Xanthi, or Xantheia, the name by which it has been known since the
year 879 A.D. was originally a small village, exposed to all the
adventures that Thrace underwent including invasions, disasters,
attacks from the Goths, the Huns, the Bulgarians, the Slavs. The
Ottomans came upon the region to find a dwindling population and
nearly everything destroyed. They brought over inhabitants from the
depths of Asia Minor and created Genisea.
Oraio and Xanthi were Christian and Hellenic centers. The Pomakoi,
the mountain people of Rodopi, isolated in inaccessible Rodopi,
retained their ancient customs and traditions, but converted to
Islam mainly in the 17th century.
Xanthi became well-known throughout Europe for its tobacco trade.
Two major earthquakes in March and April of 1829 were to have a
lasting effect on the town which were destroyed. Re-building was
undertaken immediately. From 1860 the Municipal Council of Xanthi
was developed. In 1870 Genisea was burnt down and all official
buildings were transferred to Xanthi which, by then, had a
population of 10,000. In 1891 the railway was built near the town
and economic development led to the building of schools and the
establishing of associations.
In 1912 the town was taken over by the Bulgarians which, within
eight months, was liberated by the Greek Army only to be re-captured
by the Bulgarians until the end of the First World War when after
diplomatic negotiations Western Thrace finally came under Greek
government in 1919-20.
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