The city of Grevena is found to the east of the Northern Pindus mountains, 484 km's from Athens and 170 km's from Thessaloniki, at an altitude of 534 metres. It is well serviced by the Ignatia Odos (E90) which runs across the north of Greece, from Igoumenitsa in the west to Alexandropoulos in the East. Grevena is built on the banks of the Grebeniti river, a tributary of Aliakmon river. It is a small region of Macedonia with a great history. A part of ancient Elimeias and birthplace of the Dorians.
Archaeological finds and monuments scattered across the region show the multi-faceted contribution to Greek culture. The tough highland residents have faced every conqueror to visit Greece and stubbornly resisted foreign influences, keeping their traditions, religion and 'Greekness'.
The name Grevena first appears in written form in a text named the Gribana by Constantine Porfyrogennito (905-953). Their are variations on the name, such as, Graibino, Grebenos, Grebynon, Gkrempenitz, Grebaina and Grebaino. The name has no meaning or etymology in Greek. It is likely to be of Latin origin, and derive from the word gravis, meaning difficult, steep, rough. Also in Slavik languages there is the word greban meaning rough and steep place.
The exact date of the city foundation is unknown, but there is evidence that the area was inhabited from neolithic times, especially in the area of the Aliakmon river.
The area of Grevena formed the border between the Arcadians and Ionians, who lived to the South and West, respectively. Groups from westerly tribes settled in the area during the 14th century BC and from here they split with a splinter group moving to the south to become the notorious Dorians. The area was, in the 12th century BC, settled by the Elimiotis and archeaological findings prove that they had contact with other tribes, including the great Mycenean culture.
From ancient times, Grevena has been a cross-roads for lower Macedonia, Epirus and Thessaly to Orestida. This has been the cause for battles and skirmishes over the centuries, with the result that the city almost disappeared and it's name was nearly lost!
During the Roman occupation Western Macedonia became a border area. The northern Slavic tribes were continuously raiding the area, resulting in the Romans recruiting legions of mercenaries, Grevena supplied many men to these legions. This resulted in the Greek language being diluted with a form of Latin which has resulted in the Vlach dialect.
During the last period of the Roman Empire (4th century AD) the area of Grevena administratively belonged to Thessaly and the two regions shared a close relationship. At this time Christianity was introduced to the highlands. The Slavs and other hostile northern tribes which continued to raid the area also settled some parts and their influence on place names lasted until the 20th century!
Grevena was occupied by the Turks from 1385. The inhabitants resisted but were ultimately conquered, however pockets of Vlach resistance continued, especially in the mountainous areas, until 1840. However, even after the submission there were areas in Pindos that remained free and were ruled by clans of thieves. Amongst these clans were such names as Vergos, Duke, Meϊntanis, Zedros, Totskas, Mandalos, Ziakas, Priftis and Misios. Based on historical references we know that throughout the period of Ottoman rule Grevena remained a commercial hub.
During the 18th century Albanian bandits began raping and pillaging, these raids were finally stopped by Epirus Ali Pasha (1788). From this time he extended his dominance to Grevena in 1807, when many villages became his estates.
The people of Grevena were active participants in the Greek revolution against the Turks. The Apostle Kyrimi in the revolution of Halkidiki, Karamitsioy in the revolution of Olympus and Ziakaion in the revolution of Naoussa. After the Suppression of the revolutionary movement in Macedonia, the Grevena revolutionary group moved southwards and took part in many battles. They were also referenced in the siege of Mesolongi, where many met their death. Giannoulas Ziakas fought for the province of Grevena and his brother Theodore, who fought in Thessaly and Olympus, was a pioneer of the revolution in 1854 and an important protagonist in 1878.
The situation in the region deteriorated with the prevalence of the 'Young Turks'. The atrocities and murders intensified. Among the victims was the Metropolitan Aimilianos (1911), the central square of Grevena still bears his name. Grevena was finally freed of Turkish control on 13th October 1912.
During the German occupation, the region of Grevena was also occupied by the Italians, but there was fierce and continued resistance by ELAS partisans. After the liberation of Greece from German troops, the region of Grevena suffered more evils during the Greek civil war, where the mountainous terrain formed a theatre of war.
The city of Grevena has been 'reborn' many times in it's long history. More recently, 1995 the city was rocked by a major earthquake which deprived the city of many of it's remaining traditional buildings. However, during the last decade Grevena has been developing from strength to strength with many large infrastructure projects having been completed. These are focused on tourism and cultural projects which aim to maximise on the natural, mountainous geography of the area, particularly on winter sports and tourism.