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Greek War of Independence

The Greek War of Independence (1821–1829), also commonly known as the Greek Revolution (Ελληνική Επανάσταση Elliniki Epanastasi; Ottoman Turkish: يونان عصياني Yunan İsyanı), was a successful war waged by the Greeks to win independence from the Ottoman Empire. After a long and bloody struggle, independence was finally granted by the Treaty of Constantinople in July 1832. The Greeks were thus the first people of the Ottoman Empire's subjects to secure recognition as an independent sovereign power. The anniversary of Greece's independence (March 25, 1821) is a national holiday in Greece, and was deliberately chosen to fall on the same day as the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary.


The Fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the subsequent fall of the successor states of the Byzantine Empire marked the end of Greek sovereignty. Since then, the Ottoman Empire ruled Greece with the exception of the Ionian Islands, Agrafa mountains, Souli and the Mani Peninsula. While the Greeks preserved their culture and traditions largely with the help of the Greek Orthodox Church, they were a subject people and lacked basic political rights, with few exceptions. However, in the 18th and 19th century, as revolutionary nationalism grew across Europe—including Greece (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, not only was 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

The Greek Revolution was not an isolated event; there were numerous failed attempts at regaining independence throughout the history of the Ottoman era. In 1603, an attempt took place in Morea to restore the Byzantine Empire. Throughout the 17th century there was great resistance to the Turks in the Peloponnese and elsewhere, as evidenced by revolts led by Dionysius the Philosopher in 1600 and 1611 in Epirus. Ottoman rule over 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 Turko-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 (1787–1792), 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 Church enjoyed control over the Empire's Orthodox subjects. From the 18th century and onwards, Phanariote (Ottoman-appointed Greek administrators from the Phanar district of Constantinople) played an increasingly influential role in the governance of the Empire.

A strong maritime tradition on the islands of the Aegean, together with the emergence over the 18th century of an influential merchant class, 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 realise 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 (Diafotismos, Διαφωτισμός). The rich merchants had a very important role in this, greatly funding, aside from schools and libraries, book publications. More and more 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 these writers and intellectuals that helped to shape a uniform opinion among Greeks both in 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 of 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

In times of central authority's military incapacity, the Balkan countryside was infested with groups of bandits that struck at Muslims and Christians alike, called klephts (κλέφτες) in Greek, the equivalent of Hajduks. Leading a life of defiance of Ottoman rule, klefts were highly admired and held a significant place in the popular mythology. Responding to klephts' attacks, the Ottomans recruited the ablest amongst these groups, contracting Christian militias, known as armatoloi (αρματολοί), to secure endangered areas, especially mountain passes. Their area of jurisdiction was called armatolik, the oldest known having been 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 their armatolik so that they 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 armatolos position gradually turned to be a hereditary one, some captains took care of their armatoliki 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 an exclusive control in their armatolik, forcing the Porte to repeatedly, unsuccesfully though, 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 availiable major military formation on the side of the Greeks—played so crucial a role in the Greek revolution that he referred to them as the "yeast of liberty".

Filiki Eteria

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 center of the Greek mercantile diaspora. With the support of wealthy Greek exile communities in the 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 rapidly expanded, gaining members in almost all regions of Greek settlement, amongst them figures who would later play a prominent role in the war, such as Theodoros Kolokotronis, Odysseas Androutsos, Papaflessas and Laskarina Bouboulina. 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 to be 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 it was met at first with the lukewarm reception above 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 this Ottoman massacres inspired Eugene Delacroix's famous painting Massacre of Chios; other philhellenic works by Delocroix were inspired by various Byron poems. 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 supporters of the Greek cause. Modern classicists and romantics envisioned the casting out of the Turks as the prelude to the revival of the Golden Age.

Byron, the most celebrated philhellene of all, lent his name, prestige, and wealth to the cause. spent time in Albania and Greece, organising 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. This eventually led Western powers to intervene directly. Byron's poetry, along with Delacroix's art, helped arouse European public opinion in favor of the Greek revolutionaries.

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 6 March, 1821, 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, on 8 March, 1821, Ypsilantis issued a proclamation calling on 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 defence 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 by 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 March 27 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.

At that point, former Russian Foreign Minister, the Corfu-born Greek Ioannis Kapodistrias, sent Ypsilantis a letter upbraiding him for misusing the mandate received from the Tsar, announcing that his name had been struck off the army list and commanding him 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 June 7, 1821. 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 June 19, 1821.

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 neighbouring 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 January 6, 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.

The crucial meeting was held at Vostitsa (modern Aigion), where chieftains and prelates from all over the Peloponnese assembled on January 26. 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 traditional legend that the Revolution was declared on March 25 in the Monastery of Agia Lavra by the archbishop of Patras Germanos is a later invention. However, the date has been established as the official anniversary of the Revolution and is celebrated as a national day in Greece.

On March 17, 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. The Maniots reached Kalamata on March 21 and after a brief two-day siege it 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 March 21. In Patras, in the already tense atmosphere, the Ottomans had transferred their belongings to the fortress on February 28, followed by their families on March 18. On March 22, 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 March 23, 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 April 28, a few thousand Maniot soldiers under the command of Mavromichalis' sons joined Kolokotronis' camp outside Tripoli. On September 12, 1821, Tripolitsa was seized by Kolokotronis and his men.

Central Greece

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

The first region to revolt in Central Greece was Phocis, on March 24, whose capital, Salona (modern Amfissa), was captured by Panourgias on March 27. In Boeotia, Livadeia was captured by Athanasios Diakos on March 29, 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 August 26. 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. 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.

As the Ottoman sultan, Mahmud II, had no army of his own, he was forced to seek the aid of his rebellious vassal and rival, the Pasha of Egypt, who sent troops into the island. Britain decided that Crete should not become part of the new Kingdom of Greece on its independence in 1830, evidently fearing that it would either become a centre of piracy as it had often been in the past, or a Russian naval base in the East Mediterranean. Crete would remain under Ottoman sovereignty even though Egyptians administered the island, such as the Egyptian-Albanian Giritli Mustafa Naili Pasha.


The economic ascent of Thessaloniki and of the other urban centres 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, more than 100 of whom 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 17 May 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 18 May, 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:

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 30 October, 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.

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. 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 mostly armed merchantmen, not designed for warfare, and equipped with only light guns. 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.

In the face of this situation, the Greeks decided to use fire ships (πυρπολικά or μπουρλότα), which had proven 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. There, the Ottoman fleet was decisively defeated by the combined fleets of the United Kingdom, France and the Russian Empire, effectively securing the independence of Greece.

Revolution in peril

Greek infighting

From November 15 to 20, 1821, a council was held in Salona, (present-day Amfissa), in which the main local notables and military chiefs participated. Under the direction of Theodoros Negris, they set down a proto-constitution for the region, the "Legal Order of Eastern Continental Greece" (Νομική Διάταξις της Ανατολικής Χέρσου Ελλάδος), and established a governing council, the Areopagus of Eastern Continental Greece, composed of 71 notables from Eastern Greece, Thessaly and Macedonia.

A month later, the a national legislative assembly was formed at Epidaurus, at which Demetrius Ypsilantis (brother of Alexander Ypsilantis) was elected president.

Officially, the Areopagus was superseded by the central provisional administration, established at the First National Assembly, but the council continued its existence and exercised considerable authority, albeit in the name of the national government. Tensions between the Areopagus, which was dominated by Central Greeks, and the National Assembly, which was dominated by Peloponnesians, caused an early rift among the revolutionaries. The relationship between the two governments was extremely tense and Greece soon entered a phase of virtual civil war based on the regional governments.

Egyptian intervention

Seeing that the Greek forces had defeated the Turks, the Ottoman Sultan asked his Egyptian vassal, Muhammad Ali of Egypt, who hailed from Kavala, for aid. Muhammad Ali agreed to send his son Ibrahim Pasha in command of his expedition to Greece in exchange for Crete, Cyprus, the Peleponnese and Syria. He planned to pay for the war by expelling most of its inhabitants and resettling Greece with Egyptian peasants.

Ibrahim Pasha landed at Methoni on February 24, 1825 and a month later he was joined by his army of 10,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry. Ibrahim proceeded to defeat the Greek garrison on the small island of Sphacteria off the coast of Messenia. With the Greeks in disarray, Ibrahim ravaged the Western Peloponnese and defeated and killed Papaflessas at the Battle of Maniaki. The Greek government, in an attempt to defeat the Egyptians, released Kolokotronis from captivity, but he too was unsuccessful. By the end of June, Ibrahim had captured the city of Argos and was within striking distance of Nafplion. The city was saved by Commodore Gawen Hamilton of the Royal Navy who placed his ships in a position which looked like he would assist in the defense of the city.

At the same time, the Turkish armies in Central Greece were besieging the city of Messolonghi for the third time. The siege had begun on April 15, 1825, the day on which Navarino had fallen to Ibrahim. The Turks approached the city and began surrounding it with trenches as well as setting up batteries. The first major Turkish attack was not launched until August, when the Turks undermined the wall and brought a section of it down. The Greeks counter-attacked and drove the Turks back. On the same night, they launched a raid on the Turkish trenches and batteries, managing to inflict major damage.

Both sides were being supplied by sea. However, the Greeks were having difficulty paying the crews; this resulted in the fighting of only a few captains who did not receive any remuneration. In early autumn, the Greek navy under the command of Miaoulis forced the Turkish fleet in the Gulf of Corinth to retreat, after attacking it with fire ships. In mid-winter, Ibrahim left Navarino by land and cross the Gulf of Corinth and joined the Turks at Missolonghi. After six weeks of fighting, Ibrahim's army had no more luck than the Turks in penertrating Messolonghi's defences.

In the spring of 1826, Ibrahim managed to capture the marshes around the city, although not without heavy losses. By capturing the marshes, he had cut the Greeks off from the sea and blocked off their supply route. Despite the Egyptians and the Turks offering them terms to stop the attacks, the Greek refused and continued to fight. On April 22, the Greeks decided to sail from the city during the night with 3,000 men to cut a path through the Egyptian lines and allow 6,000 women, children and non-combatants to follow. However, a Bulgarian deserter informed Ibrahim of the Greek's intention and he had his entire army deployed; only 1,800 Greeks managed to cut their way through the Egyptian lines. Between 3,000 and 4,000 women and children where enslaved and many of the people who remained behind decided to blow themselves up with gun powder rather than be enslaved.

Ibrahim sent an envoy to the Maniots demanding that they surrender or else he would ravage their land as he had done to the rest of the Peloponnese. Instead of surrendering, the Maniots simply replied:

From the few Greeks of Mani and the rest of Greeks who live there to Ibrahim Pasha. We received your letter in which you try to frighten us saying that if we don't surrender, you'll kill the Maniots and plunder Mani. That's why we are waiting for you and your army. We, the inhabitants of Mani, sign and wait for you.

Ibrahim tried to enter Mani from the north-east near Almiro on the June 21, 1826, but he was forced to stop at the fortifications at Vergas, Mani. His army of 7,000 men was held off by an army of 2,000 Maniots and 500 refugees from other parts of Greece. Ibrahim again tried to enter Mani, but again the Maniots defeated the Turkish and Egyptian forces. The Maniots pursued the Egyptians all the way to Kalamata before returning to Vergas. This battle was costly for Ibrahim not only because he suffered 2,500 casualties, but it also ruined his plan to invade Mani from the north. Ibrahim would try again several times to take Mani, however, each time the Turko-Arab forces were repulsed, they suffered much heavier casualties than the Greeks.

European intervention

In August 1822, George Canning was appointed by the British government as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Canning implemented a liberal policy in internal and external matters. In March 1823, he 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 to 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 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.

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. At around the same time, 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 representives onboard the HMS Asia.

The delegation was lead by Mavrocordatos whom the admirals informed that Russia, the United Kingdom and France had signed the Treaty of London apparently being spurred on by the news the Mehmet Ali planned wipe out the Greeks of the Peloponnese and repopulate it with Arabs. The Greeks accepted the terms of the treaty while the Sultan refused. The allies prepared to insist upon the armistice. To give point to their insistance, the United Kingdom and France sent their Mediterranean Fleets to the region while the Russians sent a squadron from the Baltic Sea.

Following the Sultan's refusal to sign the armistice, the British and French fleets headed towards Navarino, to blockade the Egyptian-Turkish fleet and to stop the Ottomans bring supplies to use against the Greeks. 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 destory 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 he did 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 contigent lead 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.

On October 20, 1827, as the weather got worse, the British, Russian and French fleets entered the Bay of Navarino in a 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 a 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 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 oppurntunity 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. The Greeks seized the last Turkish strongholds in the Peloponnese with the help of the French general, Nicolas Joseph Maison.

The final major engagement of the war was the Battle of Petra, which occurred north of Attica. Greek forces under Dimitrios Ypsilantis, for the first time trained to fight as a regular European army rather than as guerilla bands, advanced against Ottoman forces as Greek commanders realized that under the peace terms the new state would comprise whatever territory Greek troops occupied. The Greek forces met the troops of Osman Aga and after exchanging fire, the Greeks charged with their swords and decisively defeated the Turkish forces. The Turks would surrender all lands from Livadeia to the Spercheios River in exchange for safe passage out of Central Greece. This battle was significant as it was the first time the Greeks had fought victoriously as a regular army. It also marked the first time that Turks and Greeks had negotiated on the field of battle. The Battle of Petra was the last of the Greek War of Independence. Ironically, Dimitrios Ypsilantis ended the war started by his brother, Alexandros Ypsilantis, when he crossed the Prut River eight and a half years earlier.


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. The Turks massacred many Greeks identified with the revolution especially in Asia Minor, Crete, Constantinople and the Aegean islands where the revolutionary forces were weaker. Some of the more infamous atrocities include the Massacre of Chios, the Destruction of Psara, the massacres following the Fall of Tripolitsa and the Navarino Massacre. Harris J. Booras and David Brewer claimed that massacres by Greeks were responses to the 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). However, according to historians W. Alison Phillips, George Finlay, William St. Clair and Barbara Jelavich, massacres started simultaneously with the outbreak of the revolt. Tens of thousands of Greek civilians were killed; the Turks also sold tens of thousands of captives into slavery. A large number of Christian clergymen were also killed, including the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

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 wealth (as in the case of the Rothschild family) as well as their political and public influence to assist the Greek cause. 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.

Diplomatic endgame

Kapodistrias, who had been the only Greek who various rebel leaders could agree upon as president of the new state, was assassinated in 1831 in Nafplion, leading to a renewed civil war. He was killed by the Maniots after having demanded that they pay taxes to the new Greek state. When the Maniots refused, Kapodistias put Petros Mavromichalis in jail, sparking vows of vengeance from his clan. As a state of confusion continued in Greece, the Great Powers sought after a formal end to the war and a recognized monarch for the new state. 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.

The withdrawal of Léopold as a candidate for the throne of Greece and the July Revolution in France 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.

In May 1832, Palmerston convened the London Conference. The three Great Powers (United Kingdom, France and the Russian Empire) offered the throne to the Bavarian prince, Otto of Wittelsbach, without taking the 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 July 21, 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&ndah;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.


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 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. 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 underdevelopped 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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