Maps, Greece and History

By Jason C. Mavrovitis

Continued from previous page

I had recently received a letter from a Bulgarian graduate student who had visited Sozopol for me to conduct family research, and was therefore even more interested in this mid-19 th century map. It was modestly priced, so I purchased it, had it shipped to my home in California, and once framed displayed it on a wall of our entrance foyer.

During the ensuing two years I began to study the history of the Balkans from the time of classical Greece to the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. At some point I read about administrative territories in the Balkans named Sanjaks and Vilâyets (Sangiacs and Pachalics). I remembered my map, and took it down from its place on the wall so that I could look at it carefully with a magnifying glass. I discovered a wealth of historical information.

The text in the field of the map shown at the left reads:

The Ionian Republic com-
prises seven islands viz. Corfu,
Paxu, Lefcathiaor St. Maura,
Ithaca, Cephalonia, Zante, and
Cerigo. It is under the protec-
tion of Great Britain.

The provinces of Servia, Moldavia and Wallachia,
belong nominally to Turkey in Europe, but are
almost independent. They are governed by their
own Princes, and have their own laws, but pay a
small annual tribute to the Porte, and acknowl-
edge its authority. Moldavia and Wallachia have
been since the year 1829, under the protection of
Russia, and have gained by wealth and resources,
by the change.

I learned that antique maps are more than attractive wall decorations. They are documents that record the geopolitical reality of their time.

In 1850, Great Britain controlled the Ionian Islands, having succeeded to their rule following centuries of control by the Byzantine Empire, the Venetian Republic, France, Russia, and France, yet again. In the end, Great Britain succumbed to increasing demands on the part of the Greek population of the islands for enosis, or union with Greece, and finally ceded the islands to the Greek Kingdom in 1864.

Serbia became a fully independent state in 1878, at the same time that the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia were merged into the new state of Romania. These changes came about as a result of the Treaty of San Stefano that ended the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78. Russian forces had reached the Sea of Marmara, and, but for the intercession of the Great Britain, would have taken Constantinople. The 18th and 19th
century histories of Serbia, Moldavia, and Wallachia are part of the drama of the decline of the Ottoman Empire that resulted, after more than a century, in the states that exist in the Balkans today.

Note the section of the map entitled "Sangiacs or Pachalics." The numbers preceding each are also contained within the corresponding, colored geographic unit on the map (not discernable in the illustration on page one).

A Sangiac, in the nineteenth century, was a sub-province of a larger administrative region named Vilâyet (governed by a Pacha, hence also called a Pachalic 2 ). Identif ied by the arrow in the section to the right is the small city that interested me especially: Sizeboli. The map shows it to be in Sangiac #11, which is named Kirkliseh, and contained in the Vilâyet, or Pachalic , of Rumelia.

In 1878, following the Russo-Turkish war, Rumelia was made an independent province, subject to the Sultan in Constantinople, but governed by an Orthodox Christian. Within three years it was annexed by the new state of Bulgaria, and was thus removed from under the Ottomans.

Nonetheless, Sizeboli, or Sozopolis, was essentially still a Greek city, as it had been since its founding in the 7th century B.C. by Greeks from the Ionian city of Miletos , who originally named their colony Apollonia Pontika.

I searched on the internet for websites and books about maps, and was rewarded with a wealth of reference material. My first purchase was the book Antique Maps, by Carl Moreland and David Bannister.3 Unfortunately, the book made mention neither of Thomas Cowperthwait nor of my map. It did contain a lot of information about antique maps, biographies of mapmakers, and a good bibliography. The internet search also produced a list of map dealers in Germany, Holland, Great Britain and the United States.One of these was the Argosy Bookstore on East 59 th Street in New York City.

As it happened, my wife and I were planning a trip to visit our daughter in New York for Christmas, 1997. One afternoon in December, while my wife and daughter were busy Christmas shopping, I made my way to the Argosy Bookstore, and took its rickety old elevator to the charming old-bookstore second floor loft, where I found huge folders full of maps and illustrations of Greece, the Balkans, and the Black Sea. The material was better than I had hoped for, and there was far too much of it for me to get through in one or two hours. However, close to the time that I had to leave I came across a map entitled Turkey 1. Containing the Northern Provinces 4 , and much to my delight I found not only Kastoria, which appears on many maps, but my father's village of Mavrovo as well (spelled Mavrobo on the map).

2 Differences in spelling, e.g., pasha vs. pacha or pasa, and are common in texts produced at different times and by different writers.

3 Carl Moreland and David Bannister, Antique Maps, 3rd ed. (London: Phaidon, 1993).

4 Turkey I Containing the Northern Provinces, Published January 1, 1830 by Baldwin & Craddock for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK). Engraved by J.&C. Walker.

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(Posted August 2003)

For more information about the author, see his biographical sketch under the Contributing Authors' section of HCS, or visit the author's website at Mr. Mavrovitis has written a number of fine articles for HCS which readers can browse or read at the URL

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