Our recap of the Greek War of Independence: overthrowing just under 400 years of Ottoman rule in just under 400 words.
Did you know that Greece was not always its own country? Contrary to what some people think today, Greece was not actually a state until 1822. Even in ancient times, what we call ‘Greece’ did not exist as a nation, but was an area of city-states that had their language and religion in common.
So, what was happening in 1822 that changed all this? The Greek War of Independence. This rebellion against the Ottoman Empire gave Greek speaking people a national homeland for the first time in history.
Since the 15th century the land that we now call Greece had been occupied by the Turks. They held control for almost 400 years, but in the 18th century the idea of national freedom grew within the Greek speaking community. They wanted independence! With the help of Russia, they revolted in 1770. Even though this failed, it started a movement of revolts and uprisings of Greek people trying to achieve freedom. They were inspired by the success of the French Revolution that had occurred in 1789 and the heroic poems of Greek fighters. A series of uprisings and movements lead to the beginning of the Greek War of Independence in 1821.
This time around they were more successful. The initial defeat of the leader of the rebels, Alexandros Ypsilantis, inspired people all over the Ottoman Empire to join the war for independence. Within a year they won control of the southern region of Greece and on March 25 1822 the rebels declared the independence of Greece. They established their own constitution and temporary government. The Turks tried three times over to invade the newly won territories in the next few years, but they were never successful.
Now, every year on March 25, the National Day of Greek Independence is celebrated. Towns and villages throughout Greece hold a school flag parade and school children march in traditional Greek costume and carry Greek flags.
When you wander around the Gods, Myths & Mortals exhibition, you will see many items that relate to the Greek War of Independence in some way or another. Gunpowder pouches, swords and even rifles that were used by the rebellious fighters are on display. There’s the sabre of Theodoros Kolokotronis, the Commander-in-Chief of the Greek forces; the pistols of Petrobey Mavromichalis; and the memoirs of Nikolaos Kasomoulis, a leader and fighter in the uprisings. See if you can spot these pieces when visiting the museum!