The celebration of Greek Independence Day on March 25th draws inspiration from one of the holiest days for Greek Orthodox Christians, the Annunciation of the Theotokos. This is the day that the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear a child. Bishop Germanos of Patras seized the opportunity by raising the banner of revolution, in an act of defiance against the Turks and marked the beginning of the War of Independence. Cries of Zito H Ellas and Eleftheria H Thanatos can still be heard today. These freedom fighters, or klephts as they were called, of Greece sacrificed much for their country. Kolokotronis, Nikitara, Karaiskakis, Bouboulina, and Mpotsaris are some of the heroes of the revolution.
The struggle for independence was supported abroad by intellectuals of the day. In addition to the Secret Society of Friends (Filiki Etaeria) and the Sacred Band (Ieros Lohos) prominent world figures including Lord Byron of England, Daniel Webster and Dr. Samuel Gridly Howe of the United States raised the interest level among Europeans and Americans.
After centuries of unsuccessful uprisings and failure of the Ottoman Empire to assimilate and convert the Greeks, The War of Independence began in 1821 rising up against 400 years of occupation and oppression by the Ottoman Turks. The origin of the Turkish occupancy began in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople (currently referred to as Istanbul). All true and faithful Hellenes living in their occupied homeland reacted to the Turkish oppression and resisted the attempts to deprive the Greeks of their heritage, their freedom and their religion. During the dark years of the Ottoman occupation, thousands were killed and tortured for attending church or teaching their children culture, history and language. It was the Greek Orthodox Church that helped to retain their very identity by the institution of Crypha Scholia (Hidden Schools).
For eight years the fighting ensued, until 1829, when the Sultan Mahmud II, facing Soviet troops at the gates of Constantinople, accepted Greek independence with the Treaty of Andrianople.
Beginning of the Revolution
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 in 1821 on March 6 when Alexander Ypsilanti accompanied by several other Greek officers of the Russian army 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, or the declaration on March 25 (see Germanos of Patras).
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 Epidauros 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.
We won our freedom !
Monastery Agia Lavra, Peloponnese, 1821.
- About the Greek flag: "Freedom or Death" ( Eleftheria H Thanatos) was the motto during the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire. The nine lines of the flag reflects the number of syllables in the greek phrase "Eleftheria H Thanatos" = Freedom or Death.
The line pattern was chosen because of their similarity with the wavy sea that surounds the shores of Greece.The interchange of blue and white colors makes the Hellenic Flag on a windy day to look like the Aegean Sea. The Greek Square Cross that rests on the upper left-side ofthe flag demonstrates the respect and the devotion that Greek people have for the Greek Orthodox Church and signifies the important role of Christianity in the formation of the modern Hellenic Nation. During the dark years of the Ottoman rule, the Greek Orthodox Church helped the enslaved Greeks to retain their cultural characteristics: the Greek language, the Byzantine religion and generally the Greek ethnic identity. Today, Christianity is still the dominant religion among Greeks. Therefore the existence of the Cross is justified.
Na heromaste simera paidia !!!