History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


II. The last foci of Greek resistance (1383-1387) and the establishment of Turkish domination (1391)


3. Turkish occupation of the towns and rural areas between 1391 and 1403


__2_   —   __3_


After the fall of Christopolis and Thessalonica in 1391, Turkish rule was complete in practically the whole of Macedonia. The region around Prilep under the rule of Kraljević Marko and the northern part of Eastern Macedonia (today forming part of Bulgaria) under Constantine Dejanović remained in a state of vassalage. Both these rulers were killed in 1395 while serving as vassals of Bayezid I in the battle on the plains of Rovine against Mircea the Old of Wallachia [2]. After their death the Turkish conquest seems to have been definitevely extended to these northern districts of Macedonia [3].


From the difficult conditions of servitude there were but two ways of escape: conversion to Islam or flight [4]. In actual fact, in the northern Greek provinces and in other Balkan lands (as was also the case in Asia Minor) conversions to Islam took place on a big scale. Our sources, however, are usually silent on the subject. Contemporary information, though of a general and somewhat vague nature, speak eloquently enough of the dramatic conversions in Northern Greece; and I believe that such descriptions are of wide application. Thus, for example, Cydones writes: "Noone could accept without horrorthe fact that every day large portions of our small race are swept as by a stream 'ἐπὶ τὴν ἀσέβειαν'" (i.e. Islam) [5]. In Macedonia many landowners and Greeks of noble birth will have



2. Ostrogorskij, Ηistory, p. 489.


3. See p. 30 of this book.


4. R. J. Loenertz, Correspondance de Manuel Calecas, Roma 1950, p. 168.


5. G. Mercati, Notizie di Procoro e Demetrio Cidone, Manuele Caleca e Theodoro Meliteniota ed altri appunti per la storia della theologia e della letteratura Bizantina del secolo XIV, Città del Vaticano 1931, p. 374.





voluntarily acceded to the new religion in view of the various material and social advantages which ensued. The picture is the same in Albania, in the Slav lands to the north, and in north-west Macedonia [1]. Moreover, various dervishes and other Moslem holy-men (see fig. 16), as witness the surviving popular traditions, appear to have performed their rôle of missionaries and catechists in a spirit of fanatical zeal — and not without success — amongst the terrified populations [2]. Much the same thing had occurred in Asia Minor.



Fig. 16. Dervishes

Fig. 16. Dervishes.

(H. J. Ammann, Reise in gelobte Land, Zürich 1919, after p. 51)



Α recollection of these conversions remained vivid in the minds of succeeding generations; [3] and even in our own times traditions survive which speak of such conversions to Islam in several Macedonian districts, where the inhabitants, unable to endure the various forms of oppression — particularly the exactions of the fief-holders (sipahis) —



1. Snegarov, History of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, p. 32.


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


3. See Ath. Psalidas, Ἡ Τουρκία κατὰ τὰς ἀρχὰς τοῦ ΙΘ' αἰ, edited by G. Charitakes, HX 6 (1931) 44.





embraced Islam. For example, the Christians in the district of Moglená, who were persecuted by the neighbouring Yürüks of Gazi Evrenos, after appealing in vain to the Bey for protection, adopted in despair the Moslem religion. These newly converted Greeks were the so-called Tsitákidhes: their appellation derived, according to tradition, from a white palisade (Turk. çıtak), which, on the advice of Gazi Evrenos, they placed in front of the doors of their houses in order to distinguish



Fig. 17. Janissary

Fig. 17. Janissary.

(Sketch hy G. Bellini)



them from the other Christians, thus avoiding the unwelcome attentions of the tax-gatherers. From these people are descended the Moslems of the province of Moglená living in the district of Kara-Dere, with the exception of seven villages inhabited by Turkish immigrants from Asia Minor [1]. (The latter are the Yürük villages, of which six names have been preserved by oral tradition as mentioned on page 55). Much later, about the middle of the 18th century, the last remaining Christians in



1. Stouyannakis, Ἔδεσσα, pp. 240-241.





the neighbourhood of the village of Nótia were converted to Islam, as we shall see later.


In Western Macedonia, too, there must have been a certain amount of conversion in the case of the indigenous inhabitants after the establishment of the Turks in those parts. This was particularly so in the region of the Aliákmon Valley. Indeed, there can be little doubt that a large proportion of the first converts will have been induced to embrace Islam not so much as a result of preaching and inculcation, as by the application of sheer brute force. In these early years the Turks had to consolidate their position by every means in their power, and the proselytizing of as many 'unbelievers' as possible was an effective method of achieving this.


There was yet another drastic of forcible convertion, especially of the youth: the 'παιδομάζωμα' or recruiting of Christian boys for the corps of Janissaries (see fig. 17). We read, for example, in the biography of St. Philotheus that after the surrender of Chrysopolis the Sultan ordered (probably after 1391) the imposition of this form of youth-tribute in those parts [1]. This decree may have been the same as that which Isidore refers to in connection with the youth-tribute imposed in Thessalonica in 1395; and if this is so, the decree which concerned Chrysopolis must also be ascribed to that year.


Quite apart from a certain number of Greek Christians who became Moslems at a later date (the so-called Vallahadhes mentioned in Chapter 1), numerous dwellers in Macedonia were forced into embracing Islam. But others, rather than change their faith, abandoned their ancestral homes to seek asylum in inaccessible mountain fastnesses, such as the slopes of Mt. Vóïon and the surrounding heights, where they established new villages [2]. We shall speak of these at greater lenght in the appropriate context.


It was during this period that a large number of artists and men of culture sought new homelands to the north in the other Balkan states which remained as yet free. Many of these emigrés were the scions of eminent Macedonians families — the majority, indeed, from Thessalonica. Concerning these expatriate Macedonians we find but scanty information (perhaps not surprisingly), and what we do have, relates only to those



1. Papoulia, Philotheos vom Athos, SOF 22 (1963) 269, 274.


2. K. Angelis, Τὸ Τσοτύλιον, «Ἡμερολόγιον Δυτ. Μακεδονίας» 1 (1932) 138-139. See also the relevant bibliography in A. Vacalopoulos, Οἱ Δυτικομακεδόνες ἀπόδημοι ἐπὶ τουρκοκρατίας, Thessalonica 1958, p. 35.





who distinguished themselves in their new surroundings by their culture, energy and artistic talent. We might mention, for instance, the Thessalonian painters who had decorated the Nea Moni of Thessalonica (now the Church of the Prophet Elias) between 1360 and 1380, and who fled north to Serbia at various times. It was they or their pupils who painted the frescoes of the Monastery of Ravanica between 1385 and 1387, of the church at Sisojevac between 1390 and 1400, and of the monastery of Rešava between 1407 and 1418 [1]. All in all, the Thessalonian painters played an important rôle in the development of the so-callled 'School of the Morava Basin'; and there is no doubt that their influence made itself widely felt [2].



2. At this point we might examine the political situation in the cities of Macedonia and the status of the 'rayah' under the new régime. The homilies of Isidore, archbishop of Thessalonica, provide a good deal of interesting information, which, even though pertaining only to his own city, allows us to form some kind of picture of conditions in other districts.


Α few years after the capture of Thessalonica (i.e. in 1395) the Turks enforced the already mentioned 'youth tribute' [3], which was not limited apparently to that city alone, but was extended to Chrysopolis and other regions in Greece which had fallen into Turkish hands, in recent years [4]. There survives the actual sermon preached by Isidore on this occasion to console the hapless parents who had lost their children, and which bears the title 'Περὶ τῆς ἁρπαγῆς τῶν παίδων καὶ περὶ τῆς μελλούσης κρίσεως'. Here is a translation of an extract from the beginning of this sermon, obviously written under the stress of great anguish.


"What am I to say; what am I to think; how am I to look upon you, knowing as I do the awful calamity which has beset us in this hour? Perplexity pins me down on everyside, as though I found myself at triple crossroads. Horror overwhelms me as I listen to the frightful ordinance pronounced against our loved ones; I feel as though confronted by an unapproachable fire or a sword invincible. For why, what could



1. See V. J. Djurić, The Thessalonian Origin of the Frescoes of the Monastery of Rešava (in Serb), «Zbornic Radova Vizantiloškog Instituta» 6 (1960) 111-128.


2. For full details see V. J. Djurić, The Frescoes of the Chapel of the Hagioi Anargyroi of the Despot Jovan Uğlieša at Vatopedi and their Value à propos the Study of the Thessalonican Origin of the Painting of Rešava (in Serb), «Zbornik Radova Vizantiloškog Instituta» 7 (1961) 125-183.


3. A. Vacalopoulos, Προβλήματα τῆς ἱστορίας τοῦ παιδομαζώματος, «Ἑλληνικὰ» 13 (1954) 281.


4. See also Papoulia, Philotheos vom Athos, SOF 22 (1963) 274.





exceed the suffering of a man who sees the child whom he begat and reared, over whom he has shed many a tear, praying that he would one day see him reach the summit of happiness—when he beholds that same child suddenly gripped by brutal, hostile hands, and forced into the acceptance of foreign ways and customs; to know that in a short while the child will grow up into a personage wearing the uniform of a barbarian and speaking his barbarous tongue; a vessal replete with impiety and stench? What sort of consolations could sooth the anguish of a man who sees himself as it were severed into two pieces, the one taken away to serve no good purposo, to become a mass of depravity, while the remaining part he deems as useless as a corpse, yet full with grief and woe?"


Isidore bewails the lot of those Christian children: their parents will lose their support in old age and the Christian flock will lose many fervent faithful members. From now onwards these children will be brought up in such a way as to become murderers of their co-religionists, and will be trained to serve as hounds and hawks; they will have to carry out exhausting marches, summer and winter, across rivers, mountains and rugged wastes [1].


The evidence afforded by monastic documents in respect of Sérres (as mentioned in our preceding chapter) and by Isidore in his writings about Thessalonica, enable us to draw corresponding conclusions as regards the state of affairs prevalent in other Macedonian cities; for it is most probable that the relations between the Turks and their subjects coupled with the general picture of social administration in other centres did not differ widely during that post-Byzantine period.



3. During this transitory stage of Greek history, crowded with moments of agony and confusion, the nation was passing from freedom into servitude. The relations between the conqueror and the new 'rayahs' — especially their representatives — were really quite intolerable. The Turks behaved with extreme rudeness towards the leaders of the subjected communities. The demands made upon the notables involved, frequently placed them in an invidious position. In Thessalonica particularly they began to fear that their services were actually unprofitable in that they could not guarantee to the subject either his life, honour or property [2]. Moreover, the populace, which still retained a vivid memory of the Zealots [3], murmured against the rulers, accusing them of greed



1. See B. Laourdas, Ἱσιδώρου ἀρχιεπισκόπου Θεσσαλονίκης, Ὁμιλία περὶ τῆς ἁρπαγῆς τῶν παίδων καὶ περὶ τῆς μελλούσης κρίσεως, «Ἑλληνικὰ» appendix 4, «Προσϕορὰ εἰς Στίλπ. Π. Κυριακίδην», Thessalonica 1953, pp. 389-392.


2. See Laourdas, Ἰσιδώρου ὁμιλίαι, p. 62.


3. Regarding these memories in 1372 see Loenertz, Cydonès. Correspondance, vol. 1, p. 110.





and corruption in their administration of public affairs. Consequently, in these critical moments many public figures lost all interest in their work and became unwilling to continue at their posts. The Archbishop tried his hardest to persuade them not to give up but to remain in office, because the need for their services was urgent. According to his aristocratic notions, the archons constituted a first class, "both in mind and in understanding;" they were the few and the élite [1].


In these dramatic times the social institutions of the Byzantine state had to be adapted to the new conditions imposed by Turkish domination. The archons did their best to save what they could.


In the case of Thessalonica the repeated personal interventions of Isidore himself at the Sultan's court, resulted in the solution of many of his flock's difficulties. Many and great were the χάριτες [2] (i.e. privileges) accorded to them; and although these χάριτες are not directly indicated, it is probable that they referred to the religious and social liberties of the inhabitants [3].


The primary duty of the archons was to protect the fundamental rights of the community as well as the inhabitants themselves. But in order to achieve this object, it was often imperative that any agreement should satisfy the Turkish masters; in a word, they had to manage things in any given situation as best they could [4].


After the death of Metropolitan Isidore of Thessalonica in 1396, the new archbishop, Gabriel, with his upright character and his many virtues earned the esteem and respect of the conquerors to such a degree that they deferred to his wishes and behaved towards the inhabitants with unaccustomed leniency. On two occasions Gabriel officially represented his flock at the court of Bayezid I and succeeded in obtaining large new concessions in favour of the inhabitants. Twice he saved the city from grievous disaster, as we learn from an anonymous panegyrist; though what is meant exactly by 'disaster' is not clear. He could be referring to the seizure of churches, the imposition of further taxes, or other tyrannical exactions, that were threatened. The same author



1. Laourdas, Ἱσιδώρου ὁμιλίαι, p. 63. See also Vacalopoulos, Οἱ ὁμιλίες τοῦ Ἰσιδώρου, «Μακεδονικὰ» 4 (1955-1960) 20-34.


2. Concerning the word χάριτες with the meaning 'privilege' see the Venetian equivalent (gratie); Sp. Theotokis, Ἀποϕάσεις Μείζονος Συμβουλίου Βενετίας, 1255-1669, in the «Monuments of Greek History», Athens 1932-1933, vol. 1, section 2, p. 51.


3. See Vacalopoulos, ibid., pp. 25, 31-32.


4. Laourdas, ibid., p. 61.





goes on to say that all in all Gabriel became the chief instrument of a "more tolerable bondage" [1].


Placed amidst these conditions of enslavement, no one in Thessalonica or elsewhere in Macedonia could have hopefully imagined that the day of liberation was almost at hand. The moment arrived when Timur Lenk crushed the army of Bayezid I in the battle near Ankara in 1402, an event followed by a protracted series of civil wars between Bayezid's successors. It was then that Manuel II promised his support to one of these, Suleiman, in his struggle with his brothers, and so contrived to regain from the Turks Thessalonica itself (1403), part of the hinterland, the whole of Chalcidice, and the coastal strip stretching from the Strymon to the mouth of the River Peneus as far inland [2]. It is uncertain whether Chrysopolis was included in thιs. Such a hypothesis is unlikely because the town stood on the left bank of the Strymon and consequently on the Turkish side. It may well be that its situation at the extreme limit of the frontier was one of the reasons that decided the inhabitants to forsake Chrysopolis; for 150 years later the town is described as in ruins.


It appears that the aged Gabriel played a leading part in the negotiations concerning the evacuation of Turkish troops from Thessalonica: one more signal service to be added to so many others which he rendered to his city [3].


Manuel II also took advantage of the situation and obtained from Suleiman the attribution of the taxes due from the monasteries of Mt. Athos and their dependencies in the region of Thessalonica. Two-thirds of these Manuel presented to the monks in 1405 [4]. This was a period of unexpected respite, which brought with it a temporary peace and economic relief as much to Constantinople itself [5] as to other free towns [6].



1. A. Vacalopoulos, Ὁ ἀρχιεπίσκοπος Γαβριὴλ καὶ ἡ πρώτη τουρκικὴ κατοχὴ τῆς Θεσσαλονίκης (1391-1403), «Μακεδονικὰ» 4 (1955-1960) 372. See the text in L. Syndikas - Laourdas, Ἐγκώμιον εἰς τοῦ αρχιεπίσκοπον Θεσσαλονίκης Γαβριήλ, «Μακεδονικὰ» 4 (1955-1960) 366 ff.


2. See Vacalopoulos, Les limites de l'empire byzantin, BZ 55 (1962) 59-61.


3. See Vacalopoulos, Ὁ ἀρχιεπίσκοπος Γαβριήλ, «Μακεδονικὰ» 4 (1955-1960) 373.


4. Arcadius Vatopedinos, Ἁγιορειτικὰ ἀνάλεκτα, «Γρηγόριος ὁ Παλαμᾶς» 2 (1918) 449-452.


5. See Vryennios, Τὰ παραλειπόμενα, ἐπιμελείᾳ Θ. Μανδακάσου, vol. 3, Leipzig 1784, pp. 179-180. See also Ν. Β. Tomadakis, Ὁ Ἰωσὴϕ Βρυέννιος καὶ ἡ Κρήτη κατὰ τὸ 1400, Athens 1947, pp. 129-130. Also S. Lampros, Παλαιολόγεια καὶ Πελοποννησιακά, Athens 1926, vol. 3, pp. 163-164.


6. As regards Thessalonica, see B. Laourdas, Τὸ ἐγκώμιον τοῦ Δημητρίου Χρυσολωρᾶ εἰς τοῦ Ἅγ. Δημήτριον, «Γρηγόριος ὁ Παλαμᾶς» 40 (1957) 349. See also pp. 351-352.


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