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Greeks launch revolt against Turkish rule

This Day in World History

March 25, 1821

Greeks Launch Revolt against Turkish Rule

Greek Independence Day. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Chafing from four centuries of rule by the Ottoman Empire and taking advantage of the Ottoman army’s need to suppress a rebellious local official, the Greek organization Filike Etaireia ( “Friendly Brotherhood”) launched revolts across Greece on March 25, 1821. While it took years for the Greeks to win independence, the day the revolt began is still celebrated as Greek Independence Day.

While a rebel Greek army under Alexandros Ipsilantis met an early defeat, other Greek efforts succeeded. By late 1821, the Greeks controlled the Peloponnesian peninsula, and in January of the next year a coalition of rebels formally declared independence. More territory was taken from Ottoman hands in 1822.

Soon, however, infighting among different factions plagued the Greek effort, though the struggle attracted liberals across Europe—including the British noble and poet George Gordon, Lord Byron—who flocked to the Greek cause. By the middle 1820s, the Ottomans had regained control of parts of Greece, and the independence movement was reeling.

In 1826, however, Britain, France, and Russia inserted themselves into the conflict, seeking to restore stability. Their combined fleets defeated an Ottoman and Egyptian force at the battle of Navarino in 1827. The battle was a major victory, though fighting continued until 1832. That year the Ottomans signed a treaty recognizing Greek independence.

Independence was tarnished for some Greeks by the terms of the treaty. The European imposed a constitutional monarchy, placed the German prince Otto of Bavaria on the throne, and insisted on maintaining a protectorate over the new Greek state. Nevertheless, a new Greek state had come into being.

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