What follows is the text of Alexander Ypsilantis’s call to the Greek people to revolution against the Ottoman Empire. The proclamation is dated February 23 (Julian March 7), 1821. It was published in English in the Morning Chronicle of London on April 13, 1821. I made a couple of minor updates to the spelling of a few words, but otherwise the text is unchanged from that London text. As far as I know, this is the first time Ypsilantis’s proclamation has been published in English since 1821.
Ypsilantis’s proclamation contains several important references to Orthodoxy (e.g., “see our temples defiled,” “elevate the cross,” “avenge our country and our holy religion,” etc.), but it also incorporates pagan Greek imagery, most notably “The blood of our tyrants is dear to the shades” of the heroes of ancient Greece — a reference to blood feeding the shades/spirits of dead heroes in the Odyssey. While the Greek Declaration of Independence was not issued until January 1822, Ypsilantis’s proclamation is perhaps an even more pivotal document in the Greek War of Independence.
The hour has struck, valiant Greeks. For a long time the people of Europe, fighting for their rights and their liberties, invited us to follow them. They, although almost free, have sought with all their strength to increase their liberty, and thus all their happiness.
Our brethren and our friends are ready on all sides. The Serbians, the Suliotes, and all Epirus, await us in arms. Let us unite with enthusiasm, our country calls us on.
Europe has its looks fixed upon us, and is astonished at our tranquility. Let the sound, then, of our warlike trumpet, resound through all the mountains — let the valleys re-echo the terrible din of our arms! Europe will admire our valour and our trembling and debased enemies will fly before us.
The civilized people of Europe are busy in laying the foundations of their own happiness, and, full of gratitude for the benefits they received from our ancestors, desire the liberty of Greece. Showing ourselves worthy of our virtuous ancestors, and of the age, we hope to deserve their support and their aid, and many of them, partisans of liberty, will come to fight by our sides. — Let us march, friends, and you will see one of the first Powers protect our rights. You will see, even among our enemies some who will turn their backs on them, and will join us, drawn on by the justice of our cause. Let them present themselves with sincerity, and our country will receive them in her bosom. What, then, holds back your powerful arm? The enemy is weak and without courage, without vigour; our Generals are skillful, and the whole nation filled with enthusiasm.
Assemble! valiant and generous Greeks! Let the national phalanxes form, let the patriotic legions present themselves, and you will see the old Colossi of Despotism fall of themselves before our victorious standards. To the sound of our trumpet, echo will answer from all the shores of the seas of Ionia and the Aegean. The Greek ships, which, in time of peace, knew how to trade and fight, will spread fire and sword through all the ports of the tyrant, terror and death. What Greek friend will hear with indifference the call of his country? At Rome, a friend of Caesar, showing the bloody garment of the tyrant, roused the people to enthusiasm. What will you do then, Greeks? You whose country, stripped of her vestments, shows her wounds, and with a broken voice implores the help of her children? Providence, my dear fellow citizens, taking pity on our misfortunes, has so combined affairs, that with little trouble and efforts, we shall be able to acquire with liberty every kind of happiness. If then by an unpardonable indifference we do not take advantage of them, the Tyrant, become furious, will multiply his strength, and we shall be for ever the most wretched of all nations.
Turn your eyes, fellow citizens, and observe the deplorable situation; see our temples defiled, our children torn from our arms by our barbarous tyrants for their shameful pleasures; our houses despoiled, our fields devastated, and ourselves vile slaves. It is time to break an insupportable yoke, to deliver our country; to throw down the crescent from its height; to elevate the cross, the standard by which we may still conquer, and thus avenge our country and our holy religion from the profanation and the mockery of barbarians.
Among ourselves, the most noble is he who would most bravely defend the rights of his country; and who would most usefully serve it. The assembled nation will direct its friends, and to a Supreme tribunal all our actions will be subjected.
Let us then all act with one mind. Let the rich sacrifice a portion of their wealth. Let the ministers of religion excite the people by their own example. Let the learned contribute by their useful counsels; and let our brethren who serve foreign Powers either in a military or civil capacity, each take his leave of the Power whom he serves, and all united run the sublime and brilliant career which now opens to them. Let them each pay to his country the tribute which is due to her. Let us arm ourselves without delay with our ancient valour, and I promise, in a short time, victory, and with it every happiness. Where shall be found those mercenaries and vile slaves who would dare to oppose a nation combating for its own independence? Witness the heroic efforts of our ancestors. Witness Spain, which, single and alone, conquered the invincible phalanxes of a tyrant.
Fellow Citizens! Union, respect for our holy Religion, obedience to the laws, and to the Chiefs, a noble bravery and constancy assure us of victory. It will crown with laurels ever verdant our heroic efforts. It will engrave in ineffacible characters our names in the Temple of Immortality for the example of future generations. The country will recompense her true children who obey her voice, by the price of glory and of honour. But she will reprove as illegitimate, and as Asiatic bastards, those who show themselves deaf and disobedient to her call, abandoning their name, like that of traitors, to the malediction of posterity.
Let us recollect, brave and generous Greeks, the liberty of the classic land of Greece; the battles of Marathon and Thermopylae; let us combat upon the tombs of our ancestors, who, to leave us free, fought and died. The blood of our tyrants is dear to the shades of the Theban Epaminondas, and of the Athenian Thrasybulus, who conquered and destroyed the thirty tyrants — to those of Harmodius and Aristogiton, who broke the yoke of Pisistratus — to that of Timoleon, who restored liberty to Corinth and to Syracuse — above all, to those of Miltiades, Themistocles, Leonidas, and the three hundred who massacred so many times their number of the innumerable army of the barbarous Persians — the hour is come to destroy their successors, more barbarous and still more detestable. Let us do this or perish. To arms, my friends, your Country calls you.
(Signed) ALEX. YPSILANTI
Jassy, Feb. 23 (March 7), 1821