Epirus History

Epirus History

Information about the History of Epirus, in Greece but also information about the history of many locations of the region: Information about the Epirus history: Prehistoric and ancient times, under King Pyrrhus rule, Byzantine and Ottoman times and modern times.

Prehistoric and ancient times

Epirus was first inhabited in the Paleolithic times. The settlers of that era were mainly involved in hunting while others were pastors who brought with them the Greek language and built tombs to bury their leaders. Many settlements and ancient findings from the Mycenaean times were also found in Epirus.

After the Mycenaean civilization declined, Epirus was regarded as the right location for the Dorian invasions (1100 -1000 BC) in Greece. The original inhabitants were driven southwards of the Dorians and since then, three Greek-speaking tribes emerged, the Thesproti, the Molossi, and the Chaones. During antiquity, these tribes who became the locals of Epirus lived in small villages, in contrast to other areas like Athens, Sparta and Corinth.

Epirus was located at the north end of the Greek land and that brought many invasions from the north, but due to the existence of the sanctuary of Dodoni, the area was very important for the Ancient Greek world. The historical writings of Thucydides and Strabo describe Epirotes as barbarians but for others like Pausanias they are just Greeks. In the 3rd century BC, Epirus was a confederate state with its own representatives. However, during the war between the Macedonians and Rome, Epirus kept a neutral course but in the 3rd Macedonian War (171-168 BC) the Moloseoi fought with the Macedonians, while Chaones and Thesprotoi took the side of the Romans.

Epirus under king Pyrrhus

In 370 BC, the efforts of Aeacidaes to expand the Mollosian state gained impetus from the marriage of Philip II of Macedon to their princess, Olympias. In 334, while Alexander the Great, son of Philip and Olympias, crossed into Asia, his uncle, the Molossian ruler Alexander, invaded south Italy , where he was eventually checked by Rome and killed in battle in 331. Upon the death of Alexander the Molossian, the Epirote tribes formed a coalition on an equal basis but with the Molossian king in command of their military forces.

The greatest Molossian king of this coalition was Pyrrhus (319-272). He and his son Alexander II ruled as far south as Acarnania and to central Albania in the north. The military adventures of Pyrrhus overstrained his state's military resources, but they also brought great prosperity to Epirus. He built a magnificent stone theatre at Dodona and a new suburb at Ambracia (now Arta), which he made his capital. This was the most important and prosperous period in the history of Epirus.

Byzantine and Ottoman times

According to the history of Epirus, with the Roman conquest, Epirus was no longer independent. In 146 BC, it became a Roman province with the name Palea Epirus (Old Epirus). The littoral zone became an important trading centre and the construction of road network enhanced the economy of the area. Epirus was part of the Byzantine Empire and after the fall of Constantinople from the Crusades in 1204, Michael Komninos took over Epirus and founded the independent stare of Epirus, with Arta as its capital. In 1318, Serbs and Albanians overran the area. In 1359, the independent state was under the Byzantine rule but not for long.

During the Turkish occupation, Epirus suffered from deforestation forcing its inhabitants to abandon their houses and move in other areas in search of a better life. However, some towns were still under Venetian rule until the end of 15th century when Ottoman occupation ended in Epirus. Epirus became the launching area for many outbreaks. From 17th century and on many traders from Ioannina, Metsovo and Zagoria contributed to the cultural development of the area with the rising of many school buildings and libraries. In fact, Epirus has been one of the places greatly associated with the Neoclassical Enlightenment.

Modern times

In 1821, with the burst of the Greek revolution, Epirotes had an active role in the battles, inside as well as outside the borders of Epirus. By the end of the Greek revolution in 1913, Epirus was officially united with the newly Greek state leaving minorities on both sides of the Greek-Albanian borders. The history of Epirus travels through many phases from the birth of the Greek world to the modern times.

Read also: Epirus geography | Epirus museums

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