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Lord Byron's first journey to Greece remembered

An exhibition on the Philhellene poet Lord Byron will be on display at the Stoa tou Vivliou arcade housing several book shops on the corner Panepistimiou and Pesmazoglou streets in downtown Athens until April 19, the anniversary of his death, which has been declared as the "Philhellenism and International Solidarity Day". An event was held on Tuesday night at the Stoa marking the 200th anniversary of Byron's first visit to Greece. Addressing the event, journalist and writer Dimitris Kakavelakis noted that Lord Byron was a "top Philhellene who lived and created as a poet". "The ideal of lofty freedom was the incentive that made Byron identify himself with the Greek Revolution," Kakavelakis said, adding that Lord Byron was a "spirit of true freedom because he believed that freedom comes from within education".
On November 13, 1823, Lord Byron signed an agreement for loan of 4,000 British pounds to the Greek government because he believed in freedom throughout the world, according to economist and international affairs expert Panos Trigazis, president of the Byron League for Philhellenism and Culture, who added that Philhellenism is an international solidarity movement.

Lord Byron made his first trip to Greece in 1809 when he was 21 years-old. He first arrived in Patras on 26 September 1809 and subsequently travelled by ship to Preveza. From there he continued to Yiannena and Zitsa which he praised for its beauties in his letters and in his famed narrative poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage".

His next destination was the Albanian town of Tepeleni where he was received and hosted by Ali Pasha, one of the strongest regional leaders in the Ottoman Empire. Lord Byron left Tepeleni on 23 October 1809 and made the trip back to Zitsa, Yannena and Preveza. From there he travelled through Roumeli to Athens where he arrived on 25 December 2009.

Lord Byron stayed in Athens for 10 weeks and on 5 March 1810 he left for Izmir and Istanbul. He returned to Athens on 18 July 1810, and subsequently visited the Peloponnese twice.

On 22 April 1810 Lord Byron left Greece for England, and returned to Greece again on August 4, 1823, arriving on the Ionian island of Cephallonia. After signing the loan, from his own money, to refit the Greek fleet, he sailed for Messolonghi, where he arrived on December 29, to join the Greek statesman Alexandros Mavrokordatos.

Mavrokordatos and Byron planned to attack the Ottoman-held fortress of Lepanto at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth, and Byron employed a fire-master to prepare artillery and took part of the revolutionary army under his own command, but before the expedition could sail, on 15 February 1824 he fell ill, making a partial recovery but later developing a violent fever, and died on April 19, and his heart was buried in Messolongi.

The Greeks mourned Lord Byron deeply, and he became a hero. The national poet of Greece, Dionyssios Solomos, wrote a poem about the unexpected loss, named To the Death of Lord Byron. Vyron, the Greek form of "Byron", continues in popularity as a masculine name in Greece, and a suburb of Athens is called Vyronas in his honour.
Thursday, April 15, 2010