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Over the next few centuries they took over key mainland ports, the Cyclades, and Crete in 1210, becoming the most powerful traders in the Mediterranean.
The intellectual vigour of Classical Greece has yet to be equalled ¨C scarcely an idea is discussed today that was not already debated by the great minds of the era, whether in the dramatic tragedies by Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles and political satire of Aristophanes, or the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides.
Ottoman Rule On 29 May 1453 Constantinople fell under Turkish Ottoman rule (referred to by Greeks as turkokratia).
Once more Greece became a battle-ground, this time fought over by the Turks and Venetians.
Eventually, with the exception of the Ionian Islands (where the Venetians retained control), Greece became part of the Ottoman Empire.
Ottoman power reached its zenith under Sultan S¨1leyman the Magnificent, who ruled from 1520 to 1566.
His successor, Selim the Sot, added Cyprus to Ottoman dominion in 1570.
Although they captured Crete in 1669 after a 25-year campaign, the ineffectual sultans that followed in the late 16th and 17th centuries saw the empire go into steady decline.
Venice expelled the Turks from the Peloponnese in a three-year campaign (1684¨C87), during which Venetian artillery struck gunpowder stored inside the ruins of the Acropolis and badly damaged the Parthenon.
The Ottomans restored rule in 1715, but never regained their former authority.
By the end of the 18th century pockets of Turkish officials, aristocrats and influential Greeks had emerged as self-governing cliques that ruled over the provincial Greek peasants.
But there also existed an ever-increasing group of Greeks, including many intellectual expatriates, who aspired to emancipation.
A FEMALE FORCE Greek women have played a strong role in Greek resistance movements throughout history.
One national heroine was Laskarina Bouboulina (1771¨C1825), a celebrated seafarer who became a member of Filiki Eteria (Friendly Society), an organisation striving for independence against Ottoman rule.
Originally from Hydra, she settled in Spetses, from where she commissioned the construction of and commanded, as admiral, several warships that were used in significant naval blockades (the most famous vessel being the Agamemnon).
She helped maintain the crews of her ships and a small army of soldiers, and supplied the revolutionaries with food, weapons and ammunition, using her ships for transportation.
Her role in maritime operations significantly helped the independence movement.
However, political factionalism within the government led to her postwar arrest and subsequent exile to Spetses, where she died.
Streets across Greece bear her name and there are statues dedicated to her and her great- granddaughter, Lela Karagiannis ¨C who fought with the resistance in WWII ¨C in Spetses Town, where Bouboulina?ˉs home is now a private museum.
Independence In 1814 the first Greek independence party, the Filiki Eteria (Friendly Society), was founded and their message spread quickly.
On 25 March 1821 the Greeks launched the War of Independence.
Uprisings broke out almost simultaneously across most of Greece and the occupied islands.
The fighting was savage and atrocities were committed on both sides; in the Peloponnese 12,000 Turkish inhabitants were killed after the capture of the city of Tripolitsa (present-day Tripoli), while the Turks retaliated with massacres in Asia Minor, most notoriously on the island of Chios.
The campaign escalated, and within a year the Greeks had won vital ground.
They proclaimed independence on 13 January 1822 at Epidavros.
Soon after, regional wrangling twice escalated into civil war in 1824 and 1825.
The Ottomans took advantage and by 1827 the Turks (with Egyptian reinforcements) had regained control.
Western powers intervened and a combined Russian, French and British naval fleet sunk the Turkish-Egyptian fleet in the Battle of Navarino in October 1827.
Sultan Mahmud II defied the odds and proclaimed a holy war, prompting Russia to send troops into the Balkans to engage the Ottoman army.
Fighting continued until 1829 when, with Russian troops at the gates of Constantinople, the sultan accepted Greek independence with the Treaty of Adrianople.
Independence was formally recognised in 1830.
In pre-Classical times, the Ionians were a Hellenic people who inhabited Attica and parts of Asia Minor.
These people colonised the islands that later became known as the Ionian Islands.
The Modern Greek Nation In April 1827 Greece elected Corfiot Ioannis Kapodistrias as the first president of the republic.
Nafplio, in the Peloponnese, became the capital.
There was much dissension and Kapodistrias was assassinated in 1831.
Amid the ensuing anarchy, Britain, France and Russia declared Greece a monarchy and set on the throne the non-Greek, 17-year-old Bavarian Prince Otto, in January 1833.
The new kingdom (established by the London Convention of 1832) consisted of the Peloponnese, Sterea Ellada, the Cyclades and the Sporades.
The Great Idea Greece?ˉs foreign policy (dubbed the ??Great Idea?ˉ) was to assert sovereignty over its dispersed Greek populations.
Set against the background of the Crimean conflict, British and French interests were nervous at the prospect of a Greek alliance with Russia against the Ottomans.
British influence in the Ionian Islands had begun in 1815 (following a spell of political ping-pong between the Venetians, Russians and French).
The British did improve the islands?ˉ infrastructure and many locals adopted British customs (such as afternoon tea and cricket in Corfu).
However, Greek independence put pressure on Britain to give sovereignty to the Greek nation, and in 1864 the British left.
Meanwhile, Britain eased onto the Greek throne the young Danish Prince William, crowned King George I in 1863, whose reign lasted 50 years.
In 1881 Greece acquired Thessaly and part of Epiros as a result of a Russo- Turkish war.
But Greece failed miserably when it tried to attack Turkey in an effort to reach enosis (union) with Crete (which had persistently agitated for liberation from the Ottomans).
Timely diplomatic intervention by the great powers prevented the Turkish army from taking Athens.
Crete was placed under international administration, but the government of the island was gradually handed over to Greeks.
In 1905 the president of the Cretan assembly, Eleftherios Venizelos (later to become prime minister), announced Crete?ˉs union with Greece (although this was not recognised by international law until 1913).
The Venetian Empire by Jan Morris vividly describes the imperial influence of the Venetians across the Greek islands.
This very readable account includes the social, cultural and architectural legacies still evident today.
The Balkan Wars The declining Ottomans still retained Macedonia, prompting the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913.
The outcome was the Treaty of Bucharest (August 1913), which greatly expanded Greek territory to take in the southern part of Macedonia (which included Thessaloniki, the vital cultural centre strategically positioned on the Balkan trade routes), part of Thrace, another chunk of Epiros and the northeastern Aegean Islands; the treaty also recognised the union with Crete.
Eug¨¨ne Delacroix?ˉ oil canvas The Massacre at Chios (1824) was inspired b
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