History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


V. Population movements in Macedonia


1. The revival of the old urban centres and the formation of new ones



While Thessalonica and other Macedonian towns and cities were being colonised by Jewish refugees, the impoverished Christian peoples were beginning to abandon their now overcrowded mountain retreats and return to old or new commercial centres, both inland and on the coast. This movement back to the lowland areas, growing ever stronger with the passage of time, was co-extensive with the steady development of East-West trade.


Indeed, through a happy coincidence, the increase in trade and travel which began to make itself felt in the Near East — and in fact throughout the world generally, following the discovery of the new lands in the 16th and 17th centuries — answered in no small measure the problems of the surplus Greek and other Balkan mountain people, for it afforded them some release from their bondage and economic degradation.


Living as they did at the crossroads of East and West, the Greeks were able to reap the benefit of this upsurge of world trade. In addition to the older city-dwellers, there were many newcomers to be seen in the urban centres; people who had moved in from the interior — from the countryside where life had become insufferable, particularly for those living in the mountains: the stock-rearers and shepherds, the labourers and artisans; people who were not closely tied to small strips of land as were the plain-dwellers, and who pulled up their roots to take what comes [1].



1. On this subject see Todorov, Concerning some questions about the Balkan city (in Bulgarian), «Ist. Pregled» 18 (1962), part 1, pp. 52-54.





Such men as these, ill-used by life, made their way down to the plains and the coast to sell their produce or to find work.


Α good number would be initiated into commerce, applying themselves to it with gusto. With patience, tenacity and versatility, they found ways of surmounting the obstacles put in their way by the local Turkish authorities, or arising out of the prevailing lack of security [1]. Nor was this all. They had to compete with privileged and wealthy merchants from the rest of Europe; the Venetians to begin with, and later the French, who under Francis I (1494-1547) had made the first trade agreement with the Turks and had secured many trading concessions — the well-known 'capitulations'; and later on came the English, who had likewise secured a good share of advantages.


From the end of the 15th century, therefore, a number of factors combined in promoting an increase in the population of older established urban centres [2] and the gradual formation of new ones; for with the consolidation of the Turkish conquests, the effect of the rising birthrate was supplemented by the influx of impoverished inhabitants from the mountain regions of the interior (though the stages in the development of these various settlements constitute a problem which really belongs to the sphere of historical geography).


An influx of the inhabitants from the interior must have certainly have occured at Thessalonica, Monastir and Skopje (a point discussed earlier), and at Byzantine Cassandria, which at the end of the 16th century had some 2.000 houses, 60 priests and an episcopal seat [3]. Although we find Cassandria mentioned at the end of the 17th century [4], only a few traces of its walls survive today.


Α similar influx of Greeks from the interior must have taken place at the newly-founded Kavála (see fig. 50). The information that Belon gives us regarding the settlement of Kavála and relating more generally to other towns of Eastern Macedonia, is particularly interesting. According to



1. Regarding the difficulties of trade see full details in Robert Walpole, Memoirs relating to European and Asiatic Turkey and other countries of the East, 2nd edit., London 1818, p. 6.


2. See interesting details relating to the increase of population in the Balkan urban centres in Todorov's study, Concerning some questions, etc. (in Bulgarian), «Ist. Pregled» 18 (1962), part 1, pp. 32-58.


3. Em. Legrand, Notice biographique surJean et Theodore Zygomalas, Paris 1889, p. 128.


4. Roberts', Adventures among the corsairs of the Levant (1692) etc., London 1699, p. 33.





the French naturalist, Kavála was colonised on the site of the abandoned and ruined city of Christopolis after the war between Turkey and Hungary [1], perhaps in 1527 or 1528 [2]. The Grand Vizier, Ibrahim Pasha (1493-1536), celebrated for his numerous public benefactions, had the Roman aquaduct repaired to bring water to Kavála; and this was to prove a strong incentive for people to come and take up residence in the new city [3]. By Belon's day (i.e. the middle of the 16th century) it had mushroomed into a fine city. As was the case with the cities of Eastern Mace-



Fig. 50. Kavála in the 19th century

Fig. 50. Kavála in the 19th century.

(H. A. Walker, Through Macedonia to the Albanian Lakes, London 1864, between pp. 12 and 13)



donia — Sérres and Tríkala (he means Dráma) — at Kavála, Belon observes, the old Greek population was predominant and Greek was the language the inhabitants spoke. The country people around Sérres spoke Greek and Serb [4]. The Serb language was doubtless a left-over from the days of Stephen Dušan, as we observed at the beginning of this book, when we correlated this information of Belon's with other details. The Sérres region, therefore, had been inhabited by Greeks since



1. Belon, Observations, p. 57a.


2. K. I. Chionis, Ἱστορία τῆς Καβάλας, Kavala 1968, p. 68.


3. Belon, ibid., p. 56b. See also Clarke, Travels, 1, pp. 417-419.


4. Belon, ibid., p. 57a. See also R. de Dreux, Voyage, p. 90, n. 3, and p. 93 n. 1.





Byzantine times; and the composition of the population does not appear to have undergone any significant change since that period. Thus, Cvijić's attempts to show that the Greek population dwelling between Sérres and Zíchna was of Slav origin [1] (influenced as they are by his well-known exaggerated nationalism) can be seen to be untenable.


It was probably at this time that the emboldened villagers of Paliochoroúda and Gouvidári began to abandon their rugged and inaccessible retreats on Mount Vertískos, to settle amongst the substantial Greek communities of Nigríta and Sírpa, which were separated by no more than a mountain torrent. Their abandoned mountain refuges fell in ruins with the passage of time, and their remains could be seen right up to the beginning of this century [2]. The place-name Sírpa no doubt has some connection with the ethnic term 'Serb' and must certainly go back to the time of Stephen Dušan.


The shift of population towards the important commercial foci of Eastern Macedonia was fostered by the movement of trade throughout its coastal regions. We read in Belon that ships from Ragusa, Chios and other places in Greece, Venice and sometimes Egypt, entered the mouth of the Strymon, and proceeding a league's distance up the river, lay there at anchor for up to two months during the winter [3], until they had sold their merchandise. They no doubt contributed to the creation of small temporary market-places at various points, whither the local peasants would make their way to purchase European wares with the coinage of the period or, more likely, by a system of barter (troc). Thus the ships would take on board grain, wool and hides, and start on their return journey in the spring. At the mouth of the estuary could be seen the ruins of a city which had been completely deserted and which the peasants of the time called Chrysopolis [4]. This means that oral tradition had preserved the name of that Byzantine city, which had been the home, as we saw, of St. Philotheus. This is, in fact, the last mention to be found of Chrysopolis [5].


It is clear, then, that two coastal cities of the Byzantine era, Christopolis and Chrysopolis, had been utterly destroyed: and upon their sites



1. Cvijić, L'ethnographie de la Macédoine, p. 20.


2. Dem. G. Damanis, Νιγρίτα - Σύρπα, «Μακεδονικὸν Ἡμερολόγιον» 1911, p. 122.


3. Belon, Observations, pp. 56b-57a.


4. Ibid., p. 57a.


5. D. Ε. Clarke, Travels in various countries of Europe, Asia and Africa, Cambridge 1810-1823, 2, p. 399.





new conditions of life and trade had created two new cities to take their place: Kavála and Orkan, or Orfan, as Evliya Çelebi calls it in the middle of the 17th century.


In this precarious age travellers journeyed for safety's sake in a body [1]. The labourers and artisans (builders, carpenters, etc.) went in parties on foot in their search for work; while the merchants loaded their personal possessions and their wares onto pack animals arranged in long columns (mules mostly [2], but camels too). These were the so-called caravans which played such an important role in the development of trade in the Near East.


The most significant, though quite the remotest sources of immigration into Macedonia were the poor and turbulent mountain regions of Agrapha and Aspropotamos. Already by October 1605, the people from Agrapha (called 'Skurta' in Turkish documents) were so numerous and enjoyed such a strong economic position in Thessalonica that they paid 70.000 akçes a year — nearly half of the total sum of 153.280 akçes which the Christians of Thessalonica had to pay annually towards the cost of maintaining the 69 artillerymen of its garrison [3].


During the same period, a large number of 'Agraphiotes' had settled outside Thessalonica, at Asvestochóri (Kireç Köy) on the southern side of the church, along the stream called Vláchikos Lákkos. They appear to have spoken Vlach. They were artisans — taillors, dyers, jewellers, shoe-makers, etc. — and were culturally superior to the indigenous inhabitants; hence they called the latter 'paysani' [4].


There were also migrations of Vlachs from Thessaly, Epirus and Macedonia, both within the Ottoman Empire (and therefore throughout Macedonia itself) and to destinations outside it. The extensive mi-



1. See H. Dernschwam's, Tagebuch einer Reise nach Konstantinopel und Kleinasien (1553-1555) nach der Urschrift im Fugger-Archiv, herausgegeben und erläutert von Franz Babinger, Munich und Leipzig 1923, p. 68.


2. The increase in trade all over Europe around the year 1600 which resulted in an increase in commercial journeys to and fro, explains the widespread rise in the number of mules; see F. Braudel, La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l'époque de Philippe II, Paris 1949, pp. 244 ff., where there is also information about the roads and footpaths of the East.


3. See Vasdravellis, Ἀρχεῖον Θεσσαλονίκης, p. 4. See also p. 109, and elsewhere passim.


4. See C. G. Tsekos, Ἱστορία τοῦ Ἀσβεστοχωρίου, Thessalonica 1957, pp. 38-41. The Agraphiotes seem to have come to Asvestochori much earlier than 1821, not after it.





grations of the Macedonian Vlachs into north-west Macedonia, Serbia, the most northerly parts of present-day Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary, Moldavia, and Wallachia will be discussed in a separate chapter.


During his journey to Constantinople along the route of the ancient Via Egnatia (the paving of which he recognised on the plain of Komotiní towards Kypsela [1]), Belon came across large groups of 'Albanian' peasants or labourers, as he termed them ('anciennement nommez Epirotes', which means that they were primarily Greek Epirotes [2]), returning to their homelands. These were seasonal labourers, who worked during the summer as reapers and winnowers on the estates of the indolent Turks of Macedonia, Thrace and the 'East' (Asia Minor). They were dreadfully poor, nearly all of them shoeless, hardworking and thrifty. With their savings they maintained their families through the winter.


The picture of his seasonal stream of migrant workers is typical enough. I very much suspect that many of them were builders, and that they came not only from Albania and Northern Epirus, but from Western Macedonia as well, from the so-called 'artisan villagers' (μαστοροχώρια) [3], and that the language which they spoke (and which in Belon's opinion was not very different from Greek) was their local dialect or the special builders' slang [4]. The inhabitants of Épáno Chorió on the peninsula of Cyzicus, newcomers there in 1700, came originally from around Kastoriá and exercised the trade of builders. Hence their village was called Yapıcı Köy (village of builders) [5].


We know for a fact that the inhabitants of Western Macedonia practiced the builders' trade and plied it abroad for some two thousand years [6]. There can be no doubt that some of those wandering bands which



1. Belon, Observations, pp. 62b, 63b.


2. See K. Myrtilos - Apostolides, Ὁ Στενίμαχος, Athens 1929, p. 34, note "...the Epirotes were sometimes called Albanians, because they were acquainted with the Albanian language"; right up to recent times they were termed disdainfully 'Albanians' by other Greeks in moments of anger. The same confusion between Epirote and Illyrian tribes appears to have existed in ancient times as well. See also Cousinery's opinion in his Voyage, 1, p. 14: "... des Albanais amalgamés avec d'anciens Epirotes et avec des Illyriens...".


3. See on this subject, A. Keramopoulos, Tí εἶναι οἱ Κουτσόβλαχοι, Athens 1939, p. 56, footnote. See also A. Letsas, Ὁ γάμος ἐν Βογατσικῷ, «Μακεδονικὰ» 1 (1940) 124,127.


4. See notes on these villages in Char. Rempelis, Κονιταιώτικα, Athens 1953, p. 13; and about their special language, 'κουδαρίτικα', pp. 350-356.


5. See Hipp. Makris, Οἱ κάτοικοι τῆς Κυζικηνῆς Χερσονήσου, ΜΧ 9 (1961) 225.


6. See Keramopoulos, Τί εἶναι οἱ Κουτσόβλαχοι, p. 56. Concerning the Epirotes and Macedonian artisans, see G. Megas, Ὁ λεγόμενος κοινὸς βαλκανικὸς πολιτισμός. Ἡ δημώδης ποίηοις, «Ἐπετηρὶς τοῦ Λαογραϕικοῦ Ἀρχείου» 6 (1950-1951) 300.





Belon encountered were companies of craftsmen of the same profession, making their way to different parts of the empire, and most of all to Constantinople [1]. Accordingly, those Greeks who receive such complementary mention from Gerlach as being good builders — constructing fine churches and caravanserais [2] — must have been Northern-Epirotes or Western-Macedonians.


Having found a favourable situation, a number of these workers would send for their families and settle in the area where they had their work, or else find a wife locally and create new families. This deduction seems a reasonable one, judging by similar cases that have come to our notice from a later period. At the end of the 19th century, for example, there is mention of alien families living at Lakkovíkia on Pangaeon which were of Greco-Vlachs, or Greco-Albanians (as the Albano-Vlachs were commonly called). These people had migrated there from Thessaly, Epirus and Albania around the beginning of the century [3]. As late as the 20th century, moreover, inhabitants of Chalcidice are known to have hired seasonal Albanian labourers (the so-called Ghegs) for their farm work [4].


On the other hand, at the same time that these peoples were moving into the area from outside, a considerable number of Macedonian labourers and artisans were moving out into Thrace and Asia Minor. Even in the early 20th century one could find 12 villages in the Didymóteichon



1. For the bands of this kind see A. Hatzimichalis, Οἱ συντεχνίες. Τὰ ἰσνάϕια, «Ἐπετ. Ἀνωτ. Σχοῆής Βιομηχ. Σπουδῶν» 2 (1949-1950), reprint, p. 13. On these itinerant craftsmen see also E. Vourazelis - Marinakos, Αἱ ἐν Θράκῃ συντεχνίαι τῶν Ἑλλήνων κατὰ τὴν τουρκοκρατίαν, Thessalonica 1950, pp. 21-22. See, too, pp. 19-21. In greater length, see Ν. Κ. Moutsopoulos, Ἡ λαϊκὴ ἀρχιτεκτονικὴ τῆς Βέροιας, Athens 1967, pp. 50 ff., where the relevant bibliography is to be found.


2. St. Gerlach, Tagebuch, Frankfurt - on - Main 1674, p. 379. See also the profession of the inhabitants of the villages of Konitsa in Petrides, Χρονικὸν Δρυοπίδος, «Νεοελληνικὰ Ἀνάλεκτα Ι» 2 (1871) 60: "...the inhabitants of the majority of the villages in this region, being builders, travel round Epirus for construction work; in fact they go any place that might be found profitable as regards the practice of their craft".


3. Ast. D. Gousios, Ἡ κατὰ τὸ Πάγγαιον χώρα, Λακκοβηκίων τοπογραϕία, ἤθη, ἔθιμα καὶ γλῶσσα, Leipzig 1894, p. 34.


4. Nik. Oeconomos, Πῶς Ἕλληνες ἐπιχειρηματίαι ἐμίσθωνον ὡς ἀνθρακεῖς σλαυοϕώνους κατὰ τὴν ἐποχὴν τῆς τουρκοκρατίας δι᾽ ἐργασίαν εἰς τὴν Χαλκιδικήν, «Χρον, Χαλκιδικῆς» 2 (1961) 194, note 2.





district alone which contained people who either themselves or whose forefathers had come from the Peloponnese; while another 11 villages had received immigrants from Epirus, and 7 villages had immigrants from Macedonia [1]. Then again, there is the village of Demerdes near Brusa which, according to a local tradition surviving to this day, had been colonised around the middle of the 16th century by immigrants from the Agrapha region, as well as from the Peloponnese, Macedonia and Epirus [2]. It is interesting, too, to read that for dyeing silk at Brusa they employed the fruit of the terebinth tree, which was gathered and sold by people from Thrace and Macedonia [3].



1. See G. Lampousiades, Ὁδοιπορικόν. Ἐπὶ τῶν ἡμερῶν τῆς ἑλληνικῆς κατοχῆς τῆς Ἀνατ. Θράκης, «Θρακικὰ» 2 (1929) 91, where the names of the individual villages are given.


2. M. Maravelakis - A. Vacalopoulos, Αἱ προσϕυγικαὶ ἐγκαταστάσεις ἐν τῇ περιοχῇ Θεσσαλονίκης, Thessalonica 1953, p. 294. See also Μ. Kleonymos - Chr. Papadopoulos, Βιθυνικὰ ἢ ἐπίτομος μονογραϕία τῆς Βιθυνίας καὶ τῶν πόλεων αὐτῆς, Constantinople 1867, p. 33.


3. Belon, Observations, p. 66.


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