Pityos during the Ottoman Rule

Pityos during the Ottoman Rule – the First Ottoman Period

The unbearable regime of the Genoese and the dominance of the separatist factions will lead to the bloodless transition of Chios to the Ottomans. The Ottomans, acting cleverly, initially adopted a policy of expanded religious tolerance and granted significant privileges to local self-government.

All the castles of Chios, including Pityos, after the retreat of the Crusaders, the definitive dissolution of the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman expansion into the Balkans, ceased to play the crucial role they had during the Genoese rule. They remained, of course, as military, and administrative centres. However, unlike the time of the Maona colonial rule, almost all products, except mastic, were under a regime of free trade and circulation, aiming to increase state revenue through taxation, while the Ottoman dominance in the Aegean diminished pirate raids, at least for several centuries and up until 1774, further downgrading the role of the castles.

As part of overall favourable concessions to the local population, with the intermediation of the church and monasteries, Pityos, through a relative agreement with the Nea Moni, gains the right in 1709 to manage a vast area freely and exclusively in Aipos as a grazing area, which it purportedly purchased as a community. According to K. Sgouros, in his work ‘History of Chios’ (1937), documents in the Monastery’s archives record the testimony of a shepherd who states, “…and we had a disagreement with the monastery, and a contract was found stating that the Pityans had bought the places of Harkos of Achlada and the Plakies with its slopes, and with its mountains, we agreed that this place of Harkos of Achlada would be a pasture for the animals of the monastery and of Pityos, and neither the monks of the monastery nor the Pityans could sow it. No one would give tithe, neither the monks of Pityos nor the Pityans, but it would remain fallow. So, it was written on August 12, 1709…”, (quoted in Eugenia Koutsidou, ‘Natural Regeneration of Degraded Ecosystems as a Result of the Exclusion of Grazing Pressure – The Case of Northern Chios,’ Ph.D. thesis, University of the Aegean, Department of Environment, Mytilene, 1995, p. 38, see link in the National Documentation Center’s electronic database: https://thesis.ekt.gr/thesisBookReader/id/5027?lang=el#page/1/mode/2up)

According to Zolotas, in the 18th century, Pityos acquired an almost exclusively pastoral character, as the last trees of Aipos were cut down around that time. Then, Pityos transformed into an extensive grazing area. It is around this time that the “Synoro” (Greek toponym for “Border”) in Aipos is dated. This is the longest continuous stone wall in the plain, starting from Bampakies, on the border with the grazing area of Anavatos, and after a few kilometres, approximately reaching the 18th kilometre of the current road, at Flori. It is attributed to monks and possibly defined the boundaries between the grazing areas belonging to the Nea Moni (to the east of the wall) and those belonging to the Monastery of Moundon (to the west of the wall).

However, written sources and findings shedding light on the history of Pityos until 1821 are scarce. Only a few names of Pityan monks serving in the Monastery of Moundon have been preserved, as recorded by Chilas: in 1743, Joasaph Maurianos; in 1746, deacon Vassilis, of unknown surname, from Pityos; and in 1750, Ioannis Fekos (Chilas, p. 30). Partially preserved is the diary kept by the second, deacon Vasilis from Pityos, which recounts some interesting events. Excerpts from the diary were published in Chiaka Analekta (Kanellakis, 1890). Among other things, Deacon Vasilis describes a violent tax collection campaign in Pityos in 1719, during which Ottoman tax collectors arrested the elders of the village and tortured the younger ones to collect the required amount. Also, some years of drought are mentioned, such as 1743 and 1746, with the latter year ending in a sudden destructive hailstorm in spring, destroying crops. In 1743, the deacon from Pityos even presents a supernatural event taking place, most likely referring to a solar eclipse: “+ On February 14, 1743, three suns appeared as one to the east, one to the north, and another to the south, and the two had rays as many as the moon; they remained in the sky for a long time and then they were lost” (the original spelling of the text has been preserved).

The following years until the Chios Massacre of 1822 will pass without any archival documents or reported facts having been found so far regarding the history of the village, except for the birth of Georgios Tsopanis, later known as Saint George Chiopolites (of Chios), in 1785. Georgios Tsopanis lived in the village until 1794 when his father entrusted him to the woodcarver Vissetzis to work away from Chios. In the early 19th century, the construction of the two large churches, that of Saint George the Trophy-Bearer and the neighbouring Saint Paraskevi, is believed to have taken place, with the latter bearing a plaque from 1817. The first of the two churches replaced the church of Saint Dimitrios of the tower as the new cathedral of the village.

The three windmills, still standing in ruins to this day, also date back to the same period.

The village of Pityos during the Chios massacre

The most significant witness to the impact the Chios Massacre had on the village is none other than its instigator and executor, the Ottoman commander Vahit Pasha (Mehmed Emin Vahid Paşa). This fundamentalist Alevite commander, belonging to the heresy of the “Nusayri” dervishes, was appointed as the governor of Chios during the Greek Revolution, despite having a bad reputation even among the Ottoman officials. In his memoirs written in 1824 with the eloquent original title in Turkish, “History of the Events of the Punishment of Chios,” he writes about the events following the suppression of the Chian uprising in the plains, where they turned their attention to the mountainous villages:

“…A certain monastery in these villages, which had raised the Ottoman flag, gained forgiveness and protection. Subsequently, our soldiers turned towards the village of Pityos, which was renowned for its most notorious rebels. Therefore, these villages did not submit, but only after a bloody battle, in which many of our own were certainly killed, but none of them left a trace of life or property, and their own houses and huts were completely burned, as their inhabitants were beheaded.” (see: Events in Chios in 1822, From the Hand of Vahit Pasha, ed. ALPHA PI, Chios 2012, p. 85)

We do not know how the people of Pityos had participated in the uprising and were considered “notorious rebels”, nor do we know exactly how many were killed and how many were saved by escaping earlier. But we do know the exact losses suffered by the Ottomans. According to I. Chaniotis in “Chios in 1822”, the reports from English and French newspapers of the time give 2,286 dead Ottoman soldiers in the explosion of Kara Ali’s flagship, 50 dead in the siege of Agios Minas monastery, 100 in the siege of Nea Moni, and 200 dead Ottoman soldiers in the battle of Pityos (Cheilas, p. 28).

I. Giourgalis, in his book “Pispilounta of Chios”, recording testimonies from survivors of Pityos finding temporary shelter to the village of Pispilounta, mentions that up to 150 people from Pityos were killed and buried in the tower of Pityos (ibid.). The narration of a Jewish soldier who fought alongside the Ottomans is recorded by Vlahogiannis T.A. in the “Chian Archive” (p. 307), confirming the battle in Pityos and the significant losses of the Ottomans (ibid.).

It seems that in Pityos, all adults who did not leave in time were killed, such as the Holy Martyrs Deacons Georgios Psyrikoulis and Kanaris, and all children were sold in the slave markets of Asia Minor, such as the two young siblings Giannis and Kyriaki Tsilimou, and the women under the names Yulena, Kapirena, and Psyrikoulina, who would be freed years later and returned to the village in old age to recount their stories, which have gone down in history by word of mouth (Cheilas, p. 29). In any case, the resistance of Pityos is the only one recorded in the events surrounding the Chios Μassacre, emphasising once again in the natural stronghold of the village that shaped a distinct and defiant character among its residents, which is unique in Chios.

Several years after the massacre, after an amnesty was granted and Chian people were slowly returning to the island, in 1827, during the unsuccessful expedition of Charles Nicolas Fabvier, Pityos had 55 inhabitants, as indicated by the census of the military corps for food distribution (Cheilas, p. 31).

The last period of Ottoman rule

The revival of social and economic life in Pityos, a few years after the Chios massacre, is highlighted by the reinstatement of animal husbandry as the main activity. In the book by Sgouros “History of Chios” (1937), it is noted that in 1842 the total tax paid by the North Villages to Etem Pasha was “…wine, sheep, offal, candle rights, stalls and brokerages, totaling 35,351 grossia (Ottoman unit of money equivalent to 1/100 of a golden lira by that time)” (Sgouros 1937).

In the 1850s, a few years after the great snowfall and the destructive frost of the winter of 1851, the Ottoman administration constructed the still-existing wide road that connects the town of Chios with Volissos. The opening of the “Turkish” or “Ottoman” road, as it came to be called by the locals, marked a rapid development in the economic life of the region. This road also served the rapid movement needs of military forces and replaced the ancient path of Ellinostrata. In some places, it either overlaps with or runs parallel to it, as seen in several locations, mainly in the forest between Pityos and Katavasi. The “Turkish” road remained the only road to and from Pityos until the 1930s, when the “modern” paved road replaced it, covering it in places or following a parallel course (Cheilas).

In 1863, at the edge of the village, which was continually expanding, the church of Panagia Faneromeni and its cemetery were built. According to the census of 1866, as cited by Cheilas from A. Karavas’ book “Topography”, 66 families lived in Pityos, and a few years later it numbered 80 families (N. Mougeri, Patridographia: the Island of Chios, 1880). This means the village had at least 200 to 300 permanent residents. The earthquake of 1881, which was devastating for Southern Chios and the town of Chios, does not seem to have particularly affected Pityos. During this decade, it seems that new buildings were constructed to the south, towards Panagia Faneromeni, as auxiliary spaces, stables, etc. Subsequently, an initial group of migrants departed the village in search of improved prospects elsewhere. Emphasis should be given to the Pityans, who leveraged the strong ties between the local church and the Fener, subsequently departing for Constantinople following their ordination as priests.