One of the most important problems in the entire 19th century was public security, especially in rural areas which suffered from the actions of armed men known as listes (bandits). The existence of armed men threatening and pillaging usually remote villages, kidnapping for ransom, was not new to Greek society, especially in mountainous, inaccessible and isolated areas. Before the Revolution, the illegal activities of armed men, the notorious klephts, made farmers insecure, in spite of their legendary idealization, especially during the Revolution. The institution of the armatoliks was one of public security, organized at a local level. The armatolescame from the classes of the klephts, and were appointed guardians of a region because of their skill in using violence. In order for a powerful klepht to become an armatole, he had to prove that the armatole was not able to protect the region, and at the same time, to prove his own skill in violence - which he did by threatening, pillaging and destroying. In general, the aim of this mechanism of appointing the armed men of a region to the posts of the pursuer (armatole) and pursued (klepht), was to control the illegal armed action and minimize its unfavourable impact on farmers.

The institution of the armatoliks could not possibly form part of the institutional framework adopted by the Greek state, without the loose control on the part of central authority in provinces and the assumption of responsibility for public security at a local level. Thus, it became the army's job to deal with bandits. But its particular method of organization aggravated rather than reduced public security problems in the countryside. The breakup of irregulars and the fact that they were basically excluded from military forces, staffed the first big wave of bandits in the middle of the 1830s. In the summer of 1835 a pursuit operation was organized, but it was not successful. The army's inability to deal with bandits, and the revolts and turmoil within the chieftain classes, led to a series of additional measures. The formation of the forces of the Frontier Guard and National Guard, into which a number of the traditional armed men were incorporated, reduced the problems a little, but not entirely. Since then, and throughout the entire 19th century, the presence of bandits was a constant in the countryside, even though it fluctuated from time to time. The 1844-47 period, when I. Kolettis was prime minister, is considered to be a period of recession, possibly because of the particular relations he maintained with captains and bandits. During periods of irredentism movements (in Epirus, Thessaly, Crete) the activities of bandits were reduced, as groups of volunteers were mostly staffed by the former. However, the groups of bandits were supplied anew with men after the Ottoman troops oppressed these revolts and the volunteers came back. During periods of election, political turmoil (e.g. 1859-1862), as well as after the oppression of the revolts of the 1830s and 1840s, the situation was aggravated. Pursuit was frequently more systematic, at times with the cooperation of Ottoman authorities on the borders. However, these operations were only temporarily effective. The bandits were socially supported in such a way (especially in highland communities and by nomad cattle breeders) that they could not be effectively dealt with during the 19th century. On the other hand, their activities at one time caused the Greek state to be faced with international outcry. The most typical case was the slaughter of European travellers and diplomats at Dilesi (1870) by a pursued group, headed by the notorious chief of bandits, Takos Arvanitakis.