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Konstantinos Sapountzakis

Photograph of Lt Gen Sapountzakis
Marble bust of Lt Gen Sapountzakis at the Emin Aga inn, Ioannina.

Konstantinos Sapountzakis (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Σαπουντζάκης, 1846–1931) was a Greek Army officer. He is notable as the first head of the Hellenic Army General Staff and as the first commander of the Army of Epirus during the First Balkan War.

Early career

The son of Vasileios Sapountzakis, he was born in Rethymno, Crete, then still part of the Ottoman Empire. He came to Greece and entered the Evelpidon Military Academy, graduating as an Artillery second lieutenant. In 1867 he returned to Crete and with his father fought in the ongoing Cretan uprising. Following the failure of the revolt, he was sent for studies abroad, in Germany, Britain and France.

Upon his return, as one of the best-educated Greek officers, he was appointed professor of military technology at the Evelpidon Academy, as well as tutor to Crown Prince Constantine. At the outbreak of the Greco-Turkish War of 1897, with the rank of Colonel, he assumed the duties of Chief of Staff to the Crown Prince, who exercised the overall command of the main Greek field force, the Army of Thessaly. Badly trained and led, the Greek Army was defeated and forced to retreat. Sapountzakis was subsequently dismissed from his duties.

Chief of the General Staff and Balkan Wars

In 1901 however he was appointed as the Chief of Staff to the new Army General Command, and with the establishment of the Army General Staff in 1906, he became its first head until 1909. From this position, he supervised the reorganization of the Army under the First Balkan War in October 1912, he was placed in charge of the Army of Epirus, the smaller of the two armies fielded by Greece, comprising 8,197 men and 24 guns. faced with superior Ottoman forces (some 15,000 men with 32 guns of the 23rd Regular and 23rd Reserve Divisions) as well as the strongly fortified position of Bizani, which guarded the southern approaches to Ioannina, its mission was entirely secondary to the main Army of Thessaly, led again by Crown Prince Constantine.

Nevertheless, the Greeks advanced and took Preveza on 2 November 1912, and repulsed an Ottoman counteroffensive in the Battle of Pente Pigadia in 6–12 November. Operations subsequently stalled as both sides awaited reinforcements. With the arrival of the 2nd Infantry Division, the Greeks resumed their offensive towards Ioannina on 12 December. Despite early success and the capture of Aetorrachi ridge, the Greek assault faltered against the guns of Bizani and successive Ottoman counter-offensives. The offensive was over by December 23, and operations degenerated into positional warfare. As more forces were being pulled from Macedonia towards Epirus, Crown Prince Constantine came to assume command in Epirus in January 1913, while Sapountzakis was relegated to command a detachment comprising the 6th and 8th Infantry Divisions. From this post he participated in the final capture of Bizani and Ioannina in early March 1913.

Following his retirement soon thereafter, Sapountzakis was appointed director of the Army Pension Fund. He died in 1931.

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