By Catherine Tsounis
2021 is the 200th Anniversary of Greek Independence. Greece came about because of the Philhellenes in America and Europe. Who are the Philhellenes? They are persons who have a love of Greek civilization that is in the heart of Western thought, art and democracy. Philhellenism links persons of all backgrounds who love the Greek nation and culture. The late Stephanos Zotos, scholar, published an extraordinary article with original newspaper and historical information in “American Philhellenism and the Greek War of Independence” Pilgrimage, March 1976.
Edward Mead Earle, a 1927 quote said “When the Greeks of Morea (Peloponnese) rose in 1821 to throw off the Ottoman rule of four centuries, their cause promptly claimed the sympathy of Americans. With their own Revolution fresh in mind, Americans were not indifferent to the fate of another fresh in mind. Americans were not indifferent to the fate of another people struggling for emancipation from an oppressive imperialism.”1
Clergy were shocked by the execution of Greek Patriarch Gregorios, who was hanged on Easter Sunday 1821. His body was dragged through the streets of Constantinople and thrown into Bosphorus. Americans were horrified when they learned of the devastation of the island of Chios. The Turks massacred about 30,000 Greeks. Many sold into slavery.”
Mr. Zotos explained “Americans saw in the fighting Greeks of 1821, the descendants of the glorious Hellenes. They believed that the modern Greeks were entitled to the immediate assistance of the Western World, that owed so much to ancient Hellas. Philhellenism spread in the United States: mostly among the people. It failed to impress the United States government, beyond words of sympathy…. Some officials worked hard to influence the administration into taking a more positive stand. Here were other considerations that compelled Washington to avoid taking a strong attitude in favor of the hard fighting Greeks…It was Russia than America that offered help to the Greek revolutionaries to regain a freedom they lost four centuries.”
“There is no doubt that the success of the American Revolution stimulated the Greeks to attempt to recover their liberty,” explained Mr. Zotos. “ On the other hand, what animated the feelings of the Greeks in 1821 was their profound attachment: a double tie for faith and national sentiment to their religion and the head of Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople.2 2021 celebration of Greek Independence of 1821 must emphasize these points.
1. Zotos, Stephanos. “American Philhellenism and the Greek War of Independence”, ‘The American Historical Review (vol. xxxIII-October 1927 to July 1928)’, Pilgrimage, March 1976, pp. 3.
2. Pilgrimage, March 1976,PP.3-7.
Peter Von Hess. 1821 Revolution of the Nation: 40 Lithographs, Delta, Athens, 1996