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Velestino

On the site of ancient Pherai, the town of Velestino is renowned for its famous son, Rigas Velestinlis, whose real name was Antonios Kyriazis. He first studied at the "Hellnomouseion" of Zagora, and, according to local tradition, for a while taught at the school of Kissos. Later on, he left the region for Constantinople, where he became the secretary Alexandros Ypsilantis. Afterwards, he entered into the service of Nikolaos Mavrogenis, a lord of Wallachia. In Vienna, published a number of books, either his own work, or translations, such as his famous "Charta". His poetry inspired the enslaved Greeks to rebel against their overlords. In conjunction with his literary work, he became involved in number of conspiracies, aimed at inciting all of the Balkans I rise in revolt against the yoke of the Ottoman Empire. His passionate appeals to the peoples of the Balkans include even those Turkish subjects who were oppressed by the Ottoman state. In 1798, he decided to return to Greece, in the company of a number of his comrades, and sent a case revolutionary literature and broadsheets to Tergesti. He was betrayed, however, and the Austrians, who at that time were in control of the city, arrested him, together with his companions, and delivered them over to the Turks, who promptly executed them. There was only one survivor, the young Christoforos Perraivos. Rigas Velestinlis looms large indeed on the horizon of pre-Revolutionary Greece.

Also a native son of Velestino was Nikodemos Feraios, man of letters during the years of Ottoman dominion. He has been described as being "truthfully a good man, and wonderful at administering instruction", by one of his pupils, certain Anastasios Gordios. Nikodemos Feraios taught in Athens, in 1695, and later in loannina. There is no description of Velestino during the years of Ottoman dominion. The houses of the settlement most probably belonged to the rural, agricultural lowland type of dwelling, such as that described by Georgios Megas. "As well known, the plains of Thessaly at one time belonged to Turkish land-holders, and the villagers lived as tenant serfs working those fields. Just as was the case with the land, the houses of the villagers belonged to the Turkish bey as well, the overlord who would shelter humans and animals together under the same roof. Only when great zeal and industry was evinced towards furthering the interests of their master, would the villagers be granted an additional room or two through the extension of the common roof. This extension was made either towards the front or towards the rear of the dwelling; then one or two nontades were attached to the front, with a special shed erected in the rear for the stabling of the animals. Thus the house would become a diplo (double dwelling). The construction materials, which in the past the bey would provide for the building of the houses of his subjects and those under his command, was most probably wood or cane, as such was readily available in the neighboring marshes and the regions along the river banks... Only the necessity for more permanent edifices would call for the use of other, more durable materials, whether brick or tile, which explains why the most common form of dwelling to be found on the plains of Thessaly today are those with brick walls and clay-tiled roofs" The villages of the plains of Thessaly were either tsiflikia (large farms), or of the type known as Aliakades (a union of farms and their surrounding out-buildings). Koumas writes that "towards Thessaly, all of the extensive lowlands were the property of the beys residing in Larisa”. He continues: "Apart from Mt. Pelion, all of the twelve thousand measures of farm land belonged to the many Turkish families of Larisa before becoming the property of Ali Pasha and sons". Hagios Georgios (Velestino), before falling in the hands of Ali Pasha, was a large farm dating from as far back as the era of Byzantium. In a note by the teacher belonging to the family Philitas, published by D. Tsopotos, reference is made to the villages of Akitsi (present-day Mikrothebes) Kourfali (Krokio), Tsingeli, and Karadanali - all of the Almyros region - and to the villages Hagios Georgios, Persoufli (Aerino), and Serantzi (Perivlepto), of the Velestino region, as all having been tsiflikia of Ali Pasha.

Following the liberation of the region, the local inhabitants began to build better homes, many of which were two and constructed of stone. In addition, it appears Velestino, even during the years of Turkish dominio was some degree of ownership of property by Cristian Greeks.

Nikolaos Georgiadis provides the following description of Velestino during the years immediately following the liberation of the area from Ottoman dominion: "Velestino is inhabited today by some 300 families... every week, the inhabitants of the neighboring villages gather together in Velestino, there to celebrate a commercial fair. In the winter the inhabitants of Hagios Georgios and Velestino double in number, as a result of the influx of Vlachs from the northern mountain ranges of Epirus. Over the years, many of these established themselves in Velestino as permanent residents" A few years after the above was written, in 1897, Alexandros Philadelfeus wrote the following lyrical description: "What a landscape, a veritable oasis is this Velestino! It is verily like a bouquet of flowers in the heart of the mountainous plains of Thessaly.... Further on, he describes the nursery created by the director of the Railway Company of Thessaly, who was none other than the father of the famous artist Giorgio de Chirico. Philadelfeus, according to the custom of his epoch, hellenises his name: "From the window of the train, Mr. Kyrikos showed me his wonderful tree nursery, prior to leaving the station of Velestino. The nursery which he envisioned would serve to disseminate the greening of all of Thessaly... It should be said that the nursery of the Railway Company contained every variety of tree, cultivated and wild, and that from the first year of its existence it has progressed considerably, having sold some 2,000 sycamores alone" A post card from the past has been preserved until the present day; a card depicting Yperia Krini at the beginning of the 20th century a green and picturesque landscape, one bearing little resemblance to the concrete cistern of today. A mosque and minaret, as well as a small kiosk, can be discerned at the shore of the lake.

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