Lord Byron's Poems

Lord Byron's Poems The Greek War of Independence

The Greek War of Independence was fought between 1821 and 1832. Long under the rule of the Ottoman Empire (since 1453), Greece finally resisted Ottoman rule on a wide scale in 1821. The revolt of Greeks in the Peloponnese, led by Theodoros Kolokotronis, set off a chain of revolts elsewhere throughout Greece. A cobbled-together navy of Greek ships managed to inflict losses against the Ottoman navy, thereby encouraging the Greeks to continue their struggle for independence.

The Ottoman Turks suppressed many of the Greek uprisings, but the Greek navy’s presence prevented the Turks from receiving reinforcements later in the war. Unfortunately for the Greeks, many of the revolutionary factions began fighting amongst themselves, thus weakening their position. In the meantime, the Ototman Sultan was able to negotiate for aid from Egypt; the Egyptian forces landed on Greece in 1825 and soon had most of the Peloponnese under their control, capped by the reclamation of Athens.

The Greek uprising gained international sympathy for Greece and drew the attention of the (then) three great powers: France, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Years of negotiation led to these three nations’ sending their own navies to Greece to intervene.

When confronted by the Ottoman and Egyptian fleets, the “Big Three” navies engaged and destroyed them. A French force helped the Greeks to drive the Turks out of the Peloponnese and retake central Greece in 1828. Then followed four more years of negotiation, the end of which resulted in Greece being recognized as an independent nation in 1832.

Byron (and others like him) saw Greece as the home of classical art and literature, and thus held it in high regard for its legacy. Byron's present-day world showed him a country occupied by a foreign power and in need of assistance. Combining his reverence for the classical world with his passion for human freedom and individuality, Byron felt compelled to offer what aid he could to the Greeks in their struggle against the Ottoman Turks. At first, Byron primarily provided monetary support; however, this would not prove a strong enough response for the adventurous and egocentric Byron. He made plans to join the Greek navy and lead men into battle. Unfortunately for the poet and would-be freedom fighter, Byron became ill and died of an infection before he could engage the enemy personally.