|The origins of Greek population in Asia Minor 17/5/2013
Η καταγωγή των Ελληνικών πληθυσμών της Μικράς Ασίας
The origins of Greek population in Asia Minor dates back to more than 3000 years ago, even before the times of the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus and beyond the times of Homer.
The first Greeks that came to Asia Minor were the “Aioli” on the 14thcentury BC and later the Ions, on the 8th century BC.
When the Greeks migrated to the shores of Asia Minor, this new territory became the epicenter of Hellenism.
A multitude of colonies was set up by the three ancient Greek tribes of historic times:.
The Ionian Dodecapolis, (twelve cities) set up by the Ionians, with Miletus, Phocaea, Ephesus, Colophon and Chios as the most important.
The Doric Hexapolis, (six cities) set up by the Dorians (Cnidus, Halicarnassus, Cos and the three cities of Rhodes).
The Aeolian Dodecapolis, set up by the Aeolians, with Lesbos and Tenedos as the most important.
The western shores of Asia Minor were fringed with Greek colonies, reaching out past the Sea of Marmara (Propontis) and the Bosporus to the northern shores of the Black Sea (Euxine Pontos).
The colonies, maintained their independence, although they shared the same political and religious image.
This colonization was systematized, pre-planed and executed by well-organized cities.
Later, the over populated Asia Minor cities, along with some Greeks from the mainland, moved to areas less populous, around the Black sea and Canckale (Hellespond) and the sea of Marmara (Propontis). The new settlements provided the metropolis with much needed row material (leather, iron, gold). These Greek colonies formed a New area, later called Pontos.
The name Pontos, as a geographical area, was given by the Greek historian Herodotos and Xenophon to the coast of the Black sea, between Vatoum of Georgia and Fasy river.
The beginning of this colonization is dated around 800bc.
The Byzantines gave them a special tax release, because there were placed at the borders of the empire and their main target was to protect the Empire( as well as their properties). These privileges made the inhabitants very proud of their origin and culture. They kept all their customs with fanaticism and passion. Because of the riches of the area, the cities multiplied and flourished. All the Asia Minor Greek colonies remained independent from the metropolis, as the issue of overpopulation was greater than any notion of imperialism. The colonization brought power and wealth to Greece, encouraged trade and through this, the migration of art and the strengthening of the notion of the superior Greek mind among the nations of the area, that Greeks were calling at the time “barbarians” of the world.
The first ancient residents of the interior of Asia Minor were the Hittites who were in decline and were pushed away very early by the Assyrians. The Greeks did not seem to have any problem with these ancient nations. The Phrygians, also inhabitants of the wider area of the continent, were a nation very similar to Greeks and proved to be very good neighbors.
The Kingdom of Lydia, in spite of occasional raids, was friendly to Greeks and became an object of study and a source of inspiration for the Greek culture and civilization.
Babylonias and Assyrians were also present in the area when a new vigorous tribe appeared on the eastern border of the ancient civilized world. They came from the grasslands of Turkestan, of Central Asia, with their sheep and horses. They made their home on the high mountain-walled plateau between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf.
The newcomers called themselves Irani (Aryans) and their new homeland Irania (now Iran). They came to be called Persians because Greek geographers mistakenly named them after the province Parsa, or Persis, where their early kings had their capital. The Persians and their close relatives, the Medes, resembled the Semites, but they spoke a different language. The Medes, by the 6th century BC, had built a large empire. They ruled the Persians to the east and the Assyrians to the west. In 550 BC Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered the Medes, then pushed on to further conquests.
Next, Cyrus conquered Lydia, ruled by King Croesus. This victory gave him possession of the Greek seaboard cities of Asia Minor. In 500 BC the Greek cities of Asia Minor rebelled. The Persians, a nation of highlanders, with mainly military culture, became a real threat for the Greeks and the Greek civilization of Asia Minor.
In the second half of the 4th century BC, the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, conquered most of the, then known, world and sought to hellenize it.
Alexander the Great gave the Greek Towns their independence and his successors managed to retain most of their liberties. The Romans left their laws and instigated the foundations for trade and commerce that was retained through the medieval times and the Byzantine period, which lasted over 1000 years.
The intrusion of Ottomans, around 1350a.c., was a real catastrophe for the Greek towns and their civilization from which it took more than three hundred years to recover.
The Ottomans were a nation of nomads that dissented from the north. They were a “theocratic” state and its political system was based on a hierarchy with the Sultan at the top, which had the absolute divine rights.
The Ottomans divided the community into “millets”: Geographical or and Ethnic, Armenian, Catholic, Jewish, and Greek. The Ottomans gave to the millets significant autonomy. The leader of each millet was usually the religious leader that was responsible for its obedience to the Sultan. The head of the Orthodox millet was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The Patriarch had much power and played an important role to the development of the Greek Orthodox society.
The Ottoman state had, due to lack of proper centralized administration, a very-decentralized system. They even accommodated local military leaders. Later, the Empire was divided into regions that were governed by “Pashas”. Official contact was limited to tax collection and military conscription.
Orthodox priests and Christian primates collected taxes and maintained order but, on the other hand,, the same people contributed to the preservation of Greek language, Greek traditions and a sense of National identity.
The Ottoman system discriminated the non-Muslim population by imposing special taxes like the “cizye”, a “per head” tax and tax for freedom.
During the Ottoman’s domination, quite a few Greeks emigrated to many countries around the area i.e: Romania, Russia, etc and formed various communities (Communities of “Diaspora”). Greeks were very industrious and maintained strong trading links between the Ottoman Empire and the outside world.
These communities also played an important role in the preservation of Greek identity of the ‘Asia Minor communities. of the 19th
There are many scholars who believe that, the Ottoman Empire, was the natural continuation of the Byzantine Empire and it was a grave mistake that the Greeks did not maintain a better relation with the Ottomans. This would have helped the Ottoman Empire to survive, to the benefit of a real multinational state that would eventually evolve instead of a pure nationalistic Turkish state.
See: The History of Ottoman Empire 1280-1924. By D. Kitsikis Visiting Professor to the University of Bogazitsi, Consultant to the Turkish President Tourgout Ozal
The truth is that, the Ottoman era, the Greeks of Asia minor, had found a way to survive, once more, just like the Roman times. They took part in the government, and introduced culture and ways of life.
During the Renaissance, at the end of the 18th century and at the start of the decline of the Ottoman Empire, a new wave of massacres took place, especially in Constantinople and Smyrna that were the main centers of Greek population.
In spite of this, still, it was possible, for the Greek towns to flourish. That was until the new wave of persecutions started by the “New Turks” in 1914 / 1915 and continued through the “first world war”.
The main target was the Greek and other Christian population on the coast of Asia Minor.
This is the time that 800.000 Armenians were killed and 200.000 were expelled.
Also,800.000 Greeks were killed and 1.500.000 Greeks were expelled. Persecutions also took place in Pontos, where almost half a million people were percecuted and in Amiso, in Zougkouldak, in Inempolou, in Sinopi, in Kerasounda, in Tapezounda etc.
The circle of persecutions ended with the full expulsion of the Greek population, during the summer of 1922, with the defeat of the Greek Army. This is the time when the three thousand years old history of the Greek civilization in Asia Minor ended.
J. Gerard, at the introduction of G. Hortons book (American Concelor in Smyrna in 1922), says:
“…..the fact that twenty centuries after Christ, a small nation like the Turks, has committed such crimes against civilized word and civilized people, should have made this civilized word think seriously. We refused to listen, the desperate screams of Christians, when America was their only hope. And now, we still have a tendency to cover up their crimes, in order to gain benefits from them…”
These words have a special meaning, when a third party phrases them… An independent voice is more accurate than the parties involved.
And the question that comes to once mind, naturally, is “How did the Greeks manage to stay, on the coast of Asia Minor and survive for three thousand years? They survived withstanding confrontations with so many different nationalities, that existed in the interior, in spite the geographical position, which was unquestionably, too vulnerable”. The answer may exist among the pages of a book written by Felix Sartiaoux, “L’Asie Mineure Grecque.”
Felix Sartiaoux was a French man from the French Ministry of Culture, sent to Asia Minor by the Ministry in 1912.
“The Greeks, over all these years, were the link between the Mediterranean populations and the populations of the interior, as well as the carriers of wealth in the wider peninsula. They have never been absorbed or integrated with the rest of the nations of the interior. They retained their individuality, their love for independence and freedom, their characteristic curiosity their thirst for education and their communal life that never created one separate State because they always felt part of the mainland of Greece.
Their roots did not survive, because of a special underlying strength, quite the opposite. Their position was totally vulnerable. Their survival was due to the weakness of the nations in the interior, a weakness, nevertheless, that had enormous fluctuations.
The Greek population created roots and survived because they felt that they had something to preserve, their civilization, that they were placing above their lives.
They had the sense that they were the vehicle of a very special and unique civilization, that they had themselves helped to propagate all over, in the interior of Anatolia, in Italy in Spain, but the main mass of this population wanted to stay there, at the source of all this in “Ionia”.
They created colonies, commercial and trade-centers, they allowed themselves to live for years, in isolation, separately among alien communities.
The same thing can be said about the Jews. There are certain similarities with the Jews, the difference being that the Jews did not manage to maintain their own homeland; they maintained only their religion.
The Greeks did not survive because of their religion, although religion played its roll, it is their civilization mainly that helped them to maintain a homeland and keep their national identity, even when they were living in communities in other countries.
|Information about the spread of Greek population in Asia Minor and East Thrace before 1922
Krini (Tsesmes) 8.036
|Ai Vali (Kidonies)
| 16.500 (46.000 with surrounding areas)
|Peramos (Karsi Yiaka) in Kyzikos peninsula.
|Kyzikos Peninsula (38 Greek Villages on the Peninsula including Artaki.) Total population.
| To be filled
|5.000 (1.000 Armenians)
Kinikio close to Pergamos
|Μπουνάρμαπασι Bounarmapasi (Pinarbasi)
|Αγιασμάτι Agiasmati (Altinova)
|Τζιμόβασι Gimovasi (Gumaovasi)
|Aidin (Giousel Hisar)
| 6.000 (The total population was exterminated)
|Total Greek population in the area around Smyrna covering 60.000 sq klm . (For comparison purposes note that in the beginning of the century the Athens population was 150.000. While the total population of mainland Greece was 4.500.000)
| 800.000 (Population density:13 Greeks per square klm)
More than the average population of all other nationalities together. (300.000 were leaving in the city of Smyrna).
|Total Greek population in Asia Minor excluding Smyrna area and Pontos
|The total number of Greek refugees that reached Greece
|1.600.000 (400.000 from East Thrace)
|The total number of Greek refugees dispersed in various countries around the world.
|The total Greek population in Asia Minor during 1900 excluding Pontos
|Total estimated number of people killed excluding Pontus. (Number estimated by the Greek Historians Kitromilidis and Alexandris information published in the newspaper Asia Minor Echo Number 370)
|Greek Population in Thrace and Constantinople before 1922
|Constantinople “Alfred Berl, L’Hellenism en Thrace et a Constantinople.”