Halkidiki History

Halkidiki History
About the history of Halkidiki, Greece

Mythological background

According to mythology, Halkidiki was the place were a huge battle took place, opposing Zeus and the other Olympian Gods to the Giants, children of Gaea (Mother Earth) and Uranus. Enceladus, the leader of the Giants, was buried alive in Cassandra. Since he sometimes tries to get free from his tomb, he is the source of earthquakes in the whole region. The prong of Cassandra took its name from Cassandros, the king of Macedonia. Sithonia was named after Sithon, the son of the god of the sea, Poseidon, and Mount Athos owes its name to the giant Athos, who threw an enormous rock at Zeus but missed him.

Ancient times

The excavations at the Petralona Cave have proved that human life existed in Halkidiki even 700,000 years ago. Its oldest inhabitants in the history of Halkidiki were the Thracians and the Pelasgoi. Organized societies, such as Olynthos, Acanthus and the ancient city of Stagira, near Olympiada, flourished in the west and central Halkidiki around the 4th century BC. Nice temples were also built, such as the sanctuary of Ammon Zeus. During the 5th century, Halkidiki took part in the Persian Wars which resulted in the terrible siege of ancient Olynthos.

After the victory of the Greeks in Salamina (in 480 BC) and the original defeat of the Persians from central Greece, the inhabitants of the two big cities of Olynthos and Potidea revolted too against the enemy and drove them out of their land. After the Persian Wars, the big cities of Halkidiki became members of the Athenian Alliance and participated into the Peloponnesian Wars (431-404 BC), which led to the destruction of a powerful town of Halkidiki, ancient Mende. In 348 BC, Halkidiki became a part of the Macedonian kingdom, under Philip's control. With Alexander the Great, the cities of Halkidiki increased in number. Among the new cities was Thessaloniki, Cassandria, Uranoupolis and Antigonia, to the north of modern Nea Kallikrateia. In 168 BC, Halkidiki came under the Roman domination.

Medieval times

In the 9th century AD, the first monastery was built on the peninsula of Athos. In the 11th century, the peninsula of Athos was given the name of "Holy Mountain" by a decree of a Byzantine emperor. The Byzantines also built many castles and fortresses to protect the area from invasions. Such an architectural example is the Prosforio Tower in Ouranoupolis. However, in 1430, the Turks took Halkidiki from the Venetians. The first call for freedom was made in May 1821 at Polygyros, Karyes and Cassandra. Some attempts of revolution took place in various parts of Halkidiki but they were stopped by the Turks.

Recente years

In the early 20th century, many of the inhabitants of Halkidiki joined the forces of Pavlos Melas and other fighters for freedom. Finally, Halkidiki was set free of the Turks in 1912 and became part of the Greek province of Macedonia. In 1921, Greek refugees from Asia Minor (after the Asia Minor catastrophe), Eastern Thrace and Bulgaria moved to Halkidiki, bringing a new economic and political strength. They founded about 30 new villages and small towns, such as Nea Fokea, Nea Skioni and Nea Moudiana. Today, Halkidiki is a vivid area that keeps its history alive, in the memory of its people and the historical monuments that you will find spread along its countryside. The recorded history of Halkidiki is traced back thousands of years ago leaving a great number of treasures.

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Halkidiki Saint Nicholas church in Loutra south of Nea Skioni
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