Cretan Revolt of 1866 – Journey to Independence
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The Cretan Revolt, which took place from of1866 to 1869, was one of the most important events in Greece. While the revolt was put down by the ruling Ottoman Empire, it nonetheless spurred on the cause of Cretan independence and brought the Ottoman treatment of the Cretans to the world stage. This conflict was part of the long struggle that Greece as a whole faced as they tried to Here’s more information about the Cretan Revolt:
Why the Revolt Occurred
The causes of the Cretan Revolt of 1866 are rooted in the Greek Revolution of 1821. Christian Cretans joined their Greek brothers and sisters in an attempt to gain independence from the Ottomans, but the revolt was put down by 1828. Between 1828 and 1841, Crete was ruled by Egypt, which was a vassal of the Ottoman Empire. A revolt in 1841 returned Crete to Ottoman rule.
In an effort to appease the Christian community, Ottoman rulers allowed for equality of worship among Christians and Muslims and gave Cretans the right to own firearms and several other new privileges. These reforms were not enough for Christian leaders, however, who demanded more liberties and had the final goal of union with Greece.
Spark of Rebellion and the Holocaust of Arkadi
When numerous petitions to Sultan Abdulaziz were ignored, Christian Cretans declared an open revolt against the Ottoman state in August of 1866. Armed with muskets, rebels were able to gain control of the interior of Crete as the Ottoman Empire retained control of fortresses on the coast. Later that fall, the Ottomans sent additional troops to the island to regain control of the province from the rebels. Under the leadership of statesman Mustafa Pasha, the Ottoman forces set out to capture the monastery of Arkadi, which was the headquarters of the Christian rebels.
As Pasha approached Arkadi, he ordered the monastery to surrender. Christian leadership, including the monastery’s hegumen, Gabriel, and Konstantinos Giaboudakis refused Pasha’s demands and prepared for battle. In addition to 259 insurgents, Arkadi was sheltering 700 women and children, who fled to the monastery for fear of the Ottoman soldiers. After an intense firefight, the Ottoman army breached Arkadi. To stop the Ottomans, Christians set fire to gunpowder barrels, destroying the monastery and killing all but 114 of the defenders.
Aftermath of the Revolt
Soon after the engagement at Arkadi, the Ottomans were able to regain control of most of Crete. Nevertheless, the incident, which became known as the Holocaust of Arkadi, sparked outrage throughout the world. Philhellinists from around Europe, particularly France and Italy, traveled to Crete to aid in the cause for independence. Above all else, the Holocaust of Arkadi convinced foreign governments that the Ottoman Empire did not have a legitimate claim to rule in Crete.
Seeing the loss of Crete as unacceptable, Ottoman leadership sent Grand Vizier A’ali Pasha to finally end the revolt. The grand vizier focused on quelling the revolt town by town, building new fortresses in the interior to quell dissent. Pasha also instituted a new policy called Organic Law that gave Christian leaders control of government administration in their localities. Organic Law eventually encouraged Christians to submit to Ottoman rule, ending the revolt in 1869.
The Cretan Revolt is a definite milestone in the history of Ottoman rule in Crete. While the revolt failed to shrug off Ottoman rule, it showed the world the plight Cretans faced in their desire of independence.
Categorized in: Modern Greek History
This post was written by Greek Boston