HISTORIES EPISKEPSIS (A HISTORICAL REVIEW)
«Ἄνδρων δὲ ὁ Ἁλικαρνασσεὺς Ὠκεανόν φησι γῆμαι β΄ γυναῖκας, Πομφολύγην καὶ Παρθενόπην, ἐξ ὧν δ΄ θυγατέρας γεννᾷ, τῆς μὲν Ἀσίαν και Λιβύην, Θράκην δὲ τῆς ἑτέρας καὶ Εὐρώπην, ἀφ’ ὧν λέγει καὶ κληθῆναι τὰς χώρας» SCHEER Eduardus (rec.) Lycophronis Alexandra, vol. II, apud Weidmannos, Berolini MDCCCCVIII, page 289.[“Andron of Halicarnassus says Oceanus had two spouses, Pompholyge and Parthenope, from whom four daughters were begotten; Asia and Libya from the former, Thrace and Europe from the latter, and the lands, he says, were named after them”. SCHEER Eduardus (rec.) Lycophronis Alexandra, vol. II, apud Weidmannos, Berolini MDCCCCVIII, p. 289.]
The geographical entity of Thrace, whose boundaries have changed many times in the course of history, is one of the lands where Hellenism has been flourishing. In late antiquity it stretched from the Danube to the Aegean and from the Black Sea to the Strymon River valley, its territory later decreasing from the west to the Nestos River valley. The ancient inhabitants of Thrace, of Indo-European origin like Greeks and closely connected with them, have been known to the latter as Thracians (in Ionic: Threikes), and their various tribes (Odryssae, Bessi, Kikones, Moesi, Triballi, Sapaei etc) extended until the Moravian Gates (in what is now southern Czech Republic). According to ancient sources (Bacchylides, Clement of Alexandria, Galen, Hecataeus of Miletus, Xenophanes, etc.), the ancient Thracians were red or blond-haired and blue-eyed, features still encountered in today’s Pomaks. The presence of the Thracians in the region is witnessed since 1000 BC. Thracians lived also in today’s Serbia (the tribes of Scordisci and Taurisci, intermingled with Celts) and Skopje.
The region of Thrace is linked to the religious mythological figures of Dionysus, Eurydice and Orpheus. Important Greeks originating in Thrace were the orator Protagoras, the philosopher Democritus and his student, mathematician Bio of Abdera, the philosophers Diogenes Apolloniates and Anaxarchus, the historian Hieronymos of Cardia, and, in modern times, the writers Georgios Vizyinos and Kostas Varnalis, the prominent jurist Alexandros Karatheodori, representative of the Ottoman State at the Congress of Berlin (1878), the major benefactors Grigorios Maraslis -who served also as mayor in Odessa- and Georgios Zarifis, the leading mathematician Konstantin Caratheodory etc.
Its fertile plains, its rich marine and mineral resources, attracted very early on southern Greeks and, from the 7th c. BC on, a number of Greek cities were founded on the shores of the Aegean and the Pontus Euxinus (Black Sea). Abdera, Maroneia, Mesembria (now Nesebar), Perinthos (near what is now Marmara Ereglisi), Sestos (near what is now Eceabat), Byzantium (later Constantinople, now Istanbul), Odessos (now Odessa), Philippoupolis (now Plovdiv), Anchialos (now Pomorie), Dionysopolis (now Balchik) are just few of the well-known centres of development of the Greek element at that time.
In the 4th c. BC, Philip II annexed its territory to the kingdom of Macedon. Centuries later, during the early period of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine), the area south of the Balkan mountain range constitutes the province of Thracia. With the emergence of the administrative system of the themata in the second half of the 7th c. AD, the thema of Thrace was established, which originally included all European territories east of Strymon River. Due to its geographical position, Thrace was viewed as an area of particular geostrategic, geopolitical and geo-economic importance, as the centre of the world known at the time; it was home to the seat of the State, Constantinople, and was repeatedly invaded by various European and Asian tribes such as Goths, Huns, Avars etc.
A new tribe, the Bulgarians, who appeared in the area after crossing the natural border of the Danube and occupied the northeast part of the Balkans (late 7th-early 8th c. AD), claimed the land of Thrace from the Eastern Romans (Byzantines) in order to annex it to its own, newly established kingdom. During the 9th and 10th c. AD, the area became a field of conflict between the two.
During the mid-14th c. AD the crossing of the Hellespont and the occupation of Kallipolis by the Ottomans (now Gelibolu) lead to their gradual domination in the area, which were completed with the Fall of Constantinople (1453). Since then, the Ottoman domination was to continue until the border upheavals of the 19th and early 20th c. Following the Russian-Ottoman War (1877-1878), itself a result of the Berlin Conference decisions (1878), the geographical entity started being divided (finally trisected); in the strip between the two mountain ranges, Balkan and Rhodope, the short-lived autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia was established. A little later, this was annexed to the Bulgarian Principality. After this, the Greek population of the area started migrating to the southern part of Thrace.
The Ottoman Government continued to rule over the southern part of the geographical entity until the period of hostilities in the Balkans (1912-1913). The victory of the Balkan allies resulted in a new territorial fragmentation and the portion of land west of Evros (Maritsa or Meric) was granted (1913), under the relevant Treaties, to the Kingdom of Bulgaria. In 1919, after the end of World War I (1918), since Bulgaria formally renounced its rights therein (Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine); the same portion was, for a while, put under the control of the joint military force of the allied victors [Commandement Interallie de Thrace or Thrace Interalliee (Inter-Allied Administration)].
In May 1920 the Allies assigned the command to the Greeks and, following the Treaty of Sevres (August 1920), almost all of the southern part of Thrace, delimited to the north by the Rhodope and Strandzha Mountains [except for a small strip of land just before Constantinople (Istanbul)], was allocated to the Kingdom of Greece by the Allies.
The end of the Asia Minor War (1919-1922) resulted in the review of decisions of Sevres in Lausanne. Under the Treaty of Lausanne, the southern part of Thrace was once more bisected and shared between the two parties, Greece and Turkey (Thraki and Trakya, respectively), with Evros River as the border between the two countries.
According to the Convention VI that was included in the abovementioned Treaty and involved the exchange of populations (on the basis of religion) between Turkey and Greece, the Muslim population (as defined and accepted by both parties in the official French text of the Convention, Art. 1), established in Thrace before the Treaty of Bucharest (1913), remained there; the same was true of the Greek Orthodox population (as defined and accepted by both parties in the same text), established in Constantinople (the toponym is used according to the official text of the aforementioned Convention, Art. 2) before the armistice of Moudros (1918). The welcoming Thracian land was to accept numbers of refugees and exchangees: Greek Orthodox (Romioi/ Rum) from Anatolia and the east bank of Evros River, Armenians and a small number of Muslims (mainly Circassians) and, rich as it was, allowed, following establishment, for their rehabilitation.
Integrated as an essential part of the country, Thrace was to continue its unhindered course until the outbreak of the World War II. The aggression of Nazi Germany to the northern border of Greece (April 6, 1941) was also focused on its eastern part. Nestos and Evros Brigades, being attacked from the Bulgarian territory, were to claim inch by inch the land before the enemy. The assigned infantry divisions of the aggressors were trammelled by the defenders of Metaxas line at the subsections of Echinos (Xanthi) and Nymphaea (Komotini) redoubts and suffer unpredictable human and material losses. The two forts, hammered from ground and air, were literally dug by the volume of fire received. After three days of titanic struggle, Thrace, like the rest of northern Greece, succumbed and was to experience a double occupation.
Bulgaria, being an ally of the Axis powers, took control of the land from Struma River to Alexandroupolis-Svilengrad line and integrated it into the 4th district of Bulgarian territory (Stara Zagora – Plovdiv – Belomore), while Germans developed their forces along the borderline area to the west of Evros River.
During that period, which was to last until 1944, Thrace suffered one more loss: it was deprived of all its Jewish population that was gathered by the occupation authorities and deported to the concentration camps. Thracian Greeks suffered this adversity with patience and, following liberation, the wind of reconstruction was blowing again in their outpost from the 50s on.
Thrace and eastern Macedonia constitute in common one of the administrative regions of Greece with Komotini as its capital, inhabited by 608,182 people (ELSTAT, 2011 census). It is located in the northeastern part of the mainland and shares a border with Bulgaria to the north and with Turkey to the east, with both of which it is connected by road and rail.
It covers an area of 8,578 km2 and has a population of 371,208 inhabitants (ELSTAT, 2011 census). It is administratively divided into three regional units (Xanthi, Rodopi and Evros), their respective capitals being Xanthi, Komotini and Alexandroupoli. Cities and towns with more than 2,000 inhabitants are Kimmeria, Kentavros, Echinos, Selero (Xanthi), Sapes, Iasmos (Rodopi), Orestiada, Didymoteicho, Feres, Soufli and Tychero (Evros).
It has important archaeological sites such as Abdera, Maronia, Mesembria, Samothrace etc., characterised by highly aesthetic landscapes such as the valley of Nestos River, the massif of Rhodope (modern Greek pronunciation: Rodopi), the complex of Thracian lakes and lagoons, the “Thracian Tempe” and the delta of Evros, including one of the most famous national parks in the country, the forest of Dadia, home to protected species of birds of prey of the rarest kind in Europe, as well as to extremely important wetlands protected by international treaties and organisations.
Archaeological findings dating back to the 2nd c. AD (Roman period) allow for the opinion that residential presence in the area dates since then. The well-known historian and folklorist Stilpon Kyriakides (1888-1964) informs us that the oldest historical monument of Komotini is its fortress, only a small part of which still exists. Constructed in the late 4th c. AD [Eastern Roman (“Byzantine”) period], it seems that it was a station and guarding point of Via Egnatia. The Professor, himself a native of Komotini, opines that the first core of the early settlement that was to gradually develop within the fortress, were the buildings serving as guard wards and traveller lodges. He believes that the lack of reports about it in the sources suggests that, in the course of the following centuries, Komotini remained just a hamlet of no particular significance. It administratively belonged to the thema of Macedonia and, from the 9th c. on, to the thema of Volero.
The population established in the hamlet should have increased after the destruction, in the 13th c., of the neighbouring Mosynopolis (formerly called Maximianoupolis) by hordes of the Bulgarian tsar Ivan A. Kaloyan (in Greek: Kaloioannis), which is when the residents fled to the safety of the fortress (13th and 14th c.).
The toponym is mentioned in the 14th c. by John VI Cantacuzene and Nicephorus Gregoras. The former refers to it as Koumoutzina, while the latter as Komotina or Komotini, the predominant form being, according to Kyriakides, the one mentioned by Cantacuzene. At the time, before being captured by the Ottomans, the fortress of Koumoutzina had been among the regions of Thrace where internal conflicts of Eastern Romans (Byzantines) were taking place, relating to the issue of dynastic quarrels and the succession to the throne, which plagued the Empire and dramatically reduced its power.
Ghazi Evrenos Beg [(Gazi Evrenos Beg) a Christian apostate who served in the Ottoman army] occupied the fortress in 1361 or 1363 and, for a while, established his headquarters in it. This is the starting point of the Ottoman occupation period of Koumoutzina, during which the population increased via the transport and establishment of the first Muslim incomers from the territories controlled by the Ottomans in Anatolia. Christian inhabitants continued to live within the fortress and Muslims, which now appear also as residents, began to settle outside it.
A 1519-census reports the existence of 393 Muslim households and 197 unmarried Muslims, 42 Christian households, six unmarried Christians and eight Christian widows, as well as 19 Jewish households and five unmarried Jews, a total population of about 2,500. From other sources we learn that those Jews were of Sephardic descent (refugees from Spain). The fortress with its inner and outer settlement, already renamed Gumulcine (itself a corrupted form of the toponym Koumoutzina), gradually acquires the features and the size of a town.
Known for his work Book of Travels (Seyahatname), as well as from the exaggerations contained therein, the Ottoman traveller Evliya Celebi visits the city in the years 1667-1668. He informs us of the existence of 16 quarter-parishes, as well as of 4,000 houses, 400 shops and 17 inns.
Monuments preserved today in the city of Komotini allow for the assertion that, in the second half of the 18th c., the population of the hamlet increased by the Armenian presence. From the early 19th c. on this is witnessed in written texts as well.
During the 19th c. the hamlet was developing and, following the administrative reorganization of the State under the new law on Provinces (vilayat) in the 60s, it became the seat of the homonymous Sub-Province (Liva-i Gumulcine), administratively attached to the Province (vilayet) of Edirne (Adrianople). At the end of the century, according to official data of the Province of Edirne for the entire population of the central (homonymous) District of the Sub-Province of Gumulcine (Kaza-i Gumulcine), this amounted to 67,341 people [Orthodox Christian Greeks (Rumlar), Muslims, Armenians, Jews and Exarchists (proselytes to the newly-founded Bulgarian Orthodox Church)]. The same source reports that in the headquarters of the Sub-Province, the hamlet of Gumulcine, the population of its religious-national communities (milel) – Orthodox Christian Greeks (Rumlar), Muslims, Armenians, Jews and Gypsies- was established in 26 pure or mixed population quarter-parishes. At the same time it acquires a railway station and is connected to the railway network.
Very soon, within the time frame of the first two decades of the 20th c., developments in the flow of historical time changed the conditions prevailing until then. During the Balkan-Ottoman War (1912-1913) of 8/21 November 1912, a unit of the Kardzhali detachment invaded the town, which was thus put under Bulgarian administration. When the Balkan alliance was broken and a conflict arose between the former allies on 14/27 July 1913, the town was invaded by the Greek army and put under Greek (military) administration.
However, the Greek forces soon withdrew in compliance with the decisions of the Conference of Bucharest and the conditions of the homonymous Treaty (July 28/August 10, 1913) to the settled border west of Nestos (Mesta Karasu) River.
However, the Young Turks from the Ottoman capital, as well as from Edirne, in an attempt to overthrow the decisions of Bucharest and prevent the part of Thrace west of Evros to be ceded to Bulgaria, but fearing the reaction of the European powers to an overt military action of theirs, attempt to cause a fait accompli by manipulating penetration in this part of Thrace by forces of the Ottoman army as “volunteers”, in order to put it under their control. Part of them invades the town of Gumulcine on August 31. Then there was proclaimed the short-lived and by no-one recognised “Provisional (or, later, “Independent”) Government of Western Thrace”, practically controlled by officers or adherents of the Ottoman army who were instruments of the Young Turks’ core [namely Enver Pasha (Ismail Enver Pasa)]. However, the reaction of the European powers and the bilateral Treaty (of peace) of Constantinople (the toponym is used according to the official text of the aforementioned Treaty) that was subsequently signed between the Bulgarian and Ottoman State on September 16/29, 1913, forced the latter to cancel its plans.
In late October 1913, the above-mentioned territory was annexed to the Bulgarian Kingdom, and the town became an administrative district. The Bulgarian presence ended shortly after the end of World War I. Under the Inter-Allied Administration (1919-1920), the representative of the Allies, Major General Charles Antoine Charpy, had his seat there. On May 14, 1920, following the exceptional preparation by the representative of the Greek Government with the Inter-Allied Thrace Administration, Charisios Vamvakas, and the successful diplomatic consultations between the Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos and the rest of the Allies on the issue, the command was assigned by Major General Charpy to the Major General Epameinondas Zymvrakakis.
The town, known as Komotini ever since, except for a short period of time during which the seat of Greek Administration was transferred to Adrianople (1920-1922, during Asia Minor War), is the centre of the part of the geographical entity of Thrace that remained within the Greek border. It began to expand residentially with the settlement of refugees, thus evolving into a city.
In the course of time Komotini was to get through one more hardship. In the night of 6 to 7 April 1941 it was captured by German infantry forces that invaded the paths of Papikion Mountain. In April 20 the first Bulgarian armed forces appeared in the region. On May 5 the Germans assigned the military and civil administration to their allies. All the authorities of the city were replaced by Bulgarian ones. On March 1943 the plan was implemented of capturing all the Jews of the Jewish communities within the Bulgarian occupation zone. In this way, Komotini was to lose forever a part of its history. Bulgarian occupation forces left the city in October 1944.
After liberation since the 50s, Komotini began to grow again and soon took its place as an important commercial and economic centre of Northern Greece. At the same time, it remained the administrative centre of Thrace. In the 1990s the twice-refugee Pontic Greeks from different regions of the former Soviet Union came to be added to the population of the city, being established in a new settlement called Nea Mosyno[u]poli.
Komotini is one of the major regional cities of Greece, with a population of 50,990 inhabitants (ELSTAT, 2011 census). It is built on a flat location at an altitude of 28-35m from the sea level, in a green valley surrounded by the forested Rhodope Mountains and the coast of the Aegean Sea.
It is the seat of an extended municipality (Municipality of Komotini) with a population of 66,919 inhabitants (ELSTAT, 2011 census), as well as of the Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace and the Democritus University; it is the capital of the Regional Unit of Rodopi and the administrative, economic and cultural centre of Thrace. The city also hosts the See of the Holy Bishopric of Maroneia and Komotini, the headquarters of the XXI Armoured Brigade (Pindos), the 29th Infantry Brigade and the Non-Commissioned Police Officers Academy.
Its rapid growth in recent decades is directly related to the presence and operation of the Democritus University. Komotini is currently one of the big student cities, hosting students from all regions of Greece, as well as ERASMUS students from other countries. Its urban environment combines the existence of modern constructions and the presence of many historical buildings. The watchful eye of the visitor can distinguish the “pathway” of history in many places. In its centre part of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) fortress (4th c. AD) is preserved, as is the soup kitchen (in Turkish: imaret) complex, one of the oldest Ottoman monuments in the Balkans (late 14th century) that survive in very good condition, now the Ecclesiastical Museum of the Holy Bishopric of Maroneia and Komotini), the one-domed New Mosque (in Turkish: Yeni Cami, early 17th century), the Cathedral of the Assumption (19th century), the Armenian church dedicated to martyr and Illuminator of Great Armenia St. Gregory (in Armenian: Surp Krikor Lousavorits, 1834), the building of Astiki Scholi (elementary school), an imposing edifice of the last period of eclecticism, donated by the tobacco merchant and manufacturer Nestor Tsanaklis, formerly hosting the Rectory of the Democritus University, the mansion of Komotini natives’ Club and the old mansion of the Ottoman administration (in Turkish: Konak), which was later used to house the Courts of the city.
In St. George district with its cobblestone streets and preserved mansions dating back to the 19th c., the visitor will encounter the affluence of Orthodox Christian Greeks (Romioi) in the city even under Ottoman occupation. In the old market, among the fragrance of herbs, freshly roasted chick peas and freshly brewed coffee, the visitor’s sight will luxuriate in the colours of oriental spices, drinks and pastries and will definitely walk into the remaining doukiania (< Turkish: dukkan = shop), those commonly pokey, two-storey and one-room shops of bygone times. A little further, in the city garden, the parko (Greek for park), the visitors can hide in the shade of its tall trees and to disport themselves in the view of the water and the coolness of the fountains.
And, if a good walker and a nature’s lover, one will be enchanted by trekking in the aesthetic forest of Nymphaia on the north side of the city and by resting, a little higher, in the tourist kiosk from the terrace of which one may gaze all over the valley up to the seaside. Colours, aromas, flavours and different languages, Greek, Turkish, Pomak, Romany, Armenian, Russian, Bulgarian; a miniature Black Sea in the public market, the pazari (i.e. bazaar) of Komotini, which operates every Saturday on the edge of the city and sells all sorts of goods for every budget.
The climate conditions in the city are associated with the Thracian relief and are about the same as those of the rest of northern Greece. Extreme weather conditions are not observed, rainfall is relatively common during the winter months, the chilliest of them being January and February.
AVERAGE MONTHLY 24-HOUR TEMPERATURE (oC)
JAN. FEB. MAR. APR. MA. JUN. JUL. AUG. SEP. OCT. NOV. DEC.
Komotini 4,8 6,2 8,6 13,1 13,4 23,0 25,5 25,0 20,6 15,2 10,8 7,0
Athens* 10,3 10,6 12,3 16,0 20,7 25,4 28,1 28,0 24,3 19,6 15,4 12,0
MONTHLY AVERAGE WIND SPEED (m/s)
JAN. FEB. MAR. APR. MA. JUN. JUL. AUG. SEP. OCT. NOV. DEC.
Komotini 3,2 3,2 3,3 2,8 2,6 2,7 3,2 3,4 3,2 3,2 2,5 2,8
Athens 3,9 4,0 3,8 3,3 3,1 3,3 3,9 4,0 3,6 3,7 3,4 3,8
AVERAGE MONTHLY RATE OF SERENESS (Kt.)
JAN. FEB. MAR. APR. MA. JUN. JUL. AUG. SEP. OCT. NOV. DEC.
Komotini 0,40 0,42 0,45 0,51 0,55 0,60 0,61 0,62 0,59 0,53 0,45 0,41
Athens 0,44 0,47 0,48 0,53 0,57 0,62 0,63 0,64 0,60 0,54 0,49 0,44
Source: YPEKA, Klimatika dedomena ellinikon periochon, Athina 2010, pp. 19, 38, 44.
* The rates listed for Athens are from Municipality of Elliniko.
Transportation to and from the city is performed daily and by all means of public transport: railway [OSE] (two routes to and from Thessaloniki and Athens, see http://tickets.trainose.gr), bus [KTEL] (two routes to and from Thessaloniki and Athens, see. http://www.ktelrodopis.gr) and aeroplane from the airport of Alexandroupolis (65 km far from Komotini) or the airport of Chrysoupolis (80 km far from Komotini). Komotini is 751,69 km far from Athens, 251,90 km far from Thessaloniki, 456,41 km far from Volos, 510,81 km far from Ioannina, 717,93 km far from Patras (via Ioannina), and 895,74 km far from Tripoli.
The Democritus University of Thrace (in Greek: Dimokritio Panepistimio Thrakis) was founded in 1973 by Legislative Decree No. 87 of July 27. It has its seat in the city of Komotini and was named after the Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus of Abdera. It started operating in 1974 with a School of Engineering (Civil Engineering) in Xanthi and a Department of Law in Komotini. The following year the Department of Electrical Engineering (Polytechnic School) started operating in Xanthi. Since then, in chronological order, the following departments were established and started operating:
O 1977 (n. 641/22 July 1977) the Department of Medicine in Alexandroupolis, which started operating in 1985.
O 1982 (n. 1268-1282 Article 46), the Department of Education and the Department of Preschool Education in Alexandroupolis. The first started operating in 1986 and the second in 1987.
O 1983 (PD 465/83), the Department of Physical Education and Sport in Komotini, which started operating in 1984.
O 1990 (PD 149/90), the Department of History and Ethnology in Komotini, which started operating in 1991.
O 1993 (PD 365/93) sections: a. Environmental Engineering in Xanthi (Polytechnic School), which started operating in 1995, b. Greek Literature in Komotini, which started operating in 1995.
O 1994 (PD 304/94), the Department of Social Administration in Komotini, which started operating in 1996.
O 1998 (PD 32/98), the Faculty of Education, which included both of the already active Departments of Education and Early Childhood, Alexandroupolis.
O 1999 (PD 208/99) The Departments of: a. Architecture in Xanthi (Polytechnic School), which started operating in the academic year 1999-2000 b. Forestry and Environment and Natural Resources and c. Rural Development in Orestiada started operating in the academic year 1999-2000, d. of Molecular Biology and Genetics in Alexandroupolis and started operating in the academic year 2000-2001 (Presidential Decree 202/1999), the Department of International Economic Relations and Development, Komotini, which started operating in the academic year 1999-2000.
O 2000 (PD 90/2000) Sections: a. Production and Management Engineering in Xanthi (Faculty) and b. Languages, Literature and Culture of the Black Sea Countries in Komotini, which started operating in the academic year 2000-2001.
Democritus University of Thrace is a public, self-administrated entity, supervised and financed by the Government through the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. From 1974, when it was founded, until 1978, the University was administered by five-member committees made up by professors of other universities. Such committees managed the finance and involved in the organisation of its Schools, in the modalities of its operation as well as in the constitution of its administration and management.
Since 1978 the management of the University passed to its own organs elected by the General Meeting of full professors, constituting its first Senate.