Just as the concept of democracy, born in ancient Greece, became the bedrock of the American Constitution, so did the success of the American Revolution of July 4, 1776 fanned the flames of the Greek Revolution of March 25, 1821 against the Ottoman Empire. From the outset, American sympathy for the Greek cause was palpable and volunteers and aid by U.S. citizens helped the Greek revolt whose aim was to overthrow the 400-year tyrannical Ottoman rule.
Although the two revolutions were separated by 45 years, they had several things in common. They were both, first and foremost, grassroots uprisings and their main goal was FREEDOM — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from grueling taxation. Both revolutions were struggles against oppressive rule and both were fought by poorly equipped militias against powerful armies of super powers. But there were also some stark differences. Most American patriots had their own good weapons whereas only few Greeks had, at best, antiquated muskets and pistols. The English, had to cross an ocean to support their troops; the Turks were all around the Greeks and, a call for help by a Turkish garrison, would quickly bring thousands of well-armed troops. Also, their different religions increased the Turkish violence and barbarism against the “infidels!”
The war of the American Revolution followed mostly established military rules and codes; the Ottoman Turks had no such constraints and rape, plunder, starvation, and slaughter of civilians were an integral part of their campaign of terror. The odds for a final victory were small for the Americans; they were negligible for the Greeks!
Both the Americans and the Greeks were aware of the enormous difficulties ahead of them, yet they chose to fight for freedom! They knew that the price of victory and the magnitude of sacrifice would be huge but they did not recoil; they fought on and, in the end, the results of their sacrifice changed the course of history, as other enslaved people in the Balkans and the Middle East emulated the Greek example!
The 1822 massacre of Chios and the Turkish atrocities, savagery, starvation, and slaughter of civilians at the siege of Messolongi in 1826 — immortalized by Delacroix’s famous paintings, “The Massacre of Chios” and “Greece on the Ruins of Messolongi,” increased public sympathy in Europe for the Greeks and led to the eventual decision of Britain, France, and Russia to intervene in the Battle of Navarino in 1827, destroy the Ottoman armada, and thus secure southern Greece’s independence. In the next several decades the Greeks bravely liberated the rest of their country.
Like the American Revolution of 1776, the Greek Revolution of 1821 proved that the price of freedom is high but it is always worth it because in freedom and democracy the human spirit soars and the heart rejoices. So, in celebrating the spirit and the triumph of freedom, we pay a great debt of gratitude to all those freedom fighters who fought and died for their liberty and ours! Their gallantry and sacrifice at the sacred altar of freedom enshrined them in the noblest pages of history! They died long ago but their memory and heroic deeds will live forever as an eternal monument to freedom!
Ernest A. Kollitides earned BA, BS, and MS degrees at NYU, Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. He is a historian, past chief engineer, VP, and CEO of three international, U.S.-based, engineering-consulting companies. Kollitides has testified in the U.S. Congress in Washington, DC on scientific issues and is the author of several historical and scientific articles as well as a lecturer in domestic and international forums.