Venizelos first came to prominence in the Cretan uprising, when the population of Crete rose against their Ottoman overlords.
When a force of 2,000 Greek soldiers landed on the island in 1897, many Cretan rebels saw this as their opportunity to act. Venizelos was in Crete at the time and hurried to a village where a large group of rebels had assembled.
He managed to install himself as their leader and directed them to take the peninsula of Akrotiri from the Turkish forces stationed there. After successfully routing this opposition, Venizelos and his men raised the Greek flag.
For this early act, Venizelos was to receive enduring acclaim as a patriot of the highest order.
Following Crete’s union with Greece, Venizelos became Prime Minister. Under his leadership, Greece initiated a broad reorganisation of its constitution, economy, and military.
Greece also doubled its territory after the Second Balkan War, acquiring most of Macedonia, Epirus, Crete, and the Aegean Islands.
When the Allies won WWI, Venizelos proved himself an able diplomat during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.
As a result of his statesmanship, Greece acquired further extensions of its territory into Western Thrace, Eastern Thrace, Smyrna, etc.
Despite these successes, the National Schism continued to be a problem at home.
When King Alexander died following a monkey bite in 1920, the following election became a contest between Venizelos and the former king, Constantine.
In a surprise defeat, Venizelos lost power and Constantine returned to Greece that year.
While Venizelos would return to power in 1928—during which period he achieved reconciliation with Turkey, and even signed a treaty of friendship between the two nations that had so recently been enemies.
Born: August 11, 1864