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Zagorochoria

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Toponym

Zagori is emanated from the slavick preposition Za=behind and the accusative of noon gora=mountain, meaning the region behind the mountains.

The toponym “Zagori” is testified for the first time in a document in 1321. The region of Zagori is located near Ioannina. It extends in an area of 1002 square kilometers and is separated geographically in three departments:

The access in the region and from the four entries justifies the toponym as the visitor is taken aback by the view, behind a mountain, for the Central and the plateau of Aspraggelon, for the Westerner of the Gamila’s saddle and for the Eastern of the Mitsikeli.

In General

The entire Zagori constitutes a particular geographic and cultural entity. It’s 46 villages, scattered in a variety of ecosystems of significant ecological value, unique natural beauty and remarkable scientific interest, that is delimited by the mountain Mitsikeli, the river Aoos and Arachthos branchies, Varda and Zagoritiko.

The mountainous volume of Tymfes, which high tops touch upon the 2.500 m, dominates shaping in Northern Aoos’ ravine and in Western Viko’s gorge. In its’ foothill, in eastern, dominates the forests of conifers and beech while in southern, till Mitsikeli’s slopes, unfold extensive oak forests. A big part of the region has been declared National Park in 1973 (N.P. Vikos – Aoos). The park’s core, an area of 34Km2 includes Viko’s gorge, while in its’ regional area (123 Km2) belongs the northerner part of Tymfes, up to Aoos watershed.

In the central and western Zagori a group of 27 villages occupy the entire watershed of Voidomati river, the edges of the eminent Viko’s gorge and an important part of Aoo’s watershed. This region appears to be inhabited during prehistoric years (14.000 - 8.000 b.c.) while the villages are found in the places that are today from the 16th century. For three centuries (17th , 18th and 19th ) Zagori prospered. The Greek state recognized the communities with their names in 1919. During the Second World War, the possesion and the civil war (1940 – 1949) Zagori passed a lot of sufferance, as it was the operational base of the Greek – Italian war, of the national resistance fight and of the civil war.

Most villages, mainly in the eastern Zagori were burned by the Germans. The “coup de grace”, however, was given by the civil war. The residents abandonded their villages and resorted to the cities.

They returned after the end of the conflicts and tried to revive it. It was however too late, as the economic condition had changed. The new and productive habitants sought their chance in the cities, as they did in the old days in foreign lands.

This time however they had and their families with them. The few that remained try to work their way around.

The Residents

Zagori ResidentsZagori’s residents, are intelligent, hard working, eagier for learning, inquiring and realists. They comprised the basic factors for the creation of the space, that was developed and maintained until today, as a total, similar with the past.

Ioannis Nikolaidis wrote: “Such an expression of life, is not result of accidental incidents, but creation of conditions deduced not only from the natural environment but also from the life needs that forced them to adjust their condition of living in every single season, and to extract from them elements for the composition of the present and the visualization of the future”.

And he continues: “In any case, decisive factor of Zagori’s residents fate was the natural environment. Its’ beauty slimmed the sensitivity of residents, while the barren ground opened the streets of emigration towards every destination of the horizon”.

The permanent population in Zagori is, according to 1991 inventory, 5.625 persons, while in reality it does not exceed 3.000 persons.

Zagori’s society is constituted by four social teams:

Zagori’s residentsZagori’s residents, by region, were farmers, cattle-breeders, school teachers, businessmen and scientists. “Sovereigns” in the family, woman’s companion and good schoolteacher for their children. They achieved and they created a dynamic society, adapted in the conditions of the place, that imposed long lasting absence in near or distant countries.

Despite the difficult, to non-existed means of communication of that time, they had achieved, even if far, to be very close to the family. The loneliness was a fact, the return uncertain and the absence constant, as it is expressed through the songs and fairy tales.

Zagori’s woman, a native of Pindos, brings the seal of mythical and eternal, as it was also written by Pepi Tzakou in an article for Zagori (“Daily” newspaper, March 1994).

“Mythical and eternal made by the most extreme oppositions. Determined, decisive, active and obedient all together, patient, tender, feminine. The memory keeps still live pictures from childish years. Pictures from the church, the fairs, the dances. Calm faces, standing columns, pictures of duty and honor.

This woman in the long period of Zagori’s prosperity, from 1600 until 1912, was the one who molded what is today called Zagori’s culture. A culture that bloomed like a rare flower, in an unreachable, rough place, isolated and mainly in a season of black slavery”.

And she continues: “the dame, the mother, the mother in law, the big daughter in law with strictly pre-specified hierarchy in the extended family of a father figure society of that time, would have the management, would be the master of the house, obliged to keep it live and whole, to help it grow and to deliver it to her “lord” after his return from the foreigner”.

Today the residents that remain in the villages cultivate few lands with cerial and horticultural, while the vines of passed century have been abondoned. Also they deal with the domestic livestock-farming, while the systematic flocks are maintained by Sarakatsanous that continue to execute the ancient route from the aestival pasture lands of Ploskou, Gamila, Radovolis, to Preveza and Igoumenitsa’s winter quarters and reversly. A significant number of villagers in the central and eastern Zagori, deals co-operative with the logging and the exploitation of timber.

Cultural and Social Activities

Cultural and Social ActivitiesIn all the villages efforts are made to maintain the established feasts and fairs, with many of the basic elements of old traditions like treats and dances.

The big churchs open from the day of Lazaros till the Resurrection, inorder to offer in religionists the chance to participate in holly mysteries, the Epithaph and the Resurrection.

Remarkable, however, is the effort that the residents make to insitute in the villages their small centres, Folklore Museums, Cultural ans Athletic Associations.

The Climate

Zagori’s climate is a passage from the soft Mediterranean climate of coastal regions, to Middle European. With rough winter and hot summer time, with cool nights. Characteristic are also the number of rainfalls. In winter frequent notherners, cold winds blow and the temperature droops frequently up to –20oC.

Archaeological Topography

Superior Paleolithic Period (from 14.000 – 8.000 bc)

The location “Kleidi”, is found above in the right rim of Voidomati near the abbey of Saint Anargiron Kleidonias.

“Kleidi”, is a calcareous stone-roof that was shaped during Iokeno geological period. The excavations brought in the light rich discoveries. It concerns over 30.000 blades, that comes from shingles of black or gray firestone from Voidomati, and over 20.000 pieces of bones and hundreds hammers, osteal tools, teeth, stones and other interesting microfindings. These combined with the general enironmental studies, offer important elements and information on the human activities at the Superior Paleolithic Period.

Later Hellenic III B Period, end of 13th century (1.200 bc)

The narrow valley where the village Kalpaki is located, in the eastern side of plateau, between Elafotopos and Kato Pedina due to its’ geological topology (fertile soil, abundant waters from the river Kalama) encouraged the human presence from senior times (end of 13th century bc). There were found four box-shaped graves with enough gems, beads from necklaces, curpreous jewels and arms.

The synchronous with the Kalpaki’s graves of Elafotopos with the handmade earthen vessels, give information on the local ceramics.

The gems of Kalpaki’s and Elafotopos’ graves, as well as few discoveries from box-shaped graves in Kato Pedina show that in this plateau of Epirus are met cultural elements from the Mycenaeko South, from the modern Middle Europe and from the neighbouring Upper Macedonia.

The residents of this region did not remain passive spectators opposite in these cultural currents. They have put their personal seal in the domestic production and this appear in the handmade tree ferns of Elafotopos’ graves.

Prehistoric Vitsa’s Settlement 9th – 8th century bc, till the end of 4th century bc, Location “Genitsaroi”, between the community regions of Vitsa and Monodendri

Small cattle-breeder settlement, with two adjacent cemeteries, that their duration of life begins from the 9th – 8th century bc until the end of 4th century bc.

The excavations in the place “Genitsaroi” began from Mrs I.Vokotopoulou in 1965 where it was revealed tha small cattle breader settlement and the two adjacent cemeteries. In the settlement were found house remains from theGeometric up to the Classic years.

Based on these discoveries and mainly to the wheeled vessels, the theory that Vitsa’s settlement was aestival stay of nomads, of cattle-breeders, who during the winter moved near the beach, where they exchanged their products with other populations, is documented.

The final end of the settlement occurred in the means of second half of 4th century bc, when the settlement was destroyed by fire.

Fortress gems during the Hellenistic Years from the 4th century bc until 167 bc (Romain conquest and destruction of Greece)

In Skamneli, one can distinguishe the gems of a circular and square tower, of a gate and of two portals.The few surface discoveries place the fortress chronology around the end of 4th and the beginning of 3rd century bc.

The bigger part from the wall in Makrino (beginning of 3rd century bc) glided in the adjacent river, Zagoritiko.

In the western Zagori, is saved one of the King Pyrro’s camps: “CASTRA PYRRHI”. In these camps it should also be included the ancient wall in Kastraki, which is found in the top of an abrupt hill between Kleidonia and Agio Mina.

In the S.W. accessible side of the hill two repeated fortification compounds have been rescued. Along the wall, which bigger saved part is placed in the period of Ottoman domination, are distinguished parts of the hellenistic period. After a long lasting void, life is presented again in Kastraki just before the fall of Byzantine Empire, in order to be finally destroyed in the 12th century.

Generally despite the sparseness of the discoveries, it is realised that the region of Zagori during ancient years was not cut off and inaccessible, even if it was found in impassable regions, due to the mountainous volume of Pindos.

Vasiliko’s Road

It was a wide (I) donkey street, which remains exist today mostly in the eastern Zagori and less in central. This old street led from Thessaly or Western Macedonia, through the mountainous passages of Metsovo, to the monastery of Voutsa. There it was ramified and one branch led to Ioannina, while the other via central Zagori, in the western Zagori, in the valley of Kalama and in Ionian Sea.

All the discoveries from the above years are placed in the Archaeological Museum in Ioannina.

Historical Review of Zagori

Prehistoric Time – Historical Years

Our information for Zagori is limited not only for the ancient but also for the medieval period. The history of these periods was confirmed, as it was mentioned above by the discoveries in the location “Kleidi”, in the right bank of Voidomati.

During the historical years Zagori was habited by the race of Molloson, as we conclude from the excavation discoveries of Vitsa’s settlement, from the polygonal wall and the black painted shells in Skamneli, from the fortress in Elafotopos and from the Hellenistic walls in Kastraki.

Season of Ottoman domination

The history of Zagori begins mainly after 143 a.c., year of Ioannina’s conquest by the Turks. In order to ensure suzerainty in the mountainous regions they applied a policy of concession of privileges in communities or teams of communities, that capitulated with them.

Thus up to the 17th century the entire region constituted self-governed federation with the name Public of Vilaeti of Zagori.

The privileges, which were granted in the autonomous federation of Zagori and which were due, in the bigger part, to the influence of rich Zagori’s habitants in the Sultan courtyard, were maintained up to 1868 a.c., when were also suppressed.

The older report for Zagori, concerning these privilleges can be found in Chrisovoulo of Androniko’s B of the year 1321 a.c. In other documents from 1326 – 1361 are reported the erection of villages as it was granted in Zagori autonomy and self-government, with superior sovereign Vekili from Zagori. Another important privilege that Zagori’s habitants had was the freedom in the implementation of their religious duties.

With the passage of time and due to the brightness and political force of many patriots from Zagori, that possessed administrative jobs in the “High Gate”, these privileges were increased and improved. The autonomy, the self-government and the imperfection contributed to the conquest of an enviable level of existence for the residents of this region.

After 1868, when the privileges of Zagori were suppressed, the region began to be raided by thieves with repercussions in the human potential, as this situation forced more than 500 – 600 families of sovereigns to abandon Zagori, as they were the main objective of the thieves.

This period kept up to 1913, when the Zagori’s villages were released from the Turks and followed the historical course of the Greek Nation.

Intellectual “inflorescence” of Zagori in the years of Ottoman domination

Even before the Turkish conquest of Zagori enough residents were educated, something very important for the first difficult and harsh years of the domination.

These small hearths of education and spirit, led the region of Zagori to its’ big intellectual growth from the beginning of the 18th century. Already from 1780 Greek (superior) schools functioned in many villages from where wise men emerged, that shone intellectually with their wise writings and their instructive activities.

Nevertheless what actually shows the passion of Zagori’s residents for education and sciences was the decision of important and powerfull residents to found a University at Rogovou Monastery at Tsepelovo, in 1815. Ispirator of this idea was the grate schoolteacher of the gender, Georgios Gennadios, from Doliana (back then Doliana belonged in the region of Zagori).

Continuity of this idea for the foundation of the university in Rogovo monastery would be the nomination of Zagori in autonomous state with political and religious leader.

The university would be directed by Georgio Gennadio and for leader of the autonomous state was proposed Neofytos Doukas, from the Pano Pedina.

In the first 50 years of 19th century important role for the intellectual progress of Zagori and the entire Epirus, played the grate schoolteacher from Vradeto Anastasios Sakellarios, student of Psallida in Ioannina.

After 1830 more schools are foundated in Zagori along with the first girl-school in Monodendri in 1846. The foundation of girls-schools was generalised in Zagori up to 1880.

Even from the 18th century Zagori’s residents who traveled send back to their villages books for their schools’ libraries, which were printed in the big printing houses of Europe (Trieste, Leipzig, Budapest, Venice, Odessa), with result the libraries of many schools to be full with rare intellectual treasures.

These favourable conditions in matters of education, has as consequence a big number of scientists from Zagori to be emerged. Thus it is not considered excessive the opinion that the schoolteachers from Zagori diminshed the educational thirst of the entire Greek Nation during Ottoman domination.

Years of Second World War - The contribution of Zagori during the War of 1940

The autumn of 1940, with the rest of the Greek population, the population of Zagori – men, women, children – fought for victory.

Particularly the contribution of Zagori’s women in the war of ’40 was priceless. Day and night they transported with the animals munitions and other supplies where the battles reged and returned transporting injured men.

Zagori’s woman worked with self-sacrifice, deprivals, labours, like an unknown soldier in Pindos epopee. Defyning meteorological conditions, modest and virtuous, carrying the heavy burden of her national heritage, culture and glory of her homeland, passed in immortality.


Assiduity of matter Archaeological Topography
European Programm “Life” (N.92/gr/a 152/gr/4703) 1993-1996

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