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Culture History Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Prefecture of Rodopi

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Prefecture of Rodopi

Aikaterinh Balla
Source: C.E.T.I.
© Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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According to mythology, Rodopi was the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, and one of Persephone’s companions, while other legends have it that Rodopi was the daughter of Pontus or the daughter of Strymon and the wife of Haemus, with whom she had a son, Evros.

The archaeological excavations that brought to light flint stone tools dating between 10000 – 7000 BC, bear witness to the continuous habitation of the land of Rodopi since the Paleolithic Age. The excavation of a tumulus in Paradimi verifies that life existed in this site from the Neolithic Age (4500 – 3000 BC) and the large period of the Bronze Age (3000-1100/1050 BC), while Homer, during the Iron Age (1050-650 BC), placed the tribe of the Ciconians and the Bistonians in this area where the modern Prefecture of Rodopi is. The numerous finds from this period are valuable sources of information on the culture and the religion of the Thracian tribes that lived in the area. Fortified enceintes were traced along with open-air sanctuaries and rock-cut cavities; the god Helius was worshiped here and later the King Rhesus, who was a Thracian god of the nature, the hunting and the wild animals.

In the 7th century BC, this fertile and prestigious area attracted colonists that founded a group of cities along the Thracian coast. Maroneia, the most important city in the region, received colonists from the island of Chios who peacefully coexisted with the Ciconians; the city experienced a heyday in the 4th century BC. After the Persian Wars, the powerful kingdom of the Odrysians was founded and later abolished by Philip II of Macedon. The Macedonian sovereignty in the region of Rodopi is attested by a number of excavation finds like the Macedonian Tomb at Symbola. In the passage of time, the Hellenized Thracians followed a common historical course with the Greeks, with whom they shared the same racial origins.

In Roman times, the Macedonian kingdom fell under Roman rule and in 46 AD Thrace became a Roman province. Roman emperors founded in Rodopi and in Thrace, in general, a group of important cities connected with the sea and the Byzantium through an extended road network, this of the Via Egnatia. In the Byzantine times and after the founding of Constantinople (330 AD), Rodopi as well as the whole Thrace became a Byzantine province. Many cities were built in this period and several strong fortresses were constructed (Anastasioupolis, Nymphea). Komotini, built next to the Via Egnatia route was together with the neighbouring Mosynopolis one of the most powerful Byzantine cities.

In the 14th century AD, the Byzantine reign was succeeded by the Turks who remained in the region for five centuries. This fact led to the creation of a special cultural identity in Rodopi and to the conjunction of two civilizations. In the early 20th century, Rodopi experienced the Balkan wars and the Bulgarian occupation.
After the First World War was over, the region of Rodopi was incorporated in Greece on May 14, 1920. The Treaty of Lausanne (1923) defined Komotini as a Municipality and the 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. After the end of the war, it was attached to Greece.