Athanasios Diakos (~1788 - 24/04/1821)
He was born sometime in 1788, in the prefecture of Phokis and his real name was probably Athanasios Massavetas. He was the grandson of a klepht (highwaymen that acted during the Ottoman oppression of Greece and waged a continuous war against Ottoman rule), who was killed battling the Turks. Later, his father was arrested while providing supplies to klephts and he was hanged with one of his other sons. His frightened mother took Athanasios to a monastery, where he would be much safer, as well as have a slightly better life due to special conditions that applied between monasteries and the Ottomans.
When he was a deacon, he was forced to flee; the reason is obscure and there are three versions of what happened. One version says that during a wedding, he followed the local custom of shooting in the air; however, one of the guests was killed and he was held responsible. A different version informs us that during that wedding, he was forced to kill a Turk, because the latter felt insulted when he was defeated at a shooting contest. Finally, local tradition says that while being a monk, Diakos was visited by a Turk pasha, who awed by his beauty, made sexual advances. Diakos was insulted and killed the pasha after a quarrel. He finally fled to the mountains and became a klepht as well.
At some point, he decided to return to the monastery, but the Turks waited for him and arrested him. The night before his execution, Diakos managed to escape. After learning that Ali pasha in Ioannina was making plans against the sultan and had invited all Greek leaders, he went there and enlisted in the pasha’s army, along with another Greek leader, Odysseus Androutsos. He also became a member of Filiki Etaireia, a secret society that made preparations for the War of Independence.
When the War started, Diakos along with a small crew went to Livadia and demanded that the Turks surrender. They denied and a three-day battle followed, resulting in the liberation of the city. Diakos then decided to intercept a Turkish squad that marched towards the Peloponnese and a battle ensued near Thermopylae. His forces were crushed; he was arrested and taken to Lamia. He was questioned harshly but Diakos did not yield. He was killed by impalement on 24 April 1821. The place of his death is disputed; it was either in Lamia or Alamana. It is also unknown what happened to his body. Initially, it was thrown in a pit, but tradition says that someone removed the body a few days later and buried it somewhere in Lamia. His remains have not been found.
Although the hideous death of Diakos initially horrified the people, his brave stance near Thermopylae, which is reminiscent of Leonidas’ defense against the Persians, turned him into a martyr that boosted the morale of the warring Greeks.