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Greek War of Independence

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Greek War of Independence
Part of Wars of Independence
Bishop Germanos of old Patras blesses the Greek banner at Agia Lavra on the outset of the national revolt against the Turks on 25 March 1821. Oil painting by Theodoros Vryzakis, 1851.
Date 1821–1830
Location The Balkans (mainly Greece) and the Aegean Sea.
Result Greek victory, establishment of the Kingdom of Greece.
Greece Greek revolutionaries

(Only the Battle of Navarino)
 Ottoman Empire
Egypt Egyptian Khedivate

(Only in naval battles)
Commanders and leaders
Greece Alexander Ypsilantis
Greece Theodoros Kolokotronis
Greece Georgios Karaiskakis 
Greece Andreas Vokos Miaoulis
Ottoman Empire Sultan Mahmud II
Ottoman Empire Omar Vrioni
Ottoman Empire Mahmud Dramali Pasha 
Ottoman Empire Reşid Mehmed Pasha
Egypt Ibrahim Pasha.

The Greek War of Independence (also known as the Greek Revolution) (Greek: Ελληνική Επανάσταση Elliniki Epanastasi; Ottoman Turkish: يونان عصياني Yunan İsyanı) was a successful war of independence waged by the Greek revolutionaries between 1821 and 1829, with later assistance from several European powers, against the Ottoman Empire, who were assisted by their vassals, the Egyptian Khedivate and partly the Vilayet of Tunisia.

Following the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Empire, most of Greece came under Turkish rule. During this time, there were numerous revolts by Greeks attempting to gain independence. In 1814, a secret organization called the Filiki Eteria was founded with the aim of liberating Greece. The Filiki Eteria planned to launch revolts in the Peloponnese, the Danubian Principalities and Constantinople. The first of these revolts began on 6 March 1821 in the Danubian Principalities, but it was soon put down by the Ottomans. The events in the north urged the Greeks in the Peloponnese in action and on 17 March 1821 the Maniots declared war on the Ottomans. By the end of the month, the Peloponnese was in open revolt against the Turks and by October 1821 the Greeks under Theodoros Kolokotronis had captured Tripolitsa. The Peloponnesian revolt was quickly followed by revolts in Crete, Macedonia and Central Greece, which would soon be suppressed. Meanwhile, the makeshift Greek navy was achieving success against the Ottoman navy in the Aegean Sea and prevented Turkish reinforcements from arriving by sea.

Tensions soon developed among different Greek factions, leading to a virtual civil war. Meanwhile, the Ottoman Sultan negotiated with Mehmet Ali of Egypt, who agreed to send his son Ibrahim Pasha to Greece with an army to suppress the revolt in return for territorial gain. Ibrahim landed in the Peloponnese in February 1825 and had immediate success: by the end of 1825, most of the Peloponnese was under Egyptian control, and the city of Messolonghi—put under siege by the Turks since April 1825—fell in April 1826. Although Ibrahim was defeated in Mani, he had succeeded in suppressing most of the revolt in the Peloponnese and Athens had been retaken.

Following years of negotiation, three Great Powers, Russia, the United Kingdom and France, decided to intervene in the conflict and each nation sent a navy to Greece. Following news that combined Turkish–Egyptian fleets were going to attack the Greek island of Hydra, the allied fleet intercepted the Turkish–Egyptian fleet at Navarino. Following a week long standoff, a battle began which resulted in the destruction of the Turkish–Egyptian fleet. With the help of a French expeditionary force, the Greeks drove the Turks out of the Peloponnese and proceeded to the captured part of Central Greece by 1828. As a result of years of negotiation, Greece was finally recognized as an independent nation in May 1832.


Demetrius Chalcondyles ( 1424 – 1511) was an Athenian born Greek scholar and Humanist who in 1463 delivered an exhortation for crusade and the recovery and liberation of Greece from the invading Ottoman Turks.

The Fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the subsequent fall of the successor states of the Byzantine Empire marked the end of Byzantine sovereignty. Since then, the Ottoman Empire ruled the Balkans and Anatolia, although there were some exceptions: the Ionian Islands were under British rule, and Ottoman authority was challenged in mountainous areas, such as Agrafa, Sfakia, Souli, Himara and the Mani Peninsula. Orthodox Christians were granted some political rights under Ottoman rule, but they were considered inferior subjects. The majority of Greeks were called rayas by the Turks, a name that referred to the large mass of subjects in the Ottoman ruling class. Meanwhile, Greek intellectuals and humanists who had migrated west before or during the Ottoman invasions began to compose orations and treatises calling for the liberation of their homeland. In 1463 Demetrius Chalcondyles called on Venice and “all of the Latins” to aid the Greeks against the Ottomans, he composed orations and treatises calling for the liberation of Greece from what he called “the abominable, monstrous, and impious barbarian Turks.” In the 17th century Greek scholar Leonardos Philaras spent much of his career in persuading Western European intellectuals to support Greek independence. However, Greece was to remain under Ottoman rule for several more centuries. in the 18th and 19th century, as revolutionary nationalism grew across Europe—including the Balkans (due, in large part, to the influence of the French Revolution)—the Ottoman Empire's power declined and Greek nationalism began to assert itself, with the Greek cause beginning to draw support not only from the large Greek merchant diaspora in both Western Europe and Russia but also from Western European Philhellenes. This Greek movement for independence, was not only the first movement of national character in Eastern Europe, but also the first one in a non-Christian environment, like the Ottoman Empire.

Greeks under Ottoman rule

Leonardos Philaras (c. 1595 – 1673) was a Greek scholar an early supporter of Greek liberation, he spent much of his career in persuading Western European intellectuals to support Greek Independence.

The Greek Revolution was not an isolated event; numerous failed attempts at regaining independence took place throughout the history of the Ottoman era. In 1603, there was an attempt in Morea to restore the Byzantine Empire. Throughout the 17th century there was great resistance to the Ottomans in the Peloponnese and elsewhere, as evidenced by revolts led by Dionysius the Philosopher in 1600 and 1611 in Epirus. The Ottoman rule of Morea was interrupted by the Morean War, as the peninsula came under Venetian rule for 30 years. Between the 1680s and the Ottoman reconquest in 1715 during the Turkish–Venetian War, the province would remain in turmoil from then on and throughout the 17th century, as the bands of the klephts multiplied. The first great uprising was the Russian-sponsored Orlov Revolt of the 1770s, which was crushed by the Ottomans after having limited success. After the crushing of the uprising, the muslim Albanians ravaged many regions in mainland Greece. However, the Maniots continually resisted Turkish rule, enjoying virtual autonomy and defeating several Turkish incursions into their region, the most famous of which was the invasion of 1770. During the second Russo-Turkish War, the Greek community of Trieste financed a small fleet under Lambros Katsonis, which was a nuisance for the Turkish navy; during the war klephts and armatoloi rose once again.

At the same time, a number of Greeks enjoyed a privileged position in the Ottoman state as members of the Ottoman bureaucracy. Greeks controlled the affairs of the Orthodox Church through the Ecumenical Patriarchate, based in Constantinople, as the higher clergy of the Orthodox Church was mostly of Greek origin. Thus, as a result of the Ottoman millet system, the predominantly Greek hierarchy of the Patriarchate enjoyed control over the Empire's Orthodox subjects (the Rum milleti). Modern scholars assert that the Greek Orthodox Church played a pivotal role in the preservation of national identity, the development of Greek society and the resurgence of Greek nationalism. From the 18th century and onwards, members of prominent Greek families in Constantinople, known as Phanariotes (after the Phanar district of the city) gained considerable control over Turkish foreign policy and eventually over the bureaucracy as a whole.

Rigas Feraios (here portrayed by Andreas Kriezis), who developed plans for a co-ordinated, pan-Balkan uprising against the Ottoman rule, is regarded as a forerunner of the Greek Revolution.

Of considerable importance during the same period was the strong maritime tradition on the islands of the Aegean, together with the emergence over the 18th century of an influential merchant class, which generated the wealth necessary to found schools, libraries and pay for young Greeks to study at the universities of Western Europe. It was there that they came into contact with the radical ideas of the European Enlightenment, the French Revolution and romantic nationalism. They also came to realize the influence of the Greek language and civilization in their age's educated young people's thought. Educated and influential members of the large Greek diaspora, such as Adamantios Korais and Anthimos Gazis, tried to transmit these ideas back to the Greeks, with the double aim of raising their educational level and simultaneously strengthening their national identity. This was achieved through the dissemination of books, pamphlets and other writings in Greek, in a process that has been described as the modern Greek Enlightenment (Greek: Διαφωτισμός). The rich merchants had a very important role in this, greatly funding, aside from schools and libraries, book publications. A constantly increasing number of books were being published, especially addressed to Greek audience. The books published in the last fourth of the 18th century, were seven times as many as those published in the first. In the twenty years before the revolution, some 1,300 new titles had been published.

The most influential of the writers and intellectuals who helped shape a consensus among Greeks both within and outside the Ottoman Empire was Rigas Feraios. Born in Thessaly and educated in Constantinople, Feraios wrote articles for the Greek-language newspaper Ephimeris in Vienna in the 1790s. Deeply influenced by the French Revolution, he was the first who conceived and organized a comprehensive national movement aiming at the liberation of all Balkan nations—including the Turks of the region—and the creation of a "Balkan Republic". He published a series of revolutionary tracts and proposed republican Constitutions for the Greek and later also pan-Balkan Republic. Arrested by Austrian officials in Trieste in 1797, he was handed over to Ottoman officials and transported to Belgrade along with his co-conspirators. All of them were strangled to death and their bodies were dumped in the Danube, in June 1798. Feraios' death ultimately fanned the flames of Greek nationalism; his nationalist poem, the Thourios (war-song), was translated into a number of Western European and later Balkan languages and served as a rallying cry for Greeks against Ottoman rule:

Ὡς πότε παλικάρια, νὰ ζοῦμε στὰ στενά,
μονάχοι σὰ λεοντάρια, σταῖς ράχαις στὰ βουνά;
Σπηλιαῖς νὰ κατοικοῦμε, νὰ βλέπωμεν κλαδιά,
νὰ φεύγωμ᾿ ἀπ᾿ τὸν κόσμον, γιὰ τὴν πικρὴ σκλαβιά;
Νὰ χάνωμεν ἀδέλφια, πατρίδα καὶ γονεῖς,
τοὺς φίλους, τὰ παιδιά μας, κι ὅλους τοὺς συγγενεῖς;
Καλλιῶναι μίας ὥρας ἐλεύθερη ζωή,
παρὰ σαράντα χρόνοι, σκλαβιὰ καὶ φυλακή.
For how long, o brave young men, shall we live in fastnesses,
Alone, like lions, on the ridges in the mountains?
Shall we dwell in caves, looking out on branches,
Fleeing from the world on account of bitter serfdom?
Abandoning brothers, sisters, parents, homeland
Friends, children, and all of our kin?
Better one hour of free life,
Than forty years of slavery and prison.

Klephts and armatoloi

Armatolos. Water Colour by Carl Haag.

In times of militarily weak central authority, the Balkan countryside became infested by groups of bandits that struck at Muslims and Christians alike, called klephts (κλέφτες) in Greek, the equivalent of Hajduks. Defying Ottoman rule, the klephts were highly admired and held a significant place in the popular mythology. Responding to the klephts' attacks, the Ottomans recruited the ablest amongst these groups, contracting Christian militias, known as armatoloi (Greek: αρματολοί), to secure endangered areas, especially mountain passes. The area under their control was called armatolik, the oldest known being established in Agrafa during the reign of Murad II.

Boundaries between klephts and armatoloi were not clear, as the latter would often turn into klephts to extort more benefits from the authorities, and, consequently, another klepht group would be appointed to the armatolik to confront their predecessors.

Nevertheless, klephts and armatoloi formed a provincial elite, though not a social class whose members would muster under a common goal. As the armatoloi's position gradually turned into a hereditary one, some captains took care of their armatolik as their personal property. A great deal of power was placed in their hands and they integrated in the network of clientelist relationships that formed the Ottoman administration. Some managed to establish exclusive control in their armatolik, forcing the Porte to repeatedly, though unsuccessfully, try to eliminate them. By the time of the War of Independence powerful armatoloi could be traced in Rumeli, modern Thessaly, Epirus and southern Macedonia. According to Yannis Makriyannis, klephts and armatoloi—being the only available major military formation on the side of the Greeks—played such a crucial role in the Greek revolution that he referred to them as the "yeast of liberty".

Filiki Eteria

Lord Byron (here portrayed by Thomas Phillips) was a prominent British philhellene who died during the Greek revolution.

Feraios' martyrdom was to inspire three young Greek merchants, Nikolaos Skoufas, Manolis Xanthos, and Athanasios Tsakalov. Influenced by the Italian Carbonari (organized in the fashion of Freemasonry), they founded in 1814 the secret Filiki Eteria ("Friendly Society") in Odessa, an important centre of the Greek mercantile diaspora. With the support of wealthy Greek exile communities in Britain and the United States and with the aid of sympathizers in Western Europe, they planned the rebellion. The society's basic objective was a revival of the Byzantine Empire, with Constantinople as the capital, not the formation of a national state. In early 1820, Ioannis Kapodistrias, an official from the Ionian Islands who had become the joint foreign minister of Tsar Alexander I, was approached by the Society in order to be named leader but declined the offer; the Filikoi (members of Filiki Eteria) then turned to Alexander Ypsilantis, a Phanariote serving in the Russian army as general and adjutant to Alexander, who accepted.

The Filiki Eteria expanded rapidly and was soon able to recruit members in all areas of the Greek world and among all elements of the Greek society. In 1821, the Ottoman Empire mainly faced the war against Persia and most particularly the revolt by Ali Pasha in Epirus, which had forced the vali (governor) of the Morea, Hursid Pasha, and other local pashas to leave their provinces and campaign against the rebel force. At the same time, the Great Powers, allied in the " Concert of Europe" in opposition to revolutions in the aftermath of Napoleon I of France, were preoccupied with revolts in Italy and Spain. It was in this context that the Greeks judged the time ripe for their own revolt. The plan originally involved uprisings in three places, the Peloponnese, the Danubian Principalities and Constantinople.


Due to Greece's classical heritage, there was tremendous sympathy for the Greek cause throughout Europe. Many wealthy Americans and Western European aristocrats, such as the renowned poet Lord Byron, took up arms to join the Greek revolutionaries. Many more also financed the revolution. The Scottish historian and philhellene Thomas Gordon took part in the revolutionary struggle and later wrote the first histories of the Greek revolution in English. Philhellenes often overlooked contradictory stories about Greek atrocities, having deposited their libertarian impulses to the Greek revolution.

The mountains look on Marathon --
And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
I dream'd that Greece might yet be free
For, standing on the Persians' grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.
Must we but weep o'er days more blest?
Must we but blush? – Our fathers bled.
Earth! render back from out thy breast
A remnant of our Spartan dead!
Of the three hundred grant but three,
To make a new Thermopylae.

Byron, The Isles of Greece

In Europe, the Greek revolt aroused widespread sympathy among the public, although at first it was met with lukewarm reception from the Great Powers. Some historians argue that Ottoman atrocities were given wide coverage in Europe, while Christian atrocities tended to be suppressed or played down. One of these Ottoman massacres inspired Eugène Delacroix's famous painting Massacre of Chios; other philhellenic works by Delacroix were inspired by various Byron poems. Byron, the most celebrated philhellene of all, lent his name, prestige and wealth to the cause.. He spent time in Albania and Greece, organizing funds and supplies (including the provision of several ships), but died from fever at Messolonghi in 1824. Byron's death helped to create an even stronger European sympathy for the Greek cause. His poetry, along with Delacroix's art, helped arouse European public opinion in favour of the Greek revolutionaries to the point of no return, and led Western powers to intervene directly.

Philhellenism made a notable contribution to romanticism, enabling the younger generation of artistic and literary intellectuals to expand the classical repertoire by treating modern Greek history as an extension of ancient history; the idea of a regeneration of the spirit of ancient Greece permeated the rhetoric of the Greek cause's supporters . Modern classicists and romantics envisioned the casting out of the Turks as the prelude to the revival of the Golden Age.

Outbreak of the revolution

Danubian principalities

Alexander Ypsilantis was elected as the head of the Filiki Eteria in April 1820 and took upon him the task of planning the insurrection. Ypsilantis' intention was to raise all the Christians of the Balkans in rebellion and perhaps force Russia to intervene on their behalf. On March 6, he crossed the river Prut with his followers, entering the Danubian Principalities. In order to encourage the local Romanian Christians to join him, he announced that he had "the support of a Great Power", implying Russia. Two days after crossing the Prut, Ypsilantis issued a proclamation calling all Greeks and Christians to rise up against the Ottomans.

"Fight for Faith and Motherland! The time has come, O Hellenes. Long ago the people of Europe, fighting for their own rights and liberties, invited us to imitation ... The enlightened peoples of Europe are occupied in restoring the same well-being, and, full of gratitude for the benefactions of our forefathers towards them, desire the liberation of Greece. We, seemingly worthy of ancestral virtue and of the present century, are hopeful that we will achieve their defense and help. Many of these freedom-lovers want to come and fight alongside us ... Who then hinders your manly arms? Our cowardly enemy is sick and weak. Our generals are experienced, and all our fellow countrymen are full of enthusiasm. Unite, then, O brave and magnanimous Greeks! Let national phalanxes be formed, let patriotic legions appear and you will see those old giants of despotism fall themselves, before our triumphant banners."
Ypsilantis' Proclamation at Iaşi.

Instead of directly advancing on Brăila, where he arguably could have prevented Ottoman armies from entering the Principalities, and where he might have forced Russia to accept a fait accompli, he remained in Iaşi, and ordered the executions of several pro-Ottoman Moldovans. In Bucharest, where he had arrived on 27 March after some weeks delay, he decided that he could not rely on the Wallachian Pandurs to continue their Oltenian-based revolt and assist the Greek cause; Ypsilantis was mistrusted by the Pandur leader Tudor Vladimirescu, who, as a nominal ally to the Eteria, had started the rebellion as a move to prevent Scarlat Callimachi from reaching the throne in Bucharest, while trying to maintain relations with both Russia and the Ottomans.

The Sacred Band battles in Dragatsani by Peter von Hess, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece.

At that point, Kapodistrias, the foreign minister of Russia, was ordered by Alexander I to send Ypsilantis a letter upbraiding him for misusing the mandate received from the Tsar; Kapodistrias announced to Ypsilantis that his name had been struck off the army list and that he was commanded to lay down arms. Ypsilantis tried to ignore the letter, but Vladimirescu took this as the end of his commitment to the Eteria. A conflict erupted inside his camp and he was tried and put to death by the Eteria on 7 June. The loss of their Romanian allies, followed by an Ottoman intervention on Wallachian soil, sealed defeat for the Greek exiles and culminated in the disastrous Battle of Dragashani and the destruction of the Sacred Band on 19 June.

Alexander Ypsilantis, accompanied by his brother Nicholas and a remnant of his followers, retreated to Râmnicu Vâlcea, where he spent some days negotiating with the Austrian authorities for permission to cross the frontier. Fearing that his followers might surrender him to the Turks, he gave out that Austria had declared war on Turkey, caused a Te Deum to be sung in Cozia Monastery, and, on pretext of arranging measures with the Austrian commander-in-chief, he crossed the frontier. However, the reactionary policies of the Holy Alliance were enforced by Francis II and the country refused to give asylum for leaders of revolts in neighboring countries. Ypsilantis was kept in close confinement for seven years. In Moldavia, the struggle continued for a while, under Giorgakis Olympios and Yiannis Pharmakis but, by the end of the year, the provinces had been pacified by the Ottomans.


The Peloponnese, with its long tradition of resistance to the Ottomans, was to become the heartland of the revolt. In the early months of 1821, with the absence of the Turkish governor Mora valesi Hursid Pasha and many of his troops, the situation was favourable for the Greeks to rise against Ottoman occupation. Theodoros Kolokotronis, a renowned Greek klepht who had served in the British army in the Ionian Islands during the Napoleonic Wars, returned on 6 January 1821 and went to the Mani Peninsula. The Turks found out about Kolokotronis' arrival and demanded his surrender from the local bey, Petros Mavromichalis, also known as Petrobey. Mavromichalis refused, saying he was just an old man.

Equestrian statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis in Athens, Greece.

The crucial meeting was held at Vostitsa (modern Aigion), where chieftains and prelates from all over the Peloponnese assembled on 26 January. There, the klepht captains declared their readiness for the uprising, while most of the civil leaders presented themselves sceptical and demanded guarantees about a Russian intervention. Nevertheless, as news came of Ypsilantis' march into the Danubian Principalities, the atmosphere in the Peloponnese was tense, and by mid-March, sporadic incidents against Muslims occurred, heralding the start of the uprising. The Revolution was declared on March 25, 1821, in the Monastery of Agia Lavra by the archbishop of Patras Germanos, The cry “Freedom or Death” became the motto of the revolution. Revolts against Ottoman Turkish rule soon broke out in the Peloponnese, in Greece north of the Gulf of Corinth, and on numerous islands. The 25th of March has been established as the official anniversary of the Revolution and is celebrated as a national day in Greece.

The most popular early revolutionary flag, linked to the Kolokotronis family.

On 17 March, 1821, war was declared on the Turks by the Maniots in Areopoli. An army of 2,000 Maniots under the command of Petros Mavromichalis, which included Kolokotronis, his nephew Nikitaras and Papaflessas, advanced on the Messenian town of Kalamata, which fell to the Greeks on the 23rd. On the same day, Andreas Londos, a Greek primate, rose up at Vostitsa. On March 28, the Messenian Senate, the first of the Greeks' local governing councils, held its first session in Kalamata.

In Achaia, the town of Kalavryta was besieged on 21 March. In Patras, in the already tense atmosphere, the Ottomans had transferred their belongings to the fortress in late February, followed by their families some days later. On 22 March, the revolutionaries declared the Revolution at the square of Agios Georgios in Patras, in the presence of archbishop Germanos. On the next day, the leaders of the Revolution in Achaia sent a document to the foreign consulates explaining the reasons of the Revolution. On 23 March, the Ottomans launched sporadic attacks towards the town while the revolutionaries, led by Panagiotis Karatzas, drove them back to the fortress. Yannis Makriyannis who had been hiding in the town referred to the scene in his memoirs: "Shooting broke out two days later in Patras. The Turks had seized the fortress and the Romans (Greeks) had taken the seashore."

By the end of March, the Greeks effectively controlled the countryside, while the Turks were confined to the fortresses, most notably those of Patras, Rio, Acrocorinth, Monemvasia, Nafplion and the provincial capital, Tripolitsa, where many Muslims had fled with their families at the beginning of the uprising. All these were loosely besieged by local irregular forces under their own captains, since the Greeks lacked artillery. With the exception of Tripolitsa, all sites had access to the sea and could be resupplied and reinforced by the Ottoman fleet. Kolokotronis, determined to take Tripolitsa, the Ottoman provincial capital in the Peloponnese, moved into Arcadia with 300 Greek soldiers. When he entered Arcadia his band of 300 fought a Turkish force of 1,300 men and defeated them. On 5 October, Tripolitsa was seized by Kolokotronis and his men, and the town was given over to the mob for two days.

Central Greece

The battle of Vassilika secured much of Greece for the revolutionaries. Peter von Hess

Many armatoloi in Central Greece had joined the Filiki Eteria. When the revolution erupted they took up arms alongside the revolutionaries, namely, amongst them, Androutsos, Karaiskakis and Athanasios Diakos, pursuing a patron-client reasoning.

Athanasios Diakos

The first region to revolt in Central Greece was Phocis on 24 March. Boeotia, Livadeia was captured by Athanasios Diakos on 29 March, followed by Thebes two days later. The Ottoman garrison held out in the citadel of Salona, the regional capital, until April 10, when the Greeks took it. At the same time, the Greeks suffered a defeat at the Battle of Alamana against the army of Omer Vryonis, which resulted in the death of Athanasios Diakos. However, the Ottoman advance was stopped at the Battle of Gravia, near Mount Parnassus and the ruins of ancient Delphi, under the leadership of Odysseas Androutsos. Vryonis turned towards Boeotia and sacked Livadeia, awaiting reinforcements before proceeding towards the Morea. These forces, 8,000 men under Beyran Pasha, were ultimately defeated at the Battle of Vassilika on 26 August. This defeat forced Vryonis too to withdraw, securing the fledgling Greek revolutionaries.


Cretan participation in the revolution was extensive, but it failed to achieve liberation from Turkish rule due to Egyptian intervention. Crete had a long history of resisting Turkish rule, exemplified by the folk hero Daskalogiannis who was martyred whilst fighting the Turks. In 1821, an uprising by Christians was met with a fierce response from the Ottoman authorities and the execution of several bishops, regarded as ringleaders. The Sultan Mahmud II was forced to seek the aid of his rebellious vassal and rival, the Pasha of Egypt, and offered him the pashalik of Crete. The Egyptian army landed on the island in 1824, and Ibrahim undertook the task of ending the rebellion.

Between 1821 and 1828, the island was the scene of repeated hostilities and atrocities. The Muslims were driven into the large fortified towns on the north coast and it would appear that as many as 60% of them died from plague or famine while there. The Cretan Christians also suffered severely, losing around 21% of their population.


Benjamin, bishop of Servia and Kozani was one of the first prominent Greek Macedonians who co-operated with Filiki Eteria.

The economic ascent of Thessaloniki and of the other urban centers of Macedonia coincided with the cultural and political renaissance of the Greeks. The ideals and patriotic songs of Regas Pheraios and others had made a profound impression upon the Thessalonians—in 1812 and 1813 Thourios was the most popular of these songs. Α few years later, the revolutionary fervor of the Southern Greeks was to spread to these parts, and the seeds of Filiki Eteria were speedily to take root. The leader and coordinator of the revolution in Macedonia was Emmanouel Pappas from the village of Dobista, Serres, who was initiated into the Filiki Eteria in 1819. Papas had considerable influence over the local Ottoman authorities, especially the local governor, Ismail Bey, and offered much of his personal wealth for the cause.

Following the instructions of Alexander Ypsilantis, that is to prepare the ground and to rouse the inhabitants of Macedonia to rebellion, Papas loaded arms and munitions from Constantinople on a ship on 23 March and proceeded to Mount Athos, considering that this would be the most suitable spring-board for starting the insurrection. As Vacalopoulos notes, however, "adequate preparations for rebellion had not been made, nor were revolutionary ideals to be reconciled with the ideological world of the monks within the Athonite regime". On 8 May, the Turks, infuriated by the landing of sailors from Psara at Tsayezi, by the capture of Turkish merchants and the seizure of their goods, rampaged through the streets of Serres, searched the houses of the notables for arms, imprisoned the Metropolitan and 150 merchants, and seized their goods as a reprisal for the plundering by the Psarians.

In Thessaloniki, governor Yusuf Bey (the son of Ismail Bey) imprisoned in his headquarters more than 400 hostages, of whom more than 100 were monks from the monastic estates. He also wished to seize the powerful notables of Polygyros, who got wind of his intentions and fled. On May 17, the Greeks of Polygyros took up arms, killed the local governor and 14 of his men, and wounded three others; they also repulsed two Turkish detachments. On May 18, when Yusuf learnt of the incidents at Polygyros and the spreading of the insurrection ot the villages of Chalkidiki, he ordered half of his hostages to be slaughtered before his eyes. The Mulla of Thessalonica, Hayrıülah, gives the following description of Yusuf's retaliations:

Every day and every night you hear nothing in the streets of Thessaloniki but shouting and moaning. It seems that Yusuf Bey, the Yeniceri Agasi, the Subaşı, the hocas and the ulemas have all gone raving mad.
Letter of Alexandros Ypsilantis to Emmanouel Pappas, dated 8 October 1820.

It would take until the end of the century for the city's Greek community to recover. The revolt, however, gained momentum in Mount Athos and Kassandra, and the island of Thasos joined it. Meanwhile, the revolt in Chalkidiki was progressing slowly and unsystematically. In June 1821 the insurgents tried to cut communications between Thrace and the south, attempting to prevent the serasker Hadji Mehmet Bayram Pasha from transferring forces from Asia Minor to Southern Greece. Even though the rebels delayed him, they were ultimately defeated at the pass of Rentina.

The insurrection in Chalkidiki was, from then on, confined to the peninsulas of Mount Athos and Kassandra. On October 30, 1821, an offensive led by the new Pasha of Thessaloniki, Mehmet Emin Abulubud, resulted in a decisive Ottoman victory at Kassandra. The survivors, among them Papas, were rescued by the Psarian fleet, which took them mainly to Skiathos, Skopelos and Skyros. However, Papas died en route to join the revolution at Hydra. Sithonia, Mount Athos and Thasos subsequently surrendered on terms.

Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha by Eugène Delacroix (1827, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago). Inspired by Lord Byron's poem The Giaour.

Nevertheless, the revolt spread from Central to Western Macedonia, from Olympus to Pieria and Vermion. In the autumn of 1821, Nikolaos Kasomoulis was sent to Southern Greece as the "representative of South-East Macedonia", and met Demetrius Ypsilantis (brother of Alexander Ypsilantis) . He then wrote to Papas from Hydra, asking him to visit Olympus to meet the captains there and to "fire them with the required patriotic enthusiasm". At the beginning of 1822, Anastasios Karatasos and Aggelis Gatsos arranged a meeting with other armatoloi; they decided that the insurrection should be based on three towns: Naoussa, Kastania, and Siatista.

In March 1822, Mehmet Emin secured decisive victories at Kolindros and Kastania. Further north, in the vicinity of Naousa, Zafeirakis Theodosiou, Karatasos and Gatsos organized the city's defense, and the first clashes resulted in a victory for the Greeks. Mehmed Emin then appeared before the town with 10,000 regular troops and 10,600 irregulars. Failing to get the insurgents to surrender, Mehmet Emin launched a number of attacks pushing them further back and finally captured Naousa in April, helped by the enemies of Zafeirakis, who had revealed an unguarded spot, the "Alonia". Reprisals and executions ensued, and women are reported to have flung themselves over the Arapitsa waterfall to avoid dishonor and being sold in slavery. Those who broke through the siege of Naousa fell back in Kozani, Siatista and Aspropotamos River, or were carried by the Psarian fleet to the Northern Aegean islands.

War at sea

From the early stages of the revolution, success at sea was vital for the Greeks. If they failed to counter the Ottoman Navy, it would be able to resupply the isolated Ottoman garrisons and land reinforcements from the Ottoman Empire's Asian provinces at will, crushing the rebellion. The Greek fleet was primarily outfitted by prosperous Aegean islanders, principally from three islands: Hydra, Spetses and Psara. Each island equipped, manned and maintained its own squadron, under its own admiral. Although they were manned by experienced crews, the Greek ships were not designed for warfare, equipped with only light guns and staffed by armed merchantmen. Against them stood the Ottoman fleet, which enjoyed several advantages: its ships and supporting craft were built for war; it was supported by the resources of the vast Ottoman Empire; command was centralized and disciplined under the Kaptan Pasha. The total Ottoman fleet size consisted of 23 masted ships of the line, each with about 80 guns and 7 or 8 frigates with 50 guns, 5 corvettes with about 30 guns and around 40 brigs with 20 or fewer guns.

The destruction of the Turkish flagship at Chios by Constantine Kanaris.

In the face of this situation, the Greeks decided to use fire ships (Greek: πυρπολικά or μπουρλότα), which had proven themselves effective for the Psarians during the Orlov Revolt in 1770. The first test was made at Eresos on May 27, 1821, when a Turkish frigate was successfully destroyed by a fire ship under Dimitrios Papanikolis. In the fire ships, the Greeks found an effective weapon against the Ottoman vessels. In subsequent years, the successes of the Greek fire ships would increase their reputation, with acts such as the destruction of the Ottoman flagship by Constantine Kanaris at Chios, after the massacre of the island's population in June 1822, acquiring international fame. Overall, 59 fire ship attacks were carried out, of which 39 were successful.

At the same time, conventional naval actions were also fought, at which naval commanders like Andreas Miaoulis, Nikolis Apostolis, Iakovos Tombazis and Antonios Kriezis distinguished themselves. The early successes of the Greek fleet in direct confrontations with the Ottomans at Patras and Spetses gave the crews confidence and contributed greatly to the survival and success of the uprising in the Peloponnese.

Later, however, as Greece became embroiled in a civil war, the Sultan called upon his strongest subject, Muhammad Ali of Egypt, for aid. Plagued by internal strife and financial difficulties in keeping the fleet in constant readiness, the Greeks failed to prevent the capture and destruction of Kasos and Psara in 1824, on the landing of the Egyptian army at Methoni. Despite victories at Samos and Gerontas, the Revolution was threatened with collapse until the intervention of the Great Powers in the Battle of Navarino in 1827.

Revolution in peril

European intervention

Initial hostility

Left: George Canning was the architect of the Treaty of London, which launched European intervention in the Greek conflict.
Right: Tsar Nicholas I co-signed the Treaty of London, and then launched the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–1829, which finally secured Greek independence.

When the news of the Greek Revolution were first received, the reaction of the European powers was uniformly hostile. They recognized the degeneration of the Ottoman Empire but they did not know how to handle this situation (a problem known as the "Eastern Question"). Afraid of the complications the partition of the empire might raise, the British foreign minister, Viscount Castlereagh, as well as the Austrian foreign minister, Prince Metternich, and the Tsar of Russia, Alexander I, shared the same view concerning the necessity of preserving the status quo and the peace of Europe. They also pleaded that they maintain the Concert of Europe.

Metternich also tried to undermine the Russian foreign minister, Ioannis Capodistrias, who was of Greek origin. Capodistrias demanded Alexander to declare war on the Ottomans in order to liberate Greece and increase the greatness of Russia. Metternich persuaded Alexander that Capodistrias was in league with the Italian Carbonari (an Italian revolutionary group) leading Alexander to disavow him. As a result of the Russian reaction to Alexander Ypsilantis, Capodistrias resigned as foreign minister and moved to Switzerland. Nevertheless, Alexander's position was ambivalent, since he regarded himself as the protector of the Orthodox Church, and his subjects were deeply moved by the hanging of the Patriarch. These factors explain why, after denouncing the Greek Revolution, Alexander dispatched an ultimatum to Constantinople on 27 July 1821. However, the danger of war passed temporarily, after Metternich and Castlereagh persuaded the Sultan to make some concessions to the Tsar.

Change of stance

In August 1822, George Canning was appointed by the British government as Minister of Foreign Affairs succeeding Castlereagh. Canning was influenced by the mounting popular agitation against the Ottomans and believed that a settlement could no longer be postponed. He also feared that Russia might undertake unilateral action against the Ottoman Empire. In March 1823, Canning declared that "when a whole nation revolts against its conqueror, the nation can not be considered as piratical but as a nation in a state of war". In February of the same year, he notified the Ottoman Empire that the United Kingdom would maintain friendly relations with the Turks only under the condition that the latter respected the Christian subjects of the Empire. The Commissioner of the Ionian Islands that belonged to the United Kingdom, was ordered to consider the Greeks in a state of war and give them the right to cut off certain areas from which the Turks could get provisions. These measures led to the increase of British influence. This influence was reinforced by the issuing of two loans that the Greeks managed to conclude with British fund-holders in 1824 and 1825. These loans, which, in effect, made the City of London the financier of the Revolution, inspired the creation of the "British" political party in Greece, whose opinion was that the Revolution could only end in success with the help of the United Kingdom. At the same time, parties affiliated to Russia and France made their appearance. These parties would later strive for power during king Otto's reign.

When Tsar Nicholas I succeeded Alexander in December 1825, Canning decided to act immediately: he sent the Duke of Wellington to Russia, and the outcome was the St. Petersburg Protocol of April 4, 1826. According to the Protocol, the two powers agreed to mediate between the Ottomans and the Greeks on the basis of complete autonomy of Greece under Turkish sovereignty. Before he met with Wellington, the Tsar had already sent an ultimatum to the Porte, demanding that the Principalities be evacuated immediately and that plenipotentiaries be sent to Russia to settle outstanding issues. The Sultan agreed to sent the plenipotentiaries, and on October 7, 1826 signed the Akkerman Convention, in which Russian demands concerning Serbia and the principalities were accepted.

The Greeks formally applied for the mediation provided in the Petersburg Protocol, while the Turks and the Egyptians showed no willingness to stop fighting. Canning therefore prepared for action by negotiating the Treaty of London (July 6, 1827) with France and Russia. This provided that the Allies should again offer negotiations, and if the Sultan rejected it they would exert all the means which circumstances may suggest to force the cessation of hostilities. Meanwhile, news reached Greece in late July 1827, that Mehmet Ali's new fleet was completed in Alexandria and sailing towards Navarino to join the rest of the Egyptian-Turkish fleet. The aim of this fleet was to attack Hydra and knock the island's fleet out of the war. On 29 August, the Porte formally rejected the Treaty of London's stipulations, and, subsequently, the commanders-in-chief of the British and French Mediterranean fleets, Admiral Edward Codrington and Admiral Henri de Rigny sailed into the Gulf of Argos and requested to meet with Greek representatives onboard the HMS Asia.

The Naval Battle of Navarino by Ambroise Louis Garneray (1827)

After the Greek delegation, led by Mavrocordatos, accepted the terms of the Treaty, the Allies prepared to insist upon the armistice, and their fleets were instructed to intercept supplies destined for Ibrahim's forces. When Mehmet Ali's fleet, which had been warned by the British and French to stay away from Greece, left Alexandria and joined other Ottoman/Egyptian units at Navarino on September 8, Codrington arrived with his squadron off Navarino on September 12. On October 13, Codrington was joined, off Navarino, by his allied support, a French squadron under De Rigny and a Russian squadron under L. Heyden. Upon their arrival to Navarino, Codgrinton and de Rigny tried to negotiate with Ibrahim but Ibrahim insisted that by the Sultan's order he must destroy Hydra. Codrington responded by saying that if Ibrahim's fleets attempted to go anywhere but home, he would have to destroy them. Ibrahim agreed to write to the Sultan to see if he would change his orders but he also complained about the Greeks being able to continue their attacks. Codrington promised that he would stop the Greeks and Philhellenes from attacking the Turks and Egyptians. After doing this, he disbanded most of his fleet which returned to Malta while the French went to the Aegean.

However, when Frank Hastings, a Philhellene, destroyed a Turkish naval squadron, Ibrahim sent out a detachment of his fleet out of Navarino in order to defeat Hastings. Codrington had not heard of Hastings actions and thought that Ibrahim was breaking his agreement. Codrington intercepted the force and made them retreat and did so again on the following day when Ibrahim lead the fleet in person. Codrington assembled his fleet once more, with the British returning from Malta and the French from the Aegean. They were also joined by the Russian contingent led by Count Login Geiden. Ibrahim now began a campaign to annihilate the Greeks of the Peloponnese as he thought the Allies had reneged on their agreement.

Portrait of Muhammad Ali Pasha (by Auguste Couder, 1841, Palace of Versailles), whose expedition to the Peloponnese precipitated European intervention in the Greek conflict.

On 20 October 1827, as the weather got worse, the British, Russian and French fleets entered the Bay of Navarino in peaceful formation to shelter themselves and to make sure that Egyptian-Turkish fleet did not slip off and attack Hydra. When a British frigate sent a boat to request the Egyptians to move their fire ships, the officer onboard was shot by the Egyptians. The frigate responded by muskets in retaliation and an Egyptian ship fired a cannon shot at the French flagship, the Sirene, which returned fire.

The battle ended in a complete victory for the Allies and in the annihilation of the Egyptian-Turkish fleet. Of the 89 Egyptian-Turkish ships that took part in the battle, only 14 made it back to Alexandria and their dead amounted to over 8,000. The Allies didn't lose a ship and suffered only 181 deaths. The Porte demanded compensation from the Allies for the ships but his demand was refused on the grounds that the Turks had acted as the aggressors. The three countries' ambassadors also left Constantinople. In England, the battle was criticized as being an 'untoward event' towards Turkey who was called an 'ancient ally'. Codrington was recalled and blamed for having allowed the retreating Egyptian-Turkish ships to carry 2,000 Greek slaves. In France, the news of the battle was greeted with great enthusiasm and the government had an unexpected surge in popularity. Russia formally took the opportunity to declare war on the Turks.

In October 1828, the Greeks regrouped and formed a new government under Kapodistrias. They then advanced to seize as much territory as possible, including Athens and Thebes, before the Western powers imposed a ceasefire. As far as the Peloponnese was concerned, the United Kingdom and Russia accepted the offer of France to send an army to expel Ibrahim's forces. Nicolas Joseph Maison, who was given command of the French expeditionary Corps, landed on August 30, 1828 at Petalidi, and helped the Greeks evacuate the Peloponnese from all the hostile troops by October 30 . Maison thus implemented the convention Codrington had negotiated and signed in Alexandria with Muhammad Ali, and which provided for the withdrawal of all Egyptian troops from the Peloponnese.

The final major engagement of the war was the Battle of Petra, which occurred north of Attica. Greek forces under Demetrius Ypsilantis, for the first time trained to fight as a regular European army rather than as guerilla bands, advanced against Aslan Bey's forces and defeated them. The Turks would surrender all lands from Livadeia to the Spercheios River in exchange for safe passage out of Central Greece. As George Finlay stresses:

Thus Prince Demetrius Hypsilantes had the honour of terminating the war which his brother had commenced on the banks of the Pruth.

From autonomy to independence

The London Conference of 1832 established the Kingdom of Greece with Otto being the first king

On 21 December 1828 the ambassadors of the United Kingdom, Russia, and France met in the island of Poros, and prepared a Protocol, which provided for the creation of an autonomous state ruled by a monarch, whose authority should be confirmed by a firman of the Sultan. The proposed borderline ran from Arta to Volos, and, despite Kapodistrias' efforts, the new state would include only the islands of Cyclades, Sporades, Samos, and maybe Crete. Based on the Protocol of Poros, the London Conference agreed on the Protocol of 22 March 1829, which accepted most of the ambassadors' proposals, but drew the borders southern than the initial proposal, and did not include Samos and Crete in the new state.

Under the pressure of Russia, the Porte finally agreed on the terms of the Treaty of London of 6 July 1827, and of the Protocol of 22 March 1829. Soon afterward, the United Kingdom and France conceived the idea of an independent Greek state, trying to limit the influence of Russia on the new state. Russia was not delighted by the idea, but could not reject it, and, consequently, the three powers finally agreed to create an independent Greek state under their joint protection, and concluded the Protocols of February 3, 1830. By one of the Protocols, the Greek throne was initially offered to Léopold I, the future King of Belgium, but he refused, being discouraged by the gloomy picture painted by Kapodistrias and unsatisfied with the Aspropotamos-Zitouni borderline, which replaced the more favorable line running from Arta to Volos considered by the Great Powers earlier. Negotiations temporarily stalled after Kapodistrias was assassinated in 1831 in Nafplion by the Mavromichalis' clan after having demanded that they unconditionally submit to his authority. When they refused, Kapodistias put Petrobey in jail, sparking vows of vengeance from his clan.

The withdrawal of Léopold as a candidate for the throne of Greece and the July Revolution in France further delayed the final settlement of the new kingdom's frontiers until a new government was formed in the United Kingdom. Lord Palmerston, who took over as British Foreign Secretary, agreed to the Arta–Volos borderline. However, the secret note on Crete, which the Bavarian plenipotentiary communicated to the Courts of the United Kingdom, France and Russia, bore no fruit.

Map showing the original territory of the Kingdom of Greece as laid down in the Treaty of 1832 (in dark blue).

In May 1832, Palmerston convened the London Conference. The three Great Powers (the United Kingdom, France and Russia) offered the throne to the Bavarian prince, Otto of Wittelsbach, without taking Greek opinion into consideration. As co-guarantors of the monarchy, the Great Powers also agreed to guarantee a loan of 60,000,000 francs to the new king, empowering their Ambassadors in the Ottoman capital to secure the end of the war. Under the Protocol signed on May 7, 1832 between Bavaria and the protecting Powers, Greece was defined as a "monarchical and independent state" but was to pay an indemnity to the Porte. The protocol outlined the way in which the Regency was to be managed until Otto reached his majority, while also concluding the second Greek loan for a sum of £2.4 million.

On 21 July 1832, British Ambassador to the Sublime Porte Sir Stratford Canning and the other representatives of the Great Powers signed the Treaty of Constantinople, which set the boundaries of the new Greek Kingdom at the Arta–Volos line. The borders of the kingdom were reiterated in the London Protocol of August 30, 1832, also signed by the Great Powers, which ratified the terms of the Constantinople arrangement.


Eugène Delacroix's Massacre of Chios (1824, oil on canvas, Louvre, Paris).

Almost as soon as the revolution began, there were large scale massacres of civilians by both Greek revolutionaries and Ottoman authorities. Greek revolutionaries massacred Turks, Muslims and Jews, mainly inhabitants of the Peloponnese and Attica where Greek forces were dominant, identifying them with the Ottoman rule. On the other hand, the Turks massacred Greeks identified with the revolution especially in Anatolia, Crete, Constantinople and the Aegean islands, where the revolutionary forces were weaker. Some of the more infamous atrocities include the Chios Massacre, the Destruction of Psara, the massacres following the Tripolitsa Massacre, and the Navarino Massacre. There is a debate among scholars over whether the massacres committed by the Greeks should be regarded as a response to prior events (such as the massacre of the Greeks of Tripoli, after the failed Orlov Revolt of 1770 and the destruction of the Sacred Band) or as separate atrocities, which started simultaneously with the outbreak of the revolt. Harris J. Booras and David Brewer claimed that massacres by Greeks were responses to the prior events.

During the war, tens of thousands of Greek civilians were killed, left to die or taken into slavery. A large number of Christian clergymen were also killed, including the Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory V. Sometimes identified with Ottoman rule in the Peloponnese, Jewish settlements were also massacred by Greeks in the area. However, many Jews around Greece and throughout Europe were supporters of the Greek revolt, using their resources (as in the case of the Rothschild family) as well as their political and public influence to assist the Greek cause. In turn, the success of the Greek Revolution was to stimulate the incipient stirrings of Jewish nationalism, later called Zionism. Following its establishment, the new state attracted a number of Jewish immigrants from the Ottoman Empire, as it was one of the first countries to grant legal equality to Jews.


The consequences of the Greek revolution were somewhat ambiguous in the immediate aftermath. An independent Greek state had been established, but with Britain, Russia and France claiming a major role in Greek politics, an imported Bavarian dynast as ruler, and a mercenary army. The country had been ravaged by ten years of fighting, was full of displaced refugees and empty Turkish estates, necessitating a series of land reforms over several decades.

The population of the new state numbered 800,000, representing less than one-third of the 2.5 million Greek inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire. During a great part of the next century, the Greek state was to seek the liberation of the " unredeemed" Greeks of the Ottoman Empire, in accordance with the Megali Idea, i.e. the goal of uniting all Greeks in one country.

"Today the fatherland is reborn, that for so long was lost and extinguished. Today are raised from the dead the fighters, political, religious, as well as military, for our King has come, that we begat with the power of God. Praised be your most virtuous name, omnipotent and most merciful Lord."
Makriyannis' Memoirs on the arrival of King Otto.

As a people, the Greeks no longer provided the princes for the Danubian Principalities and were regarded within the Ottoman Empire, especially by the Muslim population, as traitors. Phanariotes, who had until then held high office within the Ottoman Empire, were thenceforth regarded as suspect and lost their special, privileged status. In Constantinople and the rest of the Ottoman Empire where Greek banking and merchant presence had been dominant, Armenians mostly replaced Greeks in banking and Bulgarian merchants gained importance.

In the long-term historical perspective, this marked a seminal event in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, despite the small size and the impoverishment of the new Greek state. For the first time, a Christian subject people had achieved independence from the Ottoman rule and established a fully independent state, recognized by Europe. This would give hope to the other subject peoples of the Ottoman Empire, as Serbs, Bulgars, Romanians and Arabs would all successfully fight for and achieve independence. Kurds and Armenians were not as successful. Shortly after the war finished, the people of the Russian-dependent Poland, encouraged by the Greek victory, started the November Uprising, hoping to regain their independence. The uprising, however, fell and the Polish freedom was to wait until 1918. The newly established Greek state would become a springboard for further expansion and, over the course of a century, parts of Macedonia, Crete, Epirus, the Aegean and other Greek-speaking territories would unite with the new Greek state. The Greek lands, poor and underdeveloped during the Ottoman occupation, achieved satisfactory economic growth during the later 19th century, laying the foundations of what, in the twentieth century, was to become the largest merchant fleet in the world.

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