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Prehistory and History

The natural wealth f the city in terms f 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 f man with the modern city.
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 t 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 n 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 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 t Dionysiu dating from the Hellenistic period is refeued t, however, t date its site has nt yet been located.
During 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 garrisn town with strategic importance and a vibrant commercial life while it continued t belong t Philippi from an administrative and ecclesiastical pint 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 t a military governor charged with monitoring the surrounding area. Written sources from the end of this eriod which have survived give the names "Darma" (1172) and "Dramme" (1206) for the Castle which has links with the probable ancient name f the place but also with its present day name.
Throughout the whole late Byzantine erid (beginning f 13th century - 1453 AD) Drama changed rulers continuously as did all Byzantine provinces. In 1204 it fell into the hands f the Crusaders. n 1223-1224 it was conquered by Theodoros Komnenos Doukas, emperor f Thessaloniki. n 1230 it was conquered by Ioannis Asen , Tsar f the Bulgarians while in the years 1242- 1243 and 1246 it returned t Byzantine hands when Ioannis Vatatzis reconquered Eastern Macedonia.
During the first half of the 14th century there were disturbances and conflict as part f the Byzantine civil wars between Andronicus and III Paleologos (1321-1328) and later between Ioannis Kantakouzinos and members f the Paleologos dynasty (1341-1347). During these years Drama was home to empress Irene remfatiki, wife f Andronicus , who later died and was buried in the castle during the first twenty years f the 14th century.
Drama first appeared as an archdiocese, independent f the control f Philippi, during the reign f Michael VIII Paleologos (1258-1282). t is thought that during this time that it developed int 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 f 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 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.
y the 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 n the city gave the place a new breath of life in terms of commerce. Based n data for other areas in Macedonia it is safe to assume that the population n 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.
Soon 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 centre.
Drama 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. y 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 t trade in tobacco during the inter-war years.
Following the war, Drama became the administrative, economic and cultural centre f the Prefecture f 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 f the Bulgarian border, the city is being given new prospects.

(See also: Photos - Old Drama)