History

Chimaera, the ancient city from which Chimara evolved, was one of the most important cities of Chaonia, one of the states of Ancient Epirus that commenced south of Valona and continued to the south up to the River Thyamis (modern-day Kalamas). Other cities that were part of Ancient Chaonia were Orikon, Paleaste, Maeandreia, Phoenike, Vouthroton, Antigonea and others. The origin of the name Chimaera lies in the mythical beast Chimaera (or Chimera), slain by Bellerophon; later the name evolved to Chimara; in the latter Byzantine years the spelling was wrongly changed to Cheimarra, as the etymology of the name was wrongly imputed to derive from Cheimarros (small torrential river-stream): thus both spellings CHIMARA and CHEIMARRA should be considered correct.

The correct Latin spelling is considered Chimara and not Himara as we mentioned earlier the name derives from Chimaera (also Chimera or Chimæra, Greek: Χίμαιρα). Numerous historical references and ancient maps evidence this version perfectly and show the name Chimara or Chimera with CH not with H.

Palaia (Old-Upper) Chimara within the ancient surrounding walls of the Castle is the site of continual human habitation for over three thousand years, and this means that monuments and architectural elements coexist side by side from all the periods covered by that span. Points of the lower and oldest level of the Hellenistic walls contain exceptional and carefully squared off megaliths that date back to the second millennium B.C. The now deserted bishop's mansion was built on the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to the god Phoebus Apollo. An inscription found there in Ancient Greek proclaims that "ΦΟΙΒΟΣ ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝ ΧΙΜΑΙΡΑΝ ΕΠΟΛΙΣΕΝ", in other words Phoebus Apollo founded the city of Chimaera.

According to Thucydides, the Chaones were a people without kings, ruled by two lords who were elected every year and who were descended from the ancient royal bloodlines, whose privileges had been circumscribed.

In the seventh century BC during the Messenian War, the Spartans came to Chimara, an event that marked the beginning of a relationship and closeness between these two regions: a relationship that can be observe many times through the course of history, creating a tradition of joint ancestry and many other common characteristics. Moreover the people of both regions have a common distant Doric ancestry and many elements of the Ancient Doric forms are preserved in the local dialect of Chimara to this day.

In the fifth century BC Chaonia took part in the Peloponnesian war on the side of the Spartans, as did all of Epirus with the exception of Amvracia. The region set off on military expedition under its lords Photios and Nicanor against the Acarnanians. The expedition was a failure and this marked the beginning of the decline of Chaonia and the rise of the Molossias the dominant power in the region. Later the Molossian King Neoptolemos would create the confederation of Epirotes, where one of the three generals had to be a Chaon.

In 1473 the people of Chimara, under Ioannis Vlassis campaigned against the Turks and with Venetian assistance took the fort of Sopoto (now Borshi) and reached from Avlona (Valona) to Sagiada, but they were betrayed by the Venetians, who came to terms with the Turks and signed a peace treaty. In 1481 the people of Chimara rebelled against Turkish rule. Led by Korkodilos Kladas and the son of Skenderbey, Ioannis Kastriotis, and with assistance from the King of Naples, they liberated the city. With Ioannis Kastriotis as administrator, the city of Chimara managed to impose suzerainty tax on the Turkish commandant of Valona for a period of time.

The Romans landed their forces and invaded Epirus. They took terrible vengeance for the victories of King Pyrrus, destroying most Epirote cities and selling many Epirotes as slaves. Later Epirus would also bear the brunt of destruction from the barbarian raids of the Goths, the Huns, the Ostrogoths and Slavs. During the Byzantine era, Justinian renovated and fortified the castle of Chimara, making it the seat of a bishopric; however the raids and destruction would continue as the area suffered the depredations of the Saracens, Bulgarians, Crusaders, Serbs, Albanians and Turks.

In 1403 Charles, King of Naples, landed on the beach of Chimara and pushed the Albanian-speaking people to the north. Some years later the Chimariotes, led by the local lord Georgios Stressios, a personal friend of Georgios Kastriotis Skenderbeg, attempted to stop the invasion of Epirus by the Ottoman Turks.

After the fall of Krugia, Chimara was the only region that did not submit to Ottoman rule and remained the only free and unbowed region in entire Epirus. It was self-governed under the protection of the Venetian Republic. During the entire Ottoman period, Chimara was for Northern Epirus what was Souli for Southern. The Ottomans never calmed up there, not for a minute. It became a symbol of resistance but suffered from an almost continuous state of warfare. We see that the movements were continuously and the independent Chimara defeated Agarino repeatedly every time he attempted to approach its impregnable mountains.

Chimara's independence would last ten years, after which the city would fall to the army of Sultan Bayezid. The forced conversion to Islam of the inland villages commenced. One of those converted to Islam, from the village of Palassa would reach the rank of Pasha in Avlona under the name Liaz Pasha.

The attempt to impose Islam became more general, but the Chimariotes resisted desperately. The Ottoman Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent personally mounted an expedition in 1537 that destroyed many surrounding villages but did not manage to subdue the area. Finally, it was achieved a compromise that recognised Turkish sovereignty but maintained a series of exceptional privileges. Thirty-three Greek villages of Chimara created the Autonomous Keravnian Commonwealth, (Αυτόνομη Συμπολιτεία) which was self-governed, free from taxation or conscription and local justice system.

Autonomous Commonwealth of Chimariotes had the right to sail under its own flag into any Ottoman port and the right to bear arms throughout Epirus, rights that Chimara held for centuries. These privileges preserved and strengthened their independent and unbowed spirit and the military skills that we all admire today. Despite these privileges and the essential autonomy that Chimara obtained, they revolted against Ottoman authority several times: there was not a single revolt, war or revolution in which Chimara refused to take part. The struggle of Chimariotes gains mythic proportions throughout the Greek peninsula as they not only fought for their land, but also sent reinforcements to the Venetians. Chimara was the first to revolt when Spanish forces of the kingdom of Naples and Genoa campaigned in 1532 in the region of Peloponnese. In the famous Battle of Lepanto (1571) Chimariotes offered major services to their Christians allies.

During these years, the people of Chimara established closer links to the Italian city states, especially Naples and reinforced its position with the powerful Venetian Republic where they promised to transfer their religious allegiance to Rome, as long as they would retain their Eastern Orthodox liturgical customs since the majority of the population was Greek and didn't understand the Frankish language. Under the protections of Venetians they managed to open their first Greek language schools in the region in 1627.

In 1821, when the Greek War of Independence broke out, Chimariotes were among the first to rally to the flag of rebellion throughout the land. Athanassios Himariotes was with Ypsilantis in Moldavia; Spyros Spyromilios was at Valtos, at Messolonghi, at Phaleron, other famous fighters also made their names, including Gkiokas, Dimitriou, Harissis, Nestos, Zahos, Dimas, Goretsis, Doukas. In the New Greek state and in the struggle against Bavarian autocracy Spyromilios was present; commander of the Military Academy in 1843 along with Kallergis and Makriyannis heads the historical Revolution that imposed the constitutional organization of the state.

On the 5 November 1912 Major Spyros Spyromilios from Chimara in charge of a force of Chimaran volunteers and Cretan gendarmes made a landing liberating Chimara. Over the following days he would liberate the entire county.

On 9 February 1914 the people of Chimara reacted against the plans of the Great Powers to include the region within the boundaries of the new Albanian state although in March 1914 the region was declared autonomous. Up to 1921 Chimara was successively autonomous, under Greek Administration, Italian military occupation and once more autonomous. In 1927 it was signed the Protocol of Chimara between the region and the Albanian state that recognized its privileges.

However, 3 years later, at 1930 the Albanian state violates the agreement and closes the Greek schools in Chimara. After 7 years of fights, in 1937, they manage to reopen the Greek schools.

During the 1940-1941 war between Greece and Italy, important battles took place in the region around Chimara. On December 22, 1940 the Greek army entered Chimara and the citizens welcomed them with enthusiastic celebrations. In 1945 the people of Chimara refused to participate in the plebiscite that would legalise the regime of Enver Hoxha. Many locals were arrested. More than 200 mens were sentenced to 101 years in prison and many others were exiled in various part of Central Albania. The man behind the movement, Andreas Dimas was buried alive. The regime shuts down again the Greek Akrokeravnian School and removed from Chimariotes all minority rights. Despite the prohibition of the Greek language and their Christian faith in the forty-five years of dictatorship that followed, the Greek soul was not bent.

Tourist Guide of Himara