History of Athens from 1821-1941
and other significant events of Greek History

see in chronological order the major events
  • April 28, 1821

    Uprising in Athens ( April 28, 1821)

    A force of 600 men led by Meletis Vasiliou liberated Athens from the Ottomans on April 28, 1821, laying siege upon the Acropolis with Turkish civilians as their hostages. On June 10, the Turkish Commander Omer Vrioni ended the siege, and recaptured Athens.

    Img. The military camp of Karaiskakis in Castella, oil on canvas 145 x 178 cm., by Theodoros Vryzakis, No. 493 (National Art Gallery - Alexander Soutzos Museum, Athens)

  • June 10, 1822

    The Surrender of the Acropolis to the Greeks ( June 10, 1822)

    After months of siege, the Ottoman garrison surrendered the Castle of Athens, as the Acropolis was called at the time, to the Greeks on June 10, 1822. Reports of Mahmud Dramali Pasha marching toward Athens with his forces caused a civilian panic and led to the abandonment of the city by its residents. Only a few hundred remained behind to defend the Acropolis, but Dramali changed course and the Acropolis remained under Greek control. During the summer of 1822, Dramali Pasha and his forces kept sweeping through Greece, trying to suppress the revolution, but failed to crush the rebellion in Central Greece. Slowly but surely the Acropolis became the core of the revolution and the focus of Greek military operations in Eastern Continental Greece.

    Img. The Greek Flag of 1822 at the Acropolis.

  • 1827

    Occupation of the Acropolis by the Ottomans ( 1827)

    The surrender of the Acropolis to the Turks in 1827 is considered a pivotal moment in the course of the Greek Revolution. The death of revolutionary fighter Karaiskaki and the surrender of the Acropolis to Reşid Mehmed Pasha, also known as Kioutachis, in May of 1828 led to the massive panic that gripped the besieged Greeks. The Acropolis was surrendered to the Turks under humiliating conditions, and with severe consequences for the territories that has been freed from Ottoman occupation by Karaiskaki.

    Img. The Siege of the Acropolis, by Panagiotis Zografos under guidance of Yannis Makriyannis (Museum of the City of Athens).

  • 1830

    Establishment of the Greek State ( 1830)

    Battle of Navarino and the London Protocol
    The struggle for Greek liberation that began with the Revolution of 1821 led to the creation of Greece as an independent state. The uniform revolt of the Greeks, and their successful campaigns against their Ottoman conquerors, led to the support of European allies at the Battle of Navarino. The three Great Powers were eventually moved to act and signed the Protocol of St Petersburg in 1826, agreeing to mediate between the Ottomans and the Greeks for the establishment of an autonomous Greek state. After their refusal of the initial terms, the Ottoman’s finally agreed on the terms of the Treaty of London, in July of 1827.

    Img. Painting of the Battle of Navarino, oil on canvas, by Ambroise – Louis Garneray (1783 – 1857).

  • 1776 - 1831

    Count Ioannis Kapodistrias ( 1776 - 1831)

    The first ruler of Independent Greece was born in Corfu. He came from an aristocratic family and a heritage of politics. He was a diplomat and a politician, who had served as Foreign Minister of the Russia Empire and as Secretary of State of the Ionian State. On April 14, 1827, while Greece was under the protection of the Great Powers, the National Assembly of Troezena appointed him Governor of Greece. On October 9, 1831, in Nafplion, he was assassinated in retaliation for his order of Petrobey Mavromichalis’ imprisonment, by Petrobey’s brother. He was the first ruler of Independent Greece, and one that accomplished much despite the short time he was in power. Kapodistrias introduced major reforms across all areas of government, established the legal framework of the State and reorganized the Armed Forces under a unified administration.

    Img. Portrait of Ioannis Kapodistrias, by Dionisis Tsokou (Collection of the Greek Parliament).

  • 1833

    Release of the Acropolis to the Greeks ( 1833)

    The Turks surrendered the Acropolis to the Bavarian Guard, and in the presence of Otto, King of newly independent Greece.

    Img. The earliest Greek Flag. This type of flag was used in Greece from 1821 until 1832. The nine stripes depicted in one version are the nine syllables of the slogan "freedom or death", made famous during the War for Independence.

  • 1833

    Arrival of Otto, the first King of Greece in Nafplion ( 1833)

    Otto Friedrich Ludwig von Wittelsbach (1815 – 1867) was Prince of Bavaria, second son of the King Ludwig I of Bavaria and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, daughter of Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1830, at the prodding of England, the "Great Powers" of Europe recognized the Greek’s right to independence, and worked together to sign a treaty that agreed to the establishment of the Greek Kingdom. In 1832, at the young age of 17, Otto became King of Greece. He arrived in Nafplion aboard the British frigate Madagascar, accompanied by a three-member Regency of Bavarian advisors and a large army of Bavarian troops. He was the first monarch of the Kingdom of Greece, with the official title "King of Greece”.

    Img. After the assassination of Ioannis Kapodistrias the patron Great Powers appointed the Prince of Bavaria as the King of Greece. The arrival of King Otto in Nafplion, engraving by Peter von Hess, 1835.

  • 1834

    Athens, Capital of Greece ( 1834)

    In 1834, Athens was a small and war ravaged city, filled with destroyed houses around remains of ancient monuments. This almost deserted city of 10,000 residents became the capital of the newly established Kingdom of Greek in 1834, by the order of King Otto. The rebuilding of Athens began inn 1834, designed by Kleanthes, Schaubert and Leo von Klenze. Up until 1900, Athens had been developed by the same standards of other modern European cities, but it underwent a major expansion in 1923 when a stream of refugees from Asia Minor arrived and settled, creating new neighborhoods and building unregulated structures.
    Markers of the city’s growth were after the Second World War, when a wave of urbanization brought much of the country's population to the capital, and the huge building boom of the 1960s, with the construction of large apartment buildings and land leasing.

    Img. The palace of Otto in 1842 (present day Parliament)

  • 1835

    The First Democratic Elections in Athens ( 1835)

    Img. Portrait of the first elected Mayor of Athens, Anargyros Petrakis, by Eleftheriou Kazini (1861 - 1930) Paraskevopoulos, G. 1907. The Mayors of Athens 1835-1907.

  • 1858

    Revival of the Olympic Games ( 1858)

    Since the 17th century, several small-scale celebrations were held under the name of "Olympic Games" in England, France and Greece. In the mid 19th century, after the excavations at ancient Olympia, interest in organizing the Olympic Games surged.
    The first formal proposal for the revival of the Olympic Games was made by Minas Minoidis, a professor of Ancient Greek at the University of Paris. In 1858 he translated and published the work of Philostratus, “Gymnasticus”, into French, proposing the importance of reviving the Olympic Games. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, Secretary General of the Union of French Athletic Sports Clubs, led the initiative by presenting the proposal at the International Conference at the University of Sorbonne, held from June 16 to June 23, in 1894. As a result it was decided to hold the first Olympic Games in Athens in 1896—the capital of the country that created them. Coubertin then set up the first International Olympic Committee (IOC) with Dimítrios Vikélas as President and himself as Secretary-General. The members of the committee were delegates representing many countries. The first modern Olympic Games were a great success, and King George of Greece and other Greek officials asked for Greece to have a monopoly on the games. The IOC decided against that, and the second Olympic Games were held in Paris in 1900. The next time the Olympic Games returned to Athens was in 2004.

    Img. Poster of 1896 Olympic Games.

  • 1897

    Greco-Turkish War ( 1897)

    The Greco-Turkish War, also called the Thirty Days' War, was the conflict between the Ottoman Empire and Greece over the "Cretan Issue". The war ended with the intervention of the Great Powers, and a forced armistice. The Greek public felt humiliated when it was forced to cede minor border areas of Thessaly to Turkey and made to suffer further by paying heavy war reparations. The Commission of International Financial Control forced the Greek government of Dimitrios Rallis to forfeit certain freedoms hard-won during the struggle for Greek liberation in order to pay for the mandated reparations.

    Img. The Battle of Farsalon, oil painting by George Roilou, 1898.

  • 1900-1910

    The Electrical Lighting of Athens ( 1900-1910)

    Img. Night satellite view Greece (Google).

  • November 8, 1901

    “Evangelika” Riots ( November 8, 1901)

    The bloody clashes of November 8, 1901 in the streets of Athens were caused by the publication of Alexander Palli’s translation of the gospels into demotic Greek in the newspaper the “Acropolis”. These events were dubbed the " Evangelika", or the “Gospel Riots”.

    Img. Lithograph of the Gospel Riots, Athens, 1901 (National Historical Museum, Athens).

  • 1903

    Oresteiaka Riots ( 1903)

    The Oresteiaka Riots gripped Athens from November 6 to 9, in 1903. The protests were named after the act that incited them—George Sotiriadi’s (an “educated Hellenist and eminent archaeologist") translation of the ancient Greek play of Aeschylus, Orestia, into demotic Greek dialect and its performance in the Royal Theatre. The actress Marika Kotopouli performed as Athena Pallada (Goddess Athena) and recited the "Hail of Tragedy" of poet Kostis Palamas. This, like the Gospel Riots, marked the ongoing language issue between katharevousa (formal) and demotic (colloquial) Greek in Greek society, and the extent of public reaction to the implementation of demoticism. The issue was not simply of language, but of its framework within Greek history and politics.
    University students and language conservatives reacted by staging protests, led by George Mistriotis, a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Athens and hard-line advocate of katharevousa. The refusal of the ruling Government of Dimitrios Rallis to support the platform of Mistriotis, especially about the performing of ancient plays in their original dialect, started the outbreak of violence. The night of November 8 the army became involved, resulting in clashes that left two dead and seven wounded.

    Img. Newspaper headlines of the time.

  • 1908

    The arrival of the telephone to Athens, and its first Electric Trolley ( 1908)

    First route Larisis - Omonia.

    Img. The well-known “Green Trolley” of the Omonia – Rouf.

  • 1909

    The Goudi Coup ( 1909)

    On the eve of August 15, 1909, starting in the barracks of Goudi, the Military League staged a military coup d'état that changed the history of modern Greece. Before resorting to an outright coup of the government, the movement had called for much needed reforms in the Armed Forces, the Education and Justice Systems, and for the removal of King Constantine.

    Img. Poster of the victorious Goudi Coup in 1909 Goudi. Lithograph by Sotirios Christidis (1858 – 1940), History of the Greek Nation, XIV, pg 26.

  • 1864-1936

    Eleftherios Venizelos ( 1864-1936)

    Eleftherios Venizelos was the Prime Minister of the Cretan State (Crete), and was elected seven times as Prime Minister of Greece. He played an important role in solving the Cretan Issue of 1897, and his actions decided the result of the Asia Minor campaign. While prime minister of Greece, Venizelos enacted reforms in almost all areas of the state, with the main purpose of organizing the country's economic, military, political and social infrastructure to that of a modern state. He concurrently reorganized the structure and training of the army and navy, giving him the ability to use Greece’s military strength to double the territorial borders of Greece.

    Img. Eleftherios Venizelos (1864 – 1936), Prime Minister of Greece from 1909 – 1932 (United States Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division).

  • 1912-1913

    Balkan Wars ( 1912-1913)

    The Balkan Wars were conflicts between the Balkan League (Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, Bulgaria and later on Romania) and the Ottoman Empire, which took place in the Balkan Peninsula. The allied powers of the Balkan League victoriously liberated Macedonia, the largest portions of Thrace and islands of the Eastern Aegean from Ottoman control, and Serbia was able to regain Slavic populations formerly under Ottoman rule. With the Balkan Wars Greece doubled in size and population, creating better conditions for social, political and economic development. Disagreements between the Balkan allies over disputed territories led to a second conflict (the second Balkan War), resulting in the defeat of Bulgaria and the loss of most of the territories it acquired during the first Balkan War.

    Img. Poster of the time, highlighting the territorial expansion of Greece, with the annotation, "The Greek fleet and newly gained territories". Lithograph by an unknown artist, 1913 (National Historical Museum in Athens).

  • 1919-1922

    The Asia Minor Campaign ( 1919-1922 )

    The Greek campaign in Asia Minor, known as Asia Minor Campaign or the War in Asia Minor, was a military campaign by the Greek Army against Asia Minor. The goal of the campaign was to liberate Smyrna, in the context of the generalized Balkan war against the Ottoman Empire. The result for the Greeks was the tragic Asia Minor catastrophe. For Turkey, this was an "episode" of the Turkish War of Independence from what they saw as the “European Occupation Forces” of Britain, France and Italy.

    Img. Procession of the first Greek division into Izmir's waterfront, on May 2, 1919, at 7:50 a.m. (History of the Greek Nation).

  • 1940-41

    Epopee of ‘40 ( 1940-41)

    The Greco-Italian War of 1940, popularly referred to as the War of 1040 or the “Épos toú Saránda” meaning the Epopee of '40, was the military conflict between Greece and the coalition of Italy and Albania, lasting from 1940 until 1941. The German allied Italian government gave the Greeks an ultimatum demanding the demanding the occupation of Greek territory, which Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas rejected with the now legendary outcry of “OXI”, or "NO".
    Italian forces invaded Greece. What followed was the German invasion and occupation of Greece on April 6, 1941.

    Img. Greek flag with the resistance slogan of “OXI”, meaning “NO”,1944 (Oct. 12).
    On October 12, 1944, the German troops began their withdrawal from Athens, and on October 18, 1944, George Papandreou raised the Greek flag at the Acropolis. In writing about this day, George Seferis wrote "The most beautiful, the lightest day of the world."