Ottoman Greece

Period of Ottoman rule of Greece

Ottoman Greece refers to those parts of the territory of present-day Greece which were at some point incorporated within the Ottoman Empire. The period of Ottoman rule in Greece, lasting from the mid-15th century to the successful Greek War of Independence that broke out in 1821 and the First Hellenic Republic was proclaimed in 1822 (preceded by the creation of the autonomous Septinsular Republic in 1800), is known in Greek as Tourkokratia (Greek: Τουρκοκρατία, 'Turkish rule' or 'Turkocracy'). Some regions, however, like the Ionian islands and various temporary Venetian possessions of the Stato da Mar, were not incorporated in the Ottoman Empire. The Mani Peninsula in Peloponnese was not fully integrated into the Ottoman Empire, but was under Ottoman suzerainty.

Primary sources

  • In all this countrey of Greece I could find nothing, to answer the famous relations, given by Auncient Authors, of the excellency of that land, but the name onely; the barbarousnesse of Turkes and Time, having defeated all the Monuments of Antiquity: No shew of honour, no habitat of men in an honest fashion … But rather prisoners shut up in prisons, or addicted slaves to cruell and tyrrannicall Maisters.
  • The present Condition of this Nation is so miserable, and so apt to produce all the most tender Motions of Compassion in those who seriously reflect upon it, that 'twou'd be needless to heighten the Gloominess of the Prospect by comparing it with their former Glory, which after a long and fatal Eclipse, was restor'd to its ancient Splendor by Constantine the Great, whose Memory will last till the final Period of the World. But the Empire of the East, which he founded, and united to that of the West, was divided again after his Death, and continu'd in a declining Condition till the final Overthrow of the Palaeologi by the Turks, in the Fifteenth Age; since which time the Greeks have still been Slaves in a Country of which they were formerly Sovereigns; and to redeem themselves from the Yoak under which they are born, they are forc'd to pay a yearly Tribute, call'd the Carache, which is only impos'd upon them, and their Fellow-Slaves the Jews. The Carache is a perpetual Poll-Tax, and exceeds not four Piasters a Man; and yet since 'tis a Mark of their Bondage, they have left no Means unessay'd to deliver themselves from it, and have even offer'd to raise more considerable Summs another way. Besides, there are oftentimes large Avanies impos'd upon 'em, which they levy among themselves, according to the proportion of their Estates. All their Patriarchs, Bishops, and Abbots are also oblig'd to pay for their Patents; and the Prices that are exacted of 'em cannot but amount to a very considerable Summ, since there are above five Thousand Arch-Bishops and Bishops in the Turkish Empire, who, reckoning one with another, pay above two Thousand Piasters a-piece, as a Fine to the Grand Signior. The Greeks are naturally Proud, and lovers of Pomp and Magnificence: Most of 'em spend higher than their Estates will bear, and are very fond of the Title of Chelety or Lord. Yet even the richest of 'em, of which there is a considerable Number, are look'd upon as Objects of Scorn and Contempt by the Turks. 'Tis true, they are not insensible of their Slavery, and perhaps wou'd willingly shake off the insupportable Yoak of their Domineering Masters; but the Natural Impatience of their Temper is more than sufficiently curb'd by their Weakness, and want of Power; and they must e'en content themselves with repining in secret at the resistless Tyranny of their Oppressors: For they are seldom or never able to obtain Satisfaction for the Injuries they receive from the Turks, if the Offenders are not wholly destitute both of Friends and Money.
    The Habit of the Greeks is very different from that of the Turks. They are not permitted to wear a white Turbant; nor must their Turbants be of the same bigness with those that are us'd by the Turks, nor folded after the same manner: For they only wrap a little piece of Course Cloth, either blue or strip'd with blue, two or three times about their Caps; and even usually they wear none at all, but content themselves with a little red Cap which is not large enough to cover their Ears. Instead of a Vest they have only a plain Wast-coat, which is very short, and open before; and over that they wear another that meets on the side. Neither ought they to wear a Chacsir after the Turkish Fashion; for their Breeches are very short, and reach not below the Knee. And besides, they are distinguish'd from the Turks by their red Babouches; for those that are us'd by the Turks are yellow. Thus I have given you a short Account of the Habit of the Greeks; but tho' most of 'em do, and all of 'em are oblig'd to wear it, some of the richer sort are so far from observing these Regulations, that they can scarce be distinguish'd from the Turks but by their Turbants: And even all Persons of Note, whether Franks or Greeks, put on white Turbants when they go out of the City, as I have had occasion to see above fifty times. The Turks have of late conniv'd at those Innovations; but they have still such a veneration for Green, that the Greeks dare not presume to wear it: nor wou'd it be safe for Franks to wear Green in the midst of Constantinople, tho' I have often seen 'em make bold with that sacred Colour. Since the Women are generally invisible, they are not oblig'd to observe these Marks of Distinction; and the only difference between their Habit and way of Dressing, and that of the Turks, is that they must, as well as the Men, abstain from wearing Green. Nor is there a less Resemblance between 'em in their Manners and Customs, and in their solitary way of living; tho' they find so much sweetness in the Freedom that prevails among us, that they whose Husbands or Fathers have frequent Occasions to converse with Franks, are easily dispos'd to renounce their wonted Severity. They are lovers of Pleasures, Dancing, and magnificent Habits; and will fix a Passion upon a Man whether he will or not. But the poor Frank that suffers himself to be noos'd, must resolve either to be Hen-peck'd, or a Cuckold: He must adore his Græcian Spouse; he must furnish her with the richest Habits, and keep a numerous Train of Slaves to attend her; or, if any of these things be wanting, 'Ware Horns. For the Franks have an excellent Faculty at curing a handsome Lady of the grumbling Disease, and are always ready to do a kind Office to a Country-man's Wife.

Secondary sources

  • The Hellenes initially thought not so much in terms of secession from the Ottoman Empire, as of inverting the hierarchy within it and taking it over, thereby reviving Byzantium. The first Greek rising took place not in Greece, but in what is now Romania, where the Greeks were a minority and moreover one doing rather well out of the Ottoman system. The use of what is now southern Greece as a territorial basis only came later.
  • Along with Moisiodax, Rigas Velestinlis (he too a Vlach), Nikolaos Zervoulis, Dimitrios Darvaris, Nikolaos Piccolos, and Arhanacios Vogoridis had all assimilated into Hellenism at the time. During much of the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries, Hellenism served in the Balkans as an ecumenical cultural ideal, very much like the role it played in the eastern Mediterranean of the Hellenistic period and of late antiquity. Although not supported by military might as was the case in Alexander’s time, it attained enormous prestige. Indeed, Greek culture along with Orthodoxy and the Ottoman administration served as the three unifying forces in the Balkans. Hellenism expanded throughout the region because Greeks had dominated the four areas— religion, economy, administration, and intellectual life—that constituted the shared substratum of Balkan life (Tsourkas 1967: 212). Ethnic Greeks occupied positions of enormous prestige and influence in the Ottoman administration and served for decades as governors of Walachia and Moldavia. Greek had become the language of commerce and Hellenism the secular culture of the Balkans (Camariano-Cioran 1974: 15, 311). The economic and political power of the Greeks enabled them to have more contacts with Westerners than their neighbours, which explains in part their earlier attempts at modernization.
    • Gregory Jusdanis (2001). The Necessary Nation. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. pp. 122. ISBN 0-691-08902-7. 
  • It is also important that the process of nation- building he distinguished from related social phenomena. For instance if we accept as do most theorists of nationalism, that nations ate modern constructs, it becomes imperative to differentiate nation-building from expansionist ethnicism, The latter phenomenon for instance. describes the pattern to he found after 987 in Capetian France among the Zulus of the nineteenth century and among lateral-aristocratic ethnies like the Greeks (Smith 19**6. 141—2; Smith 1991: 57, Francis 1976: 28—31). The spread of ethnic consciousness within these pre-modern populations sprang from the efforts of clerics, monarchs, warrior bands or wandering performers, whose activities lacked the intensity, coordination or precision that is associated with nation-building (Armstrong 1982).
    • Athena S. Leoussi (2001). Encyclopaedia of nationalism. New Brunswick, N.J., U.S.A: Transaction Publishers. pp. 209. ISBN 0-7658-0002-0. 
  • The Greek question has a longer history in Turkey. Greeks have lived in Anatolia for millennia, especially along the Aegean coast. For a while, under Alexander, they dominated the land. And for all intents and purposes, the Byzantine Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire at the time) was Greek. When Mehmct 11 conquered Constantinople, he appointed a Greek monk to the orthodox Patriarch and allowed him to govern both the religious and secular affairs of the Greek community. The first Ottoman census, of 1477, counted half of Constantinople’s population as Greek, and four-hundred years later, even after the Greek War of Independence, it was still 21 percent Greek.
    • David Lowenthal (1998). The heritage crusade and the spoils of history. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 245. ISBN 0-521-63562-4. 
  • Greek nationalists in the early nineteenth century, and their supporters in Europe, took it for granted that they were freeing the heirs of classical Greek civilization from the Ottoman Empire. Surely history would grant them a second chance. Greek scholars wrote books showing that there was a direct line from the classical world to the modern. (The four centuries of Ottoman rule were largely overlooked.) Foreign scholars who suggested that such a view was too simplistic were pilloried or ignored. Written Greek was modelled on the classical and so generations of schoolchildren struggled with a language that was very different from the one they spoke. It was only in 1976 that the government finally conceded and made modern Greek the official language.
  • In antiquity, the power of Greek cities was manifested by their ability to found far—off, independent colonies, where the cities and colonies were connected more by language, culture, and history than by law or a hierarchical relationship. This is what the French geographer Georges Prévélakis calls a “galactic” organization, as opposed to a “dendritic” organization based on the relation between a centre and its periphery. The spread of Roman power—first by the republic, then the empire—over the entire Mediterranean did not cause Hellenism to disappear as a cultural unity. After the empire split in two in 395, Hellenism actually blossomed in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, where it became the principal cultural component, especially in the religious domain: The Great Schism of 1054 divided Roman Catholics from the Greek Orthodox. Even political power became Hellenized. The seizure of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453 ended the Byzantine Empire, but Hellenism survived in the Ottoman Empire. Along with the Jews and the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Church was allowed to establish an autonomous religious community, called milliet, that was responsible for the allocation and collection of taxes and for such matters as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. With the development of the Mediterranean trading system in the sixteenth century, Greek communities appeared outside the empire, including western Europe (Livorno and Venice) and Russia. Contact with Enlightenment philosophy and the ideas of 1789 fed the aspiration for a Greek state. This was created in 1830, founded on the ambition of restoring Greater Greece by recovering the Ottoman territories of Asia Minor. That hope collapsed in 1922-23 with the end of the Greco-Turkish war and the territorial agreement between the two countries.
    • William Rodarmor; Stephane Dufoix (2008). Diasporas. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 39. ISBN 0-520-25359-0. 
  • These different blocs in the Turkish Empire...always conspired against Turkey; because of the hostility of these native peoples, Turkey has lost province after province - Greece, Serbia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Egypt, and Tripoli. In this way, the Turkish Empire has dwindled almost to nothing.
    • Mehmed Talat, Quoted in "A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility" - by Taner Akçam, Paul Bessemer - History - 2006 - Page 92
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