Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman period

October 16, 20197 MinutesIn History

Roman and Byzantine period

The Roman provinces of Epirus Vetus and Epirus Nova in relation to modern borders.

Christianity first spread in Epirus during the 1st century AD, but did not prevail until the 4th century. The presence of local bishops in the Ecumenical Synods (already from 381 AD) proves that the new religion was well organized and already widely spread inside the Greek world of the Roman and post-Roman period.[16]

In Roman times, the ancient Greek region of Epirus became the province of Epirus vetus (“Old Epirus”), while a new province Epirus Nova (“Epirus Nova”) was formed out of parts of[17] Illyria that had become “partly Hellenic or partly Hellenized“.[18] The line of division between Epirus Nova and the province of Illyricum was the Drin River in modern northern Albania.[19] This line of division also corresponds with the Jireček Line, which divides the Balkans into those areas under Hellenic influence in antiquity, and those under Latin influence.

When the Roman Empire split into East and West, Epirus became part of the East Roman (Byzantine) Empire; the region witnessed the invasions of several nations: Visigoths, Avars, Slavs, Serbs, Normans, and various Italian city-states and dynasties (14th century). However, the region’s culture remained closely tied to the centers of the Greek world, and retained its Greek character through the medieval period.

In 1204, the region was part of the Despotate of Epirus, a successor state of the Byzantine Empire. Despot Michael I found there strong Greek support in order to facilitate his claims for the Empire’s revival. In 1210 the earliest mention of Albanians in the region is recorded, nevertheless, significant Albanian movements are not mentioned prior to 1337.[f] In 1281, a strong Sicilian force that planned to conquer Constantinople was repelled in Berat after a series of combined operations by local Epirotes and Byzantine troops. In 1345, the region was ruled by the Serbs of Stefan Dušan. However, the Serbian rulers retained much of the Byzantine tradition and used Byzantine titles to secure the loyalty of the local population. At the same time Venetians controlled various ports of strategic importance, like Vouthroton, but the Ottoman presence became more and more intense until finally in the middle of the 15th century, the entire area came under Turkish rule.

Ottoman period

Interior of Saint Nicholas of Moscopole.

Following the Ottoman conquest, local authorities were exclusively Muslim, ethnically either Albanian or Turkish. However, there were specific parts of Epirus that enjoyed local autonomy, such as Himarë, Droviani, or Moscopole. In spite of the Ottoman presence, Christianity prevailed in many areas and became an important reason for preserving the Greek language, which was also the language of trade.[21][22] Between the 16th and 19th centuries, inhabitants of the region participated in the Greek Enlightenment. One of the leading figures of that period, the Orthodox missionary Cosmas of Aetolia, traveled and preached extensively in northern Epirus, founding the Acroceraunian School in Himara in 1770. It is believed that he founded more than 200 Greek schools until his execution by Turkish authorities near Berat.[23] In addition, the first printing press in the Balkans, after that of Constantinople, was founded in Moscopole (nicknamed “New Athens”) by a local Greek.[24] From the mid-18th century trade in the region was thriving and a great number of educational facilities and institutions were founded throughout the rural regions and the major urban centers as benefactions by several Epirot entrepreneurs.[25] In Korçë a special community fund was established that aimed at the foundation of Greek cultural institutions.[26]

During this period a number of uprisings against the Ottoman Empire periodically broke out. In the Orlov Revolt (1770) several units of Riziotes, Chormovites and Himariotes supported the armed operation. Northern Epirus took also part in the Greek War of Independence (1821–1830): many locals revolted, organized armed groups and joined the revolution.[27] The most distinguished personalities were the engineer Konstantinos Lagoumitzis[28] from Hormovo and Spyromilios from Himarë. The latter was one of the most active generals of the revolutionaries and participated in several major armed conflicts, such as the Third Siege of Missolonghi, where Lagoumitzis was the defenders’ chief engineer. Spyromilios also became a prominent political figure after the creation of the modern Greek state and discreetly supported the revolt of his compatriots in Ottoman-occupied Epirus in 1854.[29] Another uprising in 1878, in the Saranda-Delvina region, with the revolutionaries demanding union with Greece, was suppressed by the Ottoman forces, while in 1881, the Treaty of Berlin awarded to Greece the southernmost parts of Epirus.

According to the Ottoman “Millet” system, religion was a major marker of ethnicity, and thus all Orthodox Christians (Greeks, Aromanians, Orthodox Albanians, Slavs etc.) were classified as “Greeks”, while all Muslims (including Muslim Albanians, Greeks, Slavs etc.) were considered “Turks”.[30] The dominant view in Greece considers Orthodox Christianity an integral element of the Hellenic heritage, as part of its Byzantine past.[g] Thus, official Greek government policy from c. 1850 to c. 1950, adopted the view that speech was not a decisive factor for the establishment of a Greek national identity.[h]

Source : Wikipedia