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Culture History Ottoman Period Larissa

Pompous exodus of sultan Mehmet IV from Larissa at 1669. Fictional representation on engraving of the 17th century (Brown 1686)
(Photo: Archive of N. Papatheodorou)

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Later Ottoman Period I (17th century -18th century)

Theodoros Paliougkas

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In the beginning of 17th century, Larissa flourishes economically as wells in a commercial level. It is bigger demographically than the city of Ioannina and than that of Trikala. Evliya Celebi classifies Larissa between the ten main cities of the European department of Ottoman Empire.

During the Third Venetian- Ottoman war (1645-69), the sultan Mehmet IV΄ (1648-87) moves his administrative centre in Larissa, so to as to supervise effectively thr military operations in Crete. His decision to make his seat, Larissa, makes a lot of Christians to escape in the mountains.

The first half of the 18th c. is characterised by a series of terrible epidemics and natural disasters (epidemic, cholera in 1719, flood in 1729, famine and epidemic in 1742, intensely destructive earthquakes in the decade of 1730 and in 1743). The deterioration of the population and the failure of every attempt for the lowlands to keep in step with the adjacent highlands were due to the interruptions by the abovementioned disasters. The population was overall decreased.

However, whole villages of Koniari, small landowners and animal farmers were destroyed, in the lowland areas of Farsalos and the plain of Larissa. The disasters also hit the semi-mountainous regions and the foot of Kissavos and Olympus, but on a smaller scale. The difference in lifestyles played a role. These circumstances favoured the accumulation of large blocks of land under the powerful Turks of the area and it is a common belief that this created the status of big landowners (tsiflikades) on the plain of Larissa, the region of Farsalos and other areas.

In spite of these unfavourable conditions, the mountainous and semi-mountainous part of the Prefecture of Larissa continued its upward economic trajectory. A strong indication of this is the large number of churches and monasteries, that are newly established or restored, a factor that shows a population increase and financial potential to achieve all that.

Many citizens of Larissa gradually turned to the exploitation of the traditional goods of home industry upgrading it to the status of small industry. They used the available raw materials (cotton, wool, silk) mainly in weaving and also to produce yarns, fabrics, cordons, towels etc. to cover the daily needs through a network of weekly and annual purchases.

In some villages and towns very close to Larissa such as (Mosholouri, Farsala, Tirnavos, Agia) fairs of a religious cum trading nature were organised, which became nuclei of intense economic and social activity. That fact, which shall be extensively referred to further down, also affected Larissa, a town with favourable and suitable geographical position on the South-North axis, which enabled it to absorb a large part of this production or to distribute it in all the seasons of the year.

Furthermore, since the early 18th c., there is a reference to a trading activity by the Jews of the town in the field of felt materials from Peloponnissos, as well as cereal trading by foreigners. Gradually and in spite of the difficulties it experienced, the town of Larissa started to organise itself. The multitude of organised craft unions during this period, is an indication of the professions and the goods that were produced by local small industry and the goods, that through trading, covered the needs of the urban population.

This revival, that was the reason for return of the Metropolitan see to Larissa and also for the presence of the archbishops, many of whom showed a live interest in the development of the christian community and was a positive element on the psychology of the local christian community, that lived spiritless under the glare of the Ottoman Turk beys.

Furthermore, the stripping of prosperous Larissians was common practice, so they were forced to leave Larissa and settle in the surrounding semi-mountainous and mountainous villages seeking some form of security.
An indication of the conditions under which the Christian community of Larissa lived, is the 15-year agonising effort to rebuild the church of Saint Achillios, following its destruction by fire and demolition on 12 July 1769. The effort commenced in 1779 and was completed 15 years later, at great expense, in the time of Archbishop Dionissios of Kaliarchis (1794).

References in Greek language:
Παλιούγκας Θεόδωρος, Η Λάρισα κατά την Τουρκοκρατία (1423-1881), Τόμος Β' . Κατερίνη: Εκδόσεις Μάτι, 2007.

ΤΕΔΚ Νομού Λάρισας, Οδηγός Νομού Λάρισας, Λάρισα 1998