Bouboulina An illustrious name that arouses feelings of patriotism, sacrifice and bravery in the heart of every Greek. She is the celebrated heroine of the sea, one of the most famous figures in Greek history. Descending from a Hydriot family she was born inside the prison of Constantinople on May 11th 1771, when her mother, Skevo, visited her dying husband, Stavrianos Pinotsis, who had been imprisoned by the Turks. The arrest and imprisonment of Pinotsis was due to his participation in the Peloponnesian revolution of 1769-70 against the Turks. At this time Spetses island was almost totally destroyed by the Turks for taking part in the uprising. After Pinotsis' death in Constantinople, mother and child returned to the island of Hydra, where they lived for almost four years, thereafter moving to Spetses on the remmarriage of Skevo to a Spetsiot captain, Dimitrios Lazarou.
From childhood, Bouboulina had a passion for the sea and for ships. She played by the seashore for hours and loved listening to the stories of the sailors and their talk of freedom for the nation, which had heen suffering under Turkish occupation for four hundred years. She married twice, first at the age of seventeen to Dimitrios YiannouZas and again at the age of thirty to Dimitrios Bouboulis. Life though was very cruel to Bouboulina, and both her husbands, captains of their own ships, died in sea battles with the pirates who were then raiding the coasts of Greece. Her husband Bouboulis, a real menace to the pirates, was killed during one of the most herroic naval exploits of the time. He was ambushed by two Algerian pirate ships which he simultanneously destroyed.
The year 1811 finds Bouboulina twice widowed and the mother of seven children, but at the same time, extremely rich from the fortunes of ships, land and cash inherited from her husbands. She managed not only to keep this fortune but also to increase it due to her good management and successful trading. She became partner in several Spetsiot vessels and in time managed to build three of her own. Among these was the famous "Aganmemnon" the first and largest Greek fighting ship of the 1821 War of Independence.
In 1816, Turkey attempted to confiscate Bouboulina's fortune using as an excuse tbe fact that her second husband had taken part in the Turko- Russian wars, using his own vessels alongside the Russian fleet. In fact Bouboulis, for his services to the Russians, had been highly decorated by them, and was also awarded the title of captain in the Russian navy and that of hononary Russian citizen. In her efforts to save her fortune, Bouboulina sailed with her ship "Coriezos" to Constantinople, where she met the Russian ambassador, Count Strogonoff, a known philhellene. She sought his protection citing her husband's services to Russia and produced an official document signed by the Russian admiral Seniar, in which all of her husband's services were listed. In addition, her ships at the time were flying the Russian flag, due to a merchant treaty between Russia and Turkey which included Greek shipping. Strogonoff, in his effort to protect her and save her from imminent arrest by the Turks, sent her to the Crimea, in Russia, to an estate given for her use by Tsar Alexander I. Before she left for Russia, she had managed to gain an audience with the Sultan's mother, Valide-Sultana (french in origin), who was extremely impressed by Bouboulina's character, personality and her pleas for help. Bouboulina stayed in Russia for approximately three months and waited for the crisis to defuse, during which time the Sultana finally convinced her son, the Sultan Mahmud II, to issue a special declaration bv which Bouboulina's fortune was saved. No longer under threat of arrest, Bouboulina left immediately for Spetses.
Whilst in Constantinople or perhaps during a subsequent trip there in 1818, Bouboulina became a member of the underground organization, Filiki Etairia (Friendly Society) which for a number of years had organized and prepared the Greeks for the revolution against the Turks. Bouboulina was the only woman who was allowed to join this organization, as they would not accept women in their ranks. So, on her return to Spetses, she began her preparations for the coming revolution. These preparations included the illegal buying of arms and ammunitions from foreign ports, which she brought to Spetses in secrecy with her own ships, hiding them in her home or in other parts of the island. In 1820 the construction of the Agamemnon, her flagship, was completed at a ship yard on Spetses. It was a ship built for war, a corvette 75m long, armed with 18 heavy cannons.
On March 13th 1821, twelve days before the official beginning of the War of Independence, the first flag was raised on Spetses by Bubulina on the main mast of the Agamemnon, and was saluted with cannon fire in front of Spetses harbour. Bouboulina's flag showed an eagle with an anchor at one foot and a phoenix rising from the flames at th other. This symbolises the rebirth of the nation with the help of the naval forces which are represented on flag by the anchor. Her flag was similar to that of the Byzantine emperor Comnenos. On April 3rd Spetses island revolted and a few days later followed Hydra ans Psara.
Upon the Spetsiot uprising, Bouboulina, commanding a fleet of eight vessels - five of which were her own - sailed towards Nafplion and began it's naval blockade. With its three forts - Bourtzi, Acronafplia and tbe famous Palamidi and armed with three hundred carnnons, Nafplion was considered to be impregnable. Bouboulina landed with her forces at nearby Mili, where her fiery words and great enthusiasm gave courage to the Greekland forces to keep on with the siege of Nafplion. Her naval attacks on Nafplion' s seaside fortifications were actions of unrivalled heroism - as told by the historian Anargyros Hatzi-Anargyrou, in an eyewitness account.
Bubulina also took part in the naval blockade and subsequent capture of Monemvasia, which was another fort along tbe Peloponnesian coast. Her ships also blockaded Pylos, close to the southern tip of the Peloponnese and brought supplies to the coastal town of Galaksidi in the Corinthian gulf. The captains of her ships were her sons and her half brothers. Her brave lads fought many battles alongside the Greek land forces. At the battle of Argos - a city close to Nafplion - a few dozen Spetsiots, having as their leader Bouboulina's son Yiannis Yiannouzas, put up a fight against more than two thousand Turks, under the command of the notoriously barbaric Veli-Bey. The battle was unequal, and like the ancient Greek warrior Leonidas, Yiannouzas fell like a hero. He charged on foot against the Turkisb riders and Veli-Bey who was well protected by his soldiers. He brought the Turk down from his horse and mortally wounded him witb his sword. As he was about to finish him off, a bullet struck Yiannouzas on the forebead and left him dead.
A few days before the fall of Tripolis which was then the capital city of the Peloponnese and thus the headquarters of the Turkish pasha ruling the area Bouboulina arrived at the Greek camp outside the city riding a white horse and accompanied by her Spetsiot warriors. She was received with loud cheers. At the camp she met General Kolokotronis who was the leading male figure in the War of Independence. A feeling of respect and friendship developed between them to such a degree that later they became relatives by the marriage of their children, Eleni Boubouliand Panos Kolokotronis. She took part as an equal with the rest of the generals, in their war meetings and decision making. On the 11th Septemher 1821 Tripoli fell to the surrounding Greek forces.
She was shot on 22nd May 1825, in a dispute with members of Koutsis family in Spetses. Thus an unjust and inglorious end for this woman who did so much for her country. After her death the Russians gave her title of admiral, an honour the honorary unique even now in world naval history for a female figure.