Memorial service and wreath laying ceremony to commemorate Theodoros Kolokotronis
Date - Sunday, 6 February 2022
The annual wreath laying ceremony in honour of the 1821 War of Independence hero, Theodoros Kolokotronis, was held at the church of Axion Estin on the anniversary of his death. Welcomed by Emily Kazakos, Head of Public Relations of the Panarcadian Association of Melbourne and Victoria, representatives of various Greek organisations attended to honour τον Γερο του Μορια.
Emotional speeches were given by Emmanuel Kakavelakis, Consul General of Greece in Melbourne, as well as Dimitris Alexopoulos, President of the Panarcadian Federation, and John Dimitropoulos, President of the Panarcadian Association of Melbourne and Victoria. The text of John’s speech is listed below.
We gather here today to commemorate Greece’s national hero – Theodoros Kolokotronis. He died in 1843, 179 years ago.
We are all familiar with his feats and how he masterfully guided an irregular army to several strategic victories ultimately leading to the defeat of the mighty Ottoman Empire and to the Independence of Greece. His military acumen has been well-documented and his strategic victories
recorded. So, in preparing this paper to pay homage and my tribute to him, I sought to understand why, he more than any other Greek independence hero is acclaimed as the National Hero.
That took me to 1770 – the year of his birth. This period in history is known as the Age of Revolutions and is best remembered for the American Revolution, the French Revolution but also significantly for the Greek War of Independence. 1770 not only was birth year of Kolokotronis, it was also the year of the Orlov Revolt – one of many unsuccessful uprisings by the Greeks against the Turks. His grandfather, Ioannis Kolokotronis took part in that armed rebellion together with his 3 sons including Konstantinos, the father of Theodoros.
Tragically, Ioannis and 2 of his sons were killed in those battles. Konstantinos survived and continued his fight against the Turks and the quest
for freedom. Konstantinos was revered as a fearsome fighter inflicting many defeats upon the Turks.
During the Siege of Kastania in 1780, Konstantinos was severely wounded and later slaughtered. Theodoros Kolokotronis was now 10 years of age and fatherless. He was well aware of the heroism of the Kolokotroneoi (as they were known) as freedom fighters and the esteem and respect that his fellow Greeks had for the Kolokotroneoi clan. This well-known folk song was attributed to the Kolokotroneoi clan
On a horse they go to church,
On a horse they kiss the icons,
On a horse they receive communion from the priest’s hand.
The Church and religion must have been a significant influence during Kolokotronis’ development as he is quoted as having said:
“God has signed the freedom of Greece and will not take his signature back.”
«Ο Θεός υπέγραψε την ελευθερία της Ελλάδος και δεν παίρνει πίσω την υπογραφή του».
Maybe he considered it his destiny to lead Greece knowing the history of the Kolokotroneoi. Maybe he was influenced by the words of Rigas Feraios who wrote Καλύτερα μίας ώρας ελεύθερη ζωή παρά σαράντα χρόνια σκλαβιά και φυλακή.
Whatever it was, we stand here today to pay tribute to General Theodoros Kolokotronis as the leader of the Greek forces that finally ousted the Turks after nearly 400 years of Ottoman rule.
There is a statue of General Kolokotronis in front of the Old Parliament House in Athens, by the renowned sculptor Lazaros Sochos, with a plaque dedicated to Kolokotronis’ memory which says:
Ride on, oh Brave General, on the back of your horse, teaching the nations through the centuries, as to how slaves can become free men.
That perhaps best summarises the legacy of Theodoros Kolokotronis and why we are honoured to be of Arcadian ancestry and proud that our Association is named Kolokotronis.