The city of Serres was the largest in the Macedonia region during the Ottoman period, being bigger than Selânik (Thessaloniki), Edirne and maybe even Plovdiv. It was the center of the Selânik district. Today the city of Serrres is the main center of the Macedonia region of Greece. The city, located in the foothills along the Selânik-Dedeağaç Railroad, is only 50 m. above sea level. The higher mountain villages surrounding the city rise as high as 1500 mt. Although the city was first taken in 1375 it was not fully conquered until 1385 after which it was given, as a vassalage, to Evrenos Bey. After the conquest, Anatolian Turks were settled around Serres and were also accommodated in this city (Şemseddin Sami IV, 1996, pp. 2755-2757).Evidence of the taking of Serres and its final conquest by the Ottomans can be found on an engraved tablet on the door of the oldest mosque in the city, which is named ‘The Old Mosque’. According to this inscription, the mosque was built in the year 1385 during the period of Murad Khan, son of Orhan, in 787 (1385), (Kaftanzis, 1996, p.179). According to the Cihannuma, there were 10 mosques, 8 baths, a market and one charitable institution. The inhabitants of the area produced beautiful towels, handkerchiefs, various bathing wraps and accessories and embroidered linen peştemal (hamam towels). Plentiful waters are brought into the city via the system of underground pipes and there is a springknown as “Kuçensuyu” that fills a reservoir located in the city. There are abundant vineyards and bountiful gardens in which the fruit for the city are grown. They grow a type of pumpkin, called a lagenaria, that they use in various ways and even for carrying and drinking water. There are wide rice fields to the south of the city and a very good type of rice is grown there (İnciciyan- Andreasyan, 2-3, 1973-1974, pp.22-23). Evliya Çelebi, who visited Serres during his travels, wrote the following: “The city was first occupied by Ghazi Evrenos Bey in 777 (1375-76) but he could not maintain control of the city and lost it once again. He returned to fully conquer the city in 786 (1384-85) and had some parts of the castle pulled down so that it couldn’t be retaken by the enemy. According to the records of Süleyman Khan, the city is a charitable foundation of the Rumelian statein the district of Selânik (Thessaloniki) whose trustees were all descendants of the same family. It doesn’t have any castle guards or soldiers” (VII, 1966, p.619). Celebi continues: “The Makramalı Mosque, the Alaca Mosque, the Selçuk Sultan Mosque, the Nurlu Tomb Mosque, and the big Koca Mustafa Mosque are all works of art. All of the city’s charitable institutions, madrasahs and schools are covered with lead roofs. The Kara Ahmet Mosque, the Kara Hasan Mosque, the Abdizade Mosque, the Ali Bey Mosque and the Prayer room... if I were to describe all of them in detail I would have to write a book called The Charitable Institutions book. Most of these big mosques have leaden cupolae. If one counts all the mosques, dervish lodges and masjits, there are a total of ninety-one mihrabs in Serres. The city does not have any special darülhadis (a place where the Prophet Muhammad’s sayings/deeds are taught) or darülkurra madrasahs (a place where the holy book, the Kur’an, is taught). A total of seven hundred and ten fountains can be seen flowing outside each house and also on each corner and there are seventy public fountains in the market and throughout the neighborhoods. The water which flows from the foot of the Castle rock, just one of the streams that flow through the city, is quite sweet and is said to help with digestion. Within the city there are said to be two thousand sixty Silvan-like wells. Although the markets of Serres aren’t like the covered stone markets of Halep, Bursa, Damascus and Egypt, there are two thousand shops in the city. A variety of valuable goods are bought and sold within its covered market, which is roofed with nine lead covered cupolas and has four doors. There are also five public baths in the city” (VII, 1966, p.620). “The Lower Varoş Castle: It is a crowded place that has ten neighborhoods composed of Jews, Greeks, Armenians, Latins, Bulgarians and Serbs. Of the two thousand houses with stone tile roofs found within its walls most belong to rich merchants and are excellently ordered. The castle has four gates: one of them is known as the Fish Market gate and opens in the direction of Mecca. The second opens to the east with another opening to the west and the last opens to the citadel. All of the brick and stone castle gates have reinforced wooden fronts. The walls are not very high, the bastions are broken down and it is no longer protected by any form of weaponry. Its length is approximately four thousand forty paces. Greek, Jewish, Armenian and Latin churches can be found within the castle. Busy shops can be seen from place to place" (VII, 1966, p.621). “Moreover, it is said that there are more than one thousand sixty homes with private baths and about fifty admirable palace baths” (VII, 1966, p. 622). “There are seventeen luxurious merchant khans in the city as well as nine bed-sits for traveling single men, all of which have guardians, servants and caretakers. All of the people who make use of these rooms do so with a sense of trust in each other as they are all artisans. Beautiful stone bridges have been built across many of the the streams, one being the Ahmet Pasha Bridge which is the largest and most decorative of all. There are also many soup kitchens that are fit to be seen. Most of the inhabitants are Greek, Bulgarian, Çatak and nomadic shepherds from Anatolia known as the Juruk people. They wear garments of coarse white wool and felt. All of the women dress modestly like Râbiye Adviye, covering their hair with a white cheesecloth type material and their faces behind a black tulle veil. All visitors are put up in the city’s guesthouses. The chief products that are grown in the fields surrounding Serres are blackeyed peas, field beans, chickpeas and lentils. There is also plentiful rice, wheat, barley and cotton grown in the region. At the place known as Beşiktepesi there is a carved stone cradle that is said to be that used by the Prophet Jesus. It is claimed that those who are ill and that drink from the waters that flow there can be healed. Of the many places that the city’s inhabitants go to relax and celebrate special days and feast days; the wide, green, shaded area known as Kaleardı is most popular. It is the outing and entertainment venue of the city where lovers and friend meet to have fun and talk with each other under the many trees. Just as Konya is famous for Meram, İstanbul for Göksü, Kağıthane and the Selim Khan in Sariyer; Serres is famous for the Kaleardı area.The area known as Zihne is where Ghazi Evrenos first came to the city. It is said that he and his men tied their horses to the eighteen stakes that were standing in this place. Those eighteen stakes then grew into eighteen beautiful Plane trees in what has become a beautiful glade. It is believed that those men were possessed of a magical luck as what were bare stakes have grown into magnificent green trees” (VII, 1966, p. 622). “The streets and avenues of the city of Serres are so wide that three or four carts can fit side by side. All of these streets are paved with big, white stones and there are fountains on every corner which gently overflow and wash along the roadsides and through the marketplaces and bazaars. Some of the streets and squares are lined with trees and vines. There is nothing similar in all of the Greek lands and from among the Muslim cities, Serres is one of the most beautiful. As the city of Serres was found during the time when the astrological sign of Libra had influence the inhabitants of the city are said to live together peacefully and are as balanced as Libra’s scales. The people are merchants who work to earn their living. Serres measures four thousand paces from east to west, from the Ahmed Pasha Neighborhood to the Mustafa Pasha Dervish Lodge. It has areas that measure from three to four thousand paces from north to south. Only inner part of the city was measured in this manner but the many exterior gardens and vineyards were not measured" (VII, 1966, p.623). According to the 1871 Yearbook (The Salnâme of 1871) there were 65 thousand non-muslim and 43 thousand male Muslims registered within a district that consisted of 545 villages. Its population was said to rise to 225 thousand if the females inhabitants were to be counted. In the early 20th century the population of Serres was said to be between 30 and 60 thousand but this number decreased to less than 20 thousand after the Balkan Wars. The city was occupied by the Bulgarians during the early part of the Balkan War on November 6, 1912 and was occupied by Greeks during the later part of the same war (Darkot, 1971, p.518). Early on November 6, 1912 the Turkish Commander Naci Pasha all of those under his military command left the city of Serres. In the afternoon of the same daythe Bulgarians, under the command of Tsangof, entered the city. At the same time, the advanced guards of a second Bulgarian division deployed up in the hills around the city. On November 7, 1912, the Bulgarian army, consisting of 10 thousand soldiers entered the city from the Nevrokop and Zihne roads and took control of Serres. The Greek population of the city gathered together with Metropolitan Apostolos and greeted the Bulgarians, who they saw as saviors, with applause and songs. With the arrival of the Bulgarian General Kovatse the following day, the number of Bulgarian troops rose to 25 thousand. All of the government buildings and offices, the barracks, the hospitals, and other such buildings were occupied. Stoef was assigned as the civil administrator of Serres but he was soon to be replaced by a man named Hamamtzief. The Bulgarian forces soon started a campaign of unprovoked violence against the remaining Turks and especially toward those who had recently entered the city to find shelter. In one day more than 400 people were slaughtered and the Eski Mosque was turned into the Saint Boris Church (Kaftanzis, 1996, p.222). It was not only the irregular Bulgarian revolutionaries but also the military officers and members of the standing arny troops and other Bulgarian officials that began to systematically commit many illegal acts towards the Greek and Turkish inhabitants of the Macedonian lands. Reports of murders, lootings, trade restrictions, travel prohibitions, the prosecution of teachers and priests and the closing of schools were widespread. Many village mosques were urned into churches and what is lastly said to have made the situation untenable was the inclusion in military service for any of those who could speak the Bulgarian language (Kaftanzis, 1996, p.223). During the Bulgarian occupation many instances in the looting of antiqities and precious goods, which were then taken to Sofia, were recorded. Bogdan Filov, the Director of the Bulgarian National Museum, took part in such activities and even reported the following important historical notes concerning the issue of the anitiquities of Serres and the region in his book entitled ‘The Thrace and Macedonia Diaries’ (‘Trakya ve Makedonya Günlükleri’). “Wednesday, February 6, 1913: We wanted to see the library of the Eski Mosque, which had been turned into the Saint Boris Church. We learned that most of the carpets from this mosque had already been looted by the public. From the 14 carpets that the church priest, Evgeniy, had collected, Pançev took 8 for the museum, and recorded that most of the carpets that the priest had collected were old and worn. “Thursday, February 7, 1913: In the afternoon we arrived at the Turkish Library and were greatly surprised to find a great number of highly decorative handwritten Turkish manuscripts there. We took 26 of them and handed them over to the governor. “Friday, February 8, 1913: Before noon, along with the governor, we created a list of the handwritten masucripts and decided to send them by special courier to Sofia so that they wouldn’t come to any harm. In the afternoon, we visited Ferit Bey, the legal advisor Yankov and some officers were staying at his house. He was extremely polite and showed us a darbuka drum and a zither. He said that he had purchased them from among the home furnishings of Sultan Abdülhamit’s house when they were being sold. He also showed us two very old tapestries that had been woven with gold and silver thread and a small, very old, partially worn carpet. In order to prevent any further looting, lieutenant Konstantinov and I went to seal the library of the Eski Mosque and then to the Young Turk Military Club in order to see some other old Turkish carpets. We took two of them for the museum. I noted that the fountain in front of the Eski Mosque contained an inscription.“Saturday, February 9, 1913: Dear Mr Minister; ………………… To date the collection of the antiques and artifacts of the Macedonian region has been progressing well. While we take the smaller objects ourselves, we secure the heavier against a signature. We then hand them over to the local authorities in order that they be sent on to Sofia at the earliest opportunity. The highly decorative handwritten Turkish manuscripts that we have collected have aroused considerable interest. We have delivered 22 handwirtten manuscripts, three old carpets, some old guns, a scimitar (yataghan), etc. to the governor of Serres. Four of the handwritten manuscripts are of such great value and the situation here so unstable and insecure that I couldn’t hand them over to anyone. I will bring them to Sofia myself. One of them is an annotated Kuran-ı Kerim; an extraordinarily beautiful example of Turkish palaegrophy which therefore deserves special care. The handwritten manusript is comprised of 532 pages at the beginning of which are four pages which have been embroidered with gold in the best style of the East. It can be compared with those rare handwritten Turkish manuscripts at Kavala and the best examples at the famous Hıdiv Library, in terms of its being a work of art and a noteworthy example of the art of calligraphy. The collection in our National Museum will be enriched with this remarkable antique, its value is a few ten thousand levs" (Mevsim, 2010, p.62-68) Serres was ceded to Greece under the Treaty of London of May 1913. As the Bulgarians left the city they set fires which destroyed more than 4000 of the 6000 houses and 1000 shops and the charred remains of 100 or so corpses of the old, infirm, pregnant and newborn babies were found among the charred remains of these homes (Kaftanzis, 1996, p.236). The majority of the Turkish inhabitants of Serres began to emigrate from the city right after the first Bulgarian occupation. The last remaining Turks left Serres according to the population exchange that was agreed upon under the Treaty of Lausanne. According to a decision reached on July 17, 1923, 20 thousand tobacco farmers, 15 thousand farmers and 5000 olive and wine growers from Serres were to be relocated to the Adana region of Turkey (İpek, 2000, p.42). In 1924, further groups of refugess were reported to have been relocated to Ünye, Bafra, Giresun and Samsun in Turkey (İpek, 2000, pp. 68, 77,83, 127).

Siderokastro

A castle town located to the west of Serres, it was known as Demirhisar (Iron Castle) because of the iron mine located nearby. The Greek name ‘Siderokastro’also means ‘Demirhisar’.It was occupied by the Bulgarians in the Balkan War First. During the Balkan War Second the city was the scene of bloody struggles between the Greek and the Bulgarian armies. The Turkish inhabitants of this town were relocated to Turkey during the 1923 population exchange. Turks from Demirhisar were sent to Amasya, Tokat and Sivas in Anatolian Turkey (İpek, 2000, p.42). Despite the evidence of an Ottoman presence that can be seen in many photographs from the time before the Balkan War Second, nothing of this remains.

Zihne

It is a small town, south of Serres in the Macedonia region of Greece. The inhabitants of the town were both Turks and Greeks during the Ottoman Period. The center of the town of Zihne was the village of Zilhova. Evliya Çelebi, who visited Zihne, wrote the following:“Ghazi Evrenos took it by force from the non-Muslim Greeks in 776 (1374-1375). It remains under the charity of Sultan Süleyman in the Rumelian State in the district of Selânik (Thessaloniki). The surrounding villages and regions are well developed. A ruined castle, located to the south of the town has not seen a warden or castle guards since it was overrun by its conqueror. The town consists of two neighborhoods founded on red earth in a perilous area with cliffs and drops that resemble the entrance to Hell. There are two hundred stone houses built one next to the other with almost no space in between. In fact, some of the houses do not even have enough room for a place to wash the deceased. They are very small houses. The houses belonging to our landlord Emir Molla Çelebi, the local Judge, are the biggest in the area. All of the roads are narrow, steep and rough, cars could never enter them. This is strange and precipitously craggy place, not really appropriate for habitation. However, as the place benefits from the profits of the charitable foundation of Süleyman Khan, it is being developed day by day. Its lowlands are wide and its soil is fertile. There are vineyards in parts of the surrounding mountains. One mosque in the city, the Eski (Old) Mosque, is the property of Sultan Bayezid Velî. It is a bright mosque covered with tile in an old style. It has a neighborhood Masjid which could also be used as a mosque. The other charitable instutions of the city are; one madrasah, one primary school, one Dervish lodge, and a small bath located in front of the Eski Mosque, two merchant khans and fifty shops. As the climate is cool and the waters of the city are plentiful there are lots of healthy people. Zihne is famous for its bowls and glasses. Its soil is very productive. The city is known for its chinaware, with its cups and plates being sent everywhere as gifts. The verse written below has become famous among its folk:“Every city is praiseworthy for something, in the case of Zihne: its cups. Serres is full of beauties, its houses are made of lathe and and plaster.”Zihne folk are quite friendly to the poor. May God make them happy and make their wishes come true” (VII, 1966, pp.618-619). After the Muslim inhabitants of Zihne were transferred to Drama following the World War First, all of their properties were ransacked (Trakya ve Paşaeli Müdafaa-i Heyet-i Osmaniyyesi Report, March 10, 1335). During the population exchange, the Turks of Zihne changed places with Greeks from Anatolia. Today, the old village of Zihne is in ruin and a new settlement, known as Nea Zihna (New Zihne), is located about 10 km. south of the ruins. The old town and its existing ruins remain mostly unexplored in terms of Ottoman archaeology. The houses where pomegranate trees (symbols of wealth and prosperity) were found were plundered or dynamited by treasure hunters. During our inspection visit, we found a few remains: a part of the bath, a wall, a gravestone and a basin. This is all that remained of that could be found in this overgrown ruin of a town.


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