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Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts Honors Greek Independence Day

Greek Independence Day
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts glowed in blue and white on Greek Independence Day. Credit: Greek Consulate of Boston

The venerable Boston Museum of Fine Arts is bedecked in the blue and white of the Greek flag to mark Greek Independence Day on both Wednesday, and Thursday, March 25.

To celebrate the 200 years of freedom after the Greek Revolution, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, one of the world’s top museums, featuring the exceptional George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing for Art of the Ancient World, joined in the effort to light buildings and bridges around the world in blue.

Greek Independence Day is celebrated annually on March 25th. On the nights of the 24th and the 25th, the Museum lit its grand Huntington Entrance blue and installed two Greek flags at the Entrance as well.

Boston was hotbed of Philhellenism during Greek War of Independence

The Consul of Greece in Boston, Stratos Efthymiou, says that the Consulate is “grateful to George Behrakis for inspiring this action and Matthew Teitelbaum, the MFA Director, for making it happen.”

The Boston area was a hotbed for Philhellenism during the Greek Revolution, with a number of notables, including Harvard-educated Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, going to Greece to fight in its War of Independence.

The 1821 Greek War of Independence erupted into the world of the early nineteenth century as Europe was being shaken to its roots by riots in many nations which threatened its monarchies.

It was greeted with enthusiasm by many ordinary people across Europe and the US, which is undoubtedly partly to do with the Greek origin of so much of the West’s classical heritage.

The uprising quickly become a cause célèbre in the Western world, giving rise to an impressive wave of what came to be known as “philhellenism,” or the love of Greece and its history.

Many Americans were inspired by the events in Greece as they had just fought for and won their own freedom from a great empire 45 years earlier.

Some wealthy Americans, including Howe, and western European aristocrats, including the renowned poet Lord Byron, actually took up arms and joined the Greek revolutionaries in the Greek War of Independence.

“We are all Greeks” Philhellenes join the fight in the Greek War of Independence

Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the major English Romantic poets, perfectly captured the overall mood of those years in his poem “Hellas.”

“We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our art have their roots in Greece. But for Greece … we might still have been savages and idolators.… The Modern Greek is the descendant of those glorious beings.”

The Ottoman massacres of Greeks at Chios in 1822 inspired Eugène Delacroix’s moving painting “Massacre of Chios;” other philhellenic works by Delacroix were inspired by a number of Lord Byron’s poems.

Byron, the most celebrated philhellene of all, gave his name, his prestige, his wealth — and ultimately his life — to the cause.

Greek Independence Day to be marked all over the Northeast

The Consul General of Greece in Boston spearheaded efforts for the commemoration in Massachusetts and elsewhere in New England.

Boston’s iconic Zakim Bridge and Longfellow Bridge will glow in the blue and white, along with a slew of other landmark bridges and buildings this week.

See the complete guide here for many of the New England commemorations on March 25.

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