March 25, annually, is Greek Independence Day. This celebration marks the date, in 1821, when the people who live in what is now Greece, rose up in revolt against Ottoman Turkey who occupied their homeland for hundreds of years. A protracted war ensued that culminated in the eventual establishment of the modern state of Greece. This post signifies both the religious feast day and the national holiday.
March is also the feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary, Mother of God) in the Greek Orthodox Church. This holy day commemorates the Archangel Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary and announcing that she will bear the Son of God. The organizers of the Greek revolt selected this feast day to begin the insurrection. Bishop Germanus raised the flag of revolt over the Monastery of Agia Lavra in the Pelopannese with the cry, “Freedom or Death” which became the motto of the revolution.
Greece had been a vassal state of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire and dominated by the Turks since 1453 CE. As various European colonies in the New World (North and South America) began began unleashing the chains of domination, so the desires and dreams of the native Greeks for their own freedom from the oppression of their Ottoman masters took hold.
The government of the newly liberated Haiti became the first independent country to recognize the revolution – and, therefore, Greek independence. This diplomatic recognition happened in 1821, barely 6 months after the struggle commenced and long before the war was actually over.
The first national flag of Greece (above). The colors depict the waves of the Mediterranean Sea and the Adriatic Sea, which surround the Greek peninsula and islands. The Greek word for “freedom” is “eliftheria.”
In the original flag, the double-headed eagle represents the Byzantine Empire. In the current flag – on the header image of this posting – the crest contains the Cross of St. George, honoring the role the Church and the clergy performed in the war to end foreign domination.
The war for Greek independence was fought against Turkish forces stationed within the territory that was traditionally Greece. The occupying army held forts that were manned by the professional Imperial army. The revolutionary Greeks used personal firearms bought by themselves and inferior to those of the Ottoman military. In some cases, those fighting for their freedom had only traditional farm-tools as weapons.
The Ottoman Turks were supported during the Greek rebellion by the North African Turkish dependent states of Algeria, Egypt, Tripolitania and Tunis. The Greek revolutionaries were assisted by Great Britain, France and the Russian Empire.
Following the initial uprising for independence, the entire Peloponnese region was in open revolt and seriously damaging the Turks stranded there. The Ottomans began importing troops from Egypt to occupy the area and garrison forts. The Egyptians soon gained much territory and recaptured the city of Athens.
The Great Powers (Great Britain, France and Russia) decided to intervene in support of Greece and each country sent a navy which seriously hindered the arrival of supplies and troops by the Turks. The Egyptian army was forced to surrender the Peloponnese area and retreat back to Egypt.
In 1830, the independent sovereign Kingdom of Greece was recognized by the London Protocol. In 1832, the Treaty of Constantinople defined the borders of Greece and established Prince Otto of Bavaria as the first King of Greece.
Both of my parents were born, raised and married in Greece. My oldest brother was also born there. My family did not immigrate to the USA until just before the birth of my second oldest brother. Having this direct heritage affords me pride when I share information such as this with others.
Being of Greek descent is often used by my identical twin brother, “Twin,” (his name is Alex but “Twin” is how we refer to one another) and myself for our being same gender loving (gay) as well as bare practitioners (naturist or nudist). A convenient justification for us both being happy and being ourselves. These two aspects of Greek culture are too important for us to either neglect or to overlook.
This is by no means implying that being bare and same-sex attraction are exclusive attributes of the Greeks. Both traits were practiced in other ancient cultures as well. In Greece, however, the two characteristics were not only historically recognized but also widely accepted, acknowledged and appreciated.
Author’s Note: As a general practice, the armies and navies of ancient Greece did not engage in wars clothes free. The men were very conscious of the physical damage their bodies could suffer and of the severity such injuries could and would inflict on their virility. Military training, athletic training and competition as well as physical labor, often were undertaken while completely naked.
Salute to Greece and everyone born Greek!