Metaxas’ early years
Ioannis Metaxas was born in Ithaca at April 12, 1871. His family roots refer in Byzantium. For more than 500 years, the Metaxas family offered warriors, diplomats, politicians, thinking men, revolutionists and clerics. The head of the Metaxas family was Markos Antonios, who was advisor and co-warrior of the Emperor Constantinos Palaiologos.
In 1879 the Metaxas family returns at Kefalonia where John Metaxas finishes up the Argostoli (the capital of Kefalonia) highschool. As a student he was excellent and genius. He enters the Officers’ Military School in 1885 and graduates with excellent degree as a sub lieutenant.
At this time, the “Great Idea” for “Magna Grecia” has earned the general population. In 1894, the Patriotic Movement develops on laographic and historical bases and a military action via the “Ethniki Etaireia” (“National Society”). Ioannis Metaxas joins that movement with lots of officers such as Pavlos Melas and Mazarakis. In this movement there are artists and thinking men, like Xenopoulos, Karkavitsas, Palamas, Lytras, Zeppos, Svoronos, Politis, etc. In the mean time, Metaxas realizes that the liberty of our slaved brothers shall come only by our own powers, but only after we get military prepared.
King Constantine congratulates Metaxas for his offer at the unfortunate war of 1897 and asks him to study at the “War Academy” of Berlin. He does join the Academy. As usual, he was an excellent student which made the authors of the Academy to write a sign on a wall, writing: “NO UNSOLVED PROBLEM FOR IOANNIS METAXAS” (“NICHT PROBLEM UNGELÖST FÜR IOANNIS METAXAS”). He graduates with excellent degrees and takes a tour in several European cities and returns in Athens where he offers his serves on the reorganization of the Greek army.
In 1909, Metaxas marries Lela Chatziioannou. Greece enters a rather liquid political situation. Changes after changes come over and over again. The Venizelos’ government appears to be corrupted with several scandals. The Second Balkan War finds Greece unprepared. In order to avoid worst situations, Metaxas is sent to negotiate with Taxim Pasha, along with Dragoumis and Dousmanis. The successful end of the negotiations averts the Bulgarians from taking over Thessaloniki. He comes back to Athens where he disagrees with Venizelos about the Dardanelles fight. The result (total destruction of the English – French corps) justifies Metaxas.
During the years 1934-1935, the governments change in no time. Gounaris, Venizelos, Zaimis, Kalogeropoulos, Lambros, Skouloudis, do their time on the governor’s chair. The civil war can be clearly seen looming on the horizon. Metaxas returns to the General Army Staff and leaves as a Colonel in July 1916.
In 1917, King Constantine is forced to resign. The Venizelos government comes in Athens. During the three years that Venizelos was ruling, the government chased officers, ambassadors, judges, priests and policemen. Metaxas, Dragoumis, Merkouris and many more are banished. In 1920, Venizelos loses the elections. The Greek corps at this time are at Ionia and the political things make them get confused. The English General Wilson writes in his diary about a conversation he had with Venizelos in May 19, 1920: “I told him face to face that he ruined his country and himself at Smyrni, and the poor man agreed”.
Metaxas returns to Greece and decides to join politics. He gives long fights to solve the problems that caused Greece a political and spiritual dead end. In 1920, Ion Dragoumis get murdered by Venizelos’ funs. Until 1936 Metaxas joins in the governments, offering a lot. Somehow, he refuses to join in some of them. He feels tired by the political situations and takes a rest. He might very well be thinking about abolishing Parliamentarism and take Greece out of the well…