History of the Prefecture of Larissa
The region was first inhabited in the Palaeolithic era.
There are finds such as hunting weapons, stone tools, bones and animal fossils.
In the 7th millennium B.C the first Neolithic settlements appear in the region of the Prefecture of Larissa (Otzaki, Arapi hillock, Soufli hillock, Achillio, Rahmani, Tsagli at Farsala) most of which have the form of hillocks.A number of houses, pots, stone and bone tools, stone and bone jewels have been excavated. It is worth mentioning a number of clay and stone statuettes of animals and men, clay statuettes of houses, vessels and furniture that have been found, too.
Some settlements were still inhabited in the Bronze Age (3,200-1,000 B.C).There have been excavated houses with small warehouses, clay pots, jewelry, cameos, statuettes etc.It was then that Saint Achilles’ hill in Larissa was first inhabited.Some of the most significant settlements dating from the Mycenean era have been located at Marmarini, Gonni, Argiropouli, Falanni…
Historical Ages (11th century B.C.-4th century A.D.)
The Geometrical period that followed the decline of the Mycenean Civilization has been marked by a systematic movement of tribes.The Thessalians settled in the plain of Larissa, the Magnesians on mounts Pelion, Kissavos and Mavrovouni while the Perrevians settled on mounts Antihasia, Kamvounia, at the western foot of mount Olympus and in Low Olympus.
In the Archaic period, the flat Thessaly was divided into ‘tetrarchies’. (Pelasgiotis, Estieotis, Thessaliotis and Fthiotis).Oligarchical regimes have been set up in the city-states. Larissa has become the most important Thessalian town since the close of the 7th century B.C. Krannona, Skotousa, Farsalos and Eretria have been major Thessalian city-states, too.
The Thessalians took part in the First Holy War in the early part of the 6th century B.C while later on, during the Persian wars, they went over to the Medes, fought with the Spartians, who were then their allies, against the Athenians and also took part in the Peloponnesian War.
In 364 B.C the Thessalian city-states formed the ‘Thessalian Community’, a federal state that had a political and economic character.
Few monuments of this period have been brought to light at Krannona, at Agios Georgios, at Farsala and other places, too.
The Hellenistic and Roman Period (354 B.C.-4th century A.D.)
After Philip’s II intervention that took place in 354 B.C., the period of the Macedonian domination began in the Prefecture and lasted until 197 B.C.
Nowadays, the town of Farsala claims the first rank among the towns of Thessaly. In the Roman era Larissa became the seat of the New Thessalian Community and enjoyed great prosperity before declining.
The most recent excavations have brought to light parts of streets, public baths and residences dating from the
Hellenistic and Roman era as well as mosaic floors.
However, the two ancient theaters of Larissa constitute the most significant monuments of that period:
The first theater that is situated on the south hillside of ‘Frourio’ was probably constructed towards the close of the 3rd century B.C.; a lot of performances were given there until the second half of the 1st century B.C. when a second ancient theater was constructed.
Moreover, a significant Roman public bath with rare mosaic floors has been brought to light in the area of Neromili, at Agia.
The Christian Era (4th century A.D.-14th century A.D.)
After the accession to the throne of Constantine the Great, Thessaly was still a Roman province. Larissa, Farsala, Elassona, Azoros and Pithio remained the major Thessalian towns. Emperor Ioustinianos restored several fortresses and founded a new town at the foot of mount Kissavos. Mosaics of rare beauty decorate the Old Christian basilicas of Larissa and Elassona that constitute important monuments of that period.
Towards the close of the 6th century a long period of barbaric invasions started and lasted until the 14th century except for short periods of peace. The Slavs, the Arabs, the Bulgarians, the Normands, the Crusaders, the Serbs and the Ottomans were the invaders who successively invaded the empire.
In the 11th and 12th century the monastic center of ‘mount Kellia’ acquired great significance. During the Latin domination, Thessalia devolved to the State of Epirus and later on became and independent state. In the Palaeologuian era a lot of churches and monasteries were restored; the monastery of Olympiotissa at Elassona was the most important of all.
The absence of a central power in Thessaly, the disputes between the noblemen, the oppression of the population and the devastation of the countryside facilitated the Turkish invasion that started in 1393.
The Turkish Domination (15th -19th century)
The Turkish domination was consummated by Turachan bey in 1423. Turkish populations were first installed in Larissa, Farsala, Elassona and later on in the countryside where Turkish villages were founded.After the fall of Constantinople, the Ottomans recognized the Patriarchate so that a lot of 16th and 17th century churches and monasteries were restored. In the same period there can be noted a rise in the population and economic prosperity.
The 17th century and the early part of the 18th century were marked by epidemics and natural disasters that ravaged entire villages in a plain while vast areas devolved to the Turks. On the contrary, the textile industry, the fabrication of yarns and their trade developed in the mountainous and semi-mountainous regions of the Prefecture of Larissa.
During the War of Independence of 1821 the Turkish troops had their headquarters in the region of Larissa so that they could repress any liberation movements (the Revolution of mount Olympus, the 1854, 1877 and 1878 revolts).
Finally, the vision of freedom came true on 31st August 1881 when Greece annexed the largest part of Thessaly and Arta except for the area of Elassona.
At the same time, in the 18th and 19th century schools of various grades opened at Agia, Tirnavos, Tsaritsani, Ampelakia, in Larissa as well as in other places. Pezaros, Konstantas, Koumas and Ikonomou were some of the illustrious teachers that taught in those schools.
Larissa has been the center of Thessaly and has attracted populations from various regions.The great majority of the farmers worked as tenant-farmers for big land-owners. Thessaly was conquered by the Turks (1897-1898).
The twentieth century was marked by crucial issues such as The Agrarian Issue that involved the farmers’ demand for a new distribution of the land. In the riots of 1907 and 1910 some farmers lost their lives. At the end of the Balkan Wars the province of Elassona was liberated.
The First World War (1914-1918) and the disaster of Asia Minor in 1922 were suspending factors for the development of the region. Afterwards, the farmers were rehabilitated gradually while the town of Larissa was modernized, too.
In the 50’s and 60’s urbanism reached its peak and caused serious problems during the German Occupation and the Greek Civil War. when the Romans occupied the region. Philip II was acclaimed General of the Army of the armed forces of the ‘Thessalian Community’ and later on was elected its legitimate supreme sovereign. He fortified the city-states in which he installed regular sentries and re-established the reformed Thessalian tetrarchies.