The Greeks of N. Epirus like other Greeks in other areas where they have settled since antiquity have maintained their national character tanding upon various cultural traits, particularly on the language. During the Roman Empire era the closeness between Romans and Greeks resulted in the creation of the Latin-origin dialect, used by a large part of the population to this date.
After the Roman imperium was consolidated in the Greek peninsula, the country was divided in regions, organized militarily as well as administratively. At a later stage, in strategic areas of Epirus and Thessaly inscription of male citizens was enforced. Those inscribed Greeks mainly from Epirus and at a lesser rate from Thessaly and Macedonia were, merely as officials of the Roman army, eventually influenced linguistically by the Romans. Latin language which compulsively was used in combination with Greek linguistic elements by the Greek frontiers-passages’ keepers led to forming the dialect spoken among the Vlachs even to this date.(1)
However even our fellow citizen, Dr. Antonis Koltsidas, in his writings evoking A. Keramopoulos’ testimonies, supports the view that the close contact and communication between Greeks and Romans eventually generated a form of dialect spoken by the Vlachophone Greeks of Epirus. As a historian and a voluminous author, Mr A. Koltsidas, being a Vlach himself, testifies his personal experience of his long research effort, explaining that it was during the first years of the Roman domination that the formation of the Vlach dialect began. “Moreover, by conversing with elderly Vlachs I have been able to derive a great lot of data, especially linguistic, so that we would be able to observe the dialect’s evolution from its very first steps to the present”. In another page he adds: “The Vlachs have been and still are, since the instant of their solely linguistic but never racial differentiation, genuine, pure Greek brothers and descendants of Leonidas and of Alexander the Great. (2)
During the whole Ottoman occupation period, the Latinophone populations maintained their national conscience intact. Moreover they contributed to our race’s national as well as cultural revival.
In all rebellious movements of the Greeks since the Greek state’s constitution to the Balkan wars (1912-13), the Vlachophone Hellenism championed up. Even during the difficult years of the Macedonian Struggle the Vlachophones together with the Slavophone Greeks drafted guerilla groups in order to confront the Bulgarian Committee fighters and the menace the latter posed.
At the same time Greek Vlachopone Epirotans shipowners of the Diaspora financially aided the Greek state in its armament plans during the struggle against the Turkish occupation. It was the Vlachophone Averoff who funded the purchase of the famous warship “Averoff”.
In an effort to present a full spectrum of Hellenism in N. Epirus in the past, before we make a reference to what has happened in the recent years, we thought to be necessary that we sought certain data about the population and the education during the Ottoman occupation period. In her thesis Dr. Athena Koltsidas, our fellow citizen, writes: “During those times (18th-19th and the first few years in 20th century) the population in those settlements was corresponding to their size, that being mentioned in various sources and referred by travelers and researchers of the same period. Hellenism of N. Epirus undeniably exceeded the 2/3 of the total population and it played a leading role in the cultural as much as in the economic life. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that it was not the language per se the sole standard proving the nationality for those using it, as to determine one’s nationality a more significant clout had the conscience, religion and traditions instead….
Moreover Greeks apart from Greek, spoke also Aromounic (Vlach dialect) and Albanian and they all had integral Greek and Christian conscience”.
As about the population, the writer notes: “The entire population in N. Epirus counted up to 126.568 people (1872-1874) out of which 40.375 people in the Dryinoupolis area (Argyrokastro region), 19.613 people in Korytsa region, 2.500 people in the areas of Pogonion and Filiates.
According to the “Ethnological Map of N. Epirus in 1913” the region was populated by 228.422 people out of who 116.888 were Greeks and 111.534 Albanians that is by 51,1% Greeks and 48,9% Albanians.
In the following index is demonstrated that around 1913 in N. Epirus the Greek population was outnumbering the Albanians.
Korytsa: Greeks: 32.873-Albanians: 35.804
Chimarra: Greeks: 6.188-Albanians: 4.460
Leskoviki: Greeks: 6.455-Albanians: 3.993
Tepeleni: Greeks: 6.093-Albanians: 6.727
Grand total: Greeks: 116.888-Albanians: 111.534
It is a fact that in all statistics regarding the aforementioned region, the Greek element’s outnumbering in N Epirus is being acknowledged. Even in the Turkish census conducted in 1908 in the region, the Greeks came up to 128.00 while the Albanians to 95.000 (4). Upon the above it is shown explicitly how international law is implemented on judicature every time international law relies upon the force of the most powerful in arms.
- “N. Epirus: The ongoing national tragedy” by V. Georgiou” p. 110, edit. RIGAS
- “Koutsovlachs- The Vlachophone Greeks” by Ant. Koltsidas, pp. 111-112, 39, 55, edit. Kyriakidis Bros
- Lydos Ioannis: Essay : “On principles of the Roman cities”
- “Education in N. Epirus” by Athena Koltsidas, pp. 43-47, edit.. Kyriakidis Bros
The Vlachs have been and are still remaining to be, since the instant of their solely linguistic but never racial differentiation, genuine, pure Greek brothers and descendants of Leonidas and of Alexander the Great.