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


b) Southern Macedonia

 The region of the Strymon and Nestus rivers ('Eastern Macedonia')


It is clear from the travellers' accounts covering Southern Macedonia that the inhabitants of those parts retained numerous traditions — often in the form of myths — hearking back to the illustrious kingdom of the ancient Macedonian rulers, Philip and, more so, Alexander





the Great. Moreover, such monuments as survived here and there, fostered these traditions by stimulating the imagination of simple people. Discernible, too, among the imaginative reveries of Evliya Çelebi are distant echoes of the great Greek sages and of the feats of Alexander. There can be no doubt that the inhabitants of Macedonia continue to keep alive, by way of a centuries-old tradition, the hero's splendid legend.



Fig. 73. Part of Kavála in the 19th century. Below left can be discerned the Via Egnatia leading to Philippi

Fig. 73. Part of Kavála in the 19th century. Below left can be discerned the Via Egnatia leading to Philippi.

(Walker, Through Macedonia, facing pp. 18-19)



In our description oí' this section of Macedonia, we shall work from east to west. Thus, the first large city we come to, lying near the border of Thrace with Macedonia, is Kavála, which is situated on the site of Byzantine Christopolis and of the ancient Neapolis. Kavála was famous for its castle, which had been built upon an isolated hill by Selim (probably the First, 1512-1520) to protect from pirates the caravans en route for Constantinople [1]. The lower city had 5 districts with about 500 two-



1. Hadschi Chalfa, Rumeli und Bosna, p. 71. For certain details about the fortifications of Kavála and its aquaduct, see R. de Dreux, Voyage en Turquie et en Grèce, edited by H. Pernot, Paris 1925, pp. 90-91. The relevant excerpts of R. de Dreux and P. Lucas have been translated into Bulgarian by B. Cvetcova, French travellers of the 15th-18th centuries in the Rhodope region and the lands neighbouring upon the Aegean Sea, «Rodopski Sbornik» 1 (1965) 271-282.





storeyed houses (though only a few possessed gardens). The lead-roofed mosques with their minarets, imarets (poor-houses) and medreses (theological colleges) (see fig. 73) shone in the sunsbine from afar [1]. Outside the harbour-gate stood inns and warehouses [2].


Kavála belonged to the eyalet of the Aegean Islands and came under the control of the 'kapudan pasha' (Chief Admiral). In times of war the bey of the city was obliged to go on campaign with two galleys. Other eminent figures in the city were the seyh-ül-islam, the nakib-ül-eşraf, the chief of the district police and the military governor, the kâhya yeri of the sipahis, the commander of the Janissaries, and the commander of the artillery and of Kapı Kulları ('Slaves of the Porte', i.e. a corps of non-feudal auxiliaries). The military forces based on Kavála exceeded 2.000 men. Their presence was imperative, since Venetian ships made frequent appearances off that part of the coast [3]. Çelebi's French contemporary, Robert de Dreux, no doubt with Belon in mind, believed that Kavála (or 'Cavallos', as he writes it) stood on the site of the ancient city of 'Bucephala', which had been built by Alexander the Great in honour of his horse Bucephalus [4].


Inland, on the way to Dráma, we come to Philippi, which retained its ancient name in the form of Philippidjik [5], though it was by this time but a small and insignificant village of 70 to 80 houses, with roofs of slate. There were ruins of some importance to be seen in the district [6] (see fig 74). Evliya Çelebi and later Paul Lucas were highly impressed by the sight of the imposing ancient and medieval monuments which met their eyes. "Perhaps", writes the much-travelled Evliya, "only Ayidjik, Mylasa, the ruins of Ephesus, Balat and Ahlat (which stand above Lake Ban) are equally remarkable" [7]. Lucas observed upon a mountain near by, a large citadel with almost its entire walls intact. Perched on differ-



1. Moschopoulos, Ἡ Ἑλλὰς κατὰ τὸν Ἐβλιὰ Τσελεμπῆ, ΕΕΒΣ 14 (1938) 512.


2. Hadschi Chalfa, Rumeli und Bosna, p. 71. See also Moschopoulos, ibid., p. 512.


3. Moschopoulos, ibid., ΕΕΒΣ 14 (1938) 510, 512.


4. R. de Dreux, Voyage, p. 90.


5. P. Lucas, Voyage dans la Grèce, l'Asie Mineure, la Macédoine et l'Afrique, Amsterdam 1714, 1, p. 200.


6. Moschopoulos, ibid., ΕΕΒΣ 15 (1939)147-148.


7. Moschopoulos, ibid., 15 (1939)148.





ent heights around the citadel towered numerous other castles with mighty walls stretching right down to the plain. Further on, Lucas makes some interesting observations on the site and the ancient monuments of Philippi [1]. This portion of his description is particularly noteworthy and I add it here verbatim, since it demonstrates how well the splendid and beautiful churches and other buildings had been preserved up to his time (i.e. the beginning of the 18th century) — monuments which are only now being excavated and brought to light in the neighbourhood of Philippi.



Fig. 74. Ruins of ancient Philippi

Fig. 74. Ruins of ancient Philippi.

(Photo S. Pelekanides)



"When we reached the site of Philippi, we proceeded, to begin with, through piles of hewn stone and marble, without a trace of any walls. Later on, we came across a large number of buildings which were half in ruins, and amongst them could be clearly discerned some beautiful temples built of white marble, magnificent palaces, the ruins of which still gave one an excellent impression of ancient architecture, and many other monuments worthy of the splendour of the monarchs who had reigned there. We walked for an hour and a half through these ruins" [2]. Upon



1. Lucas, Voyage dans la Grèce, 1, pp. 200-201.


2. Lucas, ibid., 1, p. 201.





the heights, Lucas came across that well-known monument of Vibius Quartus [1], which, with various other ancient remains, had helped to keep alive the age-old tradition of Alexander the Great.


Beyond Philippi stretched the fertile plain of Dráma, well-watered [2] and famous for its cotton, which was made into tent-canvas. The linen produced for textiles was likewise of good quality [3]. Its rice, too, was excellent [4]. In the middle of the plain stood the small but beautiful city of Dráma itself [5]. It was divided into 7 districts, comprising about 600 families [6] and seven mosques [7] (probably one to each district). Its inhab-tants were engaged in trade and industry, and spoke both Greek and Bulgarian [8]. The citadel of Dráma, which in former days must have been of remarkable strength, was by this time slowly falling into ruins. The Greeks had a church and an archbishop. The numerous ruins which he saw in various parts of the city made quite an impression on Lucas, particulary an ancient tower built of choice blocks of stone and inscribed marble slabs, and a clock which struck the hours, like similar ones in Philippopolis and Sérres.


Lucas also visited the city's cisterns and a large square in the form of an amphitheatre, which in former times had been used for games and contests. He also observed numerous streamlets that meandered gurgling through the city. Every Sunday a great bazaar was held and a variety of cereals were on sale [9].


Continuing on our way from Dráma in the direction of Sérres, we reach Zíchna, which at this period was mainly a Moslem settlement



1. Lucas, Voyage dans la Grèce, 1, p. 201. See also Aimé - Martin, Lettres, vol. 1, pp. 85-86. See, too, Omont, Missions archéologiques, part 2, p. 1033.


2. Hadschi Chalfa, Rumeli und Bosna, p. 73.


3. Moschopoulos, Ἡ Ἑλλὰς κατὰ τὸν Ἐβλιὰ Τσελεμπῆ, 15 (1939) 154-155. See also Hadschi Chalfa, ibid., p. 73.


4. Hadschi Chalfa, ibid., 73.


5. Lucas, ibid., vol. 1, p. 198. See some interesting details about P. Lucas in Οmont, ibid., part 1, pp. 317-382.


6. Moschopoulos, ibid., EEBΣ 15 (1939)151.


7. Lucas, ibid., 1, p. 198.


8. Moschopoulos, ibid., ΕΕΒΣ 15 (1939) 154. This information did not restrain a Bulgarian scholar of our day from writing, only 21 years after the third attack made on Greece by Bulgaria within 30 years, the following chauvenistic and unlikely assertions: «Even from the scanty details that we posses, it is quite clear (!) that the Bulgarians formed the chief element and had been since time immemorial the inhabitants of the (Dráma) region». (Koledarov, The ethnologicál composition of the Drama region. «Izvestija na Instituta za Istorija» 10 (1962) 166).


9. Lucas, ibid., 1, pp. 198-200.





and a wakfoî the Sultan Suleyman I [1]. Právista (present-day Elevtherópolis) was another small village in that vicinity [2] (see fig. 75).


With its Byzantine castle [3], Sérres was certainly a city of note, long famous for its heroic stand against the Turks in 1383. The greater part of the walls had been pulled down by the conquerors to prevent



Fig. 75. lnn at Pravista

Fig. 75. lnn at Pravista.

(D. E. Clarke, Travels in various countries of Europe, Asia and Africa, Cambridge, 1812, vol. 2, facing p. 403)



the fortress serving as a focus of Greek resistance in the event of an uprising (as happened in fact with other castles within the Ottoman empire [4]).


At this period Sérres was inhabited mainly by Turks (30 out of its 40 districts were Moslem), together with Greeks, Armenians, Jews,



1. Moschopoulos, Ἡ Ἑλλὰς κατὰ τὸν Ἐβλιὰ Τσελεμπῆ, ΕΕΒΣ 15 (1939) 155-156.


2. Moschopoulos, ibid., ΕΕΒΣ 15 (1939) 146. See also Braconnier's description of 1706 in Omont, Missions archéologiques, vol. 2, p. 1030.


3. On the subject of the fortifications of the castle of Sérres and the ruins of two small churches near the castle, see R. de Dreux, Voyage, pp. 92-93.


4. Moschopoulos, ibid., ΕΕΒΣ 15 (1939) 158. It is noteworthy that the same observation was made by R. de Dreux, for it means that the destruction of the castle was spoken about at Sérres (R. de Dreux, ibid., p. 93).





Bulgars and Serbs. The population was chiefly engaged in industry and commerce [1]. The handkerchiefs, napkins and banners woven by Christian women were well-known even as far away as Arabia and Persia. The rice grown in the Sérres district was of choice quality [2].


The city had a few Christian churches [3], ten mosques, seven or eight bath-houses, fine inns, a covered market, poorhouses, and beautiful gardens [4]. In the centre of the city stood a tall clock-tower which struck the hours in the European manner. This was quite a surprise to the traveller Robert de Dreux, who had not seen such a tower in all his travels throughout the lands of the Ottoman empire [5].


Like Dráma, Sérres served as the headquarters of various Turkish political and religious representatives [6].


The presence of Slavs in the Greek cities of Sérres and Dráma is a characteristic feature. Some of them will have been there from the last century of the Byzantine era, that is, the period of Stephen Dušan. By this time, however, the old Slav nuclei were being continually strengthened by the unimpeded influx of fresh Slavs, particularly Bulgars, who had come down from the north in search of work.


The Siderókastro (Demir Hisar) of the period was a mere village, situated at some distance from the castle-walls, with a mosque, bath-houses, etc. Its famous hot springs were half a mile away [7].


West of Siderókastro was the small township of Vétrina (modern Néo Petrítsi), which had a vali, a kadı, a voyvoda, a deputy-kâhya of the sipahis, a serdar of janissaries, etc. Forty-eight villages belonged to the prefecture. Vétrina's beautiful stone houses were two storeyed with balustrades, sun-roofs and high terraces, and were embellished with rose-gardens. The various districts of the town were inhabited some by Moslems, and others by Bulgars, Greeks or Serbs. At Vétrina there were medreses for hocas, schools, baths, inns, and markets. Its scented tobacco was renowned; indeed, Evliya Çelebi deemed it more pleasant than the tobacco of Yenitsá. There were also vegetable-gardens and orchards of apple- and quince-trees throughout the district [8].



1. Moschopoulos, Ἡ Ἑλλὰς κατὰ τὸν Ἐβλιὰ Τσελεμπῆ, ΕΕΒΣ 15 (1939) 159-161.


2. Hadschi Chalfa, Rumeli und Bosna, p. 74.


3. Moschopoulos, ibid., p. 160.


4. Hadschi Chalfa, ibid., p. 74.


5. R. de Dreux, Voyage, pp. 93-94.


6. Moschopoulos, ibid., EEBΣ 15 (1939)150-158.


7. Hadschi Chalfa, ibid., p. 84.


8. Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnamesi, vol. 8, pp. 761-762.





Following now the road from Sérres to Thessalonica, we come to Doksan-Buz, which constituted the property of whoever happened to be the Grand Vizir at the time, and was administered by him through his representative, an ağa. Thanks to the proximity of the garrisons stationed in the cities mentioned above, Doksan-Buz had no need of a garrison of its own and had no commander of Janissaries. It was, however, the seat of an Islamic court. The village was inhabited by Greeks and Bulgarians, who gained a livelihood from fishing and the pursuit of



Fig. 76. Source of the River Anghista (Anghitis), which flows into the lake of Kerkinitis (Achinoû)

Fig. 76. Source of the River Anghista (Anghitis), which flows into the lake of Kerkinitis (Achinoû).

(M. E. M. Cousinéry, Voyage dans la Macédoine, Paris 1831, vol. 2, facing p. 46)



water-birds on the lake, which bore the same name as the village [1] (perhaps this was Lake Achinoû (see fig. 76).


If, instead of continuing along the road which joins Kavála, Dráma, Sérres and Thessalonica, we follow the well-known caravan-route along the coast we come upon the town of Orkan (or Orfan), on the estuary of the Strymon. The town possessed two-storeyed houses and vineyards [2], a harbour which could boast a respectable amount of business, since



1. Moschopoulos, Ἡ Ἑλλὰς κατὰ τὸν Ἐβλιὰ Τσελεμπῆ, ΕΕΒΣ 14 (1938) 505.


2. Moschopoulos, ibid., ΕΕΒΣ 14 (1938) 495-496.





merchant-vessels could navigate the river upto a certain point [1]. Orkan was undoubtedly a newly-founded town, which must have been built on the site of the old Chrysopolis, and although it had declined within a relatively short space of time to the proportions of a village, one could still see numerous indications of its previous significance, like the large but crumbling tower that Lucas observed at the beginning of the 18th century [2].



1. Hadschi Chalfa, Rumeli und Bosna, p. 72.


2. Lucas, Voyage dans la Grèce, vol. 1, p. 202.


[Previous] [Next]

[Back to Index]