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September 5, 2015

Armata Festival 2015

Undoubtedly, Armata Festival is one of the most popular festivals of Greece that takes place on the second weekend of September on an annual basis celebrating Panagia Armata (Virgin Armed) and commemorating Spetses’ great Naval Battle of 1822. Spetses is one of the nine European cities participating in the European Network of Historical Reconstructions. Thousands of people visit Spetses every year to experience this magnificent spectacle that leaves everyone spellbound and touched from the Greek spirit of self-sacrifice. The festival of Armata is a once in a lifetime experience, full of emotions and extravagant events, you deserve to live for once.

The Armata Festival, which this year will be held from 5th to 11th September, has its heart, as always, the burning of the Turkish Flagship replica in the re-enactment of the Naval Battle of Spetses, which took place on 8th September 1822. The revival of this historical event is the top of the climax of a weekly celebration with a multitude of cultural festivities including traditional dances, theater performances, concerts, art exhibitions and various events honoring Laskarina Bouboulina, the legendary heroine of the Greek Revolution. Furthermore, a special celebration takes place at the chapel of Panagia Armata at Palio Limani. During the re-enactment in the island’s port, there will be a narration of the historic events of that day with the atmosphere filled with emotion and wonder!

During the second year of the Greek War of Independence of 1821, the Turkish forces started drawing up plans to conquer Spetses, which was considered to be the «heart» of the Greek fight. Besides, the participation of the Spetsiots’ ships to the blockade of the nearby city of Nauplia prevented the Turkish forces from supplying the city. Their fleet was important counting 87 ships. The Spetsiots, having been informed about the intentions of the Turkish fleet, started taking measures to protect the island. They came in contact with the inhabitants of the nearby island of Hydra and they decided to face the enemy fleet with joint forces. The Spetsiots moved the civilians away from the island and they organized gun emplacements. The most important was the one set between the Lighthouse and the Virgin Mary’s of Armata Church. Sixty Spetsiots staffed the gun emplacement and Hatzigiannis Mexis was put in command. A day before the great naval battle, the Spetsiot admiral Giorgos Androutsos called all the commanders of the Greek fleet to a martial council which took place on the flagship of Andreas Miaoulis.

According to the plan, the Greek fleet, consisting of 57 boats – 29 from Hydra, 28 from Spetses and 12 fireboats – was to be separated into two divisions. The strongest would sail for the islet of Dokos, in an attempt to mislead the Turks. The rest of the forces would gather in the straits of Spetses, in order to detain the enemy fleet. On the morning of September 8th, the Turkish ships began reaching Spetses. Mehmet Pasha located the division of the Greek fleet sailing for Dokos and sent several of his ships to chase it. He directed the rest of his forces to the island of Spetses, expecting that the large number and the size of his ships would scare so much the Spetsiots that they would surrender. However, Mehmet Pasha underestimated the Spetsiots’ courage. As his fleet reached the island, Hatzigiannis Mexis and his men started firing. Afterwards, the Spetsiots commanders I. Koutsis, I. Tsoupas, D. Labrou, A. Lebesis and the commander from Hydra A. Panagiotas attacked the enemy. Soon after, the admiral Andreas Miaoulis ordered the return of the division of the Greek fleet that was heading for Dokos, and the attack against the Turkish fleet. The opposing forces fired over 3000 cannonballs against each other. As the naval battle was in progress, two Greek fire ships – Andreas Pipinos from Hydra and Kosmas Barbatsis from Spetses – came to the field. Andreas Pipinos attached his fire ship to a Turkish corvette, but the crew managed to detach it, with great losses. Kosmas Babatsis was luckier.

He attached his boat to the Turkish flagship and, although the Turks managed to save their ship in the end, the damages were irremediable with numerous dead and injured men. The intervention of the fire ships scared the Turks away. The Ottoman admiral realized that the Greeks’ defense would not let him implement his plans. Under the fear of more attacks from fire ship, the Turkish fleet left the naval battle. The major victory of the Spetsiot naval forces against the Ottoman fleet during the Greek War of Independence of 1821 was accomplished because of the brave act of Spetsiot Captain Kosmas Barbatsis who set the Turkish flagship on fire and blow it up.

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