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Greeks call for better preservation of Byron’s memory


Published: 18:48, 18 May 2024

Update: 18:51, 18 May 2024

Greeks call for better preservation of Byron’s memory

Photo: Collected

Greece continues to honor Lord Byron's contribution to the Greek struggle for national independence, but more should be done to preserve the memory of his deeds and sacrifices in the name of Greek freedom.

This spring marked the bicentenary of the famous Romantic poet’s death during his stay in Greece, where he traveled to support the Greek revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Known for his admiration of Greek culture, Byron played an important part in that by raising money to fund the rebellion as well as being a liaison between Greek independence fighters and their supporters in the United Kingdom. He passed away from fever in the Greek port town of Missolonghi, aged 36, with his death further fueling support for the Greeks across Europe and giving him the status of a Greek national hero.

"Lord Byron was an amazing character, an adventurer, a person who really loved Greece and the people living in this part of the world. He gave everything for Greece, even his personal wealth, to support the Greek cause [for independence against the Ottomans] and finally he made the ultimate sacrifice giving his own life for the cause of the Greek freedom," said Eleni, a 56-year-old teacher from Athens.

Unfortunately, Greek people are nowadays preoccupied with their daily lives, so they lack time to think about the sacrifices of people like Byron, she added.

"There are people with individual interest which they research this time period, but Greek schools, although they teach the Greek War of Independence, don’t focus in detail in the events of that period, so younger generations can’t understand in depth what it took for us to be free now from the Ottoman occupation. We should pay more tribute to people like Lord Byron or first leader of post-Ottoman Greece Ioannis Kapodistrias as Greece wouldn’t be the place that we know now without them," Eleni explained.

In a similar vein, Ioannis, a 42-year-old bookstore owner from Heraklion, suggested that there is a need for more people like Byron, but "people don’t care anymore."

"I think we need in Greece nowadays more citizens and especially more politicians that have the same love for the country like Lord Byron did. We need to get inspiration from the personalities and the heroes of the Greek War of Independence and apply their ideals in our daily life," Ioannis said, adding that "the State need to boost plans and events so to reintroduce the life and achievements of Lord Byron and other heroes of the Greek War of independence to the public."

He went on to lament the fact that the memory of this period of Greek history is fading with each generation, suggesting that schools have not been teaching the Greek War of independence as much since the country joined the European Union in 1981.

"I think they want to cultivate to the younger generations less the feeling of national pride, as they want through that to achieve more social assimilation with other EU member states. Especially in recent years, in some cases, even if you have a Greek flag on your balcony, you are under the threat of being called an ultra-nationalist here in Greece. Everything that is connected to healthy national pride, including the collective memory of the Greek War of Independence, is labeled as toxic from the mainstream media of the country and every Greek who shows love for our country is labeled as weird," Ioannis observed.

At the same time, Stelios, a 35-year-old software developer from the city of Rethimno, is more optimistic about younger Greeks, saying that while their individual knowledge may vary, this is the way with every generation, and that all Greeks have basic knowledge of that period.

"We are grateful to people like Lord Byron, his actions and sacrifice is an inspiration for all of us to this date ... we have many squares and streets named after Lord Byron and other heroes of the Greek War of Independence, and every generation is learning in detail all aspects from of the Greek War of Independence at school," he stated.