On March 25, 1821, Bishop Germanos III gave flight to a Greek flag above the Monastery of Agia Lavra, igniting the Greek War of Independence. As the flag furled in the infant spring's air, its crisp hues of both sky and sea boldly summoned the spirit and language of our faith, culture and ancestors. Its resurrection gave life not to the dead, rather life to life-and a freedom which crowned Greece, again as: The Paradigm of European Democracy.
Evidently, the impact of Greece’s liberation extended far beyond its own autonomy. After four centuries of Ottoman occupation, Greece was challenged—and motivated—to embody an ethnic Greek nation, but to do so as a constitutional democracy. Quickly, this David morphed into the noblest of causes. Powerful players: Brits, French, Germans, and Americans, assembled to fight under the “galanoleuki,” a popular term for the blue and white national flag of Greece. Within one century, the nation’s liberation ignited further resistance from key Ottoman regions, leading to its ultimate demise post-World War I.
Like then, Greece remains no stranger to the forefront of Europe’s evolution. In his 2011 New York Times piece, “Democracy’s Cradle, Rocking the World,” Mark Mazower examines Greece’s consistent position as a vanguard to Europe’s political development. In the rise of Hitler, Greece was the first country to effectively resist the Nazi occupation, offering a humiliating defeat against Mussolini while the rest of Europe rejoiced. Again, in 1947, Greece was all but insignificant in Europe’s evolution amid the Cold War. The Truman Administration—understanding Greece’s vital role in the region’s political sphere—pledged immediate military and financial aid to the government, a fundamental basis for Greece’s capitalist shift, and in turn, Europe’s.
A decade after Mazower’s piece, his sentiment remains true. At the peak of Greece’s 2015 two-front battle—economic and humanitarian—the nation held a referendum, the first instance E.U. disintegration emerged as a real possibility. Similarly, only a year later, the institution was challenged as the United Kingdom voted to leave the E.U. While at first sight, “Grexit” and “Brexit” appear profoundly different, the countries unveiled the European Union’s devastating shortfalls—again, with Greece at the forefront. Likewise, recently, Chinese shipping giant, COSCO, acquired a significant stake in Greece’s largest port, an effort to boost its influence in the rapidly growing trade between Asia and Europe. As China remains on track to become the world’s largest economy, again, Greece emerges as a pivotal link.
As we rejoice in Greece’s bicentenary of independence, we remind ourselves of the strength that restored freedom and democracy to their birthplace. More importantly, however, we remember that Greece’s overwhelming European influence did not cease with its 1821 Revolution. It is only fitting that time and time again, in eras of transition, we turn to “Democracy’s Cradle” as our foundation.
Irene is a J.D. Candidate at the Florida State University College of Law. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in public relations & strategic communications from American University. She currently serves as the National Hellenic Student Association’s Director of Communications.