; vol. 2: Historische Volksgesänge der Neu-Griechen nach C. Fauriel; part 2: Klephtische und andere historische Gesänge, dann Lieder vom Suliotenkrieg. Mit Fauriel's Einleitungen (in German). Coblenz: Jacob Hölscher.
Fauriel, Claude C. (1825). Chants populaires de la Grèce moderne; vol. 2: Chants historiques, romanesques et domestiques (in French). Paris: Firmin Didot.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang (1828). Werke. Vollständige Ausgabe letzter Hand; vol. 3: Gedichte. Aus fremden Sprachen. Neugriechisch-Epirotische Heldenlieder (in German). Stuttgart—Tübingen: J. G. Cotta'sche Buchhandlung. p. 211. "Johann Wolfgang Goethe: Gedichte - Neugriechisch-Epirotische Heldenlieder."
Karagiannis-Moser, Emmanuelle (1997). Le bestiaire de la chanson populaire grecque moderne (in French). Paris: Presses de l'Université de Paris-Sorbonne. ISBN 978-2-84-050090-2.
Kind, Theodor (1861). Anthologie neugriechischer Volkslieder. Im Original mit deutscher Übertragung (in German). Leipzig: Veit & Comp.
Legrand, Émile (1876). Chansons populaires grecques, publiées avec une traduction française et des commentaires historiques et littéraires (in French). Maisonnueve et Cie.
Passow, Arnold (1860). Τραγούδια Ρωμαίικα. Popularia carmina Graeciae recentioris. Lipsiae [= Leipzig]: B. G. Teubner.
Politis, Nicholas G. (1924) [1914]. Εκλογαί από τα τραγούδια του Ελληνικού λαού [= Selections from the Songs of the Greek People] (in Greek).


Ottoman Greece

Rum Millet Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople


Ottoman Greeks Greek Muslims Phanariotes Dragomans Klephts Proestoi

Major centres

Cities: Patras Thessaloniki Ioannina Missolonghi Tripolizza Larissa Islands: Chios Hydra Spetses


Rumelia Eyalet Ioannina Eyalet Salonica Eyalet Morea Eyalet Eyalet of the Archipelago Janina Vilayet Salonica Vilayet Vilayet of the Archipelago Ottoman Crete


Sanjak of Kavala Sanjak of Drama Sanjak of Salonica Sanjak of Tirhala Sanjak of Eğriboz Sanjak of Ioannina Sanjak of Preveza Sanjak of Inebahti Karli-Eli Sanjak of Nakşa Berre Sanjak of Sakız Sanjak of Rhodes


Principality of Samos (1834) Cretan State (1898)


Janissaries (Devshirme) Sipahis Armatoloi

Outside the Empire

Iacob Heraclid Stratioti Greek Battalion of Balaklava Lambros Katsonis Alexandros Ypsilantis


Ottoman–Venetian War (1463–79) Battle of Preveza Ottoman–Venetian War (1570–73) Battle of Lepanto Cretan War (1645–69) Morean War Ottoman–Venetian War (1714–18) Russo-Turkish War (1768–74) Orlov Revolt Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarja Greek War of Independence Morea expedition Epirus Revolt of 1854 Cretan Revolt (1866–69)

Influence on culture

Orthodoxy in Greece (1453–1821) Greek folk music Rebetiko Greek cuisine

Modern Greek Enlightenment

People: Rigas Feraios Eugenios Voulgaris Anthimos Gazis Theophilos Kairis Schools: Kaplaneios School Athonite Academy Evangelical School of Smyrna New Academy (Moscopole)


Alaca Imaret Mosque Aslan Pasha Mosque Bey Hamam Çelebi Sultan Mehmed Mosque Fethiye Mosque (Athens) Fethiye Mosque (Ioannina) Hafiz Ahmed Agha Library Karipeion Melathron New Mosque (Thessaloniki) Osman Shah Mosque Tzistarakis Mosque White Tower of Thessaloniki

Greeks outside the Empire

Communities: London Venice Trieste Marseille Livorno Odessa Vienna Bucharest Alexandria Schools: Flanginian School Princely Academy of Bucharest


Greek War of Independence (1821–1829)
Ottoman Greece

Armatoloi Proestoi Klephts Dionysius the Philosopher Daskalogiannis Panagiotis Benakis Konstantinos Kolokotronis Lambros Katsonis Cosmas of Aetolia Ali Pasha Maniots Phanariots Souliotes Gregory V of Constantinople


Orlov Revolt Souliote War (1803)

Greek Enlightenment

Athanasios Christopoulos Theoklitos Farmakidis Rigas Feraios Anthimos Gazis Theophilos Kairis Adamantios Korais Eugenios Voulgaris


Ellinoglosso Xenodocheio Filiki Eteria
Nikolaos Skoufas Athanasios Tsakalov Emmanuil Xanthos Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos Philomuse Society Society of the Phoenix


Adelphiki Didaskalia Asma Polemistirion Hellenic Nomarchy Pamphlet of Rigas Feraios Salpisma Polemistirion Thourios or Patriotic hymn

European intervention and
Greek involvement in
the Napoleonic Wars

Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774) Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca Greek Plan of Catherine the Great Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792) French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars
Fall of the Republic of Venice Republican French rule in the Ionian Islands Septinsular Republic Greek Legion Imperial French rule in the Ionian Islands Albanian Regiment Adriatic campaign of 1807–1814 1st Regiment Greek Light Infantry United States of the Ionian Islands


Nationalism Eastern Orthodox Christianity Liberalism Constitutionalism


Patras Salona Navarino Livadeia 1st Acropolis Tripolitsa Arta Acrocorinth Nauplia 1st Messolonghi 2nd Messolonghi 3rd Messolonghi 2nd Acropolis


Kalamata Wallachian uprising Alamana Gravia Valtetsi Doliana Lalas Vasilika Dragashani Sculeni Vasilika Trench Peta Dervenakia Karpenisi Greek civil wars Sphacteria Maniaki Lerna Mills Mani Distomo Arachova Kamatero Phaleron Chios expedition Martino Koronisia Petra


Constantinople Thessaloniki Navarino Tripolitsa Naousa <a href="MassacreOfSamothrace.html">Samothrace</a> <a href="ChiosMassacre.html">Chios</a> Psara Kasos

Naval conflicts

Eresos Chios Nauplia Samos Andros Sphacteria Gerontas Souda Alexandria Volos Itea Navarino


Greek sloop Karteria Greek brig Aris

Greek regional councils and statutes

Messenian Senate Directorate of Achaea Peloponnesian Senate Senate of Western Continental Greece Areopagus of Eastern Continental Greece Provisional Regime of Crete Military-Political System of Samos

Greek national assemblies

First (Epidaurus) (Executive of 1822) Second (Astros) Third (Troezen) Fourth (Argos) Fifth (Nafplion)

International Conferences,
Treaties and Protocols

Congress of Laibach Congress of Verona Protocol of St. Petersburg (1826) Treaty of London Conference of Poros London Protocol of 1828 London Protocol of 1829 Treaty of Adrianople London Protocol of 1830 London Conference Treaty of Constantinople


Greek expedition to Syria (1825) Russo-Turkish War (1828-29)


Chian Committee Odysseas Androutsos Anagnostaras Markos Botsaris Laskarina Bouboulina Constantin Denis Bourbaki Hatzimichalis Dalianis Kanellos Deligiannis Athanasios Diakos Germanos III of Old Patras Dimitrios Kallergis Athanasios Kanakaris Constantine Kanaris Ioannis Kapodistrias Stamatios Kapsas Panagiotis Karatzas Georgios Karaiskakis Nikolaos Kasomoulis Ioannis Kolettis Theodoros Kolokotronis Georgios Kountouriotis Antonios Kriezis Nikolaos Kriezotis Kyprianos of Cyprus Georgios Lassanis Lykourgos Logothetis Andreas Londos Yannis Makriyannis Manto Mavrogenous Alexandros Mavrokordatos Petrobey Mavromichalis Andreas Metaxas Andreas Miaoulis Theodoros Negris Nikitaras Antonis Oikonomou Ioannis Orlandos Papaflessas Dimitrios Papanikolis Emmanouel Pappas Christoforos Perraivos Nikolaos Petimezas Panagiotis Rodios Georgios Sachtouris Georgios Sisinis Iakovos Tombazis Anastasios Tsamados Meletis Vasileiou Demetrios Ypsilantis


António Figueira d'Almeida Michail Komninos Afentoulief Joseph Balestra Lord Byron François-René de Chateaubriand Richard Church Giuseppe Chiappe Lord Cochrane Vincenzo Gallina Charles Fabvier Thomas Gordon Frank Abney Hastings Carl von Heideck Vasos Mavrovouniotis Johann Jakob Meyer
Ellinika Chronika Karl Normann Maxime Raybaud Giuseppe Rosaroll Santorre di Santa Rosa Friedrich Thiersch Auguste Hilarion Touret German Legion [el] Serbs Olivier Voutier

Moldavia and Wallachia
(Danubian Principalities)

Alexander Ypsilantis Sacred Band Nikolaos Ypsilantis Alexandros Kantakouzinos Georgios Kantakouzinos Athanasios Agrafiotis Giorgakis Olympios Yiannis Pharmakis Dimitrie Macedonski Tudor Vladimirescu Konstantinos Xenokratis Anastasios Manakis Stamatios Kleanthis

Ottoman Empire, Algeria, and Egypt

Sultan Mahmud II Hurshid Pasha Nasuhzade Ali Pasha Ismael Gibraltar Omer Vrioni Kara Mehmet Mahmud Dramali Pasha Koca Hüsrev Mehmed Pasha Reşid Mehmed Pasha Yussuf Pasha Ibrahim Pasha Soliman Pasha al-Faransawi

Britain, France and Russia

George Canning Stratford Canning Edward Codrington Henri de Rigny Lodewijk van Heiden Alexander I of Russia Nicholas I of Russia

Financial aid

London Philhellenic Committee Ludwig I of Bavaria Jean-Gabriel Eynard Lazaros Kountouriotis Ioannis Papafis Georgios Stavros Ioannis Varvakis Rothschild & Co

Morea expedition

Nicolas Joseph Maison Antoine Simon Durrieu Antoine Virgile Schneider Auguste Regnaud de Saint-Jean d'Angély Camille Alphonse Trézel


Jean Baptiste Bory de Saint-Vincent Léon-Jean-Joseph Dubois Pierre Peytier Stamatis Voulgaris Guillaume-Abel Blouet Gabriel Bibron Prosper Baccuet Eugène Emmanuel Amaury Duval Pierre-Narcisse Guérin Charles Lenormant Edgar Quinet


Dimitrios Ainian Fotis Chrysanthopoulos Ioannis Filimon George Finlay Ambrosios Frantzis Konstantinos Metaxas Panoutsos Notaras Panagiotis Papatsonis Anastasios Polyzoidis Georgios Tertsetis Spyridon Trikoupis


Eugène Delacroix Louis Dupré Peter von Hess Victor Hugo François Pouqueville Alexander Pushkin Karl Krazeisen Andreas Kalvos Dionysios Solomos Theodoros Vryzakis Hellas The Reception of Lord Byron at Missolonghi Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi Le siège de Corinthe The Massacre at Chios The Free Besieged Hymn to Liberty The Archipelago on Fire Loukis Laras The Apotheosis of Athanasios Diakos


25 March (Independence Day) Hymn to Liberty Eleftheria i thanatos Pedion tou Areos Propylaea (Munich) Garden of Heroes (Missolonghi) Royal Phalanx Evzones (Presidential Guard)

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