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Folk Costumes in the Pontos

Author(s) : Andrianopoulou Panayota (12/9/2005)
Translation : Velentzas Georgios (9/29/2006)

For citation: Andrianopoulou Panayota, "Folk Costumes in the Pontos", 2006,
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Asia Minor
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=8993>

Λαϊκές Φορεσιές του Πόντου (1/23/2006 v.1) Folk Costumes in the Pontos (2/15/2006 v.1) 

1. Clothes – General and Typology

1. 1. Introduction

The Pontos presented a variety in clothes. The modern typical female clothes in the Pontos are the zoupounas,1 while the respective male is the zipka. The construction of a typical ‘Pontic costume’ is included into the general attempt towards the formation of an ethnic-local Pontic identity after the Exchange of populations in 1923. The dress expresses the need for an interregional Pontic identity, especially among the refugees of third and fourth generation. The modern Pontic costume of dance groups is mainly the result of work done by Pontic cultural associations, and is based on records, pictures and the few preserved clothes. All this led to the formation of a ‘single’ Pontic costume, thus putting in oblivion the sartorial idioms of Trebizond, Livera, Αkdağ, etc.

1. 2. Male Costume

Shirt: White, cotton or linen, long-sleeved garment, down to the waist, open on the front (kamis’).

Breeches: White, cotton or linen, loose garment down to the ankle (istoni, istonin). In one word, the two undergarments were called kamisovraka.

Yelek, tzamdan: Sleeveless garment from cotton or felt, down to the waist, double-breasted or jetted on the front.

Zipouna or zoupouna, kapaklin, islouk: Sleeved garment to the waist, woolen, cotton or silk, buttoned plainly or double-breasted.

Salvar, karavana, potour, tsagtsir, isroupasi: Outer breeches down to the ankles, from European felt or local shawl, with lots of folds on both sides, without a train.2
Zonar’, atzamsalin, tzizilin, tarapoloz’: Waistband 3-4 m long and 0.50 m wide.3 There often was a narrow leather belt as well, buttoning with a buckle on the front (kais’).4

Short overcoat with sleeves (kotsik’ in Argyroupoli, saltamarka and abas in Livera, tsocha, gazekin in Αdyssos).

Long overcoat, with or without fur on the hem, with lining and loose sleeves (gouna,5tzioumbe, delme,6kaftan for upper social strata). In Livera there were the western European coat and the Turkish yağmurluk (waterproof cloak) as well. There is also evidence about loose-sleeved overcoats reminiscent of cloaks: maslag, binis, chourka, mousaba (waterproof cloth).

When working in the open air they wore flat and functional shoes from local leather (tsaroucha, tzaggia, tsapoulas, lampsia, yemenia). At home they wore slippers (mesta) or woolen ortara (socks) and dozloukia knitted by women. On formal occasions they wore kountouras, potina and west European leather shoes. The shoes were protected by the kalosa from hard leather worn over them.

The head was covered with the ketse, a hard domed head dress from felt, wrapped and fixed with a kerchief or a piece of cloth: tsit’ or servetta, silveta (the black fabric in Livera). The flat kalpak’ from felt was worn in the past.

Towards the late 19th century boys from 6 or 8 years old put a deep red or black fez on the head, with a black ponpon at the back. They wrapped it with a piece of cloth, while the bridegroom wrapped it with a band from felt, where he fixed a small kerchief, the tsinea. The sweat under the ketse and the fez was absorbed by the terlik’ with the koukoul’, a very small ponpon at the top.

The Lazic zipka is widely considered as the typical male Pontic costume par excellence. It was named after the black, woollen breeches, which were tight below the knees. It was accompanied by a short overcoat (kontes’), from which several chains, a silver chain (kiostek), a charm and a talisman hung, while the breast was adorned with crossed cartrige belts. Around the waist they wore the silachlik, where they tied the tobacco pouch (kovous’, yavlouch). They carried a long dagger in a case (karakoulak), a pistol (dabantzan) and the hanging pouch for the gunpowder (mataran).

Around their head they had the koukoula or paslik from black shawl or felt, with two long fringed bands on either side, which were wrapped on the forehead and tied at the back of the head.

The men, even those not wearing a zipka, carried light weapons. Furthermore, they had a pocket watch (ora, sagat) and rings.

1. 3. Female Costume

As concern dress typology, the female costume belongs to the type ‘costumes with a kavadi’.7 It included:

Kamis’: Long and loose, white cotton, linen or silk garment.

The breast was retained by a white cotton band tied on the back over the shirt and under the zoupouna or, more rarely, next to the skin (stithopann’, epanokamison, yachalouch).

Vrakin, antzofor’, lomma in Adyssos: Linen or cotton, long breeches with many folds and a lace or embroidery on the hems.

Salvar’, sarval’, salvaropon: Long cotton or woolen breeches.

Zipouna or zoupouna, enderi: Long cotton or woolen garment,8 cut similarly to the Byzantine dalmatica, a type of tunica.9 The breast was open (forming an ellipse in Livera), and buttoned in the waist. The two front parts crossed and opened high up on the sides, thus revealing the salvar.10 In the upper part of the zoupouna there was the decorative pattern of a tyrtle-dove, embroidered with cordons.

Spaler’, sparel’: Fabric lined with a white cloth, with a cordon at the end; it covered the breast to the waist and was tied behind the neck.

A short, open overcoat from felt or velvet was worn over the zipouna, with the so-calledterzi ornamentation (kontes’, katife, hatife, hatifa, saltamarka in Livera, salta in Akdağ, kontogoun’, kapota, polka).

After the wedding and the birth of children the women covered the front part of the zipouna with a square apron from cotton, wool or felt (pistambal’ in Chaldia, empodea in Akdağ, fota in Livera).11

Around the waist they wore a band 3 m long and 0.50 m wide from local heavy shawl or from imported fabric (etzemsal’ from Persia, lachorzonar’ from Lahore, tarapoloz’ from Tripolis of Libya). In Livera women wove a long and narrow band (klemia), which fastened the fota.12

In winter the feet were wrapped with overcoats covered with fur inside and around the ends (delme, libande). Older women wore the akrogouni from felt; it had furry internal lining.13

Around the feet they wore the handmade knitted ortara and kaltzai, while in the hands they had chorota, that is, white or colourful, knitted gloves. The most recent fashion was west European leather gloves. As for shoes, country women usually wore the postala with low heels, from local leather, while in the cities they wore tzaggia, papoutza and koundouras. The wedding shoes the bridegroom offered the bride were red.

The girls covered the hair with a white, thin kerchief, the doulpani, or with a white or yellow scarf, the yazma. From the age of 16 on women in the Pontos could wear the tapla. Covered externally with wire-like embroidery (koursin), it included an internal thin, metal, round plate, which formed a flat disc in the upper part of the head, while it peripherally had a narrow hem of 3-3.5 fingers. Young women could wear a tapla with an interlined plate, either gold or silver with relief ornamentation (tepeliki, tapalik), while occasionally it was ornamented with concentric rows of gold coins. It was peripherally covered with a piece of usually red cloth (tsit’, kouvrah in Akdağ).14 The forehead was adorned with a row of gold coins. The headband was firmed on the head with interlined ribbons on the sides of the tapla before it was fastened on the neck, behind the braid, a little slantwise and low on the forehead.15

The hair was usually combed in a couple of braids. Young women used to form their hair into zouloufa:16 they curled locks of hair and, after arranging them behind the ears, they joined them with their braid. In Livera they had four braids17 covered with a square kerchief (letzek) and folded triangularly, before they twisted the edges and passed them over their forehead. They also wore a second letzek, which they crossed under the chin. In the early 20th century the hair was partly covered only by a kerchief.18

Older women wore the koukoul’, a headband consisting of a low fez covered with kerchiefs (tsitia).

During the wedding ceremony the bride covered both the head and the entire front and rear part of her body with a thin white or red piece of cloth [letzek, poulloun, vala, kaya, kamaroter’ in Sourmena (Sürmene), kamara in Livera, touvaki in Sinop and Κotyora (Urdu), toul’ at the mines region and Poulantzaki]. In church or on visits old women covered their head with a triangular kerchief, whose free ends fell on the front part of the body (sal’).

While on formal occasions men carried their weapons, women completed their costumes with jewellery. Apart from the gold coins on the forehead, they used to fasten the hilal around the brim of the tapla and wear earrings, bracelets and rings. However, the most typical jewellery were the bogazkistin, a chain with the monogram of the bearer, and the tetikia, seven silver chains, each ending in a gold coin and fastened on the braids. They sometimes carried a ’matozinicho to protect them from the evil eye. The chain with a karditsa – also called metallion (pendant)–, a heart-shaped jewel, and the cross were jewellery worn in the cities.

2. Clothing and Social Structure

Costumes provide evidence concerning a whole era and inform about particular professional activities, family structure and intercommunal relations.

A great deal of clothes were manufactured at home,19 following the whole process from fabric processing to sewing.20 However, there were tailors who manufactured the zoupounes21 and the overcoats, while they often manufactured clothes for the Muslims as well.22 Special craftsmen made the terzi and wire-like motifs. Headbands were made by the kalpaktzides (from the Turkish kalpakçı – manufacturer of furry hats known as kalpakia - Turkish: kalpak).23

The costume is a crucial part of the visible identity of the wearer and indicates their social, economic and professional status. This is not reflected in the more or less stable and established structure of the costume, but in the lush and imported fabrics and jewellery preferred by the rich and socially superior.24 Thus, the prosperous master metallurgists at the mines of the Pontos wore valuable overcoats and a kalpak from sable ornamented with gold emblems (hammer, lever and fuse) on the front of it.25

Women above 15 years old in the Pontos were considered ready to get married and on formal occasions wore the zoupounas.26 The wedding, from the matchmaking and the betrothal until the ceremony, was a celebration, in which clothes and kerchiefs were the most common gifts among relatives.27 The importance of clothes is also indicated by the fact that they were a considerable part of the dowry, which did not include any real property.28

According to evidence, the wedding was the moment when every woman in the late 19th century was allowed to acquire, maintain or reject her traditional costume – depending on the will of her parents-in-law.29 It is easily understood that parents-in-law occupied the most dominant position in her life; in the patriarchal society of Pontus women were clearly in a disadvantageous position, which is testified also by the fact that they were obliged –apart from very few exceptions–30 to settle in the house of her husband’s father and become a member in his household.31

In general, the woman after the wedding, as a member of the extended family, should do strictly defined chores inside and outside the household. Apart from gender, age was the second factor defining hierarchy: the mother-in-law occupied the dominant role; she was followed by the sisters-in-law and the daughters-in-law in order of importance.32 The woman was introduced to the new situation by maintaining silence (the deplorable mah’), kissing hands and washing the feet of her husband’s relatives.33 During pregnancy women avoided going outside the house, unless they wore loose clothes or full-length covers protecting their abdomen against the evil eye.34 The birth of children was a distinctive landmark in a woman’s life: she stopped wearing the wedding dress, whichuntil then could be worn on formal occasions, and kerchiefs and fabrics became less colourful. Furthermore, the woman’s position in the family slightly improved, while in some cases she was allowed even to talk.35 Widows rarely appeared outside the house, while in the house they wore a dark plain or double-breasted zoupouna.36

Clothes are known to be considered as having magic properties. Thus, the Christians of the Pontos used to hang from trees in churchyards parts of garments covering a suffering part of the body, thus hoping that the sufferer would recover.37 Likewise, Muslim women covered with Christian kerchiefs went to Christian churches to pray ‘for health’.

3. Historical Circumstances

The Pontos, a relatively self-sufficient and isolated region, was on the commercial routes from the East, West and North.38 Mainly the female costume had clear Byzantine features, as indicated by the names of certain garments.39

In the framework of the Ottoman Empire the Pontic costume followed specific rules concerning the colours and the quality of fabrics allowed to Christian populations. Men were influenced from Muslim costumes more than women as they were free to act in the public space and mingle with other ethnic-religious communities. The close relation between Christian and Muslim costumes is clearly reflected in the names of garments and fabrics.40 It is worth noting that at least from the 19th century until the exchange of populations young people in the Pontos adopted the Lazic zipka to such an extent that it is now considered the typical Pontic costume.41

Already from the early 19th century the West European influences in dressing started to extend as far as the Pontos. Men, mainly merchants and tradesmen, were the first who were influenced when they were on business trips. The European clothing gradually replaced the traditional costume; the former was called stana or tsatala, while the wearer was called tsatalos.42 There were influences from Moldavia and Walachia, the Caucasus, Russia and Georgia as well, since both commercial and historical reasons led the inhabitants of Pontus there.43 Among other influences, the Pontic migrants brought the papak’, a flat headband resembling a kalpak lined with ovine skin.44

Older women, as well as women from the countryside, who were more conservative in the way they dressed and had a limited social activity, maintained the zoupounas, although in a simpler form, until the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Women in coastal cities after 1860 started to absorb modernity as a result of both commercial development (which allowed the imports of ready-made clothes, fashion journals, etc.) and the appearance, in 1900, and generalised use of the sewing machine shortly later.45 The case of Livera, where the traditional costume was simplified and Europeanised after the Diocese of Rhodopolis was reestablished in 1902 and on the recommendation of the metropolitan Gerbasios Sarasitis, is a very interesting - and hard to explain - unicum.46

The traditional female costume soon took a symbolic character: thus, even the most ‘stylish’ women had to wear a zoupouna on important occasions (weddings, engagements) or even be photographed in it.47

After 1923 only few women refugees, mainly from low social strata and settled in rural areas of Greece, continued wearing pieces of the old costumes.

1. Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η ζουπούνα στη γυναικεία φορεσιά των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 529.

2. The isroupassi, breeches from white thick fabric, were worn in Livera over the exterior breeches by the kazantzides(coppersmiths) and the kalaetzides (tinkers) so as not to dirt the karavana. See Μυρίδου, Χ., ‘Λαογραφικά Λιβεράς’, Αρχείον Πόντου 13 (1948), p. 36.

3. Garment with several connotations: λύνω ζωνάρ’ = defecate, να έχω τη ζουναρί σ’ = to have the sins (of your adultery). See Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929), p. 16.

4. Μυρίδου, Χ., ‘Λαογραφικά Λιβεράς’, Αρχείον Πόντου 13 (1948), p. 39.

5. Fur indicated the social group. There were several types of fur and adorned different parts of the garment. The chief metallurgists wore a valuable fur, while elderly women used it as well. See Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929), p. 22.

6. Overcoat worn by the bridegroom in Chaldia during the wedding, while elderly women also used it with a slightly different cut. See Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929), p. 23.

7. According to the established systems of sartorial classification (Papantoniou, Chatzimichali), the costumes in the Pontos belong to the type "costume with a kavadi". According to the system of classification introduced in the 1980s by a group of experts at the Musée des Arts et des Traditions Populaires, this type may be considered an outfit including seamed garments worn from the head, while most of them hang from the shoulders. See more details about the new system of classification: Groupe de Travail sur le Vêtement, ‘La constitution d’un prôtocole d’enquête’, L’Ethnographie, pp. 92-94, Actes du colloque national CNRS ‘Vers une anthropologie du vêtement’, Musée de l’Homme (9-11 Mars 1983) publiés sous la direction d’ Y. Delaportes (Paris 1984), pp. 287-289.

8. For more details about the different fabrics used for the manufacture of zoupounas, see Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η ζουπούνα στη γυναικεία φορεσιά των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), pp. 539-540.

9. Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η ζουπούνα στη γυναικεία φορεσιά των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 534.

10. According to the stylistic standards of the time, see Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η ζουπούνα στη γυναικεία φορεσιά των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 541.

11. Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η παραδοσιακή φορεσιά’, Έρεισμα 2 (1995), pp. 25-27.

12. Μυρίδου, Χ., ‘Λαογραφικά Λιβεράς’, Αρχείον Πόντου 13 (1948), p. 48.

13. Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η παραδοσιακή φορεσιά’, Έρεισμα 2 (1995), p. 26.

14. The colours of the tsit were connected with the woman’s age: red or flowered with several beads or false gold coins between 20 and 25. Between 25 and 35 they were yellow, while older women wore black ones. The letzekia, cotton kerchiefs with stamped patterns, manufactured in Trebizond, followed the same typology in colour. See Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929), pp. 27-28.

15. In Livera the bride fastened the headband by passing a white piece of cloth or an embroidered tsevre, folded like a narrow band, under her chin. See Μυρίδου, Χ., ‘Λαογραφικά Λιβεράς’, Αρχείον Πόντου 13 (1948), pp. 50-51.

16. Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η παραδοσιακή φορεσιά’, Έρεισμα 2 (1995), p. 26.

17. Μυρίδου, Χ., ‘Λαογραφικά Λιβεράς’, Αρχείον Πόντου 13 (1948), p. 43.

18. In earlier times the hair was necessarily and completely covered in the entire region of the Pontos; this constitutes an important difference to the way the costume is worn now in celebrations and dances organised by Pontic cultural associations. Μυρίδου, Χ., ‘Λαογραφικά Λιβεράς’, Αρχείον Πόντου 13 (1948), p. 44.

19. There is evidence that the young girls in Kerasounta and Tripolis prepared their dowry on their own and bought the gold ornaments of their costumes, as they did with the fabrics and even garments, purchased with the money they earned from hazelnut processing. See Κορομηλά, Μ., Οι Έλληνες στη Μαύρη Θάλασσα - Από την εποχή του Χαλκού ως τις αρχές του 20ού αι. (Athens 1991), p. 268.

20. For example, in Tripolis of Pontus women cultivated and processed flax, see Γκρίτση-Μιλλιέξ, Τ., Η Τρίπολη του Πόντου (1976), pp. 50-51.

21. Famous manufacturers of zoupounas were Konstantinos Kagelts and Theodoros Pelagidis in Trebizond, as well as Minais in Kerasounta. See Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η ζουπούνα στη γυναικεία φορεσιά των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 534.

22. Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929), p. 4.

23. A profession often handed down from generation to generation, as evidenced by the surname Kalpaktzis in Argyroupolis, Trebizond and elsewhere. See Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929), p. 8.

24. For more information about the valuable fabrics, their origin and the way they were used according to the different ages and the social and economic status, see Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929).

25. Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929), p. 8.

26. Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η ζουπούνα στη γυναικεία φορεσιά των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 542.

27. Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Γαμήλια Έθιμα’, Αρχείον Πόντου 1 (1928), pp. 121-180.

28. Αλεξάκης, Ε., ‘Οικογενειακή και συγγενειακή οργάνωση των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 234.

29. Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η ζουπούνα στη γυναικεία φορεσιά των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 542.

30. Only when a family did not have a son, the husband of the daughter lived with his in-laws and took the surname of his wife. Αλεξάκης, Ε., ‘Οικογενειακή και συγγενειακή οργάνωση των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 229.

31. The sons and their families lived in their father’s house. The grandfather, the father or the elder brother was the head of the family, who managed the common money. Αλεξάκης, Ε., ‘Οικογενειακή και συγγενειακή οργάνωση των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 232.

32. This strict hierarchy is also evidenced in kinship terminology, with the daughter-in-law having to call every male relative of her husband ‘master’ (afenta)and every female relative ‘mistress’ (kyra). See Αλεξάκης, Ε., ‘Οικογενειακή και συγγενειακή οργάνωση των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 238.

33. About the habit of mah, its rules and etiquette, see Αλεξάκης, Ε., ‘Οικογενειακή και συγγενειακή οργάνωση των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 239, Γκρίτση-Μιλλιέξ, Τ., Η Τρίπολη του Πόντου (1976), pp. 97-98.

34. Άκογλου, Ξ., Λαογραφικά Κοτυώρων (Athens 1939).

35. Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η ζουπούνα στη γυναικεία φορεσιά των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 543.

36. Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η ζουπούνα στη γυναικεία φορεσιά των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 543.

37. Γκρίτση-Μιλλιέξ, Τ., Η Τρίπολη του Πόντου (1976), pp. 122-123.

38. Information about the fabrics imported from Venice and Genoa comes from Byzantine texts, while in the years of the Ottoman Empire valuable silk fabrics from the eastern regions were also used. See Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929), p. 5.

39. The basic garment of the female traditional costume of Pontus, the zoupouna, is reminiscent of the cut of the Byzantine dalmatica. See Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929), p. 4; Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η ζουπούνα στη γυναικεία φορεσιά των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 529.

40. It has been claimed that often they were originally Greek garments adopted by the Turks, who gave them Turkish names; the Greek populations subsequently accepted the Turkish names. See Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929), p. 4.

41. The zipka was transferred from the Laz to the populations living in the regions of Kromni, Santa, Trebizond, Amasya and Olassa in the Pontos. See Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929), p. 14.

42. Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929), pp. 23-24.

43. On the history of the Greeks of the Pontos, see Κορομηλά, Μ., Οι Έλληνες στη Μαύρη Θάλασσα - Από την εποχή του Χαλκού ως τις αρχές του 20ού αι. (Athens 1991).

44. Οικονομίδης, Δ., ‘Περί Αμφιέσεως’, Αρχείον Πόντου 2 (1929), p. 9.

45. Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η ζουπούνα στη γυναικεία φορεσιά των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 534.

46. Μυρίδου, Χ., ‘Λαογραφικά Λιβεράς’, Αρχείον Πόντου 13 (1948), p. 30.

47. Καλπίδου, Λ., ‘Η ζουπούνα στη γυναικεία φορεσιά των Ελλήνων του Πόντου’, Αρχείον Πόντου 38 (1983), p. 543.


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