Komotini (Greek: Κομοτηνή) is a city in the region of East Macedonia and Thrace, northeastern Greece. It is the capital of the Rhodope regional unit. The city is home to the Democritus University of Thrace, founded in 1973. The city stands at an altitude of 32-38m on the Thracian plain near the foothills of the Rhodope Mountains. Komotini may not lie in front of the sea, like other northeastern Greek cities, however the nearest beach is 20 min. away by car.
Built at the northern part of the plain bearing the same name, Komotini is one of the main administrative, financial and cultural centers of northeastern Greece and also a major agricultural and breeding center of the area. It is also a significant transport interchange, located 795 km NE of Athens and 281 km NE of Thessaloniki. The presence of the Democritus University of Thrace makes Komotini the home of thousands of Greek and international students and this, combined with an eclectic mix of Western and Oriental elements in the city's daily life, have made it an increasingly attractive tourist destination.
According to the 2011 census, the municipality's population amounts to 66,919, a number that does not include approximately 12,000 resident students, trainees and soldiers. Komotini is home to a sizeable Muslim minority, which constitutes 45% of the city's population, fact that colors the city with a multicultural spirit.
There are two airports near Komotini. The nearest is in Alexandroupoli (65 km), and the other is in Kavala (80 km). It has rail and bus links to all continental Greek cities as well as Istanbul, and the good provincial road network has been supplemented by the new Egnatia Odos motorway.
Komotini has existed as a settlement since the 2nd century AD.
That is confirmed by archaeological finds of that era up until the 4th century. It is also confirmed by an inscription on the ruins of the 4th-century Byzantine wall, that are visible at various sites in the city, which reads "Theodosiou Ktisma" (Building of Theodosius).
During the Roman age it was one of the several fortresses along the Via Egnatia highway which existed in the Thrace area.
The city's history is closely connected with that of Via Egnatia, the Roman trunk road which connected Dyrrhachium with Constantinople. For most of its early existence the settlement was overshadowed by the larger town of Mosynopolis to the west, and by the end of the 12th century, the place had been completely abandoned. In 1207 following the destruction of Mosynopolis by the Bulgarian tsar Kaloyan, the remnant population fled and established themselves within the walls of the abandoned fortress.Since then the population had been increasing continuously until it became an important town within the area.
In 1341 the historian Nikephoros Phokas referred to the town with its current name.
In the Ottoman Era, Komotini was known as Gumulcine or Ghumurdjina. The city continued to be an important hub connecting the capital city of Constantinople with the European part of the Empire, and grew accordingly. Many monuments in the city today date to this era. In 1361, Gazi Evrenos conquered the town and thus a long period of Ottoman rule began.
In Ottoman times, Komotini belonged to the Edirne Eyalet and was the seat of the Komotinikaza. Komotini maintained its mostly Greek profile up to the end of the 16th century. In 1548 the French tourist Pierre Bellon stated that "the city is inhabited by Greeks and a few Muslims". Mass relocation of Yoruks from the depths of Asia Minor and the islamisation of the Pomaks were required to reinforce the Muslim population of the city. A Jewish community has also been described. During the Ottoman rule many armed insurgent Greek groups existed in the area, which forced Ahmed III to order their dissolution with poor results.
Greeks took advantage of the religious liberty granted by the Ottomans and completely controlled the economic activity of the city (Komotinia tobacco trade). The mansions that can be found today in the streets of Komotini, were built in that era.
First Balkan War
During the First Balkan War, Bulgarian forces captured the city, only to surrender it to the Greek army during the Second Balkan War on July 14, 1913. In this period, a short-lived independent state, the Provisional Government of Western Thrace, was established in Western Thrace. Komotini was declared as capital city of that state. The Treaty of Bucharest, however, handed the city back to Bulgaria. The city was part of Bulgaria until the end of World War I. During this period, the city had the Bulgarian name Гюмюрджина (Gyumyurdzina).
In 1919, in the Treaty of Neuilly, Komotini was handed back to Greece, along with the rest of Western Thrace.