WAR OF GREEK INDEPENDENCE, the name given to the great rising of the Greek subjects of the sultan against the Ottoman domination, which began in 1821 and ended in 1833 with the establishment of the independent kingdom of Greece. The circumstances that led to the insurrection and the general diplomatic situation by which its fortunes were from time to time affected are described elsewhere (see Greece: History; Turkey: History). The present article is confined to a description of the general character and main events of the war itself. If we exclude the abortive invasion of the Danubian principalities by Prince Alexander Ypsilanti (March 1821), which collapsed ignominiously as soon as it was disavowed by the tsar, the theatre of the war was confined to continental Greece, the Morea, and the adjacent narrow seas. Its history may, broadly speaking, be divided into three periods: the first (1821-1824), during which the Greeks, aided by numerous volunteers from Europe, were successfully pitted against the sultan's forces alone; the second, from 1824, when the disciplined troops of Mehemet Ali, pasha of Egypt, turned the tide against the insurgents; the third, from the intervention of the European powers in the autumn of 1827 to the end.
When, on the 2nd of April 1821, Archbishop Germanos, head of the Hetaeria in the Morea, raised the standard of the cross at Kalavryta as the signal for a general rising of the Christian population, the circumstances were highly favourable. In the Morea itself, in spite of plentiful warning, the Turks were wholly unprepared; while the bulk of the Ottoman army, under the seraskier Khurshid Pasha, was engaged in the long task of reducing the intrepid Ali, pasha of Iannina (see ALI, pasha of Iannina).
Another factor, and that the determining one, soon came to the aid of the Greeks. In warfare carried on in such a country as Greece, sea-girt and with a coast deeply indented, inland without roads and intersected with rugged mountains, victory - as Wellington was quick to observe - must rest with the side that has command of the sea. This was assured to the insurgents at the outset by the revolt of the maritime communities of the Greek archipelago. The Greeks of the islands had been accustomed from time immemorial to seafaring; their ships - some as large as frigates - were well armed, to guard against the Barbary pirates and rovers of their own kin; lastly, they had furnished the bulk of the sailors to the Ottoman navy which, now that this recruiting ground was closed, had to be manned hastily with impressed crews of dock-labourers and peasants, many of whom had never seen the sea. The Turkish fleet, "adrift in the Archipelago" - as the British seamen put it - though greatly superior in tonnage and weight of metal, could never be a match for the Greek brigs, manned as these were by trained, if not disciplined, crews.
The war was begun by the Greeks without definite plan and without any generally recognized leadership. The force with which Germanos marched from Kalavryta against Patras was composed of peasants armed with scythes, clubs and slings, among whom the "primates" exer tion. cised a somewhat honorary authority. The town itself was destroyed and those of its Mussulman inhabitants who could not escape into the citadel were massacred; but the citadel remained in the hands of the Turks till 1828. Meanwhile, in the south, leaders of another stamp had appeared: Petros, bey of the Maina chief of the Mavromichales, who at the head of his clan attacked Kalamata and put the Mussulman inhabitants to the sword; and Kolokotrones, a notable brigand once in the service of the Ionian government, who - fortified by a vision of the Virgin - captured Karytaena and slaughtered its infidel population.- Encouraged by these successes the revolt spread rapidly; within three weeks there was not a Mussulman left in the open country, and the remnants of the once dominant class were closely besieged in the fortified towns by hosts of wild peasants and brigands. The flames of revolt now spread across the Isthmus of Corinth: early in April the Christians of Dervenokhoria rose, and the whole of Boeotia and Attica quickly followed suit; at the beginning of May the Mussulman inhabitants of Athens were blockaded in the Acropolis. In the Morea, meanwhile, a few Mussulman fortresses still held out: Coron, Modon, Navarino, Patras, Nauplia, Monemvasia, Tripolitsa. One by one they fell, and everywhere were repeated the same scenes of butchery. The horrors culminated in the capture of Tripolitsa, the capital of the vilayet. In September this was taken by storm; Kolokotrones rode in triumph to the citadel over streets carpeted with the dead; and the crowning triumph of the Cross was celebrated by a cold-blooded massacre of 2000 prisoners of all ages and both sexes. This completed the success of the insurrection in the Morea, where only Patras, Nauplia, and one or two lesser fortresses remained to the Turks.
Meanwhile, north of the Isthmus, the fortunes of war had been less one-sided. In the west Khurshid's lieutenant, Omar Vrioni (a Mussulman Greek of the race of the Palaeologi), had inflicted a series of defeats on the insurgents, recaptured Levadia, and on the 30th of June relieved the Acropolis; but the rout of the troops which Mahommed Pasha was bringing to his aid by the Greeks in the defile of Mount Oeta, and the news of the fall of Tripolitsa, forced him to retreat, and the campaign of 1821 ended with the retirement of the Turks into Thessaly.
The month of April had witnessed the revolt of the principal Greek islands, Spetsae on the 7th, Psara on the 23rd, Hydra on the 28th and Samos on the 30th. Their fleets were divided into squadrons, of which one, under Tombazes, was deputed to watch for the entrance of the Ottomans into the archipelago, while the other under Andreas Miaoulis sailed to blockade Patras and watch the coasts of Epirus. At sea, as on land, the Greeks opened the campaign with hideous atrocities, almost their first exploit being the capture of a vessel carrying to Mecca the sheik-ul-Islam and his family, whom they murdered with every aggravation of outrage.
These inauspicious beginnings, indeed, set the whole tone of the war, which was frankly one of mutual extermination. On both sides the combatants were barbarians, without discipline or competent organization. At sea the character Greeks rapidly developed into mere pirates, and even of the war. Miaoulis, for all his high character and courage, was often unable to prevent his captains from sailing home at critical moments, when pay or booty failed. On land the presence of a few educated Phanariots, such as Demetrios Ypsilanti or Alexander Mavrocordato, was powerless to inspire the rude hordes with any sense of order or of humanity in warfare; while every lull in the fighting, due to a temporary check to the Turks, was the signal for internecine conflicts due to the rivalry of leaders who, with rare exceptions, thought more of their personal power and profit than of the cause of Greece.
This cause, indeed, was helped more by the impolitic reprisals of the Turks than by the heroism of the insurgents. All Europe stood aghast at the news of the execution of the Patriarch Gregorios of Constantinople (April 2 2, 1821) and the wholesale massacres that followed, culminating as these did in the extermination of the prosperous community of Scio (Chios) in March 1822. The cause of Greece was now that of Christendom, of the Catholic and Protestant West, as of the Orthodox East. European Liberalism, too, gagged and fettered under Metternich's "system," recognized in the Greeks the champions of its own cause; while even conservative statesmen, schooled in the memories of ancient Hellas, saw in the struggle a fight of civilization against barbarism. This latter belief, which was, moreover, flattering to their vanity, the Greek leaders were astute enough to foster; the propaganda of Adamantios Coraes (q.v.) had done its work; and wily brigands, like Odysseus of Ithaka, assuming the style and trappings of antiquity, posed as the champions of classic culture against the barbarian. All Europe, then, hailed with joy the exploit of Constantine Kanaris, who on the night of June 18-19 succeeded in steering a fire-ship among the Turkish squadron off Scio, and burned the flag-ship of the capudan-pasha with 3000 souls on board.
Meanwhile Sultan Mahmud, now wide awake to the danger, had been preparing for a systematic effort to suppress the rising. The threatened breach with Russia had been avoided by Metternich's influence on the tsar Alexander; the death of Ali of Iannina had set free the army of Khurshid Pasha, who now, as seraskier of Rumelia, was charged with the task of reducing the Morea. In the spring of 1822 two Turkish armies advanced southwards: one, under Omar Vrioni, along the coast of Western Hellas, the other, under Ali, pasha of Drama (Dramali), through Boeotia and Attica. Omar was held in check by the mud Expedi- ramparts of Missolonghi; but Dramali, after exacting Lion of fearful vengeance for the massacre of the Turkish Dramali, garrison of the Acropolis at Athens, crossed the 1822. Isthmus and with the over-confidence of a conquering barbarian advanced to the relief of the hard-pressed garrison of Nauplia. He crossed the perilous defile of Dervenaki unopposed; and at the news of his approach most of the members of the Greek government assembled at Argos fled in panic terror. Demetrios Ypsilanti, however, with a few hundred men joined the Mainote Karayanni in the castle of Larissa, which crowns the acropolis of ancient Argos. This held Dramali in check, and gave Kolokotrones time to collect an army. The Turks, in the absence of the fleet which was to have brought them supplies, were forced to retreat (August 6); the Greeks, inspired with new courage, awaited them in the pass of Dervenaki, where the undisciplined Ottoman host, thrown into confusion by an avalanche of boulders hurled upon them, was annihilated. In Western Greece the campaign had an outcome scarcely less disastrous for the Turks. The death of Ali of Iannina had been followed by the suppression of the insurgent Suliotes and the advance of Omar Vrioni southwards to Missolonghi; but the town held out gallantly, a Turkish surprise attack, on the 6th of January 1823, was beaten off, and Omar Vrioni had to abandon the siege and retire northwards over the pass of Makrynoros.
The victorious outcome of the year's fighting had a disastrous effect upon the Greeks. Their victories had been due mainly to the guerilla tactics of the leaders of the type of without having accomplished anything beyond throwing supplies and troops into Coron, Modon and Patras. On land, meanwhile, the events of the year before practically repeated themselves. In the west an army of Mussulman and Catholic Albanians, under Mustai Pasha, advanced southwards. On the night of the 21st of August occurred the celebrated exploit of Marko Botzaris and his Suliotes: a successful surprise attack on the camp of the Ottoman vanguard, in which the Suliote leader fell. The jealousy of the Aetolian militia for the Suliotes, however, prevented the victory being decisive; and Mustai advanced to the siege of Anatoliko, a little town in the lagoons near Missolonghi. Here he was detained until, on the 11th of December, he was forced to raise the siege and retire northwards. His colleague, Yussuf Pasha, in East Hellas fared no better; here, too, the Turks gained some initial successes, but in the end the harassing tactics of Kolokotrones and his guerilla bands forced them back into the plain of the Kephissos. At the end of the year the Greeks were once more free to renew their internecine feuds.
Just when these feuds were at their height, in the autumn of 1823, the most famous of the Philhellenes who sacrificed themselves for the cause of Greece, Lord Byron, arrived in Greece.
The year 1824 was destined to be a fateful one for the Greek cause. The large loans raised in Europe, the first instalment of which Byron had himself brought over, while providing the Greeks with the sinews of war, provided seco n d civil w them also with fresh material for strife. To the 1824.ar, struggle for power was added a struggle for a share of this booty, and a second civil war broke out, Kolokotrones leading the attack on the forces of the government. Early in 1825 the government was victorious; Kolokotrones was in prison; and Odysseus, the hero of so many exploits and so many crimes, who had ended by turning traitor and selling his services to the Turks, had been captured, imprisoned in the Acropolis, and finally assassinated by his former lieutenant Gouras (July 16, 1824). But a new and more terrible danger now threatened Greece. Sultan Mahmud, despairing of suppressing the insurrection by his own power, had reluctantly summoned to his aid Mehemet Ali, pasha of Egypt, whose well-equipped fleet and disciplined army were now Interven- thrown into the scale against the Greeks. Already, tion of in June 1823, the pasha's son-in-law Hussein Bey Mehemet had landed in Crete, and by April of the following All. year had reduced the insurgent islanders to submission. Crete now became the base of operations against the Greeks. On the 19th of June Hussein appeared before Kasos, a nest of pirates of evil reputation, which he captured and destroyed. The same day the Egyptian fleet, under Ibrahim Pasha, sailed from Alexandria. Khosrev, too, emboldened by this new sense of support, ventured to sea, surprised and destroyed Psara (July 2), and planned an attack on Samos, which was defeated by Miaoulis and his fire-ships (August 16, 17). On the 1st of September, however, Khosrev succeeded in effecting a junction with Ibrahim off Budrun, and two indecisive engagements followed with the united Greek fleet on the 5th and loth. The object of Ibrahim was to reach Suda Bay with his transports, which the Greeks should at all costs have prevented. A first attempt was defeated by Miaoulis on the 16th of November, and Ibrahim was compelled to retire and anchor off Rhodes; but the Greek admiral was unable to keep his fleet together, the season was far advanced, his captains were clamouring for arrears of pay, and the Greek fleet sailed for Nauplia, leaving the sea unguarded. On the 5th of December Ibrahim again set sail, and reached Suda without striking a blow. Here he completed his preparations, and, on the 24th of February 1825, landed at Modon in the Morea with a force of 4000 regular infantry and soo cavalry. The rest followed, without the Greeks making any effort to intercept them.
The conditions of the war were now completely changed. The Greeks, who had been squandering the money provided by the loans in every sort of senseless extravagance, affected to despise the Egyptian invaders, but they n h l`n were soon undeceived. On the 21 st of March Ibrahim Morea. had laid siege to Navarino, and after some delay a Greek force under Skourti, a Hydriote sea-captain, was sent to its relief. The Greeks had in all some 7000 men, Suliotes, Albanians, armatoli from Rumelia, and some irregular Bulgarian and Vlach cavalry. On the 19th of April they were met by Civil war Kolokotrones; Mavrocordato, whose character and among the Greeks. antecedents had marked him out as the natural head of the new Greek state, in spite of his successful defence of Missolonghi, had been discredited by failures elsewhere; and the Greeks thus learned to despise their civilized advisers and to underrate the importance of discipline. The temporary removal of the common peril, moreover, let loose all the sectional and personal jealousies, which even in face of the enemy had been with difficulty restrained, and the year 1823 witnessed the first civil war between the Greek parties. These internecine feuds might easily have proved fatal to the cause of Greece. In the Archipelago Hydriotes and Spetsiotes were at daggers drawn; the men of Psara were at open war with those of Samos; all semblance of discipline and cohesion had vanished from the Greek fleet. Had Khosrev, the new Ottoman admiral, been a man of enterprise, he might have regained the command of the sea and, with it, that of the whole situation. But the fate of his predecessor had filled him with a lively terror of Kanaris and his fire-ships; he contented himself with a cruise round the coasts of Greece, and was happy Campaign to return to safety under the guns of the Dardanelles of 1823. Ibrahim at Krommydi with 2000 regular infantry, 400 cavalry and four guns. The Greek entrenchments were stormed at the point of the bayonet by Ibrahim's fellahin at the first onset; the defenders broke and fled, leaving 600 dead on the field. The news of this disaster, and of the fall of Pylos and Navarino that followed, struck terror into the Greek government; and in answer to popular clamour Kolokotrones was taken from prison and placed at the head of the army. But the guerilla tactics of the wily klepht were powerless against Ibrahim, who marched northward, and, avoiding Nauplia for the present, seized Tripolitsa, and made this the base from which his columns marched to devastate the country far and wide.
Meanwhile from the north the Ottomans were making another supreme effort. The command of the army that was to operate in west Hellas had been given to Reshid "Kutahia," pasha of Iannina, an able general and a man of determined character. On the 6th of April, after bribing the Albanian clansmen to neutrality, he passed the defile of Makrynoros, which the Greeks had left undefended, and on the 7th of May opened the second siege of Missolonghi. For twelve months the population held out, repulsing the attacks of the enemy, refusing every offer of honourable capitulation. This resistance was rendered possible by the Greek command of the sea, Miaoulis from time to time entering the lagoons with supplies; it came to an end when this command was lost. In September 1825 Ibrahim, at the order of the sultan, had joined Reshid before the town; piecemeal the outlying forts and defences now fell, until the garrison, reduced by starvation and disease, determined to hazard all on a final sortie. This took place on the night of the 22nd of April 1826; but a mistaken order threw the ranks of the Greeks into disorder, and the Turks entered the town pell-mell with the retreating crowd. Only a remnant of the defenders succeeded in gaining the forests of Mount Zygos, where most of them perished.
The fall of Missolonghi, followed as this was by the submission of many of the more notable chiefs, left Reshid free to turn his attention to East Hellas, where Gouras had been ruling Karaa s a practically independent chief and in the s irit P Y P P?
of a brigand. The peasants of the open country welcomed the Turks as deliverers, and Reshid's conciliatory policy facilitated his march to Athens, which fell at the first assault on the 25th of August, siege being at once laid to the Acropolis, where Gouras and his troops had taken refuge. Round this the war now centred; for all recognized that its fall would involve that of the cause of Greece. In these straits the Greek government entrusted the supreme command of the troops to Karaiskakis, an old retainer of Ali of Iannina, a master of the art of guerilla war, and, above all, a man of dauntless courage and devoted patriotism. A first attempt to relieve the Acropolis, with the assistance of some disciplined troops under the French Colonel Fabvier, was defeated at Chaidari by the Turks. The garrison of the Acropolis was hard pressed, and the death of Gouras (October 13th) would have ended all, had not his heroic wife taken over the command and inspired the defenders with new courage. For months the siege dragged on, while Karaiskakis fought with varying success in the mountains, a final victory at Distomo (February 1827) over Omar Vrioni securing the restoration to the Greek cause of all continental Greece, except the towns actually held by the Turks.
It was at this juncture that the Greek government, reinforced by a fresh loan from Europe, handed over the chief command at sea to Lord Cochrane (earl of Dundonald, q.v.), and that of the land forces to General (afterwards Sir Richard) Church, both Miaoulis and Karaiskakis consenting without demur to serve under them. Cochrane and Church at once concentrated their energies on the task of relieving the Acropolis. Already, on the 5th of February, General Gordon had landed and entrenched himself on the hill of Munychia, near the ancient Piraeus, and the efforts of the Turks to dislodge him had failed, mainly owing to the fire of the steamer "Karteria" commanded by Captain Hastings. When Church and Cochrane arrived, a general assault on the Ottoman camp was decided on. This was preceded, on the 25th of April, by an attack, headed by Cochrane, on the Turkish troops established near the monastery of St Spiridion, the result of which was to establish communications between the Greeks at Munychia and Phalerum and isolate Reshid's vanguard on the promontory of the Piraeus. The monastery held out for two days longer, when the Albanian garrison surrendered on terms, but were massacred by the Greeks as they were marching away under escort. For this miserable crime Church has, by some historians, been held responsible by default; it is clear, however, from his own account that no blame rests upon him (see his MS. Narrative, vol. i. chap. ii. p. 34). The assault on the Turkish main camp was fixed for the 6th of May; but, unfortunately, a chance skirmish brought on an engagement the day before, in the course of which Karaiskakis was killed, an irreparable loss in view of his prestige with the wild arinatoli. The assault on the following day was a disastrous failure. The Greeks, advancing prematurely over broken ground and in no sort of order, were fallen upon in flank by d feat at Reshid's horsemen, and fled in panic terror. The English officers, who in vain tried to rally them, themselves only just escaped by scrambling into their boats and putting off to the war-vessels, whose guns checked the pursuit and enabled a remnant of the fugitives to escape. Church held Munychia till the 27th, when he sent instructions for the garrison of the Acropolis to surrender. On the 5th of June the remnant of the defenders marched out with the honours of war, and continental Greece was once more in the power of the Turks. Had Reshid at once advanced over the Isthmus, the Morea also must have been subdued; but he was jealous of Ibrahim, and preferred to return to Iannina to consolidate his conquests.
The fate of Greece was now in the hands of the Powers, who after years of diplomatic wrangling had at last realized that intervention was necessary if Greece was to be saved for European civilization. The worst enemy of the P Y Greeks was their own incurable spirit of faction; in the very crisis of their fate, during the siege of Missolonghi, rival presidents and rival assemblies struggled for supremacy, and a third civil war had only been prevented by the arrival of Cochrane and Church. Under their influence a new National Assembly met at Troezene in March 1827 and elected as president Count Capo d'Istria, formerly Russian minister for foreign affairs; at the same time a new constitution was promulgated which, when the very life of the insurrection seemed on the point of flickering out, set forth the full ideal of Pan-Hellenic dreams. Anarchy followed; war of Rumeliotes against Moreotes, of chief against chief; rival factions bombarded each other from the two forts at Nauplia over the stricken town, and in derision of the impotent government. Finally, after months of inaction, Ibrahim began once more his systematic devastation of the country. To put a stop to this the Powers decided to intervene by means of a joint demonstration of their fleets, in order to enforce an armistice and compel Ibrahim to evacuate the Morea (Treaty of London, July 6, 1827). The refusal of Ibrahim to obey, without special instruction from the sultan, led to the entrance of the allied British, French and Russian fleet into the harbour of Navarino and the battle of the 10th of October 1827 (see NAVARINo). This, and the two campaigns of the RussoTurkish war of 1828-29, decided the issue.
There is no trustworthy history of the war, based on all the material now available, and all the existing works must be read with caution, especially those by eye-witnesses, who were too often prejudiced or the dupes of the Greek factions. The best-known works are: G. Finlay, Hist. of the Greek Revolution (2 vols., London, 1861) T. Gordon, Hist. of the Greek Revolution (London, 1833) C. W. P. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Geschichte Griechenlands, &c. (Staatengeschichte der neuesten Zeit) (2 vols., Leipzig, 1870-1874); F. C. H. L. Pouqueville, Histoire de la regeneration de la Grkce, &c. (4 vols., Paris, 1824), the author was French resident at the court of Ali of Iannina and afterwards consul at Patras; Count A. Prokesch-Osten, Geschichte des Abfalls der Griechen vom tiirkischen Reich, &c. (6 vols., Vienna, 1867), the last four volumes consisting of pieces justificatives of much value. See also W. Alison Phillips, The War of Greek Independence (London and New York, 1897), a sketch compiled mainly from the above-mentioned works; Spiridionos Tricoupi, Ἱστορία τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς ἐπαναστάσεως (Athens, 1853); J. Philemon, Δοκίμιον ἱστορικὸν περὶ τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς ἐπαναστάσεως (Athens, 1859), in four parts: (I) History of the Hetaeria Philike, (2) The heralding of the war and the rising under Ypsilanti,(3 and 4). The insurrection in Greece to 1822, with many documents. Of great value also are the 29 volumes of Correspondence and Papers of Sir Richard Church, now in the British Museum (Add. MSS. 3 6 ,54336,571). Among these is a Narrative by Church of the war in Greece during his tenure of the command (vols. xxi.-xxiii., Nos. 3 6 ,56336,565), which contains the material for correcting many errors repeated in most works on the war, notably the strictures of Finlay and others on Church's conduct before Athens. For further references see the bibliography appended to W. Alison Phillips's chapter on "Greece and the Balkan Peninsula" in the Cambridge Modern History, x. 803. (W. A. P.)
- Please bookmark this page (add it to your favorites)
- If you wish to link to this page, you can do so by referring to the URL address below.
This page was last modified 29-SEP-18
Copyright © 2021 ITA all rights reserved.