Saturday, September 7, 2013

The city of Larissa

Larissa (Greek: Λάρισα) is the capital and biggest city of the Thessaly region of Greece and capital of the Larissa regional unit. It is a principal agricultural centre and a national transportation hub, linked by road and rail with the port of Volos, the city of Thessaloniki and Athens. Τhe regional unit of Larissa reached a population of 284.325 (in 2011). Today, Larissa is a major commercial and industrial centre in Greece. Legend has it that Achilles was born here, and that Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, died here.

The city's history goes back many centuries. But still, the city maintains several elements of its tradition. For example, from ancient times until today, τhe city's symbol is the horse.
Official symbol of Municipality of Larissa

Larissa Football Club


There are a number of highways including E75 and the main railway from Athens to Thessaloniki (Salonika) crossing through Thessaly. The region is directly linked to the rest of Europe through the International Airport of Central Greece located in Nea Anchialos a short distance from Larissa. Larissa lies on the river Pineios.
The Larissa Chasma, a deep gash in the surface of Dione, a natural satellite of Saturn, was named after Larissa.

Position of Thessaly and of Larissa in Greece

Position of the Prefecture of Larissa in Greece

Position of the Prefecture of Larissa in Thessaly 

Prefecture of Larissa


According to Greek mythology it is said that the city was founded by Acrisius, who was killed accidentally by his grandson, Perseus. There lived Peleus, the hero beloved by the gods, and his son Achilles.
In mythology, the nymph Larissa was a daughter of the primordial man Pelasgus.
The city of Larissa is mentioned in Book II of Iliad by Homer:



Traces of Paleolithic human settlement have been recovered from the area, but it was peripheral to areas of advanced culture. The area around Larissa was extremely fruitful; it was agriculturally important and in antiquity was known for its horses.
The name Larissa (Λάρισα Lárīsa) is in origin a Pelasgian (pre-Greek) word for "fortress". There were many ancient Greek cities with this name. The name of Thessalian Larissa is first recorded in connection with the aristocratic Aleuadai family.
Larissa is thought to be where the famous Greek physician Hippocrates and the famous philosopher Gorgias of Leontini died.
When Larissa ceased minting the federal coins it shared with other Thessalian towns and adopted its own coinage in the late 5th century BC, it chose local types for its coins. The obverse depicted the nymph of the local spring, Larissa, for whom the town was named; probably the choice was inspired by the famous coins of Kimon depicting the Syracusan nymph Arethusa. The reverse depicted a horse in various poses. The horse was an appropriate symbol of Thessaly, a land of plains, which was well known for its horses. Usually there is a male figure; he should perhaps be seen as the eponymous hero of the Thessalians, Thessalos, who is probably also to be identified on many of the earlier, federal coins of Thessaly.

Larissa, sometimes written Larisa on ancient coins and inscriptions, is near the site of the Homeric Argissa. It appears in early times, when Thessaly was mainly governed by a few aristocratic families, as an important city under the rule of the Aleuadae, whose authority extended over the whole district of Pelasgiotis. This powerful family possessed for many generations before 369 BC the privilege of furnishing the tagus, the local term for thestrategos of the combined Thessalian forces. The principal rivals of the Aleuadae were the Scopadac of Crannon, the remains of which are about 14 miles south west.
Larissa was indeed the birthplace of Meno, who thus became, along with Xenophon and a few others, one of the generals leading several thousands Greeks from various places, in the ill-fated expedition of 401 (retold in Xenophon's Anabasis) meant to help Cyrus the Younger, son of Darius II, king of Persia, overthrow his elder brother Artaxerxes II and take over the throne of Persia (Meno is featured in Plato's dialogue bearing his name, in which Socrates uses the example of "the way to Larissa" to help explain Meno the difference between true opinion and science(Meno, 97a–c) ; this "way to Larissa" might well be on the part of Socrates an attempt to call to Meno's mind a "way home", understood as the way toward one's true and "eternal" home reached only at death, that each man is supposed to seek in his life).
The constitution of the town was democratic, which explains why it sided with Athens in the Peloponnesian War. In the neighbourhood of Larissa was celebrated a festival which recalled the Roman Saturnalia, and at which the slaves were waited on by their masters. It was taken by the Thebans and afterwards by the Macedonian kings, and Demetrius Poliorcestes gained possession of it for a time, 302 BC.

Hellenistic and Roman era

It was in Larissa that Philip V of Macedon signed in 197 BC a treaty with the Romans after his defeat at Cynoscephalae, and it was there also that Antiochus III, the Great, won a great victory, 192 BC.
As the chief city of ancient Thessaly, Larissa was directly annexed by Philip II of Macedon in 344, and from then on Larissa was under Macedonian control; in 196 B.C. Larissa became an ally of Rome and was the headquarters of the Thessalian League.
Larissa is frequently mentioned in connection with the Roman civil wars which preceded the establishment of the empire and Pompey sought refuge there after the defeat of Pharsalus.

Middle Ages and Ottoman period

The town was taken from the Byzantine Empire by Bulgaria for a while in the later 10th century and later held by Serbia. It was Frankish until 1400.
It was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1386/87 and again in the 1390s, but only came under permanent Ottoman control in 1423. The city remained in Ottoman hands until Thessaly became part of the independent Greek kingdom in 1881.
In the 19th century, the town produced leather, cotton, silk and tobacco. Fevers and agues were prevalent owing to bad drainage and the overflowing of the river; and the death-rate was higher than the birth rate. It was also renowned for the minarets of its mosques (four of which were still in use in the early part of the 20th century) and the Muslim burial grounds.
Gravure from Larissa c.1820.

Ecclesiastical history

Christianity penetrated early to Larissa, though its first bishop is recorded only in 325 at the Council of Nicaea. St. Achillius of the 4th century, is celebrated for his miracles. Nowadays, the Saint Achillius church is the cathedral of the city
Larissa is an Orthodox Metropolis of the Church of Greece and remains a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church.
Saint Achillius church

City Tour

The downtown squares 

The Central Square
Is located in the commercial center of the city. Around it there are, the City Hall, the Courthouse, many shops and offices, banks, cafes and restaurants 

Post Office Square
Is located in the center of the city. The square was named from the old Post Office of the city, which was located there. Nowadays, it is the meeting place of Larissa. Around it there are, the administrative services of the Medical Faculty of the University of Thessaly, many cafes, restaurants, shops and offices.

New Market Square
In the square's underground is located one of the city's municipal parkings, while on the square have been incorporated  the early-Christian baths, which were discovered during the construction of the underground parking. Around it there are, the Municipal Conservatory of Larissa, the Archaeological Museum of Larissa (the old Yeni Mosque), many shops and offices, hotels, and some cafes and restaurants.

Square of mayor Aristides Lamproulis
Is located on the hill of Fortress. It is meeting place for the youth of Larissa. Close to the square, there are many archaeological monuments, cafes and restaurants. 

The monuments

Venizelou Street monuments

A' ancient theater of Larissa
The A' ancient theater of Larissa is located in the downtown of the modern city. It was built on the first half of the 3rd century. B.C. , during the reign of king of Macedonia, Antigonus Gonatas, when, after the death of Alexander the Great during the Hellenistic era, Thessaly was part of the Kingdom of Macedonia. The construction is connected with events of worship like theatrical performances, music and singing competitions, and political events related to the administration of the Thessalian public and ancient public meetings.

Ottoman Baths
The large Ottoman bath (Buyuk Hamam), is an oblong building with two domes, which follows the basic form of the plan of monumental type of public Ottoman baths, with rooms arranged linearly along the east-west axis.

Early Christian Baths
Are located on the New Market Square

Yeni Mosque
Yeni Mosque is located at 31 August str, across the New Market Square. The founder and the date of construction are unknown. According to the architecture of the building, the neoclassical decorative elements of facades but also of "michrap", dates from the 19th century.
It is the newest of the many mosques that existed in Larissa, during the Ottoman occupation (yeni = new). Used as a place of prayer from the Muslim community until 1924 when the exchange of populations became. From 1939 to 1941, it housed a small archaeological collection and the municipal library. The archaeological collection was plundered during the period 1941-1944 (2nd World War).
The building suffered damages from the earthquakes of 1941, 1955 and 1957. When it repaired, was decided to turn into an archaeological museum. The earthquake of 1980 caused once again damages to the building. Since 1983 -after repairs- until today houses the Archaeological Museum of Larissa.

Hill of Fortress monuments

Bezesteni is located on the hilltop of the ancient acropolis, in the current location ‘Hill of Fortress’. It was a large covered market, which was built by the Ottomans in the late 15th - early 16th century. Bezesteni has, since then, and for three centuries, the most vital segment. Today are survived only the perimeter walls of the main building. In Bezesteni is situated temporarily the Byzantine archaeological collection, which will be moved to Timeless Museum, to begin the repair and highlighting of the monument by the relevant departments.

Early Christian Basilica Church of Saint Achiles
According to inscriptions, it is a three-aisled basilica dedicated to Saint Achillios. It was built in the 6th century on the tomb of the Saint. Is maintained at foundation level and adorned with mosaic floors. The tomb of St can be identified with the vaulted tomb of the northern aisle, bearing painted decoration with crosses.
The church was restored in the mid-Byzantine period, as was the Episcopal church of the city and a part was used as a cemetery. In the surrounding area were excavated several outbuildings of the church, since it is known that the basilicas were surrounded by houses, warehouses, baths, charities. In the late 15th century, when the Ottomans built Bezesteni to the north of church, gave to Christians other place of worship, so the next church was built westwards.

Early Christian Baths
The bath of the Lamproulis Square, is located northeast of the basilica of St. Achilles and possibly is part of complex of buildings associated with the basilica. This is a small bath with two rooms and dates from the 6th century. A.D.

Byzantine church - Cemeteries
Middle Byzantine church
It was originally a single-nave church with a semicircular apse sanctuary, surrounded by a portico. According to the findings, typological, probably qualifies between a three-aisled basilica with narthex and domed church with ambulatory. Dated to the 11th-12th century, but is located on the top of an early Christian building. Its ruins have been incorporated in the northern part of the Lamproulis Square.
The Byzantine cemeteries were found in various parts of the city, as in the outskirts of the city, in the district of Tambakika, in the Aerodromiou str, in the Nikitara str, in the district of Hippocrate and in the city center. In Hill of Fortress was excavated the cemetery of the Middle Byzantine church. The cemetery is composed of cist and covered with tiles graves and two arched ossuaries.

Other monuments

B' ancient theater of Larissa
At the junction of Tagmatarchou str and Protomagias str, is located the 2nd Ancient Theatre of Larissa, which was constructed in the 1st century. B.C. The importance of this, lies in cover specific spiritual needs of the ancient habitants of Larissa, because -after the Roman conquest- the A’ ancient theater had been converted into an arena and could not be used for other events.
Undoubtedly, the B’ Ancient Theatre is an ideal venue for staging quality artistic performances. In 1987 was performed the tragedy "Antigone" by Sophocles from the Theatre Group "Vrachoriti" of Volos and subsequent performances of the Regional Theatre of Larissa, such as "The Libation Bearers" by Aeschylus (1992) and "Philoctetes" by Sophocles (2004).

Bayrakli Mosque
At the junction of Papaflessa str and Ossis str, we meet Bayrakli Mosque (15th - early 16th c.). Is so named, because the imam of the mosque used to raise a flag, giving signal to other imams in the area, to call the faithful to prayer (Bayrak in Turkish means flag). From Bayrakli Mosque today, are survived two walls of the central area, which are characterized by fine exposed brickwork.

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