The Varangian Rebellion (Greek: Βαραγιόν Επανάσταn) was an uprising conducted by the Varangian Guard against the newly established Republic of Byzantium with the goal of re-establishing the Byzantine Empire. The rebellion began on the March 16, 1801 when members of the Varangian Guard captured the military fortification at Monemvasia and held the governor of Monemvasia hostage.
During the reign of the Byzantine Empire, the Varangian Guard was the most elite unit in the entire Empire's military. They came from the aristocracy and were tasked with the protection of the Emperor and the city of Constantinople. Following the Revolution of 1801 and the subsequent abolition of the Byzantine monarchy, many members of the Varagian guard were enraged as they could no longer fulfil their duty of protecting the emperor and uphold their honor. This would lead to the former head of the Varangian guard, Magnentius Ypsilanti, leading the guard to seize the Republic's military base at Monemvasia and start an uprising against the Republic.
Course of the rebellion
On March 16, 1801, Commander Magnentius Ypsilanti led 2,500 Varangians to capture the fortress of Monemvasia. At the day of the attack, there were only 240 republican soldiers holding down Monemvasia under the command of General Basilius Ducas. The Republican military force holding Monemvasia was made up mostly of peasants and middle class citizens who were some of the Republic's most loyal supporters. Despite their enthusiasm, they were outmatched and out skilled by the more professional Varangian Guard.
The Varangians entered Monemvasia through the ancient eastern gate. They entered on horseback, intimidating many of the republican soldiers into defecting or surrender upon seeing them. They captured the town of Monemvasia in the evening of March 17, with the Republican troops within the town of Monemvasia surrendering, leaving the troops on the top of the island in the Fortress. On March 20, Monemvasia fell to the Varangians after they captured the town below, killed general Ducas in the process and held the governor of Monemvasia hostage in the process.
News got out about the Varangians' seizure of Monemvasia, leading to President Donus Tzimiskes to mobilize the Republic's military to crush the Varangian Guard once and for all. The battle would cause instability among the Republic's populations which in turn led to more economic instability and a general resentment towards the Republican government and President Tzimiskes. Despite the instability, the people also viewed the Varangians unfavorably and saw the rebellion as an attempt to re-establish the absolute monarchy of the Byzantine Empire so they could maintain their nobility as the expense of the civilian population.
For the next four years, Ypsilanti and the Varangians were able to hold the Republican army off and held Monemvasia and the surrounding villages. They would deal devastating blows to the in 1803 and 1804 during the First and Second Battles of Sykia Pass in which the Varangians exploited the Sykia chokepoint of Mount Molai to slaughter the Republican troops in large numbers.
Eventually, the rebellion ended when the Kingdom of Byzantium was formed on the 31 of July, 1805. The Varangian Guard was re-hired and continued to protect the Emperor (now-styled as King).