Riga from Fera (1757 – 1798) was a Mason, a Greek revolutionary, poet, national hero, predecessor and the first victim of the uprising against the Ottoman Empire. With his songs he ignited a revolutionary passion in Greece by writing about a cruel Turkish taxation in offsprings, systematic oppression, the prohibition of the teaching of Greek history and language …
He was born in a rich family of Cincar descent in Velestina in Thessaly, near the ancient Fera. After the school he became a teacher in the village of Kisos. When he was twenty years old, he shot a prominent Turk, so he escaped to Olympus, where he joined a group of soldiers led by Spiro Zera.
He later joined the monks at Atos. It was received by Kosma, the head of the Vatoped monastery. Then he went to Constantinople, where he was the secretary of the phanariot Alexander Ipsilanti. He returned to school in Bucharest, learned several languages and became an officer of the Prince of Nicosia Mavrogas.
When the Russo-Turkish War broke out 1787-1792 he was in charge of the Army’s inspection in the Krajova. There he became a close friend of the Ottoman officer Osman Pazvanoglu. He also met with the rebel pasha from Vidin, whom he saved from the avenging of Mavrogenas.
At that time he heard of the French Revolution, and he believed that something similar was possible in the Balkans as well. He believed in the self-determination of the Orthodox population within the Ottoman Empire. Riga from Fera met with Greek bishops and rebel leaders seeking support for the uprising.
After Mavrogenes’ death, Riga returned from Bucharest to Bucharest, where he worked as a translator for some time at the French Consulate. At that time, he wrote the famous Greek version of the Marseillaise, the French anthem of the revolutionaries. This version is known through Byron’s quotation „the sons of the Greeks, rise up.“