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by Archaeology Newsroom

The mountainous refugees of northern Greeks in the early years of Ottoman rule

After the redistribution of farm land and the assignment of the fertile fields to the Ottoman feudal lords following the Turkish occupation of Greece, a major demographic restructuring took place. The Greek population sought refuge in mountainous areas, especially those of Western Macedonia and Epirus. In their new homes, after a period of adjustment, these refugees developed activities, quite different from those they had practised until then. Their manufacturing occupations and corporations, that already appear in the fourteenth to fifteenth century, prospered remarkably in Macedonia and Thessaly during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The purpose of this article is to detect the forms of the older settlements, the probable reasons for their abandonment and the transfer of the population to new sites. The situation in Thessaly is similar to that in Macedonia and the Peloponnese, where the mountainous settlements are reinforced with new populations that seek refuge from the plains to the mountains. From the fifteenth century onward the church and its adjacent small square essentially become the nucleus of the settlement. Many members of these communities become merchants, others emigrate to Constantinople, Venice and the cities of the Austro-Hungarian empire, where they trade in manufactured products, especially red yarns and finished leather, brought by caravans that originate in Macedonia. From the late seventeenth century this economic boom is also reflected in the structure of the settlements. It is then that the richest manors appear, in Northern Greece in particular, while the traditional postbyzantine construction and architectural typology is continued in the Peloponnese. Special attention is paid to the internal activities of the settlement unit and to its financial relation with the hinterland. The phenomenon of the grouping of these mountainous refuges and the professional specialisation of their inhabitants (barrel-makers, builders, wood-carvers, painters, silversmiths, metal workers, etc.) are examined as well.