The Greek National Anthem is one of the most recognizable anywhere in the world, and it is the longest of any such song, written by the country’s “National Poet,” Dionysios Solomos.
Its title is “Hymn to Liberty” (Greek: “Yμνος εἰς τὴν Ἐλευθερίαν”). It was written as a 158-stanza poem in 1823 on the Greek island of Zakynthos and printed one year later in Missolonghi.
The Solomos poem was inspired by the brave men who fought in the Greek War of Independence and Greece’s incredibly long, rich history.
In 1865, the King of Greece, George I, visited Corfu and heard the island’s philharmonic band performing the first three stanzas, which had been set to music by the operatic composer Nikolaos Mantzaros.
The King was so impressed that he ordered the band’s music to be played during official events; thus, “Hymn to Liberty” instantly became the National Anthem of Greece.
Beginning in 1966, it became the National Anthem of Cyprus as well after a decision by its Council of Minsters.
Greece’s National Anthem describes scenes from the War of Independence
The “Hymn to Liberty” deals with several themes from the War of Independence and other events from the long and illustrious Greek history.
The poet presents the goddess of liberty and recalls the past martyrdoms that occurred during the history of the country and the revolt of its “slaves” under foreign rule as well as the joys of being a Hellene.
Solomos also speaks of the the disdain European rulers had for Greece and the contemptuous indifference of the Greeks for their pro-Ottoman stance.
In stanzas 35 to 74 of the Greek National Anthem, the poet describes the battle and the fall of Tripolitsa, the Turkish capital and stronghold of the Peloponnese.
Stanzas 75 to 87 speak of the Battle of Corinth and the destruction of the mighty army of Drama Ali in Dervenakia.
The first siege of Missolonghi in 1822 and the drowning of the Ottomans in the river of Acheloos are described in stanzas 88 to 122 of the song.
The courageous naval engagements of the war, mainly the burning of the Turkish flagship near Tenedos, are described in stanzas 123 to 138 as well as the Turks’ barbaric hanging of Gregory, the Patriarch of Constantinople.
In the Epilogue (stanzas 139 to 158) of the Greek National Anthem, the poet advises former fighters to rid themselves of their harmful discord and petty differences and urges the powerful of Europe to allow Greece to be fully liberated.