198 years ago, on March 25th, 1821, the Greek Revolutionary Forces first raised their flag and declared their independence from the Ottoman rule. 400 years of suffering, brutality, and enslavement under the yoke of a brutal conquering force took a toll on the people of Greece, so today marks a country’s devotional to those who fought, suffered, and died to achieve freedom. was about to end.
“The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage.” – Thucydides (460 BC – 395 BC)
Here on Crete, like elsewhere across Greece, citizens line the streets for a professional to honor the credo of the people, and the motto of “VICTORY or DEATH,” as symbolized by the country’s “sky blue -white” cross and bars flag. Today in Crete’s capital of Heraklion, thousands gathered on a perfect Spring day to take part in a spectacle which rivals any in the world for its passionate observance.
The Cretans hold fast to their traditions and observances, in a world that ever increasingly detaches itself from the past. It’s interesting to note here, that nobody really knows where the current Greek ensign originated from. Some say it was taken from the coat of arms of the powerful Cretan Kallergis family, but it’s origins matter less than the love Cretans and other Greeks display for it.
Few outsiders remember that the Greeks were under occupational rule by the Turks for 400 years after the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. But the Cretans and their Greek countrymen remember all too well what conquest by outsiders brings. Crete, after the time of the Minoans, was occupied and controlled by a procession of empires and nations.
But on March 25, 1821, when Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the Greek flag at the Monastery of Agia Lavra in Peloponnese, all of Greece shouted “Freedom or Death.” The battle to free all of Greece went on for many years until the Eastern Aegean islands and Macedonia were freed in 1913, and the rest of the Dodecanese were freed after World War II.
Seeing the beautiful Greek flag in the streets today, I could not help but make the connection to the flag with the aforementioned motto of those brave Greeks. According to some experts, the 9 nine blue stripes on the flag represent the nine syllables of the phrase “Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος” or the motto “Freedom or Death.” Other historians claim that these 9 stripes stand for the nine Muses, who were the goddesses of art and civilization.
Whatever the origins of the symbolic white and blue flag are, seeing little children alongside their parents waving it does the heart good. The blue and white, waving in the hands of Crete’s youngest generation, speaks of the solidness and historic cohesion Greeks feel. As I walked Heraklion’s boulevards with my son Paul this afternoon, I could see in his eyes the contagious enthusiasm these people possess.
As the Editor in Chief and owner of Argophilia, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all Greeks best wishes and a Happy Greek Independence Day 2019.