Rigas Feraios’ Skopelos

Among the interests of this publication are the various ways in which the island of Skopelos is presented on maps. Old maps are a record of how humans thought of themselves in relation to their physical (and political in this case) place in the world. Some maps are navigational and describe directions and obstacles from getting to one place from another. Others are political and describe conceptual (if not legal) borders of nations or kingdoms or empires. The map pictured is a detail from a 1797 political/propagandist map by Regas Feraios. As the Skopelos section shows, the map was not meant to be a navigational tool.

Rigas Feraios gained herohood as pioneer of the Greek War of Independence. He was a Magnesias/Thessaly (Velesetino) born late 18th century writer, political thinker and revolutionary. Feraios left Thessaly when in his 20s and spent time at Mt Athos and Constantinople before setting up as a “dragoman” (interpreter/translator) at the French Consulate in Bucharest, the capital of Ottoman Wallachia. A “dragoman” at the French consulate translated European languages to and from Turkish. European political news and ideas perhaps not available further south in the Balkans were naturally part of the conversation at the French Consulate. He was also in contact there with the Greek diaspora some of whom were secretly planning for an eventual liberation of Greek speaking territories from Ottoman rule. Ethnic Greeks had communities all over the Balkans and there was no “Greece” so, if one is planning to liberate and create a new nation state, where would one begin and end?

Feraios had an idea about where a “Greece” would begin and end. In Vienna he edited a Greek language newspaper and published pamphlets, some of which were translations to Greek of French enlightenment thought including The “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”. In 1797 he drew and published a map of the Balkan peninsula called the “Charta tou Riga”. https://el.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CE%A7%CE%AC%CF%81%CF%84%CE%B1_%CF%84%CE%BF%CF%85_%CE%A1%CE%AE%CE%B3%CE%B1 (in Greek and includes a hi-res image of the whole map)

The map “Ellados” pictures a unified and liberated Balkan peninsula from the Danube to the Libyan Sea and from the Adriatic to Asia Minor (including Constantinople). It was as much an educational tool as a statement of what would comprise a new nation/state of a liberated Ellados (Greece).

In 1798 Ferios was captured and executed in the Balkans after attempting to meet with Napoleon in Italy. A whole other story.

Χάρτα του Ρήγα
Map by Rigas 1797 (Skopelos inside red circle) click to enlarge


2 thoughts on “Rigas Feraios’ Skopelos

  1. Just don’t use the map to find your way around, unless you drive standing on your head. The Rigas map borrowed from a lot of previously published charts and repeated inaccuracies – as do modern cartographers. But as I mentioned navigation wasn’t the point of his map anyway. He was charting the possible future if his plans worked out.

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