Ottoman Empire

Posted by Ellen

Sunday marks the 101st anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I, when Allied forces tried and failed to gain control of the Dardanelles Straits connecting the Aegean and Mediterranean with the Sea of Marmara and the gateway to Asia, in what was then the Ottoman Empire. But honestly, we're not sure why Sunday is the official anniversary, since the nightmarish campaign actually began in January 1915 and dragged on for eight horrific months.

These bullets and many other similar specimens are on display in Turkey's Gallipoli historic museum. Pictures like this one show up on the internet from time to time as the spectacular consequence of "a mid-air collision." Although the two bullets did, of course, collide, the collision was apparently not in mid-air; no rifling marks are visible on the lighter-colored bullet, which we are told indicates that it was never fired. Perhaps it was in an ammunition clip or even a storage crate when it was struck by the darker-colored bullet.

More than 100,000 combatants died in the campaign, which involved Allied soldiers and sailors from England and France and many French and English colonies, including Newfoundland, New Zealand, India, and Senegal. The Ottoman forces that beat them back were led by Mustafa Ataturk, who went on to found the Republic of Turkey.

Posted by Ellen

 Militarily speaking, the Greek War for Independence from the Ottoman Turks went pretty badly for the Greeks throughout the 1820s. Their first leader, the heroic Alexander Ypsilanti, died in battle almost immediately; his successors were provincial military strongmen who squabbled with one another and could not sustain focus on the overall goal. Even when Greek warriors succeeded in wresting a town or an island from the Turks, they often failed to hold onto it for long, as ships belonging to the Ottoman ally Egypt patrolled the sea and starved out the Greek "victors."

But in the non-military propaganda war, which is what we see here in this 1826 painting by the Belgian-French artist Henri Decaisne, Greece performed magnificently. The philohellenism then fashionable in England, France, and Germany--the worship of all cultural things Greek--kept the war in the Western spotlight and provided the rebels with financial support, Romantic young volunteers, and ultimately military rescue and a Western-imposed peace settlement.

The British navy routed the Turks and Egyptians. Greek armies followed up on the naval victory with another round of attacks on the Turkish-held cities. Finally, in 1830, the crumbling Ottoman regime in Constantinople was forced to accept Western terms for Greek independence.

Decaisne called this painting, "Failed Military Operation."