The Greek Struggle for Independence

For centuries ancient Greece was the proud ruler of the world, not only politically, but culturally, and she is the only nation in history that dominated her conquerors intellectually after having been crushed by force of arms. From about 1,000 B. C. when Homer sang by the blue Aegean, to the fall of Corinth, 146 B. C., when the Roman commander, Mummius, raised the city, Greece was laying a foundation that, no matter what Fate might bring to her, she would always remain the intellectual Queen of the World.

No fortunes of war could ever make of her a slave nation; even her conqueror bowed to her, paying her the very sincere compliment of imitation in her art, her literature and philosophy. They annexed a major portion of her very language, reversing the usual process of a conquered people. This is why there has come down to us through the Latin language, via Britain through the conquest of that island by Julius Cesar, 55 B. C., so many Greek words which we use every day, little dreaming, perhaps, of their classic origin.

Many Greek words we have lifted bodily from the language without changing so much as a letter, such as our word idea which was the Greek word for image. We limit its meaning to something imaged on the mind. There is our word electron which is the Greek word for amber, the substance in which electricity was first discovered by a Greek shepherd, and to this day, by the daily use of this word and its derivatives, we pay silent tribute to the Greeks as the discoverers of that strange power known as electricity, the power that has since transformed the world and through its latest development, radio, has made all nations neighbors.

Medical science, also, pays tribute to its Greek ancestry in the use of the Caduceus, both the word and its symbol, the ancient Greek emblem of healing used as the staff of Hermes, messenger of the gods, agent of Asclepius, god of medicine. Its use was first adopted by Hippocrates, father of medicine, who flourished on the island of Kos about 400 B. C . To this day every physician, before taking his M. D. degree, has to repeat the time-honored "Oath of Hippocrates." Most of the medical nomenclature still remains Greek.

In all the arts and sciences we are forced to pay tribute to Greece, whether we know it or not and whether we will or not.

But her greatest gift to the world was the concept of democracy, and the vision of the first republic, as outlined in detail by Plato in his work of that name.

America was the first nation to make Plato’s dream come true, but, doubtless, it was the seed he had sown more than twenty-four centuries before that finally blossomed in the form of the United States of America.

Strange it was that Plato’s idea should have matured first in a foreign land, centuries later, in a nation then unborn and even undreamed of. Later, however, Greece finally became a republic, as she is now, after having tried several kings since throwing off the Turkish yoke.

In tracing the origin of modern Greek independence, much credit must be given to the fiery, trenchant pen of Adamantios Coraes, a true son of Greece, often called "the father of the modern Greek language." Not only did he arouse his own countrymen to a consciousness of the past glories of the race, but he enlisted the sympathy of all Christian nations in behalf of Greece in her efforts to throw off the Turkish yoke.

A militant Greek priesthood greatly aided the cause of freedom, culminating in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the monastery of Lavra, when Germanos Paleon Patron, the venerable Archbishop of Patras, raised the Greek flag, blessed the struggle for liberty, and predicted the defeat of the Turks.

The assassination by be Turks of the aged Patriarch, Gregorios V, at the gate of the archepiscopal mansion on Easter Sunday, 1821, fed fuel to the flames of revolution and made defeat impossible. Other bishops and priests became martyrs of the Church Militant. Anasthios Diakos, an ordained deacon, who donned civilian dress and led his followers in many a fight, when finally captured, was given his choice of embracing Mohammedanism or death. He chose death, and was impaled on a stake and roasted over a fire by the unspeakable Turks.

From the beginning Alexander and Demetrius Ypsilanti were leaders in the fight for Greek freedom, their name having been bestowed on one of our enterprising American towns.

The first Greek, however, to fall a martyr to Greek independence, even before the revolution began, was Rhigas Pheraios, the poet who stirred the Greeks with patriotic songs to throw off the Turkish yoke. He was delivered by the Austrians to the Turks in 1798. When he was executed at Belgrade, his last words were. "I have sown a rich seed; the hour is coming when my country will reap its glorious fruits." His flaming pen was no less valuable to Greece than was the shining sword.

Theodores Kolokotronis of the Peloponnesus became generalissimo of the Greeks, and, by his overpowering personality, inspired his followers to unequalled deeds of daring.

Georges Karaiskakis was commander of the forces on the mainland and was killed in 1827 while leading his men at Phaleron.

Constantine Kanaris, "demon of the seas," boldest of the Greek captains, personally attached fire-ships to the flagship of the Turks at Chios in 1822. and blew up the "Capitan Pasha" with two thousand Turks on board, repeating the feat again at Tenedos later in the same year. Another sea captain, Andreas Miaculis, of Hydra, later known as "the fighting admiral of the Greek Navy." defeated the Turks off Patras, at Nauplion, and off the fort at Methoni, where he burned twenty-eight men-of-war.

Every school boy and girl knows about Marco Bozzaris, from the poem of that name they had to read, in which he was immortalized by Fitz-Greene Halleck. He fell fighting bravely at Karpenisi on the night of August 20th, 1823, a martyr to Greek freedom.

Alexander Mavrokordatos and Georgeos Kountouriotis rendered signal service in the revolution as political leaders, giving their fortunes for the creation of a Greek fleet -- without which victory would have been impossible.

Count Kapodistrias, a Greek from Corfu, was foreign minister of Czar Alexander of Russia, and did much for the cause of Greek freedom, afterwards being elected first President of Greece in 1827.

These are but a few of the Greek heroes and martyrs to Greek independence. Nor were men the only patriots. Two women especially deserve mention for their daring deeds. Lascarina Bouboulina replaced her husband in command of his privateer after he had been executed at Constantinople, and she collected more ships, and swept the Aegean sea, capturing Turkish vessels and terrorizing the enemy. Penelope Papalexopoulu, a veritable Greek Joan of Arc, was a famous fighter on land, and led bands of men in many heroic ventures.

A great Greek secret society called the Philiki Eteria had no small part in fomenting and fostering freedom. It spread even to the colonies.

But had not the spirit of Leonidas, Miltiades, and Alcibiades still animated these modern Greeks, victory would have been a mere dream, and she still would be in the hands of the merciless Turk, but neither Time nor Turks could destroy that dauntless spirit of the Greeks to whom the whole world owes a debt that it can never pay.

© Order of AHEPA

About Byrd Mock

Lucy Byrd Mock (February 23, 1876 – November 17, 1966) was multi-talented. She was mainly a journalist and author but was also successful as a songwriter. In 1936, Avery Brundage, then President of the American Olympic Committee, was presented with the Olympic Ode composed by Byrd Mock and illustrated by the American artist, Charles Sinclair, which had been offered by its author to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, and which Brundage later presented to the IOC. She was awarded a diploma by the American Press Association for proficiency in journalism, and she later worked as the chair of Greek and Latin at Forest Park University and did feature work for St. Louis newspapers, with most of her stories making the front pages.

Miss Byrd Mock was the founder and executive secretary of the American Women’s Legion. She was also inducted into the Arkansas Golf Hall of Fame in 1999 for having designed the first golf course in Arkansas (in Fayetteville). In her early years she was a member of the University Orchestra, playing first violin.

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