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Adana (Ottoman Period)

Author(s) : Exertzoglou Charis , (9/18/2002)
Translation : Rapti Vasiliki

For citation: Exertzoglou Charis, , "Adana (Ottoman Period)",
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Asia Minor
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=7070>

Άδανα (Οθωμανική Περίοδος) (2/6/2006 v.1) Adana (Ottoman Period) - to be assigned 

1. Introduction

The city of Adana was an old urban centre of Cilicia, a very fertile region in the southeastern Asia Minor. During the Roman period, the city flourished as an administrative and economic centre. The area was kept under the control of Eastern Roman Empire until the emergence of Islam. Since then, Cilicia has constituted one of the cultural and geographical borderlines where the Islamic and Christian worlds met, confronted, but also traded with each other. Since the 7th century, the area of Cilicia and the city of Adana has changed hands many times, as it was the focal point of confrontation between the Byzantines, the Arabs and the Armenians. In the 13th and 14th century, Adana flourished as the centre of the kingdom of Armenia Minor.

The region of Adana was incorporated typically into the Ottoman state in the early 17th century. Despite the fact that the Ottoman army had occupied Cilicia during the crusade in Egypt (1516-17), initially the region was incorporated into the Ramadanoglu State, which was a vassal state to the Porte. In 1608, Adana constituted an eyalet and the city of Adana became its seat. This status was preserved until the Ottoman-Egyptian conflict in the 1830’s. With the armistice of Kutahya (1833), Cilicia was ceded to Egypt, but in 1840 the Porte’s rule in the region was restored. Until 1868, Adana was the capital of the homonymous sancak of Aleppo vilayet. This year, in the framework of the Empire’s administrative reorganization inaugurated by the new law of vilayet in 1864, the Ottoman administration decided to create a new prefecture in Cilicia which was a region that the Ottoman administration was directly interested in. Adana became its seat. The new vilayet was created after the sancaks of Adana, Kozan and Cebelibereket were separated from Aleppo vilayet and the sancak of İcel from Konya vilayet. These sancaks constituted the basis of the new prefecture (vilayet). As far as Adana sancak is concerned, it was divided into four kazas (Adana, Mersin, Tarsus, Karaisali). The total area of the new vilayet reached the forty thousand square kilometers and it included 1664 settlements, cities, towns and villages. The city of Adana became the capital of the new prefecture.

Adana is built on a hill at the foot of Taurus mountain. It is situated in the centre of Cilicia (Çukurova) along the river Sarus (Seyhan), which is one of the major rivers of Cilicia together with the rivers Pyramus (Ceyhan) and Calycadnus (Gök‑Su). The city had a well-developed urban planning since the Roman times and many Roman buildings were preserved in good condition. During the Byzantine period, the fortification of the city had been substantially strengthened and a part of it was preserved until 1836, when the army of Mohammed Ali destroyed it.1 The climate of the area was affected by the big swamps which were formed in the lowland south side of the province. The morbid and humid climate was strongly felt during the summer months, when the inhabitants of the city of Adana as well as many inhabitants of the lowland used to leave their homes temporarily, in order to settle in northern and mountainous places. Despite the significant economic growth in the 19th century, the drainage works that were carried out were limited and the morbid climate of the area did not change significantly. During his tour in Cilicia in 1911, Sir Mark Sykes, who later planned the distribution of the Ottoman Arab provinces between Britain and France, referred to Adana contemptuously as a city full of dust and diseases, which he left behind with satisfaction.2 The beginning of the Great War thwarted the Ottoman government’s plans for the complete drainage of the swamps.

Adana sancak was the centre of economic activity in the vilayet, as a wide variety of cultivations developed there. The region constituted a natural granary but beside the cereal crops new cultivations appeared too, prominently that of cotton. This cultivation was to have a great effect on the economic development of the prefecture, because a series of productive activities that changed the physiognomy of Cilicia revolved round it. The high availability of land and the low availability of labor, which could not be fully covered by either seasonal migration or permanent settlement, resulted in a shift towards the mechanization of cotton growing. Adana sancak had one of the highest rates of farming mechanization and the value of the total investment in farm machinery exceeded 40.000 pounds. In 1909 the British subconsul estimated that there were already 220 steam harvesters and ploughs and 200-250 harvesters were imported each year.

The development of cotton growing, coupled with the new arable lands that were added after draining the swamps, strengthened the economic role of the region. As a result, Cilicia gained importance as a production zone. Moreover, the capital accumulation which was realized in the cotton trade and production encouraged investment in the industrial cotton processing and in fields of the light industry in Adana and the two other important urban centers of the sancak, Tarsus and Mersin.

2. Cotton production in Adana


20000 tons























The construction of a railway network linking the three major centers of the vilayet, Adana, Tarsus and Mersin, highlighted the economic importance of the region. The construction of the line in the 1890’s was undertaken by an English-French company, which bought the privilege by Mehmed Nahid and Kostakis Theodoridis, to whom it had been given initially in 1883. However, contrary to what it was hoped for, the prospect of connecting this line with the Baghdad railway, which had reached Heraclea of Konya, proved impossible to be completed until the eruption of the Great War.

The economic development of Adana sancak was accompanied by a noticeable demographic increase of both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. The available information reinforces the assessment that the demographic increase was a feature of the 19th century and it was linked to the Ottoman reforms, the liberalization of Ottoman state during that time, and the general geopolitical developments in the area. A typical example is the settlement of a large number of Circassians in Cilicia, who were forced to leave their homes during the Crimean War. The available demographic information is contradictory regarding the population size of different religious groups, but not regarding the upward trend in total population size.

According to the statistics of A.Ritter zur Helle von Samo, the Austrian military attaché in Constantinople, 324.000 people lived in Adana province. These statistics had been drafted on the basis of provincial demographic guides (salname). The Ottoman statistics of 1881/82, the first Ottoman statistics drawn on comparable terms, estimated the population size of the vilayet at 396.349. 3 In 1891, according to figures published by Vital Cuinet, the vilayet population reached 403.000 people. The Ottoman statistics of 1906 referred that the total population size of the vilayet was 504.396;4 in the next census of 1914, this number would decrease considerably to 411.023 people.5 The distribution of this population was based on religious communities. Despite substantial differences between the demographic information regarding the exact size of these communities, it seems no doubt about the demographic predominance of Muslim inhabitants in the prefecture. Among the Christian communities, the Armenian community was the largest, as it exceeded 50.000 people, and the Orthodox community followed distantly. There were also few Catholics and Protestants. The Armenian population decreased noticeably after the massacre in 1909. It is estimated that in Adana alone more than 2000 buildings were destroyed, most of which belonged to Armenian inhabitants of the city. The total Armenian casualties are estimated to be 15-20.000 people.

According to the Ottoman statistics, the respective demographic data of Adana sancak for the years 1881/82, 1906 and 1914 are the following: 1881/82: 156.164,6 1906: 123.639,7 1914: 144.820.8 It has to be noted that in 1881/82 the region and the cities of Mersin and Tarsus still belonged to Adana sancak, while in 1889 they seceded from it and formed a distinct sancak. However, these numbers may not take into account the presence of a fluctuating population of seasonal workers or immigrants who stayed for long time in the sancak. For example, Cuinet estimated that the total number of inhabitants in the sancak was 174.062 underlying simultaneously the presence of this fluctuating population.9 Also, it has to be noted that according to the same source, the urban population of Adana sancak was particularly high comparing to the rest of the sancaks of Adana prefecture. Adana, Mersin and Tarsus had 70.000 permanent residents, 30.000 of whom dwelled in Adana.

3. The Orthodox community of Adana

During the 19th century, the Christian Orthodox community of Adana experienced a significant economic and demographic advancement directly related to the broader developments in the region. The formation of the Christian Orthodox community in the city of Adana can be understood within this framework. The demographic increase and economic vigour were inscribed within the period which begun in the 1840’s and ended with the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) and the expatriation in Greece. The available data for the demographic size of the Christian Orthodox community in the city of Adana are scattered and come from the official Ottoman censuses, the information of European merchants and travelers and the published data, which are found in semiofficial publications, such as the work of V. Cuinet. There are also the estimations of the community itself, though they are not very different from those of the official statistics.

According to the official Ottoman statistics, the number of the Orthodox in Adana sancak was particularly small. In 1881/82, there were recorded 1605 Orthodox, in 1906 2434 and in 1914 3104. The entries concerning the Orthodox of the vilayet were 3453, 11.067 and 8537 respectively.10 Cuinet estimated that the Orthodox of the vilayet were 46.200, while there must be added the 20.900 Orthodox Syrians, whom he recorded separately.11 However, he did not give any information about the Orthodox people of Adana sancak. According to his Diary, which was published by the Mersin Orthodox Brotherhood in 1911, the Orthodox people in Adana were approximately 15.000.12 Some years later, Kontogiannis estimated that the Orthodox of the vilayet were 20.000.13 These numbers differ and rather obscure the actual population size of the Orthodox people. Despite contradictions among the available demographic data, there is no doubt that it had been a small community and concentrated mostly in the cities. The available information indicates that the Orthodox inhabitants of the city of Adana seem to have been 4000, those of Tarsus 2000-3000 and the Orthodox in Mersin were about 3000. Outside these cities, the presence of the Orthodox in the whole Adana vilayet was limited. For instance, we didn’t find Orthodox people in more than 15 out of 1664 settlements, villages and cities.

Variations in demographic information are part of the problem of researching the community’s demographic basis albeit not the most important one. A second parameter must be taken into account i.e. the community’s population composition which was particularly heterogeneous from geographical, linguistic and cultural point of view, as it was formed mainly by the migration of Orthodox people from different areas of the Empire. Anyway, Adana community constituted a microcosm of the broader Orthodox community in the Empire reflecting its heterogeneous character. In the beginning of 1850’s, the British merchant W.B. Barker referred to the trading activities of Cypriot Christians who transported goods from their island to Cilicia in order to exchange them with wheat.14 This move was reinforced during the second half of 19th century, when Christian Orthodox families from Cyprus settled in Mersin and Adana. A second group of immigrants into Cilicia consisted of Christian Orthodox Turkish-speaking people mostly from Cappadocian towns, such as Kaisareia, Nigde, Zincidere, but also from Pontus. The destination of migration move from these regions, which has already been recorded in bibliography, was mostly toward western Asia Minor and Constantinople, but a part of it directed itself south at the rapidly developing cities of Adana sancak. Lastly, a third group of Greek-speaking immigrants came to Adana sancak from the east Aegean islands, mostly from Chios and Lesvos. These immigrants settle mainly in Mersin, but some of them came to the city of Adana. According to a source, these different groups of immigrants constituted approximately the two-thirds of the Orthodox community in the sancak,15 but we do not know exactly their distribution in the city of Adana. The native Turkish-speaking Orthodox, who constituted the rest of the community population, must be added to these groups. Moreover, the temporal migration moves of Christian Orthodox peasants from Cappadocia were evident as they used to go to the plain of Adana during seasons of high demand for labor, usually at the time of cotton harvest. After completion of work, these peasants most of the times returned to their villages, but we should not exclude the possibility of permanent settlement, at least of some of them. Contemporary sources often referred to similar moves of Muslim peasants from the sancaks and kazas around Adana.

Another factor that reinforced the complex demographic composition of the Christian Orthodox community of Adana was the Syrian Orthodox Christians, who appeared in the censuses after the 1890’s. Until then there was no typical distinction between Syrian Orthodox, natives and new immigrants, as they were all considered to be parts of the same religious community. The presence of Syrian Orthodox people in Adana sancak seemed to be related to the already mentioned broader phenomenon of migration. However, a part of the Arabic-speaking Orthodox must have settled in the area long ago. V. Cuinet mentioned that 20.900 Syrian Orthodox lived in Adana vilayet and he distinguished them from the rest of Orthodox in the vilayet16 without giving any information about the distribution of native-born and immigrants, though. The fact that, according to the same source, a large number of Arabic-speaking Orthodox lived in urban centers makes us suppose that there must have been mainly groups of immigrants.

The term Syrian Orthodox began to acquire national/ethnic connotations after the onset of the Antioch Question and it was related to the different political and ecclesiastical choices of a part of Arabic-speaking Orthodox than those of the majority of Christian Orthodox in Adana sancak. Therefore the term acquired great significance in a period during which new distinctions appeared within the Orthodox community due to the politicization of linguistic differentiation and the intra-community conflict that broke out. However, this development did not diminish the coexistence of Arabic-speaking Orthodox with the rest ones, the marital exchanges or the social relations between them. Besides, the Arabic language of Syrian Orthodox was not the strongest criterion for distinguishing them from the Turkish-speaking who were the majority in the community.

4. Τhe social stratification of the Orthodox community in Adana.

The great majority of the Orthodox people in Adana prefecture lived in its three urban centers. It is not difficult to explain the concentration of this population in urban centers. The development prospects in this region motivated Orthodox Christians from other areas to settle there. The migration move toward the urban centers determined to a great extent the social features of Adana community. The first immigrants who settled in the region dealt with trade. A likely success in trade enabled them to call members of their family in order to help them. Migration move was organized on the basis of family networks and the enterprises of Orthodox were based directly on kinship, as they had always family character. The presence of people coming from the same place enabled the development of marital strategies leading to their permanent settlement in Adana. Gradually, the small community in the city of Adana would get socially stratified; at the top of the social hierarchy there were few prestigious families who became rich from the trade and cotton processing. The case of Symeonoglou family is a typical example. The family came from Zincidere of Cappadocia and settled in Adana, where it dealt with cotton trade from which it made a great fortune. Another example is Trypanis family who pioneered the industrial development in the region.

Many sources testify to the presence of commercial houses which belonged to Christian Orthodox entrepreneurs, allowing us to deduce that a powerful entrepreneurial group was created and got active in the commercial, banking and industrial sector. According to the Bulletin of the Hellenic Chamber of Commerce in Constantinople, which published regularly an index of the firms of Diaspora in the Ottoman Empire, in 1911 there were sixteen firms in Adana. Specifically, it refers to the firms of N&I Ambatzoglou, I. Artemis, P & G Grigoriadis, Zotos & Patrinos, Karagiakoupoglou Bros, An. Karaiosifoglou, D. Kokkinakis, Iordanis Kouzoutzoglou, A. Michaelidis, I. Protopapas, Trypanis Father and Son, M Sekiroglou, Ar. Symeonoglou and Co., Symeonoglou and Podouroglou and Frangakis & Siniosoglou.17 These firms, except for two, were involved in the cotton trade and processing. The cotton trade encompassed two different stages: the first one involved the product purchasing after the harvest and the initial processing. After these exchanges, the product was transferred to cotton presses in order to be compressed in bales of 150-200 kg and then it was exported to Europe or the big markets of Constantinople and Syria. In the market of Adana, the German company "Deutsche Levantinische Baumwollengesellschaft" dominated, albeit without excluding the Ottoman commercial houses from cotton trade.

The position of these enterprises was stronger in cotton processing industry. The factories "Hamidiye" and "Osmaniye", which belonged to Trypanis and Symeonoglou respectively, had 15.000 spindles for cotton spinning and they constituted major investments for the city of Adana. The factory of Trypanis produced 800-1000 yarn bales per day, while the factory of Symeonoglou 200. Beside the spinning mills, there were the cotton ginnings, which together with the food industries constituted the industrial infrastructure of the city of Adana. The list with the big units of the city comes complete with the cotton ginnings of Symeonoglou & Podouroglou Company as well as that of M. Kokkinakis enterprise.

The investment cost of these industrial units is not known with accuracy. However, we know that the average level of investment increased dramatically between 1893 and 1911: from 5500 Ottoman pounds in 1893-1902 reached 200.000 pounds in 1907. The capital equipment of the factories of Trypanis in Adana and Tarsus, and of Symeonoglou in Adana was part of these investments but we don’t know exactly the cost.

The following table indicates the overall presence of these companies

Name of the Company

Kind of industrial activity

Trypanis & sons

Spinning, textile, cotton ginning, machine factory and flour mill

Symeonoglou & Co.

Spinning mill

Symeonoglou & Podouroglou

Spinning mill

Kokkinakis D.

Cotton ginning, ice factory

Zotos & Patrikios

Cotton ginning


Cotton ginning


Cotton ginning

Karagiakouloglou Bro.

Cotton ginning

However, this should not leave the impression that the economically powerful families of Adana dealt exclusively with commerce and industry, as they were also interested in landowning and banking in the region. Aristidis Symeonoglou was said to hold a large estate of 200.000 acres and D. Trypanis had a huge landholding around Mersin.

The power and the glamour around this businessmen group should not becloud the presence of invisible Christian Orthodox, immigrants or indigenous, who lived in Adana. The existing information about them is few and sketchy. A big part of Christian Orthodox active population in Adana engaged in trade and services as staff of either small individual enterprises or big ones. Also, a large number of them must have been employed in manual jobs offered in the city of Adana and the nearby villages. The available sources underline that the indigenous orthodox inhabitants of Adana continued to work in agricultural sector, as the majority consisted of small farmers. We don’t know how these small farmers could cope with high wages formed by the rapid expansion of cotton production. It is possible that they exhausted the productive potential of their household before turning to other labor force. The industry of Adana was equally important employment sector for many Orthodox settlers. We don’t have precise estimates of the labor force in the city, but it must have been approximately 3000-4000. The factory of Trypanis alone employed 1000 laborers and spent for wages about 20.000 piastre per week, while the factory of Symeonoglou employed permanently 350 laborers.

5. Communal life

The communal life of the Orthodox people wasn’t static, but dynamic and ever changing. The small number of Orthodox did not inhibit the formation of a community which undertook the management of education and Church. In 1875 the community of Adana was created and it was supervised by a six-member council of elders (dimogerontia)in cooperation with the Metropolitan of Tarsus-Adana. The community regulation was adopted in 1900 and today it is preserved in manuscript form at the General State Archives (GAK). The council of elders was recognized by the Ottoman state as the political authority of the community. Its members were elected for three-year terms and they were responsible for finding resources for the operation of schools, the management of communal property, and they had also judicial powers. The council of elders kept books with the minutes, receipts and expenses of the church as well as the registry record of the community. The books, which are concentrated in the General State Archives, are written in Caramanli language and in Greek.

The community’s financial strength was reflected in the construction of modern school facilities in 1875 as well as in the magnificent church of St. Nicholas, which was built in 1845.

The creation of schools for Christian Orthodox in the city of Adana was realized relatively late, in the 1870’s. The first school in Adana was established in the times of Metropolitan Germanos and it was a boys’ school, while in 1891 a girls’ school operated too. In 1910 a kindergarten was established after a donation of Symeonoglou family. There are no accurate data about annual school enrollment, except for fragmented information about the 1900’s, according to which in 1904 there were 235 students and in 1909 there were about 350. In 1923 the total number of students (girls and boys) enrolled in community schools is said to have reached the 800. The community ensured stable resources for the operation of schools, whose expenses reached 300 Ottoman pounds. Communal offices guaranteed a fixed sum of 150 pounds, while the rest of the expenses were covered by the fees of wealthy students (100 pounds) and the revenues from theatrical performances and lotteries organized by the community.

The schools in Adana followed the usual direction. Educational provisions reconciled the educational needs of an expanding middle class, which saw education as a value and a means of upward mobility, with the need for an effective response to the missionary activities of other Christian denominations. As in other cases, the ecclesiastical authorities and communal leadership considered the creation of modern schools by Protestant and Catholic missions in Cilicia aiming mainly at Armenians and Greek-Orthodox to be a means of proselytizing the pupils. In Adana, since the end of 19th century, there were schools founded by Catholic missionaries, with more than 200 pupils. These schools seem to have attracted the bourgeois families of Adana due to the good teaching of foreign languages and the more modern orientation of the curriculum comparing to that of the Orthodox schools.

The Orthodox community of Adana was under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch and the city of Adana was the seat of the Metropolitan of the province of Tarsus and Adana. Due to this position, the community of Adana as well as of Mersin and Tarsus were entangled in the Antiochian Question. Among the Dioceses under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Diocese of Tarsus and Adana spearheaded the refusal to acknowledge Patriarch Meletios as well as the new Metropolitan Alexander Tachan, who was chosen by the Patriarch. The Antiochian Question served as a catalyst in restructuring the Orthodox community of the city. The Orthodox majority, who reacted to the election of Patriarch Meletios, came into conflict with the Orthodox minority who supported him. This conflict led to the politicization of cultural features that until then were of minor importance. The linguistic differentiation between the Arab-speaking minority and the Turkish-speaking and Greek-speaking majority took the form of national confrontation between Arabs and Greeks. The language of nationalism and its appropriation within this conflict transformed an ecclesiastical conflict into political difference of national character. The intervention of the Greek subconsulate and the Greek Embassy in Constantinople had a strong impact on intensifying the conflict. The seat of the Diocese of Tarsus and Adana continued to be vacant until the outgoing of the Orthodox inhabitants of Adana in 1923.

The Orthodox community of Adana linked its fate with the outcome of the great confrontation in the area after the First World War. The Treaty of Sevres ceded Cilicia to France, but after the Treaty of Ankara in October 1921, in which France agreed to withdraw from the area, there began the mass exodus of Christians, who were afraid of Muslims’ retaliation. According to the Treaty of Ankara, the Turkish administration recognized the rights of minorities and guaranteed political amnesty. Nevertheless, neither these terms nor the personal presence and the constant urgings of the diplomat and politician Franklin-Bouillon, who signed the Treaty of Ankara on behalf of France, ensured the confidence of Christians, particularly the Armenian inhabitants of Cilicia, who began to evacuate the area from the coastline. After the population exchange which was imposed by the Treaty of Lausanne, the remaining Christians of the province of Adana, about 10.000, moved permanently to Greece.

1. Κοντογιάννης, Π., Γεωγραφία της Μικράς Ασίας (Αθήνα 1921), p. 170.

2. Sykes, M., The Caliphs' Last Heritage (London 1915).

3. Karpat, K., Ottoman Population 1830-1914. Demographic and Social Characteristics (Madison 1985), p. 126.

4. Karpat, K., Ottoman Population 1830-1914. Demographic and Social Characteristics (Madison 1985), p. 163.

5. Karpat, K., Ottoman Population 1830-1914. Demographic and Social Characteristics (Madison 1985), p. 173.

6. Karpat, K., Ottoman Population 1830-1914. Demographic and Social Characteristics (Madison 1985), p. 125.

7. Karpat, K., Ottoman Population 1830-1914. Demographic and Social Characteristics (Madison 1985), p. 163.

8. Karpat, K., Ottoman Population 1830-1914. Demographic and Social Characteristics (Madison 1985), p. 173.

9. Cuinet, V., La Τurquie d'Asie. Géographie administrative. Statistique descriptive et raisonée de chaque province de l'Asie Mineure, τόμ. 2 (Paris 1891), pp. 35-36.

10. Karpat, K., Ottoman Population 1830-1914. Demographic and Social Characteristics (Madison 1985), pp. 125-126, 162-163 και 172-173.

11. Cuinet, V., La Τurquie d'Asie. Géographie administrative. Statistique descriptive et raisonée de chaque province de l'Asie Mineure, τόμ. 2 (Paris 1891), p. 5.

12. "Ο νομός Αδάνων", Ημερολόγιον Ορθοδόξου Χριστιανικής Αδελφότητος Μερσίνης"Ορθοδοξία" (Μερσίνα 1911). [“Adana Prefecture”, Diary of the Orthodox Christian Brotherhood of Mersin “Orthodoxy”]

13. Κοντογιάννης, Π., Γεωγραφία της Μικράς Ασίας (Αθήνα 1921), pp. 169-174.

14. Baker, W., Lares and Penares; or Cilicia and its Governors (London 1853).

15. See also: Κοντογιάννης, Π., Γεωγραφία της Μικράς Ασίας (Αθήνα 1921), p. 183.

16. Cuinet, V., La Τurquie d'Asie. Géographie administrative. Statistique descriptive et raisonée de chaque province de l'Asie Mineure, vol. 2 (Paris 1891), p. 5.

17. Δελτίον του εν Κωνσταντινουπόλει ελληνικού εμπορικού επιμελητηρίου. Ευρετήριον εμπορικών οίκων (Κωνσταντινούπολη 1912). [Bulletin of the Hellenic Chamber of Commerce in Istanbul. Commercial Houses Index].


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