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History of Kavala

The initial residential core of Kavala was the hill of Panaghia, a neighborhood where several traditional residences can be seen nowadays. On top of the hill there is an imposing Castle, the symbol of the city. Traces of a small settlement dating back to the Neolithic era have been discovered at the eastern extremity of the hill.

During the historic years (mid-7th century B.C.), the inhabitants of nearby Thassos established a colony on the same hill. The colony was named “Neapoli” and its principal aim was to control the commercial activities of the Thassian Peraea and take advantage of the auriferous mountain Paggaio. Due to its privileged position and mainly its commercial port, Neapoli was bound to become very prosperous. It became financially autonomous and obtained the right to create its own coins. As a member of the Athenian League Neapoli was in good terms with Athens, which was very powerful at the time.

During the Macedonian hegemony (4th century B.C.) the town lost its autonomy and became the port of the nearby Macedonian town of Filippoi. During the Roman period the town continued to prosper as a main trade station of Egnatia and port of Filippoi.

During the Byzantine period (probably 8th -9th century A.D.) the town is named “Christoupoli” because of the expansion of the new religion following the visit of Apostle Paul in 49-50 A.D. Nowadays, you can still see many ruins of the Byzantine fortifications on the hill of Panaghia, as well as the imposing Castle, in which the big circular tower still survives.

Christoupoli suffered many raids by the Slavs, Franks, Venetians and Turks. In 1391 the Ottomans conquered the town and in late 15th it acquired its current name. The Turks restored the Castle and the walls and in 1550 approximately they constructed the big imposing aqueduct of Kavala (Kamares), following the orders of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566). The aqueduct was constructed on the traces of the Byzantine wall, comprises of 60 arches of four different sizes and is 54 meters high.

In 1769 the founder of the last Egyptian dynasty Mehmet Ali was born in Kavala. He lived in Kavala for many years and today his residence houses a museum, located on top of the hill of Panaghia quarter, near Panaghia church. Mehmet Ali became a benefactor of his hometown as in 1817 he built the Poorhouse (Imaret), also housing a Seminary and a boarding school. The building is a unique example of Islam architectural tradition and is now property of the Egyptian state. It is currently being transformed in a luxury hotel and you can admire it on your way up to the Castle.

After the tragedy of Asia Minor in 1922 some 25,000 Greek refugees settled in Kavala causing a significant increase of its population. During the same period, Kavala reached a great economic heyday, as it was a major tobacco processing and trading center for the whole region of SE Europe. Many foreign tobacco traders settled in Kavala and built residences and tobacco warehouses. A typical example of such residences is the one of Hungarian tobacco trader Baron Pierre Herzog built in 1890. 

Nowadays it houses the Town Hall of Kavala, located at Kyprou Street, behind the War Memorial. Next to the Town Hall another building stands out: it is the Great Club, built in 1909. On the same road you will find the manor of tobacco trader D. Tokkos built in 1879 and today housing the 12th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities of Kavala.

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