Ioannina, often called Yannena within Greece, is the capital and largest city of Epirus, an administrative region in north-western Greece, with a population of 112,486 (in 2011). It lies at an elevation of approximately above sea level, on the western shore of lake Pamvotis. It is located within the Ioannina municipality, and is the capital of Ioannina regional unit and the region of Epirus. Ioannina is located northwest of Athens, southwest of Thessaloniki and east of the port of Igoumenitsa in the Ionian Sea.
Founded by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD, Ioannina flourished following the Fourth Crusade, when many wealthy Byzantine families fled there in the early 13th century following the sack of Constantinople. It was part of the Despotate of Epirus from 1358 to 1416, before surrendering to the Ottomans in 1430. Between 1430 and 1868 the city was the administrative center of the Pashalik of Yanina. In the period between the 16th and 19th centuries, the city was a major center of the modern Greek Enlightenment. Ioannina joined Greece in 1913 following the Balkan Wars.
The city has both a General and a University Hospital, and is the seat of the University of Ioannina (situated south of the city, with 17 departments and 20,000 students) as well as several departments of the Τechnological Educational Institute of Epirus, the headquarters of which are located in Arta.
The first indications of human existence in the regional unit of Ioannina are dated back to the Paleolithic period (38,000 years ago). This is testified by the stone tools that were found in the cavern of Kastritsa. The first recorded inhabitants of the area were the Epirote Greek tribe of the Molossians.
It is unknown when exactly the city was founded, but an unnamed new, "well-fortified" city, recorded by the historian Procopius (De Aedificiis, IV.1.39–42) as having been built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565) for the inhabitants of ancient Euroia, is usually identified with Ioannina.
However, it was not until 879 AD that the name Ioannina was used for the first time in the Acts of the Fourth Council of Constantinople in 879, which refer to one Zacharias, Bishop of Ioannine. During the time of Tsar Samuil of Bulgaria, the town was part of the Bulgarian Empire. The name Ioannina was also mentioned as an Episcopal See, under the self-governing (Autocephalous) Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid in 1020 in an imperial document by Basil II (r. 976–1025).
The city was conquered in 1082 by the Normans under the leadership of Bohemond of Taranto, who repaired the existing city walls in order to repel the offensive of emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118). Alexios I nonetheless recovered the city in 1108.
Despotate of Epirus (1204–1430)
In the 13th century, the creation of the Despotate of Epirus favored Ioannina, which became its second most important city after its capital, Arta, and the capital of a thema of Ioannina. The founder of the Despotate, Michael I Komnenos Doukas settled refugee noble Byzantine families, such as the Philanthropenoi, Strategopouloi, Dragovitsoi, Zervoi, etc., who fled Constantinople after the fall of the city to the Fourth Crusade. These refugee families, together with the local nobility, took over the government of Ioannina in 1318 and broke away from Arta. In the same year, Ioannina became tributary to the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (r. 1282–1328). The city was elevated to a metropolitan bishopric, and in 1319 Andronikos II issued a chrysobull conceding wide-ranging autonomy and various privileges and exemptions on its inhabitants.
In 1337–1340, Andronikos III Palaiologos (r. 1328–1341), aided by John Kantakouzenos, dissolved the Despotate of Epirus and Ioannina became once again part of the Byzantine Empire. A few years later however it fell to the Serbs, who had, by then, expanded their state over much of Byzantine and Bulgarian territory to form the Serbian Empire. The city's privileges were also honored by the Serbs, and as a result Ioannina rose to economic and cultural prominence over the next century. The city flourished, becoming an important financial and cultural center. During the Byzantine times it was referred to as the "metropolis of knowledge".
The city was the capital of the restored Despotate of Epirus from 1358 to 1416. In 1366/67 the Serb Thomas II Preljubović became the new overlord of Ioannina, under whose rule the city stood against Albanian attacks. After Preljubović's death in 1384, the city surrendered to Esau de' Buondelmonti (1385–1411) and Carlo I Tocco (1411–1430).
Early Ottoman period (1430–1647)
The death of Tocco in 1430 signaled the submission of Ioannina to the Ottoman Turks who granted several privileges to the town in exchange for its surrender. These were known as the Rule of Sinan Pasha, from the name of Kara Sinan Pasha, who signed the treaty. Ioannina became a seat of the Ottoman Sanjak of Ioannina.
In 1611 the city suffered a serious setback as a result of a peasant revolt led by Dionysius the Philosopher (aka Skylosophos), Bishop of Larisa. The Greek inhabitants of the city were unaware of the intent of the fighting as previous successes of Dionysios had depended on the element of surprise. Much confusion ensued as Turks and Christians ended up indiscriminately fighting friend and foe alike. The revolt ended in the abolition of all privileges granted to the Christian inhabitants, who were driven away from the castle area and had to settle around it. From then onwards, Turks and Jews were to be established in the castle area. The School of Despoton at the Church of Taxiarches, that had been operating since 1204 was closed. Aslan Pasha also destroyed the monastery of St John the Baptist within the city walls, killed the monks and in 1618 erected in its place a mosque, Aslan Camii, today a museum.
Center of Greek Enlightenment (1647–1830)
Despite that blow, the city managed to recover. Its inhabitants continued their commercial and handicraft activities which allowed them to trade with important European commercial centers, such as Venice and Livorno, where merchants from Ioannina established commercial and banking houses. The first three owned printing presses that were operating in Venice and published thousands of books for the Ottoman ruled Greek people were established by members of the Ioanniote diaspora: Nikolaos Glykys (1670), Nikolaos Sarros (1687) and Dimitrios Theodosiou (1755). Ioannina was the centre through which the books printed on these presses were channelled into Greece. These were significant historical, theological as well as scientific works, including an algebra book funded by the Zosimades family of Ioanniotan benefactors, books for use in the schools of Ioannina such as the Arithmetica of Balanos Vasilopoulos, as well as medical books. At the same time these merchants and entrepreneurs maintained close economic and intellectual relations with their birthplace and founded charity and education establishments. These merchants were to be major national benefactors.
In the 17th century Ioannina was a thriving city with respect to population and commercial activity as both French and Turkish travelers Jacques Spon and Evliya Çelebi, respectively, attest. Evliya Çelebi visited the city in 1670 and mentioned the presence of 1,900 shops and workshops and 4,000 houses. The great economic prosperity of the city was followed by remarkable cultural activity. During the 17th and 18th centuries, many important schools were established. The Epiphaniou was founded in 1647 by a Greek merchant in Venice, Epiphaneios Igoumenos. The School of Gouma or Gioumeios was founded in 1676 by a benefaction from another wealthy Ioanniote Greek from Venice, Emmanuel Goumas. It was renamed Balaneios by its Rector, Balanos Vasilopoulos in 1725. Here worked several notable personalities of the Greek Enlightenment, such as Bessarion Makris, the priests Georgios Sougdouris (1685/7–1725) and Anastasios Papavasileiou (1715-?), the monk Methodios Anthrakites, his student Ioannis Vilaras and Kosmas Balanos. The Balaneios taught Philosophy, Theology and Mathematics. It suffered financially from the capture of Venice by the French and finally stopped operation in 1820. The school's library, which hosted several manuscripts and epigrams, was also burned the same year following the capture of Ioannina by the troops the Sultan had sent against Ali Pasha. Another school founded by a benefaction by merchants of the Maroutses family, who were also active Venice, the Maroutsaia School, opened in 1742 and its first director Eugenios Voulgaris championed the study of the Physical Sciences (Physics and Chemistry) as well as philosophy and Greek. The Maroutsaia also suffered after the fall of Venice and closed in 1797 to be reopened as the Kaplaneios thanks to a benefaction from an Ioanniote living in Russia, Zoes Kaplanes. Its schoolmaster, Athanasios Psalidas had been a student of Methodios Anthrakites and had also studied in Vienna and in Russia. Psalidas established an important library of thousands of volumes in several languages and laboratories for the study of experimental physics and chemistry that aroused the interest and suspicion of Ali Pasha. The Kaplaneios was burned down along with most of the rest of the city after the entry of the Sultan’s armies in 1820. These schools took over the long tradition of the Byzantine era, giving a significant boost to the Greek Enlightenment. Neophytos Doukas a famous Epirote scholar wrote, with a little exaggeration:
During the 18th century, every author of the Greek world, was either from Ioannina or was a graduate of one of the city's schools.
In 1789 the city became the center of the territory ruled by Ali Pasha, an area that included the entire northwestern part of Greece, Thessaly as well as parts of Euboea and the Peloponnese. The Ottoman-Albanian lord Ali Pasha was one of the most influential personalities of the region in the 18th and 19th centuries. Born in Tepelenë, he maintained diplomatic relations with the most important European leaders of the time and his court became a point of attraction for many of those restless minds who would become major figures of the Greek Revolution (Georgios Karaiskakis, Odysseas Androutsos, Markos Botsaris and others). Although during this time Ali Pasha committed a number of atrocities against the Greek population of Ioannina, culminating in the sewing up of local women in sacks and drowning them in the nearby lake, this period of his rule coincides with the greatest economic and intellectual era of the city. As a couplet has it "The city was first in arms, money and letters". The efforts of Ali Pasha to break away from the Sublime Porte alarmed the Ottoman government, and in 1820 (the year before the Greek War of Independence began) he was declared guilty of treason and Ioannina was besieged by Turkish troops. Ali Pasha was assassinated in 1822 in the monastery of St Panteleimon on the island of the lake, where he took refuge while waiting to be pardoned by Sultan Mahmud II.
The Zosimaia was the first significant educational foundation established after the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence (1828). It was financed by a benefaction from the Zosimas brothers and began operating in 1828 and fully probably from 1833. It was a School of Liberal Arts (Greek, Philosophy and Foreign Languages). The Zosimaia was badly damaged in an air raid by Italian planes in 1940 and was rebuilt on a new more spacious location with donations from Ioanniotes after 1955. The mansion of Angeliki Papazoglou became the Papazogleiosschool for girls as an endowment following her death; it operated until 1905. Today it is a public school.
In 1869, a great part of Ioannina was destroyed by fire. The marketplace was soon reconstructed according to the plans of the German architect Holz, thanks to the personal interest of Ahmet Rashim Pasha, the local governor. Communities of people from Ioannina living abroad were active in financing the construction of most of the city's churches (the Cathedral, St. Nicholas of the Agora, St. Marina, Archimandrio etc.), schools and other elegant buildings of charitable establishments. The first bank of the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman Bank, opened its first branch in Greece in Ioannina, which shows the power of the city in world trade in the 19th century. During the spring of 1877, Albanian leaders organized a congress in the city regarding decisions of the Constantinople Conference and sent a memorandum to the Ottoman government demanding, among other things, the establishment of Albanian language schools. In May 1877 the Albanians of the city led by Abdyl Frashëri formed the Albanian Committee of Janina, an organization which aimed at defending Albanian rights. On the other hand, the Greek population of the Ioannina region authorized a committee in order to present to European governments their wish for union with Greece; Dimitrios Chasiotis, a notable member of this committee, published a memorandum in Paris in 1879.
Ioannina was incorporated into the Greek state on 21 February 1913 after the Battle of Bizani in the First Balkan War. After the Asia Minor Catastrophe (1922) and the subsequent population exchange, the Muslim element of the population left, and the city received Greek refugees from Asia Minor.