Greece Unifies Under the Glücksburg Dynasty

After unifying under the Glücksburg Dynasty, Greece became a fully independent nation and incorporated most of the Greek-speaking Orthodox populations of the Ottoman Empire.

Summary of Event

In 1831, Greece was less than half the size it was to become in 1914 and counted less than one-third of the Greek-speaking, Orthodox inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire. Under King Otto I, Greece achieved viability but remained subordinated by the Protective Powers (Great Britain, Russia, and France) that had forced the Ottomans to grant Greek independence. Glücksburg Dynasty
Greece;unification of
Venizélos, Eleuthérios
[kw]Greece Unifies Under the Glücksburg Dynasty (1863-1913)
[kw]Unifies Under the Glücksburg Dynasty, Greece (1863-1913)
[kw]Glücksburg Dynasty, Greece Unifies Under the (1863-1913)
[kw]Dynasty, Greece Unifies Under the Glücksburg (1863-1913)
Glücksburg Dynasty
Greece;unification of
Venizélos, Eleuthérios
[g]Greece;1863-1913: Greece Unifies Under the Glücksburg Dynasty[3600]
[g]Mediterranean;1863-1913: Greece Unifies Under the Glücksburg Dynasty[3600]
[c]Government and politics;1863-1913: Greece Unifies Under the Glücksburg Dynasty[3600]
[c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;1863-1913: Greece Unifies Under the Glücksburg Dynasty[3600]
Constantine I
George I
Kolettis, Ioannis
Otto I

At first, Otto ruled autocratically through Bavarian officers and bureaucrats, but he was forced to accept constitutional restraints in 1843. In 1844, during the subsequent constitutional convention, Ioannis Kolettis Kolettis, Ioannis declared the Megali Idea (great idea), a form of nationalism asserting that the Greek kingdom should include all lands associated with Greek history or the Greek race, a claim that became a major factor in Greek politics during the nineteenth century and remains an important theme in Greek life. Finally, as a result of a bankrupt government, rampant brigandage, and continued autocratic behavior, a popular uprising ended Otto’s reign in 1862.

Although Prince Alfred of England was the near unanimous Greek choice to succeed Otto, he was disqualified by the Protective Powers. The British agreed to find a substitute and the Greeks accepted Prince William George Glücksburg of Denmark. In addition, Great Britain transferred the Ionian Islands to Greece in 1864. This first step in pursuit of the Megali Idea brought substantial wealth and a populace that had never been subjected to Turkish rule.

George, now King George I, took the oath as “constitutional King of the Hellenes” under a new constitution promulgated in 1864 precluding royal intervention in political and judicial affairs. George I, for the most part, ruled constitutionally and, for the first time, Greeks enjoyed a democratic government.

Crete, having earlier risen against the Turks in 1841 and 1858, again became a problem in 1866 when the Christian community petitioned the sultan for relief from inequitable taxation and general maladministration. An appeal to the Protective Powers for union with Greece or substantial political reform followed. The British opposed union, but the sultan promised reforms and sent an Egyptian army to restore order. The Cretans then declared their independence, only to be put down; but the sultan granted the Organic Statute of 1868, increasing the Christian share of government and temporarily reducing taxes. Cretan resistance continued and Greek assistance almost precipitated a Greco-Turkish war. The Protective Powers then imposed a settlement suspending Ottoman punitive measures and forcing the Greeks to prohibit Greek subjects from joining Cretan revolts.

In 1877, a Greek coalition government declined a Russian invitation to take part in the Russo-Turkish War Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878)[Russo Turkish War (1877-1878)] after being assured by Britain that Greek interests would be considered in any postwar settlement. During the war, however, the coalition government was replaced by an interventionist regime that encouraged uprisings in Thessaly, Epirus, Epirus and Crete. Troops were dispatched to the Greek provinces of Turkey but were recalled under British pressure in 1878 after an armistice was proclaimed. British intervention also terminated hostilities in Crete. The Russian-dictated treaty of San Stefano, however, ignored Greek claims, but established “Greater Bulgaria,” Bulgaria including almost all of Macedonia Macedonia .

At the subsequent Congress of Berlin in 1878 Congress of Berlin (1878) , the Protective Powers, under British leadership, reduced Greater Bulgaria, leaving Thrace Thrace , Macedonia, Macedonia Epirus Epirus , and Albania Albania all under Ottoman rule. Greece’s northern boundary was left to further negotiation at the Conference of Constantinople in 1881, where Greece received most of Thessaly and a small part of Epirus. The Organic Statute of 1868 was reinstituted in Crete, and a parliamentary government and general assembly were established under the Halepa Pact (1878) Halepa Pact (1878) .

Greek king Constantine I.

(Library of Congress)

The appointment of a Christian governor incited Islam;on Crete[Crete] Muslim Cretans to attack the Christians in 1896-1897. A Greek invasion to annex Crete in February, 1897, caused the Protective Powers to occupy the island. King George publicly associated himself with the demand for annexation and, in April, Greek irregulars invaded Macedonia Macedonia . Consequently, Turkey declared war and quickly defeated the Greeks. Crown Prince Constantine’s Constantine I army was routed in the general debacle, and the monarchy was saved only by frantic political maneuvering. The Protective Powers arranged an armistice in May and peace was concluded in December. Greece was forced to rectify its northern boundary in Turkey’s favor, was subjected to a four-million-pound indemnity, and Greek finances were placed under international control.

Crete remained jointly occupied by six major powers until an uprising against British troops in Candia. All Turkish troops then were removed, a national government under Turkish suzerainty was established, and Prince George of Greece became high commissioner. At this point, Crete was essentially independent, but was barred from joining Greece. Prince George soon came into conflict with Eleuthérios Venizélos. Venizélos ultimately led a secession, established a provisional government, and proclaimed Cretan union with Greece. The insurgents carried on guerrilla warfare until Prince George was replaced. Venizélos then reversed his position and cooperated with the new commissioner in opposing premature union of Crete and Greece.

In the absence of the commissioner and taking advantage of the Young Turk Young Turk Movement movement of 1908, the Cretan chamber issued a proclamation declaring union with Greece. The Greek government of Georgios Theotokis, fearing to offend the Protective Powers, did not recognize the provisional Cretan government, an act that ultimately caused Theotokis’s resignation and replacement by Demetrios Rallis on July 17, 1909. Toward the end of July, the Powers landed marines in Crete and announced that Cretan and Macedonian Macedonia problems were to be settled by the Powers, not by the Greeks and Ottomans. In May of 1909, the Greek military formed a military league that demanded reorganization of the military, removal of the royal princes from command positions, and removal of some cabinet officers. The government fell, and the crisis was met by calling Venizélos from Crete. He insisted upon calling a national assembly to revise the constitution.

The new assembly, under Venizélos’s leadership, then drafted a reformed constitution in June, 1911. Venizélos, backed by an overwhelming majority in the assembly, refused to seat the Cretan deputies and brought in French and British missions to modernize the military. He also organized the Balkan League of Serbia Serbia , Bulgaria Bulgaria , and Greece, which proceeded to make demands unacceptable to the Turks in Macedonia. The Protective Powers attempted mediation, but the Ottomans declared war on Serbia and Bulgaria on October 17, 1912. Greece retaliated by declaring war on Turkey on October 18, and also admitted the Cretan deputies to the assembly. By December 3, the Turks were soundly defeated and signed an armistice with Serbia and Bulgaria.

Greece, however, continued hostilities in the islands and Epirus Epirus , but joined a peace conference arranged by the Protective Powers in London. The London conference was unable to reach a settlement and the truce expired in February of 1913, after which the Greeks captured Janina. The London conference reconvened, and the resultant Treaty of London London, Treaty of (1913) (1913) drew the northern Turkish frontier between Enos on the Aegean and Midia on the Black Sea, created independent Albania Albania , and assigned Crete to Greece. Macedonia Macedonia and adjacent territory was jointly ceded to the Balkan League, and allocation of the Aegean Islands was left to a decision of the Powers.

Bulgaria immediately came into conflict with Greece and Serbia over Macedonia, and Venizélos secretly negotiated an alliance against Bulgaria on June 23, 1913. King George I George I of Greece was assassinated on March 18, 1913, during a visit to Salonica, but the murder apparently was not politically motivated. On June 30, Bulgaria attacked Greece and Serbia Serbia and, after initial success, was thrown back. Meanwhile, Romania Romania;and Bulgaria[Bulgaria]
Bulgaria;and Romania[Romania] and Turkey attacked Bulgaria. By July 30, Bulgaria was forced to sue for peace. In August, southern Macedonia and parts of Thrace Thrace were ceded to Greece at the Treaty of Bucharest.


Although the Balkan Wars Balkan Wars (1912-1913) of 1912-1913 doubled Greece’s size and population, Greece remained unsatisfied because large numbers of Greek-speaking, Orthodox adherents remained in Albania, eastern Thrace, Constantinople, western Anatolia, and the Aegean Islands. Ultimately, the Megali Idea was not achieved as part of Greek policy, but it nevertheless was an important element.

Further Reading

  • Alastos, Doros. Venizélos: Patriot, Statesman, Revolutionary. London: Percy Lund Humphries, 1942. An uncritical but comprehensive biography of the Greek statesman that emphasizes his life through 1924 and has an appendix covering Greece from his death to the country’s involvement in World War II. Includes maps.
  • Bower, Leonard, and Gordon Bolitho. Otho I, King of Greece: A Biography. London: Selwyn & Blount, 1939. A sympathetic biography of Greece’s first king.
  • Christmas, Walter. King George of Greece. Translated by A. G. Chater. New York: McBride, Nast, 1914. A hagiographic biography filled with interesting anecdotes.
  • Clogg, Richard. A Short History of Modern Greece. 2d ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986. An evenhanded, well-written work that provides comprehensive coverage of modern Greek history.
  • Dakin, Douglas. The Unification of Greece, 1770-1923. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1972. Explores the political, military, economic, and social history of Greek unification, placing Venizélos’s role in context.
  • Holland, Robert. “Nationalism, Ethnicity, and the Concert of Europe.” Journal of Modern Greek Studies 17, no. 2 (1999): 253-276. A detailed history of Crete’s fight for union with Greece.
  • Kaltchas, Nicholas. Introduction to the Constitutional History of Modern Greece. Reprint. New York: AMS Press, 1970. Originally submitted as a dissertation at Columbia University in 1940, Kaltchas’s work provides a scholarly account of Greece’s political evolution.
  • Roudometof, Victor. Nationalism, Globalization, and Orthodoxy: The Social Origins of Ethnic Conflict in the Balkans. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001. A scholarly study of Balkan history and ethnic conflicts in the region. Includes the chapter “Invented Traditions, Symbolic Boundaries, and National Identity in Greece and Serbia, 1830-1880.”
  • Tatsios, Theodore George. The Megali Idea and the Greek-Turkish War of 1897: The Impact of the Cretan Problem on Greek Irredentism, 1866-1897. Boulder, Colo.: East European Monographs, and New York: Columbia University Press, 1984. Explores the Megali Idea’s impact on the conflicts between Greece and Turkey in the second half of the nineteenth century.
  • Woodhouse, Christopher M. Modern Greece: A Short History. 4th ed. London: Faber & Faber, 1986. A history of Greece from the time of Constantine the Great to the flight of Constantine II in 1967.

Elgin Ships Parthenon Marbles to England

Greeks Fight for Independence from the Ottoman Empire

Great Britain Withdraws from the Concert of Europe

Second Russo-Turkish War

Treaty of Adrianople

Turko-Egyptian Wars

Bulgarian Revolt Against the Ottoman Empire

Third Russo-Turkish War

Greco-Turkish War

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