History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


VIII. Macedonia from the beginning of the 18th century to the Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1774


5. Chaotic conditions in Western Macedonia. Albanian incursions



Considerable as was the expansion of trade and industry throughout Macedonia, the conditions under which it had to operate were not always undisturbed. There was, for example, the case of the former voyvoda of Véroia, Molla Mustafa, who became a rebel with a considerable band of men behind him. He attacked numerous villages in the Véroia region, plundering and slaughtering a large number of the inhabitants. In the end, the governor of the sancak of Thessalonica, Abdi Pasha, took the field against him, eventually killing Mustafa and his men along with him [3].


Even within Thessalonica itself, life was far from pleasant. The Venetian consul, a Greek named Demetrius Choïdas, wrote on 10 October 1759, "...I am thinking of selling up and going elsewhere: life here has become so intolerable" [4].


There was now a desperate need for the restoration of law and order, and the Porte had obviously become aware of this by 1759, when it set about exploring means of forcing the Albanian mercenaries to return to their homeland [5]. The paşa of Kyustendil, Abdi, with the cooperation of the kâhya (deputy) of the paşa of Thessalonica, took severe measures



3. Vasdravellis, Άρχείον Βέροιας - Ναούσης, p. 170.


4. Mertzios, Συμπλήρωμα, p. 67.


5. Ibid., p. 61.





both in Véroia and in the Macedonian capital, and managed to impose order for the time being [1].


Availing themselves of the decline of all authority within the Ottoman empire, the Albanians had become a terrible thorn in the flesh of the populations of Epirus and Macedonia. In the Grevená district, in particular, Albanian incursions were frequent. Veli Bey, the father of Ali Pasha, had become all-powerful in the region of Tepeleni, making forays as far as Thessaly and indulging in indiscriminate rapine and acts of abominable savagery. The Greek populations, on the other hand, did not take this situation lying down. In the Ágrapha region of Thessaly, the legendary 'armatolos', Boukouválas, put up a stout resistance to Veli Bey and forced him to move away northwards. But there, too, at Samarína, Veli came up against another armatole-chief, Yiannis son of the Priest (also known as Yiannis Priftis), who defeated him and drove him away from Samarína and Kerásovo, back to his starting point of Tepeleni [2].


At Samarína the local tradition still survives that Yiannis son of the Priest succeeded in uniting with his compatriots to ward off the common danger and in so doing became the terror of the Albanian raiders who had been ravaging his own district just as they had pillaged other Vlach areas [3]. The deeds of this 'pallikar' live on in a moving folksong, which can still be heard on the lips of old Samariniotes:


Three little partridges were sitting over above Smolka;

They keened a lament and said, they keened a lament and said:

Whose are those standards that come over the Greek ridge?

Heed them not! Let them come on! Let them pass hither!

When Yiannis girds on his sword, when he takes up his musket,

He soared up the rise like a wild pigeon.

His mother runs at his heels; she beats her breast and cries:

Where are you bound for, my Yiannis, with no one beside you?

Yiannis smiled; he tosses his head:

This is not Tsarítsani, nor is it Elassón;

They call this spot Tsioúryaka, they call it Samarína.



1. Mertzios, Συμπλήρωμα, pp. 61, 63, 64.


2. Ioann. Lamprides, Ἠπειρωτικὰ μελετήματα, τεῦχ. δεύτερου, Ὁ Τεπελενλῆς Ἀλῆ πασάς, Athens 1887, p. 17. See also Krystallis, Ἅπαντα, Athens 1959, vol. 2, pp. 494-496.


3. Ph. Papanikolaou, Δύο τραγούδια τῆς Σαμαρίνας, «Σήμερα», vol. 1, part 1 of 16 April 1960, p. 20.





Yiannis draws his sword and launches his attack.

On the right he cuts them down, on the left he stacks them up like corn.

Albania was filled with dread of him: to frighten their children

They say in Albanian — remembering the anguish they beheld—

"Quiet there! Priftis is coming to cut off your head!"


Yiannis son of the Priest, the terror of the Albanians, was murdered through treachery, as another version of the folksong has it [1].


We find mention, a little later, of other armatole-chiefs as protectors of the Greek populations. There is Kapetan-Michos (again from Samarína) [2], who suffered a similar fate: he was murdered by a fellow Greek by the name of Itrizis. The song of Kapetan-Michos used to be the very first to be sung by the Samariniotes at the dance upon the occasion of the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin (15th August) [3]. In the middle of the 18th century two 'armatoli' from Blátsi, named Vrákas and Dókos, preyed on the outlying districts of Kastoriá, Siátista, Kozáni, Véroia and Édessa, until Ali Pasha invaded the area. They were eventually murdered at Blátsi by an adopted brother of theirs named Galánis; and from then onwards their 'armatolik' beyond the Aliákmon remained vacant [4].



1. P. Aravantinos, Συλλογὴ δημωδῶν ἀσμάτων τῆς Ἠπείρου, Athens 1880, pp. 44-45. See also Krystallis, Ἅπαντα, vol. 2, p. 496.


2. Aravantinos, Συλλογή, pp. 45-46.


3. Krystallis, ibid., 2, pp. 484-485.


4. Kasomoulis, Ἐνθυμήματα, 1, p. 17.


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