2015 | Dec
A very brief introductory remark:
Under Ottoman rule, Athens presents us with an apparent contradiction. During the first century of the city’s occupation, it reached the peak of its prosperity and urban development. It had a negligible Muslim population (50 households in 1541, compared to about 3,000 Christian households) and there were almost no interventions in its post-Byzantine urban character. On the other hand, by the mid-17th century and still under Ottoman administration, the city had dramatically declined but was also gaining in international reputation thanks to travellers inspired by the European Enlightenment. At that time, the city had acquired oriental features following several centuries of Ottoman interventions.
The economic, social and political development of Athens during Ottoman rule did not result in a city with strictly differentiated population groups based on ethnic/religious criteria. The boundaries were blurred and there were points of overlap between communities despite the fact that most Muslims were clustered near the market (bazaar), where the few mosques, the madrasa and the hammams were located .However, there is another aspect to be taken into account. In a pre-capitalist society, property values in cities were affected by competition for places of high status. In a society that used space and architecture for the symbolic representation of power, such places were strictly limited to the commercial and administrative centre, -the town market (bazaar) or locations in close proximity to it.
The bazaar was the high status location in the case of Athens too. Those who lived there, in the power centre or around it, were high-ranking Ottoman officials, big landowners (Aghas) or Christian elders. The house of Logothetis, consul of England, was just across the residence of the Voivode, in front of Hadrian’s Library. Western European dignitaries – such as the French consul (and avid looter) Fauvel – also opted to live here. The importance of the bazaar was such that the Monastery of the Capuchin, at the north-eastern part of the city, never really became a competitive centre, although it was the reference point for many foreign visitors throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries.
A clear social landscape emerges in Athens under Ottoman rule: a central area contrasted to the rest of the city, as social groups with political and military power, wealth and prestige behaved in a different way to the majority of the politically subjugated city residents. They experienced tax exploitation and engaged in productive activities. This separation pattern is of additional interest because cities in Ottoman times had a central market that was usually completely separated from the rest of the urban space.In other words, mixed uses (e.g., residences and workshops or retail stores) were avoided in the city centre. However, this functional separation existed only to the extent that the city was an important administrative, economic and military centre . Athens was never such an urban centre under Ottoman rule. For this reason, there was some mix of uses in the central part of the city, albeit limited..
The last point to note relates to a factor, which, if considered along other elements, can explain the patterns of spatial and social distancing. This factor is residential density (along with types of housing, housing parameters, etc.). It has been established that residential densities in Athens during the late Ottoman era were higher in the “Exechoro” compared to densities in the southern part of the city, at the foothills of the Acropolis. The “Exechoro” was the area north of Adrianou Street, or west of the Stoa of Attalos and east of the Capuchin Monastery.
Very quickly after the declaration of Greek independence, the city of Ottoman times became the capital city of a new state, with simultaneous changes in its political, social and economic structure. The need for the rapid transformation of a community into a society required an extremely difficult shift: from belonging to a community, meaning to share common cultural characteristics such as religion, language, customs, etc. – the cornerstones of social solidarity, to being part of a society, which is perceived as an institution, as an “externality”, in which each person is a statistical unit that fits into categories, quantities and changing flows – the constituent parts of a (social) functional relationship.
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