© Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
Archaeological data bear witness to the development of a small settlement as a station on the route of Via Egnatia, at the NW part of the modern Komotini city center during the Early Christian and Byzantine times. In the 14th century, this settlement is referred to as Koumoutzina by Emperor Ioannis VI Cantacuzenus and Komotina or Komotini by Nicephorus Gregorios. Architectural remains of a fortification wall were found along with a Doric capital of the Hellenistic times. A portrait from the last quarter of the 2nd century AD, a 4th century altar tomb and a rectangular fortress with corner and mural towers, built by Theodosius I in the 4th century AD, were also found to confirm the existence of an earlier small town in the site where today stands Komotini.
The settlement advanced gradually and evolved in an important centre in the area, possibly on account of the decay and destruction of Maximianoupolis – Mosynoupolis as well as other cities during the 13th century but also due to its position on the Via Egnatia that connected Diracchion with Constantinople. In the mid- 14th century, under the rule of Mathaeus Cantacuzenus, the city was involved in the disastrous civil war that lasted until 1347 and actually prepared the ground for the Turks to take control over the area. After the occupation of the area by Gazi Evrenos Bey and the establishment of the Ottoman sovereignty that lasted for five and a half centuries, the settlement expanded outside the walls. For many years, the town was inhabited exclusively by Christians and Jews; in a later period, Muslims from Asia Minor joined the population of the city.
The poor house (imaret) and the old mosque were built during the long period of the Ottoman sovereignty. From the end of the 17th century until present times, the city has been the seat of the Holy Metropolis of Maroneia. Throughout the 19th century, the Greek Revolution, the Russo-Turkish war (1877-78) and the reforms made by Hatti Houmagjoun marked a new turn for the area of Evros that led to the progressive weakening of the Ottoman omnipotence and offered the opportunity to the enslaved population for making some progress in the region.
In the second half of the 19th and the early 20th centuries, the city achieved strong economic life, important agriculture and farming. Import and export commerce was initially facilitated through the harbours of Moumbaya (near Fanari) and Porto Lagos and later by rail (Constantinople – Thessaloniki), when the harbour of Dedeagats began to operate. The abundance of products from the Komotini plain and the city’s merchandise made the city famous throughout the whole Ottoman Empire. Its inhabitants became rich bourgeoisies and landowners. A lot of notable public buildings as well as luxurious private houses were constructed during that period, denoting the economical progress of the city. Many of them are still preserved today.
The economic and commercial progress as well as the flourishing intellectual life attracted a lot of people from many regions (Armenians, Jews, and Bulgarians). In 1885 the Society of Ladies is founded, while the association “OMONOIA” hosts theatre plays and concerts performed by young people of Komotini. Greek newspapers from Constantinople circulated uninterruptedly in the city of Komotini and great benefactors financed the operation of schools. Apt students had the chance to continue their studies at the institutes of Adrianople and then at the European universities. The fact that a woman from Thrace was among the first women to become a doctor is characteristic of the intellectual activity in the area.
After 1890 and especially in the 1910’s, Muslim refugees from Bosnia and Bulgaria settled in the city. A series of events that took place in Komotini like the establishment of Bulgarian administration in 1912, the first Balkan war (1912-1913), the defeat of the Turks, the long-lasting Bulgarian occupation that ended with the bulgarization of the area, turned out destructive for both the Greek and the Muslim population of Thrace. The growing demands of Bulgaria against its allies led to the second Balkan War and its shattering by the Greek and Serbian military forces. Between September and October of 1913, the united Greeks and Muslims established for political reasons the Republic of Gumuljina and set Komotini as its capital, though it turned out to be a short-term alliance. From October 1913 until October 1919, Komotini remained under the Bulgarian military authorities.
After the First World War was over, the area of Komotini was incorporated in Greece on May 14, 1920. The Treaty of Lausanne (1923) defined Komotini as a Municipality and capital of the Prefecture of Rodopi. Although the creation of refugee settlements increased initially the number of inhabitants, the population of the city gradually decreased during the Second Word War, the Bulgarian occupation (1940-1944) and the post war immigration.
The Clock Tower, the 4th century Fortress, the Market (Agora), the Imaret (Poor House), the municipal garden, the forest of Nymphea and the Church of the Dormition of Theotokos (1800) are among the noteworthy city sights. The archaeological museum, the museum of Byzantine art and the museum of Folklore art are also interesting. Finally, the city hosts the basketry museum, which is unique in Europe.