- The Ottoman Empire ruled Greece from the fifteenth to the early nineteenth century. Ottoman rule preserved the religious traditions of the Orthodox Church and ruled along with the cooperation of the Church and the Orthodox elite. During the enlightenment Europe created a unitary ideal of ancient Greece and appropriated its perceived righteousness and made it its intellectual and political ancestor. Soon a unitary ideal of a modern Greece emerged and many Orthodox Christians, who had a religious identity and lived in peace and in many cases integration with Muslims, began to consider themselves Greeks.In 1821, the “Greeks” rebelled and declared their independence yet did not succeed in winning it until 1829. The Patriarch, Gregory V, was hanged, not for supporting the revolt, but after advising the Sultan that it would be shortly suppressed. Indeed, the Ottomans often seemed on the verge of suppressing the Greek revolt, but the intervention of the Russian, British, and French governments brought a different result. The intellectuals and elites of France and Britain saw the war as a chance to “liberate” their spiritual ancestors. Many French and English men volunteered to fight for the cause, including, most famously, Lord Byron, who died fighting for Greece. The Russians saw the Greeks as their coreligionists and wanted to gain an influence over them. The military intervention of Russia, France, and Britain resulted in the Porte ultimately agreeing to Greek independence.The former Russian minister of foreign affairs, Ioannis Capodistrias, a Greek noble from the Ionian Islands, became president of the new republic, but the Great Powers had ideas of controlling the Greek state. They instituted a monarchy, the Greek Kingdom, under the Convention of London in 1832 and, in the person of the 17-year-old Otto of Bavaria of the German House of Wittelsbach, the second son of King Ludwig I of Bavaria and Therese of Saxe-Altenburg, and Greece’s first king.Otto’s reign lasted for 30 years. In the beginning a group of Bavarian regents ruled in his name and made themselves unpopular by trying to impose German ideas of orderly government. Nevertheless they laid the foundations of a Greek administration, army, justice system, and education system. Otto sought to give Greece a good government, but refused to renounce his Roman Catholic faith in favor of Orthodox Christianity. His marriage to Queen Amalia remained childless and he was autocratic. The Bavarian regents ruled until 1837, at which point the governments of Britain and France, which considered Greece a part of their informal empire, forced Otto to appoint Greek ministers, although Bavarians still ran most of the administration and the army. Greek discontent grew until a revolt broke out in Athens in September 1843, and Otto agreed to grant a constitution. A National Assembly created a bicameral parliament, consisting of an Assembly and a Senate. Power passed into the hands of a group of politicians, many of whom had been commanders in the revolt against the Ottoman rule.Nationalism and nation-building dominated Greek politics throughout the nineteenth century. When Greece was created in 1832, its people, who called themselves Romiee, were not homogenous - language, culture, and social norms were entangled with other linguistic and religious groups: Turkish, Slavic, Latin, Frankish, and even the Romaic. With the majority of Orthodox Christians living under Ottoman rule, Otto and many Greek politicians dreamt of liberating them to form a Greater Greece, with Constantinople as its capital. This was called the Great Idea ( Megali Idea ), and it was sustained by almost continuous rebellions against Ottoman rule in many Christian Orthodox territories. But Greece was too poor and too weak to wage war on the Ottoman Empire, and London, to whom Greece was heavily in debt, opposed expansion. During the Crimean War the British occupied Piraeus to prevent Athens from declaring war on the Ottomans as a Russian ally.Meanwhile, Otto’s interference in government was beginning to upset Greek politicians wanting to rule their own back yard. In 1862, Otto dismissed the prime minister, the former admiral Constantine Canaris, provoking a military rebellion that forced Otto to leave. The Greeks then asked Whitehall to send Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Alfred, as their new king, but the other Great Powers rejected this idea. Instead, a young Danish Prince of the Gluckburg house became King George I. George was a popular choice. At London’s urging, Greece adopted a more democratic constitution in 1864. The powers of the king were reduced, the Senate was abolished, and the franchise was extended to all adult males. Yet politics remained dynastic. Two parties soon started to alternate in office: the Liberals, led first by Charilaos Trikoupis and later by Eleftherios Venizelos, and the Conservatives, led initially by Theodoros Deligiannis and later by Thrasivoulos Zaimis. His son, Alexandros. Trikoupis, who favored social and economic reform, dominated Greek politics in the later nineteenth century. Deligiannis, on the other hand, promoted Greek nationalism and the Megali Idea, especially in Crete and Macedonia, but also in Cyprus. By the 1890s, Greece was virtually bankrupt, and poverty in the rural areas was eased only by emigration to the United States. Despite its poverty, Greece managed to host the first Olympic games of the modern age in 1896.The issue of nation-formation continued to dominate the political landscape and gave rise to the language question. The Orthodox Christian or Romiee spoke a language that had evolved during the centuries of integration with other linguistic traditions into many unique variations of Greek. Many of the educated elite saw this as a peasant dialect and wanted to restore the glories of ancient Greek. Government documents and newspapers were published in Katharevousa, an artificial purified language, which few people could understand. Liberals favored recognizing the spoken tongues, but Conservatives, the University, and the Orthodox Church resisted. When the New Testament was translated into the popular Demotic in 1901, riots in Athens brought down the government. Hellenization had succeeded in transforming Orthodox Christian Romiee into Hellenized Orthodox Christians.The result was that many Greeks increasingly became active in “liberating” Orthodox Christian territories that they perceived were part of Greece irredenta, namely Crete, Macedonia, Epirus, and to a lesser extent Cyprus. The Treaty of Berlin of 1881 gave Greece Thessaly and parts of Epirus, while frustrating hopes of securing Crete. Greeks in Crete continued to stage regular revolts, and in 1897 the government of the firebrand nationalist Deligiannis declared war on the Ottomans. Ottoman forces defeated the Greek army. Disturbances in Macedonia also increased. Here the Greeks were in conflict not only with the Ottoman rule but also with the Slavs and Bulgarians. The Cretan Greeks, led by Eleftherios Venizelos, rebelled again in 1908. When the Greek government refused to rescue them, the army and navy rebelled. Venizelos was soon asked to take control and instituted sweeping reforms. Venizelos successfully steered Greece through the two Balkan Wars, dramatically increasing the borders of the country, but his support of the Entente was rejected by the new king, Constantine I. Despite parliament approving Venizelos’ policy to enter the war on the Entente’s side after Bulgaria joined the Central Powers, Constantine forced Venizelos to resign. Venizelos established a rival government at Salonica and with allied backing managed to bring Greece into the war in 1917.See also <
>; < >.FURTHER READING:Clogg, R. A Short History of Modern Greece. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988;Dakin, D. The Unification of Greece, 1770–1923. London: Benn, 1972.ANDREKOS VARNAVA
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.