Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Environment, Topographies and Infrastructure

Main content start
Rumeli-i Şahane Haritası, Pafta 57.

Epirus is a historical region surrounded by the Adriatic Sea and the Pindus Mountains. The land features inner seas, lakes, and fertile valleys. MapOE is developing a number of GIS-based maps to examine Epirus topography and the built space, including human settlements, roads and bridges in the region.

We have already developed a number of digital maps analyzing the mountainness of Epirus. Upon this research, Ali Yaycıoğlu has published “Ottoman Montology: Hazardous Resourcefulness and Uneasy Symbiosis in a Mountain Empire,” in the edited volume Crafting History: Essays on the Ottoman World and Beyond in Honor of Cemal Kafadar.

To do so, first we defined mountains as any terrain over 500 meters elevation with a slope of at least 5%. We created a percent slope raster from the SRTM elevation data (with 10 m resolution) for Epirus. The slope raster was reclassified into 4 new groups for slope ranges, from 0%-5% for flat areas, 5% - 9% for gently sloping our rolling, 9%-30% for steep, and 30% plus for very steep slopes. As for elevation raster was reclassified into 7 elevation zones by using regular ranges such as, less than 0m, 0-250m, 250-500m, 500-1000m, 1000-2000m, 2000-3000m and above 3000m. We removed areas from the elevation raster that were less than 5% slope and everything that was essentially “flat”.

The result of the elevation data in 7 elevation classes minus all mostly flat terrain at any elevation gave the mountainous area in Ottoman Empire.

Finally, the ratio of mountainous areas in Ottoman Epirus is calculated as 74%.   




Mountainous percentage of the Ottoman Empire during 18th century is 74%.



Ali Pasha and the Mountains

This simple mapping exercise, illustrating the hyper-mountainness of Epirus, guides us in conceptualizing environmental factors in Epirus.

In fact, Ali Pasha started his career as a mountain guard, maintaining turnpikes, bridges and mountain paths. In many ways, his regional order evolved as an infrastructural program, through the construction of roads, bridges, as well as hydraulic canals on the Pindus Mountains between Coastal Epirus and Fertile Thessaly.

In order to maintain this infrastructural project, Ali Pasha and the Vlachs of the Zagori area, who were known for the resilient stone bridges and roofs they built, established partnerships. They cut lime and sandstone from the natural quarries of the Pindus, known as the Stone Forests (Πετρόδασος).

Ali Pasha incorporated these masons as an epistemic community, who had knowledge of landscape and technology to extract resources from nature. MapOE examines the symbiotic relationship between mountains and political order, illustrating how the infrastructure of Epirus was transformed under Ali Pasha's political patronage and through the knowledge and technology offered by the Vlach masons and road and bridge builders.

By georeferencing digital topographic maps and historical Ottoman maps, we discern the construction of the transportation network in this heavily mountainous region. This study will show the change in communication costs in terms of both time and expense that resulted from Ali Pasha's infrastructure project.