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by Archaeology Newsroom

The inns of Xanthi. Architectural development and function

The Greek word chani (=inn) is of Persian origin and originally described the building complexes along main commercial roads which served as stations, storehouses and hostels. The inns of urban centres are their direct successors. The architectural evolution of these buildings in antiquity is not known, since the building materials used in their construction were especially perishable. The inns were erected on commercial routes, on significant locations, dangerous passes, and crossroads, in big cities, on bridges etc. and at a distance of approximately 20 miles the one from the other. The inn of the provincial, commercial road functions as a filling station, while the long road ends at an agency, a place for commercial transactions and a place to spend the night. In the 17th century urban inns become hotels with commercial activity.In their function they resembled the ancient agora. Commencing with the Turkish occupation of the Balkans, a great number of inns were built by the roadside of the road connecting Constantinople with Belgrade via Sofia or Thessaloniki and along the ancient Egnatia Road. In 1667, the famous Turk traveler Evlia Celebi gives the first description of the town Xanthi in which two inns are mentioned. The town becomes an important urban centre in the 19th century, due to the extensive cultivation of tobacco, on the one hand, and to the new developmental policy of the Ottoman Empire, on the other. In 1872 Xanthi becomes the seat of the Turkish prefect and as a result, the only administrative, military and commercial centre in the region. Owing to its geographic position, the town is included in the plan for the new railroad that connected Thessaloniki with Constantinople in 1891. Soon, a pressing demand for its famous tobacco led a great number of Epirotan and Macedonian workers to the town. The Epirotans, in particular, being more skillful craftsmen, are responsible for a variety of representative buildings such as two-storey houses, huge tobacco store-houses, mills, inns and shops. All the inns of Xanthi display the same layout, which is typical of urban inns from the 17th century on. Individual buildings are arranged around a courtyard and are usually two-storied. The rooms occupy the first floor and communicate through an outer wooden loggia facing the yard. Supplementary rooms, stables and shops are on the ground floor. The shops open towards the street.A heavy wooden door secures the entrance of the inn and gives access to the yard.