History of Drama



Visitors of Drama are touched by the natural wealth of the city in flowing waters. Both prehistoric man and the other of the historic times organized their lives near the water. As a result, the water area was strongly linked with the long presence of man in the modern city. The earliest permanent human settlement on the site of the present city of Drama, detected after systematic excavations in the prehistoric settlement of «Arkadikos», south of the park of Agia Varvara (Santa Barbara). The Neolithic settlement is the first residential core of the city, from the mid-6th millennium BC. Life in the settlement continued to the early Bronze Age and sporadically in historic times. The core of the ancient settlement of the late Classical period, according to archaeological excavation evidence, was located inside the enclosure of the Byzantine walls of Drama. This does not mean that the extent of the ancient settlement was identical to that of a Byzantine fortress.
The extent of the ancient settlement, with the possible name «Draviskos» could be defined on the east by the district courts, in the west of Nea Kromni suburb, north of the region, «Ampelia» (Vines) and south of Santa Barbara’s Springs. Valuable information of the area’s topography derived from cell archaeological findings, identified in tombs, houses and buildings in the city of Drama. The continuous habitation in the area, during the Byzantine, post-Byzantine period and the passage of various conquerors, destroyed valuable past life evidence of the place. The current city, during Roman times, was an important station on the road, through an extensive colony of Filippi, named «Daravescos». Among many gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon and the local gods, who were worshiped in the area, we distinguish Dionysus. The worship for the god of the vine and wine continued until late Roman times and was identified with the cult of the Roman god «Liber Pater». Votive inscriptions, which were identified in the region of Drama, indicate the existence of Dionysus temple, since Hellenistic Times, but they did not find the exact place of it. In the early Christian period (4th to 7th century AD) Drama was a small fortified settlement, which occupies the same area, the one of the late classical period. Being the most important settlement from all, the fertile plains of Filippi, belongs to the administrative territory («territorium») of the Roman colony of Filippi, the so-called Empress Julia Augusta - the «Filippian». The latter was found after the historical - for the development of Roman State - battle of Filippi, the year 42 AD and extends throughout the current prefecture of Kavala, along with large parts of the prefectures of Serres and Drama. The colony became universally known by the passage of the Apostle Pavlos (Paul) and his escort from Filippi, the winter of the year 49 AD and the founding of the first Christian church. Christian community of Philippi gradually evolves into brilliant Metropolis of the new religion, with many dioceses. In the diocese is the fortified «asty» (city) of Drama, in which, the extent of the protected area approaches the surviving Byzantine wall. In the Middle Byzantine Period (9th - early 13th century AD), Drama was developed into a strong Castle of strategic importance and of a strong commercial interest, while it still subjects to Filippi - from administrative and ecclesiastical terms. It is a walled region in fortress plateau, with an area of ​​about forty acres and a population of 1500-2000 people, where the military commander is established to control the surrounding area. Since the end of the period, have been preserved in written sources, the names «Darma» (1172) and «Dramme» (1206) for the Castle, associated with the probable ancient name and the today one. Throughout the late Byzantine period (early of 13th century AD - 1453), Drama was changing rulers all the time, like all Byzantine provinces.

In 1204, Drama passed into the hands of the Latin’s, in 1223-1224 and it was conquered by Theodoros A Komninos Doukas, Emperor of Thessaloniki. In 1230, Drama was occupied by the Tsar of Bulgaria, Ioannis Asen II and the years 1242-1243 and in 1246, returned to the Byzantines, when Ioannis Vatatzis recaptured eastern Macedonia.
In the first half of the 14th century, came in the riots and conflicts of Byzantine civil war, between the two Andronicus II Palaeologi C (1321-1328) and then, between Ioannis Kantakouzinos with members of Palaeologi dynasty (1341-1347). In those years, Drama was the abode and recreation place of the Empress Irene of Montferrat, wife of Andronicus II, who died and was buried in the Castle the first decades of the 14th century. As an archbishop - dependent on the Metropolis of Filippi – Drama, appears for the first time in the reign of Michael VIII Palaeologos (1258-1282). Exactly that season it was developed into an important religious and military center. During the years 1344-1345, it was conquered by Serbian kralis Stephen Dushan. It was recaptured in 1371 by Manuel Paleologos and remained in the Byzantine Empire, until the Ottoman conquest in 1383. After the conquest of Drama by the Ottomans in 1383, the city remained a small castle, under the control of the Sultan, cut off, from both the City, until the fall of 1453, and from Thessaloniki, till its conquest in 1430. Gradually, the Christian element - which constituted the 80% of the city’s population, even in the middle of the 15th century - shrinks, because of fleeing to the mountains and it is only the 40% in the mid-16th century. While the Muslim element is growing, occupies a large area in the formerly Christian castle. The harsh taxation, the maladministration of agades (local officials) and the often robbery cases, provoked a sense of insecurity among residents and development delay of the rural economy, until the early 18th century. However, the city’s borders were extended outside the old Byzantine walls, in «Varosi», to create new Muslim neighborhoods, as testifies the Ottoman traveler Tselebis. Between the Christian and Muslim region, in the mid 17th century, was shaped the market around the stream, which once ran through the city center. In the middle of 18th century, however, the enhancement of agricultural production comes along with the operation of small crafts in the city, giving new impetus to commercial traffic. According to data from other regions of Macedonia, we can assume how population grows in Drama, mainly among Muslims, while Muslim neighborhoods outside the walls are growing. However, mismanagement and taxation of the residents by powerful landowners, do not allow the economic development of the city. Despite the fact that Drama was in the middle of the 19th century, the capital of the region - where administrative authorities, army and courts were based – it can not compete with Kavala port, as a hub in the region. Severe changes occur in the city after 1870, when tobacco production and trade cause population’s growth and enhance commercial activity. The operation of the railroad in 1895 and the improvement of the road network, towards the port of Kavala, link Drama with the major centers of the empire and sea trading routes. Big tobacco merchant firms establish branches in Drama, build warehouses, work bank offices and the state of England, opened a sub consulate in the city.
There, for the needs of 6000-7000 residents, would be soon created new neighborhoods around the waters of Santa Barbara and the west of the walled area. The newcomers Muslims, Christians and Jews, form separate residential cores, according to the standards of the Ottoman period.The Christians, who were constantly reinforced with families from West Macedonia and mainly Epirus, were numbered at least 200 families in 1880 and were located within the old city walls and south of this area, in Agia Varvara (Santa Barbara). Muslims were concentrated west of the market and the Jews were settled in the water area of Santa Barbara. On the new public buildings of the city and on private houses, were reflected the prosperity and the effects of European standards. The Greek community was distinguished, from 1870 until the liberation, for its economic development, the establishment Educational Association, the rebuild of schools and charitable associations. In the early 20th century, when the population was already 14,000 people and the economic progress has been continued, sporadic violent incidents were occurred, in the city - one undeclared war, the Macedonian Struggle. Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Drama, the elders and the people, organized the defense of the Greek community.

After the turbulent era of the Macedonian Struggle and the first Bulgarian occupation, the city was liberated by the Greek army on July 1rst, in 1913, after 540 years of foreign occupation. After the harrowing experience of the Second Bulgarian occupation, the three religious groups of the city gradually created multi-religious neighborhoods, especially in today's commercial center. Eventually, Drama finally acquired Greek character with the population exchange, in accordance with the Treaty of Lausanne, in 1923. Refugees of Pontos, the western coast of Asia Minor and Thrace, would radically change Drama’s image after the installation - creating many refugee neighborhoods around the old core of the city and stimulating the market. Drama had 32,000 inhabitants in 1928, having achieved the double numbers in just a decade with a significant Armenian and Jewish community. The mall finally shifted to the west and north of the old one and the symbol of Drama’s modern history, is the warehouses in the area of ​​Santa Barbara, reminding prosperity periods of the dwellers, thanks to tobacco trade, during the inter-war.In 1941, once again, the city would meet the experience of foreign occupation, which is marked by the emigration of many residents to Thessaloniki and the mass slaughter of hundreds of civilians on September 29, in 1941, after having riots in the area. During the same period, in March of 1943, all the Jews were gathered in Drama, by the occupation authorities, in tobacco warehouse of the city and were led to the Nazi camp Treblinka in Poland for mass extermination. After postwar, Drama got to be the administrative, economic and cultural center all over the prefecture. The concentration of activities, improved its development, as the population was growing by young people in the region, the Greeks, who used to live abroad and the economic migrants. Moreover, the fact that Drama links with urban networks in Greece, Europe and the opening of the border with Bulgaria, provides new perspectives for the place.