Kleftes – heroes or robbers?

Today I would like to tell an inquisitive reader about a whole layer of Greek culture, which played a big role in the liberation struggle of the Greeks against the Turks – about the Clefts.


Kleftis is literally a thief in English or a robber. During the Ottoman rule, in the north of Greece spontaneous detachments of partisans, fighters against the Turks, began to appear.
Later, the sea Clefts arose – pirates who attacked Turkish ships, but did not disdain to plunder peaceful, defenseless European merchant ships.
Initially, those people fled to the mountains who wanted an independent life, and for this they were ready for all the hardships.

Thus, the Klefts were rather motley armed scattered detachments that often not only feuded with each other, but also robbed both peaceful merchants and peasants, explaining the robberies by the fact that the funds go to the struggle for the liberation of Greece.
The Turks tried to come to an agreement with Klefts – they hired them for the service, as a militia – armored personnel, paid them money, but often the armatures, along with the mountain kleft, robbed the Turks during night raids.
Cleft created a whole layer of culture – dances, songs, legends.
In the years 1820-1830, when the Greek state was formed, the Kleths began to enjoy notoriety due to their violent nature, unwillingness to submit to state structures, cruelty, and an inclination to robbery.
Today the klefts are remembered for old songs about the adventures of the klefts and for one very common dish – “kleftiko mutton”.
At one time, the Kleft stole sheep from the Turks (and not only). Then they dug a hole, laid the meat, rubbed with salt and herbs. They filled up the hole and made a big fire from above. When the fire went out, the meat was dug up and aromatic and tender meat was eaten.
Today “kleftiko” is lamb baked in a wood-burning oven on charcoal.
Many famous heroes of the Greek resistance were Cleft, but unfortunately most of them died not at the hands of the Turks, but at the hands of their own Greeks!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *