Constantine Kanaris (or Canaris, Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Κανάρης) (1793 or 1795 – September 14, 1877) was a Greek Prime Minister, admiral and politician who in his youth was also a freedom fighter, pirate, privateer and merchantman.
He was born in Parga, in Epirus, and grew up on the island of Psara, close to the island of Chios, in the Aegean. His exact year of birth is unknown. The official records of the Hellenic Navy indicate 1795 but modern Greek historians believe that 1793 is more probable.
Constantine was left an orphan at a young age. Having to support himself, he chose to became a seaman like most members of his family since the beginning of the 18th century. He was hired as a boy on the brig of his uncle Dimitris Bourekas.
His surname 'Kanaris' is actually a nickname. His original name was Konstantinos Nikolaou Spilioteas. The etymology of his nickname could be derived from the Italian word 'Carenaggio' meaning 'shipyard' or 'dockyard'. From the Greek approximation of 'Karnagios' he became 'Kanarios' and finally 'Kanaris'. However, there is more than one theory to how be may have adopted that nickname.
His father was Nikolaos Spilioteas and his grandfather was Themistocles Spilioteas.
Constantine gained his fame during the Greek War of Independence (1821–1829). Unlike most other prominent figures of the War, he had never been initiated in to the Filiki Eteria (Friendly Society), which played a significant role in the revolution against the Ottoman Empire, primarily by secret recruitment of supporters against the Empire.
By early 1821, it had gained enough support to declare a revolution. This declaration seems to have surprised Constantine, who was absent at Odessa. He returned to Psara in haste and was there when the island joined the Revolution on April 10, 1821.
The island formed its own fleet of ships and the famed seamen of Psara, already known for their successful naval combats against pirates and their well-equipped ships, proved to be effective at full naval war. Constantine soon distinguished himself as a fire ship captain.
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