OF THE PELOPONNESOS
Much has been said and written about the great forerunner of 1821. The limited space of this com- memorative album does not allow us to refer to his biography even in synopsis, let alone deal with the views and evaluations of the historians who have studied him. However, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever, that Zaharias was one of the brightest personalities of modern Greece. Nor is it hyperbole to say that he was the first in the hierarchy, the Chief Capetanios, the Leader and that most of the more famous Klepht Capetanios of 1821 were his comrades at arms and his students. The academic Spyros Melas in his book, 0 Geros tou Mona (The Old Man of Morias), characteristically writes: “After the loss of Zaharias there was no other personality to electrify the populace except for Kolokotronis... He had sprung out of the school of Zaharias” And later on he says, “That which Zaharias could not fulfill and see it grow, the Filikoi were able to more than accomplish”.
And Thanos Vagenas (Peloponniasiki Protohronia — Klephtes tou Malevou — Peloponisian New Year’s Day — Klephts of Malevou — page 188) writes: “Pre-eminent among everyone there appears the Great Zaharias Barbitsiotis, that immortal but so unappreciated and undervalued National and Popular fighter of Mona, who has many songs in his name in our aged Malevo. And one of them is the most characteristic for the manner in which it presents the great palikaria of Zaharias and demonstrates the popular perception and understanding that he was above everyone from the entire older Klephtouria.
The snows are shining in the mountains and the sun in the valleys,
That’s how Zaharias is shining amongst all the palikaria.
The Tsankonian mountains are brimming with tears,
Was it the northwind that blew them, was it the heavy winter,
Neither the northwind blew them, nor the heavy winter,
No one even stepped on them from the old Klephts.
But Zaharias did step on them, still trampling them,
And Zaharias is enjoying them with Koulo-Mertzilios...
Capetan Zaharias, the Barbitsiotis, is the thryllic personality of Malevou, born and bred of the moun- tain, protector and defender of his people, with numerous customs, traditions and historical events which have been enacted on the trunk of this grand mountain of the Mona.
He was born in Barbitsa, Laconia, on the western slopes of Malevou, most probably in 1759, and he was the immortal “Eagle of Malevou” with his prowess and his support of the Hellenic people, who breathed from the tyranny, thanks to the heroic actions of this Archklepht.
His murder in i8o5, by the Maniatis Koukeas, was the prologue of the eradication of the Klephts of the Mona, especially during the persecution of the winter of 1805 and i8o6.
The songs of Zaharias are many, as are the many historical events which are identified with various places of the Mona. And all of them speak for the famous Capetanios of the Klephts, the Greatest National Symbol of the years of Bondage, which has not yet received its absolute vindication.
+ The word “klepht” here denotes a guerrilla fighter, because of their deft tactics and not a “thief” which is the more common meaning.