History Files

European Kingdoms

Eastern Mediterranean


Kingdom of Greece
AD 1830 - 1974

Ancient Greece was conquered piecemeal by the Roman republic in the last two centuries BC, with Macedonia arguably being the last major power to be defeated. From then until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Greece was part of the Roman empire, through to its division as the Eastern Roman empire (or Byzantium). Then the Ottoman empire controlled it until, during the early years of the nineteenth century, the Greeks revolted against the fading power of the Ottomans.

The stage was set by the founding of the Filiki Eteria in 1814, a secret organisation which had the independence of Greece as its aim. One of its leaders was Alexander Ypsilanti, grandson of a former prince of the Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. Several revolts were planned across Greece and the first of them was launched on 6 March 1821, in the Danubian principalities. It was put down by the Ottomans, but the torch had been lit and by the end of the same month the Peloponnese was in open revolt.

With the Greeks finding a good deal of success in their fight against the Turks, it was the modernised Egyptian army under Muhammed Ali that was ordered by Constantinople to sail to Greece to put a stop to their efforts. Popular European support of the revolt led the Russians, French, and British to send a fleet which sank the Egyptians at Navarino in 1827. This was the last serious threat to the Greeks' efforts and independence was fully established by 1830. Modern Greeks are partial descendants of the ancient Greeks, but infused with Roman and Turkic settlers from throughout these empires and with a large addition of barbarian Celts, Germanics, and probably some Slavs as well.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from A History of Thessaly: From the Earliest Historical Times to the Accession of Philip V of Macedonia, Ronald Grubb Kent ((Press of the New Era Printing Company, 1904, available via the Internet Archive), from The Ottoman Empire: A Historical Encyclopaedia, Mehrdad Kia (two volumes), and from The Founder of Modern Egypt: A Study of Muhammal 'Ali, Henry Dodwell (Cambridge University Press, 1967), and from External Link: BBC Country Profiles.)

1821 - 1827

The Greek War of Independence (otherwise known as the Greek Revolution) begins against rule by the Ottoman empire. Open revolt in the Peloponnese in March 1821 swiftly turns into a declaration of war against the occupiers. Revolts quickly spring up in central Greece, Crete, and Macedonia, although these are suppressed, but a makeshift Greek navy prevents Ottoman reinforcements from being landed in the country. Muhammed Ali brings Egyptian forces into the conflict in 1825 and much of the revolt is put down. However, the Egyptian fleet is sunk at the Battle of Navarino in 1827 by a fleet consisting of Russians, French, and British vessels.

1821 - 1823

Alexander Ypsilanti

Led early revolt. Grandson of Alex Ypsilanti of Wallachia.

1826 - 1827

Georgios Karaiskakis

Commander-in-chief. Killed in action on 23 April.


The Treaty of London is signed, in which Britain, France, and Russia support Greek independence and, following the freeing of central Greece in 1828, the beginnings of an independent state are created. The Greek National Assembly elects Count Ioannis Kapodistrias as regent (head of state) of the country while its political future is negotiated in Europe and the fighting against the Ottoman empire continues. In Greece itself, conflicts have already sprung up between various factions, resulting in two minor civil wars.

'The Camp of Georgios Karaiskakis' by Theodoros Vryzakis
'The Camp of Georgios Karaiskakis' as depicted in 1855 by Theodoros Vryzakis depicts his Greek nationalist encampment during its campaigns against the ruling Ottoman empire in the mid-1820s

1827 - 1830

Count Ioannis Kapodistrias

Regent. From Corfu. Became first governor.

1828 - 1829

The Russo-Turkish War, triggered by the fighting in Greece and the Danubian principalities, ends in the Peace of Adrianople. The London Conference in 1830 recognises Greek independence, putting forward Landgrave Philip of Hessen-Homburg as a potential king (supported by Russia but opposed by France). The regent, Ioannis Kapodistrias of Corfu, is selected as the first governor of the new republic, but he is soon assassinated.

1830 - 1831

Count Ioannis Kapodistrias

Former regent. First governor of Greece. Assassinated.

1831 - 1832

Augustinos Kapodistrias

Brother. Succeeded as governor. In office for six months.


Under the terms of the Convention of London, Prince Otto of the Bavarian Wittelsbachs ascends the newly-created throne of Greece while still a minor, carrying the title 'King of the Hellenes'. He initially rules under the guidance of a three-man regency council, but they prove unpopular and are dismissed. Otto then rules as an absolute monarch.

1832 - 1862

Otto of Bavaria

Brother of king of Bavaria. First king of Greece. Dethroned.


An armed but peaceful uprising forces the authoritarian king to grant the country a constitution and a parliament. The country is proving to be difficult to govern thanks to its financial impoverishment and the conflicting interests of its protectors, the Great Powers.


Otto's authoritarianism and his poor standing amongst Greeks leads to him being dethroned by the Greek National Assembly while he is away in the countryside. A replacement is selected. The young Prince William of Denmark ascends the throne as George I and brings with him the Ionian Islands as a gift from Great Britain.

1863 - 1913

George I of Denmark (Prince William)

Elder brother of Frederick VIII of Denmark. Assassinated.


The power of the monarchy is diminished when Prime Minister Charilaos Trikoupis curbs its ability to interfere in the workings of the assembly. During the course of several short-lived, unstable governments, the prime minister is also able to initiate reforms that herald the start of modern parliamentary politics in the country.

Trikoupis satirical cartoon of 1895
The more things change, the more they stay the same... as evidenced by this satirical political cartoon of 1895 which shows Trikoupis and his main rival, Theodoros Deligiannis, with the flag stating 'down with taxes, up with loans!'

1905 - 1906

Eleutherios Venizelos, the 'Lion of Crete', wins the independence of his island from the Ottomans in 1905. With support from Great Britain, which maintains close and friendly relations with Greece, George's son, also George, has been governor-general of Crete between 1897-1906. He resigns in 1906 following a campaign by Venizelos, the leader of the Cretan Assembly. Crete votes for union with Greece in 1908.


The First Balkan War brings Greek victory in the capture and permanent possession of Salonika (modern Thessaloniki - the second largest city in Greece), just beating a Bulgarian force which had also aimed at capturing it. The area and population of Greece is doubled by its gains. After the longest reign of any Greek monarch, while walking in the city George I is assassinated on 18 March.

1913 - 1917

Constantine I

Son. Abdicated.


Brother. m Alice of Hessen-Battenberg.


Persuaded to join the Allied cause of Britain, France, and Russia, the Greek prime minister, Eleutherios Venizelos, attempts to end Greek neutrality. However, he has overestimated the strength of his position at home. On 5 October he is dismissed from office by the king who, apart from being the German kaiser's brother-in-law, wishes to preserve Greece's neutrality. That neutrality cannot be enforced militarily, though, and Britain and France land an expeditionary force which turns Salonika into a vast Allied base from which they can attack the Austrian forces in Serbia.

1916 - 1917

Venizelos returns to politics, forming a government at Salonika which Britain recognises as legitimate. The following year, King Constantine abdicates in favour of his son, and Venizelos is able to resume his post with popular support.

Salonika front during the First World War
The First World War came to Greece in the form of an Allied base at Salonika so that the Austrian army in Serbia could be opposed in one of the toughest and most horrific of fronts during a campaign that has largely been forgotten

1917 - 1920


Second son of Constantine I. Died after a freak accident.

1921 - 2021

Philip Mountbatten

Son of Andrew. m Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

1920 - 1922

Constantine I

Restored. Abdicated 17 Sep 1922. Died in exile 4 mths later.

1920 - 1922

Continuing attempts to seize a large section of western Anatolia from the Ottoman empire, Venizelos prolongs a war that lasts for eight years. Turkish troops capture Smyrna on 10 September 1922, massacring the Greek population and ending the Greek-Turkish War. After having colonised western Turkey some three thousand years before, at the end of the Mycenaean period, all Greeks are expelled from Turkey, many of them having been Turkish in all but name for generations and not being able to speak Greek at all. Greece's population suddenly increases by about a million and-a-half, which brings with it problems of its own. The unpopular Constantine abdicates in favour of another of his sons.

1922 - 1924

George II

First son of Constantine I. Exiled.

1924 - 1935

A failed coup in October 1923 results in the king being requested to leave the country by the Revolutionary Committee. He does so, and a republic is proclaimed on 25 March 1924 which abolishes the monarchy and confiscates its property. George moves first to Rumania, his wife's home, and then to Great Britain. In his absence, Greece remains unstable, with frequent changes of government (twenty-three) and thirteen coups. Finally, in 1935 a general seizes control and ends the republic, establishing the restoration of the monarchy.


Theodoros Pangalos

Military officer. Led a coup, but overthrown by Kondylis.


Georgios Kondylis

Military officer. Re-established the monarchy. Killed in 1936.

1935 - 1941

George II

Restored. Evacuated during the German invasion.


George II and his prime minister have overseen the creation of a strongly fascist state which has links to Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. However, the king also has links to Great Britain, and when Italy demands to be allowed to station troops in Greece, he refuses. The resultant Greco-Italian War is a victory for Greece, with southern Albania also being occupied.

Greek troops in World War II
While Greece's Second World War efforts against the Italians were a resounding success, German involvement brought a completely new level of warfare to the country, one which it could not resist at first

1941 - 1944

Nazi Germany is forced to intervene thanks to the poor showing by its unreliable Italian ally. The Greeks, aided by British Expeditionary troops, cannot match the firepower of the invaders. Greece is occupied. The king is evacuated first to Crete and, when that falls to Germany, to Egypt. From there he returns to Britain.

1944 - 1947

Following the German withdrawal in 1944, the Greek Civil War is triggered. It is fuelled partly by the poverty endured by the ex-Turkish Greeks and the grievances they have brought with them, and partly by tensions between communists and their opponents. The Greek monarchy is only just about reinstated and George II sits on the throne for a third time.

1946 - 1947

George II

Restored for a second time.

1947 - 1964


Brother, and third son of Constantine I. Died in Athens.


Greece becomes a member of Nato during its transition from political association to integrated military structure, a necessity made apparent by the perceived increase in threat level from communist states during the Korean War.

1964 - 1973

Constantine II

Son. Became an exile in 1967. Deposed 1973.


Sister. Married King Juan Carlos of Spain.


Backed by the United States, the army leads a coup which establishes a dictatorship. Georgios Zoitakis, Georgios Papadopoulos, and Dimitrios Ioannides are all leading figures in the coup, but the latter prefers to take a back seat, becoming instead the chief of the military police. Constantine II tries to organise a counter-coup. When this fails he is forced to flee the country. The monarchy is abolished in 1973 by Georgios Papadopoulos, but the king continues to claim an hereditary title in Greece.

Nicosia being bombed in 1974
The failure by Greek and Turkish Cypriots to cooperate in 1964 led directly to the 1974 bloodshed which involved a Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus and the bombing of Nicosia shown here

1967 - 1972

Georgios Zoitakis

Military officer. Regent.

1972 - 1973

Georgios Papadopoulos

Military officer. Regent (1972-1973). President (1973).


The Athens Polytechnic uprising which shows popular support for ending the rule of the Greek military junta is brutally suppressed on 17 November. The levels of violence used to end the uprising send shockwaves through Greece. A counter-coup is organised against Papadopoulos and Dimitrios Ioannides becomes dictator.

1973 - 1974

Dimitrios Ioannides

Military officer. Began moving towards democracy.


The Greek dictatorship makes a failed attempt to invade Cyprus and bring it under direct Greek rule. Not only does the invasion fail, it prompts the Turkish government to invade the eastern side of Cyprus (memorable images of Turkish parachutists being dropped onto the island are widespread in Western news media broadcasts). The fallout created by all of this brings down the dictatorship and the modern democratic Greek republic is declared.

Modern Greece
AD 1974 - Present Day

The modern Hellenic Republic was brought into being on 11 June 1975, following a referendum which confirmed the abolition of the former monarchy of the Kingdom of Greece. The republic borders Albania, North Macedonia, and Bulgaria to the north (which incorporates much, but not all, of ancient Thrace), while Turkey faces it across the Aegean Sea. The Ionian Islands and most of those in the Aegean are also part of the Greek state.

The territory of Greece (and quite some way further afield than the modern borders) was home to various Mycenaean and ancient Greek states during the end of the second millennium BC and throughout the first millennium BC respectively. These people were not only Indo-Europeans, they also intermingled with the preceding population which included a large number of descended Neolithic farmer groups of Old Europe who had first founded the Sesklo culture in Greece around 6700 BC. Their conquest by Rome saw them become part of an empire which governed the region for the next millennium and-a-half, until the fall of Byzantium at Ottoman hands in 1453. Independence followed in the early 1800s.

The last king of modern Greece, Constantine II, went into exile on 13 December 1967, with his constitutional role being taken by 'regents' (in effect dictators) who were appointed by the military junta in Greece. It wasn't until 1 June 1973 that the junta abolished the monarchy, replacing it with a republic headed by a president. Constantine has never officially abdicated his throne, but in more recent times he has been allowed free access into and out of Greece (he and his titular successors are shown with a shaded background). The dictatorship that was established in his place made a failed attempt to conquer Cyprus by invading it in 1974. Not only did the invasion fail, it prompted the Turkish government to invade the eastern side of Cyprus. The fallout created by all this brought down the dictatorship and the modern democratic Greek republic was declared.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from A History of Thessaly: From the Earliest Historical Times to the Accession of Philip V of Macedonia, Ronald Grubb Kent ((Press of the New Era Printing Company, 1904, available via the Internet Archive), from The Ottoman Empire: A Historical Encyclopaedia, Mehrdad Kia (two volumes), from The Founder of Modern Egypt: A Study of Muhammal 'Ali, Henry Dodwell (Cambridge University Press, 1967), and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and The Greeks really do have near-mythical origins, ancient DNA reveals (Science), and Macedonia agrees to name change (The Week), and Republic of North Macedonia born amid mass protests (The Week).)

1974 - Present

Constantine II

Exile. Born 2 June 1940. Former king of Greece.


Greece becomes a member of the European Economic Community, the forerunner of the European Community.


Yugoslavia's Macedonia region declares independence from the crumbling state. Greece objects to the name that is subsequently adopted for the region - the Republic of Macedonia - as well as its flag on the grounds that both imply territorial claims to the neighbouring Greek province of Macedonia. The argument will rumble on for over two decades, although relations are normalised in 1995. Macedonia is henceforth known as the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' (FYROM).


On 7 September a massive earthquake, registering 6.0, strikes from a previously unknown geological fault at a point approximately seventeen kilometres north of Athens. It causes widespread structural damage and kills 143 people. Taking place less than a month after a similar earthquake in Turkey, the Turks supply aid and rescue teams, which contributes significantly to a thaw in relations between the two countries.

Greek earthquake 1999
From the ruins of the 1999 earthquake came improved relations with neighbouring Turkey after years of mutual hostility following events which surrounded Cyprus in the 1970s

2000 - 2002

In June 2000 a senior British diplomat, Brigadier Stephen Saunders, is shot dead in Athens by the left-wing guerrilla group, November 17. In July 2002, November 17's suspected leader and other members are arrested after one of them is injured, allegedly by his own bomb, and provides information to the police. The subsequent trial ends with prison sentences for all of the suspects.

2009 - 2013

Greece's credit rating is downgraded in December 2009 by one of the world's three leading rating agencies amid fears that the government may default on its ballooning debt. The worldwide credit crisis which had begun in the United States in 2007 is really biting by this stage. Tough austerity measures are introduced amid mass protests and strikes.

The problem becomes a rumbling issue with the EU as Greece accepts successive bailouts via the European Financial Stability Facility. The Greek parliament passes the 2014 budget in December 2013, which is predicated on a return to growth after six years of recession. Now-current Prime Minister Samaras hails this as the first decisive step towards exiting the bailout. Greece's credit rating is upgraded in 2018.


The 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' (FYROM) agrees to change its name in July 2018, bringing to an end the long dispute with neighbouring Greece. It will now be known as Severna Makedonija, or the republic of North Macedonia, providing a sufficient difference from the neighbouring Greek province of Macedonia to be acceptable to Greece itself. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras survives a vote of no confidence to sign the accompanying accord with Northern Macedonia.

Crown Prince Paul / Pavlos

Son and heir. Born 20 May 1967.