Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Greek Independence Day

The celebration of Greek Independence Day on March 25th draws inspiration from one of the holiest days for Greek Orthodox Christians, the Annunciation of the Theotokos. This is the day that the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear a child. Bishop Germanos of Patras seized the opportunity by raising the banner of revolution, in an act of defiance against the Turks and marked the beginning of the War of Independence. Cries of Zito H Ellas (Long Live Greece) and Eleftheria H Thanatos (Freedom or Death) can still be heard today. These freedom fighters, or klephtes as they were called, of Greece sacrificed much for their country. Kolokotronis, Nikitara, Karaiskakis, Bouboulina, and Mpotsaris are some of the heroes of the Greek revolution. The struggle for independence was supported abroad by intellectuals of the day. In addition to the Secret Society of Friends (Filiki Eteria) and the Sacred Band (Ieros Lohos) prominent world figures including Lord Byron of England, Daniel Webster and Dr. Samuel Gridly Howe of the United States raised the interest level among Europeans and Americans. After centuries of unsuccessful uprisings and failure of the Ottoman Empire to assimilate and convert the Greeks, The War of Independence began in 1821 rising up against 400 years of occupation and oppression by the Ottoman Turks. The origin of the Turkish occupancy began in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople (currently referred to as Istanbul). All true and faithful Hellenes living in their occupied homeland reacted to the Turkish oppression and resisted the attempts to deprive the Greeks of their heritage, their freedom and their religion. During the dark years of the Ottoman occupation, thousands were killed and tortured for attending church or teaching their children the Greek culture, history and language. It was the Greek Orthodox Church that helped to retain their very identity by the institution of Crypha Scholia (Hidden Schools). These schools were secretely held in churches and a priest taught children their language, their history, their culture and their religion. For eight years the fighting ensued, until 1829, when the Sultan Mahmud II, facing Soviet troops at the gates of Constantinople, accepted Greek independence with the Treaty of Andrianople.
The flag of Greece has not changed since the revolution against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. The white cross in the upper left hand corner covering one fourth of the flag signifies the important role of the Greek Orthodox Church in the formation of the Hellenic Nation. The blue and white alternating stripes represent the sea and the relentless waves of the Aegean. According to legend, the Goddess of Beauty Aphrodite emerged from these waves. There are nine stripes representing each letter of the Greek word for freedom, Eleftheria.


Anastasia said...

For a long time Lord Byron had supported attempts by the Greek people to free themselves from Turkish rule. This included writing poems such as The Isles of Greece. In 1823 he formed the Byron Brigade and joined the Greek insurgents who had risen against the Turks. The Isles of Greece is part of Lord Byron's Don Juan, Canto the Third - LXXXVI. The Third Canto was completed in 1819 but not published until 1821. Here’s an excerpt:

The Isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece !

Where burning Sappho loved and sung,

Where grew the arts of War and Peace,

Where Delos rose, and Phœbus sprung !

Eternal summer gilds them yet,

But all, except their Sun, is set.

Reader Wil said...

I understand that Turkish rule lasted about 400 years! Is that right? Thank you for an interesting piece of history!Thanks also for your comment on the concentration camps, which I answered on my blog.

christina-1977 said...

i am feeling miserable right now and i know i should be sleeping but i cant! i am down with flu. then your blog remined me its march was. great posting constantine mou. thanks for the offline messages.