a map of the pindos rangeMetsovo Mountain Village
in Ioannina Prefecture Page 1

Metsovo lies within the prefecture of Ioannina and is both a municipality and an eparchy (county or shire) (smallest Greek subdivision of a nomos/province/prefecture). Metsovo is a big mountain village of around 3,000 inhabitants, a large percentage of whom are Vlachs. The town has, in fact, been called Vlach 'capital' of Greece. These people are traditionally transhumant shepherds, moving their herds to different regions with the changing seasons to graze them. They speak a Latin-based tongue, which led to the old theory that they were descendants of Roman legionnaires who had wandered into northern Greece in search of grazing land, and were subsequently trapped there by new borders after the fall of both Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. Along with the Slavs in northern Greece, they were feared as a potential separatist minority, and during the dictatorship of Metaxas in the 1930s, Vlach children were not allowed to speak their native language and names of some villages were also forcibly changed. The more accepted theory these days about Vlach origins holds that the Greek Vlachs are of Greek descent and have been in the northern Pindos mountains since time immemorial, and that during Roman times they were trained as highway guards for the high mountain passes of the old Via Egnatia highway. If one adheres to this second theory, it makes perfect sense that these people would have retained a distorted form of Latin which persisted in their pastoral isolation.

The town was given special privileges, amounting to virtual independence, after a 17th century Turkish vizier who was out of favor with his sultan, was treated well on seeking asylum here. Metsovo has also been a place of refuge for wealthy Christian families, which has earned it a reputation as a town of philanthropists, including such personages as Yiorgos Averoff and Mikhalis Tonitsas, whose endowments financed the restoration of many 18th and 19th century buildings, as well as promoting local products and crafts. Tonitsas was a Baron and a banker from a Metsovo family who lived in Switzerland and left his huge fortune to the town.

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