1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Larissa

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25956531911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 16 — LarissaJames David Bourchier

LARISSA (Turk. Yeni Shehr, “new town”), the most important town of Thessaly, situated in a rich agricultural district on the right bank of the Salambria (Peneios, Peneus, Peneius), about 35 m. N.W. of Volo, with which it is connected by rail. Pop. (1889) 13,610, (1907) 18,001. Till 1881 it was the seat of a pasha in the vilayet of Jannina; it is now the capital of the Greek province and the seat of a nomarch. Its long subjection to Turkey has left little trace of antiquity, and the most striking features in the general view are the minarets of the disused mosques (only four are now in use) and the Mahommedan burying-grounds. It was formerly a Turkish military centre and most of the people were of Turkish blood. In the outskirts is a village of Africans from the Sudan—a curious remnant of the forces collected by Ali Pasha. The manufactures include Turkish leather, cotton, silk and tobacco; trade and industry, however, are far from prosperous, though improving owing to the immigration of the Greek commercial element. Fevers and agues are prevalent owing to bad drainage and the overflowing of the river; and the death-rate is higher than the birth-rate. A considerable portion of the Turkish population emigrated in 1881; a further exodus took place in 1898. The department of Larissa had in 1907 a population of 95,066.

Larissa, written Larisa on ancient coins and inscriptions, is near the site of the Homeric Argissa. It appears in early times, when Thessaly was mainly governed by a few aristocratic families, as an important city under the rule of the Aleuadae, whose authority extended over the whole district of Pelasgiotis. This powerful family possessed for many generations before 369 B.C. the privilege of furnishing the Tagus, or generalissimo, of the combined Thessalian forces. The principal rivals of the Aleuadae were the Scopadae of Crannon, the remains of which (called by the Turks Old Larissa) are about 14 m. to the S.W. The inhabitants sided with Athens during the Peloponnesian War, and during the Roman invasion their city was of considerable importance. Since the 5th century it has been the seat of an archbishop, who has now fifteen suffragans. Larissa was the headquarters of Ali Pasha during the Greek War of Independence, and of the crown prince Constantine during the Greco-Turkish War; the flight of the Greek army from this place to Pharsala took place on the 23rd of April 1897. Notices of some ancient inscriptions found at Larissa are given by Miller in Mélanges philologiques (Paris, 1880); several sepulchral reliefs were found in the neighbourhood in 1882. A few traces of the ancient acropolis and theatre are still visible.

The name Larissa was common to many “Pelasgian” towns, and apparently signified a fortified city or burg, such as the citadel of Argos. Another town of the name in Thessaly was Larissa Cremaste, surnamed Pelasgia (Strabo ix. p. 440), situated on the slope of Mt. Othrys.  (J. D. B.)