Flight from Crete and Return

On account of the clashes in the course of the revolution, a significant part of the population of Crete abandoned the island. The Muslims headed to various parts of the Ottoman Empire, while the Christians scattered to the Aegean islands and free areas, mainly in the Peloponnese and Roumeli (Central Greece). On the revolutionaries’ side, the first major wave occurred in the spring of 1824, following the destruction of Sphakia. Thousands of refugees fled, both civilians and combatants, facing constant persecution by the Muslims, and in many cases poor treatment from the crews of the ships they turned to for salvation. A second large refugee wave followed in late 1830, after the final decision that Crete would not be incorporated into the fledgling Greek state. Temporarily settled in various areas, deprived of even the basic means of earning a living, the refugees adopted violent behaviour, often surviving thanks to Government aid. Over time most of them were forced to return to Crete, while a small number settled in the liberated areas.

The Activities of Expatriated Cretans

Even before the revolution broke out on Crete, various Cretans had a notable part to play in clashes in Moldavia and Wallachia, Asia Minor, the Peloponnese and the Aegean islands. Following the destruction of Sphakia, in March 1824, the activities of armed Cretans spread to the other areas in revolt. One of their first theatres of action was Kasos. Those who arrived in the Peloponnese got involved in the internal struggles between the revolutionaries, principally on the Government side, while action by them during Ibrahim’s invasion of the Peloponnese was just as significant. All the same, their objective was to recommence the revolution on Crete. Both the successful capture of Gramvousa in 1825 and the operations in Merambello in 1827 and Frangokastello in 1828, which, despite their failure, led to the revolution reigniting and consolidating across the island, were largely due to the action and initiatives of expatriated Cretans.