Misthi or Misti (Greek: Μιστί or Μισθί), was a Greek city in the region of Cappadocia, in what is now Turkey. It was situated 82 kilometres southwest of the regional capital of Caesarea (Greek: Καισαρεία), nowadays Kayseri, Turkey, and belonged administratively to the nearby city of Niğde, 26 kilometres north-northwest and at an altitude of 1380 metres above sea level. The current name of the town is Konaklı.
«’Απ’ Μιστί ’μι, νά πάμ’ σ’ Μιστί»
(From Misthi I am, let's go to Misthi)
There exist multiple explanations about the origins and establishment of the city as well as to the etymology of its name. For instance, according to Koimisoglou (2005:434) some sources trace the origin of Misthi to 401 BC when Greek mercenaries came to work for the Persian king Cyrus in the battle against his brother Artaxerxes II. A group of Greek soldiers was given the order to search for food and water. Some of them found an uninhabited area and settled down. Allegedly, they built a city there that became Misthi. This version of the city's creation, although interesting, has not yet become scientifically verified. Another version is that of Anastasiades (1995:16) who argues that the city was built by Greek mercenaries that were part of Alexander the Great's army. Rizos (1856:99-100), on the other hand, claims that the inhabitants of Misthi were originally from the Greek islands of Delos, Lemnos and Naxos while Carolides argues that the inhabitants of Misthi were simply Greeks from the lower port cities that came to Misthi to work as paid labour farmers. Kimisoglou (2005) also provides an explanation as to the etymology of the city's name. The ancient Greek word for mercenary is Μίσθιος (Místhios) (sing.) and in plural Μίσθιοι (Místhii) and in Modern Greek Μισθοφόροι (Misthofóri) or Μισθωτοί (Misthotí). Thus the name of the city he argues was a reflection of the inhabitants' original occupation. However, this is also a non-verified explanation. As it happens, the connotation of the word ‘Misthii’, although originally meaning mercenary, transformed during Byzantine times to denote labour-work, i.e. paid labour. Thus some authors have been inclined to suggest that the name refers to the skilled church builders of the city who often travelled far and took part in the constructing of churches.
The city was inhabited purely by Greeks practicing the orthodox religion and wrongfully described as being turcophonic (speakers of the Turkish language). At closer scrutiny however, the Greek dialect spoken, also referred to as Misthiotica, is a dialect based on ancient Greek drawing heavily on Byzantine Greek and with major influx of Turkish loan words. Misthiotica (still spoken today) is a unique dialect (language) linguistically belonging to the Greek Cappadocian group of languages. Misthiotica was a consequence of the isolation the inhabitants suffered from that of other Greek cities and villages. Misthiotica was, however, also spoken by inhabitants of the nearby villages of Tsaricli, Dila (Dilion), Tseltek and Cavaclou because these villages were founded by Misthiotes.
In reality Misthi ceased to exist after the exodus of the Misthiotes from Misthi which occurred following the population exchange according to the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 signed by Greece and Turkey. Many of the Misthiotes would simply not believe that they would be forced to leave their homeland and continued to conduct their daily duties as traders, farmers and handicraftsmen after the news had arrived. However, when Turkish authority officials entered the village and forced them to leave they had no choice. In just two days, between Tuesday, 24 June and Wednesday, 25 June 1924, the population of Misthi comprising then of approximately 4400 people left Misthi and Cappadocia for Greece never to return again. They went by foot to the seaport of Mersina and embarked on the dangerous journey by sea to the port of Piraeus, Athens, Greece. They left Turkey as Greeks and were received in Greece as Turks. The Mistiotes were among the last identified Greeks to leave Turkey, their exodus ended permanently a period of over 2500 consecutive years of Hellenic presence in Asia Minor. The Misthiotes settled down on the below following places in Greece but as their descendants have reached the fourth, and in some cases the fifth and sixth generation, they are to be found predominantly in the larger cities of Greece such as Thessaloniki and Athens.
List of settling places of the first generation Misthiotes in Greece:
² The name "Gördana" applied by the Misthiotes in their local dialect on current Xerochori seems most likely to be derived from the Bulgarian female name "Gordana". This name is in turn derived from "Gordiana", the feminine form of the Latin "Gordianus" (cf. Gordian). If true then the Misthiotes arriving by foot in the 1920s probably adopted the name from the village's previous inhabitants which are known to have been of Slavic origin and forced to move north due to the various wars the region was faced with resulting in the territory becoming annexed by Greece.
³ The name "Tomai" applied by the Misthiotes on current Mandra seems most likely to be derived from the Serbian and Bulgarian form of the name "Thomas". As with the original name on Xerochori, if true it may indicate the ethnicity of the village's previous inhabitants.
The city of Misthi is today inhabited by about 4000 Turkish citizens originating from the population exchange of 1924 between Greece and Turkey. The inhabitants are mostly descendants of Turks born in Thessaloniki, Greece (Tr. Selanik) and in the Kozani region at the turn of the 20th century. Descendants of the current inhabitants of the city came to Misthi while the Misthiotes had not yet left the city. When the Greeks population left the city the name changed from Misthi to Misly. Today, the city is known as Konaklı.
By the end of the 1990s the organizing committees of the descendants from the cities of Misthi and the towns of Tsaricli, Dela (Dilion), Tseltek and Cavaclou agreed to a first Annual Panhellenic Meeting in Mandra, Larissa (Greece). These meetings have since then been arranged at different locations in Greece where Misthiotes (and those related to them) settled down. In reality, the Annual Panhellenic Meeting is a cultural festival with activities ranging from art, music and dance exhibitions, academic lectures (often concerning history), gastronomical tours as well as book exposition. This event has proven highly successful in many respects and has attracted more than 3000 participants every year. In many cases, families have found relatives they did not know exist which has resulted in the illumination of their ancestry. The Gavoustema has also meant the resurrection of the Misthiotic culture which to many, especially to the youngest generations, has been completely unknown. As a result, the Gavoustema has spurred several individuals to engage in layman investigations or professional academic research about the history, culture and language of the Misthiotes.
The Gavoustema has been hosted by the following cities:
The Misthiotica dialect belongs to the Cappadocian branch of Greek and is thought to be based on Byzantine Greek with archaic features preserved as well as attached with a plethora of loanwords from Turkish. Some examples of this dialect are:
|Αεφλό/Αελφό, αελφί||Aefló/Aelfó, aelfí||Αδελφός, αδελφή||Brother/Brother, Sister||Simplification. Omission of Greek delta "-d-"|
|Βαβάς||Vavás||Πατέρας, μπαμπάς||Father, daddy|
|Βαλί||Vali||Βουβάλι||Buffalo||Simplification. Omission of initial syllable "Bu-"|
|Διάολους||Diaolus||Διάβολος/Διάολος||Devil||Use of "ου" instead of "ο"|
|Κιρυός||Cirios||Αέρας||Air||Unknown origin of word -perhaps from κρύος αέρας (cold, chilly air), similar to νερό from νεαρόν ύδωρ|
|Κρομμό||Crommó||Κρεμμύδι||Onion||Simplification. Omission of middle syllable "-mi-"|
|Λαλάτζα||Lalándza||Λουκουμάδες||Greek style dougnuts made of fried dessert dough||From Byzantine Lallangia (Λαλλάγγια) (Fried bread, cf. Lallangita)>Hellenistic Lallangi>Archaic Greek Laganon (wide but thin pita-like bread made with herbs and sesame seeds on it) [a predecessor to the current well-known pizza]|
|Ναίκα||Néca||Γυναίκα||Woman||Simplification. Omission of initial syllable "Gy"|
|Νεκκλησιά||Νeclischá||Στην Εκκλησία||Church||Reanalysis: the final nasal was misinterpreted to be constituent to the noun rather than the preposition/article and entered the morphology|
|Πισίκα||Pischíca||Πιτσιρίκα (Κορίτσι)||Fem. child||From Byzantine pitsiricon>N. Italic piccër (small)+Byzantine ίκο (ico). Cf. Modern Italian "piccolo" (small).|
|Παιί||Peí||Παιδί||Child||Simplification. Omission of Greek delta "d". See also "Fschách" for child.|
|Παλκάρ||Palcár||Παλικάρι||Mask. child||A brave person (mask). From Byzantine pallecarion (young follower of soldiers) > Hellenistic pallicarion> derived from pallak (follower)+arion (young)> Archaic Greek (attic) pallax (πάλλαξ).|
|Στράδα||Stradha||Δρόμος||Street, road||From Italian->Byzantine->Misthiotica.|
|Τσερί||Tscherí||Κερί||Candle||Sound alteration of initial "K"->Tsch|
|Τύρα||Tíra||Θύρα||Door||From Archaic Greek->Byzantine->Misthiotica, Θ->T|
|Φ'σάχ||Fschách||Παιδί||Child||Possibly derived from the word "σπλάχνο" meaning gut, wound, religiously denoting "child"->Byzantine.|
|Φραίδα||Fraída||Σφραγίδα||Stamp||Simplification. Omission of initial "s" and middle (voiceless) "g".|
|Φτείρια||Ftíria||Ψείρες||Louse||Sound alteration PST->FT and gender alteration from feminine to neuter.|
|Χεγός||Cheyos||Θεός||God||Palatalisation of Θ->Χ, epenthesis of "g" to avoid hiatus between "e" and "o". (This epenthesis resembles the use of yumuşak ge in Turkish.)|
|Μι||Mi||Με||With||Vowel change E->I|
Misthiotic male names
Compare with Greek-Cappadocian names from the Old Testament
Surnames were seldom used in the sense we know of today. Misthiotes referred to one another on a first name basis (a very common procedure during the Ottoman era for all Ottoman population). To separate between persons with similar or equal names they used patronymes or toponyms, i.e. names from places of origin. For instance "Daniil dou Yaserli" [Δανιήλ dου Γάσερλη], Daniel the Caesarian's / Daniel Caesarian's son. Such surnames became through transformation unrecognizable to the holders. The Yaserli surname for instance was originally in Greek (and Latin) Caesarius/Kaisarios [Καισάριος or plural Καισάριοι], denoting a person from Caesaria (Kayseri). With the influx of Turkish, the name went through a transformation process that rendered it adaptable to the Turkish equivalent Kaiserli (from Kayseri and the suffix 'li' denoting belonging). Usually an initial 'K' in Byzantine Greek was transformed in the Misthiotica dialect either as "ch" or "Y". In this case it was transformed as "Y". When the bearers of the name entered the port of Mersina from where they were taken by boat to Piraeus, Athens, their name were written in Turkish as "Kaiserli". Entering Piraeus the Greek authorities "re-Hellenised" their name by adding a common Greek surname suffix "-(i)dis" and once again transformed the surname into its current form "Kaiserlidis". Some members continued however to pronounce the name "Yaserli", and due to the civil war that broke out in Greece following WWII with the loss of the village archives, they were recorded as "Gaserli" or "Gaserlidis" [Γάσερλη, Γασερλίδης] during their entrance to Greek army service.