“The Modern Greek Enlightenment and Revolution” – An original history research paper by rootsnwingz

Historical Background

On the 29th of May 1453, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, was conquered after a long siege by the Ottoman armed forces, led by the twenty-one-year-old Fatih Sultan Mehmed II. The siege of Constantinople by the Ottomans signified the fall of Byzantium and the end an era, that is its millennium-long reign in the Mediterranean region. In addition, it meant that most of the geographical area that is today known as Greece, fell under Turkish rule.   The Ottoman occupation of Greece lasted for the following four hundred years, a period commonly referred to as Tourkokratia (Τουρκοκρατία) (Cogg C 1992, 3). The Tourkokratia is usually considered an oppressive time, mainly due to the imposition of religious restrictions, heavy, unjust taxation and the practice of Paidomazoma (Παιδομάζωμα) or Janissary levy, which translates from Greek as the gathering of children. This practice refers to the enforced obligation of each and every Christian family to surrender their best looking and most intelligent children to be raised as Muslim; the corps of the Janissaries would then conscript these Greek-in-origin youths and train them to be elite soldiers (Clogg C 1992, 14). Significantly, because of the Paidomazoma, Greeks were forced to fight alongside Turks and, most often, against fellow Christian populations.

However, the outbreak of the Greek Revolution, also known as the Greek War of Independence, did not begin until March 1821, after nearly four hundred year of atrocities, economic decline and oppression. The outbreak is celebrated on March 25th every year by tradition not because the revolution actually began that day. In the 18th and 19th century, we observe in Europe the growth of certain liberal movements, including revolutionary nationalism, Philhellenism and the Diafotismos (Διαφωτισμός), i.e. the modern Greek Enlightenment. Furthermore, in 1814, a secret organization, Philiki Etairia (Φιλική Εταιρεία), is founded. Driven by the ideas of the Enlightenment, the goal of these Greek revolutionaries was to overthrow Turkish rule.

In 1828, following seven years of violent revolts and battles, both on land and at sea, the Ottomans surrendered and were forced out of the Peloponnese and Central Greece. In May 1832, the Convention of London takes place, where Greece is finally recognized by the Great Powers (Russia, France, U.K.) as a free, independent, but monarchical, nation. The Greek Kingdom’s initial territory after the end of the revolution solely included the limited territorial gains of the war. Interestingly, Greece did not have jurisdiction over the entire geographical region it controls today until as late as 1947, that is after World War II.

Introduction of Topic & Methodology

            In a nutshell, my project consists of using primary sources in order: a) to assess to what extent the Diafotismos was an anti-imperial and anti-colonial ideology and b) to gain an in-depth understanding of how the transmission of its radical ideas contributed to the successful Greek uprising and revolution in 1821 against the Ottoman rule. These were my central initial research questions. Therefore, my intention is to take advantage of my knowledge of modern Greek and use the writings of the key intellectuals of the movement, i.e. Adamantios Korais and Rigas Pheraios, with the goal of forwarding my central argument, mainly that the Diafotismos was vital to the Greek uprising. Since there is notable overlap between the Greek Enlightenment and the Philhellenism in Western Europe, I also intend to use the writings of second-generation English Romantic poets, especially Lord Byron. The aim here is to better comprehend the Western powers’ attitude towards Greek nationalists as well as the Turkish rulers. In effect, the literary work of these intellectuals, both the philhellenes and the proponents of the Diafotismos, prepared the grounds for an uprising and influenced the outcome of the revolution. Finally, I will attempt to determine whether one can rightfully speak, in general, of a subaltern, anti-colonial Enlightenment. Secondary sources on the Philiki Etairia and its role are also implemented. Moreover, some secondary sources are used on the humanitarian intervention at the battle of Navarino to better comprehend the Western powers’ a) sympathetic attitude towards Greek nationalists and b) their problems with the Turkish rulers.

Thesis & Original Contribution

Essentially, Greece’s successful revolution was not an isolated event but more of a seven year long process. It can be attributed to numerous anti-imperial factors, both internal (e.g. Philiki Etairia, Diafotismos) and external (e.g. philhellenism, the decline of the Ottoman Empire, military and navy assistance, other European intellectual movements, complex diplomatic relations, etc.). So how important was the Diafotismos really? Would Greece have gained independence regardless? In this essay, I will argue that, as a matter of fact, the Modern Greek Enlightenment’s most important accomplishment and contribution to the War of Independence is that it served as the awakening instrument, which laid down the intellectual foundations for the Greek struggle of independence by exacerbating nationalism and by planting the seed of freedom. Beyond that, other factors led up to the ultimate success of the revolution and Greece’s recognition as an independent nation. In this light, my essay’s original contribution to the subject of Empire is the challenge to the notion of a general anti-imperial European Enlightenment movement, whereas its chief goal is to delineate the roles of philhellenism, Diafotismos and intervention within the framework of the Greek revolution. Continue reading

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Virunga (2014 Documentary)

I am familiar with Virunga, the volcanoes and mountain gorillas thanks to the incredible music group, Samba Mapangala.  Naturally, I am looking forward to watching this Oscar nominated documentary by Orlando Von Einsiedel.  You can watch the official trailer here and I’ve also embedded a relevant song by Samba Mapangala, called “Les Gorilles de Montagnes“, for your listening pleasure.

VIRUNGA is the incredible true story of a group of brave people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa the world’s forgotten and a gripping expose of the realities of life in the Congo. In the forested depths of eastern Congo lies Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places in the world and home to the last of the mountain gorillas. In this wild, but enchanted environment, a small and embattled team of park rangers – including an ex-child soldier turned ranger, a caretaker of orphan gorillas and a Belgian conservationist – protect this UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the dark forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources. When the newly formed M23 rebel group declares war in May 2012, a new conflict threatens the lives and stability of everyone and everything they’ve worked so hard to protect.”

40 Must-See Historic Pictures (Taken from www.demilked.com)

They say a picture is worth 1000 words. Indeed the gallery below depicts certain historical moments, capturing their essence accurately and effectively. Each high quality photograph tells its own story about people, places and events that changed the course of history. A must-see for all photography and history enthusiasts…

Hotel owner pouring acid in the pool while black people swim in it, ca. 1964

Illegal alcohol being poured out during Prohibition, Detroit, 1929

Woman With A Gas-Resistant Pram, England, 1938


(37 more photographs) Continue reading

“When Britain Loved Rastafari”, by Ras Cos Tafari, Sister Stella Headley, Ras Shango Baku, Dr Robbie Shilliam, Ras Rai I and Sister Addishiwot Asfawosen

Insightful essay on RasTafari, taken from http://www.discoversociety.org, July 2014, Focus Issue 10.

What does the British public know about RasTafari? Perhaps they might recognise the colours – red, gold and green – although they might mistake them for the Jamaican flag instead of the royal Ethiopian standard. The word “stoned” might come to mind, implying the use of a “drug” called Marijuana, which to members of the faith is a holy herb and used as part of a sacramental rite. No doubt they would be able to sing a line from Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”, while probably being less familiar with the singer’s more political Pan-African oriented songs such as “Africa Unite”.

Older members of the public might also think of the iconic cover of The Clash’s Black Market Clash, where a lone “dread” (Don Letts) confronts a line of police. In this respect, they would be referencing a time before the current Muslim scare when young Black men with dreadlocks occupied the position of public enemy number one as muggers, drug dealers, fanatics and rioters.

clash album cover
It would not be unfair to say that in Britain RasTafari has largely been apprehended as either a colourful curiosity or a corrosive cult. Yet it is neither of these. At its root, RasTafari is a movement of Pan-African redemption, confronting the inequities forged in the days of slavery and colonialism that continue to reverberate across physical, mental and spiritual dimensions. RasTafari take their name from the title that the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I held as crown prince. Ras is a rank, meaning “head”; Tafari can be glossed from the Amharic as “a person who inspires awe”.

As a movement, RasTafari finds its compass and energy store in a faith (some would call it a “livity”) that centres upon the divine nature of Selassie I and his consort, Empress Menen – the Ethiopian Alpha and Omega. Many observers of the RasTafari movement are captivated by its aesthetics and music. Some will sympathise with the RasTafari ethos. Most, though, will be confused by the overwhelming love demonstrated for Selassie I, which they will interpret as evidence of fanaticism, cultism or the result of harmless recreational smoke.

In fact, RasTafari carefully utilise diverse and complex theological and cosmological traditions to “sight up” the nature of Selassie I’s divinity, expertly weaving together Biblical prophesies, doctrines of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and indigenous cosmologies that arrived with those Africans trafficked illegally across the oceans to work as chattel on plantations.

Hence, for RasTafari, the fundamental challenges posed to humanity in the twentieth century and beyond are manifested in the life, experiences and utterances of Selassie I with Empress Menen. But you do not have to rely on our testimony alone. For there was a time when even the British public loved RasTafari. Step back into this history with us, because we want you to know us better.

Rally around the Red, Gold and Green

It is July 1935 and Mussolini has amassed Italian troops on the frontiers of Ethiopia. After manufacturing a border “incident” the previous year, Mussolini wants to reverse the historic defeat suffered by Italy from the armies of Ethiopian emperor Menelik II at Adwa in 1896. Like all reputable European imperialists, he is determined to stake out his own place in the sun – the horn of Africa. And he has already taken Eritrea and Italian Somaliland.

Click here to continue reading.