Why isn’t Greece Islamic today?

Nov 07 2011

Jeremy asks why (considering the dominance of the Ottoman Empire after the fall of Constantinople) Greece isn’t Islamic today.

First and foremost Greek culture was much more deeply rooted than the Ottoman one since it predates even Islam by more than a millennium.  There were those who adopted the prevailing faith and culture, but they were always a minority.  Perhaps given enough time ‘Greekness’ would have been drowned out but it would have taken much longer than five centuries.  For example, Constantinople- the capital of the Ottoman Empire- had a significant Greek populace and character until the population exchange of the 1920’s.  The same is true for many coastal areas in modern Turkey.  They remained Greek Christian enclaves until the exchanges of the twentieth century.

A second reason is that much of the Ottoman energy and vitality had been expended by the time the Greek heartland was taken.  For a century it appeared as if the Ottomans couldn’t be stopped, but when Suleiman the Magnificent besieged Vienna in 1532, his failure to take it marked the beginning of a 400 year decline.  The Ottoman Empire became a bloated, weak figure- christened the ‘sick man of Europe’ by the Russian Tsar.  (You know you have problems when you get a derisive nickname from Europe’s most corrupt monarch whose own empire is about to collapse)  At the same time there was a growing European appreciation of all things Greek which fueled a new wave of patriotism.  Since the ‘re-discovery’ of antiquity during the Renaissance there was a steady stream of pan-Hellenic feeling – best exemplified by Lord Byron who wrote and fought for the Greeks during the war for Independence.  If there was any question of Islamic or Ottoman culture supplanting the Hellenic one it had vanished by this point.

5 responses so far

  1. True, Orothodox Christianity was deeply rooted with the Greek people. Granted, there is a small number of Greeks that are probably Muslem and there is a tiny neo-pagan movement. Historical development and culture habits are rooted. In the west, the Orthodox verison of Christanity is weak because either Roman Catholicism or Protestism was rooted in western Europe or the USA.

  2. Off topic here, but some problems of Byzantium are very modern as well. Take Novel 14 of the Justinian Code which deals with the child prostitution problem. And in the buildings which mentions the convent that Justinian and Theodora converted for a place for ex-prostitutes. So much of Byzantium is modern as well.

  3. Another factor is the relative \tolerance\ (to use a modern term) of the Ottoman style of governance. Instead of attempting to convert many different people with different religious and cultural traditions – although, of course, some did convert because of the perks of having the same religion as the ruling power, such as being eligible to take up official posts and paying lower taxes – the Ottoman empire established a system of \millets\, or religious communities, which functioned with a certain degree of autonomy. Thus Orthodox subjects could keep their own courts and laws and religious establishments, as long as they did not come into direct conflict with Ottoman laws.

  4. I agree with you there. I believe the Ottoman’s appointed the Patriarch for the Orthodox Church to keep the Orthodox loyal to the empire. Also, the rivality among Greeks and Turks I believe is more the development of the past 200 years or so when the Greeks went for independent. There were Greeks killed in Turkey in the 20th century by Turks, hence the hatred of Greeks and Turks currently.

  5. I believe this explanation partially, a lot of Greeks converted, but they were killed/deported after the independence. They were killed or deported through more than 150 years from Greece after independence. This is very rarely mentioned or explained in many sources but the truth is the truth.

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