Americans were moved by the sacrifices of the Greeks and the poems of Lord Byron. Due to the government policy of neutrality established by the Monroe doctrine (December 1823), it was Americans as individuals who gathered to support the Greek independence movement and established philhellenic societies throughout the United States. A common thread for all these “Grecians” was the effort to understand the land that they encountered not as a mirror of ancient Greece but as a modern nation that strove to stand on its feet.

The American philhellenes were conscious about the importance of the cause and believed in the need to share their experience with the world: the correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and Adamantios Korais centered on the latter’s publication of Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics and discussed the political development of modern Greece; the appeal of Petros Mavromichalis on behalf of the Greek revolutionaries to the “citizens of America” (March 25, 1821) was published in the North American Review—the oldest literary magazine in the nation—by Edward Everett, Eliot Professor of Greek Literature at Harvard; Everett used his connections to promote the Greek cause and advocate for American intervention in the Greek war; press coverage of the war in Greece was readily available in newspapers all over the United States, as were the speeches given by politicians who favored the Greek cause, such as Congressman Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John Randolph.

Inspiration came from the poems of Lord Byron, his infallible philhellenism and his sacrifice in Missolonghi (1824), as well as the exploits of Greek warriors that left a strong imprint on the American psyche. Fitz-Greene Halleck, an admirer of Byron, was inspired to write the poem “Marco Bozzaris” (1825), in which he expresses his admiration for the Greek hero. The Souliot Markos Botsaris was fatally wounded during a night sortie against the Turkish camp near Karpenisi. His death greatly inspired philhellenic literature and painting as it was compared with that of Leonidas in Thermopylae. Like the Spartans in Abbé Barthélemy's best-seller Young Anacharsis (1788), Botsaris’s men fought valiantly over his body so that the Turks would not take his head as loot.


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