On Sunday, the December 1st, 1913 the flag of the Hellenic Republic was raised on the top of the fortress of Firka, on the western side of the Harbor of Chania in presence of the King of Hellenes, Constantine, as well as the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos, whose role was key in the long struggle for Enosis, and a large, emotional and enthusiastic crowd of the proud Hellenes of Crete. The raising of the flag signified the long sought union of Crete with Mother Greece.
The brutal occupation of Christian Crete by the Moslem Turks lasted from 1669 to 1913, over 267 years, part of that time administered by the Egyptian Muslim lackeys of the Sublime Porte. During this bloody epoch, the constant and continuous battle cry by the heroic Cretan Christians was “Enosis”; for they knew that they were Hellenes and belonged as part of the nation known as the Hellenic Republic. When the Cretans raised their guns and fought, died and suffered, they did it for freedom and Enosis with Mother Greece.
Aid to the people of Crete during the period from 1830 through the time of Enosis was primarily from Greece, at times openly but many times surreptitiously, because the “Great Powers” for the most part opposed the rebellions and the removal of Ottoman authority. Many Philhellenes also came to the island in support of the Cretan cause. In 1867, some of the “Great Powers”, in a humanitarian gesture, supplied ships to remove Christian refugees from Crete, and to forestall future massacres.
Unfortunately, many Cretans converted to Islam during the 267 years, based on economic reasons for the most part. These Muslim converts often took part in Muslim militias known as “Bashi-Bazouks”, and participated in attacks and massacres against the Christians. It is estimated that the population of Crete was about 290,000 in the mid 19th century, with approximately 80,000 to 90,000 of these being converts to Islam. However, throughout this period, the Greek Christians were always a strong majority on the island. It was the existence and strong adherence of the Cretan Christians to their Orthodox faith throughout the struggle that sustained these heroes and permitted their ultimate emancipation and Enosis with Greece. This faith has existed on the island since the time of Saint Titus in 57AD.
The Greek War of Independence, celebrated each year on March 25, lasted from 1821 to 1829, when Greece was finally recognized as an independent nation at the signing of the “Protocol of London” on January 22nd, 1830. However, the agreements of the “Great Powers” (Austria, Prussia, Britain, France, Russia) prevented Crete from joining in this, and the Cretans had to struggle for another 83 years to achieve union with Greece. Bloody rebellions against the Muslim Ottoman Turks and their Egyptian lackeys were a way of life for the Christian Cretan people, and there were many such uprisings, including:
• Daskalogiannis Revolt (1770)
• Crete during the Greek War of Independence (1821–1828)
• Cretan Revolt (1841)
• Cretan Revolt (1866–1869)
• Cretan Revolt (1878)
• Cretan Revolt (1897-1898)
• Theriso Revolt (1905-1912)
One of the biggest and most important of all the Cretan rebellions was the revolt of 1866 to 1869. It was during this revolt that the Holocaust of the Monastery of Arkadi occurred, on November 8th 1866. It was the international recognition of the struggle of the people of Crete after the Holocaust of Arkadi that eventually lead, after additional bloody revolts and political struggles, to Enosis.
The last revolt on the list, at Theriso, under the leadership of Eleftherios Venizelos, Konstantinos Foumis and Konstantinos Manos, took place after the Turks were forced to grant autonomy to the Island on December 4, 1897. Although Crete was granted autonomy, legally it was still under the authority of the Ottoman Turkish Empire during this period, and officially remained a part of the Empire until Enosis.
The goal of the Theriso revolt was to force the hands of the Great Powers and the King of Greece to finally end Turkish rule, and unite the island with Greece. There never existed an independent Cretan State, although many incorrect references may be found to this term, as well as a flag purporting to represent it. Since there never existed an independent nation of Crete, there can not be an official flag for it as a nation, although there was a flag used while the island continued under autonomous Turkish authority.
The first Balkan War against Turkey in October 1912 was the spark needed by the Cretans to finally achieve Enosis. The defeat of Turkey in this war and the “Treaty of London” on May 30, 1913 required Turkey to relinquish her title to Crete. On November 1, 1913, Greece and Turkey signed an agreement in which the Sultan gave up all claims to Crete. Exactly one month later, on December 1, 1913, the flag of the Hellenic Republic was raised over the Firka in Chania; Crete was at last free, and part of the independent nation of Greece.