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The Philiki Etaireia and the outbreak of the Greek Revolution



The Philiki Etaireia and the outbreak of the Greek Revolution



"Although its existence and role are often obscured by the charm of legend, there is no serious doubt among historians today that the Philiki Etaireia, founded in Odessa in 1814 by a close circle of seemingly insignificant petty traders, is actually at the beginning of the dynamics that led to the outbreak of the Greek Revolution in the Danubian Principalities and the Peloponnese in 1821. Behind the successful outcome of the Revolution, that is, the creation in 1830 of the first independent of the many new nation-states that would be created in Europe after the Congress of Vienna, was, in other words, a secret patriotic society.

Its importance for the organisation of the struggle is acknowledged early on: the reference works that gather a considerable volume of raw historical material from its operation and activity were published in Nafplio and Athens in 1834 and in 1859–1861 by Ioannis Filemon, the young secretary of Dimitrios Ypsilantis, while around the same time one of the protagonists of the project, Emmanouil Xanthos, published his famous memoirs, accompanied by a number of anecdotal letters and documents.

However, because its history remains less known than one would expect, it is worth visiting again. And let us ask ourselves, two centuries later: what exactly was the Philiki Etaireia? How is it related to the changes in political and social life among the Greeks under Ottoman rule? To what extent is its establishment at the emergence of the modern political mobilisation connected with the democratic perspective of the revolution? What does it have to do with the political legacy of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and the post-Napoleonic era in Europe, the transformation of the international system and the wider upheavals brought about by the end of the ancien régime, with the passage to a new era? How does it relate, after all, to the only successful revolution that took place during the first wave of revolutions in Europe? Is the success (and not the explosion) of the revolution owed to the Philiki Etaireia?"

(Edited and translated abstract from the series' programme)

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