Updated: Apr 21
In our Greeks and Galleys series, we're exploring famous Greek ships and their captains – casting off with Laskarina Bouboulina, a hero of the Greek War for Independence and the world’s first woman admiral.
It was the year 1771. On the damp, dirty ground of a prison, Laskarina Bouboulina was born. This prison was far from home, in the crowded, bustling city of Constantinople.
For over 300 years, Greece had been under the rule of the Ottoman empire. The Greeks suffered greatly during this time. Many were extremely poor, and sometimes Greek children were kidnapped at a young age and forced to join the Ottoman army!
As a girl, Laskarina grew up on the island of Spetses. She sought every possible opportunity to be by the sea, whether through swimming, fishing, or sailing.
Marriages and War with the Ottomans
Laskarina was married twice, and she looked for husbands who had the same interests as her. In fact, both her husbands were sailors, and both of them died in the same way: killed by Algerian pirates!
In 1818, Laskarina joined a secret organisation that planned to start a war between the Greeks and the Ottomans, known as the Filiki Eteria. As part of her efforts in this war, she built a ship called Agamemnon. This was the largest Greek ship of the time.
The Agamemnon was a brig. This means it had two masts and square sails, like in the picture below. However, you could also call it a corvette, which means a battle ship with one row of cannons.
The ship was armed with 18 cannons. It was 31 metres long with 14 sails and a crew of up to 16 people, able to hold hundreds of soldiers.
It was the pride of the Greek navy and was used most famously at the siege of Nafplion. Its role was to blockade the Ottomans, stopping them from accessing the city by sea while Greek soldiers took control of the city from the inside.
The Agamemnon got its name from a mythical Greek king. King Agamemnon fought for the Greeks during the Trojan War, and was a ferocious, warlike king. He was even willing to kill his own daughter in sacrifice to the goddess Artemis, so that the Greeks could fight, and win, against the Trojans!
Bouboulina’s Death and Admiralship
After her military success, Laskarina moved to a house in Nafplion, which she had helped liberate from the Ottomans.
Years later, in 1825, her son ran off with the daughter of a wealthy family. The daughter’s family tried to find the lovers at Laskarina’s house. Laskarina was not hiding her son, but when she confronted the family, they shot her dead!
After her death, she was made an honorary Admiral of the Russian Navy, making her the first woman admiral — though not the first living woman admiral!
Laskarina Bouboulina’s ship, the Agamemnon, had a flag like in the picture above. If you had a ship of your own, what would its flag look like? Let's try designing one!
On the flag, you should include:
The name of your ship
Consider the name of your ship, and the symbol on your flag. They should reflect things that you admire, and what you think is best about the world.
For example, Bouboulina named her ship Agamemnon because she admired the mythical Greek king of that name. She chose an eagle for her symbol, because the eagle was a symbol of the power of Greece, free from the Ottomans.
Once you've decided on these details, gather some paper and coloured pencils, and then it's time to bring your flag to life!
Once you’re done, why not send us a picture of your work? We’d love to take a look! You can get a parent or guardian to help send photos of your work to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, λεῖος πλόος !