In November 1916 a French detachment arrived at Piraeus and proceeded to Athens, in order to force the government to comply with the demands of the British and French allies. The French were pushed back by the Reservists; the skirmishes lasted for about a week resulting in decades of dead people from both parts and finally the French started to bomb Athens from their ships. A bit later the French detachment retired, but a blockade of Athens was imposed by the Allies which caused epidemics and famine that resulted in a great number of victims, especially children and elderly people. People, especially the royalists reacted violently: they persecuted the liberals and followers of Venizelos, caused damages to the equipment of the newspapers friendly to Venizelos, as well as to private houses. And, on the day after Christmas the Archbishop of Athens excommunicated Venizelos and an effigy of him was placed at Pedeion tou Areos and stoned by the crowd. The stack of stones remained on site for several years; it is the so-called “anathema” (“malediction”). However, the final result of this conflict was that Venizelos was officially recognized as the legal prime minister and returned to Athens; at the same time, the Allies started to press him to oust the king. Thus, in June 1917, the king Constaninos was forced to abdicate and leave his place to his younger son Alexandros (Alexander). Constantinos and his successor, George, departed for Switzerland from the port of Oropos at northern Attica.
These arrangements restored peace in Athens, although persecutions continued, this time against the royalists, but also against the socialists who had recently appeared. Greece entered the war on the side of Entente and Greek troops were fighting successfully at the front of Macedonia against the German and Bulgarian army. And, once the Central powers were defeated and capitulated, the Greek fleet, led by the battleship “Averof” was found at Constantinople (Istanbul), where it was placed under the commands of the Allies. According to the Treaty of Sevres, signed in 1920, Greece took the territories of Eastern Thrace up to the surroundings of Istanbul, the islands of Imbros and Tenedos, as well as Smyrna (Izmir) and its surroundings in the inland. In May 1919, a Greek corps had already disembarked at Smyrna, to take the government and organize the defense of the town and the area around.
These arrangements were far than welcomed by the nationalist Turk leader Kemal, who instigated people against the Greeks and the Entente. For a while, Greeks achieved to push back the Turkish nationalists from Eastern Thrace and continued to the inland of Asia Minor. This news was received in great enthusiasm; official celebrations took place, the buildings were flagged and a Te Deum was done in the Cathedral of Athens.
Everything looked to be nice, until an attempt on Venizelos’ life in Paris by two retired officers brought things upside down. A pogrom against the opponents of the prime minister started, in which the most important episode was the arrest and execution at Goudi of the leader of the opposition Ion Dragoumis, an intellectual, pretty moderate man. In addition, King Alexander, pretty popular, died of an infection caused by the bite of a monkey. Thus, the elections of 1920 took place in a heavy atmosphere; as his opponents promised the retirement of the army from Asia Minor, Venizelos, suprisingly enough, lost the elections and was forced to leave the country. Under the pretext of the new royalist government the Great Powers abandoned Greece and started to help Kemal who resigned in the inland of Asia Minor, carrying the Greeks after him. Well armed and supported by the powers interested in the area, Kemal and his army launched the final attack in August 1922; soon the Greek army retreated and put on the run. In a few days the Turkish troops entered Smyrna which they raided, while the Greek population, in panic, tried to move by any means from the town and the area, following the Greek army, which had already taken refuge at the islands of Chios and Lesvos. The situation was chaotic; some 300 thousands of Greeks were massacred and many others were lost. Fortunately, the majority of them achieved to move to the Greek islands and from there to mainland Greece. The Greek population that lived at the coast of Asia Minor for more than 3000 years was deracinated and disappeared from the area, as soon after, population exchange became compulsory. An immense number of refugees, some one million and a half people, arrived in Greece which, already being in a desperate economic condition due to the long war, had now to feed and take care of this people who arrived from Asia Minor, from Pontos and from Thrace.