The Mavrogenis family of Paros

The Mavrogenis were a Phanariote family—that is, they were ‘old’ Greeks from Constantinople who had lived in the area of Phanari (today’s Fener) on the Golden Horn. When the city was captured by the Turks in 1453, a part of the family stayed; others left for the Peloponnese, from where they later moved to Paros in 1715. They were educated and wealthy people; Petros Mavrogenis served as combined British and Austrian consul in the Cyclades, and he sent his son Nicholas (b. 1738) to study in Constantino le with relatives who were ‘dragomans’—respected translator-envoys for Ottoman affairs in the pay of the Sultan. Nicholas followed a similar career and, as a brilliant linguist and a favourite of the Grand Vizier, Yusuf Pasha, he rose fast in the hierarchy and was eventually honoured with the title of ‘Prince of Wallachia’ (Romania). He staged an ostentatious en try into Bucharest followed by a coronation in May of 1786, and appears to have run a wayward and extravagant court in the city: his horse was given the honour of having the bedroom next to his own in the palace. But Mavrogenis was not without many redeeming features: from the start he insisted that the peasantry should be able to make their appeals to him directly and in person, and he constructed a gazebo specially for such audiences. His legislation helped both the Jewish and Orthodox communities, and he did much to help and protect his native Cycladic islands. On Paros, the aqueduct and marble fountains of Parikia and the lavishly cased icons are the most visible testimony; but he also restored churches, built schools and upgraded the port facilities.
   At first successful in his military campaigns, Mavrogenis ultimately failed the Ottoman cause when the Habsburg army invaded Wallachia in July 1789. A second defeat in 1790, cost him his life: he was killed on the Sultan’s orders and his head was sent to Istanbul to be impaled at Top KapΔ±. His remains were later buried in Bursa. Thomas Hope, who knew Ma vrogenis personally, included aspects of him in his remarkable novel, Anastasius, which took London by storm when it appeared in 1819. It is an irony that the grand-daughter of this prince of the Ottoman Empire should have been Mando Mavrogenous, the heroine of the Greek Revolution against Turkish rule. Mando died on Paros in 1840 and is buried in the courtyard of the Katapoliani­.

Travel Guide to Paros & Greece

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