During the Paleolithic era, from the time that people used their first stone tools until the taming of the first animals and cultivation of the first plants, men created groups of people who survived by collecting fruits and hunting wild animals. Some findings prove that Evros was inhabited during the Paleolithic era (10000-7000 B.C.). In Feres, Rizia and Keramos scientists found firestone tools.
In the coastal Thrace the Neolithic era lasted from the 5th up to the 6th millennium, although radiocarbon dating from recent excavations proves that it lasted during the 6th millennium B.C. (5500-3000). The only excavated settlement of that era is Makri, located in Alexandropoli area, which gave much information on people’s everyday life during the Neolithic years. Among others scientists discovered hermaphrodic figurines and clay items in horn shape which might have devotional meaning or just be bases for a roasting jack. Other locations in the lowland parts of the prefecture with findings of that era prove the existence of Neolithic villages. As an example of the Copper Age (3000-1050 B.C.) very distinctive is the excavation in Mikro Vouno of Samothraki which proves their commercial contacts with Minoans (Crete).
IRON AGE-ROMAN PERIOD
By the end of the Copper Age and the Early Iron Age (1050-650 B.C.) Thracians spread on the surrounding area of Thrace continuing the prehistoric tradition. Early Iron Age locations have been traced not only on naturally protected hills, known as “Thracian Citadels”, but in lowland areas as well.
Particularly on Rodopi mountains, both on Greek and Bulgarian sides, a Thracian civilization developed having as typical characteristic the megalithic monuments curved on natural stone blocks. In Evros prefecture where the southeastern foot of Rodopi mountains end up, scientists have excavated settlements of Early Iron Age (e.g Monasteri, Lofos Avada, Nipsa, Kavissos, Kila, Roussa, the hill and cave of “Vouva” in Koufovouno and Rizia). These ruins in the south side of Evros ethnologically derive from Kikones, people who are analytically described in Homer’s Odyssey. This megalithic prehistoric civilization of Evros is a rare monumental complex in the South Balkan area.
Samothrake island and the prefecture coast showed great population mobility from the 7th century B.C. until the establishment of the Roman province in 46 A.D. in Thrace. Since 700 B.C. Aeolians had already colonized the island and develop a remarkable urban center, which was closely connected to the well known Iero ton Megalon (Sanctum of the Great) and Kaviria mysteries that were performed there. Samothrake city-state, in its turn, establishes many cities on the other side, east of Ismaros mountain up to the river’s delta. The most well known and explored with excavations city is Mesivria-Zoni, famous for boosting its commercial connection with the Thracian inland.
It is mentioned on the ancient archives as Samothrakiki Perea (the other coast of Samothraki) which includes six settlements. At the same time the Mediterranean zone (Evro’s up-country), where the Thracian tribes dominated particularly during the 5th, 4th and 3rd century B.C., participated actively to the new political and social conditions. Several findings set light to the development of the area during the Classic and Hellenistic years. We mention randomly Dorisko, where during the Persian wars Dario (512 B.C.) settled its troops and Xerxes (480 B.C.) counted its soldiers and Elafochori-Daphne where a tomb of Macedonian type with lane, atrium and chamber (end of 4th – beginning of 3rd century B.C.) was found.
Remarkable for visitors are also disperse burial tombs which can be found all over the prefecture. After Thrace came under the Roman state (1st – 4th century B.C.), Romans followed as a tactic not to boost their culture but on the contrary to advance Greek characteristics. This tactic focused on urbanizing the rural areas and on penetrating (after the Macedonians) to the mountainous and semi mountainous areas which were still under Thracian control. The road network was modernized and the popular Egnatia Road was constructed (Via Egnatia), the ruins of which are still visible today on many parts of the Kipos-Constantinople national road.
The result of Roman tactics application in Evros was the establishment of two new cities Traianoupolis (Loutra) and Protinoupolis (Aghia Petra Didimoticho), where excavations revealed mosaic floors with mythological depictions, constructed in the 2nd century A.D. by emperor Marcus Ulpius Traianus.
During the Byzantine times the area plays an important role in every aspect of everyday life as it shares boarders with Constantinople. The development of Evros during this period is presented through several Byzantine monuments: Didimoticho with the castle that consists of 23 towers (8th – 15th century), Pithio with Ioannis Katakouzinos Fortress (beginning of 14th century), Kosmosotiras church in Feres built in 1152 by the respectable emperor Issakios Komninos and the cave of Aghioi Theodori of Alexandroupoli (reminds you of equivalent cave churches of Kappadokia) which was formed in a small church and was wall painted in two periods (11th/ end of 12th – beginning of 13th centuries). ). It is worth to mention that the Byzantine monuments of Evros are a valuable source of knowledge for Constantinople art, since they are the only examples of a great artistic activity which due to later destructions left few traces on the place they were first developed, in Polis. From the period of Ottoman occupation several remarkable monuments are preserved. You should not miss the famous mosque of Mohamed the 1st in Didimoticho (beginning of 15th century) which architecturally belongs to Prousa School and has external frescos depicting the “city of heaven”. In Traianoupoli dominates a complex of baths (16th century) and Chana building (1375-1385), constructed by Gazi Evrenos Passas, which was used as a guest house for travellers and people who came here for the thermal spas.
THE MODERN ERA
During the Modern Era, from the 18th century and so forth, the urban Greek element flourishes economically and intellectually, a fact which is obvious in the secular and church architecture and art. Signs of this development can be seen in Soufli (the city of silk), in the traditional Metaxades settlement, in Didimoticho and other smaller settlements such as Petrota, Alepochori and Paliouri.
“Text by Greek National Tourism Organization – www.visitgreece.gr”