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THE HANGED MEN

That morning, October 9th 1821, an inhabitant of Karava saw everything. He went straight to Hora and denounced the killers.

The English governor ordered a police inspector to go immediately to Karava. The inspector’s name was Jean Kasimatis, and he was a member of one of the dynasties which had ruled over Kythera for a long time. Kasimatis had no trouble arresting the guilty men and they were taken under guard to the jail in the fortress at Hora.

At the end of November, a military commission presided by Major Campbell, the commander of the garrison on Kythera, tried the seven accused. It was not hard to prove their crimes and they were all sentenced to death.

The wives of two of the men decided to do their utmost to save their husbands. They set off for Hora, taking their young children with them. They waited until the fortress gates opened and then rushed into the church, where they began to wail and moan and sob, encouraging their children to cry too and to beg for mercy. There happened to be two ladies present in Major Campbell’s office. They heard the noise and went to the window. They were moved by what they saw. The wives saw the ladies and their cries and their begging intensified as they raised their arms in prayer.

The ladies begged Major Campbell to receive the women, which he did. The man was renowned across the island for his compassion and generosity to the poor. He was deeply affected as he listened to the two women begging for their husbands to be spared and saw the young children weeping in distress.
Reflecting on the fact that because of him the children would become orphans, he ordered the two assassins to be released and reunited with their families. The five other condemned men were executed.

A hangman named Spiros had been especially summoned from Corfu for the hanging. He set up the gallows in a small square in the centre of Hora called Karvela. One by one, he made the prisoners climb onto a table with wheels, where he put the rope around their necks and then simply pushed the table away. The rope tightened and the men were strangled.

The English authorities were not satisfied with a simple execution, however. They wanted to make a lasting impression by playing on people’s imaginations. The hanged men’s corpses were covered in tar, to prevent the crows from devouring them, then placed in cages and suspended from the gallows in clear view not only of the village but from the sea too.
According to the island’s official records, the bodies remained in that state and position for five years. For such a heinous crime, the punishment had to be equally harsh.
If the English believed they could intimidate the Greeks in this way, they were seriously mistaken. What they didn’t know was that the hanged men, as paradoxical as it may appear, would have a rather unexpected career…


by Prince Michael of Greece