The Battle of Navarino (SHP Collection). Philhellenism leads to the first European policy, based on the common values ​​of Europe.


Xeni D. Baloti

In world history there is one movement which appeared once, it concerned a specific people and was endorsed by citizens, at least from the whole European continent. We refer to the Movement of Philhellenism that manifested itself before the Greek Revolution with Voltaire and Winkelman and culminated during it.

Philhellenism mobilized thousands of citizens from the Iberian Peninsula to Russia and from Scandinavia to Sicily. The motivation for the participation of the Philhellenes in favor of the liberation of Greece from the Ottoman occupation, regardless of the way it manifested itself (provision of financial assistance such as e.g. by Ludwig I of Bavaria, direct participation in the Greek forces, such as from the German General Norman, the Italians Tarella and Dania, and many other French, Polish, Swiss, etc. Philhellenes who sacrificed themselves in the Battle of Petta, or the mobilization of the intellectual world in Europe in favor of the Greeks, as e.g. of Chateaubriand and Lord Byron), was the same: it stemmed from their desire to resurrect the country that laid the foundations of European culture. In other words, to defend their common European culture by expressing for the first time in the history of our continent, a common European consciousness. In this way, an article on the topicality of the anniversary event of the Greek war for independence of 1821, two centuries later could be summed up in a single sentence: the Greek Revolution of 1821 is the first manifestation of our common European consciousness. The European edifice that began to be implemented in 1957 with the Treaty of Rome, just after a war, has its roots in 1821 when many European citizens first expressed their common cultural identity, claiming common social conditions, with the revolutions of 1848, named the “The Springtime of the Peoples” and Victor Hugo’s speech on the “Creation of the United States of Europe”, in 1849, they aimed at world peace in the context of interstate relations where one state was Europe and the other one was the USA. Victor Hugo’s proposal was perceived a romantic one.

However, almost two centuries later, the Greek crisis of the summer of 2015 and the road towards Grexit, brought back to the surface the element of romanticism, a component of Phihellenism, when the then President of the European Commission J-C Junker said, amid huge economic and political competitions, to all Member States wishing Greece to leave the European institutions, that “without Greece, Europe’s component would be missing.” The statement may have seemed innocent. However, its consequences were decisive because they focused on what Europe is: a set of nation-states with a distinct course over the centuries, but with a common consciousness around Greek civilisation.

In 2020, Philhellenicism does not exist in its historical sense, however the claim to achieve a common goal with common tools within a continent that must survive with a common future, is expressed as an irony of history, in the sense of “European solidarity”, in order to deal with the multiple problems created by the pandemic of coronavirus, a concept that stems from the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle.

So, if the Philhellenism of 1821 highlighted our common European consciousness, then 200 years later, its celebration offers to the EU the brilliant opportunity to return to the fundamental values ​​of its civilization and reap what it sowed.