Serres is a city in Macedonia, Greece, capital of the Serres regional unit and second largest city in the region of Central Macedonia, after Thessaloniki. Serres is one of the administrative and economic centers of Northern Greece. The city is situated in a fertile plain at an elevation of about 70 metres, some 24 kilometres northeast of the Strymon river and 69 km north-east of Thessaloniki, respectively. Serres’ official municipal population was 76,817 in 2011 with the total number of people living in the city and its immediate surroundings estimated at around 100,000.
Although the earliest mention of Serres (as Siris) is dating in the 5th century BC (Herodotus), the city was founded long before the Trojan War, probably at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. The ancient city was built on a high and steep hill just north of Serres. It held a very strategic position, since it controlled a land road, which following the valley of the river Strymon led from the shores of Strymonian Gulf to the Danubian countries. The most ancient known inhabitants of the area were the Bryges (Phrygians) and Strymonians. Afterwards (since 1100 BC) were Siriopaiones and finally (from the early 5th century BC until the end of antiquity) the Thracian tribe of Odomantes. These populations mainly engaged in agriculture and cattle-raising especially worshiped the Sun, the deified river Strymon and later the “Thracian horseman”. The colony of Serraepolis was founded in Cilicia by people from Serres.
Serres fell to the Ottoman Empire on 19 September 1383—although the Ottoman sources give several earlier and contradictory dates, the date is securely established by multiple Greek sources. The city and the surrounding region became a fief of Evrenos Beg, who brought in Yörük settlers from Sarukhan. Althougn never rising to particular prominence within the Ottoman Empire, Serres became also the site of a mint from 1413/14 on. The rebel Sheikh Bedreddin was executed in the city.
During the Second World War, after the conquest of mainland Greece by Nazi Germany in April 1941, Serres was assigned by the Nazis to their Bulgarian allies, who occupied the city until the Allied liberation of Greece in 1944. In 1943, Serres’ Jewish population was deported by the Gestapo to the Treblinka death camp and exterminated.
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