by wjw on October 31, 2022

Behold Bouboulina, sea-captain, freedom fighter, and the first woman ever appointed an admiral (and in two navies, Russian and Greek!).

I encountered this statue on the island of Spetses, where her house has been turned into a museum by her descendants, who still own it.

She was born in a Turkish prison in 1771, where her father had been imprisoned for participating in the Orlov revolt against the Turks– in which Catherine the Great provoked a rebellion in Greece, not because she gave a damn about Greek freedom, but because she wanted to distract the Turks, with whom she was at war. Bouboulina’s father died in prison, and the family relocated to Spetses at the entrance to the Argolid. She married twice and was widowed twice, both her husbands dying in battle against Moorish pirates. The last husband, Boubouli, left her a lot of money, as well as ships, and she set about building her own private warship, the 18-gun brig Agamemnon, for which she actually received permission from the Sultan (she had bribed a number of Turkish officials by that point.)

She sailed Agamemnon into battle in the Greek War of Independence in 1821, eventually commanded a squadron, and blockaded Argos, which eventually fell. (She was over fifty by this point.) Though Greece received its freedom, Bouboulina had spent all her money on her war, and she was relatively poor by war’s end. She died in 1824 from a gunshot in a dispute with a neighboring family. and she received posthumous appointments to Admiral in the Russian Navy, and Rear-Admiral in Greece.

Irene Pappas played her in a movie. I’ll try to track it down.

[Incidentally, I have heavily edited Bouboulina’s career for the sake of brevity. Her life is full of incident and excitement.]

The collection of artifacts in the Bouboulina house include her pistol, a selection of weapons, the firman from the Sultan, various portraits, a large scale model of the Agamemnon, and a painting of Bouboulina being rowed into battle that is reminiscent of another painting better known in the States. It appeared at the same time as the Leutze painting— which painting influenced which?

Chris October 31, 2022 at 3:32 pm

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