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Abstract

In response to the boom of piracy during the Greek War of Independence, Western powers, including the USA, sent naval squadrons to the Aegean to protect their commercial interests. Only limited attention has hitherto been given to these squadrons, even though their operations raise many interesting issues. My paper focuses on the operations of the US Mediterranean Squadron, which represent “the first extensive experience of Greece by a large number of Americans.” I examine aspects of the political deliberations and tactical operations of the squadron, and the cultural interaction of its personnel with the revolutionary Greeks. Emphasis is placed on a violent operation on Mykonos in 1827, which targeted the pirate Mermelechas, a semi-legendary local hero, who intrigued the Americans to a surprising extent. This interest can be explained in the light of the “Greek fervor” and the passion for pirate stories which swept the USA at the time. More broadly, the paper exposes the role of the US Mediterranean Squadron in carrying textual and visual documentation of the revolutionary Greeks across the Atlantic.

Short CV

Antonis Kotsonas is Associate Professor of Mediterranean History and Archaeology at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University. Previously he worked at other universities in the USA, the UK, Greece, and The Netherlands. Kotsonas holds a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, an M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge, and a B.A. from the University of Crete. He has published four books and numerous articles on the material culture and socio-economic history of ancient Greece and the Mediterranean, focusing mostly on the Early Iron Age and the Archaic period. He has also written on the history of Greek and Mediterranean archaeology and the reception of Classical antiquity. Kotsonas co-directs the Lyktos Archaeological Project in Crete.