Adramytti (Edremit)

1. Anthropogeography

City to the north of the namesake plain and near the mouth of the Bay of Adramytti, within approximately 6 km from the sea. The seaport of Adramytti was Akçağ, about 9 km away. The public road connecting Adramytti with Çanakkale (the Dardanelles) and Balıkesir branched to Cydoniae (Ayvalik) and ran to the south of the city. Adramytti was 75 km to the west of Balıkesir, 42 km NE of Ayvalik, 51 km SW of Balia Maden, 73 km S-SW of Bığa, 130 km to the north of Smyrna and 188 km to the SW of Bursa.

Adramytti was the name of a settlement used by the Greek Orthodox population and appearing in the official ecclesiastical documents. The Turkish name of the settlement recorded in the official Ottoman documents was Edremit. In fact, the word was a corruption of the Greek name.

The name dates back to Antiquity, as Adramytti is reported to have been an Athenian colony.1 The ancient city was built on the little hill of Karatas. It occupied a key position and served communication between the sea and the nearby mountainous regions along the road connecting the Hellespont with the Aeolian and Ionian cities. However, it never became a city of great importance. According to another version, it was Hellenised in the years of Croesus and mainly later, in the years of the Successors of Alexander the Great. The pirates invaded and devastated the city circa 1100, before it was rebuilt on the site that was to become known in Modern years. The specific position (the hill where a part of the city was built) protected it against both the sea and the important overland routes.2

Before the Asia Minor Catastrophe, Adramytti had a total population of 17,000 people. About 7000 were Greek Orthodox, while the rest were Turks and Tatars.3 There were also some Armenians and Jews.

Most Greek Orthodox inhabitants of Adramytti were from Mytilene. They started to migrate to Adramytti and the wider area mainly after the earthquake that struck the island in 1867. There were also some Greek Orthodox settlers from Ayvalik as well as some Greek Orthodox considered ‘natives’. The Greek Orthodox inhabitants spoke Greek. Although most of them were from Mytilene, they did not have the Lesbian accent. They spoke Turkish, since the Muslim element was dominant in the city.

2. Administrative and Ecclesiastical Dependence – Religion – Education

According to evidence about the 20th century, Adramytti was the capital of a province (kaymakamlık), which was under the mutasarrıflık of Balıkesir, of the administrative district (valilik) of Bursa.4 The province of Adramytti had 47 villages. The council of the kaymakam of the city included two counselors (âza) – representatives of the Greek Orthodox element. Adramytti was also the seat of the mayor (belediye reisi). The municipal council (belediye) did not include any Greek Orthodox councilors, which means that the Greek Orthodox element was not represented. The Greek Orthodox community was under 3-4 muhtars, who exercised their jurisdictions in the separate quarters of the city. Muhtars also governed the Muslim element. However, apart from the muhtars, there was a dimogerontia, which saw to the communal issues and supervised the work of the school board and the church board.

Adramytti was under the Diocese of Ephesus. The one and only church of the settlement was dedicated to the Dormition. It was a domed stone church with extensive parts of the interior covered with marble. The walls were painted, while crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling. There were also 6 mosques in Adramytti. Some of them had previously served as churches.

In Adramytti there were a nursery school, a girls’ school and a primary school (boys’ school), which also included three additional classes (seven grades). In 1905, the boys’ school had 173 students and 6 teachers, the girls’ school (four grades) 100 students and 3 teachers and, finally, the nursery school had 180 infants and 2 nursery governesses. The primary school was a large building on ground level, where each class had its own classroom.

3. The Plain of Adramytti and Mount Ida

Adramytti had its own plain, which started from Mount Ida (Kaz Dağ), within 18 km to the northwest, and ended in the village of Freneli to the east and the village of Kemer to the south. The plain of Adramytti was crossed by the small Evinos (Freneli Çay) River, within about a quarter of an hour to the south of the city. The river rose in Ida. The vast properties of the plain of Adramytti had been Turkish possessions. However, particularly in the early 20th century, they gradually came under the Greek Orthodox.

Mount Ida provided natural resources to the inhabitants of Adramytti. The mountain was full of forests of pines, firs, chestnuts, etc. There were also pastures where thousands of sheep grazed. The mountain was inhabited by communities of Sarakatsanoi from Greece (unknown date of settlement), who mainly produced cheese. The cheese was stored in mountain caves, where it remained cool. The mountain was covered with snow throughout the year; the Turkish farmers of the nearby villages piled and carried it, particularly in the summer, to Adramytti. They used it for making Şerbet (sweet fruit drink) and other soft drinks. The inhabitants of Adramytti also hunted on Mount Ida foxes, wild boars and hares. The hunters sold the animal skins in Adramytti; the skin of a weasel would cost 1 Ottoman lira, the skin of the fox 25-30 kurus and the skin of the hare, much cheaper, 2 1/2 kurush per item. The skins were then sent to Smyrna before they were exported even to European countries.

4. Domestic structure

Adramytti was connected with its seaport, Akçağ, via a wide roadway. Every morning 50-100 carts would use the road, loaded with copper, and travel from the mines of Balia Maden to Akçağ. The mineral was loaded to ships, which took it to other ports.

By the river of Freneli Çai there were 12 water mills. The Greek Orthodox inhabited in quarters (in the area where the city flattened out at the plain) different from the Muslims (on the hill of Adramytti). The Tatars (refugees from Crimea) inhabited in a separate quarter, which included approximately 200-300 houses. The Jews and the Armenians did not have their own quarters, but lived scattered around the city. Some of the Christian quarters were Soğan Yemek Mahallasi (the quarter of the onion-eaters), Kadi tarlasi (the field of the kadi) and the Unbreeched quarter (probably named after its poor Greek Orthodox inhabitants).

The streets of the city were paved with cobblestone, while ditches for collecting rainwater existed on either side of the street. At night the streets were lighted by oil lamps. A civil servant, the pasvan (watchman) was responsible for lighting. The houses were very densely built.

There were five inns in the city, all owned by Greek Orthodox. The coachmen travelling from Balıkesir or Balia Maden would spend the night there. There was also a hotel and six baths. The owners of the baths (hamam) were Turks, while the inns belonged mainly to Greeks. However, they were visited by both Muslims of the settlement and Greek Orthodox.

5. Economy

The main goods produced by the inhabitants of Adramytti were olives (and olive oil, of course), raisins and figs. These products were carried to the market of Smyrna and then to Europe. The people had also vineyards, pears and vegetable patches. In Adramytti there were about 10 steam-powered oil presses. Each oil press employed about 10-15 workers.5 There were also 5-6 factories for processing raisins and figs. Raisin producers cultivated red raisins. They were also occupied in wheat production and apiculture. Adramytti had about 1000 hives. The honey produced in Adramytti was famous in the market of Constantinople. Moreover, there were mineral sources in the village of Fereng köy, 2 km to the SE of Adramytti.

Several Greek Orthodox citizens were merchants and craftsmen, grocers, cobblers, carpenters, etc. On the other hand, most of the Turks were mainly merchants and landowners rather that craftsmen. The city held a large bazaar every Wednesday in a vast open place in front of the command post, where the inhabitants of nearby villages (Christians and Muslims) gathered to sell their rural products. Adramytti was an important commercial centre. From its seaport, Akçağ, various products were transported by ship to cities inside and outside the Ottoman Empire. For example, oil was exported to the market of Constantinople, oil, acorns and honey to Marseilles, pine timber to Egypt and wheat to Mytilene. The merchants and shopkeepers of Adramytti bought their products from the market of Smyrna.

6. Historical Events – Settlement

Adramytti was captured by the Greek army in 1919 and, due to its strategic position, became the departure point for the Greek forces on their way to capture Balia Maden (aiming to control the city mines). However, no measures were taken during the withdrawal of the Greek army for the protection of the Greek Orthodox population and, as a result, most of them were massacred.

After they had left Asia Minor, some Adramytti families settled in Aegion, where refugees from Ayvalik and Smyrna had already created their own neighbourhood. Most of Adramytti refugees settled in Mytilene, where they are still involved into olive culture and production. Some families settled in Athens.

7. Folk Tradition

There was a charming triplet about the city: Edremit altın keramik, bir taraftan bal akar, bir taraftan yağ akar (Adramytti with the golden tiles, honey flows on the one side and oil on the other).

1. Στράβωνος Γεωγραφικών τα περί Μικράς Ασίας, μετά σημειώσεων ερμηνευτικών υπό Π. Καρολίδου (Athens 1889) σελ. 130, όπου αναφέρεται: «πλησίον δ’ εὐθὺς τὸ Ἀδραμύττιον, Ἀθηναίων ἄποικος πόλις ἔχουσα καὶ λιμένα καὶ ναύσταθμον…».

2. Κοντογιάννης, Π., Γεωγραφία της Μικράς Ασίας. Φυσική σύστασις της χώρας, πολιτική γεωγραφία, φυσικός πλούτος (Athens 1921) p. 272.

3. Αρχείο Προφορικής Παράδοσης Κέντρου Μικρασιατικών Σπουδών, dos. Μ 1. The same numbers are provided by Κοντογιάννης, Π., Γεωγραφία της Μικράς Ασίας. Φυσική σύστασις της χώρας, πολιτική γεωγραφία, φυσικός πλούτος (Athens 1921) pp. 270-272, who refers to a total population of 17,000 people, including 7000 Greek Orthodox. According to the statistics published by the journal Ξενοφάνης 2 (1905) pp. 474-476), Adramytti was inhabited by 5500 Greek Orthodox and 8000 Turks. On the other hand, Cuinet, V., La Turquie d’Asie: Géographie administrative, statistique descriptive et raisonnée de chaque province de l’ Asie – Mineure IV (Paris 1890-1895) p. 275, talks about only 1240 Greek Orthodox people.

4. The mutasarrıflık (sancak) of Balıkesir was an independent vilayet until 1888. It was then that it was annexed to the valilik of Bursa. Before the Catastrophe of Asia Minor, it had been independent of the valilik of Bursa and was directly under the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Constantinople, as it happened with the mutasarrıflık of Nikomideia (which was under the Ministry of Internal Affairs already from 1888).

5. Λουκάτος, Δ., ‘Λαϊκή ελαιοκομία και ελαιουργία στο Αδραμύττι’, Μικρασιατικά Χρονικά 7 (1957) pp. 101-115.