From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Περιφέρεια Θεσσαλίας
Region of Greece

Coordinates: 39°36′N 22°12′E / 39.6°N 22.2°E / 39.6; 22.2Coordinates: 39°36′N 22°12′E / 39.6°N 22.2°E / 39.6; 22.2
Country  Greece
Capital Larissa
Regional units
 • Regional governor Constantinos Agorastos (ND)
 • Total 14,037 km2 (5,420 sq mi)
Population (2011)
 • Total 732,762
 • Density 52/km2 (140/sq mi)
ISO 3166 code GR-E

Thessaly (Greek: Θεσσαλία, Thessalía; ancient Thessalian: Πετθαλία, Petthalía) is a traditional geographic and modern administrative region of Greece, comprising most of the ancient region of the same name. Before the Greek Dark Ages, Thessaly was known as Aeolia (Greek: Αἰολία), and appears thus in Homer's Odyssey.

Thessaly became part of the modern Greek state in 1881, after four and a half centuries of Ottoman rule. Since 1987 it has formed one of the country's 13 regions[1] and is further (since the Kallikratis reform of 2010) sub-divided into 5 regional units and 25 municipalities. The capital of the region is Larissa. Thessaly lies in central Greece and borders the regions of Macedonia on the north, Epirus on the west, Central Greece on the south and the Aegean Sea on the east. The Thessaly region also includes the Sporades islands.


In Homer's epic, the Odyssey, Odysseus visits the kingdom of Aeolus, and this is the old name for Thessaly.

The Plain of Thessaly, which lies between Mount Oeta/Othrys and Mount Olympus, is the site of the battle between the Titans and the Olympians.

According to legend, Jason and the Argonauts launched their search for the Golden Fleece from the Magnesia Peninsula.


Ancient history[edit]

Thessaly was home to extensive Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures around 6000 BC2500 BC (see Cardium Pottery, Dimini and Sesklo). Mycenaean settlements have also been discovered, for example at the sites of Iolcos, Dimini and Sesklo (near Volos). In Archaic and Classical times, the lowlands of Thessaly became the home of baronial families, such as the Aleuadae of Larissa or the Scopads of Crannon. In the 4th century BC Jason of Pherae transformed the region into a significant military power, recalling the glory of Early Archaic times. Shortly after Philip II of Macedon was appointed Archon of Thessaly, and Thessaly was thereafter associated with the Macedonian Kingdom for the next centuries. Thessaly later became part of the Roman Empire as part of the province of Macedonia.

Avar invasion of the Byzantine Empire[edit]

Pineios river with the church of St. Achilles, patron saint of Larissa, in the background.

Thessaly remained part of the East Roman "Byzantine" Empire after the collapse of Roman power in the west, and subsequently suffered many invasions, such as by the Slavic tribe of the Belegezites in the 7th century AD.[2] The Avars had arrived in Europe in the late 550s.[3]:29 They asserted their authority over many Slavs, who were divided into numerous petty tribes.[3]:30 Many Slavs were galvanized into an effective infantry force, by the Avars. In the 7th Century the Avar-Slav alliance began to raid the Byzantine Empire, laying siege to Thessaloniki and even the imperial capital Constantinople itself.

By the 8th Century Slavs had occupied most of the Balkans, from Austria to the Peloponnese, and from the Adriatic to the Black seas, with the exception of the coastal areas and certain mountainous regions of the Greek peninsula.[3]:36 Far fewer numbers of Slavs appear to have settled in those parts of Greece where Slavs did settle.[3]:64 Relations between the Slavs and Greeks were probably peaceful apart from the (supposed) initial settlement and intermittent uprisings.[3]:63 Being agriculturalists, the Slavs probably traded with the Greeks inside towns.[3]:61 It is likely that the re-Hellenization had already begun by way of this contact. This process would be completed by a newly reinvigorated Byzantine Empire.

With the abatement of Arab-Byzantine Wars the Byzantine Empire began to consolidate its power in those areas of mainland Greece occupied by Proto-Slavic tribes. Following the campaigns of the Byzantine general Staurakios in 782-783, the Byzantine Empire recovered Thessaly (then known as Hellas), taking many Slavs as prisoners.[4] Apart from military expeditions against Slavs, the re-Hellenization process begun under Nicephorus I involved (often forcible) transfer of peoples.[3]:81 Many Slavs were moved to other parts of the empire, such as Anatolia and made to serve in the military.[3]:66 In return, many Greeks from Sicily and Asia Minor were brought to the interior of Greece, to increase the number of defenders at the Emperor's disposal and dilute the concentration of Slavs.[3]:82 Even non-Greeks were transferred to the Balkans, such as Armenians.[citation needed] As more of the peripheral territories of the Byzantine Empire were lost in the following centuries, e.g. Sicily, southern Italy and Asia Minor, their Greek-speakers made their own way back to Greece. In 977 it was raided by the Bulgarians.

Late Medieval and Ottoman Thessaly[edit]

"The Hyperian Fountain at Pherae", Edward Dodwell.

In 977 Byzantine Thessaly was raided by the Bulgarian Empire. Dissatisfaction about the taxation policy led in 1066 the Aromanian and Bulgarian population of Thessaly to revolt against the Byzantine Empire under the leadership of a local lord, Nikoulitzas Delphinas.[5] The revolt, which began in Larissa, was soon expanded in Trikala and later northwards to the Byzantine-Bulgarian border.[5] In 1199-1201 another unsuccessful revolt was led by Manuel Kamytzes, son-in-law of Byzantine emperor Alexios III Angelos.[6] In 1204 it was assigned to Boniface of Montferrat and in 1225 to Theodore Komnenos Doukas, despot of Epirus. From 1271 to 1318 it was an independent despotate that extended to Acarnania and Aetolia, run by John I Doukas. In 1309 settled there the Almogavars or Catalan Company of the East (Societas Catalanorum Magna), which in 1310, after lifting the siege of Thessalonica, withdrew as mercenaries in the pay of the sebastokrator John II Doukas, and took over the country organized in a democracy. From there they departed to the Duchy of Athens, called by the duke Walter I. In 1318, with the extinction of the Angelid dynasty, the Almogavars occupied Siderokastron and southern Thessaly (1319) and formed the Duchy of Neopatria.

One of the flags used in Thessaly during the Greek War of Independence (designed by Anthimos Gazis).

In 1348, it was invaded and occupied by the Serbs under Preljub. After the latter's death in 1356, the region was conquered by Nikephoros Orsini, and after his death three years later, it was taken over by the self-proclaimed Serbian emperor Simeon Uroš. Simeon's son John Uroš succeeded in 1370 but abdicated in 1373, and Thessaly was administered by the Greek Angeloi-Philanthropenoi clan until the Ottoman conquest c. 1393. Ottoman control was disputed by the Byzantines until the 1420s, when it was consolidated by Turahan Bey, who settled Turkomans in the province and founded the town of Tyrnavos.


Rigas Feraios, the important Greek intellectual and forerunner of the Greek War of Independence was from the region. He was born in Velestino, near the ancient town of Pherae.

In 1821, parts of Thessaly and Magnesia participated in the initial uprisings in the Greek War of Independence, but these revolts were swiftly crushed. Thessaly became part of the modern Greek state in 1881, after the Treaty of Berlin.


Volos view from Pelion mountain.
Litheos river flowing through the city of Trikala.
View of Skopelos (town), Skopelos island.

Thessaly occupies the east side of the Pindus watershed, extending south of Macedonia to the Aegean Sea. The northern tier of Thessaly is defined by a generally southwest-northeast spur of the Pindus range that includes Mount Olympus, close to the Macedonian border. Within that broken spur of mountains are several basins and river valleys. The easternmost extremity of the spur extends southeastward from Mt. Olympus along the Aegean coast, terminating in the Magnesia Peninsula that envelops the Pagasetic Gulf (also called the Gulf of Volos), and forms an inlet of the Aegean Sea. Thessaly's major river, the Pineios, flows eastward from the central Pindus Range just south of the spur, emptying into the Thermaic Gulf.

The Trikala and Larissa lowlands form a central plain which is surrounded by ring of mountains. It has a distinct summer and winter season, with summer rains augmenting the fertility of the plains. This has led to Thessaly occasionally being called the "breadbasket of Greece".

The region is well delineated by topographical boundaries. The Chasia and Kamvounia mountains lie to the north, the Mt. Olympus massif to the northeast. To the west lies the Pindus mountain range, to the southeast the coastal mountains of Óssa and Pelion.

Several tributaries of the Pineios flow through the region.


According to the census conducted by ESYE in 2011, the population of the region of Thessaly is 732,762 and represents 6.8% of the total population of the country.

It has noted a 2.8% decrease in the population since 2001 and remains the third largest region in the country population-wise.

The population break-down is 44% urban, 40% agrarian and 16% semi-urban with the agrarian population having noted a decline which has been paralleled with an increase in the semi-urban.

The metropolitan area of Larissa, the capital of Thessaly, is home to more than 230,000 people, making it the biggest city of the region.

Major communities[edit]


Traditional dress of Thessaly.

The alluvial soils of the Pineios Basin and its tributaries make Thessaly a vital agricultural area, particularly for the production of grain, cattle, and sheep. Modernization of agricultural practices in the mid-20th century has controlled the chronic flooding that had restricted agricultural expansion and diversification in the low-lying plains. Thessaly is the leading cattle-raising area of Greece, and Vlach shepherds shift large flocks of sheep and goats seasonally between higher and lower elevations. The last decades, there is a rise in cultivating dried nuts such as almonds, pistachios and walnuts especially in the region of Almyros. Rise in the number of olive oil trees have been also observed. The nearly landlocked Gulf of Pagasai provides a natural harbor at Volos for shipping the agricultural products from the plains just to the west and chromium from the mountains of Thessaly.


There are a number of highways E75 and the main railway from Athens to Thessaloniki (Salonika) crosses Thessaly. The region is directly linked to the rest of Europe through International Airport of Central Greece located in Nea Anchialos in a small distance from Volos and Larisa. Until today charter flights links the region and brings tourists to the wider area, mainly in Pelion and Meteora. The new infrastructure includes a brand new terminal ready to serve 1500 passengers per hour and new airlanes.


The Thessaly region was established in the 1987 administrative reform. In everyday use, "Thessaly" is identified with the administrative region, although the historical region extended south into Phthiotis and at times north into West Macedonia as well.

With the 2010 Kallikratis plan, the powers and authority of the region were redefined and extended. Along with Central Greece, it is supervised by the Decentralized Administration of Thessaly and Central Greece, based at Larissa. The region is based at Larissa and is divided into five regional units (four were pre-Kallikratis prefectures), Karditsa, Larissa, Magnesia, the Sporades and Trikala, which are further subdivided into 25 municipalities.

The region's governor is, since 1 January 2011, Konstantinos Agorastos, who was elected in the November 2010 local administration elections for the New Democracy party.

Ancient coinage of Thessaly[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Π.Δ. 51/87 “Καθορισμός των Περιφερειών της Χώρας για το σχεδιασμό κ.λ.π. της Περιφερειακής Ανάπτυξης” (Determination of the Regions of the Country for the planning etc. of the development of the regions), ΦΕΚ A 26/06.03.1987
  2. ^ History of Humanity: From the seventh century B.C. to the seventh century A.D.. UNESCO. 1996. p. 252. ISBN 978-92-3-102812-0. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Fine, John V. A., Jr. 1983, Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey From the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, University of Michigan Press ISBN 9780472100255
  4. ^ Fine, John Van Antwerp (1991-05-15). The early medieval Balkans: a critical survey from the sixth to the late twelfth century. University of Michigan Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-472-08149-3. Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Fine, John Van Antwerp (1991-05-15). The early medieval Balkans: a critical survey from the sixth to the late twelfth century. University of Michigan Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-472-08149-3. Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  6. ^ Oaks, Dumbarton; Hendy, Michael F. (1999-01-01). Catalogue of the Byzantine coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection: Volume four. Alexius I to Michael VIII (1081-1261).. Alexius I to Alexius V (1081-1204). Dumbarton Oaks. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-88402-233-6. Retrieved 9 February 2011. 

External links[edit]

  • Official website (in Greek)
  • Bagnall, R., J. Drinkwater, A. Esmonde-Cleary, W. Harris, R. Knapp, S. Mitchell, S. Parker, C. Wells, J. Wilkes, R. Talbert, M. E. Downs, M. Joann McDaniel, B. Z. Lund, T. Elliott, S. Gillies. "Places: 991374 (Thessalia)". Pleiades. Retrieved March 8, 2012.