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Panagiotis D. Nikolopoulos
Angelyn Balodimas-Bartolomei, Ph.D.
Stavros Basseas, Ph.D.
Dr. Anthony Ferguson
Sylvia Sobreira
Maria N. Stamatopoulos
Linos G. Benakis
Counselor, Academy of Athens
Eleni Bousis
Chairman, Greek American Nursing Home
Dimitrios Bousis
Bousis Foundation
Hariklia Dimitropoulos-McLaughlin, Ph.D.
Loyola University, Chicago
Thanasis Economou, Ph.D.
Demetrios Georgopoulos
Director, Government Archives
Province of Argolidos, Greece
John G. Manos
George Papadantonakis, Ph.D.
Paraskevi Skourti
Publisher, Ermioni Magazine
Ioannis Stagas
Admiral (Ret'd) Hellenic Navy
Kostas Tsefalas
Eleftherios Fitras (†)
Efstathios Bourodimos (†)
George P. Alexandrou (†)

Dr. Angelyn Bartolomei presentation September 2019 at Gaslite Manor in Aurora Illinois

You can download the presentation slides from here

Philhellenism: Past & Present

Slide 1 – Welcome

Metropolitan Nathanael, Counsel General Mrs. Ekaterina Dimakis, Mayor Richard Irvin, Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor to be here with you this evening as guest speaker for the American Philhellene Society. I extend my warmest greetings to the distinguished group of officials, representatives, and supporters of the Greek and American communities and the city of Aurora. The main purpose of this event is to reflect on the concept of Philhellenism, both past and present, while remembering and acknowledging those individuals who supported, contributed, and even sacrificed their lives for the Greek Independence Movement during the 19th century. To better understand the concept and development of Philhellenism, allow me to take you on a brief historical journey to Greece – the source and inspiration behind this notion.

Slide 2 – Definition of Philhellenism

Before we begin, it would be helpful to define our term. According to the Webster’s definition, Philhellenism is derived from two Greek words…φίλος philos "friend, lover" and ἑλληνισμός hellênismos "Greek". The two words together refer to "the love of Greek culture".  A Philhellene is someone who admires Greeks and all that is Greek. At the turn of the 19th century, Philhellenism became a global movement especially among men who had a fascination with Ancient Greece. With the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, their obsession with antiquity propelled their involvement in in supporting and rescuing Ottoman occupied Greece.


Slide 3 – The Glory That Was Greece

Ancient Greece – the period of Greek history that lasted for close to a millennium. Countless books, poems, paintings, films, and school curricula have attempted to portray what Edgar Allan Poe referred to as the Glory that was Greece – a period that is considered by most historians to be the foundational culture of Western civilization.

Slide 4 – Contributions of Ancient Greece

In her book, the Glory that was Greece, Professor Jennifer Tobin, writes that “No ancient society has exerted greater influence on the development of Western culture than the ancient Greeks. Over 2000 years ago these people gave birth to the institution of democracy, to scientific investigation and philosophical dialogue, to poetry, both epic and personal, to historical narrative, and to comic and tragic theater. Their intensely creative spark also manifested itself in the arts: in architecture with the creation of temples for the gods, theaters for assembly and entertainment, and tombs for the dead, in sculpture that depicted the divine ideal and human frailty, and painting that illustrated the simple patterns of daily life, the poignancy of death, and the fickleness of the gods.”

Slide 5 – Hellenistic Age

The Greeks ideas would eventually reach other lands. Thanks to Alexander the Great, Hellenism continued to spread during the Hellenistic Age. As Greeks came in contact with outside people their Hellenic, classic culture intermingled with cultures from Asia and Africa to create a blended  culture where mostly everyone spoke and read the same language – Koine Greek- also known as Common or Shared Greek. Without Alexander's determination, Greek ideas and culture might well have been confined only to Greece. The cultural and intellectual life of the Hellenistic era would continue to influence readers, writers, artists, and scientists throughout the centuries.

Slide 6 – Spreading of Hellenism in the Roman Empire

Although the Hellenistic period was short lived, the establishment of Roman rule did not break the continuity of Hellenistic society and culture. Greek knowledge of language, literature, art, architecture, and warfare were all implemented to great lengths by the Romans. Upper class Romans had to learn Greek and  would hire Greek pedagogues to teach their sons, who, when older would be sent to study in Athens. Historians have concluded that Rome’s success as an empire was largely due to the ancient Greek civilization. The spread of Greek culture was not confined to this era. Under Byzantium, it  would continue to be transmitted around Europe.

Slide 7 – Byzantium

After the fall of the Roman Empire in the west,  the Byzantine Empire with its capital city in Constantinople, kept Greek and Roman culture alive for nearly a thousand years. Byzantine Greek became the official language within the multi-ethnic Empire. In addition to the preservation of the Greek’s language and cultural heritage, Byzantine architecture, painting and Orthodoxy flourished during this period. The Byzantine Empire influenced many cultures, primarily due to its role in shaping Christian Orthodoxy.

Slide 8 – The Fall of Constantinople

On May 29, 1453, the Ottoman army stormed Constantinople. Sultan Mehmed II seized Hagia Sophia, and soon after it was converted to the city's leading mosque. The fall of Constantinople marked the end of the glorious Byzantine Empire era.


Slide 9 – The Renaissance – Rebirth of Classical Greece & Rome

Despite this tragedy, Greek culture and language continued to thrive in many European communities through the Greek intelligentsia who had left Constantinople during periods of unrest. Not only were these professionals able to permeate knowledge of their Greek civilization, their exodus to the Western countries contributed to the revival of Greek and Roman studies, which in turn led to the development of Renaissance humanism. A fine example of this is: The School of Athens fresco by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael that is showcased in the Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican.

Slide 10 – Greece Under Ottoman Rule

For nearly four hundred years, Greece remained under Ottoman rule and oppression. Whereas Europe was experiencing the Enlightenment period, the Greeks and other non-Turkish subjects within the Ottoman Empire lived as second-class citizens. The church  and family remained the sole vehicles for historical, religious, linguistic, and cultural continuity.  

Slide 11 – Greek Enlightenment & Greek National Movement

In the later part of the 18th century,  several movements gave way to the Diafotismos or Greek Enlightenment. Greek intellectuals such as Evgenios Voulgaris, Rhigas Velestinlis (sometimes called Feraios), and Adamantios Korais, and many others, undertook to bring to Greece the revolutionary changes that were sweeping across Europe and America. Prominent Greek merchants and scholars living in Greek communities outside of Greece also played an important role in developing a Greek national movement. They established schools and other public institutions back home; financed the studies of young Greeks in Western universities, especially in Italy and Germany; endowed libraries and funded the publication of literature.

Slide 12 ­– Filiki Eteria

Another driving force behind the Greek movement was the Filiki Eteria or Friendly Society - a secret organization that aimed to  liberate Greece from Ottoman rule. Established in 1814, by three Greeks living in Odessa, Russia,  the society’s membership quickly grew to include young Phanariot Greeks from Constantinople and the Russian Empire, local political and military leaders from the Greek mainland and islands, as well as several Orthodox Christian leaders from other nations. One of its leaders was the prominent Phanariote Prince Alexander Ypsilantis who initiated the Greek War of Independence in the spring of 1821.


Slide 13 – Greek War of Independence

Although there were several revolt attempts during the 400 years of the Ottoman occupation none were successful. The Greek War of Independence was officially declared on March 25, 1821 when Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the Greek flag at the Monastery of Agia Lavra near Kalavrita in the Peloponnese.  The revolution was not an isolated event. After extending throughout the Peloponnese, it spread through Central Greece and then across the whole Aegean to Crete and Cyprus, lasting for eight long years. However, it wasn’t until 1832 that a small part of modern Greece was recognized as an independent Kingdom with March 25th becoming the official day of celebration. The struggle for the liberation of other regions inhabited by Greeks continued for many years. In 1864, the Ionian Islands became a part of Greece followed by parts of Epirus and Thessaly in 1891, Crete, the islands of the Eastern Aegean and Macedonia in 1913 and Western Thrace in 1919. After World War II, the Dodecanese islands were finally returned to Greece by the Allied Forces.

Slide 14 – Supporting Greek Philhellenism

One of the main reasons that the Greek revolution proved successful, can be attributed  to the aroused widespread sympathy of Philhellenes throughout Europe and America. The architectural and artistic movement of Neoclassicism in the 18th century had already kindled an interest in ancient Greece. Intellectuals of this era were inspired by the writings of classical philosophers and formulated their ideas on democratic forms of government. The neoclassical revival influenced all aspects of architecture, painting and sculpture. Suddenly, elaborate palaces filled with Greek antiquities, neoclassical buildings characterized by columns and a simplicity of geometric forms began to appear everywhere throughout Europe. These neoclassical elements quickly became popular across America and were applied to historic landmarks and government buildings, including our very own Whitehouse. Additionally, the wave of new archaeological discoveries in the Mediterranean region further encouraged the widespread interest in Greece and the Hellenic impact on culture and civilization. As neoclassicism gave rise to the era of romanticism, Greek awareness and sympathy for the Greek struggle increasingly grew among the continents. Philhellenism had become the intellectual fashion at the turn of the 19th century that led Europeans and Americans to lend their support towards Greek independence. When the revolution broke out, the Philhellenes supported the cause by contributing financially or through their artistic work.

Slide 15 – American Philhellenes

Three particular American Philhellenes continue to be recognized for their contributions to the Greek War of Independence. We will begin with George Jarvis.

George Jarvis was the first American to join the Greek War of Independence. Born on July 1, 1797 in the Danish-administered Altona Germany, George was the son of Benjamin, an American diplomat on assignment in Europe.  Having been inspired by the stories of the Greek victories at sea, George chose Hydra, the most powerful of the three nautical islands, as his destination. He then went to the town of Messolonghi – a major stronghold of the Greek rebels during the 1821 War, where he served as Lord Byron’s assistant. Unfortunately,  there are no photos of George. What we know of him has been gathered from his own and other accounts. Through these we have learned that George was passionate about the Greek people, culture and identity. Upon his arrival in  Greece in 1822, George shed his fashionable European clothes and put on a foustanella - the Greek kilted skirt used  as a uniform. George soon learned the Greek language and changed his name to Kapetan Zervos.  His devotion to the Greek cause is obvious through his quote, “Greece will be free, or not exist - the Greeks will be free or must be exterminated from the earth.” George died from natural causes in Argos on August 11, 1828 at the age of 30. He was buried within the premises of Agios Ioannis Church.

            Jonathan Peckham Miller was the first American participant in the Greek struggle for independence to sail directly from his homeland in Vermont. He was a non-commissioned veteran of the War of 1812  and would later become a lawyer and join  the anti-slavery movement. Jonathan arrived in Messolonghi in November 1824 where after two years, he rose to the rank of Colonel in the Greek military and served in George Jarvis’s regiment. Miller also quickly mastered the Greek language and adopted Greek dress. He served with great distinction in many battles against the Turks and became known as the " American Daredevil." In November 1826, Jonathan returned to the United States and delivered many speeches throughout the country in support of Greece’s struggle for freedom. He returned to Greece in February 1827, to take charge of distributing American supplies. While there, Miller adopted a four-year old boy who he named Loukas Miltiades Miller.  In 1853, Loukas was elected a member of the State Legislature. In 1891,  he became the first elected Greek American to U. S. Congress.

            Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe was an American medical doctor and passionately devoted to liberty, Greece, and the poetry of Byron. He wanted to participate in the Greek cause where he would acquire medical and surgical experience quickly on a battlefield while treating wounded Greek soldiers. Howe reached Greece at the end of December or in early January 1825. In addition to serving as a doctor, Howe often found himself in the thick of the fighting. He also performed several philanthropic acts which included organizing a hospital at Nauplion; distributing emergency supplies of food around the countryside; and providing clothing to the suffering Greek women and children. In February 1828, Howe returned to the United States for several months, where he embarked on a speaking tour to raise money for Greek military hospitals and war refugees.  He then went back to Greece he and began a series of ambitious relief projects. Howe left Greece in January of 1830 carrying the helmet of Lord Byron, which he had picked up at an auction.

Slide 16 –  Lord Byron

In addition to the American Philhellenes, several others hailed from England. One in particular was the famous English poet Lord Byron. In his poem  “The Isles of Greece” Byron writes about the rich history, culture, and ancestry of the Greeks. His passion for Hellenism is reflected in this poem and especially when writing “I dreamed that Greece might still be free!” Although he had no previous military experience, Byron went to Greece to  join the Greek cause, where he provided generous financial and literacy support. He also trained troops in the town of Missolonghi. He was to take part in a major assault on the Turkish fortress of Lepanto when he fell ill and died just after his 36th birthday. To date, he is honored as a hero of Greek Independence.


Slide 17 - American Leaders Support Greece

In addition to the aesthetic elements of Greek revival, the voices of leaders throughout America and Europe soon began expressing their sentiments for a liberated Greek land. Even before the revolution broke out in 1821, Thomas Jefferson expressed his desire to see the Greek people and language free from Turkish domination. While serving as the United States Ambassador to France from 1784 to 1789, Jefferson befriended various prominent Greeks in Paris. Among these was Adamantios Koraes, a Greek physician, intellectual, and an early “prophet” of the Revolution with whom he would keep correspondence. Koraes wrote Jefferson several times asking for support in Greece’s struggle for independence. The Greek Revolution began during the presidency of James Monroe. In his message to Congress on December 3, 1822, Monroe expressed that “a strong hope is entertained that the Greeks will recover their independence and assume their equal status among the nations of the Earth.”  These strong sentiments for Greece quickly spread to become known in our history as “Greek Fever”.  This was the period when new towns in various places were given Greek names, such as Athens and Macedonia, in Ohio, and Ypsilanti in Michigan.

Slide 18 – Greece Thanks Philhellenes

It is estimated that over 300 philhellenes died in the Greek War of Independence. As we can see in the slide, Greece thanked the Philhellenes who took part in the battles, through an official list. The first two and half columns from the left are the names of those having died, the rest are the names of those who survived. The list is displayed in the National Historical Museum of Athens.


Slide 19 – Philhellenism Today

As we have seen, the Greek War of Independence was not only of and for the people of Hellas. It was for all who were passionate about and admired Greece and all that was Greek. It was for those who believed that Greece must be free. Nearly two hundred years later, we still commemorate and honor the Philhellenes through various manifestations.  Here is Chicago we are fortunate and proud of The American Philhellenes Society that was established in 2009 by  numerous supporters. The main objective of this organization is to identify the Americans who, under the leadership of President James Monroe, supported and/or fought for the independence of Greece during the years 1810-1840 and to recognize and make known their contributions to the cause of freedom.

Slide 20 – APS Events

Since its founding, the American Philhellenes Society has organized several events including various lectures and the dedication of the memorial obelisk honoring Lucas Miltiadis Miller and his father Jonathan Peckham Miller. We look forward to hosting in the near future the official dedication of the memorial obelisk in Aurora.

Slide 21 – The Continuation of Philhellenism

 It is the hope of the American Philhellene Society to continue to research the lives of the brave Philhellenes and to identify their descendants so that they can be honored for their ancestors’ contributions. By doing so, we believe that our ultimate findings will benefit both our countries, Greece and America, while strengthening ties between them. We need assistance however and are reaching out to people with time and the knowledge to perform additional research. We also hope to get more young people involved in our organization. Philhellenism should not only be a movement that existed and ended in the 19th century. It should be promoted and carried on through schools, museums, organizations, universities and research institutions. We hope that you can spread the word and help us in this effort.


Slide 22 – Thank You