“This 52 years old man was truly made to lead the Fight at Pelopennese (Morea). His solid body, his big head, his long hair, his smart eyes, his wide forehead, his strong voice, all these created his stately image that could impress all hill people of Pelopennese.” But his imposing appearance was not all he had; he had all the charismas that make a leader stand out from the rest. He was eloquent, good in judgement and carried out strategic planning, he knew people and situations and was very determined. His words were so highly estimated that it was enough for someone to say “the Old Man said it”, as the ancients would say for Pythagoras “he himself said”.
They called him Old Man of the Morea, not for his age, but for his wisdom. They knew that when he said something he first would have given it a lot of thought, discussed all the aspects with others who had knowledge on the matter and at last, that he’d courageously take responsibility for his words and actions.
He descended from a family of chieftains in Arcadia, was born in a creek of Messinia in 1770 and his whole life was a war against the Turkish invaders.
In 1843, Greece was already a liberated independent country. On New Year’s Day of this year, Kolokotronis, who is by now of old age and ill and lives in Athens, gets visited by a man he knows, called S.P. This man brought with him a younger man called M, who studies in Europe and is keen to meet the legend of the War of Independence and to give his wishes for the New Year. As they were talking, a funeral procession on the street outside made the Old Man tell them a story of a wise man from Persia, who had visited him once in Athens. Everyone admired this wise man because every time someone died, he could tell them whether he’d go to heaven or hell. Then, someone who couldn’t resist his curiosity asked him how he could know such things. The wise man from Persia replied that he would send his assistant to the funeral and depending on whether the attendants were cheering or cursing for the deceased, he knew where he’d end up. “It’s actually quite simple, he said; bad men take with them the curse of their fellow citizens and the rage of people. Curses are the precursor of god’s judgement. But righteous men, take with them peoples’ blessings and good words. Everyone stands above the grave with tears in the eyes while telling stories of all the good deeds the deceased has made and with shaky hands they throw a handful of dirt into his grave”. Then, Kolokotronis, advises the young man from Kefallinia who is studying in Europe:
«Do you see this room? It is plain, has no chairs, the walls are dried, – that is the country Greece we, the old ones, have handed over to you, the young ones. We were the ones who cleaned this place up in 1821, we carried the rocks, we built it. And now all of you will decorate these empty walls, you will bring valuable paintings, you will set up beautiful tables and mirrors, and this will be the result of your success and your studies. Your fellow citizens’ wishes and the works you will do will lift you up to the immortal places of the just. Mr. M, share with your nation the knowledge of the Europeans, which, as my superiors in knowledge tell me, is in fact the Greek knowledge. The blessed wind of wisdom blew happily from our homeland to the rest of Europe, and now you have to bring back the “bride” to her birthplace.”
A month later, on February 4th, the “Old Man” died of a stroke. “But neither S.P. nor the young man attended his funeral. They did not get the chance to see that the deep mourning of all the Greeks, their good words and their desolated weeping, bared testimony for the Judge in the heavens to the good deeds and struggling efforts of this good Greek to liberate his country.”
Happy Independence Day Greece!