1453 is considered to be one of the greatest landmarks in Greek History since it was then that
was seiged and finally occupied by Mehmet the Conqueror, the leader of the Turks at that period.
This resulted in the
Fall of Constantinople
and the total destruction of Byzantine Empire. Greeks had lost their leader,
Constantine Palaeologus, and they
were left all alone, entering a new era of sufferings and cruelties.
The representatives of Byzantine aristocracy and the ruling class fled to areas that were under Venetian
rule or to other countries in the West.
Ecumenical Patriarchate, whose existence was accepted by Mehmet the Conqueror for his own reasons
of course, took on the role of the leader of the enslaved Greek nation. First and foremost, a new, well organized
state had to be created, based on literate people, administrative personnel, merchants, craftsmen,
scientists and generally on specialties that were unknown to the uncivilized Ottoman conquerors,
who were violent warriors leading a nomadic life in the inner part of Asia.
That is why the Sultan invited the Greeks to settle in his devastated capital city.
Greeks or Hellenes or Romeos finally managed to develop the city into a major cultural, commercial and
financial centre of the
Ottoman Empire where the Greek language remained for some years the second official language of the ottoman state.
Contrary to the Greek people living in Constantinople and Propontida, the Greeks living in other areas
such as the inner part of
suffered a lot due to the constant arrival of Turks.
There was a great decrease in the number of Christians living in the enslaved areas at that period.
To make matters worse, the Greeks had to confront the repulsive act of the mass kidnapping of
both the young Greek boys (devsirme) in order to make them janissaries and of the of young Greek
girls for the muslim harems, the slave markets for the Christians, the continuous armed Turkish raids
and the complete lack of education.
However, things were better at mountainous regions like
Pontus, where people managed to keep both their faith
and their Byzantine traditions. In other parts such as Epirus,
and Thessalia, there was a
significant immigration of Greek people to Moldavia, Vlachia and Russia while people
from Central Greece and Peloponnese moved to areas that were under Venetian ruling such as
Lepanto (Nafpaktos), Nafplion (Neapolis di Romania), Methoni (Modon) and Monemvasia (Malvasia).
Some people were so much afraid of the Turks that they decided to immigrate even to other countries such as Italy.
A turning point in the history of all Turkish races living in nomads occurred when those people got in touch with the Islamic
world. They adopted a lot of elements such as their religion, their customs, their political and social framework. The holy
law of Islam (sharia) constituted the corner - stone of their social and legal status. The general idea underlying this system
was much different to the one underlying the Christian World because according to Islam, every human being is considered
to be a vulture, a malevolent creation that needs to be restrained and governed by an absolute monarch called Sultan.
When the Turkish tribes invaded Asia Minor, they were carriers of nomadic culture. The two main sectors of nomadic
economy was stock - raising and plundering. The constant search for new grasslands led Turks to raids on nearby rural
areas which, according to Islam, were considered to be a type of holy war (jihad). Ottomans treated the enslaved people
as flock (rayah or raya) and exploited their labour in farming in order to get all the necessary goods. Moreover, Ottomans
used the young janissaries to impose their power violently.
The corps of janissaries was called ocak and they were the personal guard of the sultan and they had to be ready at any
time to repress any revolution or to confront any external enemies of the empire.
Although the army was an integral part of the Ottoman Empire, navy was an unknown word to Turks.
However, later they managed to develop it. The real knowledge concerning navy came
from the Christians who had helped a lot during the construction of war ships.
Moreover, they were Christian slaves who manned the crews of the ships. The previously
mentioned development in navy in combination with the Sultan's cooperation with the Saracen pirates in Northern Africa
resulted in the Turkish domination all around the Mediterranean Sea. The zenith of Turkish navy was during the period of
Barbarossa, who was initially Christian but later was converted to Islam and finally managed to
destroy the Christian Spanish, Venetian and Pope's fleet.
According to the Greek historian Paparrigopoulos:
"The total of Greek young boys that were kidnapped during the dark ages of turkish oppression were one million. They
were taken by force from their families and were converted to fanatic janissaries who led the muslim army against their
The Greeks' position
According to the basic principle of the muslim religion, the holy war (jihad) against the infidels,
that is anyone who does not belong to Islam, is a widely accepted practice. The only way for the so
called infidels to avoid extermination is to beg for mercy before a war. Thus, they are made to pay tribute
to the ruler, that is the sultan. The sultan's Christian vassals, who were also called rayahs (flock),
had restrictions concerning their settlement, their movement and their dress code. It was not permitted to
reside in specific areas, to occupy higher positions and offices, to gather together in order to talk
with each other, to raise their voice to the muslims or even to be surrounded by attendants. Moreover,
they were obliged to wear a blue turban (sarik) on their heads. They were not allowed to carry guns or to
ride any horses. The marriage was permitted only between a muslim and a Christian woman while the
opposite, that is a Christian marrying a muslim woman, was punishable by death.
The turkish law allowed a muslim to hire a Christian woman for a specific period in order to
have children and then turn her away. Is it possible that foreign rapists in Greece today(2013) may think
of the same principle of raping a young lady in order for them to have a baby and then let her free again?
However, the infidels had the right to occupy positions related to trade and arts because these positions
were considered to be insulting for the conquerors, who had to care only about war and stock - raising.
This belief actually accounts for the progress achieved by the enslaved Christians and Hebrews
which continued up to the 20th century in the occupied territories in Asia Minor.
A second positive point was the fact that Mehmet the Conqueror dictated the privilege of religious freedom for
the Greeks. Of course, this does not mean that there were not violent inslamizations or banning on the operation of schools.
That is why at times they were the priests who took on the role of the teachers.
They tried to teach only the necessary things in the so called "secret schools".
"My brilliant little moon shine my way
to school, to learn letters,
letters and God's things."
While the Greek language was theoretically permitted to be spoken and the Greeks living in Fanari were excellent users
even of Ancient Greek, there were certain leaders at Cappadokia and Egypt
who cut the tongue of anyone who did not speak Turkish.
This is a common practice even today (2013) among the cryptochristians of the Black Sea or the Kurds.
As far as religion is concerned, building new churches was forbidden while only repairing existing
ones was permitted. The church bells stopped ringing, Christians were not allowed to show
the crosses or bury their dead near muslims. While inslamization was encouraged,
there was the death penalty waiting for anyone daring to rebel against Islam.
The most important discriminations between the Turks and the infidels were those concerning
the heavy taxation that was imposed on the Greeks. That was actually the reason why the
sultans had to put up with the existence of non muslim people in their territory.
While there were countless types of taxation, the one, that is still known even today, was the head money
(harach or harac), that is the money that someone had to pay in order for him to have the right to keep
his head on his shoulders only for one year. Moreover, there were the so called baksis (bribery),
which were paid to the local Turkish leaders making Christian people's life even worse.
However, things would not be so bad for the enslaved people despite the imposition of so heavy taxes,
if the muslim judges were more fair. The same offence would be punished in a different way
considering the religious belief of the offenders.
Decay of the Greeks
When the first Seljuk state was created with Ikonio as its capital city, the Byzantine people underestimated the
danger because they believed that they would assimilate them in the same way they assimilated other peoples
such as the Albanian or the Slavic immigrants who had swamped the empire the previous years. However,
the Turks almost assimilated the Christians since their faith had been shaken especially after the Fall of Constantinople.
Moreover, the heavy taxation lead a great number of people to turn to Islam. Becoming a muslim was a way to live a
better life. When there was a voluntary inslamization, it was celebrated in a special way since it was considered a great
victory of Islam against Christianity.
Schiltberger (15th century) quotes the following: "When a Christian wants to become an infidel, he has to raise his
hand in front of all the people present at that moment and say "La il lach illalach" meaning "Mehmet is the only
true prophet of God". Then they lead him to the judge who puts him on a new turban in order to be different from
the rest of the Christians. After they have carried him about on a horse in order for everyone to know that he has
been converted to Islam, he is taken into a mosque in order to be subjected to circumcision."
Another torture that led to further decrease in the number of Greeks was the mass kidnapping (Blood Tax or Devsirme)
of young children
(6 to 12 years old). These were the janissaries or yeniceri that constituted the personal guard of the Sultan. They were fearless
fighters who fought their fathers' faith and the whole practice started in 1362 by Murat I.
Today (2013), thanks to the turkish propaganda and the slavish obedience of the Greek State, the whole suffering of the
Greeks during the Turkish rule tends to be taken out of the History school books and of course to be eliminated
from our memory in order to make us adopt the idea that globalization is the only acceptable way of living. Fortunately,
various testimonies of people who lived under the turkish yoke are the best source of evidence for the tortures the
greek people suffered for almost four centuries.
St. Nicodemus of Mount Athos (18 c.) urged his Christian brothers to be patient and have endurance, because
Ottomans imposed heavy taxation to the Christians in order to make them change their faith and become muslims.
A song of the region of Epirus mourned the loss of a brother and a son
who were forcibly taken to serve the ottoman army as janissaries.
There are many extant letters of the enslaved Greeks addressing the Pope
and imploring him to send ships and rescue them from the ottoman tyranny.
Cryptochristians were pretended to be muslims and followed the rituals of the muslim religion publicly,
never stopped worshipping Jesus Christ secretly inside their houses.
In 1916, when Pontos was liberated by tsar' s russian army, Chrysanthos bishop of Trapezous (Trebizond) received
representatives from dozens of muslim villages who told him that the villagers were cryptochristians and wished
to return to the faith of their fathers.
They had carried gospels and vestments of the 18th or even the 17th century in order to
show them to him and persuade him that they were telling the truth.
Settlements and emigrations
Another characteristic of the expansionist policy of the Turkish chauvinists which was put in practice from the very first
steps of the Ottoman Empire was the mass transference of Turkish population in new places, the so called settlement.
Settlement is still a common policy in cases such as Cyprus and the Western part of Thrace where there is a very
tough and bigoted turkish minority.
Turkey also sends thousands of illegal muslim immigrants - settlers to Greece every
year expecting them to facilitate its expansionist ambitions in the west after some years
Asia minor was gradually settled starting from the 12th century, while in 1354 the Turks took advantage of a
disastrous earthquake that hit Callipoli (Gallipoli) in Hellespont (Dardanelles Straits) and set foot on
European land for the first time. The settlements went on during the whole period of the Ottoman Rule mainly in
Thrace, Macedonia and Thessaly. The French Consul in Salonica, Beaujour (18th century),
mentions that the aim of the settlement of Yuruks (Turkish settlers from Konya and Karaman regions)
was to suppress any Greek rebellion and enforce discipline in the Greek villages.
The harsh Turkish rule resulted in the mass exodus towards safer
destinations such as Venetian dominated countries,
Southern Italy, countries bordering on the Danube, Russia and mountainous and difficult of access areas in the Greek
territory. This emigration of the literate Greek people resulted in the benefit of the Western world but in the illiteracy
of the enslaved Greeks.
Some Byzantine intellectuals who fled their ancestral lands were
Bessarion, John Argyropoulos, Manuel Chrysoloras, Isidoros, Theodore Gazis,
Leon Pilatos (Leonzio Pilato), George of Trebizond, Demetrios Chalcocondyles, Constantine Lascaris, Markos Musuros,
and Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco).
Pilatos or Leontius Pilatus was a famous scholar and promoted Greek studies in Western Europe. Among his
students were the Italians Boccaccio and Petrarch.
taught Greek language and literature
to the Italian humanists. His students were the first generation of classical Greek scholars in Italy.
His "Erotemata sive Quaestiones" (1484) was the first Greek grammar used
in western Europe and the first printed book in the greek language. He also left many letters; "the Syncrisis",
a comparison of old and new Rome; and a Latin translation of Plato's Republic "Platonos Politeia".
Macedonian Theodorus Gaza or Theodore Gazis
translated Aristotle in Latin and taught Greek at Siena, Ferrara and Rome.
At Ferrara he founded an academy the same period that Plethon founded the Platonic academy in Florence.
George of Trebizond taught Greek in the famous school at Mantua, in Venice and Florence.
Later he went to Rome, and when Pope Eugene restored the University of Rome,
George of Trebizond became the most famous professor.
When Constantinople fell John Argyropoulos took refuge in Italy.
He has been professor of Greek in Florence for 15 years before moving to Rome,
where he continued to teach Greek until his death.
He left a number of Latin translations, including many of Aristotle's works.
Athenian Demetrios Chalcocondyles became professor at Padua in 1463.
In 1479 he was summoned by Lorenzo de' Medici to Florence and later he moved to Milan.
He was associated with Theodore Gazis in the revival of ancient greek literature.
Demetrius Chalcocondyles published the first printed editions of Homer and Isocrates.
Andronicus Callistus from Macedonia worked as a professor in Rome, Bologna, Florence and Paris
and taught Homer, Demosthenes and Aristotle. He died in the Kingdom of England in 1476.
George or Gregory Hermonymus or Charitonymus, born in Sparta was Plethon' s student.
After the Fall he fled to France
and taught Greek in the university of Paris. In 1476, Pope sent him as his legate to England.
Laonicus Chalcocondyles wrote history books which were published in Greek and Latin in Genova and Paris.
Constantine Lascaris fled to Italy and he obtained the patronage of Francesco Sforza in Milan.
His Greek grammar was the first book printed in Greek characters.
He became famous as a teacher of Greek.
His brother, Andreas Joannes Lascaris or Janus Lascaris, taught Greek in Florence, Paris and Rome.
Bessarion was born in Trebizond of Pontos. He was educated in Constantinople, and in 1423
he went to Peloponnese to study near Gemistus Plethon. In 1437 he was ordained archibishop of
Nicaea by John VII Palaeologus.
He accompanied him to Italy in order to help him achieve union between
Greek and Latin churches with the aim of obtaining help from the West in their efforts to throw off the turkish yoke.
At the councils held in Ferrara and Florence Bessarion supported the Pope and decided to stay permanently
in Italy. He changed his faith and became a cardinal.
Bessarion was one of the most educated scholars of his time.
Besides his translations of Aristotle's "Metaphysics" and Xenophon's "Memorabilia",
his most important work is a treatise directed against George of Trebizond,
a violent Aristotelian, entitled "In Calumniatorem Platonis".
The two great missions of his life were to keep the cultural heritage of the Greek and Byzantine civilization alive in the West
and to organize a great crusade against the Turks to reconquer Constantinople and the Christian lands
lost by the Ottoman invaders. He managed to achieve his first goal; he trained an entire generation of
Hellenists in Rome and formed a great collection of Greek manuscripts.
However, he failed to succeed in his second goal despite his heroic efforts as a diplomat.
Most Greeks who could not escape to Italy moved towards inaccessible areas. This exodus took place
during the whole period of
the turkish yoke, that's why there are a lot of villages today in those areas that lie in rugged regions away
from the main roads. For example, Agrafa of Evrytania remained free from the turkish presence
as well as the mountains of Pontus. Another safe shelter was Mount Taygetus where a lot of Greek and
Slavic people took refuge in case of emergencies. Furthermore, other areas with barren land,
such as Mani of Peloponnese and Suli of Epirus managed to keep their independence.
The people living in Peloponnese, Epirus and Roumeli fled towards the Ionian islands that were under
Venetian rule, or towards Nafplion, Monemvasia, Methoni and Koroni.
Nafplion was a place that all Greek slaves chose in order to protect their lives and their families
against the Turkish violence and enjoy the special benefits that the Venetians offered to those who came to
Nafplion to live. For example, if a Christian person had lived in Nafplion for 7 years,
then he had the right to become citizen of the city.
However, the areas that accepted the largest number of Orthodox Christian refugees were those in Italy.
The Greek community in Venice consisted of 5000 people, and despite the obstacles they had to face
(the Pope and the Cardinals), they managed to found the Orthodox Church of
St George in 1537 in order to perform their religious duties. Southern Italy, already having great numbers of
Greek people since the Ancient and Byzantine era, was colonized by numerous Greeks and Albanians.
The provinces of Apoulia and Kalavria had more than 200 orthodox monasteries during the 15th century
as well as areas such as Messina, Napoli, Bari, Brindisi and Palermo. The hundreds of orthodox churches
managed to keep both the Byzantine tradition and the Greek language alive. However, they were under
close supervision on behalf of papal church, who finally managed to substitute the Orthodox priests for
Catholic ones in the 18th century. This resulted in the decline of the Greeks in Southern Italy.
After the Fall of Trebizond or Trapezous in 1461, Greeks fled to Russia. Among them was
Zoe Sophia Palaiologina daughter of Thomas Palaeologus, the Despot of Morea. Sophia
married Ivan III Vasiliyevich "Tsar of All Rus" at the Dormition Cathedral of Moscow on 12 November 1472.
With the help of Ioannes Rallis, Theodore Lascaris and Demetrios Tarhaniotes, she
introduced greek literature and grand Byzantine ceremonies in the Kremlin.
At that time, large-scale construction of bulildings were
under way in various cities. Greek painters painted and decorated the Orthodox
churches that were constructed with the support of Sophia.
Her son, Vassily III, became the first owner of the palace of Kremlin. Sophia was the grandmother of
Ivan the Terrible or Grozny.
Another byzantine lady that left Constantinople, after the conquest of it by
the barbarians, was Anna Notaras.
Her father Lucas Notaras had many friends in Italy, including cardinal Bessarion and
so Anna found refuge in Venice. Lucas Notaras and his sons were beheaded by the Turc sultan Mehmet.
A faithful Orthodox, Anna Notaras was against the union of the Orthodox and the Catholic
Churches. Anna Notaras became the leader of a Greek community in Venice
and she she paid all the necessary expenses for the "Etymologicum Magnum" to
be printed in Greek. It
took six years to be produced and is one of the finest examples of Greek typography.
Anna Notaras died in Venice in 1507. She was more than a hundred years old and it is said that she died virgin. When she
lost her great love, the last emperor of Byzantium Constantine Palaeologus, she swore not to marry any man.
Piracy, an ancient phenomenon in the Mediterranean Sea, becomes extremely
intense in the first centuries of the Turkish Rule and
causes serious problems to the inhabitants of the islands and the coastal areas. The situation deteriorated due to the inability of
the central government to keep piracy under control. The countries of Northern Africa, such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia,
depended economically on the pirates and their governors acquired excellent administrative, diplomatic and military skills.
As a result, the Mediterranean Sea suffered from a type of undeclared war, which allowed those unscrupulous sea warriors
to make a fortune at the expense of the merchant vessels and the economy of the coastal areas and the islands.
The Cycladic dwellers were those who suffered more from piracy and that is why we can claim that they were actually
under Turkish, Latin and Pirates' domination.
The total destruction of a lot of Greek islands by the muslim pirates led to the devastation of
whole areas and the mass extermination of Greek population.
In 1457 Nisyros and Kalymnos were plundered by Turkish pirates from Asia Minor.
The turkish fleet from Gallipoli devastated
Neratzia and Peripatos near Kos. The most notorious Turkish pirates of that era were Karacasan, Kurtoglu, Kamalis
and Kousaglis. Large numbers of Christian slaves were supplied to Algeria for sale to the Barbary chieftains,
who in turn resold
them to others. Population had left Antikythera in 1512 and the island became a pirate hideout.
In the middle of 16th century Samos was almost deserted because muslim pirates used the forest of this island to get
timber for their ships.
According to some old extant descriptions in the Vatican's Library, after conquering a specific town, the muslim conquerors
slaughtered the men and captured the women and the children in order to sell them as slaves later.
An example of the pirates' violence is that of Hayreddin Barbarossa, who managed to dominate in
the Mediterranean Sea during the 16th century, terrorizing
all the islanders and obtaining thus the title of Captain Pasha by the Sultan.
Barbarossa among others
captured the islands of Syros, Aegina, Ios, Paros, Tinos, Karpathos, Kasos, Naxos and Corfu
taking thousands of prisoners, and enslaving most inhabitants.
The people, who were captured as slaves, were carried to slave markets in Asia Minor, in
Syria, in North Africa or various
other places. There are descriptions of the slave market in Constantinople according to which anyone who wants to buy an
enslaved woman, raises the veil that covers her face, spits in her face in order to check if she wears make up or not, and
examines her teeth to see if she is healthy. In case everything is ok, he starts bargaining with her boss. According to a
French researcher called Pierre Dan, in 1637 there were 25000 captured Christians living as slaves in Algeri. The life of
the slaves who worked as oarsmen in the galleys was really awful. The upper part of their body was naked,
they were in chains and they had to row all day long. Their food consisted of a crust of bread. If someone
stopped rowing, then he would feel the whip on his back and they would not stop whipping him unless his
blood started running. Slaves had no dignity and were treated as animals in the era of ottoman globalization.
A Greek slave from Naxos (17. c) describes his terrible experience in the galleys in a letter sent to his wife:
"I was 35 days in the galley. Every day we were beaten. There was no food but some mouldy bread and dirty water.
Even during the night we were tied and we could not move our feet. Our hair had lice.
Oh, my love, oh my little babies, oh light of my eyes how I miss you..."
Organization of the Greek Nation - Orthodox Church
The Patriarchate of Constantinople was the second most important institution in Byzantium after
that of kingship. It played a significant role during the period of turkish rule since it was the main spiritual
and administrative centre of the enslaved Greek Nation. This leading position was set up by
Mehmet the Conqueror right after the Fall of Constantinople, when he called
Gennadius Scholarius to take on the role of the Patriarch. The Sultan accepted him as the leader
of the Orthodox people and allotted him the so called privileges, which constituted the legal basis for
the existence and the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate.
This solution was compatible with the policy of the Muslim leaders towards the peoples of the Bible.
They could tolerate different religions and provide self administration as long as their slaves
did not put up resistance and paid the head tax (harach or harac). It is true of course
that Mehmet the Conqueror never demanded the complete islamization of the Christian World
since he needed them as workers, craftsmen, farmers and especially as tax payers in order
to sustain the enormous muslim army. In addition, we should not forget the fact that the
discrimination between the various peoples was mainly based on religious criteria and not on
ethnological ones. That's why both Church and State were identical.
This is the reason why Church managed to survive through hardships and perform its duties.
The conqueror, when he wanted to convert someone, just made him/her become a Muslim.
So, he/she subconsciously lost his/her nationality. If the Orthodox religion was lost, then the Greek
consciousness was also lost since the Greek language alone was not able to sustain Hellenism.
An example of that case is Crete, where the Turkish-Cretan people even if they kept the Greek language when
they became Muslims they were converted to fanatic Turks.
The Cappadocians, who spoke the Turkish language, but kept their Orthodox faith, managed
to maintain also their Greek consciousness.
The issue of the coexistence of the Orthodox Church and the predominant Muslim state had
appeared years before the Fall of Constantinople. The Patriarchate of Antioch, of Alexandria and
that of Jerusalem were under Arabic muslim occupation some centuries before 15th century
and there was great relevant
experience through the long cohabitation of Christian slaves and Muslim conquerors. The official
Orthodox Church showed passive attitude towards the heathen conqueror while it was particularly strict towards
the Latin clergy and the Pope. In the long list of Ecumenical Patriarchs there were those who openly
supported the Ottoman authority but also those who were against it and sought its overthrow.
An example of the second case is Neophyte the Second, who, in 1609, sent an epistle to the king
of Spain, asking him to free Constantinople from the wild beasts.
The percentage of the Greeks who turned into Franks (Italians and French) was smaller than that of those who turned into
Turks. Especially in areas such as Roumeli, Crete and Peloponnesus many Franks turned to Greeks,
contrary to the Turks, who were never assimilated by the Greek population. Besides,
that was absolutely logical since being Hellenized meant having to pay heavy taxes in case of course you
were not executed as a renegade of Islam.
While the patriarchal institution started with the privilege of tax exemption, over the years two
high taxes were established. That of peskesi and that of harach or harac. If we add the bribes
of the Turkish officials, the catering of Janissaries and the ransom paid for the liberation of
the Greek slaves, we can easily conlude that the cost for its maintenance was unbearable.
Moreover, the loans taken from the Jewish moneyloaners were ruinous and the debt resulted
in being "higher than the height of the Pyramids of Egypt", according to an expression used in a patriarchal document.
The moral and the spiritual prestige of the Ecumenical Patriarchate remained intact after the
Fall of Constantinople. But the administrative jurisdiction itself was now limited to
Asia Minor, the Balkans and the Greek communities in the West.
In Asia Minor particularly, due to the massive islamizations, there was a decrease in
number of metropolises.
The main concern of the Church was the education of the Christian believers so
that they could remain faithful to their tradition, to their language and their religion avoiding in
this way to convert into Muslims during the first difficult centuries of the Turkish rule,
when education was totally absent.
In 1627, Cyril Lucaris sent the monk Nicodemos Metaxas from Cephallonia to London to buy a printing machine.
They placed it in a small house near the English Embassy. Under
Cyril's guidance, Metaxas began to print a number of theological works in Greek.
The next year the Vizier's janissaries broke into the building and destroyed the machine.
On 27 June 1638 Patriarch Cyril I Lucaris was strangled aboard a ship in the Bosporus by the Sultan' s soldiers.
His body was thrown into the Bosporus and was later recovered after being washed ashore on Halki Island. His body was
buried at the Monastery of Panagia Kamariotissa on Halki by Patriarch Parthenius I.
The conquest of the Eastern Christian State by the Ottomans, apart from all the other problems,
caused the elimination of the Byzantine Aristocracy of Constantinople. However, gradually and
steadily, a new social class started to emerge. The influence that this class could exercise on everybody
was due to its economic vigour that resulted from the Greeks' occupation with trade and
shipping, activities which were contempted by the conqueror. From the post byzantine society
that gathered around the Ecumenical Patriarchate those who had a distinguished
position were the islander traders, especially those from Chios, who reached Constantinople mainly
after the submission of their island to the Turks in 1566. The richest Greeks followed the ultimate
principle of Greeks, that is the Patriarchate, during its wanderings in
Constantinople, until it finally settled in the district of Phanari (1601).
During the 17th and the 18th century, spacious mansions were erected in the area of Phanari
so that the new class of Phanariots could be housed. Then, a peculiar type
of mutual dependence bond developed between the Church and the Phanariots since
the Phanariots needed the spiritual validity of the Church in order for them to be presented
as the secular leaders of the enslaved nation, while the Church needed Phanariots' political
expertness and economic support.
A great part of the Phanariots' power resulted from the fact that they had the
capability to mediate between the High Gate (ottoman state) and the Greeks so that their
compatriots' requests could be satisfied. The ottoman state need to communicate with
the Christian countries grew bigger as their power increased and there should be interpreters
in order for negotiations to be carried out and agreements to be signed.
Since the turkish law forbade the muslims to learn the language of the infidels,
the interpreters would necessarily come from the conquered. Greeks were
also all those people who staffed the administration of the ottoman state since the
Turks were good only at military techniques. The fact that the Ottomans according to Paparrigopoulos
inscribed on wood in order to make their calculations is indicative of their illiteracy.
When their state expanded, there were constant treasures and riches
flocking in so it was impossible for them to handle the public accounting.
As a result, both accountants and secretaries came from the Greeks and that is why during the
first decades after the fall, the official language of the Ottoman Empire was the Greek one.
The first families that participated in the public affairs of the Turkish state were the families of Palaeologus,
Cantacuzenus, Rallis, Comnenus and Lascaris. Later, other families gained power and influence over
the sultan like the Vatatzes, Mavrocordatos, Vlastos, Soutzos, Mourouzes, Ipsilantes, Mavrogenes
and Karatzas. The first who became a very important interpreter (dragoman)
was Panagiotakis Nikousios, who was born in 1613 in Constantinople.
It is worth mentioning that the great interpreters were not mere translators
but they had the role of the diplomat and the representative of the Ottoman state in the
negotiations and the signing of the various conditions.
Alexander Mavrocordatos succeded Nikousios. His father Nicolaos was a merchant from Chios
and his mother Roxandra Scarlatos sent him to Padova and Bologna to study medicine and philosophy.
He became dragoman for Sultan Mehmed IV in 1673 and joined him in his military campaign against
Vienna in 1683.
The idea that the literate Greeks of Byzantium transferred the knowledge of the classical education
together with the manuscripts of the ancient and the Byzantine writers to the West is very old.
In this way, they played a very important role in the Renaissance of Europe.
Greek and Latin writers of that period continued the Greek culture and initiated the
intellectual movement of the Renaissance. Byzantium is the spiritual ancestor of Europe
and gave the western and eastern european states three elements that formed modern european civilization:
Ancient Greek literature, Roman Law and Christianism.
While in the West of 16th century, science and knowledge were developing, the Greeks were
submerging in the darkness of ignorance and illiteracy.
"Secret Schools" that were inside monasteries were the only places where young Christians learned
how to read and write.
In 1544, Nikolaos Sophianos noted that "our people have no knowledge
of their glorious past because of their slavery."
According to Constantine Paparrigopoulos "the Greek bishops during turkish yoke were totally illiterate. One can
imagine how illiterate were the simple people!".
Since 1613 a new era in the spiritual world of Greeks has risen with the appearance of
Theophilus Korydalleas, who started founding the first schools. The most important spiritual
centre was Chios, which remained in the first line for almost a whole century. Of course a
corresponding spiritual movement developed in Constantinople which finally led to the establishment of
Great School of the Greek Nation
at about 1625. The patriarch Cyril Lukaris
invited Korydalleas in Constantinople and included him in the team of his direct partners. Other Greek teachers of that
era were Ioannes Cariofilles, Meletios Syrigos, Eygene Giannoules, Paisios Metaxas, Alexandros Mavrokordatos
and Sevastos Kyminetes. After 1700 the first schools were founded in Ioannina, Metsovo, Athens, Ampelakia, Zagora,
Dimitsana, Patmos, Smyrna, Trebizond, Caisareia of Cappadocia and Iasio of Moldavia.
The most important spiritual teachers of the 17th and 18th century were Methodios Anthrakites, Neophytos Doukas,
Eygene Voulgaris, Neophytos Vamvas, Theoklitos Pharmakides, Konstantinos Economou, Nicephoros Theotokis,
Demetrios Katartzes, Anthimos Gazes, Konstantinos Koumas, George Gennadios and Adamantios Korais
(Smyrna 1748 - Paris 1833). In 1788, Korais, being a doctor of medicine, settled in Paris and
experienced the French Revolution which broke out in 1789.
This revolution in combination with the american one was the source of hope for the destiny of the enslaved Greek Nation.
He was a very productive person and left hundreds of books for the next generations to study.
When we refer to the education and spiritual life of that period we can't help
mentioning Kosmas the Aitolos ( 1714 - 1779), the well-known preacher and neomartyr.
He received moderate education at schools of his province and was appointed as a teacher
at Lompotina (Ano Hora) in Nafpaktia. Later, he went to
Aghion Oros (Mount Athos),
where he lived as a monk and studied
at Athoniada School. His teachers were Panagiotis Palamas,and Eugene Voulgari. His sermon had great
impact especially on the people of the mountains. Apart from his religious interests he developed a very
rich national action, too. His radical ideas caused great concern to the local authorities. Even the Hebrews
accused him of being an agent working for the Russians. That was the last straw. He was finally arrested and got hanged.