US News In Greece, a museum celebrating foreign heroes for the bicentenary of independence
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A museum honoring hundreds foreign veterans who fought in Greece's War of Independence will open in Athens as part of the 200th anniversary of the 1821 revolution, celebrated on March 25 in the Greek capital.
Among these heroes, Lord Byron, the English romantic poet who died in 1824 while fighting for the liberation of Greece from the Ottoman Empire.
"The philhellenic movement appealed to all social classes, it was an unprecedented vertical and horizontal movement," Constantinos Velentzas, founder of the museum and private collector, told AFP.
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In the museum, there will be a "3D virtual tour" to "address a large audience that is not only based in Greece", adds this IT entrepreneur based in Luxembourg.
"We want people to understand how it was in Greece during this period", explains t -he.
Hundreds of paintings, letters, books, weapons and pamphlets, dating from the Greek Revolution, will be on display at the Philhellenic Museum in Athens from April but can be seen online as of this month.
Among the rare items on display, a letter from the Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolutionary War, sketches of the Greek revolutionary flag and the register of a warship which took part in the key battle of Navarino.
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Mr. Velentzas, who left Greece at the age of 15, says it took him a decade to put the collection together, helped by a "team that followed auctions across Europe and the United States".
"It's not a hobby, it's a mission," he says.
A key figure in the Romantic movement, Lord Byron was among the hundreds of Europeans and Americans who had joined the fight for Greek independence, inspired by Greek ideals.
Former rivals of the Napoleonic wars had found themselves fighting side by side to defend Greece.
- Bicentennial celebrations -
Among the Philhellenes celebrated in the future museum are also Karl Rudolf Brommy, who later helped establish Germany's first unified fleet, and Frank Hastings, an English naval officer who launched and directed the first Greek steam warship "Karteria".
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Begun in March 1821, the Greek Revolution was almost lost in 1824 due to an invasion of Egypt, then a vassal state of the Ottoman Sultan. But the war was ultimately won thanks to the military intervention of England, France and Russia, who had defeated the Ottomans and Egyptians in the decisive naval battle of Navarino in 1827. Greece became independent of the Ottoman Empire in 1830.
The non-profit company behind the museum also plans a monument bearing the names of 1,500 foreign volunteers who fought for Greece.
Among the invited personalities for the parade of the bicentenary of Greek independence, on March 25 in Athens, are French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prince Charles and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
But the visit of these leaders will be possible only "if the evolution of the pandemic allows it", declared the spokesman of the government Aristotelia Peloni.
On the occasion of the bicentenary, Greece will mint 1.5 million 2 euro commemorative coins bearing the image of the Greek flag. It has also produced more than ten limited edition pieces, including reproductions of the coins of 1828 and 1832.
If many events have been canceled due to a pandemic, two major Athenian museums will mark the event. The National Gallery will reopen on March 24, after eight years of renovation. And the Benaki Museum launched an online eight-month exhibition featuring more than 1,200 objects and paintings on Greek history from 1770 to 1870.
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