The Great Idea

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


The Great Idea in Hellas of 19th and 20th century.

Submitted: February 12, 2018

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Submitted: February 12, 2018

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The Great Idea (Hellenic:?????? ????, Megáli Idéa, "Great Idea") was an irredentist concept of Greek nationalism, that expressed the goal of establishing a Greek state that would encompass all ethnic Greek-inhabited areas, including the large Greek populations that were still under Ottoman Empire occupation after the Greek War of Independence(1830).Some scholars have stressed its imperialist connotations, as it also envisaged the recreation of the Byzantine Empire with Constantinopole, a city where Greeks were a minority, as its new capital.

The term appeared for the first time during the debates of Prime Minister Ioannis Kolletis with King Otto that preceded the promulgation of the 1844 constitution. This was a visionary nationalist aspiration that was to dominate foreign relations and, to a significant extent, determine domestic politics of the Greek state for much of the first century of independence. The expression was new in 1844 but the concept had roots in Greek popular and folk culture. It long had hopes of liberation from Ottoman rule and restoration of the Byzantine empire.

???? ?? ?????? ?? ???????,

???? ???? ??? ?? '???!

(Once more, as years and time go by, once more they shall be ours).

The Megali Idea implied the goal of reviving the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, by establishing a Greek state, which would be, as ancient geographer Strabo wrote, a Greek world encompassing mostly the former Byzantine lands from the Ionian Sea to the west, to Asia Minor and the Black Sea to the east and from Thrace, Macedonia and Epirus to the north, to Crete and Cyprus to the south. This new state would have Constantinopole as its capital: it would be the "Greece of Two Continents and Five Seas" (Europe and Asia, the Ionian, Aegean, Marmara, Black and Libyan seas, respectively).

The Megali Idea dominated foreign policy and domestic politics of Greece shortly after the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s until the defeat of Greece in the Greco-Turkish War(1919-1922) and the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922, followed by the population exhange between Greece and Turkey in 1923. Despite the official end of the Megali Idea project in 1922, fragments of it remained as the Greek state continued until 1974 to claim the territories of the Dodecanese (acquired in 1947), Northern Epirus and Cyprus. Although not always because it supported Megali Idea, since Independence in 1828, the Greek state saw its territory expanded five times, either through diplomatic arrangements or military conquest (often with British support). First it later annexed the Ioanian Islands(1864), followed by Thessaly (1881), Macedonia, Crete, southern Epirus and the Eastern Aegean Islands (1913), Western Thrace (1920) and the Dodecanese (1947). At the same time, the ideological vision of Megali Idea has also led Greece to its greatest military defeats, chiefly in the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 and the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922.


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