A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CITY OF IOANNINA
Ioannina is the capital of a prefecture as well as an important economic, administrative and cultural centre of Epirus. Built on the shores of the Pamvotis lake, Ioannina is a beautiful, picturesque city, a mix of historic memory and modern big-city reality. It is the city of legends and tradition. In its green waters the legend of Ali Pasha and Kyra Frosini comes to life, while in the picturesque little streets of the castle, memories of both the Byzantine past and modern history are ever present.
Human activity in the city dates from the Hellenistic Period and is traced among the few remains of buildings found in the castle. But the foundation of the actual city originates in the Byzantine era and Emperor Justinian, who, according to some historians, established the inhabitants of the city of Euroia on the small peninsula of the modern castle in order to protect them from the barbaric incursions.
The new city was given the name of Euroia Aknia (New Euroia). These views are not widely acceptable, since there are no finds from the 6th century to support them; at the same time, new evidence locates Nea Euroia in Thesprotia.
Ioannina was mentioned in 1020 in an imperial document by Basil II as an Episcopal Seat, under the self-governing
(Autocephalous) Church of Ahrida. An even older source, from the Acts of the 879 Synod, referred to Zacharias, the Bishop of Ioannina.
The city was conquered in 1082 by the Normans under the leadership of Bohemund (Voimoundos in Greek), who repaired the existing city walls in order to repel the offensive of Emperor Alexios I Comnenos. In the 13th century, the creation of the Seigniory of Epirus favoured Ioannina, which became the second most important city in the Seigniory, after its capital, Arta. The founder of the state of Epirus Michael I Comnenos Ducas established Byzantine families of refugees, such as the Filanthropinoi, Stratigopouloi etc., who fled Constantinople after the fall of the city to the crusaders of the Fourth Crusade. These refugee families, together with the local nobility, took over the government of Ioannina in 1318 and broke away from Arta. In the same year, Ioannina became tributary to the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos and a little later to the Serbs, who had, by then, expanded their state over much of Greek territory. The Byzantine emperor granted several privileges (administrative, economic, ecclesiastic) to the inhabitants of Ioannina. These privileges were honoured by the Serbs, too, and as a result Ioannina rose to a great economic and cultural level during the next centuries. In 1367 the Serb Thomas Prilioubovitch became the new overlord of Ioannina and after him the city surrendered to the Italians Isau Buandelmonti
(1385-1411) and Carlo I Tokko (1411-1430).
The death of Carlo I Tokko in 1430 signalled the submission of Ioannina to the Turks who granted, to the town, several privileges known as the Rule of Sinan Pasha, from the name of Karasinan Pasha who signed the treaty -.
In 1611 the city suffered a serious setback as a result of the aborted revolutionary movement of Dionysios the Philosopher
(Skylosophos), Bishop of Trikki and Stagon. The revolt ended in the abolishment of all privileges granted to the Christian inhabitants, who were driven away from the castle area and had to settle around it. From now onwards, Turks and Jews were to be established in the castle area.
Despite that great blow, the city managed to recover. Its inhabitants continued their commercial and handicraft activities which allowed them to trade with important European commercial centres, such as Venice and Livorno , where merchants from Ioannina established commercial and banking houses. At the same time they maintained close economic and intellectual relations with their birthplace and founded charity and education establishments. These merchants were to be major national benefactors.
The great economic prosperity of the city was followed by a remarkable cultural activity. During the 17th and 18th centuries, many schools (Epiphanios, Goumas, Baleneios, Maroutsea, Zosimea etc.) were founded, taking over the long tradition of the Byzantine era.
In the 17th century Ioannina was a thriving city with respect to population and commercial activity as both the English and Turkish travellers J. Spon and Evlyia Chelembi, respectively, inform us. Evlyia Chelembi visited the city in 1670 and mentions the presence of 1,900 shops and workshops and 4,000 houses.
In 1789 the city became the centre of the territory ruled by Ali Pasha, an area that included the entire northwestern Greece , Thessaly and a part of Euvoia and of the Peloponnese . Ali Pasha, one of the most influential personalities of the 18th century was of Albanian origin. He maintained diplomatic relations with the most important European leaders and his court became a point of attraction for many of those restless minds who were to evolve into major figures of the Greek Revolution ( Georgios Karaiskakis, Odysseas Androutsos and Markos Botsaris ). The period of his rule coincides with the greatest ever economic and intellectual era of the city. As a couplet has it " The city was first in arms, money and letters". The efforts of Ali Pasha to break away from the Sublime Port were very alarming. In 1821 (the year the Greek Revolution started) he was declared guilty of treason and Ioannina were besieged by Turkish troops. Two years later Ali Pasha was assassinated in the Ayios Panteleimonas church, on Nissi (the island of the lake), where he took refuge, while waiting to be pardoned by the Sultan.
In 1869, a great part of Ioannina was destroyed by fire. Nonetheless, the marketplace was soon reconstructed according to the plans of the German architect Holz and thanks to the personal interest of Ahmet Rashim Pasha, the local governor. The communities of people from Ioannina living abroad were active in financing the construction of most of the city churches (the Cathedral, St. Nicholas of the Agora, St. Marina, Arhimandrio etc.), schools and other elegant buildings of charitable establishments.
In February 21st, 1913 Ioannina was liberated and incorporated in the Greek state. After the Asia minor campaign (1922) and the subsequent population exchange, the Turkish element left, and the city received Greek refugees from Asia Minor . In 1943 the Jewish community of the city was deported and most of its member murdered.
A bird's-eye view of a map of the Ioannina plateau, its suburbs and lakes (by J.D.B. du Bocage in Poucqueville's book -
Paris , 1820 -).