Unreliable history claims that this was the day in 1940 when, at a party at the German embassy in Athens, then prime minister Ioannis Metaxas was presented with an ultimatum by the Italian ambassador to either allow Axis troops to enter Greece to adopt ‘strategic locations’ or be invaded.
Metaxas probably didn’t reply, ‘Ohi’, although it became a popular Greek myth. Raised on the Italophone islands of Ithaca and Kefalonia, and himself a recent political exile in Italy, he would probably have replied in Italian, although another apocryphal history claims he actually said, ‘Alors, c’est la guerre!’ (‘Then, it’s war!’). Either way, Italian troops invaded from Albania at 6am the next morning, suggesting they already had their own ideas regardless of what Metaxas said at that party.
As the dictator at the head of the 1936 4th of August Regime, installed after a coup led by Metaxas himself, he is described by noted historian Richard Clogg as an admirer of Hitler and Mussolini, and was responsible for exiling thousands to the islands. Yet it’s also said he introduced the minimum wage, unemployment benefit, maternity leave, the 40-hour week and the two-week paid holiday. Alas, he died a few months after the Italian invasion and a few before the Nazis rolled into Athens and set about proving that his support for Hitler was the teensiest bit of a mistake.