On this day in history, a coalition of European powers defeated the Ottoman navy, which ultimately helped Greece to win its freedom from the Ottoman Empire. For almost 400 years the Greeks had been occupied by the Ottoman Turks. The Turks in the first centuries of their rule in Greece had been generally accepted by the population. However, by the eighteenth century, the Greeks were tired of the often brutal Ottoman government and came to resent the rule of their Muslim overlords. In 1814 a secret society was organized which sought to end Turkish rule in Greece. The first revolt actually took place among Greeks in the mountainous Peloponnese in 1821. Here people defied Ottoman authority and this inspired Greeks in Greece and elsewhere to rise up against the Turks. Soon Greeks all over the Ottoman Empire were in revolt against the Ottomans.
The Greeks revolt was viewed sympathetically in western Europe. Public opinion in countries such as Britain wanted Greece to throw off the ‘Ottoman yoke’.
In 1821, the first nationalist uprisings by the Greeks against their Turkish rulers was greeted enthusiastically in the west and the press supported the Greek rebels. The Russians who like the Greeks were members of the Orthodox Church were also sympathetic to the Greeks. The Tsar believed that he had a duty to support his Orthodox brethren. The Greek revolt after some initial success began to flag. To crush the rebellion the Ottomans sought the support of Egypt, which was technically part of the Empire but was in reality independent under the rule of Muhammed Ali. The presence of an Egyptian army on European soil provoked outrage in Europe and galvanized the great powers to enter into an alliance to help the Greeks to achieve their independence.
Britain, France, and Russian sent ships to the Ionian Sea. It was hoped that a show of force would persuade the Turks to end their occupation of Greece. However, the Turks had been reinforced by the Egyptian navy and they decided to confront the allies naval squadrons. The Ottoman ships fired on the allied ships and the battle of Navarino had begun.
The allies ships were much superior and their guns in particular, as they had a longer range. The British Admiral Sir Edward Codrington’s ship led the allies counterattack, and within hours the Europeans’ superior artillery utterly destroyed the Turkish and Egyptian armada. The Turkish defeat was so complete that they lost control of seas that they had controlled for centuries.
However, the Turks did not immediately abandon their efforts to suppress the Greek rebellion, but their defeat did weaken their position in the country. The Turkish defeat at Navarino meant that they had lost control of the sea lanes and they could not operate freely in Greece. After several years of fighting, they were forced to abandon Greece and in 1832 Greece won its independence after centuries of Ottoman rule.