400 Years Under the Ottoman Turks and War of Independence, 1821

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

400 YEARS (1453-1821) OF ENSLAVEMENT UNDER THE OTTOMAN TURKS AND WAR OF INDEPENDENCE

The Greek Empire of Byzantium ended on Tuesday May 29, 1453 when its capital, Constantinople, fell to the Turks. This day is the black day in Greek history. By the end of the 15th century, Greece was under Turkish Muslim rule. Over the next 400 years, the Greeks were slaves to the Turks, deprived of their human rights, considered as second class citizens (rayas means beast in Turkish language), worked and live only for their rulers. Harems of Pashas were full of Christian girls while the body guards of Sultan (Jenisaries) were Christian children who were taken by force from their parents and trained to fight and kill their own people.

Many attempts were made by the Greeks to gain their freedom, but they were unsuccessful and paid dearly for their rebellion against their masters.

The situation was intolerable in Morias (Peloponnese), Roumeli (South Mainland), Epirus and Macedonia where rayas (as Turks called the Greeks) worked all day in the field just to be able to pay their "head tax" (Kefalikos phoros) to the tyrants. It was called a "head tax" because of they refused or could not pay their huge tax, they would be beheaded or "lose their head" literally. Many Greeks rebelled against the Turks and hid in the mountains and caves. The Turks called these men "Kleftes." The "Armatoloi" also fought alongside the "Kleftes" to free their people. Places like Mani (near Sparta), Suli (near Ioannina) and Sfakia in Crete remained most of the Ottoman period free regions.

These types of Greek troops such as the kleftes and armatoloi were of great importance because they gained a significant amount of combat experience. This group was based on a simple order of rank. The "Kapetanios"(Captain), being the most prominent position and who had to be accepted by the men he would command, and his orders would not be questioned or disobeyed.

In 1814, three Greek merchants named Emmanaouil (Emmanuel) Xanthos, Athanasios Tsakaloff, and Nicholaos Scouphas established a secret organization known as "Philiki Etaireia" ("Society of Friends"). The purpose of this organization was to prepare Greece and gather support for the oncoming struggle for freedom and independence. The patriotic conspiracy took place in Odessa, now a city in Ukraine. As the struggle developed, the revolution was united with a crude plan of action. The nation was ready to start the armed struggle for independence.

The phrase "Freedom or Death" signified the Greeks' commitment to achieving their independence. On February 22, 1821 General Alexandros Ypsilantis, the leader of "Philiki Etairia" ("Society of Friends"), along with a small army crossed the Pruth River, which marked the border between Russia, Bessarabia, and Moldavia. Unfortunately, he and his army were defeated by the Turks. The unofficial but actual date of the beginning of the revolution was March 22, 1821, when Petrombeis Mavromichales, Theodore Kolokotronis, Papaflessas liberate dthe city of Kalamata. 25 March 1821, Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the Greek flag at the Monastery of Agia Lavra in Peloponnese.

As retaliation the Turks massacred thousands of Greeks (Romeoi) in Constantinople, Adrianople, Smyrne, Kydonies and elsewhere in Asia Minor. On 10th April 1821, Patriarch Gregorios 5th was tortured and hung. In 1822, the Turkish fleet reached the Island of Chios. The Turks murdered 50,000 of the inhabitants, burned their homes and property, and the rest were sold to slave bazaars.

For four years had only victories and managed to throw Turks out of Peloponnesse, Aegean sea, Rumeli and Epirus. Kolokotronis, Diakos, Androutsos, Tzavellas Papaflessas, Karaiskakis, Miaoulis, Kanaris, Nikitaras, Ypsilantis, Makrigiannis, Botsaris, Mavromichales, Panourgias, Petimezas, Metaxas, Zaimis, Plapoutas, Sahtouris, Laskarina Boumboulina, were some of the leaders of the war against the Turkish enslavement. As the revolution in Greece intensified, many powerful nations in Europe, such as Great Britain, France, and Austria became involved. Although the governments of these nations officially sided with the Turks, their people supported Greece contributing food, money, and some even fought for the Greeks' independence. The people who supported the Greeks were called "Philelliness" or "Philhellenes." Two great Philhellenes were the British romantic poet, Lord Byron, and the French artist Delacroix, who helped in raising money to support the insurrection in Greece (also French artist Victor Ugho and German Gaete supported the Greek struggle). The "Philhellenes" involvement to the conflict brought attention to it, until the powers of Europe decided to intervene.

The Turks were unable to stop the revolution and so that Sultan of Turkey asked Muhammad Al, the Pasha of Egypt for help. So under Ibrahim Pasha, son of Muhammad, the well trained by French officers, Egyptian army successfully invaded the Peloponnese in 1825. In April 1826, Turks and Egyptians captured the city of Messologhion where they slaughtered almost the entire population.

Crete

The powerful administrative and military presence of the Ottoman Empire, the populous Muslim community which constituted almost the half of the population and the absence of preparations by the Philiki Etaireia were not in favor of a successful outbreak of the Greek Revolution. Nonetheless, from the end of spring the revolutionary climate started being formed, especially in inapproachable areas of Chania (Sfakia) and Rethymnon (Anogeia). The Ottoman authorities soon learnt about these movements and proceeded with atrocities against the Christians obviously to intimidate and prevent the outbreak of a revolt. These actions had the contrary result and soon armed conflicts took place in different parts of the island. Sfakia Anogeia and other mountainous areas constituted the main revolutionary centers and despite the fact that the Ottoman forces continued to control all the forts and strong strategic points of Crete, there was still tension until the first months of 1824.

After more than three years, immediately after the destruction of the Egyptian fleet at Navarino (October 1827), the Greek Revolutionary Administration first and then the governor Ioannis Kapodistrias favored the creation of revolutionary centers in different regions so that these could be included in the boundaries of the Greek Nation which were under negotiation. Thus the uprising in Crete was boosted and up to the end of 1828 successful operations legalized the Greek claims on the island although they could not achieve military prevalence. Two years later the Egyptian powers repressed once again the revolt in Crete.

In the following decades more revolts followed: 1833, 1841, 1858, 1866, 1878, 1895.

Crete was liberated in 1897 and it remained an Autonomous Principality under prince George of Greece. On December 1, 1913 the Union of Crete with Greece was finally achieved.

About the Greek flag: "Freedom or Death" (Eleftheria i Thanatos) was the motto during the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire. It is believed that the nine lines of the flag reflects the number of syllables in the Greek phrase "Eleftheria" Freedom.

The line pattern was chosen because of their similarly with the wavy sea that surrounds 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 of the flag demonstrates the respect and the devotion that Greek people have for the Greek Orthodox Christian 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 Orthodox Faith and generally the Hellenic ethnic identity. 

In 1827 a treaty was signed in London in which all warfare should stop. So European powers (Russia, France, England) sent their naval fleets to Navarino Bay on October of 1827, in order to guarantee the treaty. There accidentally broke out a naval battle and the united Turkish, Egyptian and Tenesian fleet in a few hours, was destroyed. Finally and after Russian pressure against Sultan, the independence of Greece was declared in 1829 in Adrianople which was then under Russian control.

Of course there is much more to the history of Greek Independence.

ZETO H ELLAS!!!! HAIL GREECE!!!

With sincere agape in Christ,

+Father George