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Serres (Municipality, Greece)


Last modified: 2019-10-26 by ivan sache
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Flag of Serres - Image by Tomislav Šipek, 25 June 2019

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Presentation of Serres

The municipality of Serres (76,817 inhabitants in 2011; 60,150 ha) was established in the 2011 local government reform as the merger of the former municipalities of Ano Vrontou (Άνω Βροντού, 452 inh.), Kapetan Mitrousi (Καπετάν Μητρούσι, 6,402 inh.), Lefkonas (Λευκώνας, 3,897 inh.), Oreini (Ορεινή, 820 inh.), Serres (61,025 inh.) and Skoutari (Σκουτάρι, 7,517 inh.).
The second largest town in the region of Central Macedonia, after Thessaloniki. Serres is one of the administrative and economic centers of northern Greece. The town is situated in a fertile plain, 24 km northeast of the Strymon river and 69 km north-east of Thessaloniki.

According to tradition, the city was founded before the Trojan War but is mentioned for the first time by Herodotus. After the Roman occupation it became an important city in the province of Macedonia and seat of a confederation of five cities (Pentapolis).
In the early Middle Ages, Serres became the site of a major fortress built by the Byzantine Empire to guard the empire's northern frontier and the strategic Rupel Pass. In 1185, the environs of the city were pillaged by a Norman invasion, and in the Battle of Serres in 1195/6 the Byzantines were defeated by the rebellious Bulgarian ruler Ivan Asen I. After the Fourth Crusade, Boniface of Montferrat took over the city, but shortly after Kaloyan of Bulgaria defeated the Crusaders of the Latin Empire and briefly annexed the city until it was retaken by the Crusaders in the early 1230s. Kaloyan almost destroyed the city, reducing it to a small settlement. Serres returned to Byzantine rule in 1246, when it was captured by the Nicaean Empire.
By the 14th century, the city had regained its former size and prosperity. Taking advantage of the Byzantine civil war of 1341-47, the Serbs besieged and took the city on 25 September 1345. It became the capital of Stefan Dušan's Serbian Empire, but after Dušan's death in 1355 his realm fell into feudal anarchy, and Serres became a separate principality, initially under Dušan's Empress-dowager Helena and after 1365 by the Despot Jovan Uglješa. After the 1371 Battle of Maritsa, the Byzantines under Manuel II Palaiologos (then governor of Thessalonica) retook Serres.

Serres fell to the Ottoman Empire on 19 September 1383. In the aftermath of the Christian victory at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, Turkish reprisals were directed at the Greek population, who had shown sympathy with the Western success and had sporadically risen up across Greece. The metropolitan cathedral of Serres was looted along with seven other churches, while land and land titles owned by the Monastery of St John the Baptist were confiscated.
In the early 20th century, the city became a focus of anti-Ottoman unrest, which resulted in the Ilinden Uprising of 1903. A Bulgarian army, which was commanded by general Georgi Todorov captured Serres during the First Balkan War on 6 November 1912 but was forced to withdraw by Greek forces commanded by the King of Greece, Constantine I, during the Second Balkan War. Serres was temporarily occupied by the Central Powers in the First World War, eventually being liberated by Greek-French Entente forces, and after the fall of Greece in the Second World War, it was occupied by the Axis between 1941 and 1944. In 1943, Serres' Jewish population was deported by the Gestapo to the Treblinka death camp and exterminated.
Greek Prime Minister Constantine Karamanlis (in office from 1955 to 1963 and again from 1974 to 1980) was a native of Serres.

Olivier Touzeau, 3 January 2015

Flag of Serres

The flag of Serres is celestial blue with the municipal emblem placed on a white disk. The new municipality uses the same symbols than the former one.
The emblem portrays the river god Strymon, a mythical Thracian king who was drowned in the river. Strymon, son of Oceanus and Tethys, became by the muses Euterpe or Calliopethe father of Rhesus, Brangas, and Olynthus, and by Neaera father of Evadne.

Olivier Touzeau & Tomislav Šipek, 25 June 2019