Greek Independence and the London Committee

Robert E. Zegger reflects on the the philhellenic crusade to free Greece in the 1820s.

The uprising of the Greeks against Ottoman rule during the 1820s commanded a wide sympathy throughout the western world such as no government could ignore; and until the great powers could agree upon a common policy that ended the fighting, philhellenes everywhere rallied behind the insurgents. Because of a variety of motives, wealthy Greek expatriates, Napoleonic veterans, students, merchants, and public men sent money and supplies, and even sacrificed their lives for Greek independence.

For some, news of the rebellion conjured up memories of an immortal and splendid heritage. ‘We are all Greeks’ Shelley wrote in 1821. ‘Our laws, our literature, our arts have their roots in Greece.’ Obviously, no civilized man could stand by with folded arms while the lineal descendants of Socrates and Phideas, Sophocles and Leonides, fought for freedom. Others thought of a Christian crusade against the unspeakable Turks: ‘For Liberty and the Cross’, read the banners held by a contingent of volunteers which left Marseilles for the east.

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