The Megali Idea (Greek: Μεγάλη Ιδέα Megáli Idéa, the "Big Idea") was an irredentist concept of Greek nationalism that expressed the goal of establishing a Greek state that would encompass all ethnic Greek-inhabited areas, including the large Greek populations that after the restoration of Greek independence in 1830, from the Ottoman Empire, still lived under Ottoman occupation.
The term appeared for the first time during the debates of Prime Minister Ioannis Kolettis with King Otto that preceded the promulgation of the 1844 constitution. This was a visionary nationalist aspiration that was to dominate foreign relations and, to a significant extent, determine domestic politics of the Greek state for much of the first century of its independent existence. If the expression was new in 1844, the concept had roots in the Greek popular psyche, nurtured as it was by prophecies and legends that had kept hopes of eventual liberation from Turkish rule and imperial (Byzantine) restoration alive. This is reflected in the folk saying:
Πάλι με χρόνια με καιρούς,
- πάλι δικά μας θα 'ναι!
The Megali Idea implied the goal of reviving the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire by establishing a Greek state, which would be, as ancient geographer Strabo wrote, a Greek world encompassing mostly the former Byzantine lands from the Ionian Sea to the west, to Asia Minor and the Black Sea to the east, and from Thrace, Macedonia and Epirus to the north, to Crete and Cyprus to the south. This new state would have Constantinople as its capital: it would be the "Greece of Two Continents and Five Seas" (Europe and Asia, and the Ionian, Aegean, Marmara, Black, and Libyan Seas, respectively).
The Megali Idea dominated foreign policy and domestic politics of Greece from the War of Independence in the 1820s through the Balkan wars in the beginning of the 20th century. It started to fade after the defeat of Greece in the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) and the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922, followed by the exchange of population between Greece and Turkey in 1923. Despite the end of the Megali Idea project in 1922, the Greek state expanded five times in its history, either through military conquest or through successful diplomacy (often with British support). In particular, after the creation of Greece in 1830, the following regions were annexed and still are Greek territory: Ionian Islands (1864), Thessaly (1881), southern Macedonia, Crete, southern Epirus and the Eastern Aegean Islands (1913), Western Thrace (1920), and the Dodecanese (1947).
Read more about Megali Idea: Fall of Constantinople, Greeks Under Ottoman Rule, Greek Independence, Cretan Revolt and Greco-Turkish War (1897), After The Population Exchange, World War II, The Annexation of The Dodecanese and The Cyprus Question, Greco-Turkish Relations
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