Greece Under the Ottoman Yoke
The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 marked the end of the Byzantine Empire. For Greece it was the beginning of a long period under the Ottoman yoke, known as Turkocratia, i.e. Turkish rule. For almost four centuries the Greek people lived under conditions of harsh oppression, isolated from the great historical movements in Western Europe - such as the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution. However, even during this Dark Age for Greece there were sporadic revolts against the Turks -brave but short-lived, ill-fated uprisings on the mainland and in Aegean islands. Moreover, throughout Turkocratia groups of bandits, known as kleftes afforded a suggestive example of primitive armed resistance against the Turks. For more than two centuries the prospect of liberation appeared remote. During the course of the 18th century, however, a number of significant developments occurred, leading to the spiritual and nationalist awakening of Greeks:
The military, territorial and economic decline of the Ottoman Empire precipitated a small but influential group of Greeks into positions of power in the Ottoman state.
Nuclei of political leadership were formed as a result of the emergence of quasi-autonomous communities in various regions of Greece.
Commerce and shipping began to flourish in the hands of the rising mercantile class whose activities were based both within and outside the Ottoman domains. Greek merchants and shipowners came to dominate imperial trade; Greek communities were established throughout the Mediterranean, the Balkans and central Europe, Greek became the lingua franca of Balkan commerce. Prosperous Greek merchants played a significant role in providing the material base for the intellectual revival of the last three decades of the 18th and the first two decades of the 19th century in Greece.
This revival a delayed "Hellenic Enlightenment" was a vital factor in the development of a national consciousness, a growing awareness of a specifically Greek identity. Among the pioneers in this movement were members of the clergy, such as Kosmas Aitolos, philosophers - educators, such as Adamantios Korais, and a host of younger Greeks who had studied in universities of Western Europe where they came into contact with the inspiring ideas of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution and realized how strong was the influence of the ancient Greek civilization in the minds of their educated European contemporaries. A fervent preacher of the gospel of revolution in the Balkans Πthrough his political writings and poemsΠ was Rigas Velestinlis from Thessaly. He envisaged the establishment of a Balkan Confederation which would he predominated by Greeks. His endeavors were put to an end when he was captured and executed in 1798. They became, however, a source of inspiration for the founders of Philiki Etairia, or Friendly Society: three members of the Greek mercantile diaspora, Emmanuel Xanthos, Nicolaos Skoufas and Athanasios Tsakalof. This society based in Odesa, southern Russia- set as its goal to mobilize the Greek nationΥs resources in an armed revolt against the Turks. In the early years the societyΥs efforts had limited success but eventually its membership grew rapidly, consisting mainly of merchants. Under the leadership of Alexandros Ypsilantis, an officer in the TsarΥs army, the society decided in 1820 that the uprising should begin in the Peloponnese. Initial plans changed, however, and Ypsilantis Πtaking advantage of the Ottoman militaryΥs entanglement in a campaign against Ali Pasa, Muslim warlord in EpirusΠ launched a small army across the river Prouth at the border between Moldavia and Bessarabia. His defeat at the battle of Dragatsani (June 1821) put an end to this ill-organized revolutionary initiative. Nevertheless Ypsilantis' heroism served as a source of encouragement for an all-out revolt against the Turks in Greece; as did also his declaration "Fight for faith and fatherland", invoking the shade of Miltiadis, Themistokles, Epaminondas and Leonidas in the struggle to bring "freedom to the classical land of Greece".
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