Human habitation appears in the wider area since the Neolithic years (4500-3000 BC). Several sites around Alexandroupoli (Makri, Potamos, Doriskos, Mikro vouni Samothrakis) give interesting information about the lifestyle of that period. The next period of prehistory, the Bronze Age (3000-1050 BC), is represented to a limited extent, not only in the area of Alexandroupolis but in general in Aegean Thrace (Makri, Karyotes Samothrace and Mikro Vouni Samothrace).
The area of Alexandroupoli - like the entire area from the Delta of the river Evros to the Vistonida lake and bordered to the north by the foothills of the Rhodope massif - is inhabited by the Kikones. The end of the Bronze Age and the early Iron Age are represented in the area by several sites, (Kirki, Avantas, Potamos, Makri, Nipsa, Koila) and all the usual types of megalithic monuments are found: fortified citadels, outdoor sanctuaries for the worship of sun and stars, anthropomorphic rock paintings. Herodotus mentions the cities Mesimbria, Zoni, Sali and Serreion. Later sources add the cities Drys, Tempyra and Harakoma. At the end of the 5th century BC some of them paid heavy tribute to the Athenian alliance. The city of Sali is identified with today's Alexandroupoli.
In the Byzantine years, the area plays a primary role, as it is the immediate neighborhood of Constantinople, and important cities or settlements (Traianoupoli, Vira, Makri) and monastic complexes (Panagia Kosmosoteira in Feres, cave church of Saints Theodore) flourished within its borders, which protected by strong military installations (Castles of Potamos and Avada.)
After the Russo-Turkish War of 1830, the Turkish state tried to modernize itself to somewhat keep pace with European civilization. One of the modern achievements, then, was the railroad. At that time, around this place there were fishermen's huts and small houses, from Ainos, Makri and Maroneia. These first inhabitants created a small settlement - the later Alexandroupoli - which grew slowly. The beginning of the settlement dates back to the 1850s. The development of the settlement was stopped by the Russian-Turkish war of 1878. The city fell into the hands of the Russians. The end of the war found the city in the hands of the Bulgarians with the treaty of Saint Stephen. But three months later, with a new treaty, the city returned to Turkey.
Editor: Niki Kalopaidis
The history of Didymoteichos begins in the Neolithic period, when the hill of Agia Petra at the south-eastern end of the current city and probably also the fortified hill of Kale at its western end were inhabited, as evidenced by the interesting finds, accidental and excavated, such as pottery and the stone tools, typical of the period.
The ancient city is succeeded by the Hellenistic one. From this period the few architectural remains and other accidental finds hint at the existence of a prosperous settlement. At the beginning of the 2nd AD century the Roman emperor Trajan re-establishes the city by endowing it with the name of his wife. Plotinoupolis becomes one of the important autonomous cities of the province of Thrace with its own Parliament and Municipality, as evidenced by a series of votive columns.
The barbarian raids of the 3rd AD century they forced the Romans to proceed with the fortification of the two opposite hills, Kale and Agia Petra. This period is attributed to the creation and then the imposition of the name "Didymoteichon", with the exact meaning of "twin castles". During the Byzantine years, the importance of the city-castle of Didymoteichos constantly increased due to its geostrategic position and the powerful fortifications that surrounded it.
After the recapture of Constantinople in 1261, Didymoteicho became the most important city of Thrace. He witnessed the birth of emperors, such as John III Vatatzis, John V Paleologus, but also the most critical events of the late Byzantine years. It is the seat of the emperors John III Palaiologos and John VI Kantakouzenos during the two disastrous civil wars of the first half of the 14th century.
Didymoteicho was finally occupied by the Ottoman Turks in 1361 and was their first capital on the European continent. Here Sultan Murat I built his palaces and here, in a small tower, the imperial treasure was kept. Among the monuments of the period, the visitor's attention is focused on the famous and imposing Great Mosque, known as the Mosque of Sultan Bayezid of the Lightning, built at the beginning of the 15th century. Around the same time (1398) date the so-called "Baths of Whispers", the oldest Ottoman baths in Europe which are still preserved today, like the other two well-known public baths of the city. The Mausoleum of Oruch Pasha, a dome-roofed open structure from the first quarter of the 15th century, is also impressive.
The beginning of the 20th century is characterized by the intensity of the conflicts between the ethnic groups and the states of the Balkans and culminates with the two Balkan wars and the first world war. As a result of these events, the Didymoteicho was assigned to Greece with the Treaty of Sevres, in July 1920.
Today the castle is preserved in its longest length, with its 24 towers, some of which bear monograms of Byzantine personalities or decorative and symbolic motifs. In the post-Byzantine church of Christ the Saviour, the visitor can worship the miraculous two-faced icon of the Infant Virgin Mary "Dymoteichitissa" with the Crucifixion on the back, an imperial gift to the city, as well as the excellent late-Byzantine icon of Christ the Spouse.
49 buildings of the Post-Byzantine city have been declared as Monuments of Art and are subject to protection status.
Editor: Niki Kalopaidis