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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

American Philhellenism: 1821 Greek Revolution

Catherine Tsounis
Catherine Tsounis
Contributing Editor The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.

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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, the scholar, published an extraordinary article with original newspaper and historical information in “American Philhellenism and the Greek War of Independence” Pilgrimage, March 1976.

Hanging of Patriarch Gregorios.

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 other people struggling for emancipation from an oppressive imperialism.”1
The 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, which 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 stance. There 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 the freedom they lost four centuries.”

Rigas Feraios or Velestinlis; 1757 – 24 June 1798 was a Greek writer, political thinker and revolutionary, active in the Modern Greek Enlightenment.

“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.
References:
1.     Zotos, Stephanos. “American Philhellenism and the Greek War of Independence”, ‘The American Historical Review (vol. xxxIII-October 1927 to July 1928)’, PilgrimageMarch 1976, pp. 3.
2.     Pilgrimage, March 1976, PP.3-7.
  1. Peter Von Hess. 1821 Revolution of the Nation: 40 Lithographs, Delta, Athens, 1996.
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