Hugh Seton-Watson, "The Greeks and the 'Great Idea', from his Nations and States: An Enquiry into the Origins of Nations and the Politics of Nationalism, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1977, pp. 110-117.

In the eighteenth century Ottoman empire, Orthodox Christians tended to be identified-by the Ottoman authorities, by foreign Europeans, and by themselves-with Greeks.7 Nearly all Christians who held high rank in the church, or possessed wealth from land or from commerce, or occupied secular posts of importance under the sultan, were, and considered themselves to be, Greeks. They described themselves not by the classical name of Hellenes, but by the Byzantine name of Romans (Romaioi), of which the Turkish form was Rum.

Though successful Greeks were surrounded by the contempt and envy of Muslims, and though their lives were in consequence sometimes unpleasant 1h, ant and always insecure, Greeks under Ottoman rule had undoubted opportunities to make good, even brilliant, careers. From the Phanariot elite, the lay officials and rich Greek families which surrounded the patriarch of Constantinople, the sultans took, from the end of the seventeenth century onwards, many of the highest dignitaries of the central government, as well as the rulers of the two Danubian principalities inhabited by Romanians - Moldavia and Wallachia. In those two lands, the Phanariot princes built up a court and an upper bureaucracy composed of Greeks. Christians were not supposed to bear arms, but there were Greeks in the Ottoman navy in large numbers, and some even held high rank. There were areas such as Suli in southern Epirus and Mani in the southern Peloponnese which were in effect ruled by Greek tribal chieftains, who paid their tribute to the Ottoman government but were not troubled by the presence of Turkish officials. Another important element on the n Greek scene were the klephts, rebel bands who lived in the mountains and maintained themselves by plunder. These fugitives from the law at times professed, or had attributed to them, patriotic motives. They were surrounded in the popular mind by heroic myth, and they acquired considerable skill in irregular warfare. There were also officially sponsored Christian irregulars, known as armatoloi, who were supposed to guard villages and transport routes against the klephts, but who would sometimes go over to them, individually or in groups.

The sea-borne trade of the Ottoman empire was predominantly in Greek hands: there were many Armenian, Turkish, Arab and Jewish merchants, but they kept to the land. In the late eighteenth century trade substantially increased, and Greek seafarers did well out of it. In the Aegean islands, especially Hydra and Chios, bigger and more modern ships were built, and shipbuilding and trading families made substantial fortunes.

It is important to note that the Greek population was widely and thinly distributed within the Ottoman empire, and that there were also Greek communities in foreign cities. In the peninsula and the Aegean islands the population was compactly Greek, though considerable numbers of Turks dwelt among them in some of the towns. Greeks formed large urban minorities in Constantinople, Alexandria, Bucharest, Iasi, the ports of the lower Danube, and in the coastal cities of Asia Minor both in the Aegean and the Black Sea. There were also many Greek villages in the interior of Asia Minor. Outside the Ottoman empire, the Ionian islands had a mainly Greek population. They belonged to the republic of Venice until 1797, were then occupied in turn by French, Russians and British, and came into British possession by the Vienna peace settlement. Further afield, there were Greek merchant communities in Trieste, Venice, Vienna, Amsterdam and other West European cities.

During the eighteenth century European education and ideas made themselves felt among a considerable part of the Greek people. The Phanariot princes of Moldavia and Wallachia supported some excellent schools and collected libraries of European books. Knowledge of French was quite widespread at their courts. Constantinople also had good schools, and foreign languages were spoken and foreign literature read. Wealthy islanders founded schools from their trade and profits. Under Venetian rule the Ionian islands offered Greeks the chance of education and access to Italian culture. Small but growing numbers of Greeks from the Ottoman empire studied abroad, especially at Padua but also at Vienna, Leipzig and other German universities. Greek colonies in Western Europe helped the education of their compatriots both by inviting individuals to study in the West and by sending money to found and support schools on Ottoman territory.

Increasing contact with the West introduced the ideas of the European Enlightenment to Greeks. This process was encouraged by many of the ji Phanariot rulers of Moldavia and Wallachia, but was disapproved by the patriarchate, although individual priests and even bishops favoured it. Natural science and rationalism were felt as a threat to Orthodox piety. Especially important was the cult of ancient Greece in European Enlightenment literature. Classical learning and thought were praised by the philosophes of the West as older than, and superior to, Christianity. Greeks in the West learned through this literature about their own past, which, if not entirely ignored, had at least been very little known to the intellectual elite of Constantinople either in the last period of the Byzantine empire or under Ottoman rule. The presentation to the educated Greek public of ancient Hellas, as seen through the eyes of French encyclopaedists and sentimental Western philhellenes, was above all the work of Adamantios Korais (1748-1833). A native of Smyrna, who had spent six years in Amsterdam and six in Montpellier, and from 1788 until the end of his long life lived in Paris, Korais was an indefatigable author of translations, original works, articles and letters. He devoted himself to the propagation of the Enlightenment among the Greeks and of the Greek cause among the French, and above all to the development of a literary modem Greek language, to be formed by the infusion of classical words into the spoken tongue and by the systematisation of its formal structure. Korais took care not to attack religion or the Orthodox Church as such, but he fought bitterly against all customs, institutions and ideas which seemed to him to be superstitious survivals from an age of darkness, preventing a return to a glorious past which would also embody in itself all the wisdom of new enlightened Europe.

The Orthodox hierarchy disliked this mixture of classics and rationalism. They too were becoming impatient of Ottoman rule as they saw it declining, they too were becoming affected by a new pride in being Greeks. But if the Ottoman empire were to be destroyed (and this did not seem j imminent, nor did it seem wise to take big risks on so distant a prospect), they hoped that it would be replaced by something like the old Byzantine empire, based on autocracy and Orthodoxy, probably under the protection of autocratic Orthodox Russia.

The Greek educated class was in fact divided between the followers of the Enlightenment and the followers of traditional Orthodoxy, and this division remained long after independence was achieved. In the educated class the views of Korais certainly gained ground, but they did not rout the opposing views; while for most Greeks the old values long remained unchallenged. The division is one which has its parallels in the history of other nations exposed to a sudden influx of modem ideas and practices. It recalls, for example, the contrast between Slavophils and Westernisers in Russia, reformers and traditionalists in mid-nineteenth century Japan, and Panislamists and Turkish nationalists in the last decades of the Ottoman empire. In Greece the division was for a time concealed in the enthusiasm of the War of Independence. The Greek rebels needed both religious and secular rhetoric, appeals both to classical glory and to Orthodoxy. The word Hellene was soon accepted as the name of the Greek people, and the new word Ellinismos, which combined the two meanings of Greek civilisation and of the whole Greek community in the world, came into general use by politicians and intellectuals.

The first Greek who had a plan for an insurrection and for a liberated Greece was Rhigas of Velestino, a Thessalian who served in high posts in Wallachia, spent some years in Vienna, and was handed over by the Austrians to the Turks in Trieste in 1798 as a revolutionary conspirator, and hanged in Belgrade. Rhigas was the author of poems, revolutionary proclamations and a constitution, closely modelled on the French constitutions of 1793 and 1795. In this document he spoke of the sovereign people of the proposed state as including 'without distinction of religion and language-Greeks, Albanians, Vlachs, Armenians, Turks and every other race'. It is clear that Rhigas envisaged a state much larger than the territory compactly inhabited by Greeks, and that he wished to ensure equal rights to all its inhabitants. Whether he regarded the Albanians and Vlachs as separate nations, or as Greeks of different speech, is not clear.

The Philike Hetairia (Society of Friends), founded in Odessa in 1814 by three Greek merchants, was a better organised and more ambitious conspiracy. Much of its history still remains obscure and controversial. It is however certain that its leaders hoped to enlist the support of all the Balkan Christian peoples, and to liberate the whole peninsula from the Turks with Russian aid. It seems that in their minds the distinction between 'Greek' and 'Orthodox' was still blurred. It is not known how they intended to demarcate 'Greece' from the rest of the liberated Balkans. They attempted to enlist support from Serbs, Romanians and Bulgarians for their projected insurrection, but with little success. A small force led by Prince Alexander Ypsilanti, who held the rank of general in the Russian army, crossed the border into Moldavia on 22 February 1821. At first it was welcomed as it advanced. However, Tsar Alexander I denounced the action, and when Russian aid was seen to be an illusion the enterprise was doomed. Ypsilanti's men fought bravely against the Turks, but by June they were crushed. However, another rising broke out in the Greek peninsula, led by local notables, and it was not crushed. Fighting went on from 1821 to 1827 in the Peloponnese, Roumeli and the islands. In the end the Greeks were saved by the great powers, who prevented the Egyptian fleet and army, summoned by the sultan, from conquering the Peloponnese, and still more by Russia, which went to war with Turkey in 1828 and whose army reached Adrianople in August 1829. By the London Protocol of 3 February 1830 Greece was recognised as an independent state. Its territory was restricted to Roumeli, Attica and the Peloponnese with the western Aegean islands. The majority of the Greeks of the Ottoman empire were not included in the new state.

A Greek state now existed, but a Greek nation still had to be made. This was rendered difficult by the division, already noted, between the traditionalists and the westernisers. It was still further complicated by the problem of the language. Korais had intended to create a new language, enriched by much of the classical past. At first he was supported by the liberals and opposed by the traditionalists. However, in the new state the new artificial language soon became accepted by the educated upper stratum as a whole, progressive and conservative alike. This 'pure' language (Kathairevousa) was unintelligible to the people as a whole, which continued to use its 'demotic' speech. The differences between the two languages became a difference of class and it accentuated the division of the nation; or rather, by dividing the Greek population it retarded the emergence of a Greek nation. Later in the century, progressive Greeks advocated the use of demotic, and the division between kathairevousa and dimotiki, which had previously cut across the division between left and right in politics, tended to coincide with it. In imaginative literature demotic prevailed, but in the press and official business the 'pure' held sway. The controversy was still alive in the third quarter of the twentieth century, though demotic steadily gained ground.

One thing on which all Greeks could agree was that the Greek state must be expanded to include the unredeemed brethren. Progress was slow. There were unsuccessful revolts by the Greek population of Crete in 1841, 1858 and 1866. In 1864 the British government ceded to Greece the Ionian Islands, which Britain had held since 1812. In 1881 Greece received nearly all Thessaly and a corner of Epirus.

It was not until the Balkan war of 1912 and 1913 that Greek aims in the north were achieved. This was largely the work of Eleutheros Venizelos, the Cretan politician who in 1910 became prime minister in Athens and who made the alliance with Bulgaria and Serbia which defeated Turkey. In June 1913 Greece and Serbia together defeated Bulgaria. The result was that Greece acquired all southern Macedonia, southern Epirus and the islands of the eastern Aegean from Thasos to Samos; but she failed to obtain the islands of the Dodecannese, including Rhodes, which were taken by Italy after its war with Turkey in 1911.

It remained to liberate the Greeks of Asia Minor and Thrace and to possess the imperial city of Constantine, replacing the Crescent once more by the Cross in Justinian's cathedral of St Sophia. This was the Great Idea which had for long inspired some Greek patriots, and since the Balkan Wars had become the passionate desire of millions. Greece had suffered humiliation and national frustration during the First World War, being used as a pawn by both belligerent sides; but Venizelos had stood firmly by the Western powers, and their victory promised to be his. The Allies in 1915 had promised Constantinople to Russia. The Bolshevik Revolution had .put an end to that, but Venizelos agreed that the city should for the time being be placed under some international control. Greece, however, claimed all Thrace and a large slice of Asia Minor based on Smyrna. In May 1919 Greek troops landed in Asia Minor, and in the early summer they did well, occupying both Thrace and western Anatolia. The Treaty of Sevres of 10 August 1921 granted most of Venizelos' demands. According to available statistics, in Thrace without Constantinople there were 416,000 Greeks and 524,000 Turks, and in the province of Smyrna 629,000 Greeks and 974,000 Turks. This still left about a million and a half Greeks as minority communities living among Turkish majorities, in the capital and in Anatolia.

Meanwhile the Turkish nationalists were organising themselves under Kemal Ataturk. Guerrilla actions were making themselves felt in the area occupied by the Greeks, and it was clear that there would be bitter resistance to any further Greek advance. In November 1920 a Greek general election brought a sensational swing. Venizelos was defeated, his enemy King Constantine returned, and the bitterness which had divided Greek political life in 1917 revived in more acute form. The new government tried to outdo its predecessors in patriotism, and ordered a general advance into Anatolia. The Turks defeated them on the Sakarya river in August 1921, and in the following year there were more defeats, ending in disorderly retreat and evacuation of the army, and massacre and arson in Smyrna. This was followed by a convention of 30 January 1923 which provided for compulsory exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey. In practice the Turks expelled those Greeks who had not already fled. In the process, as they escaped or were driven out of their homes scattered through Asia Minor, there were heavy losses. There had been about 2,500,000 Greeks in Turkey in 19 10: the number who reached Greece was about 1,400,000, of whom later official statistics showed that 1,221,849 had been settled by 1928. Some thousands of Greeks still remained in Turkey, and were allowed to live and work there, others emigrated to distant lands; but the number who perished in the convulsions of 1922 must have amounted to hundreds of thousands.

The Asia Minor catastrophe had deep effects on Greek political life. The returning Venizelists executed several of the Royalist politicians and the commander-in-chief under whom the disaster occurred, thereby starting a blood-feud between Royalists and Republicans which made itself felt for decades afterwards. The economic effects were also drastic. The refugees brought with them skills which enriched the Greek economy; but a sudden increase of total population by about a quarter was bound to place an intolerable strain on Greek society. Greece is naturally a barren country, and the creation of new jobs lagged well behind the population pressure, both between the world wars and after the Second World War. This was a major cause of the class conflicts, ideological divisions and political hatreds which continued to plague the Greeks well into the third quarter of the twentieth century.

Greece acquired Western Thrace from Bulgaria, lost it in 1941, and recovered it in 1945. After the Second World War Italy gave up the Dodecannese.

The one remaining territory with a large compact Greek population not united with Greece was the island of Cyprus, leased by Britain from the Ottoman empire in 1878 and annexed in 1914. The British government considered ceding it to Greece in 1915 if Greece would join the Allies in the war, but difficulties on both sides put an end to the proposal. In 1945 it might have been ceded to Greece, but at that time Greece was torn by civil war, the Turkish government objected to having a Greek government close to its south-eastern coast, and the increasing strategic importance of Turkey to the British and their allies caused them to pay more attention to Turkish wishes. In the mid- 1950s the Greek government started a diplomatic and propaganda campaign for the union of Cyprus with Greece (enosis); and Greek nationalists in Cyprus itself organised guerrilla forces whose main occupation was the assassination of other Greeks or of British soldiers. In 1959 the British, Greek and Turkish governments agreed on the establishment of an independent republic of Cyprus, in which the civil rights of both Greeks (80 percent of the population) and Turks (20 percent) should be guaranteed.

In practice this soon failed to work, as the president, the Orthodox Archbishop Makarios, ignored the rights of the Turkish Cypriots. Various districts of Turkish population formed miniature states within the state; both Greek and Turkish army officers from the mainland commanded rival militias; and an uneasy peace was kept by United Nations forces. In 1974 the military dictators who then formed the government in Athens, probably in a desperate attempt to stem their own unpopularity with the Greek people by a 'national victory, brought about, through their officers in the island, the seizure of power by a former terrorist who proclaimed enosis. The result was a massive invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish army, which proceeded to occupy about half the island. There were massacres on both sides and nearly half the Greek Cypriots lost their homes. It was a repetition, on a smaller scale and with less bloodshed, of the Anatolian tragedy of 1919-21.

The history of the Greek national cause since 1821 is thus dominated by a bitter paradox: the Greek state steadily expanded its territory, while Ellinismos steadily retreated. The Asia Minor expulsions were the single most dramatic episode in the retreat, but there were others. Thousands of Greeks were forced out of Russia-from the Black Sea ports, the Crimea and the Causasus - not in a single flood but in a trickle whose volume depended on the changing policies of the Soviet regime. Many met their deaths in collectivisation and the purges of 1936-39. The great Greek community in Egypt, with its centre in Alexandria but stretching up the Nile valley into the Sudan, was also steadily worn away by the pressures of the new Arab nationalism. The prospects of the Greek trading communities in eastern and southern Africa were less than brilliant. The Turkish invasion of Cyprus seemed likely permanently to reduce the population and the territory of Greeks on the island. Nevertheless the Greeks remained a seafaring and trading people, and especially in the Americas there were Greek communities which, though they had become American, maintained interest in Greece. It would be too much to say that the international role of the Greeks had come to an end. Yet without doubt in the lands around the Mediterranean and Black Sea, where Greek culture, in its various forms, had flourished in classical, Roman, Byzantine and even Ottoman times, the modern age brought decline. Millions of talented people were forced out of the rich lands and challenging opportunities of the Mediterranean periphery into a small, beautiful, barren peninsula and its attendant islands, cooped up together with the millions of talented people who were already there. Too much unused, or insufficiently used, human talent of exceptional quality is as explosive as dynamite, as Greek history of the twentieth century showed.

Judged by the standards of average modern nationalism, Greece did well enough: its territory expanded, and its output of chauvinist rhetoric was well up to the norm. But by the standards of the apostles of Ellinismos, who saw more than this in the revival of Greece, the story has been a failure. It is a tale of high idealism and cruel misfortune, of hubris and nemesis, which has yet to find its Aeschylus.