Ioannina (Ιωάννινα [ioˈanina], often Γιάννενα [ˈʝanena] or Γιάννινα [ˈʝanina]/;) is a city of Epirus, north-western Greece, with a metropolitan population of approximately 100,000, and lies at an elevation of 600 metres above sea level. It is the capital of Ioannina Prefecture and of Epirus, lying on the western side of lake Pamvotis (Παμβώτιδα). Ioannina is located 450 km northwest of Athens, 290 km southwest of Thessaloniki and 80 km east of the port of Igoumenitsa in the Ionian Sea.
The city has both a General and a University Hospital, and is the seat of the University of Ioannina (situated 5 km south of the city, with 17 departments and 20,000 students) as well as several departments of the Τechnological Educational Institute of Epirus , the headquarters of which are located in Arta.
The city's emblem consists of the portrait of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian crowned by a stylized depiction of the nearby ancient theatre of Dodoni.
The first indications of human existence in the prefecture of Ioannina are dated back to the Paleolithic
period (38.000 years ago). This is testified by the stone tools that were found in the cavern of Kastritsa.
The city was founded in the 6th century by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I
. It was named Ioannina
, probably, meaning "(Town) of John"
in Greek, because it was placed under the protection of St. John
, in the early Christian period, supposedly in 510 AD. It was first mentioned in 527 AD by the historian Prokopios who wrote about the founding of the city, the new Evroia.
However, it was not until 879 AD that the name Ioannina was used for the first time in the Acts of Constantinople. More specifically, the Acts of the 879 Synod, reference one Zacharias, Bishop of Ioannina. During Samuil
the town was part of the Bulgarian Empire
. The name Ioannina was also mentioned as an Episcopal Seat, under the self-governing (Autocephalous) Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid
in 1020 in an imperial document by Basil II
The city was conquered in 1082 by the Normans under the leadership of Bohemond of Taranto, who repaired the existing city walls in order to repel the offensive of emperor Alexios I Komnenos. In the 13th century, the creation of the Despotate of Epirus favoured Ioannina, which became its second most important city, after its capital, Arta. The founder of the Despotate, Michael I Komnenos Doukas settled Byzantine families of refugees, such as the Filanthropinoi, Stratigopouloi etc, who fled Constantinople after the fall of the city to the crusaders of the Fourth Crusade and later to the Bulgarians under Ivan Asen II. These refugee families, together with the local nobility, took over the government of Ioannina in 1318 and broke away from Arta. In the same year, Ioannina became tributary to the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos and a little later to the Serbs, who had, by then, expanded their state over much of Byzantine and Bulgarian territory. The Byzantine emperor granted several privileges (administrative, economic, ecclesiastic) to the inhabitants of Ioannina. These privileges were honoured by the Serbs, too, and as a result Ioannina rose to a great economic and cultural level during the next centuries. The city flourished in time, becoming an important financial and cultural centre. During the Byzantine times it was referred to as the "Metropolis of knowledge". In 1367 the Serb Thomas II Preljubović became the new overlord of Ioannina and after him the city surrendered to Esau de' Buondelmonti (1385-1411) and Carlo I Tocco (1411-1430).
The death of Tokko in 1430 signalled the submission of Ioannina to the Turks who granted several privileges to the town in exchange for its surrender. These were known as the Rule of Sinan Pasha
, from the name of Karasinan Pasha
who signed the treaty.
In 1611 the city suffered a serious setback as a result of a peasant revolt led by Dionysius the Philosopher (aka Skylosophos), Bishop of Larisa. The revolt ended in the abolishment of all privileges granted to the Christian inhabitants, who were driven away from the castle area and had to settle around it. From then onwards, Turks and Jews were to be established in the castle area.
Despite that blow, the city managed to recover. Its inhabitants continued their commercial and handicraft activities which allowed them to trade with important European commercial centres, such as Venice and Livorno, where merchants from Ioannina established commercial and banking houses. At the same time they maintained close economic and intellectual relations with their birthplace and founded charity and education establishments. These merchants were to be major national benefactors.
The great economic prosperity of the city was followed by remarkable cultural activity. During the 17th and 18th centuries, many important schools (Epiphanios, Goumas, Valeneios, Maroutsea, Zosimea etc.) were founded, taking over the long tradition of the Byzantine era.
In the 17th century Ioannina was a thriving city with respect to population and commercial activity as both French and Turkish travellers Jacques Spon and Evlia Celebi, respectively, attest. Evlia Celebi visited the city in 1670 and mentioned the presence of 1,900 shops and workshops and 4,000 houses.
In 1789 the city became the centre of the territory ruled by Ali Pasha
, an area that included the entire northwestern Greece, Thessaly
and a part of Evia
. The Muslim-Albanian Lord Ali Pasha was one of the most influential personalities of the 18th century. Born in Tepelenë
, he maintained diplomatic relations with the most important European leaders and his court became a point of attraction for many of those restless minds who were to evolve into major figures of the Greek Revolution (Georgios Karaiskakis
, Odysseas Androutsos
, Markos Botsaris
and others). The period of his rule coincides with the greatest ever economic and intellectual era of the city. As a couplet has it "The city was first in arms, money and letters
". The efforts of Ali Pasha to break away from the Sublime Porte
were very alarming. In 1821 (the year the Greek War of Independence
began) he was declared guilty of treason
and Ioannina were besieged by Turkish troops. Two years later Ali Pasha was assassinated in the chapel on the island of the lake, where he took refuge while waiting to be pardoned by the Sultan.
In 1869, a great part of Ioannina was destroyed by fire. Nonetheless, the marketplace was soon reconstructed according to the plans of the German architect Holz
and thanks to the personal interest of Ahmet Rashim Pasha
, the local governor. The communities of people from Ioannina living abroad were active in financing the construction of most of the city's churches (the Cathedral, St. Nicholas of the Agora, St. Marina, Archimandrio etc.), schools and other elegant buildings of charitable establishments.
OIn 21 February 1913, Ioannina incorporated into the Greek state after the Balkan Wars. After the Asia Minor Catastrophe (1922) and the subsequent population exchange, the Turkish element left, and the city received Greek refugees from Asia Minor. In 1943 the Nazis deported the Jewish community of the city and most of its members were killed.
Climate chart to the right is based on data recorded during 1958-1997. Absolute maximum temperature ever recorded was 42.4°C, while absolute minimum ever recorded was -13°C.
One of the most notable attractions of Ioannina is the islet on Lake Pamvotis. Passengers are ferried back and forth from the mainland to the island (about a 15-minute ride each way) on small motorboats which run on varying schedules, according to the season. (About once every half hour, or more, in the spring and summer, much less frequently in the winter.) Tourists can visit the Moni Panteleimonos monastery (Ali Pasha's aforementioned refuge) which has been converted into a museum containing information and paintings, as well as re-creations of Ali-Pasha's lounging and living quarters. The museum is not the only attraction on the island: there are many gift-shops, tavernas, churches and bakeries on the island's winding streets. Some of the people of Ioannina even choose to make the tiny island their yearlong home, with simple rowboats moored outside their homes, or in small marinas, in the event they need to get to Ioannina proper when the motorboats are not running.
Botanically, the region of Ioannina is dominated by robust, fragrant pine trees, many of which grow within the city itself, especially around the old castle, or fortress walls. The bizarre, maze-like layout of the castle's streets, (many of which lead to dead ends, or just go around in circles) were allegedly designed to confuse pirates of old who breached the castle walls, so that they would get lost within the fortress, and be captured before escaping with their bounty.
- The castle area. It's in the center of the town, and it was the heart of Byzantine Despotate of Epirus, and the Ottoman vilayet.
- Ioannina is famous throughout Greece for its silverwork, with a plethora of shops selling silver jewelry and decor (serving trays, recreations of shields and swords, etc.). The ornate style of the jewelry and artwork tends to reflect more Turkish sensibilities than Greek ones, likely due to the lengthy Turkish occupation of the area.
- Ioannina is also one of the few places in Greece where one can purchase a hookah. Native Greeks rarely use hookahs for smoking; they are mainly sold to tourists as novelty items and vary in size from small (3 inches in height) to quite large (4-5 ft. tall.) The larger ones in particular can be quite striking, and are often purchased by Greeks and tourists alike to be used as decor. For purchasers who would like to experiment smoking with a hookah, most merchants carry a variety of flavored tobaccos.
- Within the castle in the centre of Ioannina city, the mosque of Aslan Pasha houses the Municipal History Museum, which includes works of folk art, as well as weapons and swords from the period of the Ottoman occupation of the area.
- The neighbouring region of Zagori comprises many traditional villages, such as Papingo, Skamneli and Tsepelovo. The region is noted for its scenery and traditional food.
- 10 km south of the city lies the Paul Vrellis Greek History Museum, a museum with wax statues, like the Madame Thussaud Museum in London, England.
- The island in Lake Pamvotis is referred to as "Nisaki" ('Νησάκι, Greek for "little island", literally) by everyone, including its inhabitants. It is linked to the city by small boats, as a form of public transport.
Ioannina is well known for the production of feta
cheese. The city is also famous for its spring water Zagori
, which is sold over much of Greece. It is also known as the city of the silver art creators. There are many shops with jewellery, swards and many other silver created things, all around the city.
Ioannina is home to a major sports team called PAS Giannina
, which currently competes in the 2nd Division of the Greek football league. It is regarded as an inspiration for many of old as well as new supporters of the whole periphery of Epirus
, even outside Ioannina.
- Ioannina is home to many Orthodox Christian churches, and to three (defunct) mosques and a synagogue.
- There was a Jewish community living in Ioannina before World War II. The majority of them (1,860) were sent to concentration camps during the final months of German occupation (1944). Today only around 50 are left.
- Ioannina is mentioned in the books The Count of Monte Cristo and The Lieutenants - Brotherhood of War.
- The first Bank of Ottoman Empire; Ottoman Bank opened its first branch in Greece in Ioannina which shows the power of the city in trade world in 19th century.
- The old part of the city is surrounded by walls first built by the Normans and later by the Byzantines and the Ottomans. The inner castle bears the name "Its Kale" (from Turkish: "İç/inner", "Kale/castle").
- Distances from Ioannina to:
Population of the Municipality of Ioannina.
|| Municipal population
|| Density |
|| —/km² |
|| 143.7/km² |
|| 182/km² |
Population statistics, 1981-2001.