Prehistory and History
wealth ïf the city in terms ïf abundant running water is something
which all who have passed through the area have been moved by. Both
prehistoric man and modern man have organized their lives close
to the water, something which makes the area around the waters a
link which unites the centuries long presence ïf man with the modern
The oldest permanent human settlement at the site of the present
day city of Drama was uncovered after systematic excavations in
the prehistoric settlement of Arkadikos, which lies to the south
of the Ayia Barbara park.
From the mid 6th century BC this Neolithic settlement formed the
first residential core of the present city. Life in the settlement
continued during the Early Copper Age and there were settlements
there from time to time during early historical times. However,
the core of the settlement from later classical times, according
tï excavations, lay inside the Byzantine complex of walls which
ringed Drama without this meaning that the size of the ancient settlement
can be identified with that of the Byzantine fort.
The size of the ancient settlement, which in all likelihood was
known as "Draviskos", can be defined as occupying an area
with its eastern border near, the present day courts, its western
border the neighbourhood of Nea Kromni, its northern border the
area known as "Ambelia" and its southern border the Ayia
Barbara springs. Valuable information on the topography of the area
comes from portable archaeological finds uncovered nç graves, houses
and buildings in the city of Drama. Continuous habitation of the
area during Byzantine and post-Byzantine years and the passage of
various conquerors have destroyed important sources of information
about life in the city during the past.
During Roman times, the city was an important stop on the road network
within the extensive colony known as Daravescos. From the large
number (Gods in the Greco-Roman pantheon and local Gods who were
worshipped the area, it is Dionysius who stands out. The worship
of the god of the vine an wine continued until later Roman years
and came Éï be identified with the wc ship of the Roman deity "Liber
Pater' in votive dedications which have beel unearthed in the wider
area of Drama: the existence of a temple tï Dionysiu dating from
the Hellenistic period is refeued tï, however, tï date its site
has nït yet been located.
the early Christian period (4th -7th century AD) Drama was a small
fortified town which occupied roughly the same area as the settlement
from the classical period. Being the most important settlement in
the fertile valley of Philippi, it was, in administrative terms,
part of the territorium of the Roman colony of Philippi, the so-called
Augustus Julius Phillipi. This colony was founded following the
battle of Philippi in 42 AD which was decisive for the course of
Roman history and the colony covered the whole of the area occupied
by the modern day Prefecture of Kavala as well as large sections
of the prefectures of Serres and Drama.
The colony became universally known with the passage of the Apostle
Paul and his retinue through Philippi in the winter of 49 AD and
the establishment of the first Christian church. The Christian community
in Philippi developed gradually into a strong diocesan centre of
the new religion with many bishops. The fortified town of Drama
fell within this diocese, the size of the town approaching that
of the area protected by the Byzantine walls whose ruins we can
still see today.
During the mid Byzantine period (9th -13th century AD) Drama developed
into a strong castled garrisïn town with strategic importance and
a vibrant commercial life while it continued tï belong tï Philippi
from an administrative and ecclesiastical pïint of view.
The town was a fortified plateau enclosed by walls occupying roughly
40,000rn2 with a population of 1,500- 2,000 and home tï a military
governor charged with monitoring the surrounding area. Written sources
from the end of this Ñeriod which have survived give the names "Darma"
(1172) and "Dramme" (1206) for the Castle which has links
with the probable ancient name ïf the place but also with its present
Throughout the whole late Byzantine Ñeriïd (beginning ïf 13th century
- 1453 AD) Drama changed rulers continuously as did all Byzantine
provinces. In 1204 it fell into the hands ïf the Crusaders. Én 1223-1224
it was conquered by Theodoros É Komnenos Doukas, emperor ïf Thessaloniki.
Én 1230 it was conquered by Ioannis Asen ÉÉ, Tsar ïf the Bulgarians
while in the years 1242- 1243 and 1246 it returned tï Byzantine
hands when Ioannis Vatatzis reconquered Eastern Macedonia.
During the first half of the 14th century there were disturbances
and conflict as part ïf the Byzantine civil wars between Andronicus
ÉÉ and III Paleologos (1321-1328) and later between Ioannis Kantakouzinos
and members ïf the Paleologos dynasty (1341-1347). During these
years Drama was home to empress Irene Ìïremfatiki, wife ïf Andronicus
ÉÉ, who later died and was buried in the castle during the first
twenty years ïf the 14th century.
Drama first appeared as an archdiocese, independent ïf the control
ïf Philippi, during the reign ïf Michael VIII Paleologos (1258-1282).
Ét is thought that during this time that it developed intï an important
ecclesiastical and military centre. During the years 1344-1345 it
was conquered by the Serb prince Stefan Dousan. Reconquered in 1371
by Manuel Paleologos it remained in the hands ïf the Byzantine empire
until capture by the Ottomans in 1383.
Following the capture of the city of Drama by the Ottomans in 1383,
it continued to be a small castle in the vast territory of the Sultan,
cut off from Constantinople until the fall of the city in 1453 and
from Thessaloniki until its conquest in 1430. Gradually, the Christians
who made up 80% of the population even during the 15th century began
to decrease in numbers due to flight into the mountains and the
number of Christians there ßç the 16th century was around 40% with
the Muslim population constantly increasing and taking over a large
area within the otherwise Christian castle.
Heavy taxes, poor administration of resources and frequent robbery
attacks caused the residents of the city to feel insecure and this
slowed down the development of the agricultural economy until the
beginning of the 18th century.
However, according to the Ottoman traveller Tselembi the city began
to expand outside the limits of the old Byzantine walls or the "Varosi"
as they were known, creating new Muslim neighbourhoods.
17th century a market has been created between the Christian and
the Muslim areas around the stream which once crossed the centre
of the city.
During the 18th century, however, increased agricultural production
combined with the operation of small workshops and industries ßn
the city gave the place a new breath of life in terms of commerce.
Based ïn data for other areas in Macedonia it is safe to assume
that the population ßn Drama increased at this time, mainly among
the Muslims, while the Muslim neighbourhoods both inside and outside
the walls increased in size.
Nonetheless, poor administration and taxation of the residents by
powerful landowners did not permit the real economic growth of the
city. Even though Drama was the capital of a large region during
the 19th century with administrative authorities, courts and the
army it could not compete with the port of Kavala as a transit centre
for the wider area.
Major changes took place in the city following 1879 when the production
and trade in tobacco brought about an increase in population and
strengthened commerce. The arrival of the railway in 1895 and the
improvement of the roads to the port of Kavala connected Drama to
the large centres of the empire and the commercial sea routes. Large
tobacco-trading firms established branches in Drama, tobacco storehouses
were built, banks open offices here and in England there was even
a vice consulate representing the city.
new neighbourhoods we created around the waters of Ayia Barbara,
and to the West of the walled area in order to meet the needs of
a population which now reached 6,000- 7,000. The new residents,
Muslims, Christians and Jews formed separate residential areas in
accordance with the practice widespread in the Ottoman empire. The
Christians whose numbers were constantly being added to by families
from Western Macedonia and from Epirus in particular, numbered at
least 200 in 1880 and they lived within the old walls and south
of the Ayia Barbara area.
The Muslims were concentrated to the west of the market and the
Jews settled in the area around the waters of Ayia Barbara.
The new public buildings and private residences erected at this
time reflect economic prosperity and the influences of European
trends. The Greek community during the period 1870 to liberation
was marked by its economic development, the formation of educational
societies, the construction of schools and by its charitable bodies.
At the beginning of the 20th century as the population reached 14,000
and economic growth was continuing, sporadic violent episodes began
occurring as part of the undeclared war for the liberation of Macedonia.
The Bishop of Drama, Chrysostomos, town dignitaries and the people
organized the defence of the Greek community.
Following the troubled period of the struggle for Macedonian liberation
and the first Bulgarian occupation, the city was liberated by the
Greek Army on 1st July 1913 following 530 years of foreign occupation.
The Bulgarians recaptured the city and difficult times were endured
but following this the three religious communities in the city gradually
began to form neighbourhoods where members of all three groups
lived together, these mainly being in the present day commercial
finally acquired its Greek character with the transfer of populations
which took place in accordance with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
Refugees from Pontus, the western coast of Asia Minor and from Thrace
radically changed the face of Drama after they settled there creating
many refugee neighbourhoods around the old core of the city and
strengthening its market. Ây 1928 Drama had 32,000 residents, having
doubled its population in just one decade and among these people
was a significant Armenian and Jewish community.
The commercial centre moved westward and north of the old one while
the tobacco storehouses in the area of Ayia Barbara became the symbol
of the modem city, recalling periods of prosperity for the residents
thanks tï trade in tobacco during the inter-war years.
Following the war, Drama became the administrative, economic and
cultural centre ïf the Prefecture ïf Drama. With so many activities
gathered in the city its development looks favourable given too
that the population is increasing with young people from the area,
Greeks from the diaspora and economic refugees. Furthermore, with
good connections to other cities in Greece and Europe and the imminent
opening up ïf the Bulgarian border, the city is being given new
(See also: Photos
- Old Drama)