Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Do you have Greek ancestors who were nomadic shepherds?

Do you have Greek ancestors who were nomadic shepherds?  

If you do, you will find the article SHEPHERDS, BRIGANDS, AND IRREGULARS IN NINETEENTH CENTURY GREECE very interesting.  It was written by John S. Koliopoulos and published in The Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, No. 4, Pages 41-53, Winter 1981.

You can read the entire article by following the link in the paragraph above.  Below you will find a short excerpt - 

The real home for the pastoralist was the mountain, and the center of mainland Greek pastoralism was the Pindus mountain range, easily reached from the plains and valleys of Thessaly, Sterea Hellas (continental Greece), Epirus, and southern Macedonia. Mount Pindus and the adjacent mountains of southern Macedonia and Sterea Hellas, as well as the plains and coastal lowlands of Thessaly, Arta, Aitolia, Phthiotis, Katerini, and Thessaloniki, provided the suitable combination of summer and winter pastures for the flocks of sheep and goats of these pastoralists, who avoided the summer heat of the plain and the snows of the mountain and exploited the grasses of both highland and lowland. The pastoralists of central Greece, organized in large, patriarchal associations of men and their horses, sheep and goats, the tselingata,* ascended in May to the higher slopes of the mountain and descended in November to the lowlands. They shared the highlands with sedentary semi-nomadic communities, which, according to one theory, had been created or augmented by refugees from the plain who fled the hardships of Turkish conquest and rule.  The semi- and non-pastoralist mountaineers who had fled the Turks—and most probably malaria and the plague as well—had created a material civilization as impressive as it was precarious and fragile, an "accident," to borrow a fitting term from a prominent student of the Mediterranean world,' which perished under the impact of the Western European industrial revolution in the first few decades of the nineteenth century,' before the pastoralism of the same area felt the impact of related forces and factors. Pastoralist fortunes in the area increased in the first two decades of the nineteenth century, coinciding with the growth of Ali Pasha's economic and political power in the same area. It seems that, although individual shepherds suffered from the exactions of the rapacious pasha, his policies generally favored nomadic and transhumant pastoralism. The steady extension of Ali's personal landed property, as well as that of his sons, to the detriment of the free peasant's land, favored the growth of flocks of sheep and goats because it created out of the small peasant landstrips large land estates which provided the necessary winter pastures for the animals. The conversion of the free villages (eleftherochoria) of the lowlands into large estates (fiftliks) was practiced extensively and with unvarying success: the unfortunate peasants were forced by the tyrannical pasha, who was also the collector of the tithes and their creditor, to become his metayers or to abandon the village and seek better tenancy terms elsewhere; the same fate awaited those who remained, as they were obliged to shoulder the tax obligations of the entire village. Sometimes the plague decimated the population of a village, with the same effect on the status of the remaining inhabitants. Domeniko and Vlachoyanni and a score of other Thessalian villages had been recently converted into Ali Pasha's fiftdiks when they were visited by a foreign traveler in the early nineteenth century.' Out of the 72 villages of Velestino district (Thessaly), only 12 were still inhabited around the same time; the rest had declined and become miserable hamlets.° 

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