History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


I. The invasion of Macedonia by the Ottomans and the resistange of the Greeks


6. The distribution of Turkish settlements in Macedonia (end of 14th century)



Even while still engaged on further conquest, the Turks embarked upon the colonisation of certain areas. Two measures in particular ensured the consolidation of their new conquests: the distribution of timars to soldiers who had distinguished themselves, and the establishment of colonies of warlike Moslem communities in both lowland and mountainous areas. In recent years Bulgarian scholars have published items from Turkish archives which provide some interesting information about the Turkish fief-holders and their villages in the aforementioned regions, during the reign of Mehmed II [4].


From as early as the late 14th century, quite significant ethnological changes began to take place in what is now Greek Macedonia. Sizeable bands of Turks — particularly of warlike Yürüks [5] — were settled in fertile regions. Some such areas were by this time but sparsely inhabited, if not completely abandoned by the landowners and other inhabitants, who had fled in terror to seek refuge elsewhere. The remnants were soon driven out by the Turks to the mountains and other inaccessible areas. After 1385, during the reigns of Murad I (1362-1389) and Bayezid I (1389-1402), a considerable number of Yürüks — mainly farmers and shepherds — were settled around Sérres [6] and north-west of Thessa-



4. Turkish sources of Bulgarian History (in Bulgarian), edited by N. Todorov - B. Nedkov, vol. 13, Sofia 1966, pp. 389-479.


5. E. Werner, Yürüken und Wlachen. Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Karl-Marx-Universität, Leipzig 15 Jahrgang 1966. Gesellschaft- und sprachwissenschaftliche Reihe 15 (1966) 471-478, in which there is abundant bibliography.


6. See T. Gökbilgin, Rumeli ᾽de Yürükler, Tatarlar ve Evlâd-i Fâtihân, Istanbul 1957, p. 14, who acknowledges that they settled in those parts in 1385. See also Chalcocondyle, Darkó edit., vol. 1, p. 94.





lonicain the neighbourhood of Yenitsá. Many, too, established themselves in mountainous regions north of the Lake of Langadá (see fig. 13), as far as Sérres and Dráma, and perhaps at a later date as far as Kavála. Beaujour writes that they were settled in mountainous areas "in order to keep in check the Greeks who had been defeated but not subjugated". Α little later he observes that at the slightest hint of revolt the Yürüks fly to arms and descend upon the Greek villages to impose order" [1].


Α Turkish historian of the present day, Gökbilgin, indicates the number of ocaks or families of Yürüks in Demir Hisar (Siderókastro), Kalamaría, Dráma, Kavála, Sari Saban, and Çağlayik in the years



Fıg. 13. Yürüks from the region north of the lake of Langadá

Fıg. 13. Yürüks from the region north of the lake of Langadá.

(P. Traeger, Die Jürüken und Koniaren in Makedonien, «Zeitschrift für Ethnologie» 37 (1905) 202)



1543, 1584, 1586, 1591, and 1642 [2]. These communities together made up the largest group of Yürüks in the Balkans [3]. They had brought with them to northern Greece the rough and simple customs of their Turkoman ancestors [4]. In the case of Demir Hisar, according to an oral tradition which survived up to the beginning of this century, the town had been colonised from the surrounding Bulgarian-speaking areas as well as from Greek-speaking Melnik. The Turks gradually ousted the Greeks from their own quarter, the old Byzantine part called Lower Mahalá,



1. Beaujour, Tableau, 1, p. 325.


2. Gökbilgin, Rumeli᾽de Yürükler, pp. 12, 69, 70.


3. See a small treatise about them by P. Traeger, Die Jürüken und Koniaren in Makedonien, «Zeitschrift für Ethnologie» 37 (1905) 198-206.


4. Beaujour, Tableau, 1, pp. 325-326.





which constituted the lowest and most level portion of the district; and the Greeks were compelled to take refuge in the higher and waterless district of Varósi [1]. However, it is quite likely that some at least of the older inhabitants of Siderókastro (i.e. those who had settled there before the arrival of the Turks) stayed put or eventually returned to the places they had left.



Fig. 14. The religious Turkish edifices in Yenitsa (after World War I)

Fig. 14. The religious Turkish edifices in Yenitsa (after World War I).



In a Turkish census of the 16th entury the Yürüks of Central Macedonia are called 'Yürüks of Evrenos'. Most probably they had followed Evrenos, his son Bürak and his grant-son Umur in their conquests, and it is likely that they belonged to the commander's own tribe, having made their way from the region of Saruhan (between Magnesia and Aydin) [2]. These tribesmen had Yenidje Vardar (Yenitsá) as their religious centre (see fig. 14), where until recently was preserved the tomb of Ahmed Evrenos and various other religious edifices [3]. To the question which



1. G. Stivaros, Δεμὶρ Ἰσσάριον, «Μακεδονικὸν Ἡμερολόγιον» 1910, pp. 213-214.


2. See Omer Lüfti Barkan, Les déportations comme méthode de peuplement et de colonisation dans l’empire Ottoman. Extrait de la «Revue de la Faculté des Sciences Economiques de l'Université d'lstanbul», Ie année, No 1-4, Istanbul 1953, pp. 50-51.


3. Beaujour, Tableau, p. 116. Barkan, ibid., pp. 44-45.





were districts around Yenitsá where those first Turkomans settled, contemporary local tradition names only six villages: Asiklar, Kisalar, Asarbey, Nidir, Yayaköy and Karamja [1]. The verisimilitude of the tradition is supported by the rather charasteristic name of the village of Yayaköy; i.e. 'village' (köy) eof the infantry' (yaya).


Further, according to the census of the end of the 16th century [2], wandering bands of Yürüks — or Koniari (i.e. from Iconium) [3] as Boué calls them — were settled in south-west Macedonia in 1390, particularly in the districts of Kozáni, Sari Göl and Kaïlária (see map 4). These Turks were probably the descendants of the warlord, Pasha Yiğit-bey, the father of Turahan-bey of Thessaly, and had also been brought over from Saruhan [4]. When Evliya Çelebi visited them in the second half of the 17th century, they still performed the same military duties as of old, taking part in campaigns whenever the Sultan summoned them by special decree [5]. By the beginning of the 20th century, their descendants had become robust but peaceful cultivators of grain and makers of carpets. They conveyed their produce and wares to various small towns and villages of Western Macedonia, but Yánnina was their chief centre of trade. It is clear from all this that those early wandering tribesmen grew gradually accustomed to a farming life and in the end became thoroughly adapted to it [6]. By contrast, the Koniari of Karayánnia (a mountainous district in Western Macedonia) were of a more adventurous temper and inclined to brigandage, to the detriment of neighbouring Christian villages [7].


With the exchange of populations in 1923, the descendants of those Turkomans were transferred to Turkey; but right up to the time of their departure, these proud people never forgot that they were the 'children of the Conquerors' (Evlâdi Fatihan).



1. See on this subject D. Salamangas, Γιαννιώτικα ἱστοριοδιϕικὰ μελετήματα (τρεῖς ἐνθυμήσεις τῶν ἐτῶν 1584, 1591 καὶ 1630), Yannina 1958, pp. 89-91.


2. Barkan, Déportations, p. 50.


3. See Gökbilgin, Rumeli ᾽de Yürükler, pp. 1 ff. for full details as regards the confusion that has been created by the use of the various names, 'Yürüks', Koniari', 'Yürük Tartars', and even 'Tartars' by itself, both in their ethnological context and when dealing with the problems connected with the establishment of these tribes in Europe.


4. Barkan, ibid., p. 50. See also Traeger, Die Yürüken, «Zeitschrift für Ethnologie»37 (1905) 205.


5. Gökbilgin, ibid., pp. 76-77.


6. Traeger, ibid., pp. 205-206.


7. I. N. Photopoulos, Ἱστορία τῆς Σελίτσης (Ἐρατύρας), Athens 1939, pp. 69-70.





Map. 4. Ottoman expansion and settlement throughout Macedonia in the 14th century

Map. 4. Ottoman expansion and settlement throughout Macedonia in the 14th century.





The establishment of whole masses of Turks in the midst of Christian communities constituted a continuous threat and a constant source of anxiety for the latter. It followed that whenever a concession was obtained from the Sultan whereby the presence of a Turkish population was not permitted, or such that the passage and stationing of troops or garrisons in a particular town or village was forbidden, then the Christian inhabitants had secured for themselves a very significant privilege indeed [1].


After acquiring their huge estates by stripping the 'rayas' of their properties, the great Turkish warlords naturally took steps to ensure the greatest possible return from these by improving the organization and by strengthening the economic conditions of the conquered lands. Lala Shahin Pasha of the vilâyet of Philippopolis (who is said to have introduced the cultivation of rice into the district [2]), Gazi Ahmed Evrenos Bey in Macedonia, and Turahan in Thessaly are cases in point. These local dignitaries, up to the concluding years of Turkish rule, left amongst the inhabitants of those parts an unforgettable and ineffaceable reputation, that extended to their entire families; and around the generals which those families produced there grew up a whole web of legends and traditions. In Macedonia, for example, the rulers, Ahmet Evrenos and his son Ali were soon transformed into almost legendary figures, about whom the Moslem peoples of Central Macedonia, right up till the last, spoke with the deepest respect and admiration.


According to a manuscript in existence at the beginning of the the 19th century and at that time in the hands of Abdurahman-bey, who was then the chief of the family, Ahmet Evrenos with his grooms had won a victory over a Greek army of 3.000 men; he had won, in all, ten battles, and had slain with his own hand 2.000 of the enemy. We hear that he was endowed with Herculean strenght, able to kill a bull with his fists alone and then carry it on his shoulders [3]. One might note here the mention of numerous battles between Turks and Greeks,



1. See, immediately following, details about Naousa. During the first Turkish occupation of Thessalonica (1391-1402) the inhabitants appear to have enjoyed the same privileges. See A. Vacalopoulos, Οἱ δημοσιευμένες ὁμιλίες τοῦ ἀρχιεπισκόπου Θεσσαλονίκης Ἰσιδώρου ὡς ἱστορικὴ πηγὴ γιὰ τὴν γνώση τῆς πρώτης τουρκοκρατίας στὴν Θεσσαλονίκη (1387-1402), «Μακεδονικὰ» 4 (1955-1960) 32.


2. See Babinger, Beiträge, p. 48, note 51.


3. Beaujour, Tableau, 1, p. 114. See also p. 116. See further information in E. Cousinéry, Voyage dans la Macèdoine, Paris 1831, 1, pp. 86-87.





in which the latter suffered great losses (no doubt a reference to the resistance put up by Manuel II), and "bore the main weight of the fighting", as was the case also in Thrace [1]. By constrast, the resistance met in Upper Macedonia (beyond the present Greek frontiers) is described in the same manuscript as being of no great consequence. Ali, the son of Evrenos, with just a single detachment of troops, occupied the whole of Upper Macedonia, where, it is said, he won the affection of all by his moderation and benevolence [2]. Ali's easy advance is perhaps to be attributed to the fact that the district in question was but sparsely inhabited and did not possess such strong towns and fortresses as South or Lower Macedonia.


The spoken tradition, still current up to the last century, declared that Ali Bey and his tutor, Sheikh Lianis (who was renowned for his eloquence and agreeable manner), undertook to spread the Moslem faith in the neighbourhood of Yenitsá, and had actually achieved remarkable success in this field [3]. Later on Ali was killed by his cruel father because, by accident, he had offended Murad II. Ηe was buried in the chief mosque of Yenitsá [4]. These mosques, incidentally, were built from remains of the palaces of the Macedonian kings of Pélla [5].


The story of the Evrenos family is woven into the very history of Central Macedonia; and their properties stretched over its fertile plains as far as the foothills of the Vérmion massif. There is actually mention that in 830 A.H. (1426) the Sultan granted to Ahmed Evrenos the whole of the district comprising the plain of Thessalonica, south of Yenitsá. One particular privilege bestowed upon the Evrenos family was the office of istiraci, that is the collector of the 'Sultan's tithe' (istira). This office was hereditary, to be held by one of the descendants of the Evrenos family [6].



1. Pero Tafur, Travels and Adventures 1435-1439, Transl. and edited with an Introduction by Malcom Letts, New York - London 1926, p. 128.


2. Beaujour, Tableau, vol. 1, pp. 114-115.


3. See I. Vasdravellis, Ἱστορικὰ περὶ Ναούσης ἐξ ἀνεκδότου χειρογράϕου, «Μακεδονικὰ» 3 (1953-1955) 132-133.


4. Beaujour, ibid., vol. 1, p. 116.


5. Beaujour, ibid., vol. 1, p. 87.


6. Beaujour, ibid., vol. 1, pp. 111-112,116.


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