King's College London
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Byron & politics: ‘born for opposition’

47. 'View of Albanian palikars in pursuit of an enemy'

KCL Rare Books Collection DF723 H89

Thomas Smart Hughes published this two-volume work in 1820, based on his travels to Sicily, Greece and Albania in 1813-4.

The illustrations were drawn by the architect Charles Robert Cockerell, who moved in Byron’s circle in Constantinople and Athens in 1810-11.

Hughes describes a typical Albanian palikar, an armed follower of a military chief:

he carries a musket over his shoulder, a pistol and an ataghan in his belt, with a narrow crooked sabre slung at his side ... thus equipped and shorn after the fashion of the Abantes, with his little red skull-cap on his head, his fleecy capote thrown carelessly over his shoulder, his embroidered jacket, his white camise, or kilt, and his scarlet buskins embossed with silver, he calls himself a palikar, or warrior … His school of war is one of unbridled licence more than of military discipline, of cunning more than magnanimity.

This was exactly the dress and armament of the Souliots, tough warriors from north-west Greece who had earned Byron’s admiration when they rescued him and Hobhouse after their ship was wrecked in 1809.

When Byron reached Missolonghi at the beginning of 1824, there were approximately 3,000 of these soldiers encamped in and around the town. He at once agreed to pay the wages of a corps that would soon become known as the ‘Byron Brigade’.

In this exhibition


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