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Outline ReviewAt the beginning of the 19th century, the Ottoman empire extended far into Central Europe, occupying nearly all of the Balkan Peninsula. Three decades later, it would lie fragmented, thanks to the efforts of Greek patriots who, after a bloody struggle, forced their Turkish rulers to acknowledge Greece's independence. Classics scholar David Brewer tells that story in this comprehensive account, the first on the subject to appear in many years.
The Turkish empire, Brewer writes, was "one of the most impressive that the world has ever seen," the product of generations of conquest and control. By 1800, however, it had declined in power and influence, and, lacking wealthy client states to feed its treasury, the Ottoman government inaugurated a severe program of taxation on such essential Mediterranean goods as sheep, olives, honey, and grapes, compounding the injury by drafting young Greeks to serve in the imperial army. Resistance grew, especially as Ottoman functionaries such as the Ali Pasha (whom Lord Byron, the British poet and champion of Greek freedom, called "a remorseless tyrant, guilty of the most horrible cruelties") carved out bits and pieces of Greece as private fiefdoms. Inspired by the American and French revolutions, the Greeks finally revolted, touching off a terrible war that would cost hundreds of thousands of lives, involve the major European powers (which, as in later troubles in the Balkans, proved ineffectual), and hasten the downfall of the Ottoman empire.
Brewer takes an evenhanded view of the struggle, noting acts of heroism, cruelty, and treachery on both sides. Students of modern European history will find his study of a largely forgotten conflict to be of much interest, especially given recent events in the region. --Gregory McNamee
The glories of the ancient past were gone, and under Turkish rule Greece was poor and backward. But inspired by the examples of the American and French revolutions, Napoleon's victories, and the Latin American wars of liberation, the Greek people rose up against their Turkish masters in 1821. For twelve brutal years - years of terrible violence and bloody massacre - the Greeks and the foreign volunteers who flocked to their cause fought until independence was won in 1833.
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