The Greek Friendly Society (Philike Etaireia) as spatial and social network (1814-1821)

Marios Hatzopoulos and Johannes Preiser Kapeller

Time and Place: Thursday, 01.07., 13:30–13:50, Room 1
Session: Networks and Spatial Analysis

Keywords: Post-Napoleonic Europe, Greek war of independence; Nationalism; Secret societies; Network analysis


George D. Frangos’ The Philike Etaireia, 1814-1821: a social and historical analysis (1971) is a  milestone in the studies on the secret patriotic organisation which diligently planned and executed  the outbreak of the Greek war of independence (1821-1830) which, in turn, resulted in the  emergence of the modern state of Greece. Whereas various historical studies have been done on  the subject to date, Frangos was the first to analyse Philike Etaireia using a computing machine of  the time (1971) to perform cross tabulations on the Society’s surviving membership lists. Despite the on-going digital revolution, no researcher has ever tried to refine Frangos’ experiment exploiting the digital tools our day has to offer.  

Objectives & Research Questions 

Our project is filling this gap by analyzing the Philike Etaireia as a spatial and social network. More  specifically it is reconstructing digitally the Society as network of members using its published  membership lists in order to study: 

A) the spatial expansion of Philike Etaireia between 1814 and 1821. 
B) the evolution of Philike Etaireia as extended social network comprised by initiators and initiated  members.  

By doing so, our project intends to answer two questions arising from historiography today: 

1) What was the ethnic composition of Philike Etaireia’s membership? Leaving the  ethnocentric historiography aside, a part of contemporary works insists the organization was to a  large extent Greek while another part views the Society as supra-national and pan-Balkan. The  aforementioned work of Frangos did not really address the issue. We believe that the  reconstruction of Philike Etaireia as spatial network on the basis of the birthplace of each member,  the birthplace of each initiator and the geography of each act of initiation could answer the  question.  

2) Who were the most active members of Philike Etaireia? Frangos found out that roughly a  fifth of members became later initiators, that is to say 229 individuals out of 1033 initiated at least  one member into the Society. Out of this group of 229 initiators, Frangos spotted 21 big recruiters  responsible for more than 10 initiations, and a “hard core” of 11 individuals who recruited each  other. If we apply tools of network analysis, however, the key players might not necessarily be  those with the greatest number of initiation acts but those with the highest betweenness  centrality within the network. In other words those who were positioned in such a way that, in  their absence, the network would not expand and even collapse. The reconstruction of Philike  Etaireia as a social network could test existing knowledge on the Society’s key players and possibly  bring to light actors whom historiography has poorly appreciated so far. 


The published membership lists of Philike Etaireia are essentially three: a) the so-called Philemon  list, once attached to the Alexander Ypsilantis archive (now lost) and published by Ioannis  Philemon (1859); b) Panagiotis Sekeris list published by I. A. Meletopoulos (1967); and c) the  Emmanuel Xanthos list being collated together with the Sekeris’ list and published by V. G. Mexas  (1937). Philemon list contains 692 individuals with name, place of origin, place of initiation, year of  initiation, occupation, name of initiator, and amount of contribution to the Society. 201 individuals  also appear in the Mexas’ collation bringing down the number to 491. Mexas collation was made  up from the Sekeris list of 520 individuals (published also by Meletopoulos) and the Xanthos list of  133 individuals. The resulting collation produced a total of 542 individuals with the same  qualitative characteristics of the Philemon list. The net number of 491 individuals from the latter  added to the net number of 542 from Mexas collation produce a total of 1033 individuals. Τhe exact number of Philike Etaireia’s members might never be known. Greorge D. Frangos reckoned  that the total number of the Society’s membership might have been as high as 2000 or 3000  members. If so, the sample of 1033 individuals used as data for this project is statistically  significant.  


Our project adapts and develops further a workflow from data input drawn on historical sources  to visualise and analyse social and spatial network models while making their web-based  presentation as has been tested in a number of partner projects. Its core is the open source  database application OpenAtlas ( which allows for the relational  structuring of historical and spatial data between actors (individuals, groups, organisations),  places, events (meetings, protests) and sources (made freely accessible via since April 2016; demo:  For (meta)data recording, our project uses the CIDOC-CRM, a standard adapted within the  European framework of CLARIAH ( and thus guaranteeing connectivity  between data sets using the same model. Integrated in OpenAtlas is a mapping tool which allows  for the exact circumscription of objects in geographical space, but also for the indication of  uncertainties in the localisation of sites. The compatibility with applications of GIS enables further  cartographic visualisation and analysis. Equally, OpenAtlas allows for an export of data into  software for network analysis, such as Pajek* (,  ORA* ( or Gephi* ( A tool for first  network visualisations of data is also integrated into the OpenAtlas-interface. One development  envisioned for our project is the creation of an advanced interface that allows other parties to  query linked open data. Other features to be developed comprise the upload of user content like  images, PDF etc. that can be linked to database entries.


This work flow has already been tested for data on the Philike Etaireia in order to demonstrate its  feasibility and explanatory value. [see some visual samples of results here: -1821_visual_samples]  


G. D. Frangos, The Philike Etaireia, 1814-1821. A social and historical analysis, Columbia University  (unpublished PhD thesis), NY 1971.  

I. A. Meletopoulos, I Philike Etaireia [the Friendly Society]. Archeion P. Sekeri, Athens 1967. 

V. G. Mexas, Oi philikoi. Katalogos ton melon tis Philikes Etaireias ek tou archeiou Sekeri [The  Friendly Society’s Members. A membership list from the Sekeris’ Archive], Athens 1937.  I. Philimon, Dokimion istorikon peri tis ellinikis epanastaseos [Historical Essay on the Greek  Revolution], vol. 1, Athens 1859.