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Greek War of Independence 1821



Greek War of Independence


Just before the Greek War of Independence of 1821, the population of Athens was about 11.000: Greek- and Albanian-speaking Christians and Turkish, Greek- and Albanian-speaking Muslims, the majority being the Christians. Haseki had built a defensive wall around the city to protect the inhabitants against the raids of armed “Avanites” (Albanian-speaking population) from rural Attica.

The walls followed the line of more ancient defences and started from the Theatre of Herodes Atticus, reached Hadrian’s Gate and continued along what is today Amalias Avenue, Syntagma, Stadiou Street, Psirri, Thissio and the southern side of the Acropolis, covering some 11.000m² in total.

Athenian houses at the time were stone-built with wooden roofs covered with tiles. The city’s administrative and financial centre was the area around Monastiraki where the markets also were held. The largest market was behind Pandrossou Street, at the end of what is today Aiolou Street.

Beginning of the revolutionThe Declaration of the War by Bishop Germanos at Saint Lavra on 25 March 1821

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.

The Revolution initially broke in the Peloponnese and Central Greece and quickly spread across the whole Aegean to Crete and Cyprus. In January 1822 the 1st National Assembly at Epidavros declared the independence of the Greek Nation and consolidated their position with remarkable victories on land and sea until 1823 when attempts by the revolutionaries to assert control beyond the Peloponnese ended in a stalemate.

The Ottomans retaliated violently in other parts of Greece and uprisings were suppressed by the Ottoman government massacring the Greek population of Chios and other towns. These incidents, however, drew sympathy for the Greek cause in Western Europe although 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 started 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 the Albanian Mehmet 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. Ibrahim was also successful in the Peloponnese where he managed to recapture Tripolis, the administrative center of the area. Top

Foreign intervention

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 Albania and Greece organizing funds and supplies. He 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.

The Naval Battle of Navarino (1827) - Oil painting by CarnerayOn 20 October 1827 the British, Russian and French fleets, on the initiative of local commanders but with the tacit approval of their governments, attacked and destroyed the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Navarino. This was the decisive moment in the War of Independence, although the British Admiral Edward Codrington nearly ruined his career since he wasn't ordered to achieve such a victory or destroy the Turkish-Egyptian fleet completely.

In October 1828, the Greeks regrouped and formed a new government under Ioannis Kapodistrias. They then advanced to seize as much territory as possible, including Athens and Thebes, before the western powers imposed a ceasefire. The Greeks seized the last Turkish strongholds in the Peloponnese with the help of the French general, Nicolas Joseph Maison. Top

The Kingdom of GreeceIoannis Kapodistrias (1776-1831)

Kapodistrias was assassinated in 1831 in Nafplio. As a state of confusion continued in the Greek peninsula, the Great Powers sought a formal end of the war and a recognized government in Greece. The Greek throne was initially offered to Leopold I of Belgium but he refused as he was not at all satisfied with the Aspropotamos-Zitouni borderline, which replaced the more favorable Arta-Volos line considered by the Great Powers earlier.

The withdrawal of Leopold as a candidate for the throne of Greece and the July Revolution in France, delayed the final settlement of the frontiers of the new kingdom 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.

King Otto of Greece at the age of 17In May 1832, Palmerston convened the London Conference of 1832. The three Great Powers (Great Britain, France and Russia) offered the throne to the Bavarian Prince, Otto Wittelsbach, without regard to Greek views on this. The line of succession was also established which would pass the crown to the heirs of Otto, or his younger brothers in succession, should he have no heirs. In no case would the crowns of Greece and Bavaria be joined.

Under the protocol signed on 7 May 1832 between Bavaria and the protecting Powers and basically dealing with the way in which the regency was to be managed until Otto reached his majority, Greece was defined as an independent kingdom, with the Arta-Volos line as its northern frontier. The Ottoman Empire was given 40.000.000 piastres (one piastre = one 100th of a Turkish Lira) in compensation for the loss of the territory.

On 21 July 1832, British Ambassador, Sir Stratford Canning, and the other representatives concluded the Treaty of Constantinople, which set the boundaries of the new Greek Kingdom at a line running from Arta to Volos. The borders of the Kingdom were reiterated in the London Protocol of 30 August 1832 signed by the Great Powers, which ratified the terms of the Constantinople Arrangement. The new state, however, contained less than one third of the Greek inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire and for much of the next century the Greek state sought the liberation of the “unredeemed” Greeks of the Ottoman Empire. Top

Athens and the war

The military campaigns of the Greek War of Independence destroyed much of the city. In April 1821, the revolutionary army took over the city and besieged the Acropolis where the Ottomans had taken refuge. In June 1822, the Ottomans surrendered but in Augustus 1826 the situation reversed.

TimelineAfter their military successes in the Peloponnese, the Ottomans took over Athens and the Greeks took refuge on the Acropolis which remained under siege until May 1827 when the Greeks surrendered and left Athens after the declaration of the Independence in 1830. However, the Ottomans remained on the Acropolis. Finally, in March 1833, the Acropolis was returned to Greece and the Ottomans left Athens, this time for good. Five years later, and after 400 years of Ottoman rule, the first municipal elections were held in a free city of Athens. Top


   Beginning of the revolution
   Foreign intervention
   The Kingdom of Greece
   Athens and the war

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