King's College London
Online Exhibitions
‘A brighter Hellas’: rediscovering Greece in the 19th century

The outbreak of the war

Ali Pasha’s revolt against the Ottoman Sultan provided the secret society ‘Filiki Etairia’ with an opportune moment to initiate a Greek uprising in the Danubian Principalities in the spring of 1821. At the same time the Greeks led a number of insurrections in the Peloponnese, forcing the Turkish forces to surrender at Calamata, Vostitsa and Kalávrita.

Muslim civilians sought protection in the walled towns and fortresses, but as the Greeks captured strongholds, widespread bloodshed ensued. At Constantinople, Sultan Mahmoud and the Ottoman government retaliated by killing the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church on Easter Sunday 1821, and Greek Christians throughout the Empire found themselves under attack.

In the summer of 1821 the first regiment of the Greek army was established and modelled as a European infantry battalion. Hundreds of foreign volunteers of all backgrounds, from university students to former military officers, sailed to Greece to enrol. During the early phase of the war the Greeks successfully captured towns under Turkish control; Monemvasia and Navarino fell in August 1821, Tripolitsa in October, followed by Corinth in January 1822, Athens  in June and Nauplia in December.

The slaughter witnessed by European volunteers, and the ensuing plague caused by disease, however, led many disillusioned philhellenes to seek passage back home, and following a disastrous Greek defeat at the battle of Peta in July 1822, the Battalion of Philhellenes, formed by Mavrocordatos, was disbanded.

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