Greco-Turkish War (1897)
The Greco-Turkish War of 1897, also called the Thirty Days' War and known as the Black '97 in Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, was a war fought between the Kingdom of Greece
Kingdom of Greece
The Kingdom of Greece was a state established in 1832 in the Convention of London by the Great Powers...

 and Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. Its immediate cause was the question over the status of the Ottoman province of Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

, whose Greek majority long desired union with Greece. As a result of the intervention of the Great Powers after the war, an autonomous Cretan State
Cretan State
The Cretan State was established in 1898, following the intervention by the Great Powers on the island of Crete. In 1897 an insurrection in Crete led the Ottoman Empire to declare war on Greece, which led the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Russia to intervene on the grounds that the Ottoman...

 under Ottoman suzerainty
Suzerainty occurs where a region or people is a tributary to a more powerful entity which controls its foreign affairs while allowing the tributary vassal state some limited domestic autonomy. The dominant entity in the suzerainty relationship, or the more powerful entity itself, is called a...

 was established the following year, with Prince George of Greece
Prince George of Greece and Denmark
align=right| Prince George of Greece and Denmark was the second son of King George I of the Hellenes and Grand Duchess Olga, and is remembered chiefly for having saved the life of a future Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II...

 as its first High Commissioner
High Commissioner
High Commissioner is the title of various high-ranking, special executive positions held by a commission of appointment.The English term is also used to render various equivalent titles in other languages.-Bilateral diplomacy:...

. This was the first war effort in which the military and political personnel of Greece were put to test after the war of independence in 1821
Greek War of Independence
The Greek War of Independence, also known as the Greek Revolution was a successful war of independence waged by the Greek revolutionaries between...



In 1878, the Ottoman Empire, according to the provisions of the Congress of Berlin
Congress of Berlin
The Congress of Berlin was a meeting of the European Great Powers' and the Ottoman Empire's leading statesmen in Berlin in 1878. In the wake of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, the meeting's aim was to reorganize the countries of the Balkans...

, signed the Pact of Halepa
Pact of Halepa
The Pact of Halepa was an agreement made in 1878 between the Ottoman Empire and the representatives of several European states...

 which entailed the implementation of the organic law of 1868, promised but never implemented by the Ottoman government, which was to give Crete a status of wide-ranging autonomy. The Ottoman commissioners however repeatedly ignored the convention, causing three successive rebellions in 1885, 1888 and 1889. In 1894 the Sultan Abdul Hamid II
Abdul Hamid II
His Imperial Majesty, The Sultan Abdülhamid II, Emperor of the Ottomans, Caliph of the Faithful was the 34th sultan of the Ottoman Empire...

 re-appointed Alexander Karatheodori Pasha
Alexander Karatheodori Pasha
Alexander Karatheodori Pasha was a Greek statesman of the Ottoman Empire.Born in Berlin as a child of a leading Constantinople Phanariote family. His father, Stefanos Karatheodori, was personal physician to Sultan Mahmud II. After law studies in Paris, like many Phanariote Greeks he pursued a...

 as governor of Crete, but Karatheodori's zeal for the implementation of the agreement was met with fury by the Muslim population
Cretan Turks
The Cretan Turks, Turco-Cretans , or Cretan Muslims were the Muslim inhabitants of Crete and now their descendants, who settled principally in Turkey, the Levant, and Egypt as well as in the larger Turkish diaspora.After the Ottoman conquest of Crete...

 of the island and led to renewed clashes between the Greek and Turkish communities there in 1896.

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
Chaniá , , also transliterated Chania, Hania, and Xania, older form Chanea and Venetian Canea, Ottoman Turkish خانيه Hanya) is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania peripheral unit...

 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 Theodoros Deligiannis
Theodoros Deligiannis
Theodoros Deligiannis, also spelled Delijannis and Deliyannis, , was a Greek statesman.-Life:He was born at Lagkadia, Arcadia. He studied law in Athens, and in 1843 entered the Ministry of the Interior, of which department he became permanent secretary in 1859. In 1862, on the deposition of King...

 was subjected to fierce criticism by his adversary Dimitrios Rallis
Dimitrios Rallis
Dimitrios Rallis was a Greek politician. Rallis was elected to Parliament in 1872 and always represented the same Athenian constituency. He became Minister in several governments and served as Prime Minister five times...

 over his alleged inability to handle the issue. Continuous demonstrations in Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 accused King George I
George I of Greece
George I was King of Greece from 1863 to 1913. Originally a Danish prince, George was only 17 years old when he was elected king by the Greek National Assembly, which had deposed the former king Otto. His nomination was both suggested and supported by the Great Powers...

 and the government of betrayal of the Cretan cause. The 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

On 25 January 1897, the first troopships, accompanied by the battleship Hydra
Greek battleship Hydra
The Ironclad warship Hydra , named for one of the Saronic Gulf islands which played a key role in the war at sea during the Greek War of Independence, served in the Royal Hellenic Navy from 1889 - 1929....

, sailed for Crete, where they disembarked two battalions of the Greek Army under Colonel Timoleon Vassos
Timoleon Vassos
Timoleon Vassos or Vasos was a Greek Army officer and general. He was born in Athens in 1836, the younger son of the hero of the Greek Revolution Vasos Mavrovouniotis. He studied at the Hellenic Army Academy and continued his studies in France, before being appointed as aide de camp to King George I...

 outside Chania
Chaniá , , also transliterated Chania, Hania, and Xania, older form Chanea and Venetian Canea, Ottoman Turkish خانيه Hanya) is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania peripheral unit...

. 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 Livadeia
Livadeia is a city in central Greece. It is the capital of the prefecture Boeotia. Livadeia is located 130 km NW of Athens, E of Nafpaktos, ESE of Amfissa and Desfina, SE of Lamia and west of Chalkida. Livadeia is linked with GR-48 and several kilometres west of GR-3. The area around Livadeia...


Opposing forces

The Greek army was made of 3 divisions with 2 of them taking positions in Thessaly
Thessaly is a traditional geographical region and an administrative region of Greece, comprising most of the ancient region of the same name. Before the Greek Dark Ages, Thessaly was known as Aeolia, and appears thus in Homer's Odyssey....

 and one in Arta
Arta, Greece
Arta is a city with a rich history in northwestern Greece, capital of the peripheral unit of Arta, which is part of Epirus region. The city was known in ancient times as Ambracia . Arta is famous for its old bridge located over the Arachthos River, situated west of downtown...

, Epirus
The name Epirus, from the Greek "Ήπειρος" meaning continent may refer to:-Geographical:* Epirus - a historical and geographical region of the southwestern Balkans, straddling modern Greece and Albania...

. Crown Prince Constantine
Constantine I of Greece
Constantine I was King of Greece from 1913 to 1917 and from 1920 to 1922. He was commander-in-chief of the Hellenic Army during the unsuccessful Greco-Turkish War of 1897 and led the Greek forces during the successful Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, in which Greece won Thessaloniki and doubled in...

 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, 500 cavalry and 96 guns, while that of Epirus was made of 16,000 men and 40 guns.

The opposing Ottoman army was consisted of 8 infantry divisions and one cavalry. In the Thessaly front it consisted of 92,500 men, 1,300 cavalry and 186 guns, while in Epirus it could field 29,000 men and 24 guns. In addition, the Ottoman army was under the guidance of a German military mission under general Baron von der Goltz
Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz
Wilhelm Leopold Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz also known as Goltz Pasha, was a Prussian Field Marshal and military writer.-Military career:...

 who had reorganized it after the defeat in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). Edhem Pasha had the overall command of the Ottoman forces.

Apart from the evident 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
Smokeless powder
Smokeless powder is the name given to a number of propellants used in firearms and artillery which produce negligible smoke when fired, unlike the older gunpowder which they replaced...

 repeater rifles (Mauser
Mauser was a German arms manufacturer of a line of bolt-action rifles and pistols from the 1870s to 1995. Mauser designs were built for the German armed forces...

 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 Hydra class
Hydra class battleship
The three Hydra-class ships, Hydra, Spetsai and Psara, were ordered from France in 1885 during the premiership of Charilaos Trikoupis, as part of a wider reorganization and modernization of the Greek armed forces, which had proved themselves inadequate during the Cretan uprising of 1866 and the...

 small battleships, one cruiser, the Miaoulis, and several older small ironclads and gunboats. The Greek ships conducted bombardments of Turkish fortifications and escorted troop transports, however there was no major naval battle during the war. The 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. 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.

The war

On 24 March, 2,600 irregulars crossed the Greek border into Ottoman Macedonia
Macedonia (region)
Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe. Its boundaries have changed considerably over time, but nowadays the region is considered to include parts of five Balkan countries: Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, as...

 in order to provoke disarray behind enemy lines by rousing locals against Ottoman administration. As a result, on the 6th of 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
Central Greece
Continental Greece or Central Greece , colloquially known as Roúmeli , is a geographical region of Greece. Its territory is divided into the administrative regions of Central Greece, Attica, and part of West 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

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 Tyrnavos
Tyrnavos is a municipality in the Larissa regional unit, of the Thessaly region of Greece. Tyrnavos is the prefecture's third largest community within the Larissa prefecture. The town is near the mountains and the Thessalian Plain. The river Titarisios, a tributary of the Pineios, flows through...

 but when the overwhelming Ottoman forces aligned and pushed together the Greek general staff ordered withdrawal, spreading panic among soldiers and population. Larissa
Larissa is the capital and biggest city of the Thessaly region of Greece and capital of the Larissa regional unit. It is a principal agricultural centre and a national transportation hub, linked by road and rail with the port of Volos, the city of Thessaloniki and Athens...

 fell on 27 April, while the Greek front was reorganized behind the strategic lines of Velestino, in Farsala
Farsala , known in Antiquity as Φάρσαλος, Pharsalos or Pharsalus, is a city in southern Thessaly, in Greece. Farsala is located in the southern part of Larissa regional unit, and is one of its largest towns. The city is linked with GR-3, the old highway linking Larissa and Lamia and is also...

. 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
Domokos is a town and a municipality in Phthiotis, Greece. The town Domokos is the seat of the municipality of Domokos and of the former Domokos Province...

 while on the eve of those events Smolenskis withdrew from newly-recaptured Velestion to Almyros. Volos
Volos is a coastal port city in Thessaly situated midway on the Greek mainland, about 326 km north of Athens and 215 km south of Thessaloniki...

 fell into Ottoman hands on 8 May.

At Domokos, the Greeks assembled 40,000 men in a strong defensive position. The Turks had a total of about 70,000 troops, of whom about 45,000 were directly engaged in the battle. 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
Thermopylae is a location in Greece where a narrow coastal passage existed in antiquity. It derives its name from its hot sulphur springs. "Hot gates" is also "the place of hot springs and cavernous entrances to Hades"....

 passage but on 20 May a ceasefire came in effect.

Epirus front

On 18 April, Ottoman forces under Ahmed Hifzi Pasha attacked the bridge of Arta
Arta, Greece
Arta is a city with a rich history in northwestern Greece, capital of the peripheral unit of Arta, which is part of Epirus region. The city was known in ancient times as Ambracia . Arta is famous for its old bridge located over the Arachthos River, situated west of downtown...

 but were forced to withdraw and reorganize around Pente Pigadia. Five days later colonel Manos captured Pente Pigadia but the Greek advance was halted due to lack of reinforcements against an already numerically superior opposition. On 12 May, Greek forces and Epirot volunteers tried to cut off Preveza
Preveza is a town in the region of Epirus, northwestern Greece, located at the mouth of the Ambracian Gulf. It is the capital of the regional unit of Preveza, which is part of the region of Epirus. An immersed tunnel, completed in 2002 which runs between Preveza and Actium, connects the town...

 but were forced to retreat with heavy casualties.

The armistice

On 20 September, peace was signed
Treaty of Constantinople (1897)
The Treaty of Constantinople was a treaty between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Greece signed on 4 December 1897 following the Greco-Turkish War of 1897.-Background:...

 between the two sides. Greece was forced to cede minor border areas and to pay heavy reparations. 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
Megali Idea
The Megali Idea was an irredentist concept of Greek nationalism that expressed the goal of establishing a Greek state that would encompass all ethnic Greek-inhabited areas, since large Greek populations after the restoration of Greek independence in 1830 still lived under Ottoman rule.The term...

). This awareness laid the seeds for the revolution of 1909 of Goudi
Goudi coup
The Goudi coup was a military coup d'état that took place in Greece on the night of , starting at the barracks in Goudi, a neighbourhood on the eastern outskirts of Athens. The coup was a pivotal event in modern Greek history, as it led to the arrival of Eleftherios Venizelos in Greece and his...

 which called for immediate reforms in army, economy and society. Eventually, Eleftherios Venizelos
Eleftherios Venizelos
Eleftherios Venizelos was an eminent Greek revolutionary, a prominent and illustrious statesman as well as a charismatic leader in the early 20th century. Elected several times as Prime Minister of Greece and served from 1910 to 1920 and from 1928 to 1932...

 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
Balkan Wars
The Balkan Wars were two conflicts that took place in the Balkans in south-eastern Europe in 1912 and 1913.By the early 20th century, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia, the countries of the Balkan League, had achieved their independence from the Ottoman Empire, but large parts of their ethnic...

two years later.


Corp Greece Ottoman
Officers Soldiers Officers Soldiers
Killed in action 32 640 52 1,059
Injured in action 98 2,383 91 3,238
Prisoners of war 1 252 1 15
Wounded outside battle 5 337 - -
Total 136 3,612 144 4,312
Grand Total 3,748 4,456

External links

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