Greeks Fight for Independence from the Ottoman Empire Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

In their fight for independence from the Ottoman Turks, the Greeks launched the first successful national revolution during the 1820’s, forming an independent state after defeating the Turks.

Summary of Event

The Greek war of independence from the Ottoman Empire was the culmination of a long historical process that began after the Turks conquered Greece in the fifteenth century and was completed in 1829. For almost four centuries, the Turks ruled over Greece. Turkish rule was generally harsh and became corrupt and even brutal, particularly when the empire began to decline in the eighteenth century. Greece;and Ottoman Empire[Ottoman Empire] Ottoman Empire;and Greece[Greece] Greece;independence war Mahmud II Ypsilantis, Alexander [kw]Greeks Fight for Independence from the Ottoman Empire (Mar. 7, 1821-Sept. 29, 1829) [kw]Fight for Independence from the Ottoman Empire, Greeks (Mar. 7, 1821-Sept. 29, 1829) [kw]Independence from the Ottoman Empire, Greeks Fight for (Mar. 7, 1821-Sept. 29, 1829) [kw]Ottoman Empire, Greeks Fight for Independence from the (Mar. 7, 1821-Sept. 29, 1829) [kw]Empire, Greeks Fight for Independence from the Ottoman (Mar. 7, 1821-Sept. 29, 1829) Greece;and Ottoman Empire[Ottoman Empire] Ottoman Empire;and Greece[Greece] Greece;independence war Mahmud II Ypsilantis, Alexander [g]Greece;Mar. 7, 1821-Sept. 29, 1829: Greeks Fight for Independence from the Ottoman Empire[1150] [g]Mediterranean;Mar. 7, 1821-Sept. 29, 1829: Greeks Fight for Independence from the Ottoman Empire[1150] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Mar. 7, 1821-Sept. 29, 1829: Greeks Fight for Independence from the Ottoman Empire[1150] [c]Government and politics;Mar. 7, 1821-Sept. 29, 1829: Greeks Fight for Independence from the Ottoman Empire[1150] Paṣa, Ibrāhīm Kapodístrias, Ioánnis Antónios Kolokotrónis, Theódoros Mavrokordátos, Aléxandros Otto I

During the first centuries of their rule over Greece, however, the Turks allowed the Greeks to use their own language and to exercise their own Orthodox Orthodox Church, Eastern;and Greece[Greece] Ottoman Empire;Orthodox Church faith. The Greek patriarch of Constantinople (now Istanbul) became the political and spiritual head of all Orthodox Christians in the Balkans. Balkans;Orthodox Church Likewise, a small segment of educated Greeks, known as the Phanariotes, acquired high positions in the Ottoman administration and government. The Greek merchants, too, gradually dominated much of the commerce and trade in the Ottoman Empire. Economic prosperity and intellectual and literary revival in the eighteenth century led to a resurgence of Greek national consciousness. The desire of the Greeks to free themselves from Turkish rule was further stimulated by the French Revolution (1789) French Revolution (1789);and Greece[Greece] and Napoleon and by the rebellion of Ali Pasha of Jannina against the sultan in 1820.

The Greek struggle for independence entered a new phase with the creation of the secret organization of the Philiké Hetairía, or friendly society, in 1814 in the southern Russian city of Odessa. The society’s expressed goal was to organize a revolution to free Greece from the Ottoman Empire. Prince Alexander Ypsilantis, a former aide-de-camp of Czar Alexander I Alexander I [p]Alexander I[Alexander 01];and Greece[Greece] of Russia, was chosen head of the Hetairía. Initially, the revolt broke out in the Romanian Romania;and Greece[Greece] Greece;and Romania[Romania] principalities, where Greek influence was strong and Greek Phanariote princes, appointed by the sultan, ruled them. On March 7, 1821 (February 23 according to the Julian calendar), Ypsilantis crossed the Pruth River from southern Russia into Jassy, the capital of Moldavia (then part of the Ottoman Empire), and called the Greeks to arms. However, Turkish forces entered the Romanian principalities and defeated Ypsilantis’s army. He fled to Austria, where he was imprisoned and died in Vienna in 1828.

Simultaneously, a second revolt broke out in the Peloponnesus on March 25, 1821. This day (according to the Julian calendar), is Greece’s Independence Day Greece;Independence Day . For the next nine years, the Greek struggle for independence experienced a period of war, internal civil strife, foreign intervention, and finally victory.

The Greek revolution can be conveniently divided into three phases. In the first phase, 1821 to 1824, the revolt spread rapidly throughout the Peloponnesus, central Greece, and the Aegean islands. Within a short time, the Greeks seized several fortresses, towns, and villages, defeating the isolated Turkish forces. However, the conflict was marked from the beginning by a rash of violence and brutality by both sides. The massacre of Turks in Greece set the tone of violence for the war, turning it into a religious conflict. Sultan Mahmud II ordered the hanging in 1821 of Gregory V Gregory V Orthodox Church, Eastern;and Greece[Greece] Ottoman Empire;Orthodox Church , the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, and several high church officials, arousing indignation and sympathy for the Greek cause among liberals and intellectuals in Europe and the United States.

British destruction of the Ottoman fleet in the Battle of Navarino.

(Francis R. Niglutsch)

A pro-Greek movement, known as Philhellenism, gave moral and financial support to the Greek revolutionaries. Volunteers from Europe and the United States came to Greece and joined the Greek struggle. The most notable among them was the English poet Lord Byron, who fought against the Turks and died in Greece in 1824.

The Greeks, in the meantime, fought not only against the Ottoman Turks but also among themselves in a civil war involving various rival political factions competing for power and control of the central government. In 1822, there were two governments: one on mainland Greece, led by the military chieftain Theódoros Kolokotrónis, Kolokotrónis, Theódoros and the other at the island of Hydra, off the coast of eastern Peloponnesus, headed by Aléxandros Mavrokordátos. Mavrokordátos, Aléxandros Efforts to form a central government failed to resolve the political crisis. Greece;civil war Civil war broke out in 1823 and continued throughout 1824, undermining the war efforts against the Turks.

The turning point of the revolution came during the second stage, 1825 to 1827. When the Turks failed to defeat the Greeks both on land and sea, Sultan Mahmud II appealed for military aid to Muḥammad ՙAlī Pasha, the viceroy of Egypt, then a tributary state of the sultan. The viceroy sent a naval force under the command of his stepson, Ibrāhīm Paṣa, Paṣa, Ibrāhīm who landed in southern Peloponnesus in February of 1825 and began a sweeping campaign to the north, burning and pillaging towns and villages and dispersing the Greek forces. Meanwhile, a temporary reconciliation among the various Greek political and military factions was concluded in 1827. A national assembly met in April and approved a new republican constitution. Count Kapodístrias Kapodístrias, Ioánnis Antónios was elected the first president of the Greek Republic.

The third period, 1827 to 1829, saw the direct involvement of the European powers Great Britain, Russia, and France. They viewed the Greek revolution as a threat to the European balance of power. The fall of the Ottoman Empire would create a power vacuum, but which of the powers would fill it? At the outset, the European powers maintained strict neutrality, hoping for a Turkish victory over the Greeks. However, they eventually intervened in the Greek-Turkish conflict because of the growing European public opinion in favor of the Greeks and because the continuation of the war affected their economic interests in the Mediterranean.

In April of 1826, Great Britain and Russia Russia;and Great Britain[Great Britain] Great Britain;and Russia[Russia] signed the Protocol of St. Petersburg St. Petersburg Protocol (1826)[Saint Petersburg Protocol (1826)] , which provided for mediation of the conflict on the basis of establishing an autonomous Greece but tributary to the sultan. The Turks, however, flushed with their recent military successes, refused mediation, while the Greeks accepted it. In July of 1827, France joined the two powers and signed the Treaty of London London, Treaty of (1827) , which called for an immediate armistice between the two belligerents. If one of the parties were to refuse mediation, the powers would intervene militarily to end hostilities between the Turks and Greeks. The Turks declined allied mediation, thus compelling the powers to dispatch a combined naval force to the Greek waters with orders to avoid hostilities unless provoked.

The allied warships met the Turko-Egyptian Ottoman Empire;navy Navy, Ottoman fleet at the narrow Bay of Navarino (Pylos) in southwest Peloponnesus. A Turkish soldier fired and killed a British officer. This incident precipitated the naval Battle of Navarino Navarino, Battle of (1827) in October of 1827, in which nearly the entire Turko-Egyptian fleet was destroyed. Navarino was a major turning point in ensuring Greek independence.

Appalled by the action of the allied powers, Sultan Mahmud II proclaimed a holy war on Russia, Russia;and Ottoman Empire[Ottoman Empire] Ottoman Empire;and Russia[Russia] the historical adversary of the Turks. In turn, Czar Nicholas I Nicholas I [p]Nicholas I[Nicholas 01];and Ottoman Empire[Ottoman Empire] retaliated by declaring war on the Ottoman Empire in April, 1828. The Russian army reached the outskirts of Constantinople in September, 1829, and forced the Turkish government to sign the Treaty of Adrianople. Adrianople, Treaty of (1829) By the terms of the treaty the sultan recognized the independence of Greece.


In February of 1830, Britain, Russia, and France signed the London Protocol London Protocol (1830) , which negated the republican constitution and declared Greece an independent kingdom under the guarantee of the three allied powers. They offered the crown to Prince Otto Otto I (who became Otto I), the son of the king of Bavaria. Otto arrived at Nafplion, the provisional capital of Greece, in February of 1833, and Greece began its modern existence as an independent kingdom under a foreign dynasty.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Brewer, David. The Greek War of Independence: The Struggle for Freedom from Ottoman Oppression and the Birth of the Modern Greek Nation. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 2001. A useful survey of the Greek struggle against the Ottoman Empire.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Clogg, Richard. A Short History of Modern Greece. 2d ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986. A summary of the history of Greece from the fall of Byzantium, through the war of independence, and to the major political events in the twentieth century.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______, ed. The Struggle for Greek Independence: Essays to Mark the 150th Anniversary of the Greek War of Independence. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1973. A collection of scholarly articles dealing with different issues of the war of Greek independence.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Crawley, Charles W. The Question of Greek Independence: A Study of British Policy in the Near East, 1821-1833. Reprint. New York: Howard Fertig, 1973. First published in 1930, Crawley’s book remains the standard work on British and European diplomacy during the Greek war of independence.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dakin, Douglas. The Greek Struggle for Independence, 1821-1833. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. A thorough and balanced account of the domestic affairs and European diplomatic involvement in the Greek revolution.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fleming, K. E. The Muslim Bonaparte. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000. A scholarly work addressing how modern Greece, in the context of European history, came under a surrogate form of colonial control—in which Greek history and culture became colonized.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">MacKenzie, David, ed. Violent Solutions: Revolutions, Nationalism, and Secret Societies in Europe to 1918. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1996. An account of the underground groups that fomented revolutions and movements for independence in modern Europe. Chapter 8 discusses the Greek revolution, Greece under Turkish rule, and Philiké Hetairía, the secret revolutionary society.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Roesse, David E. In Byron’s Shadow: Modern Greece in English and American Literature from 1770 to 1967. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Discusses the beginnings of the Greek war of independence against Ottoman rule.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Woodhouse, Christopher M. The Battle of Navarino. Chester Springs, Pa.: Dufour Editions, 1965. This work provides a detailed account of the events leading to naval battle in 1827 and the defeat of the Turko-Egyptian fleet by the combined British, Russian, and French warships.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. The Greek War of Independence: Its Historical Setting. Reprint. New York: Russell & Russell, 1975. A concise analysis of the origin, the course of the revolution, and the recognition of Greece’s independence in 1832.

Elgin Ships Parthenon Marbles to England

Great Britain Withdraws from the Concert of Europe

Second Russo-Turkish War

Treaty of Adrianople

Turko-Egyptian Wars

Greece Unifies Under the Glücksburg Dynasty

Third Russo-Turkish War

Greco-Turkish War

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Categories: History