The evolution of civilization in Southeast Aegean Thrace, the region of south Evros, is directly connected to the geomorphology of river evros, to its sheer existence for that matter. The dynamic and timeless relationship between the river and the people is ideally reflected on the name of the region, which is borrowed from the historical and rejuvenating river.
The early settlers found favorable environmental conditions to help them develop thriving commercial and cultural communities. Furthermore, with the region being the boundary between two very important civilizations, the Eastern and the Western, welcomed the influence of both of them creating a uniquely charming combination. Fragments of basic flint tools in Feres, Rizia and Keramo indicate the first traces of human culture during the Paleolithic Age. (10000-7000 BC). Further archaeological evidence confirms the existence of hunter-gatherers in the region.
The next prehistoric stage, the Neolithic Age has been dubbed revolutionary and rightly so. It is an era where the foundations of modern civilization are laid and there is a systematic organization in every aspect of the early humans’ life: They form permanent communities and control the economic process by farming the land and domesticating animals. The Neolithic Age lasts for the 5th and 6th millennia BC in Aegean Thrace, although new evidence from more recent excavations using radium dating technology places the timeline on the 6th millennium. (5500-3000 BC). Makri, on the outskirts of Alexandroupoli, the only fully excavated community of that period has given us a lot of information about daily life in the Neolithic Era.
Amongst them, hermaphrodite statuettes and clay objects in horn shapes may have served worship purposes or simply formed a part of some sort of prehistoric spit. However, several other excavation points scattered in lowland parts of the region suggest the existence of a wide range of Neolithic village in the area. The excavation on ‘’Little Mountain’’ in Samothrace indicates commercial relations between the locals and the Minoans in Crete during the Bronze Age. (3000-1050 BC).
At the end of the Bronze Age towards the early Iron Age (1050-650 BC), the Thracean tribes are spread out in the wider Thrace region, following their prehistoric tradition. Early Iron Age positions have been found in naturally protected mounds namely the ‘Thracean akropolis’ as well as in lowland locations. More specifically in the Rodopi Mountains, both on the Greek and the Bulgarian side, a Thracean civilization with megalithic monuments chiseled in huge stones was developed.
In the region of Evros which lies in the southeast foot of the Rodopi mountain range, a lot of early Iron Age communities have been excavated and resurfaced. (i.e. Monastiri, Avantas hill, Nipsa, Kavisos, Kila, Rousa, the hill and cave Vouva in the mountain Koufovouno and in Rizia.) These relics in the southern part of Evros are ethnologically attributed to the Kikones, a population that is described in detail in Homer’s Odyssey. The megalithic prehistoric civilization of the region Evros is a monumental ensemble rare in the whole of the southern Balkan region.
It is a local oddity that it is not found so well organized in the rest of Greece whereas as far as Europe is concerned, its density in carved stone designs can only be compared to northern Italy’s Valcamonica. Since the 7th century BC to the creation of Thrace as a Roman region in 46 AD, there is great commotion in the Samothrace Island and on the region’s coastline.
As far back as 700 BC, the Aeolian tribe colonizes the island and creates a remarkable urban centre that rubs off some of the shine of the prestigious Sanctuary of the Great Gods and the Kavirian Mysteries that take place there. The city-state of Samothrace establishes a series of towns on the opposite coast, east 2015USA of mount Ismaros up to the river delta.
The most famously researched with excavations is Mesimvria-Zoni, a town whose purpose was to boost its commercial relations with the Thracean inland. According to ancient historical sources, this is known as the Samothracean Perea (‘’ perea’’ being the opposite coast of Samothrace) which includes 6 communities. At the same time it takes an active part in the new conditions the Mediterranean zone, where the Thracean element still prevails, especially the 5th, 4th and 3rd century BC. The organization of transport between the coasts and the Thrace inland (the river Evros was floating at that time) played a decisive role to this development and to the gradual Hellenization of the local people in Thrace.
Several findings and excavation positions shed light on the development of the area in the classic and the Hellenistic period. As an example, we mention Doriskos, where during the Persian wars Dareios (512 BC) placed a guard and Xerxis (489 BC SY0-401 ) counted his troops, and Elafochori-Dafni, where a Macedonian style tomb with vestibule and chamber (end of the 4th beginning of the 3rd century BC) was found.
Visitors will find the scattered tombs throughout the region very interesting. When Thrace got integrated into the Roman Empire (1st-4th century BC), it is interesting to point out that instead of promoting a Roman policy in order to stamp out local features, the Romans enhanced the Greek characteristics and culture. This policy was based on the urbanization of the countryside and the accession to the mountainous and semi-mountainous areas which were, up to a point, still controlled by the Thracean populations.
The road network is modernized and the celebrated Via Egnatia is constructed, ruins of which are still visible in several points on the national road between Kipoi-Istanbul. As a result of the roman policy in Thrace two new cities, Traianoupoli ( Loutra) and Plotinoupoli ( Agia Petra Didimotixou) are founded where the excavations have revealed mosaic floors with mythological representations from the emperor Mako Oulpio Traiano in the 2nd century BC.
During the Byzantine times, the region takes on an important role as it adjoins the capital, Constantinople. A plethora of Byzantine monuments state the prime of Evros at the time: Didimotico’s castle with its 23 towers (8th- 15th century), Pithio with the Ioannis Katakouzinos fort (early 14th cent.) the Kosmosotiras church in Feres, which was built by Issakios Komninos in 1152, even the St. Theodoroi cave in Alexandroupolis (it is similar to the cavernous church in Kappadokia, which has been transformed into a small church and the murals were painted in two stages (11th/end of the 12th-beginning of the 13th century dumps).
We should point out here that Byzantine monuments in Evros are a significant source for acquainting oneself with Constantinople art, as they are unique statements of the great artistic activity that took place in Istanbul, but due to latter damage did not leave a lot of evidence in its birthplace. Several monuments from the Ottoman era are salvages and are worth to visit.
Visitors should definitely not forget to see the formidable Mohammed the 1st Mosque (beginning of the 15th century Comptia) that is build according to the architecture school of Proussa and carries inside murals of the ‘heavenly city’. In Traianoupoli a building of 1375-1385, Hana, imposes the village and was built by Gazi Evrenos Pasha. The building includes 16th century bathing tubs and it was used as a guesthouse by people who visited the thermal springs.
The Muslim monastery in Rousa is equally impressive. It was erected by the ‘Kizilmpasides’ (Turkish for ‘those who wear the red fez’ ) of the Bektashi Order in 1402 SY0-401 and we can still see buildings of the 17th and the 18th century today. Following the abolition of the Bektashi Order in 1925, this monastery is the only one performing Bektashi ceremonies.
In recent years, from the 18th century onwards, Greek urban communities flourish economically and culturally, a fact that becomes apparent in both secular and ecclesiastic art and architecture. Monuments that exemplify the area’s prosperity can be seen in Soufli, dubbed Silk City, in the Metaxades traditional community, in Didimoticho and other smaller communities like Petrota, Alepochori and Paliouri.
Sanctuary of the Great Gods – Samothrace
The Sanctuary was dedicated to the worship of the Great Gods- that prevailed during the ancient Greek and Roman times -and this is where the Kaviran Mysteries-ceremonies took place. We know very little about the nature and purpose of the mystical ceremonies therefore the gods, namely Kaviroi, remain extremely enigmatic.
It is situated on the north side of the island, west of the ancient city. The oldest religious activity is chronologically located on the 7th century BC, while the ruins-permanent structures date back to the first half of the 4th century and mainly to the 3rd century BC.
The most important monuments and architectural structures of the site are:
- The Temple
- The Sanctuary
- The Arsinoi Dome
- The Vestibule of Ptolemeos the 2nd
- The Arcade
- The Palace
- The Sacred Circle
The Niki monument
Contact: Paleopoli, Samothrace
T: 25510 41474
Opening Hours: 15th June to 31st October
08:30 – 20:30 daily
Mesimvria – Zoni Archeological Site
The double name of the site is due to the fact that when the digging began, the location was widely known as Mesimvria, but the latest excavation data have lead to the conclusion that it is probably Zoni.
Zoni is referred to in the sources as a Samothrace colony. The city reached its prime during the 5th and 4th century. During the Macedonian and later the Roman domination, following the creation of terrestrial roads, it’s downhill for Zoni. The decline for Zoni begins.
The ongoing excavations commenced in 1966. A fortified wall with residential clusters has been found so far.
The Sanctuary dedicated to Demeter
A small construction, 1.50×7.50 m, made with white, beautifully crafted marble. Inside, silver, gold, silver and gold-plated tiles were found with embossed illustrations relevant to the worship of Demeter. 4th century BC.
The Sanctuary dedicated to Apollo
It is a rectangular-shaped building, 9×15 m. A hallway, an alcove and a shelf are intact. It belongs to a building complex with dimensions 35×45 m that has a central tiled yard encompassed by an arcade. Amongst others, a great number of fragments with etched inscriptions of the 6th and 5th century pottery were found.
The Building Complex
In three of the rooms several amphorae were found. In the middle, the amphorae with the nozzle to the ground are believed to have been used for drainage purposes ( 6th-5th century BC).
The only gate in the west part of the Wall
A two-phased shelf is saved
Part of the western wall with lesbian moulding
Part of the western wall and remnants of two tower
Town: Dikella, Evros region
Phone number: 25510-96214
From the 15th of June to 31st of October
The site was revealed during the 1st World War. The ongoing excavation started in 1988 and so far a Neolithic community-one of the most important in the Balkans- has been found and evidence proving that the ancient village is not Zoni but a commercial station.
A Neolithic Community
House with floors, pole-standing walls, ovens, furnaces….
The Cyclop’s Cave
A small cave with two rooms
Classic Roman Era style commercial station
One can see houses and a Wall
Steps, niches, cisterns, observatory
City: Makri, Evros
Opening Hours: 15 June – 31 October Monday: 12.00-19.00
The Megalithic Tomb in Roussa
The monument was constructed with five huge plates and the typical dolmen opening in one of its narrow side. In these tombs, big pots with the dead person’s ashes were placed along with the offerings.
City: Roussa, Evros
June 15- October 31
Archeological Site Hana – Traianoupoli
The ruins of an important Roman city, Trainoupolis, are situated 14 km east of Alex/polis and south of the village Loutros. The city was founded by Emperor Markus Ulpius Trianos (98-117 AD), on the axis of the celebrated via Egnatia, remnants of which you can see o the right side on the road to Loutros-Monastiraki, and comprised the new urban centre of the declined Samothrace Perea.
The location was probably selected because of the medicinal sources that are still in operation today. The Romans maintained the Greek policies on civil organization and according to inscriptions and coins testaments we are aware of the existence of sacred senate, municipalities and tribes.
The most remarkable building is Hana, a rectangular arched building of the second half of the 4th century BC that was used as a guesthouse. This is where the archeological School of Trainoupolis is kept. The medicinal baths of the Ottoman era are located behind Hana. Ruins of a church can still be seen on St. George’s hill, a possible acropolis of the Roman community. You can also see the remnants of the Isiklar’s opium den described by the Turkish traveler Evligia Tselempi.
A burial tomb of the 1st century BC was recently excavated on the outskirts of Trainoupolis with numerous offerings, which are on display in the archeological museum of Komitini. In the same museum you can marvel at a solar clock, dedicated to the 9 Muses, and marble embossed icons, of the 11th and 12th century of a military and young saint respectively.
There is a variety of activities that you can do when you visit Trainoupolis, like take a dip in the medicinal water of the thermal springs, go bird-watching in the Delta, go trekking and hiking in the Dadia forest or simply take a relaxing walk through the plane trees.
The Centre for Environmental Awareness that is hosted in Trainoupolis will promote the development of mild tourism and eco-tourism as the conditions in the wider area are ideal for such activities.
Samothrace Towers (Gatilouzi)
When talking about post-Byzantine fort architecture in Greece, we should definitely include the towers and fortifications in Samothrace. Solely standing on the cape, the mouth of the river Fonias is the tower of the Paleologoi Byzantine era.
West of Chora, on the peak of a steep rocky hill overlooking the village, some parts of the original fortifications can still be seen. This position must have been built towards the end of the 10th century when the locals retracted from Istanbul inland to avoid pirates’ attacks.
The Gatilouzis did not just fortify Chora. In Paleopolis, on top of the imposing hill, close to the port, they build a complex of forts that is made up of three towers using local building materials.
Avantas – Potamos Castles
On the outskirts of Alex/poli, close to the village of Avantas, lie the medieval castles of Avantas and Potamos. Three different historic eras coexist on those walls, namely the Mycenaean, Classical and the Byzantine era. Both these castles supervised the field and controlled the passages towards the plains of Komotini and inland of the Rodopi mountain range.
The first might have been a refuge for some agricultural populations, while the second might as well served as a refuge to a feudal lord. Both constructions date to the second half of the 13th century or the first half of the 14th and they are both erected next to streams and on top of steep hills.
The Avantas castle is shaped with a simple transverse wall that severs any access to the slope and the peak of the hill. In Potamos the castle has 3 towers that form an internal enclosure and a further external one.
Mikri Doxipara – Zoni Burial Tomb
In the beginning of the 2nd century AD, four members of a rich, feudal family died one after the other. They were cremated and buried in the same spot, close to the road that led from Adrianoupolis to Philipoupolis. In this location a great burial tomb was constructed to keep the memory of the dead alive.
The area belongs to the municipality of Kyprinos today and is situated close to the villages Mikri Doxipara and Chelidona.
The excavation revealed four big ditches that contained the cremation residue of three men and one woman together with numerous offerings such as clay, glass and bronze pots, bronze lamp stands and lamps, weapons, jewelry, wooden boxes etc. The five carriages in which the dead were transported were buried in the same space together with the horses.
Next to them, another five horses were buried. The metal functional and decorative parts of the carriages remain intact, whereas the wooden parts can still be seen in two of them.
Address: Doxipara Didumotoixo
Telephone number: 25520-28060
Opening hours: 07.00-14.30 at winter time and 07.00-17.00 at summer time.
For more information, vistit: www.visitevros.gr