- Near Eastern Dreams: The French Occupation of Castellorizo 1915-1921, and: Experiencing Dominion: Culture, Identity, and Power in the British Mediterranean (review)
- Journal of Modern Greek Studies
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 21, Number 2, October 2003
- pp. 283-287
- View Citation
- Additional Information
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Journal of Modern Greek Studies 21.2 (2003) 283-287
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Nicholas C. Pappas, Near Eastern Dreams: The French Occupation of Castellorizo 1915-1921. Rushcutters Bay, New South Wales: Halstead Press. 2002. Pp. 162.
Thomas W. Gallant,Experiencing Dominion: Culture, Identity, and Power in the British Mediterranean. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. 2002. Pp. 264. $40.00.
Some historians ignore the larger picture and general trends to focus on small events or minor issues; such appears to be the case with the authors of Near Eastern Dreams and Experiencing Dominion, as both examine short and seemingly insignificant colonial interludes in the history of modern Greece. Pappas and Gallant, however, also have larger agendas. To justify his attention to such a brief period of foreign rule on a tiny undistinguished island, Pappas frames his analysis in the context of French colonial "occupation and achievement" in general with special attention to the Levant while Gallant situates his consideration of Britain's occupation of the Ionian Islands in a larger imperial context with frequent comparisons and contrasts to the circumstances of other British colonies.
For those unfamiliar with the history of European colonialism in what is today Greece, both authors provide a good background. Castellorizo, a diminutive island in the Dodecanese chain close to the Turkish coast, was liberated from centuries of Ottoman rule only in 1913 when it briefly became a part of Greece before falling under French control for a short time between 1915 and 1921. Pappas argues that the possession of Castellorizo by the French was almost accidental, but eventually became the subject of a contest between the "naval adventurers" who were responsible for its occupation and governance and advocated retention, and politicians and bureaucrats in Paris who saw no advantage in holding onto the tiny island after World War I. He describes this struggle as "the last attempts by the naval elite to influence French overseas expansion" (10). British colonial rule in the Ionian Islands (and Kythera) lasted a mere half-century from 1815 until 1864. It followed a brief spell under Napoleonic France preceded by almost four centuries of Venetian rule. Without neglecting the larger issues of nineteenth century imperialism, Gallant focuses on the special circumstances of this particular case of British colonialism, exploring the themes of hegemony, violence, and identity in a fully interdisciplinary mode.
Pappas's catalogue of French impressions of the islanders and Greeks in general (101, 109-110 et passim) reveals that they echo the sentiments of the [End Page 283] British toward the Ionian Greeks as noted by Gallant. Unlike the British in the Ionians, however, who coped with the paradox of colonizing fellow Europeans by classifying them as "Mediterranean Irish," the French on Castellorizo orientalized their subjects by focusing on the "superstitious" nature of Orthodoxy. Pappas cites sixteenth century French accounts that describe the contemporary Greeks as "heretics" and "schismatics" and as the decadent, debased ancestors of the noble ancient Greeks, descriptions that accord with British depictions of the Ionian islanders.
Pappas gives a very detailed account of the nature of French colonial rule, placing Castellorizo in the context of other French possessions, both in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. He traces the evolution of "la France du Levant" from a vague and amorphous concept to "an expression of France's imperialist dreams." Thus the island was valued as a stepping stone to and from France's other Levantine possessions: Syria, Lebanon and part of Cilicia. It was also promoted as a stopover on the way to Southeast Asia where France had additional holdings.
France's original intention was to use Castellorizo as a base for military action against the Germans during World War I. To the admirals and governors of the island, it was the pince de homard not only because of the role they envisioned it playing in the interdiction of German submarines and warships, but owing to the fact that the island's shape resembled a lobster claw. Later, with the...