Byzantine and Turkish Rule. Under the Byzantine Empire, Greece suffered invasion by many barbaric tribes. Slavic migrations changed the makeup of the population, and for many centuries the rich heritage of Hellenic culture was virtually forgotten. The Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century.

Under Ottoman rule Greeks retained their Christian religion and maintained a fairly high level of education. Russia, which wanted Constantinople, organized a revolt in Greece in the mid-18th century. It failed, bringing savage reprisals. In 1815 a secret Greek revolutionary group was formed.


The war of independence began in 1821 and lasted six years. The Ottoman Empire was supported by Egypt, but Russia, France, and Britain came to the assistance of the Greeks. In the naval battle of Navarino (Pilos), 1827, the Turks and Egyptians were decisively defeated. In 1832 Greece was declared a kingdom and Prince Otto (Otho), second son of King Louis I of Bavaria, was chosen king.

Greece adopted a constitution in 1843. In 1862 Otto was deposed and replaced by a Danish prince, who reigned as George I (1863-1913). As a result of defeat in the Russ-Turkish War of 1877-78, the Ottoman Empire was forced to cede Thessaly and certain other Greek-speaking regions to Greece (1881). In the Balkan Wars (1912-13), in which the Greeks fought first the Turks and then the Bulgarians, Greece increased its land area by almost 70 per cent. In 1913 George was assassinated; his son Constantine succeeded him.

World War I and the Republic

In World War I, Constantine was pro-German; the Greeks were not. A revolutionary government was formed under Eleutherios Venizelos, and Greece joined the Allies. Constantine abdicated in favor of his son Alexander in 1917. By the treaties of Neuilly (1919) and Sevres (1920) Greece acquired territory from Bulgaria and gained control over an area in Asia Minor. The Turkish nationalists, under Mustafa Kemal, resisted Greek claims. After a brief war between the Turks and the Greeks (1921-22), the Lausanne Conference restored all of Asia Minor to Turkey.

After King Alexander’s death in 1920, Constantine returned to the throne. In 1922 he was deposed in favor of his son George. In 1923 George was deposed and, under the leadership of Venizelos, a republic was proclaimed in 1924. The new government was kept in turmoil by conflict between the republican and royalist parties. An armed revolt in 1935 was crushed, and George II was recalled to the throne. Joannes Metaxas appointed premier, served as dictator until his death in 1941.

World War II and After

Italy attacked Greece in 1940. The Italians failed to conquer the country, but in 1941 the Germans invaded Greece and Crete. During the German occupation Greek resistance forces engaged in guerrilla warfare. The Germans were driven out by the British in 1944. The restored Greek government was opposed by a Communist-supported guerrilla group, the ELAS, and civil warfare broke out. The United Nations argued over what action to take. When George II died in 1947 he was succeeded by his brother Paul I. The government, with United States military and economic aid beginning in 1947, defeated the ELAS in 1949. Greece, which had long wated to annex the British colony of Cyprus with its largely Greek population, strongly opposed the granting of Cypriot independence in 1960. The opposition led to continuing friction with Turkey, which sought to protect the interests of the Turkish minority in Cyprus. At the death of King Paul in 1964, his son, Constantine, became king. A military junta, led by Colonel George Papadopoulos, seized power in 1967, suspended civil liberties, and dismissed Parliament. The king fled into exile after failing to overthrow the junta. Papadopoulos was overthrown and his government replaced by a new military junta in 1973. The following year, the new regime instigated the overthrow of the government of Cyprus, which had opposed union with Greece. Turkey then invaded the island and established an autonomous Turkish state in the north. The Greek military regime, discredited, resigned. It was replaced by a civilian government, which restored constitutional parliamentary rule. A referendum abolished the monarchy. In 1981 Greece joined the European Economic Community (now the European Union). During 1981-89, Greece had a socialist government – the first in its history. During the early 1990’s discord arose between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia concerning the republic’s name. Greece asserted that use of the name Macedonia implied territorial claims on the region in Greece known by the same name. Greece refused to recognize the republic and imposed a trade embargo on that country. Agreements in 1995 led to Greek recognition of the republic and to the lifting of the embargo.