What is Philhellenism and Are You a Philhellene? Plus 12 Quotes From Famous People Who love to Love Greece

We love Greece
We love Greece

Philhellenism comes from  from the Greek word  philos, meaning friend, and Hellenism. meaning Greekness (for want of a better word), it is  to have a love, a passion, an enthusiasm, an obsession even, for Greece, Greeks and all things Greek.

Philhellenism came onto the European scene during the 18th century.

 “The Grand Tour”, a tradition started in around 1660, which came to a head at the turn of the 19th century, saw young aristocrats touring Europe; France, Switzerland, Italy and Greece, for months, sometimes years at a time (depending on how their bank balance was holding up), rather like a modern gap-year, firmly put Greece on the map.

The Grand Tour Carl Spitzweg, . 1845
The Grand Tour
Carl Spitzweg, . 1845

The Grand Tour was a chance, to see, and get to know, first-hand, the wonders of Greece, and the roots of Western civilization, previously only read about in books and seen in great paintings.

On returning home after “The Grand tour”, the travelers, who were now totally hooked on Greece, wanted to tell the whole world what they had seen and experienced.

They wrote books, they drew pictures; they painted masterpieces of the mysterious temples, amazing Greek sculpture, and the delightful little Greek islands which seemed to float atop the deep blue Aegean Sea.

View of Athens when the Parthenon was still used as a mosque
View of Athens when the Parthenon was still used as a mosque

These new ‘philhellenes’ threw quotes from great Greek philosophers into their conversation, they told of the now famous Greek hospitality, the strange exotic dishes, the free and easy lifestyle and academics introduced classical studies into the educational system.

The result was, everyone wanted to visit Greece, and, if that wasn’t possible, then they learned all they could through reading about it, the next best thing!

Ladies of the Grand Tour
Ladies of the Grand Tour
Ladies of the Grand Tour

The European “Greek frenzy” gained more momentum during the French revolution, and the European Enlightenment, Western-educated Greeks were heartened by the enthusiasm for The French Revolution, and hoped for support from Napoleon in their quest for independence from The Ottoman Empire, which had ruled Greece for the last four hundred years.

After the fall of Napoleon, the “society of the friends of the muses” (Filomousos Eteria, Greek: Φιλόμουσος Εταιρεία), was formed;

The Filomousos Eteria of Athens, founded by Athenians in1813 with the help of the English, and The Filomousos Eteria of Vienna founded by Ioannis Kapodistrias in 1814, under the direction of Tsar Alexander I of Russia.

Greek Muses In ancient Greece.
Greek Muses In ancient Greece. The 9 Muses were considered sources of knowledge and providers of inspiration to creators of literature and art. Almost everyone should still have a shrine to honor them. Calliope (Epic Poetry) Clio (History) Erato (Love Poetry) Euterpe (Music) Melpomene (Tragedy) Polyhymnia (Hymns and sacred poetry) Terpsichore (Dance) Thalia (Comedy) Urania (Astronomy)

The purpose of the "Friends of the muses society" was to educate Greeks, to make them aware of their heritage, to improve the school system, to protect Greek art treasures from being filched by so-called lovers of Greece and to build up Philhellenism.

A year after the formation of the “society of the friends of the muses”, in 1814, a secret organization was founded in Odessa; the Filiki Eteria or Society of Friends, whose members were mainly young Phanariotes, from Phanari (modern Fener), the Greek quarter of Constantinople, the aim of this secret society was to overthrow Ottoman rule and establish an independent Greek state.

House of Filiki Eteria on Greek Square in Odessa Photo Yuriy Kvach
House of Filiki Eteria on Greek Square in Odessa Photo Yuriy Kvach

On the sixth of March 1821, Alexander Ypsilantes, one of the leaders of the Filki Eteria, announced the Greek revolt against the Turks.

 By now, thanks to The Grand Tours, Greek literature, and knowledge of Greece in general, thousands, all over Europe were in love with Greece and rushed to her aid against the Turks, Philhellenic societies sprung up like wildfire, the first in Stuttgart, Germany, followed by Greek societies around the country, the French and Swiss rallied, The London Philhellenic Committee was born in 1823, European support for Greece was massive.

Hundreds left their homes to fight alongside the Greek palikaria, Lord Byron, English Poet, reached Missolonghi, Greece in 1884 after paying four thousand pounds of his own money to spruce up the Greek fleet, but died of a fever before he had the chance to fight beside the Greeks.

Byron wrote his poem “The Isles of Greece” in support of the Greek War of Independence.

The reception of Lord Byron at Missolonghi Teodoros Vryzakis
The reception of Lord Byron at Missolonghi
 Teodoros Vryzakis

Video clip Philhellenism

With their sheer courage and determination, and much welcome help from European Philhellenes, Greece won independence from the Turks, after more than ten years of fighting, in July 1832, the Turkish sultan recognized Greek independence (Treaty of Constantinople; July 1832).

Grateful Hellas by Theodoros Vryzakis
Grateful Hellas
 by Theodoros Vryzakis

 Since becoming an independent state, Greece has been through thick and thin; two world wars, German occupation, a civil war and a dictatorship, and has come out the other side.

Greece is being tested again, this time with a financial crisis, hold your head up Greece, push on, you can do it, we’re all on your side, like true philhellenes, read these twelve  quotes from famous people about their love and respect for Greece, and take courage!

1. "Without Greek studies there is no education"


2. "I have never come across someone who could inspire more respect than the Greek philosophers"


3. "If in the library of your house you do not have the works of the ancient Greek writers then you have a house with no light"

Bernard Shaw

4. "Among all the enemies who stand against us, the Greek soldier fought with the most courage"


5. "How can any educated person stay away from the Greeks? I have always been far more interested in them than in science"

Albert Einstein

6. "I would prefer to be Greek rather than a heir apparent of a throne"

 Ludwig I King of Bavaria

7. "I am sorry because I am getting old and I shall not live long to thank the Greek People, whose resistance decided WW II."

Joseph Stalin

8.  “Global civilization owes a lot to Greece and we must never forget that”

Stephen Fry

9. Whatever, in fact, is modern in our life we owe to the Greeks. Whatever is an anachronism is due to medievalism.

Oscar Wilde

10. “We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts have their root in Greece”

 Percy Bysshe Shelley

11.  “If the violin is the most perfect musical instrument, the Greek language is the violin of the human thought.”

 Helen Keller

12.  “If the Gods speak, they will surely use the language of the Greeks.”


See more More Glorious Greek Words

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