On this day in 1909, Stavros Niarchos, the Greek shipping magnate, was born in Athens, Greece. Niarchos was born in Athens but his family had its roots in the Laconian village of Vamvakou in the Peloponnese. He studied law at the University of Athens and began working his family’s grain business in 1929. Recognizing the substantial transportation expense in importing wheat, Niarchos believed that one would save money by owning the ships that provided the transportation. As a result, he bought his first six freighters during the Great Depression. Niarchos served in the Greek Navy during World War II. While he served, the Allied Forces leased one of his vessels which was ultimately destroyed in battle. Niarchos saw this as an opportunity and used the insurance funds as capital to expand his fleet after the War. Thus began the emergence of Stavros Niarchos as a significant participant in the world of international commerce. For many years he owned the largest private fleet in the world, with his company operating more than 80 tankers and other vessels. Although Niarchos passed away more than twenty years ago, his legacy continues into the 21st century with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Working in Greece and internationally, the Foundation began its grant-making efforts in 1996 and derives its mission from Niarchos’ commitment to Greece and Hellenism, as well as his keen instincts and interests in support of causes in the fields of education, social welfare, health, arts, and culture. The Foundation just concluded its annual Summer Nostos Festival (SNF) in Athens which was digitally broadcast throughout the world as a result of COVID-19.
On this day in 2004, Greece won the UEFA Euro Cup in Portugal – one month before the summer Olympics returned to Athens. Before 2004, Greece’s last visit to a European Championship was in 1980. They had made it to the 1994 World Cup but did not win a single game in the United States – which was not all that surprising since Greece’s national team had never won a game – or even scored a goal – in a major tournament. Thus, in 2001, the Greek Football Association handed responsibility of the under-performing national team to a veteran German coach, Otto Rehhagel. Speaking about Rehhagel, Takis Fyssas said, “The first thing [Rehhagel] taught us was that the national team had to come first…he insisted that everything else came after the national team.”
On this day in 1827, the Treaty of London, which helped establish the modern Greek state, was signed by the United Kingdom, France and Russia. These three main European powers had called upon Greece and the Ottoman Empire to cease hostilities that had been going on since the Greeks had revolted against Ottoman rule in 1821. After years of negotiations, the European allied powers finally decided to intervene in the war on the side of the Greeks. The Treaty declared the intention of the three allies to mediate between the Greeks and the Ottoman Turks. The base arrangement was that Greece would become a dependency of Turkey and pay tribute as such. Additional articles were added to detail the response if the Turkish Sultan refused the offer of mediation and continued hostilities in Greece. The articles detailed that the Turks had one month to accept the mediation or the Allied powers would form a partnership with Greece through commercial relations. Measures were also adopted stating that if the Ottoman Sultan refused the armistice, the Allies would use the appropriate force to ensure the adoption of the armistice. The Ottoman Empire declined to accept the Treaty believing that they had a superior naval force. Thus, as outlined in the Treaty, the three European nations were allowed to intervene on behalf of the Greeks. At the naval Battle of Navarino (October 20, 1827), the Allies and Greece crushed the combined Ottoman-Egyptian fleet in an overwhelming victory that forcefully and effectively created an independent Greek state.
On this day in 1956, the island of Amorgos as well as other islands in the Cyclades were shaken by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake. The damage on Amorgos was significant, as was the damage on the neighboring island of Santorini. It was the largest earthquake in Greece in the 20th century (up to that point). The shaking of the earthquake and the destructive tsunami that followed demolished 529 houses and left 53 people dead and 100 others injured.