History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


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


3. Thessalonika around the year 1733



The city is enclosed within its circuit-walls. There are no signs of any suburbs or country-houses beyond. Her fortifications are the old Byzantine ones. The dilapidated tower on the citadel is equipped with cannon. Another two towers — the one an ancient rectangular structure and the other a round one — are situated in the south-east of the city. [ The second of these two towers is the present-day White Tower, which Souciet says was built some 100 years before (i.e. around 1634 — a dating which is certainly erroneous) and on whose reconstruction all the citizens worked, including the Archbishop himself. He also says that a few





years later a Venetian fleet sailed in and its commander demanded 40.000 sequins with the threat that he would bombard the city. But the paşa refused and by means of the great cannon mounted on this tower, inflicted some damage on a number of the Venetian vessels [1]. (This event occurred perhaps around the middle of the 17th century) [2] ]. There is a fourth tower in the south-west sector of the city. The garrison of Thessalonica is composed of 700-800 Janissaries, the majority of them married men and lacking in martial spirit, although their rowdy behaviour is often to the detriment of the rayas, and sometimes of the Franks as well. Three hundred Turkish merchants also bear the title of 'Janissary', although they receive no pay as such and are of a peaceful disposition [3]. The population of Thessalonica number some 40.000: 10.000 are Turks, 8-9.000 Greeks with a number of Bulgarians, and 18-20.000 Jews [4]. [ The small number of Bulgarians were slaves who had been bought by Greek families, as far as we can judge from a later piece of information (of 1765) from the Venetian consul in Thessalonica, who writes that the Greeks took mainly Bulgars for slaves, while the Turks preferred black people of both sexes, which they brought over from Egypt and the coast of Barbary [5] ].


The paşa, the molla and the ağa represented the three highest authorities in Thessalonica (i.e. political, judicial and military) [6]. When the paşa was absent, a mütesellim (acting governor) was appointed as his deputy. The paşas also used to appoint mütesellims for the military administration of the larger cities in their districts (we find instances of this at Véroia and Kavála) [7]. The molla determined the price of merchandise and allowed or prohibited the export of certain items. Α measure of judicial power was wielded also by the kadıs established in the various cities of the paşalik of Thessalonica, and by the naïps, who acted as deputies for the molla, or simply assisted him [8].



1. Aimé-Martin, Lettres, vol. 1, p. 72.


2. See various views connected with this question in I. K. Vasdravellis, Ὁ βομβαρδισμὸς τῆς ἐν Θεσσαλονίκῃ ἐκκλησίας τοῦ Ἁγ. Μηνᾶ παρὰ τῶν Βενετῶν, «Γέρας Α. Κεραμοπούλου», pp. 420-425.


3. Aimé - Martin, ibid., vol. 1, p. 72. According to the information of the Venetian consul, dated April 1741, Thessalonica had 80.000 inhabitants, i.e. 40.000 Jews, 25.000 Greeks, and 15.000 Turks (Mertzios, Μνημεῖα, p. 304).


4. Aimé - Martin, ibid., vol. 1, p. 76.


5. Mertzios, ibid., pp. 395-396.


6. Svoronos, Le commerce, p. 20.


7. Ibid., p. 14.      8. Ibid., p. 15.





As in the Byzantine period, the city continued to comprise areas which were not built upon: indeed, one third of its area was taken up with large gardens. The citadel was inhabited solely by Turks. The most attractive part of Thessalonica was the so-called 'upper city', which was full of beautiful palaces and mansions, with courtyards bordered by wide balconies, which looked out over the sea, and fine halls where the Turkish notables received visits, gave audiences and dispensed justice [1].



Fig. 101. Las Incantadas

Fig. 101. Las Incantadas.

(Cousinery, vol. 1, facing page 32)



The majority of the Greeks lived in the lower city in separate 'districts'. Α few of the wealthier ones possessed fine houses, built in the same style as the Turkish ones.


The Jews likewise inhabited the lower city, as well as the market-places and an area stretching the length of the sea-walls. As was the



1. Aimé - Martin, Lettres, vol. 1, pp. 72-73.





case with the Greeks, there were but a small number of rich merchants among them, and these lived in beautiful houses. The rest of them were poor and lived in old houses without any form of heating. They were dirty and, consequently, epidemics spread with ease throughout their 'districts'. In fact, it was the Jews who were the main victims of the great plague. The streets in the lower city were dirty and the paving very uneven. In the centre of the city, where the market place was, the streets were roofed with planks and were therefore rather murky, though cool in summer. (These were the so-called 'σκεπαστά', which existed up till the beginning of the 20th century).



Fig. 102. Church of the Aposlles

Fig. 102. Church of the Aposlles.

(Mary Adelaide Walker, Througlı Maeedonia to the Albatıian Lakes, London 1864. p. 46)



In the covered-market (bezesten) the textile-merchants rented premises for their goods (silks, muslins, Indian brocades, etc), paying a yearly rent of 7-8 kuruş. There were in addition, a large number of clean, newly-built premises in the harbour district. The city possessed 4 or 5 inns [1].


On the south-east side of the city stretched a long open space (some 200 feet in length and 50 feet across), which was bordered by poorly-constructed dwellings. These houses, which had been built in recent times, had encroached upon what in former times had been a larger area



1. Aimé - Martin, Lettres, vol. 1, p. 73.





of the 'square' [1]. This piece of information is of some significance, for what is referred to here is none other than the old Hippodrome with all the historical associations that it brings to mind. Α large portion of the Byzantine city evidently remained untouched right up to the beginning of the 18th century. Souciet also tells us of the well-known monument [2] which went under the name of Las Incantadas ('the Bewitched Ones') (see fig. 101).



Fig. 103. The Church of the Prophet Elias (Eski Seraï)

Fig. 103. The Church of the Prophet Elias (Eski Seraï).

(Diehl - Le Tourneau - Saladin, Monuments, p. 205, fig. 1)



The only really noteworthy and solid buildings belonging to the Turks were the mosques, or rather the Greek Byzantine churches which



1. Aimé-Martin, Lettres, vol. 1, p. 74.


2. Ibid., p. 73.





had been converted into mosques (see figs 102, 103, 104, 105). There were about 30 of these in Thessalonica [1].


The Orthodox churches numbered some 12 or 13. They could not be seen from the streets, for they were screened by the houses in front of them. The Cathedral Church was quite handsomely built: it was honoured with the name of St. Demetrius, and stood in the part



Fig. 104. The Church of Michaelmas (Ikiserefe Cami)

Fig. 104. The Church of Michaelmas (Ikiserefe Cami).

(Diehl - Le Tourneau - Saladin, Monuments, p. 216, fig. 94)



of the city which was adjacentto the sea, on the spot where the Cathedral Church of Gregory Palamas stands today. We have some interesting items about the church of St. Demetrius. It was a triple-aisled basilica, with timbered roofs, and it had two or three rows of pews around the interior. One aisle was reserved for women. The sanctuary was separated from the body of the church by a lofty iconostasis of carved wood, the icons representing Christ, the Virgin Mary, various saints and some fathers of the Church. These icons —in the opinion of Souciet, who expresses the Roman Catholic point of view — lacked both finesse and fidelity to nature.



1. Aime - Martin, Lettres, vol. 1, p. 74.





At the far end of the sanctuary were the stalls of the Bishop and his clergy, arranged in a semi-circle with the Bishop's in the middle. In the Cathedral was preserved the canopy of Gregory Palamas.


Among other churches, we find mention of those of St. Athanasios, St. Menas and the Holy Virgin. The last-named (though which church of the Holy Virgin is meant here, is not clear) had been burnt down at the end of the 17th century and rebuilt by the Christians with remark-



Fig. 105. South-eastern side of the Church of Michaelmas

Fig. 105. South-eastern side of the Church of Michaelmas.

(Tafrali, Topographie, plate XXVII)



able zeal in the space of a very short time [1]. The church of St. Menas is not reported to have been destroyed at this time, so that the fire which eventually destroyed it, and which I. K. Vasdravellis dates around 1700, must have occurred after 1733, or possibly in 1770, as Tafel states· The latter date would seem to be corroborated by a remark of Cousinéry written in 1831, that he saw the remains of the beautiful church of St. Menas, which had been burnt down 60 years previously [2].


As for the church of the city's guardian saint, St. Demetrius, which



1. Aimé - Martin, Lettres, vol. 1, pp. 75-76.


2. See bibliography in Vasdravellis, Ὁ βομβαρδισμὸς τῆς ἐκκλησίας τοῦ Ἁγ. Μηνᾰ, pp. 421-422.





had been converted into a mosque, Souciet writes that it had a spacious crypt with a spring and water which could work miracles [1].


The feast-day of St. Demetrius, being as he was the city's guardian saint, was celebrated with great solemnity, and all the bishops who came under the jurisdiction of the bishopric of Thessalonica, took part. After the liturgy, the archbishop, seated upon a throne that stood in the centre of the church, addressed the congregation and — doubtless according to a Byzantine tradition — delivered the encomium of the Saint [2].



Fig. 106. Church of Ypapanti

Fig. 106. Church of Ypapanti.

(Drawing by Angelos Kalogeropoulos)



The information which Souciet provides us about the organization of the Greek community in Thessalonica, is likewise very interesting. The head of the community was essentially the archbishop, who, as always, held the most prominent position in the Orthodox hierarchy. He was regarded, in fact, as a minor patriarch. The archbishop was assisted by leading ecclesiastics, such as the Megas Oeconomos and the Protosyngellos, etc. [3]. Political power was in the hands of the notables (ἄρχοντες), who apportioned the taxes imposed on the community as a whole.



1. Aimé - Martin, Lettres, p. 75.


2. Ibid., p. 76.      3. Ibid., p. 76.





Supported by a now quite sizeable community, the Greek notables had become considerably more powerful around 1715 and were demanding that it should be the main body of the laity who managed the public moneys and charitable foundations rather than the metropolitan, as has always been the custom hitherto in this and every other Greek community [1].


Α contemporary source — the Venetian consul in Thessalonica — makes mention of 20 elders of the Greek community who came into conflict with their fellow-Greek 'dragomans' of the European consuls and with the 'baratarii', who, under the cover of their special status, sought to avoid the tax-obligations to which they were subject as members of the Greek community [2]. These 20 elders would appear to have been the notables, from whose ranks 12 men would be chosen every year to form the governing body of the Greek community.


Souciet tells us nothing about Greek education in Thessalonica around 1733, possibly because he did not regard it as of any importance. But from other evidence we learn that in 1716 the learned Yiannakos was teaching in the city. He had studied Latin, ancient Greek, philosophy and theology in Italy. The Thessalonians had assigned funds for the creation of a school and the salary for a school-master. There were, moreover, certain people who had demanded the formulation of plans for the founding of a second school with Pachomius, a pupil of Methodius Anthracites, as its teacher [3].


The Jews had likewise their own community, which in the eyes of Europeans seemed to come under a separate authority of their own. It was presided over by the Grand Khakham, and was well organized. There was a special fund to meet the 'avanies' (extortions) of the Turks, to provide care for orphans, etc. The Jews were energetic, industrious, and practiced a wide variety of trades. The porters and carriers, however, lived in a lamentable state of undernourishment. Sometimes Jews went over to Islam, though they never lost their old inclination towards Judaism. They possessed a good number of small schools and one of a more



1. Gedeon, Θεσσαλονικέων διενέξεις, «Μακεδονικὰ» 2 (1941-1952) 8-14.


2. See Mertzios, Μνημεῖα, pp. 312, 322. See interesting details about the excesses of the 'baratarii' on pp. 336-337. See also pp. 359, 360, 363-366. See, too, a similar incident of 1793 in Mertzios, Μνημεῖα, p. 454. See record of Greek dignitaries of Thessalonica in the year 1766 in Mertzios, ibid., pp. 399-400. See mention of a notable of Thessalonica with Catholic sympathies at the beginning of the 18th cent. (John Palaeologue) in Aimé - Martin, Lettres, vol. 1, pp. 89, 91.


3. See more about this in Gedeon, ibid., pp. 19-21.





advanced type, where philosophy, law and theology were taught [1]. The students submitted and printed essays on various subjects, principally religious, and these were written in their own Spanish dialect.


The Jews had at least 30 synagogues, some of them quite large, but all of them poorly constructed [2].


Thessalonica and its environs still preserved many relics of ancient times and of the Byzantine period. These were systematically plundered by antique-dealers, who made great profits from their trade in antiquities. They even contrived, by highly suspect and illegal means, to export various marble remains, declaring them in manifests simply as 'stones'.


Α Venetian consular report, dated 25 April 1741 and addressed to the Doge, is very revealing on this subject. "Franks of every nationality carry on the trade of exporting antiquities... They go at night to the district where they have located archaeological treasures and do not hesitate to pull down buildings and even tombs in the Turkish cemeteries, if there has happened to be some ancient marble slab incorporated therein. To carry away these 'stones' they sometimes have to hire whole vessels, paying substantial sums for them". Up to the date mentioned, these dealers had sent out an 'amazing quantity' of antiques and had derived correspondingly large profits.


The vice-consul himself, Caldana, played an active part in the export of antiques, and had encouraged the other Venetian subjects to participate in this commerce. Moreover, Venetian subjects in the Ionian Islands, we are told, did nought else. The newly appointed consul tried to dissuade Venetian subjects under his protection in Thessalonica from taking part in this dangerous trade, and threatened them that if they did not heed his warning, he would have them arrested and sent in chains to Venice. He also came to an understanding with the French and British consuls whereby they forbade their respective subjects to allow their ships to be used for the conveyance of antiquities. But this only resulted in the antiquities being smuggled out with greater secrecy [3].



1. Aimé - Martin, Lettres, vol. 1, pp. 78-79.


2. Ibid., p. 76.


3. Mertzios, Μνημεῖα, pp. 305-306. See also Febure, Theâtre, pp. 184-187.


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