THE DAPIA AND THE HOUSE
All the boats dock close to the harbour of the ‘Dapia’, which is about half-way along the three kilometres of waterfront. At the landward end of the harbour mole, the first building you encounter is the so-called ‘Chancellery’—a modest, symmetrical building in stone dating from the turn of the 19th century—whose name comes from the fact that it was the Town Hall and meeting-place of the island’s elders at the time of the War of Independence. The harbour here is shallow and exposed, and the island’s fleet principally used the Old Harbour; even so, the front at the Dapia is fortified, and some of its cannon emplacements remain. The name ‘Dapia’ comes from the Turkish word, ‘tabya’, meaning a bastion or fort. Today it is a raised esplanade crowded with cafe tables and is the focus for the summer ‘volta’—the constitutional taken at sundown by Greeks in order to see and be seen. Overlook the area is the statue of the island’s heroine, Laskarina Bouboulina—portrayed in no mood for joking.
The House of Bouboulina, now a small, well-maintained museum, stands just across the street from the southwest corner of the Dapia. (Open daily 25 March–31 Oct; visits are by guided-tours only, in either English or Greek, at times advertised at the entrance.) The house, which dates from c. 1700, is still used by Bouboulina’s descendants.
The building, enclosed in a walled-garden, must have stood on its own as a small rural estate in the early 18th century. It belonged to Bouboulina’s second husband, Dimitrios Bouboulis. Its style is distantly Italianate, with the main reception rooms on the upper floor giving onto an arcaded loggia. The simplicity of the interior—as with the early mansions of Hydra—is again reminiscent of early American houses of the same epoch. The most ornate element is the magnificent *wooden ceiling in the main room, which is of Florentine workmanship, and Balkan-Ottoman design.
Most of the furniture was of French or Italian origin—including an impregnable safe of remarkableenuity. In the upstairs rooms, which have been left as little changed as possible, are many of Bouboulina’s memorabilia—her pistol, the Ottoman license for her ship, Agamemnon, bearing the imperial seal or tugra, and a particularly beautiful head-scarf which she customarily wore. Only four rooms can be visited, but they give a clear sense of the tasteful and comfortable simplicity of well-to-do living in the Aegean in the early 19th century.
LASKARINA BOUBOULINA, 1771–1825
As the self-appointed commander of her own squadron of warships, an indomitable fighter, the only female member of the Philiki Etaireia (the secret society of Greeks living mostly overseas who were preparing Greece for its independence revolution), and the only Greek to be posthumously honoured with the rank of Admiral in the Russian Navy, Laskarina Bouboulina is one of the most remarkable figures of the Greek Independence struggle. She was born of Hydriot parents in Constantinople during the imprisonment of her father there by the Otto man authorities for his part in the First Russo-Turk ish War. After his death she grew up with her mother partly in Hydra, partly in Spetses. By the age of 40 she had been married and widowed twice; she was left with seven children, but possessed a considerable inheritance from her two husbands—which, although threatened with confiscation on a political pretext by the Turks, was eventually released after her deter mined appeals in person both to the Russian Ambassador at the Ottoman Court, Count Stroganov, and to the mother of Sultan Mahmud II. Whilst in the capital she had cultivated her contacts with the Philiki Etaireia which encouraged her to continue her preparations for the revolution. She purchased arms and ammunition at her own expense and completed the construction of her warship, the Agamemnon, by bribing Turkish officials to ignore the fact that it exceeded the dimensions permitted by Ottoman law and flouted the restrictions on arming of craft. She is said to have preceded the official declaration of war by raising and saluting her own revolutionary flag as early as 13 March 1821. In action, she and the vessels under her command distinguished them selves against heavy odds at the blockades of Nauplia, Monemvasia and Pylos; she also participated together with her son at the siege of Tripoli in the Peloponnese, where—fulfilling a promise she evidently had made to the Sultan’s mother—she succeeded in saving the women of the harem from the indiscriminate slaughter and reprisals following the fall of the city. Three years later, however, her opposition to the unwarranted imprisonment of Theodore Kolokotronis earned her the displeasure of the new Greek government, and she returned to Spetses rather than be arrested and imprisoned herself. She became em broiled in a feud after her son had eloped with the daughter of Christodoulos Koutsis, scion of another prominent naval family of Spetses, and was shot in May 1825, in a dramatic settling of domestic scores. Her flagship, Agamemnon, was donated by her descendants to the state and re-commissioned with the name, Isle of Spetses. It was destroyed and sunk by Andreas Miaoulis during civil strife in 1831 in the harbour of Poros (see ‘Battle of Poros’, pp. 108–111).
Spetses Island is part of the Argosaronic Island Group, Greece.