Greek Independence Day : March 25, 1821

Greece celebrates its Independence on March 25th, which is also the day Gabriel announced to Mary that she was with child.

In 1821, Greeks vigorously rose up against the oppressive Ottoman Empire which had occupied Greece for nearly four hundred years, embarking on the ultimately successful war of independence. Bishop Germanos of Patras boldly raised the Greek flag at the monastery of Agia Lavras, inciting the Peloponnese to rise against the oppressors.

In the 1770s and 1780s Catherine booted the Turks from the Black Sea coast, created a number of towns in the region, including Odessa, and gave them Ancient Greek or Byzantine names. She offered Greeks financial incentives and free land to settle the region, and many took up her offer.

In Odessa in 1814, three businessmen Athanasios Tsakalof, Emmanuel Xanthos and Nikolaos Skoufas founded a Greek independence party, the Philiki Etairia (Friendly Society). The message of the society spread quickly and branches opened throughout Greece. Members met in secret and came from all walks of life. The leaders in Odessa held the firm belief that armed force was the only effective means of liberation, and made generous monetary contributions to the freedom fighters.

Meanwhile there were also stirrings of dissent amongst Greeks living in Constantinople. The Ottomans regarded it as beneath them to participate in commerce, and this had left the door open for Greeks in the city to become a powerful economic force. These wealthy Greek families were called Phanariots. Unlike the Filiki Etairia, who strove for liberation through rebellion, the Phanariots believed that by virtue of their positions they could effect a takeover from within. Influential Phanariots included Alexandros Mavrokordatos and Alexandros and Dimitrios Ypsilantis.

Ali Pasha's private rebellion against the sultan in 1820 gave the Greeks the opportunity they had been waiting for. The legend says that on March 21, 1821 Bishop Germanos of Patras hoisted the Greek flag at the monastery of Agia Lavra in the Peloponnese, an act of defiance that marked the beginning of the War of Independence. Fighting broke out throughout the Peloponnese, with fearless Maniot freedom fighters, led by Petrobey Mavromichaelis, governor of the Mani, laying siege to the most strategic Turkish garrisons and razing the homes of thousands of Turks. The worst atrocity occurred in the city of Tripolitsa (present-day Tripolis) where 12,000 Turkish inhabitants were massacred.

The fighting escalated throughout the mainland and many islands. Within a year the Greeks had captured Monemvassia, Navarino (modern Pylos), Nafplion and Tripolitsa in the Peloponnese, and Messolongi, Athens and Thebes. Greek independence was proclaimed at Epidaurus on 13 January 1822. The Turks retaliated with massacres in Asia Minor, most notoriously on the island of Chios, where more than 25,000 civilians were killed.

The Western powers were reluctant to intervene, fearing the consequences of creating a power vacuum in south-eastern Europe, where the Turks still controlled much territory. But help did come from the philhellenes; aristocratic young men, recipients of a classical education, who saw themselves as the inheritors of a glorious civilization and were willing to fight to liberate its oppressed descendants. Philhellenes included Shelley, Goethe, Schiller, Victor Hugo, Alfred de Musset and Lord Byron. Byron arrived in Messolongi an important center of resistance in January 1824 and died three months later of pneumonia.

The prime movers of the revolution were the klephts Theodoros Kolokotronis (who led the siege of Nafplion) and Markos Botsaris; Georgios Koundouriotis (a ship owner) and Admiral Andreas Miaoulis, both from Hydra, Georgios Karaiskakis the Leader of Sterea Hellada and Demitrios Ypsilantis. Other heroes were: Georgios Karaiskakis, Odysseas Androutsos, Konstantinos Kanaris, Makriyannis, Papaflessas, Athanasios Diakos, Bouboulina, Manto Mavrogenous and many more. If you familiarize yourself with these names, walking along streets in Greece will take on a whole new meaning as a disproportionate number are named after these heroes.

The long list makes it clear that the cause was not lacking leaders; what was lacking was unity of objectives and strategy. Internal disagreements twice escalated into civil war, the worst in the Peloponnese in 1824. The sultan took advantage of this, called in Egyptian reinforcements, and by 1827 captured Modon (Methoni) and Corinth, and recaptured Navarino, Messolongi and Athens.

At last the Western powers intervened, and a combined Russian, French and British fleet destroyed the Turkish-Egyptian fleet in the Bay of Navarino in October 1827. Sultan Mahmud II defied the odds and proclaimed a holy war. Russia sent troops into the Balkans and engaged the Ottoman army in yet another Russian-Turkish war. Fighting continued until 1829 when, with Russian troops at the gates of Constantinople, the sultan accepted Greek independence by the Treaty of Andrianople.




Key Figures of The Revolution
Theodoros Kolokotronis
(1770 - 1834). He came from a family of kleftes and escaped to Zakynthos where he served in the English Army. He returned to Peloponnesos on the eve of the revolution and due to his military experience and knowledge he soon became the leading figure in organising the Greek fighters. He lead the siege of Tripolis and its surrender marked the first success of the Greek revolution. The following year (1822) with his courage, determination, patience and military acumen defeated the army of Dramalis. He was imprisoned by his political opponents but was freed when Ibrahim invaded Greece, against whom Kolokotronis applied guerrilla tactics and was able to inflict major blows to his army. Kolokotronis is considered as the most important figure of the Greek revolution.

Georgios Karaiskakis
(1782 - 1827). He grew up in poverty and was forced to the mountains as kleftis. He was one of the first to take part in the Greek revolution and his military genius became apparent during the last years of the struggle. He was appointed by the first Greek government as chief marshal of Eastern Greece and made Elefsina as his headquarters. Following a clash with the Turks at Haidari, he was planning to cut off Kioutachis supplies, during the siege of Acropolis. His initial failures followed two famous victories at Arachova and Distomo. He was killed in a clash with the Turks at Faliro. Karaiskakis is considered the second most important military figure of the revolution, after Kolokotronis.

Constantinos Kanaris
(1793 - 1877). He came from the island of Psara. He blew up the Turkish armada at Chios and at Tenedos and other Turkish ships at Mytilene and Samos (1824). He attempted to burn the Turkish ships at the port of Alexandria in order to destroy Mehmet Ali's preparations against Greece and failed only due to the fact that at the time the wind was blowing from opposite direction. He became one of the important naval figures of the revolution. With the liberation of Greece he became involved with politics opposing king Othon. He served several times as a minister and became prime minister. He was brave, courageous and modest man.

General Makriyannis was born at Lidoriki, in Eastern Greece. When in June 1825, Ibrahim Pasha attacked the mills of Argos with a force of 4,000 foot-soldiers and 600 cavalrymen from his regular army, Mkriyannis, together with Ypsilantis, Mavromichalis and 300 men, defended the position, which commands the approaches to Naples of Romania. They had already repulsed four fierce attacks by Ibrahim when, towards evening, they were reinforced by a detachment of the first regular Greek regiment. Its arrival decided the outcome of the battle and the Turko-Egyptian forces retreated in great disarray, with heavy casualties. The gallant Makriyannis, who was gravely wounded in the fighting, was invited aboard the French Admiral de Rigny's frigate, where he was received by the admiral.

At the battle of Faliron on the 5th February, 1827, Makriyannis commanded the corps of Athenians, under the orders of General Gordon. He distinguished himself again and again in the defence of his position, by bravery in number of minor engagements.

Mavromihalis Petrobey or Petros
(1770-1848) He was the most famous son of the Mavromihalis family and the last leader of Mani.He was the son of Pier Mavromihali. He was noble and had great capabilities. He was able to bring together the whole Mavromihali family that had great disputes.

When he started the revolution in 1821 Petrobeis remained in Messinia yet he sent his sons and brothers to the battles. He was voted president of the Peloponnesian Senate in the meeting of the Kaltegon, trying to compromise the generals and Kotsavasides.

His son murdered Kapodistria and he himself was protected by the people of Nafplio. Under the reign of King Othon, he became Region Counselor.

During the failed revolution of 1769, Petrobeis Mavromihalis came in conflict with Captain Theordore Orlof, the representative in Greece of Great Katherine. Mavromihali accused the Captain and Katherine for neglecting them after giving them hope for a better future by revolutionizing. Orlof's response was a sarcastic one and then Petrobeis of Mani couldn't help himself and said:

-Even if you have the power to order soldiers in all of Tsarina, you are a woman's slave. I on the other hand, am a leader of the free people, and even if I am the last of this generation, my life is more valuable than yours.

Athanasios Nikolaos Massavetas (Diakos)
"Athanasios Diakos was born in Ano Mousounitsa",in the northern Vardoussia (Korakas)". Through the historical sources, the popular tradition and the metrical history of our people we can distinguish all the wide spread elements which point-out the brave character and the proud personality of the national martyr and hero of the revolution of 1821 Athanasios Nikolaos Massavetas also called "Diakos" due to his priesthood. As people know, in the age of 12, while he was hunted by the Turkish people, he left his village "Ano Mousounitsa" and resorted to St. John's Monastery of Artotina where he was later ordained to deacon. On the 24th of April 1821 became martyr and left the living world the capable Greek, the hero, the myth, Athanasios Diakos and connected the ancient Greek history with the younger, showing the ancient immortal spirit of the Greek people. Because the heroic and superhuman battle of Diakos in Alamana reconnects him with Leonidas in Thermopiles. At the time of his sacrifice he was 33 years old".

Mando Mavrogenous
Amongst the heroines of the Greek revolution was Manto Mavrogenous. She was educated at a college in Triestio and spoke Italian and Turkish. She studied ancient Greek philosophy and history. In 1809 her family returned to Mykonos, the island of their origin. She learned with excitement from her father that Philiki Etairia was preparing the Greek revolution. When the news arrived that the struggle for freedom began, Manto invited the leaders of Mykonos to a meeting and persuaded them to join the revolution. This was declared in April 1821.

Laskarina Bomboulina
Yet another heroic woman of the Greek uprising for freedom. Boumboulina came from a rich family from the island of Spetse. This 'Archontissa' (Lady) of Spetse used her wealth to build a navy and became one of the most famous leading figures in the Greek War of Independence. After the success of the revolution in Peloponnesos and Sterea Ellada, the uprising spread in the islands. Spetse was the first of the islands to join the revolution and this was mainly due to Boumboulina's leadership and courage. The example of Spetse was followed by many other islands and therefore the freeing of the Island of Spetse was one of the initial major steps towards victory for the Greeks. Thereafter Boumboulina, with her fleet took part in many naval battles and dominated the Aegean creating probelms to the, by far superior, Turkish fleet.

Andreas Miaoulis
He was born in the Hydra. At the age of 17 he became captain of a commercial ship. During the Napeleonic wars he managed due to his courageous sea operations to accumulate considerable wealth. From the second year of the revolution he was appointed admiral of the Greek fleet. He defeated the Turkish navy near Patra and the Turko-Egyptian navy near Geronda, and on many occasions he was able to provide supplies for Greek cities besieged by the Turks (e.g. Mesologi).

He was born at Leontari, in Arcadia, the son of a poor peasant farmer. He was a nephew of Kolokotronis and he, too, served in the army of the Ionian Islands. In 1821 he became head of a band of pallikars. He fought Kiaya Bey at Kaki Scala and in March and April 1822, at Ayia Marina, Nikitas fought successfully under the leadership of Odysseus against Dramali, who was threatening Thermopylae. After Dramali's invasion of the Morea, Nikitas took up a position commanding the narrow passes on his route back to Corinth. There the Greeks inflicted a terrible defeat on the enemy, killing 3,000 Turks. The result of this battle won for him the nickname of Tourkophagos. At the siege of Mesolongi, Nikitas gave further proof of his pure and selfless patriotism. The sailors bringing reinforcements to the besieged town demeaned payment in advance. But there was no money. Then Nikitas flung down his sword, a priceless weapon which he had won from a high-ranking Turk, and cried out, "All I have is this sword. I offer it to my country!" His fine example had an immediate effect. All present stepped forward eagerly to donate whatever they could afford

Papaflessas or Georgios Dikaios
(1788-1825). Papaflesas was born at Messinia in 1788. In his teens he became a monk. The Turks, knowing his revolutionary character forced him to leave Greece. At Constantinople, where he went, became one of the key members of "Filiki Etairia". Under Ypsilantis orders he returned to Peloponnesos and started preaching the ideal of freedom, preparing so the people for the revolution. He was a key figure of the Greek Revolution. When in 1825 Ibrahim landed with thousands of Turkish army in Peloponnesos, Papaflesas leading 2000 men marched against him. During the battle which took place at a place called Maniaki, on 20 May 1825, Ibrahim with 6000 Turks attacked and killed 600 Greeks and their leader Papaflesas, who fought bravely to the bitter end.