Monday, 21 November 2011

Agrinio, Arta and Patras on the Ionian coast, 1816

More now-forgotten Jewish communities on the west coast of Greece.

Janina, 6th of Alonari, (July) 1816.

Vrachori [Agrinio], the residence of Elmas the governor, and the modern capital of Ætolia or Carleli, is said to have been founded and reared by Jews driven from Lepanto and other places in that quarter; but this is probably an error, for the Jews always take up their abode in towns already established, and are never known to form new colonies. The town, nevertheless, contains 120 persons, of the Hebrew nation, authorised to have a synagogue. Three churches, and as many mosques appropriated to the use of 600 families, Christian and Mahametan. The Turks live on the revenue of their military lands and pensions; the Greeks are wholly engaged in agriculture, so that the trade in silk, the only proper business of Vrachori, is altogether in the hands of the Jews. The bazars presented but a few poorly furnished shops; and on the river Thermissus, which passes a mile east from the town, are established tanneries for the manufacture of red and yellow morocco-leather.

The extinction of the Jews of Patras is chiefly ascribed to the brutal treatment they received from the Turks during the dreadful pestilence of 1756, when they were forced into a walled inclosure, and there they perished by contagion and famine; war in such a condition would have been welcomed as a mercy.

The town [Arta, Greece] contains also the residence of the archbishop, with twenty-six Greek churches, seven synagogues, and five mosques; circumstances announcing a place of no small extent and population. Still, the inhabitants did not exceed 7000 Greeks, 1000 Jews, originally from the south of Italy, and 800 Mahometans, up to the breaking out of the pestilence of 1816.

François Charles Hugues Laurent Pouqueville. Travels in southern Epirus, Acarnania, Ætolia, Attica, and Peloponesus. 1816. Page 40.

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