Admiral, Statesman, Hero of the Greek War of Independence, Prime Minister of Greece (1793 – 1877)
Admiral of the Greek navy and ardent patriot, Constantine Canaris dominated the seas in the battles of the Greek War of Independence of 1821. His name became synonymous with the destruction of the Turkish flagships and the immense bravery he and his crew displayed. Following the Greek War of Independence, Canaris pursued a successful career in politics, serving as Greece’s Prime Minister 5 times.
Canaris came from the island of Psara. Prior to becoming the famed admiral feared by the Turks, he was a humble merchant, who travelled from Marseille to Odessa, building a wealthy fortune. With the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, Canaris joined the navy to wholeheartedly fight for Greece’s freedom. Unlike most other heroes of the Greek War of Independence, Canaris most probably was never a member of the Philiki Hetaereia (Society of Friends).
His participation in the front lines of the Greek War of Independence proved to have had a decisive role in its outcome. In 1922, following the massacre of Chios, where 30.000 people were killed or held hostage by the Turks, Canaris was one of the ship owners who sailed to the island to rescue the remaining survivors. His widespread fame, however, that earned him the admiration of acclaimed European artists and writers such as Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and Pierre de Beranger, was as a triumphant destroyer of the Turkish flagships.
His first appearance in the war was on June 7th, 1821, when at night he and his crew risked their lives to set ablaze and destroy the Turkish flagship, in retaliation for the massacre of Chios. Numerous such successful attempts followed, which further stimulates the Greeks’ esteem. Furthermore, Canaris led the Greeks in a number of battles in the seas against the Ottoman fleet, such as in the Battle of Samos.
In 1826, Canaris was appointed representative of the Psara islands in the Third National Assembly of Troizena. With the coming of John Kapodistrias in Greece in 1827, Canaris was made captain of the navy. Together with admiral Andreas Miaoulis they were responsible for clearing the Aegean Sea of piracy. He was an ardent proponent of John Kapodistrias.
Canaris entered politics in 1843, as a member of the Russian party. He held the Ministry of Shipping under various different governments and served as Prime Minister of Greece himself a total of 5 times. He was bestowed the title of Vice Admiral and an honorary pension by the Greek state, the latter of which he refused.
Canaris died in 1877 while still in office as Prime Minister. He was made a national hero of Greece and his name surpassed the Greek borders to become one of the most respected heroes of the Greek War of Independence. Today, several ships of the Greek navy bear his name, in his honour.
- Κανάρης Κωνσταντίνος. Αργολική Αρχειακή Βιβλιοθήκη Ιστορίας και Πολιτισμού. Argolikivivliothiki.gr. March 16, 2012. Web.
- Μιχαλακόπουλος, Ιωάννης. Ο Μπουρλοτιέρης και Πρωθυπουργός Κωνσταντίνος Κανάρης. Πεμπτουσία. Pemptousia.gr. September 22, 2017. Web.