The motto arose during the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s, where it was a war cry for the Greeks who rebelled against Ottoman rule. It was adopted after the Greek War of Independence. It is still in use today. There is a popular theory regarding the use of 9 stripes (for the nine syllables of the motto) in the Greek flag, the five blue stripes for the syllables "Έλευθερία" and the four white stripes "ή Θάνατος". The motto symbolized and still symbolizes the resolve of the people of Greece against tyranny and oppression.
The Filiki Eteria as its emblem had the letters "ΗΕΑ" and "ΗΘΣ". These are the letters of the words "Ή ΕλευθερίΑ" "Ή ΘάνατοΣ", which means "Either Freedom, or Death." Also, this is the motto of the 4th Infantry Division of the Greek Army.
The Greek revolt was precipitated on March 25, 1821, when Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of revolution over the Monastery of Agia Lavra in the Peloponnese. The cry “Freedom or Death” became the motto of the revolution. The Greeks experienced early successes on the battlefield, including the capture of Athens in June 1822, but infighting ensued.