The Greek War of Independence, also known as the Greek Revolution of 1821, was a war against the Ottoman Empire for independence, which started that year. Independence was finally granted by the Treaty of Constantinople in July 1832 when Greece (Hellas) was recognised as a free country. Greeks celebrate their Independence day annually on March 25 (according to a 1838 decision during the period of the Bavarian King of Greece Otto, probably due to religious reasons. The War of independence actually started much earlier, the city of Kalamata was liberated on March 23 1821.
Agioi Apostoloi church, Kalamata, declaration of the independence war, 23.3.1821
The Ottoman Empire had ruled all of Greece, with the exception of the Ionian islands since its conquest of the Byzantine Empire over the course of the 14th and 15th centuries (see: History of Ottoman Greece). But in the 18th and 19th century, as revolutionary nationalism grew across Europe (due, in part, to the influence of the French Revolution), and the power of the Ottoman Empire declined, Greek nationalism began to assert itself and drew support from Western European "philhellenes".
In 1814, Greek nationalists formed a secret organization called the Friendly Society (Filiki Eteria) in Odessa. With the support of wealthy Greek exile communities in Britain and the United States, the aid of sympathizers in western Europe and covert assistance from Russia, they planned a rebellion. John Capodistria, an official from the Ionian Islands who had become the Russian Foreign Minister, was secured as the leader of the planned revolt. The start of the uprising can be set on March 6 when Alexander Ypsilanti accompanied by several other Greek officers crossed the river Prut in Romania, or on March 23 when rebels took control of Kalamata in Peloponnese. Simultaneous risings were planned across Greece, including in Macedonia, Crete and Cyprus. With the advantage of surprise, and aided by Ottoman inefficiency, the Greeks succeeded in taking control of the Peloponnese and some other areas.
The Ottomans soon recovered, and retaliated violently, massacring the Greek population of Chios and other towns. The retribution, however, drew sympathy for the Greek cause in western Europealthough the British and French governments suspected that the uprising was a Russian plot to seize Greece and possibly Constantinople from the Ottomans. The Greeks were unable to establish a coherent government in the areas they controlled, and soon fell to fighting among themselves. Inconclusive fighting between Greeks and Ottomans continued until 1825, when the Sultan asked for help from his most powerful vassal, Egypt.
Egypt was then ruled by Mehemet Ali Pasha who was eager to test his newly modernized armed forces. The Ottoman Sultan also promised Ali concessions in Syria if Egypt participated. The Egyptian force, under the command of Ali's son Ibrahim, was successful and quickly gained dominance of the seas and Aegean islands through the navy.
In Europe the Greek revolt aroused widespread sympathy. Greece was viewed as the cradle of western civilization, and it was especially lauded by the spirit of romanticism that was current at the time. The sight of a Christian nation attempting to cast off the rule of a Muslim Empire also appealed to the western European public.
One of those who heard the call was the poet Lord Byron who spent time in Greece, organising funds, supplies and troops, but died from fever at Messolonghi in 1824. Byron's death did even more to augment European sympathy for the Greek cause. This eventually led the western powers to intervene directly.
In October 1827 the British and French fleets, on the initiative of local commanders but with the tacit approval of their governments, attacked and destroyed the Ottoman fleet at Navarino. This was the decisive moment in the war of independence, although the British Admiral Edward Codrington ruined his career (see Great Naval Blunders) since he wasn't ordered to achieve such a victory destroying completely the Egyptian fleet. In October 1828 the French landed troops (General Maison with 10,000 soldiers) in the Peloponnese to stop the Ottomans. Under their protection, the Greeks were able to regroup and form a new government. They then advanced to seize as much territory as possible, including Athens and Thebes, before the western powers impose a ceasefire.
By the Convention of May 11, 1832 Greece was finally recognised as a sovereign state. The state of affairs was formally recognized by the Turks and the European powers with the signing of the Treaty of Constantinople in July 1832. It is noteable that the first 3 Greek political parties were the "English party", the "French party", and the "Russian party".
Persons of the Greek War of Independence
Kingdom of France
Gallery of romantic paintings depicting the war
In Greek, about the myths of the Revolution
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