March 25th is Greek Independence Day, commemorating the beginning of the Greek rebellion in 1821 against their Ottoman oppressors after four-hundred years of subjugation. The revolution began, according to legend, when Bishiop Germanos raised the Greek flag at the Peloponnesian monastery of Agia Lavra.
Whatever the inciting incident, the revolution attracted the attention and aid of many European powers, particularly Great Britain, who felt a kinship with the Greeks for their thousand-year cultural legacy of philosophy, government, and all of the other gifts of Western Civilization.
Oh yeah. The United States got in on the act too. Our fifth president and Founding Father James Monroe stated to Congress that:
“A strong hope is entertained that these people will recover their independence and assume their equal statue among the nations of the earth.”
Of course, Monroe and his famous, eponymous doctrine (largely the creation of then-Secretary of State and later sixth president John Quincy Adams) committed the United States to not getting involved in European affairs (while resisting any European incursion into the Americas), but the rhetorical support remained, and indeed bolstered the spirit of the Greeks.
It’s a beautiful circle. The Greeks were inspired by the Americans, who were partially inspired by Greek philosophy and ideals as they revolted against England and created the United States system of government (and the architecture in Washington, D.C.).
I mean, listen to the slogan of the Greek revolutionaries: Eλευθερία ή θάνατος! Freedom or death! Sounds familiar, right?
Being both Greek and American, it’s always exhilarating to think that, in my own small way, I’m heir to two strong and vital cultural legacies.
But the interesting thing is that March 25 is also the Annunciation, the celebration of the Archangel Gabriel announcing to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to Christ. This is no coincidence. Continue reading “The Spirit of 1821: Greek Independence Day and the Annunciation”