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Greco-Turkish War (1897)

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Title: Greco-Turkish War (1897)  
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Subject: Eleftherios Venizelos, Leonidas Paraskevopoulos, Evzones, Greek–Turkish relations, Giuseppe Garibaldi II
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Greco-Turkish War (1897)

Greco-Turkish War (1897)

Painting of the Battle of Velestino
Date 5 April – 8 May 1897
Location Mainland Greece, mainly Epirus, Thessaly and Crete

Ottoman military victory, small parts of Thessaly ceded to the Ottoman Empire[1]
Greek diplomatic victory (autonomy for Crete) through the intervention of the Great Powers of Europe[2][3]

Treaty of Constantinople
 Ottoman Empire Kingdom of Greece
Commanders and leaders
Ahmed Hifzi Pasha
Edhem Pasha
Crown Prince Constantine
Konstantinos Sapountzakis
121,500 infantry
1,300 cavalry
210 guns[4]
54,000 infantry
500 cavalry
136 guns[4]
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The Greco-Turkish War of 1897, also called the Thirty Days' War and known in Greece as the Black '97 (High Commissioner. This was the first war effort in which the military and political personnel of Greece were put to test since the Greek War of Independence in 1821.


  • Background 1
  • Prelude to war 2
  • Opposing forces 3
  • The war 4
  • Thessalian front 5
  • Epirus front 6
  • The armistice 7
  • References 8
  • Bibliography 9
  • External links 10


In 1878, the Ottoman Empire, according to the provisions of the Abdul Hamid II re-appointed Alexander Karatheodori Pasha as governor of Crete, but Karatheodori's zeal for the implementation of the agreement was met with fury by the Muslim population of the island and led to renewed clashes between the Greek and Turkish communities there in 1896 (the latter actually tending to be Greek Muslims of Cretan Greek convert origin).

To quell the unrest, Ottoman military reinforcements arrived while Greek volunteers landed on the island to support the Greek population. At the same time, the fleets of the Great Powers patrolled the Cretan waters, leading to further escalation. Nevertheless, an agreement was reached with the Sultan and the tensions receded. In January 1897, inter-communal violence broke out as both sides tried to consolidate their grip on power. The Christian district of Chania was set on fire and many fled to the foreign fleet anchored outside the city. A struggle for independence and union with Greece was declared by Cretan revolutionaries.

Greek Prime Minister National Society, a nationalistic, militaristic organization that had infiltrated all levels of army and bureaucracy, pushed for immediate confrontation with the Ottomans.

Prelude to war

Colonel Timoleon Vassos and his son at the Greek headquarter in Crete

On 25 January 1897, the first troopships, accompanied by the battleship Hydra, sailed for Crete, where they disembarked two battalions of the Greek Army under Colonel Timoleon Vassos outside Chania. On 2 February, despite the guarantees given by the Great Powers on the Ottoman sovereignty over the island, Vassos unilaterally proclaimed its union with Greece. The Powers reacted by demanding that Deligiannis immediately withdraw the Greek forces from the island in exchange for a statute of autonomy. The demand was rejected, and on 7 February, the first full-scale battle between Greeks and Turks occurred, when the Greek expeditionary force in Crete defeated a 4,000-strong Ottoman force at the Battle of Livadeia, Crete.

Opposing forces

The first skirmishes at the Melouna border post, Le Petit Journal
Edhem Pasha, the Ottoman commander, with two aides-de-camp

The Greek army was made of 3 divisions with 2 of them taking positions in Thessaly and one in Arta, Epirus. Crown Prince Constantine was the only general in the army. He took command of the forces on 25 March. The Greek army in Thessaly consisted of 38,000 men,[5] 500 cavalry and 96 guns, while that of Epirus was made of 16,000 men and 40 guns.

The opposing Ottoman army consisted of 8 infantry divisions and one cavalry. In the Thessaly front it consisted of 95,500 men,[5] 1,300 cavalry and 186 guns, while in Epirus it could field 26,000 men and 29 guns. In addition, the Ottoman army was under the guidance of a German military mission under general Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). Edhem Pasha had the overall command of the Ottoman forces.

Apart from the obvious difference in numbers, the two sides had also significant differences in the quality of armaments. The Ottoman army was already being equipped with its second generation of smokeless powder repeater rifles (Mauser Models 1890 and 1893), while the Greeks were equipped with the inferior single shot Gras rifle.

There was also the potential for a naval contest. In 1897 the Greek navy consisted of three Ottoman fleet had eight battleships and ironclads at least as large as the Greek battleships, and although most of these were obsolete designs the Osmanieh class had been rebuilt and modernized. The Turkish navy also had several smaller ironclads, two unprotected cruisers and a number of smaller ships including torpedo craft.[7] However, the Ottoman fleet had not been maintained, perhaps due to the Sultan’s fear of a strong navy becoming a power base for plots against the government, and in 1897 when called into action most of the ships were in poor condition and could not contest control of the sea beyond the Dardanelles. [8]

The war

On 24 March, 2,600 irregulars crossed the Greek border into Ottoman Macedonia in order to provoke disarray behind enemy lines by rousing locals against Ottoman administration. As a result, on 6 April Edhem Pasha mobilized his forces. His plan was to surround Greek forces and by using river Pineios as a natural barrier to push them back to Central Greece. Nevertheless, his rear forces were halted while the center of his formation gained ground altering his initial plans. The Greek plan was calling for a wider open field combat which ultimately would cost heavy casualties against an already superior opponent.

Thessalian front

Greek cavalry during the battle of Farsala, by Georgios Roilos.
Firefight between Greeks and Turks at Rizomalo
The Attack, a painting of the Battle of Domekos, by Fausto Zonaro.

Officially, war was declared on 18 April when the Ottoman ambassador in Athens, Asim Bey, met with the Greek foreign minister announcing the cutting of diplomatic ties. Heavy battles occurred between 21–22 April outside the town of Farsala. Nevertheless, a division was ordered to head for Velestino thus cutting Greek forces in two, 60 km apart. Between 27–30 April, under the command of colonel Konstantinos Smolenskis, the Ottoman advance was checked and halted.

On 5 May, three Ottoman divisions attacked Farsala forcing an orderly withdrawal of Greek forces to Domokos while on the eve of those events Smolenskis withdrew from newly recaptured Velestino to Almyros. Volos fell into Ottoman hands on 8 May.

At Domokos, the Greeks assembled 40,000 men in a strong defensive position, joined by about 2,000 Italian "Red Shirts" volunteers under the command of Ricciotti Garibaldi. The Turks had a total of about 70,000 troops, of whom about 45,000 were directly engaged in the battle.[9] On 16 May, the attackers sent part of their army around the flank of the Greeks to cut off their line of retreat but it failed to arrive in time. The next day the rest of their army made a frontal assault. Both sides fought hard. The Turks were held at bay by the fire of the defending infantry until their left flank defeated the Greek right. The Ottoman formation broke through forcing a renewed withdrawal. Smolenskis was ordered to stand his ground at the Thermopylae passage but on 20 May a ceasefire came in effect.

Epirus front

On 18 April, Ottoman forces under Preveza but were forced to retreat with heavy casualties.

The armistice

On 20 September, peace was signed between the two sides. Greece was forced to cede minor border areas and to pay heavy reparations.[10] In order to pay the latter, the Greek economy came under international supervision. For the Greek public opinion and the military personnel the forced armistice was a humiliation, highlighting the unpreparedness of the country to fulfill its national aspirations (Megali Idea). This awareness laid the seeds for the revolution of 1909 of Goudi which called for immediate reforms in army, economy and society. Eventually, Eleftherios Venizelos would come to power and as a leader of the Liberal party, he would instigate a wide range of reforms which would transform the Greek state leading it to the victorious Balkan Wars four years later.


  1. ^ Gyula Andrássy, Bismarck, Andrássy, and Their Successors, Houghton Mifflin, 1927, p. 273.
  2. ^ Mehmed'in kanı ile kazandığını, değişmez kaderimiz !-barış masasında yine kaybetmiştik..., Cemal Kutay, Etniki Eterya'dan Günümüze Ege'nin Türk Kalma Savaşı, Boğaziçi Yayınları, 1980, p. 141. (Turkish)
  3. ^ Yunanistan'ın savaş meydanındaki yenilgisi ise Büyük Devletler sayesinde barış masasında zafere dönüşmüş, ilk defa Lozan müzakerelerinde aksi yaşanacak olan, Yunanistan'ın mağlubiyetlerle gelişme ve büyümesi bu savaş sonunda bir kez daha görülmüştür., M. Metin Hülagü, "1897 Osmanlı-Yunan Savaşı'nın Sosyal Siyasal ve Kültürel Sonuçları", in Güler Eren, Kemal Çiçek, Halil İnalcık, Cem Oğuz (ed.), Osmanlı, Cilt 2, Yeni Türkiye Yayınları, 1999, ISBN 975-6782-05-6, pp. 315-316. (Turkish)
  4. ^ a b Mehmet Uğur Ekinci: The Origins of the 1897 Ottoman-Greek War: A Diplomatic History. University Bilkent, Ankara 2006, page 80.
  5. ^ a b David Eggenberger: An Encyclopedia of Battles: Accounts of Over 1,560 Battles from 1479 B.C. to the Present, Courier Dover Publications, 1985, ISBN 0486249131, page 450.
  6. ^ Conways, p. 387-8
  7. ^ Conways, p. 389-92
  8. ^ Pears, Forty Years in Constantinople
  9. ^ Report of General Nelson Miles.
  10. ^ Erick J. Zurcher. Turkey, A Modern History. London and New York: Tauris, 2004, p. 83, ISBN 1-86064-958-0.


  • Ekinci, Mehmet Uğur (2006). The Origins of the 1897 Ottoman-Greek War: A Diplomatic History (PDF) (M.A. thesis). Ankara: Bilkent University. Retrieved 2010-05-10.  Revised edition: Ekinci, Mehmet Uğur (2009). The Unwanted War: The Diplomatic Background of the Ottoman-Greek War of 1897. Saarbrücken:  
  • Gardiner, Robert, ed. (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860—1905. New York: Mayflower Books.  
  • Pears, Sir Edwin. “Forty Years in Constantinople” (1916)

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • on the First Greco-Turkish War
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