Zagori in history

Zagori history
ranges from prehistoric times
and shows continued
human presence
throughout the ages,
up until today.

More

Zagori, according to evidence based on the research of prehistoric archaeologists in Voidomatis river, was inhabited at least as early as the last Ice Age, some 15 to 17 thousands of years before today. The surveys concluded that hunters were visiting temporarily, during the warm season, the Rockshelters of Kleidi and Boila, at the banks of Voidomatis river in West Zagori.
Archaeologist Dr. Eleni Kotjabopoulou, briefly presents this part of Zagori history.
The next evidence of human presence is from the Bronze Age and was it discovered between the villages of Vitsa and Monodendri. The settlement excavated there, was inhabited during summers as well.

First written evidence mentioning Zagori dates back to the 14th century. According to local scholar Ioannis Papaioannou, there existed an old manuscript, lost during the 19th century, mentioning Papingo village as the border between Eastern and Western Roman Empire and the respective Christian Church divisions. Additionally, the same manuscript was mentioning two churches in the village that were founded during the 7th century. Meanwhile, Roman era finds were discovered in Papingo and neighboring Aristi.
Zagori has several remains of ancient fortifications or settlements in all of its three parts. Such as, near Makrino, Skamneli, Dikorfo, Asprangeli and Agios Menas villages. Also, extensive remains of a Roman road are still preserved in Western Zagori, passing next to the ruins of an ancient town called Roinikos or Reunikos according to 19th century scholars. The town was connected to Kastraki fortification on the same name adjacent hill, near Agios Menas village, serving probably as its Acropolis, the refuge fortress. Unfortunately no serious excavation took place for any of these yet and the only information we have for the moment comes from surface finds or research.

During the years of the Ottoman rule, Zagori notables, together with the ones of Ioannina, succeeded in signing a treaty with the arriving Ottoman army for a series of significant privileges, several years before the fall of Constantinople. Zagori kept an important degree of autonomy, with its own governance, army guard and juridical state in exchange for high taxation and an agreed cavalry service engagement. It was in this period and especially in the 18th and 19th centuries when Zagori lived its golden age. Zagorian adult males emigrated and organized themselves in communities throughout Eastern and Central Europe, Middle East and Egypt, where they were mostly running various prosperous trading businesses. A great number of teachers from Zagori were also spread in all these expatriate communities. The trading and organizing patterns of the Zagori expatriates are said to be inspired by the Ioannina Jewish community example.

Zagori became part of modern Greece when Epirus and Ioannina were liberated from the Ottomans, in 1912.
The place suffered serious losses in population and a great part of its architecture heritage was destroyed during the German occupation in WWII, as most of its eastern villages were burned down in revenge of the inhabitants aiding the resistance against Wehrmacht.

After the Greek Civil War (1946-1949) Zagori has experienced a great decrease in its population, as many of its inhabitants started seeking a better life away from the strives of this mountainous area.

Zagori and especially its Central and Western part, following specific state measures, such as the declaration of the Vikos-Aoos National Park, the adoption of protective legislation for its cultural heritage and pilot programmes of soft tourism development in some of its villages, began in the 1980s to finally develop as a tourist destination. As of September 2023, Zagori is inscribed in the List of World Heritage of UNESCO, as a Cultural Landscape site.