History of Greece

Greece in the Middle Ages

From the Division (395 AD) the Roman Empire in the East and West until the conquest (century 15th) of Greece by the Ottoman Turks, Greece shared the fortunes and vicissitudes of the Byzantine Empire. The victory of the emperor Valens Visigoths at Adrianople marked the beginning of the frequent and devastating barbarian invasions of Greece, followed by the Huns, Avars, Slavs and Bulgarians.

The power and prestige of Greece have been restored by the Macedonian dynasty of Byzantine emperors (867-1025), but the center of the greek world was Constantinople, not Greece proper. In the 11 century. The Turks began to take hold in the empire, the Normans attacked Epirus, and began the Crusades. The Fourth Crusade in 1204 led to the temporary disintegration of the Byzantine Empire and the creation of a feudal state under the rule of the noble French, Flemish and Venetian.

The restored Byzantine Empire (1261-1453) recovered only parts of Greece, most of which continued under the rule of French and Italian princes until conquered by the Ottoman Turks (completed in 1456). Genoa Khios held until 1566, Venice retained Crete until 1669 and the Ionian Islands until 1797. In its many wars with the Ottomans, Venice also held for short periods Athens, Evvoia, and several other ports and islands until 1718. Under the Ottoman Empire, Greece was merely one of many territories to exploit.

The Turks practiced religious tolerance, but otherwise their regime was harsh and oppressive. Many Greek families were fundamental cornerstones of the administration of the empire, the Greek merchants living in Constantinople and the ports of Asia Minor, notably Izmir (Smyrna), were very rich, but Greece languished in obscurity and poverty.

The struggle for Independence

In the early 19 th century, the desire for independence of the Greeks was stimulated by growing nationalism, the influence of the French Revolution, by copovolgimento in favor of the Turks in the Russo-Turkish war, rebellion (1820) of Ali Pasha against 'Ottoman empire, and by the sympathetic attitude of Alexander I of Russia, whose foreign minister, Capo d'Istria, was greek.

In 1821 the Greek War of Independence began under the leadership of Alexander and Demetrios Ypsilanti. The European sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of the Greek cause, and many were dished out financial aid, many foreign volunteers (including Lord Byron was the most celebrated) joined the Greek forces. Russia and Britain decided by a composition (1826) to mediate conflicts between the Greeks and Turkey, and in 1827 the Greek political factions put aside their rivalries to elect Capo d'Istria president of Greece.

Great Britain, Russia and France joined in demanding an armistice. Turkey refused, and the allied fleets attacked and defeated the fleet of Muhammad Ali, viceroy of Egypt and the Ottoman sultan's chief supporter against the Greeks at the Battle of Navarino (1827). Only Russia, however, declared war (1828) to Turkey. Defeated, Turkey accepted the Treaty of Adrianople (1829) and recognized Greek autonomy. In 1832, Greece won the European powers recognition of its independence. Europe chose a Bavarian prince as king of the Hellenes and Ggrecia accepted.

Otto I proved authoritarian and unpopular, however, under pressure, the constitution promulgated in 1844, but was forced to abdicate in 1862. Otto I was succeeded by a Danish prince, who as George I (reigned 1863-1913) introduced (1864) a new constitution establishing a unicameral parliament. Great Britain ceded (1864) the Ionian Islands, and in 1881 Greece acquired Thessaly and part of Epirus.

Due to British opposition, Greece was unable to annex Crete during the great uprising (1866-1869) against the Ottoman rule. The continuous irredentist agitation to absorb Crete led to the greek-Turkish War of 1897, during which Greece was defeated, but after strong pressure from the European Central Powers, Crete was finally declared independent and later (1913) attached to Greece.


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