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A firework display in which a wooden ship is destroyed is the dramatic highlight of a celebration held in Spetses every summer to mark a naval battle fought off the island and won by Greece in the 19th century.

It was the time of the Greek War of Independence when Greece was struggling to overthrow its Turkish rulers. The town of Nafplio on the Peloponnese was occupied by the Turks who had been under siege for months and were starving.

The Turkish Navy was sent with supplies to relieve the beleaguered city. The Greek Navy set out to stop them. The forces met in the narrow strait between Spetses and Kosta, on the Peloponnese.

Three times over five days the Turks were driven back by the Greek fireships.

The Turks fled when the third attempt ended with one of their ships in flames.

A spectacular re-enactment of the battle is held off Spetses Town on the second Saturday in September. The event attracts tens of thousands of spectators. This year’s Armata Festival, between the 7th and 13th of September, will commemorate the 199th anniversary of the battle.

Festival week includes concerts, dances, exhibitions, children’s events, parties – and lots of fireworks. On the Saturday evening candlelit boats slowly make their way out to sea to where a specially-built wooden replica of the doomed Turkish warship is moored.

The story of the Battle of Spetses is broadcast and as it builds to its crescendo the “enemy” boat bursts into flames as the firework display begins. The first Armata was held in Spetses in 1931.

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