Mark Mazower | Ekathimerini | 28 March, 2021
Aged well over 100, Apostolos Mavrogenis died at the end of 1906, the last surviving fighter of the Greek Revolution. He had been born on Paros at the end of the 18th century and fought his way through to the end of the war. When the statue of Kolokotronis on horseback was unveiled in Nafplion in 1901, Mavrogenis was there to testify to the memory of the man he called his friend. At the time of his birth, Athens was an Ottoman backwater; by the time he died it was a national capital, with boulevards and streets with names, linked by rail to the new port of Piraeus and by steamship with Europe via the new Isthmus canal. There were universities and students, libraries and newspapers, theaters and brothels, all of them largely unknown under the Ottomans. The transformation wrought by independence reached into every domain of life.
Under the Sultan, different regions had been governed in very different ways. After independence, administration was centralized and Greeks throughout the Kingdom were ruled in a uniform fashion by a prefectural system engineered by the central state. Government for the first time became a matter of mass politics. It is true that in the Ottoman Peloponnese, there had been a kind of factional politicking for elite families. But it was only after the revolution that politics – with parties, a press, and a language of government, rights and constitutions derived from Europe – predominated among the Greeks.
Independence also gave birth to the modern capitalist economy. It was no coincidence that some of the most ardent philhellenes had been instrumental in helping raise the first national loan in 1824: international finance capital, indebtedness and the struggle for political liberty were intimately connected. Much of the economy was monetized for the first time, allowing extensive investment in land, property and – more slowly – in industries.
Originally published by Ekathimerini. Read the full article here.