Municipality of Didymoteicho
Source: CETI/ Athena R.C.
© Prefecture of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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The Municipality of Didymoteicho belongs to the Prefecture of Evros and it is seated at Didymoteicho, a town built on the slopes of a hill 2.5 km from Turkey, which is crossed by Erythropotamos, a tributary of the Evros river. Its inhabitants, like the people in the wider area, are mainly occupied in agriculture and livestock farming. The area?s fertile soil produces cereals, pulses, beets, sunflower seeds and garlic. Livestock farming, mainly cattle farming, flourishes in the semi-mountainous areas and large quantities of meat, butter and yoghurt are produced.
The area of Erythropotamos is divided between the two municipalities of Didymoteicho and Metaxades. It occupies the central area of the Prefecture of Evros and borders to the north with the Municipalities of Orestiada and Kyprinos, to the south with the Municipality of Orfeas, to the east with Turkey and to the west with Bulgaria.
The area?s history is particularly interesting as it starts from the Neolithic Age and continues without interruption throughout antiquity. During Roman and Byzantine times, known towns such as Plotinoupolis and Didymoticho, and unknown towns such as the large Roman town at Doxa in Metaxades, were fortified. Especially during the Byzantine period, the compound relation and influence of Constantinople left its mark on the area, particularly Didymoteicho, which became the seat of the Byzantine Empire twice and the first capital of the Ottoman Empire in Europe. During Turkish domination, a remarkable civilisation developed in the area, which survived to the beginning of our century. Didymoteicho is the area?s historical, economic and cultural seat and the greatest part of the area?s cultural heritage is concentrated here.
During Byzantine times, due to the strong fortification walls surrounding Didymoticho, it became the capital of the Byzantine state and seat of the Emperors Ioannis III Paleologus and Ioannis VI Cantacuzenus. To this day, the castle?s length is largely preserved, along with its 24 towers, some of which bear monograms by Byzantine personalities. Visitors will also have the opportunity to visit the small churches and imperial chapels. At the post-Byzantine church of Christ our Saviour, visitors may worship the miraculous two-faced icon painting of the ?Didymotichissa? Panaghia (Virgin Mary) with Child with the crucifixion on the reverse side of the icon, which was an imperial gift to the town, in addition to the magnificent late Byzantine icon of Christ the Almighty. The hundreds of rock-sculpted caves, which were created by the castle?s Byzantines as auxiliary sections to their households, are also particularly interesting.
The imposing Great Mosque, known as the Mosque of the Sultan Bayezid the Thunderbolt, which was built in the 15th century, belongs to the monuments dating from the period when Didymoticho was the capital of the Ottoman state, following its occupation by the Ottomans in 1361. During the same period, the oldest Ottoman Baths, the ?Baths of Whispers?, were built and survive to this day. The Mausoleum of Oru? Pasha is also very impressive. The post-Byzantine town survives to this day and 49 buildings have been declared historic monuments and works of art and are protected.
For 2 weeks at the end of August, students and professors of the School of Fine Arts create and exhibit their work to the wider public. Every year the custom of Kiopek-Bey is revived at Easter and the ?Eleftheria? of Didymoticho is held (a ten-day cultural event), along with the Castle festival (first half of August) and the feasts of Profitis Ilias and Constantine and Helen at Metaxades (where many traditional practices are revived).