Greece to mark anniversary of Byron's death

Fri Oct 17, 2008 7:13am EDT
 
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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece has declared the anniversary of the death of Lord Byron, the British Romantic poet who fought in its 19th century war of independence, as a day of celebration to hail Greek culture.

Byron died of pneumonia fighting Ottoman rule on April 19, 1824, and a parliament statement said this day would now be marked by events to keep alive the memory of "a man who believed deeply in democratic values and Hellenism."

Byron was a celebrity during his own lifetime for his Romantic poetry and his support of revolutionary causes. He paid for the refitting of the Greek fleet and refunded part of the ragged revolutionary army after arriving in Greece in 1823.

He died a year later in Messolonghi in western Greece, where a cenotaph is said to contain his heart. His support for the Greek cause helped inspire young men from Britain, Italy and the United States to join the uprising.

Greece won its war of independence in 1832 following the intervention of the Great powers: Britain, France and Russia.

Though Byron enjoys hero status in Greece, he was shunned in Britain. Westminster Abbey in London refused to inter his remains in its Poets' Corner because of his Bohemian lifestyle. He was famously described by a contemporary as "mad, bad and dangerous to know."

(Reporting by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Richard Balmforth)