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Omer Vrionis: An Ottoman from Albania with Byzantine ancestry


Omer Vrionis alledgedly descended from the Byzantine family of Vryennios

Omer Vriones, descended from the noble Byzantine family of Bryennias, served long in Egypt, and defeated near Rosetta a party of English troops—an exploit of which he always boasted highly. Returning home with great wealth, he joined the faction of Ali Pasha; but the latter not only stripped him of his fortune, but even attempted to poison him.
History of the Greek Revolution, And of the Wars and Campaigns Arising from the Struggles of the Greek Patriots in Emancipating Their Country from the Turkish Yoke – Thomas Gordon

Eventually, Omer Vriones participated in the Greek independence war on the side of the Ottoman empire. Before the outbreak of the revolution, he was offered to ally himself with the Greeks creating a Greek-Albanian alliance against the Turks.. The mediator of these negotiations was the Philike Etaireia, the secret organization which prepared the revolution. The main figure behind these talks was Odyseas Androutsos,


Ironically these two would be direct adversaries in the upcoming conflicts of 1821!

In a great battle, which the Greeks still celebrate nowadays, Androutsos repulsed Omer Vrioni's 8000 strong with only 120 men.


The Gravia inn. Located in central Greece
As soon as Vrioni ordered the attack, a detachment of Albanian soldiers charged the building. As they entered the building they were met by a barrage of gunfire. The Albanians were forced to retreat under heavy fire and suffered many casualties from the concealed Greeks. Androutsos had trained his men to fire with a European method; a group of his soldiers was firing in unison, while another group was filling their own guns to fire in their place and so forth. This method was the best way to repel any kind of massive attack, so the following Ottoman assaults also met a barrage of fire and were forced to retreat.
Vrioni, angered by the losses he was suffering, ordered the cannons to be brought from Lamia. However, Androutsos had guessed his intentions and retreated with his men at night; they got out of the inn and they escaped to the mountains, while the Albanians were asleep.
The Battle of Gravia was considered to be an important event in the Greek War of Independence. By forcing Vrioni to retreat, Androutsos allowed the Greeks in the Peloponnese to have more time to consolidate their gains as well as to capture the Ottoman capital of the Peloponnese, Tripoli.

Bryennios or Vryennios was the name of a noble Byzantine family which rose to prominence in the 11th and 12th centuries, mostly as military commanders. The etymology of the name is uncertain. The first members of the family appear in the 9th century, with the strategos Theoktistos Bryennios. None are known for the 10th, but they reappear in the latter half of the 11th century, when they rose to high military commands and became associated with the Komnenian dynasty. Members of the family retained high positions through the 12th century, and are documented up to the 15th century.


Whether Thomas Gordon's reference was reliable or not is uncertain. According to official history Omer Vrioni was born in a village named Vrioni in what is modern Albanian, near Berat.

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