Presence and Activity of the Friendly Society ("Philiki Etairia")

Crete’s link to the Friendly Society is discernible on two main levels. A substantial number of Christians, mostly merchants, were initiated outside Crete. On the island itself, the Society’s activity focused on urban centres, where Apostles (‘co-ordinators’) such as the teachers Kallinikos Verroiaios and Georgios Vaou are known to have been present from the autumn of 1820 onwards. Yet the number of initiates never exceeded eighty-three, including doctors, teachers, merchants, members of the Church and even employees in the Ottoman administration.

No reports of such activity in the countryside are known of, with the sole exception of Sphakia. To be more specific, reference is made to the presence there of at least one Apostle, Nikolaos Vareltzoglou or Karantzas, in March 1821, though two different people may have been involved: N. Karatzas and Dimitrios Boyiatzoglou.

Preparing for Conflict

Being all too aware that the potential for conflict was looming, both sides made preparations of various kinds. The Ottoman authorities ordered the seizure of all weapons in Christian hands, shored up town defences and attempted to lay in supplies. Similarly, following successive meetings, in late March the Sphakians decided to buy weapons and supplies and forge alliances within and beyond the island. It was mainly to the Aegean Islands, Hydra and Spetses that they turned, while also striving to strengthen their bonds with the Friendly Society.

A decisive role was played by information on events in the Peloponnese and the other areas in revolt, which usually arrived at some delay. Awaiting developments, both sides remained on alert, in full knowledge of both their strengths and their weaknesses. Nevertheless, particularly after the official condemnation of the revolution on 18th May, repeated acts of violence against the Christian population rendered any prospect of compromise unfeasible, essentially leaving the resort to arms as the only option.