AIoannis Metaxas was born in Ithaca, Greece, on 12th April, 1871. He fought in the Thessalian campaign against the Turks in 1897 and helped reorganize the Greek Army before the Balkan Wars (1912-13) when he became Chief of the General Staff.
On the outbreak of the First World War, the Greek prime minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, favoured an alliance with Britain, France and Russia against the Central Powers. Metaxas, a supporter of the pro-German King Constantine I, opposed intervention in the war.
When Eleftherios Venizelos was re-elected after a landslide victory in March 1915, he ordered the mobilization of the Greek Army. Over 150,000 men were called up and most of them were sent to help defend the borders of Serbia. When Venizelos invited the Allied forces to Salonika he was dismissed by Constantine I.
Eleftherios Venizelos escaped to Crete where he formed a provisional revolutionary government. With the support of Allied forces at Salonika, Venizelos made plans to march on Athens. In June 1917 Constantine I was deposed and Venizelos was able to regain power.
On 29th June, 1917, Eleftherios Venizelos declared war on the Central Powers. The 60,000 soldiers recruited by Venizelos in Crete, provided the core of the new army. Eventually 250,000 Greek soldiers saw action in the war, including the highly successful Vardar Offensive. During the war, the Greek Army had around 15,000 men killed and another 85,000 wounded.
George II, the son of Constantine I, came to the throne in 1922. The following year Metaxas founded the pro-Royalist, Party of Free Opinion. However, Greece was a republic from May 1924 until November 1935 when Metaxas helped restore the former king to the throne.
Metaxas was appointed prime minister in April 1936. Fearing the growth of the Communist Party in Greece, George II gave his approval to Metaxas closing down parliament in August 1936, and establishing a fascist right-wing military dictatorship.