Geographical and Demographic Information
The Prefecture of Serres is one of the 7 prefectures of Central Macedonia and occupies its eastern part, extending from the Strymon Gulf in the south to the Greek-Bulgarian border in the north. To the east it borders the prefectures of Drama and Kavala and to the west it borders the prefectures of Thessaloniki and Kilkis. Serres has a coastline in the North Aegean along the Strymon Gulf (or Orfanos Bay).
The Prefecture of Serres belongs to the lowermost prefectures of the country, since 48% of its total area is characterized as lowland/semi-mountainous and is surrounded to the west by the Kerkini-Vertiskos-Kerdylion mountain ranges, to the east by Mt. Menoekion, southeast by Mt. Pangaeon, while to the north dominate the mountain ranges of Orvilos and Lailias (Vrondou). The prefecture of Serres is crossed by river Strymon which originates from Bulgaria and flows into the Strymon Gulf, with its main tributary, named Angitis, spanning the eastern part of the prefecture.
The total area of the prefecture is 3,790 square kilometers, encompassing approximately 4% of the territory of Greece. Of this area, 41% is agricultural land, which determines the main occupation of the inhabitants of the prefecture. Administratively the prefecture of Serres is divided into seven municipalities (Municipality of Serres, Sintiki, Visaltia, Nea Zichni, Irakleia, Amphipolis and Emmanuel Pappas).
The city of Serres, built on one of the most turbulent crossroads of Europe, the passage of countless armies and peoples, is one of the few ancient cities of Greece that managed to maintain an uninterrupted life from the dawn of historical times until today. The city first appears in history in the early 5th century BC. Herodotus mentions it by the name of Siris and the national designation “Paeoniki”, and the residents as Siropaeonians. After Herodotus, Theopemus mentions it as Sirra; later, Titus Livy calls it Siras. Finally, Stephanos Byzantius writes: “Siris in Paionia” and “Siriopeonians”. The oldest epigraphical monument that survives the writing of “Sirraion Polis” dates from of Roman era and is located in the Archeological Museum of Serres. The name Serrae is mentioned since the 5th century AD and later with the Ferrae variant. The name Siris derives, perhaps, from the word Sirius = Sun.
In the 5th century AD, Serres was mentioned as the seat of a Bishopric, and in the 6th century it was one of the most important cities of the 7th Province of the Byzantine Empire. In the 8th century, Serres becomes a protagonist in Greek history and the city is considered as the most important settlement in the area defined geographically between rivers Nestos and Strymon.
In the Middle Ages, the city was heavily damaged and submitted to various conquerors, but ultimately survived. In autumn 1204, it surrendered to the Frankish crusaders. In 1205, the Bulgarian tsar John I conquered Serres. A few years later, in 1221, it was liberated by Theodore, the Despot of Epirus, but in 1230 Bulgarian tsar John II recaptured Serres. The city was temporarily handed to Nicaean Emperor John Vatatzes by the Bulgarian Commander Dragotas after a sudden attack in 1245. It was finally captured by the Turks, temporarily in 1373 and permanently in 1383.
During Ottoman rule it was the most prosperous city of Eastern Macedonia with a population of 50,000 inhabitants and many important schools which prepared the people of the city for the liberation struggle of 1821. The failure of the revolution hardened the stance of the Turkish conquerors, while the city suffered even more from the activities of the Bulgarians after 1872. In 1912 it was occupied by the Bulgarians, who abandoned it on 29 June 1913 in view of the advancing Greek Army, after burning it down. It was re-occupied during World War I by Germans and Bulgarians and remained as such until 1918. It suffered Bulgarian occupation again during World War II (1941-1944), after which it was finally liberated and since then it follows the rest of the country’s path to progress in modern history.