Karpenisi is the capital of the Prefecture of Evrytania, located on the slopes of Tymfristos mountain at an altitude of 960 meters. Regarding the origin of its name, there are two predominant versions: a) the name originates from the many maples (a genus of trees) existed in the period when Koutsovlachs lived here, called KAR- PEN by the Latins and b) it is believed that the name originates from the Turkish word KAR - BEΝIS meaning snow-covered. We do not know very much about this question, as we know very little about the history of our town, as well.
In the ancient years, this region was called Oechalia and Evrytus was its king, the hero of the Evrytanians of Aetolia. It is believed that he was the inventor and an expert of the bow. He was very proud of his skills in archery and he challenged even Apollo to compete with him, by whom he was eventually killed for being so fearless. Before dying, he gave his bow to his son Iphitus, who later gave it to Ulysses. With this bow, the king of Ithaca killed the suitors of his wife Penelope.
Ulysses from Ithaca, the ingenious hero who suffered so much is mentioned among gods and demigods – heroes loved by the Evrytanians. Aristotle in his work “Ithakision Politeia” (constitution of the citizens of Ithaca) mentions that “Evrytanians are a nation of Aetolia, named after Evrytos, near the oracle of Ulysses. Nicander also says that it belongs to Aetolia”. Homer in Odyssey’s rhapsody L (lines 120 -140) mentions that when Ulysses went to Hades, the soul of the prophet Tiresias gave him these prophetic messages: As soon as he returns to his home Ithaca and gets rid of the suitors, he should take a good paddle on his shoulder and go to lands where people know nothing about the sea, ships or paddles, who eat only unsalted bread. And when a man passes him by, telling him that the thing he lifts on his shoulder is a wheat sieve, that is where he should dig his paddle and sacrifice a ram, a bull and a boar to Poseidon. Then he should return home and make great sacrifices to the heavenly gods and again, away from the sea, being majestic old he shall die at home, watching his nation living on in happiness.
We have no other information on the Oracle of Ulysses. This worship place must be no other than the cave of Apokleistra in Kastania. The English historian Woodhouse places it at the location of the Monastery of Prousos. The Monastery of Prousos takes us to another era, many years later, namely in the years of the Turkish occupation. In the early years of the Turkish occupation, Karpenisi belonged to the eparchy (gaza) of Agrafa. Later it became a gaza seat itself. The representatives from three “nahiye”-municipalities (the vilayet) gathered in this Kasaba (small-town) and together with the Kasaba- governors of Karpenisi they elected the Kasaba-governor of the year (Ayan Kasabali). This was also the seat of the minister (logothete) and later on, Bishop of Litza and Agrafa.
Evgenios Giannoulas of Aetolia made Karpenisi to a major cultural center. He founded his famous school operating from 1645 to 1661. In 1646 he initiated a fundamental renovation of the church of Agia Triada. The town of Karpenisi as well as the church were destroyed probably in 1684 -1692, when the Turks suffered a major defeat in Giolani by Livinis. The church was repaired or rebuilt by Gerakaris in 1693. It was damaged in 1756 by the Albanian raiders during the “Damage of Karpenisi”, the third one probably in 1758 and the fourth one on June 20th, 1821 by the fierce army of Veli Bey. There were three more churches in use during this period, “Panagia” was the most significant one.
Most of the Arvanites retreated gradually after the repeated raids in 1756, 1757, 1758, from Karpenisi, Agrafa and Patratziki. However they never entirely left this place. Karpenisi played a unique strategic role in Central Roumeli. The Turks resisted hard. Apart from the military forces, 70 Turkish families lived here permanently among the Greeks. Karpenisi, a bastion of the Turkish military domination in the mountain region, was considered as the prestige of the Ottoman Empire. Therefore it should be liberated. But the Turks resisted. The local military leaders, from the Gioldasis and Kastikogiannis families, I. Braskas and other minor captains took position around Karpenisi, they blocked it and started their siege on June 4th, 1821.
It was a contradictious battle, with the Greeks sometimes winning and sometimes loosing. After a great struggle, in the night of July 7th, the Turks were forced to abandon it. Nevertheless, later on they tried many time to take over Karpenisi but the Greek military leaders prevented it.
Markos Botsaris, a man famous for his actions in the region, fell heroically in the battle of Kefalovriso in August 1823. All Greeks fighting for their freedom, grieved over his death. But the Turks went on destroying Roumeli and of course our region as well. In 1825 Karaiskakis tried to sweep off the Turks from our region, but he was unfortunately killed a little later on. His death was a chance for the Turks to take over the region once again, which was finally liberated in 1828, continuing its course in the history with many battles and unpleasant events until the mid 20th century.
Even though the situation in the 20th century has been not as rough as in the previous one, Greece experienced a great deal of suffer and pain during the I and II World War. The citizens of our region as all other Greeks, fought in the Greek-Italian war and in the war against the Germans. There were forced to live under the German occupancy but as we know from the laws of the nature, action causes reaction, a fact that we encounter everyday. Soon they took part in the resistance in order to force the conquerors out of our country.
The armed National Resistance was first organized here in spring 1942. Aris himself established it and to honor Velouchi, a proud place, he added to his first name, the last name: Velouchiotis. Aris first came to the region of Tymfristos in the beginning of June 1942. The resistance organization of the National Liberation Front (EAM) had already formed its first “Regional Committee of Fthiothida – Fokida – Evrytania”. In the beginning of 1942 the organizations of the NLF started very carefully to spread in conspiracy over the near villages. Individuals with democratic feelings and background, farmers and clerks, especially the teachers, adopt enthusiastically the proclamation of the National Resistance. On Sunday June 7th 1942 the Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS) made its first official appearance with its leader Aris in Domnitsa – Evrytania. Their duty was to hit the Germans and Italians and organize sabotages.
Indeed, with all these continuous fights they managed to beat off the Germans and liberate Greece. However the Great Powers started interfering again and caused conflicts that resulted into the civil war. The region of Tymfristos and Evrytania was once again the center of new historical events.
The mountain slopes, the canyons, the ridges, the narrow passages, all became again places of conflicts. In the beginning of March ’47, the Roumeli headquarters of the Democratic Army settles in the forest beneath Pirgaki Ai-Lia in Neochori and plans to attack Karpenisi, which is a large administrative and military center of the area. In September ’47 the Government Army organizes new eliminating operations in Roumeli under the name “LAILAPS”.
The rebels (antartes) were forced by the Government Army to move closer to Northern Greece, but within a short time, following a reverse course they found themselves once again around Karpenisi, getting ready to fight again. Since December 1948 the large rebel groups were gathered in Fourna, to rest and plan an upcoming attack against Karpenisi. In January 20th, 1949 the rebels attacked and took over Karpenisi for 18 days. Eventually in 1949 the war is over leaving behind uncountable losses.
This is in short the history of this region. Many years of unrest and fights came along, such as during the military Junta, but the people of Karpenisi as well as all other Greeks managed to overcome the difficulties and continued fighting to survive...
L O C A L I N F O R M A T I O N
History of Karpenisi