Ioannina in detail


Byzantine emperor Justinian founded Ioannina in the 6th century, and it became an important commercial and cultural outpost with a significant community of Romaniote Jews. In 1204, when Latin Crusaders sacked Constantinople and dismembered Byzantium, Ioannina was where the Byzantine rulers regrouped and established the Despotate of Epiros, first ruled by Michael I Komnenos Doukas. Ottomans conquered in 1430, and a Sephardic Jewish population arrived after 1492. Between the silversmiths and the 'Epirot School' of icon painters, the city became a leading cultural and artistic centre by the 16th and 17th centuries.

In 1787, Albanian warlord Ali of Tepelene, who had worked his way up from highway banditry, was named pasha of Trikala, and promptly claimed Ioannina as his capital. This began a period of relative independence and stability for Epiros, as Ali Pasha ruled the region as his private fiefdom, ironically putting an end to the banditry that had served him so well. The drawback was the man's staggering cruelty, incidents of which grew into regional legends, and both fascinated and repulsed visiting western Europeans, such as philhellene and poet Lord Byron. But Ali enforced the law and Ioannina flourished – albeit with brutal mass drownings and torture along the way. In 1822, trapped at the Agios Panteleimon monastery on the island in Lake Pamvotis, octogenarian Ali was killed by the Ottomans, who paraded his severed head around İstanbul.

In the 1912–13 Balkan Wars, Greeks expanded the border of Greece north from Arta, claiming Ioannina. The 1923 population exchanges saw Turks replaced by Anatolian Greek refugees. In 1943 the Nazis deported the Jewish population to concentration camps.