Viticulture in Siatista

Siatista, literally rooted in the meridian slope of Mount Velia, which continues the ancient Macedonian “Askio” (“Sniatsiko”), is 28 km far away  from Kozani, the capital of the prefecture, and it is located at an altitude of over 900 metres.
Above its extreme homes, towards the Northeast, there is the Mount “Grivas”, whereas  towards the south  the Mount “Bourinos” raises its sharp peaks.
What prompted the first settlers to come and live in this weird –like lunar- landscape remains unknown. Even we still do not know precisely the origin of the first settlers, neither we know the year of establishment and the etymological root of the name of the town. There are much too many assumptions regarding this.

However, it seems more likely that Siatista is the result of the hardships that prevailed in the Greek area shortly before and after the Fall of Constantinople, during the unstoppable advance of the Ottomans, when settlers from the depths of Minor Asia came to settle in the Greek plains, repelling the old Christian inhabitants to the barren highlands.

The original settlers, residents of neighboring lowland villagesand nomadic shepherds, founded two districts that constituted Siatista: in the first place “Gherania”, and shortly after, “Chora” which consisted the administrative center. Later, from the first decades of the 17th century, the fortified location of the town, which guaranteed in some way freedom in terms of life, attracted also other residents coming from neighboring regions as Epirus and Thessaly, but also from further afield areas, who were seeking for a refuge from the persecution by the Turks and Albanians.

However, whatever the composition of the population of Siatista, the fact is that within the 17th century, the assimilation of disparate population has advanced to such an extent, that by the middle of the century the flare of the great economic development of the town begun, and it will run unabated until the early 19thcentury.

The economic growth was to be based primarily on the trade carried out by merchants of Siatista - the pedlars - along with merchants from other Macedonian towns such as Kozani, Kastoria, Edessa, Naousa, Thessaloniki, Meleniko, etc.. as well as with the Master of the sea Venice through Durres until about 1750 and then, with the countries of the Balkans and Central Western Europe.

There are a lot of written testimonies in the state archives of Venice, Austria-Hungary and the Balkan countries for the successful action of the Siatistian merchants. So it is with the reports of the old Geography and narratives of Greek and foreign visitors. The Englishman W.M. Leake in his work “Travels in Northern Greece” says: “All the families of Siatista have a member who lives or deals with trade in Italy, Hungary, Austria and other parts of Germany, while among the elders there are only  few who have not  lived ten or twenty years of their lives in one of those countries. The German language is generally spoken almost as the Italian one.

Venice, Trieste, Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest and Vienna were familiar cities for the Siatistians pedlars and the Danube more approachable to them rather than the adjacent Aliakmonas. The passions and anxieties of those long and dangerous journeys are reflected in the beautiful folk songs of pedlars  which were used to be sang in revelries and joys right after their return in their family, in which the famous wine of Siatista, the so called “Liasto” was used to be consumed in abundance.

Living in European countries and exerting active trade, they accumulated wealth which provided them with prosperity in their daily lives and gave them the chance of building up wondrous palaces, the mansions. Alongside, they used to watch with vigilant eyes and open minds the socio-political and spiritual changes that were taking place there and conceived the new ideas that the Enlightenment and the French Revolution brought throughout Europe.

Their primary concern was  the education and the liberation of the nation from the evils of slavery. Siatista boasted to hold one of the oldest schools during the Turkish occupation in Greece, in which many Masters taught and by which many eminent scholars and activistis emerged and sacrificed even their own lives in the name of freedom. George Papazolis, for example was a Siatistian who pioneered in the Orlov Revolt , the brothers Markidhes Pouliou, George and Poulios or Pouplios, publishers of the first Greek newspapers in Vienna (1790) entitled “Newspaper” and colleagues of Rigas, the co-martyr of Rigas, Theocharis Tourountzias, the Manousos family, the renowned scholar George Zaviras, the Masters Dimitris Karakassis, Michael Papageorgiou, Michael Doukas, Dimitris Argiriadhis, the notable George Nioplios and Nikolas Kosmoulis who were the leaders in the declaration of the Macedonian Revolution (1822), as well as a host of many other influential men.

The wealth of the town thanks to its power, on the one hand guaranteed a relative freedom which was also permitted by the Ottoman administration, and on the other hand attracted like a magnet the envious  lookof the nasty Turk-Albanians. Repeatedly, from 1784 to 1830 they have been trying to enter the town and to plunder it. But all the attempts ended in failure thanks to the heroic resistance of the people.

Despite their struggles, Siatista -like the rest of Macedonia-  did not have the luck to enjoy a free life right after the Revolution of 1821 and the founding  of the first independent Greek State, while the 19th century is for the town –in terms of financial view- a period of decay and demographinc decline. However, despite the hardships, the national spirit of its inhabitants, who according to all the written testimonies are vegan Greeks, does not bent. The inhabitants of Siatista got involved in all the actions that took place in Macedonia and which concerned the known problem of  ethnicities, founded schools and took part in every competition in regard with the Greekness of Macedonia  and the overthrow of the Turkish occupation.  Another legendary personality that remains in the memory of the Siatistians  and  worths mentioning is the “captain Peristera”.
Other highlights were the participation in the Macedonian Struggle (1904-1909) and the Battle of Siatista in 4 November 1912,  which brought about the much-needed freedom.

Having enjoyed freedom from 1912 until today, Siatista have experienced downturns and development as well. Until today as a Municipality, Siatista –that during the Turkish Empire have been commanded by competent elders- thanks to the laboriousness of its inhabitants, who are mostly engaged in the fur industry, experienced significant growth and has changed aspect. The town has kept many elements from its old nobility, while it has never lost its liberal spirit. A proof of this, is the Battle of Vigla and that of Fardhikampos (4-6 March 1943), in which the inhabitants of Siatista along with those of the surrounding area, under the guidance of the unique Resistance Organization in the town, the  EAM-ELAS, initially beaten and captured an Italian Military Company  battalion and after did the same against an an  entirely armored battalion of Italians, defying the potential repercussions that could happen by the regime of the occupation.

Today Siatista invites its visitors to walk around its narrow terraced streets, to cross the threshold of its mansions, to experience the wealth of its ancient churches and of its Library, to visit its Museums, to enjoy the nature which surrounds its majestic churches and the Mountain Refuge “Bourinos”,  to  speak with the warm and friendly locals, to take part in its celebrations, feasts and in its unique customs, as well as taste its renowned  wine made by its winegrowers, the same and unchanged for centuries.