History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


VII. Macedonia in the 16th and 17th centuries


2. Macedonia in the second half of the 17th century



The information that has come down to us on the towns and cities of Macedonia is certainly more extensive in the second half of the 17th century. It is based principally on the evidence of the two Turkish travellers, Evliya Çelebi and Kâtip Çelebi, known also as Hadji Kalfa, and supplemented by the accounts of the French priest, Robert de Dreux, and of the Englishmen Brown, Covel, and others like Lucas, who come a little later.


However, we must here point out that these sources relate chiefly





to Southern Macedonia, that is to say, to the districts and urban centres which form part of Greek Macedonia today. These have been the most thickly and permanently inhabited centres of Greek population and civilization from ancient times to the present day, so that it is not at all surprising that the information we can discover about the towns and cities of Northern Macedonia is proportionately far less extensive.


a) Northern Macedonia


With its pentagonal castle, Strumica was a town of some significance to the east of the region. In the time of Murad I, Evliya Çelebi tells us, Gazi Evrenos marched against it and captured it from Greek hands [1]. Its castle, built atop an artificial mound, was once high and strong, but in Çelebi's time it was almost in ruins. Hence it had neither a garrison-commander nor any soidiers, but lay untenanted. On winter days it provided shelter for Christian shepherds and their flocks of sheep and goats [2].


The prosperous towrı of Strumica lay outside the castle, between hills and torrents. It had a şeyhül-lslâm, a nakîb ül esraf (regional head of the descendants of Mahommed), a representative of the kâhya of the sipahis, a chief of Janissaries, a voyvoda, etc. Its houses numbered 2.040 and were two-storeyed, stone-built and stood close to one another. They formed 13 Moslem districts and one Jewish one [3]. The city had medreses (theological colleges), 6 elementary schools, tekkes (Moslem monasteries), baths, 7 inns, guest-houses, and 500 business establishments of one kind or another. The inhabitants were mainly engaged in weaving. Their white 'abas' (a kind of woollen coat) on sale in the bazaar of Dóliani were famous. Wheat and barley were cultivated in the district around [4].


Hadji Kalfa extols the hot and cold springs to be found in the vicinity of Strumica. He also makes mention of the famous market which was held there every August, and to which people flocked from



1. Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnamesi, Istanbul 1928, vol. 8, p. 754. Ι have drawn Çelebi's information relating to Strumica, Melnik, Prilep and Štip from the unpublished till now translation of B. Demetriades, the director of the Historical Archive of Macedonia and an expert in the field of Turkish studies.


2. Ibid., vol. 8, p. 755.


3. Ibid., p. 755.


4. P. 756.





all the districts around [1]. He is referring here to the well-known trade-fair of Dóliani, a town which belonged to the kaza of Strumica. We have a detailed description of this festival from the pen of Evliya Çelebi. In the midst of a meadow, he writes, stood the central building which throughout the duration of the fair housed the Kadıs, the Serdar with a force of troops, and the Emin or comptroller of the Sultan's tithe. To the left and right of this building were premises for the merchants who gathered there once a year. Α little further way, in the open, were pitched tents and booths. Here merchandise arrived from the ends of the earth. The trade-fair lasted 40 days. There was a bazaar where negro slaves were sold, as well as animals large and small. It was there, too, that the guilds brought their wares for sale: foodstuffs, cloth, precious stones, etc. For the convenience of the traders and merchants there were many restaurants, coffee-shops (over 100) and wine-shops.


Just as with all the trade-fairs of the time, there was no lack of amusements: virtually a complete circus was set up to entertain the motley assembly, with jugglers, acrobats, wrestlers, dancers, musicians, clowns, fire-swallowers, club- and sword-dancers, charlatans of various types — men, in fact, drawn from every land, endeavouring to make money by the display of their accomplishments. And, of course, we must not forget the puppet-theatre and the inevitable karagöz or shadow-theatre.


In a place like this, where so much merchandise was concentrated and every manner of person was about, there were naturally a number of disturbances and minor fracas. But for all this, Evliya found that one was quite safe in those surroundings; for anyone who disturbed the peace was immediately arrested by the 'mullah' of Sérres, or by his representative, the kâhya of janissaries or the emin, each of who kept a vigilant eye on the proceedings [2].


As regards the neighbouring Melnik (see Fig. 68), we learn from Evliya Çelebi that it was the seat of a voyovode with a kâhya of the locality and of the town itself, a serdar of janissaries, a muhtesib (market-inspector) and a customs-officer. It was a beautiful town, well-looked after, embellished with vineyards and orchards; its houses were of two-stories, built of stone. It had medreses, 3 schools and public and private bathing establishments [3].



1. Chadschi Chalfa, Rumeli und Bosna, p. 91.


2. Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnamesi, vol. 8, pp. 757-759.


3. Ibid., p. 760.





Fig. 68. Melnik

Fig. 68. Melnik.

(«Μακεδονικὸν Ἡμερολόγιον» 4 (1911) 198)


Fig. 69. Skopje

Fig. 69. Skopje.

(Schultze Jena, Makedonien, plate LXXXVI)






Although falling strictly speaking outside the region, I shall include here the city of Skopje (fig. 69), since at the present time it pertains to the administrative set-up of this north-eastern part of 'Greater' Macedonia. Evliya Çelebi tells us that it was taken by Gazi Evrenos in the reign of Bayezid I (1389-1402). The city was situated on a plain, watered by the river Axios (Vardar). The region around was verdant; full of meadows and market-gardens. Above the city, upon some towering cliffs, stood a pentagonal castle with 70 towers, immensely solid and handsomely built. Within the bailey of the castle were about a hundred houses and some magazines [1].


Skopje constituted a seat of a separate sancak beyi and came under the eyalet of Rumeli. From time to time it was administered by beyler-beyis of two horsetails. The Bey had under his jurisdiction 255 timars and ziamets, and the annual revenue he collected was as much as 10 purses. The city authorities were further composed of a şeyhiïl-Islam, a nakib ül esraf, a kadı with a salary of 500 akçes, a serdar who was in command of the host of janissaries that inundated the city, a garrison-commander of the castle with a force of 300 soldiers, the customs officer who levied a tax on all caravans of merchandise, and other officials.


In the city, which was divided into 70 districts, there were 10.060 handsome, two- or one-storey houses, built of stone and roofed with red tiles [2]. The streets were clean and paved with cobbles [3]. In the markets and bazaars there were some two thousand establishments.


Particularly distinctive were the well-constructed premises of the cloth-merchants, tent-makers, shoe-makers, dyers and cap-makers. The shops were adorned with wide-mouthed jugs and beakers filled with scented flowers. The covered market was a stoutly built construction with iron gates and domes. Within it the merchants burnt varieties of incense to please the customers. Skopje's beautifully embroidered pillows and multicoloured chintzes, designed for curtains, were especially famous [4].


The religious foundations and mosques that the city could boast were numerous, numbering some 120 or so. Particularly famous was the mosque of the 'Hünkâr' (Sultan Murad I). Each mosque had its school nearly. Of the city's 20 tekkes (Moslem monasteries) the richest was the house of the Mevlevis (Dervishes). There were also Armenian, Bulgarian



1. Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnamesi, vol. 5, pp. 553-555.


2. Ibid., pp. 553-555.      3. Ibid., p. 559.       4. Ibid., pp. 557-558.





and Serbian churches, and Jewish synagogues. 'Franks', Hungarians and Austrians were also to be found living in the city, though they did not have their own churches and therefore attended the services in the Serbian churches [1]. From Skopje had come two celebrated Turkish poets of the time of Bayezid II, Haki and Varzi Çelebi [2].


The area was divided up into forty or fifty kazas with 350 villages in all [3]. The river Axios worked a great number of water-mills along its course [4].



Fig. 70. Štip

Fig. 70. Štip.

(Schultze Jena, Makedonien, plate LXXXV)



About Štip (see fig. 70) we have but a few insignificant details from Hadji Kalfa. It had quite a respectable castle on a high eminence [5]. The inhabitants of the sixty productive villages of Štip were Bulgarians according to Evliya Çelebi [6], as were likewise the inhabitants of the



1. Evliya Çelebi, I, pp. 555-558.


2. Ibid., p. 558.      3. Ibid., p. 553.      4. Ibid., p. 556.


5. Hadschi Chalfa, Rumeli und Bosna, pp. 92-93.


6. Evliya Çelebi, ibid., vol. 8, p. 748.





nahiye (sub-district) of Tikves, which belonged to the sancak of Kyustendil [1].


Prilep (Prilapon) had been captured by Timurtash Pasha in the time of Gazi Hüdaveadigâr, that is, Murad I (1362-1389). It was the seat of a voyvoda and belonged to the eyalet (province) of Rumeli. We read that it was a prosperous city, divided into 10 districts, with 1.000 stone-built houses and wide, shady streets. On a precipitous cliff some distance from the city stood a hexagonal stone castle with strong towers. But when Evliya Çelebi was in those parts, he found only three houses and the garrison-commander within the castle [2].


To the south-west of this section of Macedonia lie the lakes of Ohrid and Prespa, a region which became the target of Roman Catholic propaganda emanating mainly from Albania. But for all their intensive activities, the Catholics could make no progress in this sphere. Although tolerant towards the religion of the Christian rayas, the Turkish governments did not regard at all favourably the proselytizing of its subjects, particularly when it was to Roman Catholicism, and it took steps to suppress the Catholic propaganda [3]. On the other hand, it is clear that the insistence of the local Orthodox bishops played a great part in encouraging the Turks to act. In 1672 the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide at Rome sent a complaint to the Venetian ambassador at Constantinople and requested his support in their efforts to secure the abolition of the oppressive measures which the Turks were taking against the Catholics in the Ohrid region. The assistance of the Oecumenical Patriarch, Dionysius IV (1671-1673), was also invoked, but the Congregatio was informed that Skopje and its environs came under the Patriarch of Ohrid [4].


On his way from Elbasan to Ohrid, Evliya Çelebi passed by the village of Bania. At this point he tells us that the task of ensuring the security of the passes of Djalender had been assigned to various Albanian, Greek and Bulgarian villages. He speaks admiringly of the prosperous villages nestling in greenery along the shores of Lake Ohrid. In one of these—the fishing village of Struga—there was an ancient and strongly built rectangular castle which, according to local tradition,



1. Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnamesi, p. 749.


2. Ibid., vol. 5, p. 571.


3. Snegarov, The history of the archbishopric of Ohrid, p. 106.


4. Mertzios, Μνημεῖα, p. 188.





had been destroyed by Gazi Evrenos, when he had invaded the region, so that it might never be used as a stronghold by the Infidels. At the same time, Evrenos had razed the towns of Pogradec and Starova. The castle seems to have been later rebuilt or repaired, for Evliya mentions that its gates were kept closed at night.


Struga constituted an imperial hass belonging to the Sultan, and was included within the jurisdiction of the sancak of Ohrid. The village was administered by the emin of the Lake, who had 200 soldiers at his disposal. Besides the rayas of Struga, the rayas of the seven other lakeside villages came under the emin's authority. Since they were under the obligation of supplying the community with fish, the rayas of these villages were exempted from all but the regular taxes [1].


The township of Struga was divided into three districts of 300 houses each. It had a good many Greek and Bulgar inhabitants. There were 40 shops and business premises, 5 inns, a poor-house, a seminary, and other amenities. Α ten-day trade-fair took place every year outside the town, and they used to erect a number of temporary booths [2].


Standing on the shores of its lake, Ohrid was a large and wealthy town thanks to the revenue it derived from the fishing trade. Evliya compares it with Baghdad, Cairo, Constantinople and other cities. It was the seat of the Sancak Beyi, who had within his jurisdiction 140 prosperous villages, and it lay within the eyalet of Rumeli. Ohrid possessed 60 ziamets and 342 timars. When a campaign was on, the timariots could put into the field seven thousand soldiers. There was a deputy-kâhya of sipahis, a serdar of Jenissaries, a şeyhül-Islam, a nakib ül eşraf, and a garrison-commander with 70 soldiers to guard the castle. On the latter a number were Greeks exempt from all extraordinary taxes. They were charged with the upkeep and repair of the fortress. It is significant that amongst the principal officials of the city (voyvoda of the city, customs controller, emin ağa of the fishing trade, ağa of the poll-tax, etc.) Evliya lists the elders presiding over the Christian community [3].


The old castle of Ohrid crowned a spur of reddish-coloured rock on the northem shore of the Lake. The powerful fortifications were built of hewn stone on a pentagonal plan. The walls of the outer circuit, pierced by three gates, rose to a height of ten cubits. There was an inner bailey, constructed on an inaccessible eminence, with walls forty cubits



1. Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnamesi, vol. 8, pp. 731-732.


2. Ibid., p. 734.


3. Ibid., pp. 735-736.





high, having two entrances. Within it was the garrison-commander's residence, a mosque, and a storehouse for grain. The remaining area was occupied by gardens.


Within the enceinte of the castle were 160 well-built and attractive houses with red-tiled roofs belonging to Infidels [non-Turks]; and down below, by the lake-side, there were more than 300 mansions and a handsome palace of the Paşa [1]. Most of the larger houses were situated on the very edge of the Lake. Of the 17 districts composing the town, 10 were inhabited by Moslems and 7 by Greeks, Bulgars and Latins [Vlachs]. The inhabitants generally spoke Bulgarian and Greek (though not Albanian); and they also knew Turkish [2].


Towards the far end of the Lake, at the foot of the palace, stood the large mosque of the Holy Wisdom, which had once been a Christian church. But Moslem services were no longer performed there. It was merely cleaned by attendants on Fridays, and a few guards went to worship there. The mosque was in fact almost totally abandoned and had begun to crumble, even though during the period of conquest it had been the mosque of Victory. Nevertheless, Christians sometimes gave secret douceurs to the door-keepers and performed their religious duties inside the mosque. Another celebrated mosque was that of Ohri Zade, which stood in front of the inner bailey of the castle. There were, in addition, 17 large and 7 smaller places of Moslem worship in the various districts of the town.


The Christians for their part had 6 wealthy monasteries with 40-50 monks apiece [3]. Ohrid possessed two medreses, 7 elementary schools, 150 shops and business premises, and 7 coffee-shops. Wine was sold only in the infidel districts of the city, where there were wine-shops [4].


In former times a mint had functioned at Ohrid, situated near the Paşa's palace. Coins had been struck there until the time of Sultan Murad Han IV. But in Evliya's day the mint was closed down, with its tools, machines and dies all in place [5].


Either inside or outside of the town there were three poor-houses, which distributed fish and soup to Moslems and non-Moslems alike.



1. Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnamesi, vol 8, pp. 736-737.


2. Ibid., pp. 739, 740, 742.


3. Ibid., pp. 737-738.


4. Ibid., p. 740.


5. Ibid., pp. 742-743.





In the vicinity of Ohrid there was a rich variety of quince-trees, pear-trees and plum-trees [1].


Up to this moment (i.e. the middle of the 17th century) the situation regarding the ecclesiastical affairs in the archbishopric of Ohrid (see fig. 71) had been relatively free from trouble, and its relations with the Oecumenical Patriarch had remained generally good, despite its inclination to encroach upon other ecclesiastical provinces [2]. From 1650-1700, bowever, a student of the period cannot but receive a distressing



Fig. 71. Ohrid. View from the lake, lookıng towards the old city and the citadel

Fig. 71. Ohrid. View from the lake, lookıng towards the old city and the citadel.



impression of the situation obtaining at Ohrid. The continual change of archbishops can attest a situation fraught with the intrigues and machinations of certains Orthodox clerics, who for personal interest would stop at nothing [3]. From 1676, moreover, there is a marked tendency on the part of the Patriarchs to interfere in the internal affairs of the archbishopric and to set up their own candidates [4].



1. Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnamesi, vol. 8, p. 741.


2. Snegarov, The history of the archbishopric of Ohrid, p. 119. See various other pieces of interesting information in Mertzios, Μνημεῖα, pp. 149, 169, 184. Turski Dokumenti, 1, pp. 113-114, 117.


3. Gelzer, Das Patriarchat von Achrida, pp. 147-149.


4. Snegarov, ibid., pp. 123-124.





The new, 'foreign' archbishops of Ohrid (whom Gelzer terms 'Phanariots', in contradistinction to what one might call the authochthonous archbishops from the district under the jurisdiction of the Ohrid archbishopric) were the cause of a great deal of ill-feeling, and, as a result, the tranquility of the Church was profoundly disrupted [1]. The constant interference by one side or the other was certain to bring other disturb-



Fig. 72. The Archiepiscopal Church of Peć

Fig. 72. The Archiepiscopal Church of Peć.



ances in its train. Hencewefind that after a confrontation at Adrianople in May 1697, the Archbishops of Ohrid (see fig. 71), Peć and Cyprus agreed that they should be recognised as being of equal status. Moreover, they threatened with excommunication any patriarchs of Constantinople who violated the right or freedom of the provincial autocephalous churches [2].



1. Gelzer, Das Patriarchat von Achrida, pp. 151 ff.


2. Snegarov, The history of the archbishopric of Ohrid, pp. 121-122. Memoranda (takrirler) and documents confirming appointments (beratlar) dating from this period may be found in D. Zakythenos, Σνμβολαὶ εἰς τὴν ἱστορίαν τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν Ἀχρίόος καὶ Ἰπεκίου, «Μακεδονικὰ» 1 (1940) 429 447, where a rich bibliography can also be found.





However, there were other compelling reasons of an economic nature which were instrumental in bringing about these troubles. The archbishopric had been saddled with many debts, for the Turks had seized many of its estates, and bled it white with the continual levying of taxes. What is more, the candidates for the episcopal seat — whether aliens or indigenaus — offered substantial gifts to achieve their ends; and once they had ascended the episcopal throne, they made sure that they recouped their losses by making money out of the performance of their ecclesiastical duties [1]. But generally speaking the church estates were managed very badly. The revenues were flagrantly squandered (a fact that caused the Oecumenical Patriarchate a good deal of concern); and the story was little different at Peć (see fig. 72). In the end the Oecumenical Patriarchate — in a bid, no doubt, to neutralise the resistance of the two archbishops — took steps to abolish them in 1767 [2].


Throughout these areas of Northern Macedonia the presence of the Ancient Greeks and of what we term Greek civilization was all-pervading, even though shrouded now in legend. We find it intruding into the pages of Evliya Çelebi, as when, for instance, he speaks of the castles of Strumica. Clearly, the recollection of Alexander the Great was particularly vivid in these parts [3]. It is also interesting, to find Hadji Kalfa remarking that in antiquity Skopje was called 'the bride of Greece' [4]. On the other hand, it is only to be expected that the stamp of ancient Hellenism was more perceptible further south in the Greek inhabited parts of 'Greater Macedonia'.



1. Snegarov, The history of the archbishopric of Ohrid, p. 115. Gelzer, Das Patriarchat von Achrida, pp. 169 ff.


2. Gelzer, ibid., pp. 162-166. Concerning Ohrid's economy, see pp. 169-175. See also Snegarov, ibid., pp. 147-150.


3. Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnamesi, vol. 8, pp. 752 ff.


4. Hadschi Chalfa, Rumeli und Bosna, p. 95.


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