Prefecture of East Macedonia and Thrace: Culture
The Region of East Macedonia and Thrace boasts an extensive complex of itineraries of historical and archaeological interest, spanning all periods of history. The earliest discoveries are dated in the Neolithic Period. Important finds testify habitation in the Early Iron Age, while in the 7th cent. BC the first Greek colonizers from the East Aegean islands and Asia Minor settled on the shores. The powerful kingdom of Odrisos thrived in the 5th cent. BC but it was abolished by Philip II in the middle of the 4th cent. BC, when he incorporated it into his Macedonian kingdom. During the period of the Roman occupation the region developed with the construction of Via Egnatia, which connected Byzantium with Dyrrachium, while more towns were established. Another period of prosperity was the Byzantine, although the region was not only ravaged by the raids of the Slavs and Bulgarians, but also it was found in the epicentre of internal conflicts. In 1371 the Ottoman domination begun with fluctuations in the population, which was stabilised towards the end of the 16th cent., when the Christians returned to the plains, the Jews refugees settled in the area and people from other parts of Greece arrived in the region. A period of great prosperity followed due to commercial activities and education. The region suffered during the Balkan Wars from the Bulgarian occupation, as well as under the Germans in WWII.
There are many organised archaeological sites in the region: Abdera, Maronia, Mesebria-Zone, Philippi to the north of Kavala, the castle at Kalyva and the Macedonian tomb at Stavroupoli to the NW of Xanthi, Anastasioupolis (Peritheorion), Maximianoupolis (Monysoupolis) to the west of Komotini, the relics of the monastic community on Mt Papikion to the NW of Komotini, the Macedonian tomb at Symvola to the north of Komotini, Traianoupolis to the east of Alexandroupolis, Didymoteicho, the castles at Avandas and Pythio to the north of Alexandroupolis et. al. The archaeological sites of ancient Thassos at Limenas and at Alyki, as well as the sanctuary of the Great Gods at Paleopolis in Samothrace give us only a glimpse of the archaeological wealth of those beautiful islands. One of the most impressive recent discoveries is the tumulus of Mikri Doxipara with rare finds, including the burials of the members of a wealthy family of landowners, dated to the 2nd cent. AD, who had received five chariots and their horses as burial gifts.
The regions of East Macedonia and Thrace are interrelated with the historical evolution of Christianity and Orthodoxy in Greece and Europe in general. The arrival of the Apostle Paul at Philippi in the spring of 50 AD marked the expansion of Christian religion in the West. The archaeological museums of Drama, Philippi, Kavala, Abdera and Komotini house important finds from prehistory to the Roman period.
The region flourished in the Byzantine period, especially in the 9th and 10th centuries. It was a Christian and monastic centre, with focal point the monastic community at Mt Papikion. There are many religious monuments preserved to the present, with Byzantine and Post-Byzantine churches prevailing. Finally, there are many Ottoman monuments in the region (the Sultan mosque in Didymoteicho, the tekke etc).
Drama, Xanthi and Alexandroupolis house Ecclesiastical museums which exhibit objects of religious art and cult. Other significant museums are the Folklore Museums in Xanthi, in Stavroupoli, in Komotini and the Ethnological Museum of Alexandroupolis. A great number of cultural events, exhibitions, concerts and performances are organised by cultural associations mainly in the capitals of the prefectures, for instance the Foundation of Thracian Art and Tradition in Xanthi, which is housed in the tobacco warehouses, and the Xanthi Advancement Association (FEX). Among the numerous festivals of the region the most renowned are the multicultural Cosmopolis in Kavala, the Old Town Festival and the Carnival in Xanthi, the Carnival in Soufli, the film festival in Drama. Moreover, traditional customs and festivals are celebrated in the entire region.