Epirus (region)

Epirus (region)

Epirus (from Ionic Greek "Ήπειρος" - "Ēpeiros", Doric Greek: "Ἅπειρος" - "Apeiros", in Albanian: "Epir" or "Epiri") is a region in south-eastern Europe, currently divided between the periphery of Epirus in Greece (80%) and Northern Epirus in southern Albania.

Etymology of the name

The Greek name Epirus signifies "mainland" or "continent", to distinguish it from the Ionian islands off the Epirote coast. It was originally applied to the whole coast south to the Gulf of Patras. The name is thought to go back to Proto-Greek Unicode| ἅπειρος/apeiros, from an Indo-European root "Unicode|apero-" meaning 'coast'. [Babiniotis, Lexiko tis Neas Ellinikis Glossas, Athens 1998.]

Boundaries and definitions

The historical region of Epirus is generally regarded as extending from the northern end of the Llogara mountains in Albania (historically the "Ceraunian" mountains [Strabo, "Geography, Book VII, 7, 5-1" at LacusCurtius [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Strabo/7G*.html] ] , meaning lightning in Greek) to the Ambracian Gulf (or Gulf of Arta) in Greece. Its eastern boundary is defined by the Pindus Mountains that form the spine of mainland Greece and separate Epirus from Macedonia and Thessaly. To the west, Epirus faces the Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea. The island of Corfu is situated off the coast but is not regarded as part of Epirus.

Geography and ecology

Epirus is a rugged and mountainous region. It is largely made up of mountainous limestone ridges, part of the Dinaric Alps, that in places reach 2,650 m. In the east, the Pindus Mountains that form the spine of mainland Greece separate Epirus from Macedonia and Thessaly. Most of Epirus lies on the windward side of the Pindus. The winds from the Ionian Sea offer the region more rainfall than any other part of Greece.

The climate of Epirus is mainly alpine. The vegetation is made up mainly of coniferous species. The animal life is especially rich in this area and features, among other species, bears, wolves, foxes, deer and lynxes.


Early settlement

Epirus has been occupied since Neolithic [ Prehistory and History by David W. Tandy ,ISBN-10: 1551641887,2001,Page 27:"... GLYKYS LIMIN /23 of domesticated cattle are found in excavated contexts in Epirus from late Neolithic times (Douzough and Zachos 1994, 17); Ephyra and the adjacent Nekyomanteion site have produced them alongside those ..."] times, when hunters and shepherds inhabited the region and constructed large tumuli to bury their leaders. The tumuli had many similar characteristics to those later used [ Prehistory and History by David W. Tandy ,ISBN-10: 1551641887,2001,Page 4,"... 9mbracian V r 0 10 20 30 km I Gulf 32 Figure 1: Map of Epirus showing the locations of known sites with Mycenaean remains. ..."] by the Myceneans [ Prehistory and History by David W. Tandy ,ISBN-10: 1551641887,2001,Page 6:"... and the mechanisms by which such interactions took place. The strongest evidence for Mycenaean presence in Epirus is found in the coastal zone of the lower Acheron River, ..."] , suggesting [ Prehistory and History by David W. Tandy ,ISBN-10: 1551641887,2001,Page 17:"... The Mycenaean Presence in Southwestern Epirus Taking into account the discoveries of the Nikopolis Project, remains of Mycenaean provenience or inspiration are known] a possible ancestral link [ Prehistory and History by David W. Tandy ,ISBN-10: 1551641887,2001,Page 18:"... and more gently on the south and west. From this acropolis-like settlement comes the strongest evidence for Mycenaean presence in Epirus. A circuit wall employing Cyclopean masonry, muCh of which can still be traced, ..."] between Epirus [ Prehistory and History by David W. Tandy ,ISBN-10: 1551641887,2001,Page 22:"... a fragmentary condition, it appears that the assemblage conforms in chronological and formal terms to Mycenaean pottery already known from Epirus. The kylix is the most commonly identifiable shape, with fewer sherds belonging to stirrup jars, kraters, cups, and other shapes. ..."] and the Mycenean [ Prehistory and History by David W. Tandy ,ISBN-10: 1551641887,2001,Page 23:"... at Mazaraki in the interior of northern Epirus, of Aegean pottery and bronze objects as burial goods in Gist graves (Wardle 1977, 177, fig. 10 nos. 476, 477; ...] [ Prehistory and History by David W. Tandy ,ISBN-10: 1551641887,2001, Page 24:"... There is no reason to imagine that these constructions in Epirus would have been among the first, although construction dates in the first half of LH IIIB are not unlikely. ..."] civilization. Certainly, Mycenean remains [ Prehistory and History by David W. Tandy ,ISBN-10: 1551641887,2001,Page 30:"... or luxury items of Mycenaean type-imported pottery and bronze weapons and utilitarian objects-were deposited primarily in graves and hoards throughout Epirus, ...] have been found [The New Encyclopaedia Britannicaby Encyclopaedia Britannica, inc, Robert MacHenry,ISBN 0852295715,1993,page 527 "Mycenean remainshave been found at two religious shrines of great antiquity in the region"] and even at the most important ancient religious sites in the region, the Necromanteion (Oracle of the Dead) on the Acheron river, and the Oracle of Zeus at Dodona [Prehistory and History by David W. Tandy ,ISBN-10: 1551641887,2001Page 23,"... LH IIIA2 (the second half of the fourteenth century) that Mycenaean objects began to appear at inland settlements such as Dodona, and to the end of LH IIIA or the first years of LI-I IIIB we may assign the earliest use, ..."

] .

The Dorians invaded Greece via Epirus and Macedonia at the end of the 2nd millennium BC (circa 1100 BC-1000 BC), though the reasons for their migration are obscure. The region's original inhabitants were driven southward into the Greek mainland by the invasion and by the early 1st millennium BC three principal clusters of Greek-speakingcite book | first= Eugene N. | last= Borza | title= In the Shadow of Olympus: the Emergence of Macedon (Revised Edition) | publisher= Princeton University Press | location= Princeton, New Jersey | year= 1992 "Speakers of these various Greek dialects settled different parts of Greece at different times during the Middle Bronze Age, with one group, the 'northwest' Greeks, developing their own dialect and peopling central Epirus. This was the origin of the Molossian or Epirotic tribes." " [...] a proper dialect of Greek, like the dialects spoken by Dorians and Molossians." "The western mountains were peopled by the Molossians (the western Greeks of Epirus)." ] cite book | first= P. Mack | last= Crew | title= The Cambridge Ancient History - The Expansion of the Greek World, Eighth to Sixth Centuries B.C., Part 3: Volume 3 (Second Edition) | publisher= Cambridge University Press | location= Cambridge, UK | year= 1982 "That the Molossians [...] spoke Illyrian or another barbaric tongue was nowhere suggested, although Aeschylus and Pindar wrote of Molossian lands. That they in fact spoke greek was implied by Herodotus' inclusion of Molossi among the Greek colonists of Asia Minor, but became demonstrable only when D. Evangelides published two long inscriptions of the Molossian State, set up p. 369 B.C at Dodona, in Greek and with Greek names, Greek patronymies and Greek tribal names such as Celaethi, Omphales, Tripolitae, Triphylae, etc. As the Molossian cluster of tribes in the time of Hecataeus included the Orestae, Pelagones, Lyncestae, Tymphaei and Elimeotae,as we have argued above, we may be confindent that they too were Greek-speaking."] cite book | first= NGL | last= Hammond | title= Philip of Macedon | publisher= Duckworth | location= London, UK | year= 1994 "Epirus was a land of milk and animal products...The social unit was a small tribe, consisting of several nomadic or semi-nomadic groups, and these tribes, of which more than seventy names are known, coalesced into large tribal coalitions, three in number: Thesprotians, Molossians and Chaonians...We know from the discovery of inscriptions that these tribes were speaking the Greek language (in a West-Greek dialect)"] tribes had emerged in Epirus. These were the Chaonians of northwestern Epirus, the Molossians in the centre and the Thesprotians in the south.

Epirus and ancient Greece

Unlike most other Greeks of the time, who lived in or around city-states such as Athens or Sparta, the Epirotes lived in small villages. Their region lay on the edge of the Greek world and was far from peaceful; for many centuries, it remained a frontier area contested with the Illyrian peoples of the Adriatic coast and interior. However, Epirus had a far greater religious significance than might have been expected given its geographical remoteness, due to the presence of the shrine and oracle at Dodona - regarded as second only to the more famous oracle at Delphi.

The Epirotes though apparently Greek-speaking seem to have been regarded with some disdain by the Athenians when the latter rose to power. The 5th century BC Athenian historian Thucydides describes them as "barbarians" [http://classics.mit.edu/Thucydides/pelopwar.mb.txt,"The same summer, not long after this, the Ambraciots and Chaonians,being desirous of reducing the whole of Acarnania and detaching itfrom Athens, persuaded the Lacedaemonians to equip a fleet from theirconfederacy and send a thousand heavy infantry to Acarnania, representingthat, if a combined movement were made by land and sea, the coastAcarnanians would be unable to march, and the conquest of Zacynthusand Cephallenia easily following on the possession of Acarnania, thecruise round Peloponnese would be no longer so convenient for theAthenians. Besides which there was a hope of taking Naupactus."] , as does Strabo [Strabo, "Geography, Book VII, 7, 1" at LacusCurtius [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Strabo/7G*.html] ] . On the other hand, most ancient Greek and Roman writers such as Apollodorus [Apollodorus, "TheLibrary, 3.7.6-3.7.7" at Theoi Project [http://www.theoi.com/Text/Apollodorus3.html] ] , Dionysius of Halicarnassus [Dionysius of Halicarnassus,"Roman Antiquities, Book XX, 10 (19.11)" at LacusCurtius [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Dionysius_of_Halicarnassus/20*.html] ] , Frontinus [Frontinus, "Stratagems, Book II, V. On ambushes, 10, 19" at LacusCurtius [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Frontinus/Strategemata/2*.html#5] ] , Pausanias [Pausanias, "Description of Greece, 1.11.7-1.12.2 (Jones translation)" at Theoi Project [http://www.theoi.com/Text/Pausanias1A.html] ] , Ptolemy [Ptolemy, "The Geography, Epirus": "Greece starts at Oricus and the most ancient part of Greece is Epirus."] , Cassius Dio [Cassius Dio, "Roman History, Book IX, 40, 3-4" at LacusCurtius [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/9*.html] ] and Eutropius [Eutropius, "Abridgment of Roman History’’(Historiae Romanae Breviarium) Book 2, ‘’XI, XIII’’’ at Tertullian [http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/eutropius_breviarium_2_text.htm] ] , describe them as Greeks. Plutarch mentions an interesting cultural element of the Epirotes regarding Achilles. In his biography of king Pyrrhus, he claims that Achilles "had a divine status in Epirus and in the local dialect he was called Aspetos" (meaning 'unspeakable,unspeakably great,endless' in Homeric Greek [ [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3D%2316371] ] [Alexander the Great: A Reader [http://books.google.com/books?id=OiM51I7_A1gC&pg=PA22&dq=Aspetos++Epirus&sig=1Su5fm7-LlcFFZ5DDEP6m5Dv13w] by Ian Worthing] [Greek Mythography in the Roman World [http://books.google.com/books?id=ac4ta6tkT1YC&pg=PA141&dq=Aspetos++Epirus&sig=gzA98We81K_DwZtsMhTT-7kQ9IU] By Alan Cameron (Aspetides) [http://www.google.com/search?tab=sw&sa=N&hl=en&lr=&q=Aspetides&btnG=Search] ] [(cf. Athenian secretary: Aspetos, son of Demostratos from Kytheros ~340 BC) [http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Aspetos+Demostratos&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=pw] ] [Pokorny - [http://starling.rinet.ru/cgi-bin/response.cgi?single=1&basename=/data/ie/pokorny&text_number=1670&root=config aspetos] ] ). The Aeacidae established the Molossian dynasty, who built a state in Epirus from about 370 BC onwards, expanding their power at the expense of rival tribes. The Molossians allied themselves with the increasingly powerful kingdom of Macedon and in 359 BC the Molossian princess Olympias, niece of Arybbas of Epirus, married King Philip II of Macedon. She was to become the mother of Alexander the Great.

On the death of Arybbas, Alexander of Epirus succeeded to the throne and the title King of Epirus. Aeacides of Epirus, who succeeded Alexander, espoused the cause of Olympias against Cassander, but was dethroned in 313 BC. His son Pyrrhus came to throne in 295 BC, and for six years fought against the Romans and Carthaginians in southern Italy and Sicily. His campaigns gave Epirus a new, but brief, importance and a lasting contribution to the language with the concept of a "Pyrrhic victory".

In the 3rd century BC Epirus remained a substantial power, unified under the auspices of the Epirote League as a federal state with its own parliament (or "synedrion"). However, it was faced with the growing threat of the expansionist Roman Republic, which fought a series of wars with Macedonia. The League remained neutral in the first two Macedonian Wars but split in the Third Macedonian War (171 BC-168 BC), with the Molossians siding with the Macedonians and the Chaones and Thesproti siding with Rome. The outcome was disastrous for Epirus; Molossia fell to Rome in 167 BC, 150,000 of its inhabitants were enslaved and the region was so thoroughly plundered that it took 500 years for central Epirus to recover fully.

Roman and Byzantine rule

The Roman invasion permanently ended the political independence of the Epirotes. In 146 BC Epirus became part of the province of Roman Macedonia, receiving the name Epirus vetus, to distinguish it from Epirus nova to the north. Its coastal regions grew wealthy from the Roman coastal trade routes, and the construction of the Via Egnatia provided a further boost to prosperity.

Epirus became the westernmost province of the Eastern Roman Empire (subsequently the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire), ruled from Constantinople when the empire was divided in two in 395 AD. When Constantinople fell to the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Michael Angelos Komnenos Ducas seized Aetolia and Epirus to establish an independent Despotate of Epirus. The rulers of the Despotate controlled a substantial area corresponding to a large swathe of northwestern Greece, much of modern Albania and parts of the modern Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia.

In 1318 Epirus was overrun by Serbs in one of a series of uprisings. Following an Albanian uprising in 1359 , in which the Despot Nicephorus II was killed, the Byzantines re-established a measure of control of the despotate by making it a vassal state. However, in 1430 the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Murad II annexed Epirus.

Ottoman rule

Ottoman rule proved particularly damaging in Epirus; the region was subjected to deforestation and excessive cultivation, which damaged the soil and drove many Epirotes to emigrate to escape the region's pervasive poverty. Nonetheless, the Ottomans did not enjoy total control of Epirus. In 1443 the northernmost part of Epirus was briefly conquered by Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeg as part of his revolt against the Ottoman Empire, but on his death it fell to Venice. The Ottomans expelled the Venetians from almost the whole area in the late 15th century.

In the 18th century, as the power of the Ottomans declined, Epirus became a virtually independent region under the despotic rule of Ali Pasha Tepelena, an Albanian brigand who became the provincial governor of Ioannina in 1788 . At the height of his power, he controlled much of western Greece, the Peloponnese and (southern) Albania. Ali Pasha's campaigns to subjugate the confederation of the Souli settlements is a well known incident of his rule. His forces met fierce resistance by the Souliotes warriors of the mountainous area. After numerous failed attempts to defeat the Souliotes, his troops succeeded in conquering the area in 1803. When the Greek War of Independence broke out, the inhabitants of the region contributed greatly, and Ali Pasha tried to make himself an independent ruler, but he was deposed and murdered by Ottoman agents in 1822.

When Greece became independent, Epirus remained under Ottoman rule. Two of the founding members of the Filiki Eteria (secret patriotic society), Nikolaos Skoufas and Athanasios Tsakalov, came from the Arta area and the city of Ioannina respectively. Greece's first constitutional prime minister (1844-1847), Ioannis Kolettis, was a native of the Aromanian Greek village of Syrrako in Epirus and former personal doctor to Vizier Ali Pasha himself.

20th century Epirus

The Treaty of Berlin of 1881 gave Greece parts of southern Epirus, but it was not until the First Balkan War of 1912-13 and the Treaty of London [Clogg, Concise History of Greece 1770-2000, Cambridge University Press 2002 ISBN 960-7778-61-8 "In February 1913 the Greek Army seized Ioannina, the capital of Epirus. The Turks recognised the gains of the Balkan allies by the Treaty of London, in May 1913."] that the rest of southern Epirus to joined Greece. The Treaty of Bucharest, which concluded the Second Balkan War, gave Northern Epirus to Albania. [Clogg, Concise History of Greece 1770-2000, Cambridge University Press 2002 ISBN 960-7778-61-8 "The Second Balkan War had short duration and the Bulgarians were soon dragged to the table of negotiations. By the Treaty of Bucharest (August 1913) Bulgaria was forced to accept a little favourable regulation of the borders, even if she kept a way to the Aegean, in Degeagatch (modern Alexandroupolis). The sovereignty of Greece on Crete was now recognised, but her ambition to annex Northern Epirus with its large Greek population was stopped by the annexation of the area to an independent Albania."] This outcome was unpopular among both Greeks and Albanians, as settlements of the two people existed on both sides of the border. Among Greeks, northern Epirus was regarded as "terra irredenta". When World War I broke out in 1914, Albania collapsed. Under a March 1915 agreement among the Allies, Italy seized northern Albania and Greece set up an autonomous Greek state of North Epirus in the southern part of the country. Although short-lived, the state of Northern Epirus managed to leave behind a number of historical records of its existence, including its own postage stamps; see Postage stamps and postal history of Epirus.

Although the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 awarded the area to Greece after World War I, political developments such as the Greek defeat in the Greco-Turkish War and, crucially, Italian lobbying in favour of Albania meant that Greece could not claim northern Epirus. The area was finally ceded to Albania in 1924.

Italy occupied Albania in 1939 and in 1940 invaded Greece. The Italians were, however, driven back into Albania and Greek forces again took control of northern Epirus. The conflict, known as the Greco-Italian War, marked one of the first tactical victories of the Allies in World War II. Mussolini himself supervised the massive counter-attack of his divisions in spring 1941, only to be decisively defeated again by the poorly equipped, but determined, Greeks. Nazi Germany intervened in April 1941 to avert an embarrassing Italian defeat. The German military performed rapid military maneuvers through Yugoslavia and forced the encircled Greek forces to surrender.

The whole of Epirus was then placed under Italian occupation until 1943, when the Germans took over following the Italian surrender to the Allies. The highlands of Epirus became the major theatre of guerrilla infighting between the leftist National People's Liberation Army (ELAS) and the right-wing National Republican Greek League (EDES). At the same time, the Germans carried out successive anti-partisan sweeps, which resulted in several atrocities against the civilian population. Following the German withdrawal from Greece in 1944, EDES forces also expelled several thousand Cham Albanians as Nazi collaborators. In subsequent years, the mountains of Epirus became the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the Greek Civil War.


ee also

*List of Epirotes
* History of Greece
* History of Albania
* Dodona
* Pyrrhus of Epirus
* Chaonians
* Molossians
* Thesprotians
* Despotate of Epirus
* Souliotes
* Greco-Italian War
* Cham Albanians
* Northern Epirus in Albania
* Epirus (periphery) in Greece
* Paramythia


* Plutarch, "Pyrrhus".
* N. G. L. Hammond, "Epirus".

External links

* [http://www.ucc.ie/staff/jprodr/macedonia/epeanchis.html Ancient Epirus]
* [http://www.lysimachos.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=116&Itemid=27 Etymology of the 70 most famous ancient Epirotan names]
* [http://www.historyofepirus.org/ Articles about Epirus History]
* [http://www.epirus.info/ Epirus Info Guide]
* [http://www.macedonian-heritage.gr/HellenicMacedonia/en/img_A163a.html Didrachm of the Epirote League]
* [http://www.panepirotiki.com/ Panepirotic Federation of Greece]
* [http://panepirotic.org/ Panepirotic Federation of America]
* [http://www.panipirotikos-kairou.org/greek/ Panepirotic Society of Cairo]

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