Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-fnprw Total loading time: 0.328 Render date: 2022-08-07T17:24:34.219Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Supplying the city of Ioannina with ‘modern’ waters, 1913–1940: the ‘modern infrastructural ideal’ in a mid-size Greek town

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 October 2019

Konstantinos Chatzis
6 et 8, avenue Blaise Pascal, Cité Descartes, F-77455, Marne-la-Vallée cedex, France
Anna Mahera
University of Ioannina, GR-45110, Ioannina, Greece
Georgia Mavrogonatou*
9, Heroon Polytechniou Str., GR-15780, Zographos, Greece
*Corresponding author. Email:


A part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries, the city of Ioannina integrated into the Greek state following the Balkan wars of 1912–13. This article provides a first in-depth historical account of the city's water supply system from the early 1910s to the eve of World War II, and traces the path leading from a traditional system relying on private wells and public fountains to a modern water network entering inhabitants’ homes. In doing so, it also offers material and insights contributing to a larger research project on the technological modernization of urban Greece in the inter-war period, during which the Greek state itself was driven by a particularly strong urge to modernize the country.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 On the Balkan city under Ottoman rule, see the classic work by Todorov, N., The Balkan City, 1400–1900 (Seattle, 1983)Google Scholar.

2 Several historical works dealing with the various aspects either of traditional urban water supply systems relying on wells and fountains or of modern water networks entering inhabitants’ homes have recently been published in Urban History: Hiller, J., ‘Implementation without control: the role of the private water companies in establishing constant water in nineteenth-century London’, Urban History, 41 (2014), 229–46Google Scholar; Guardia, M., Rosselo, M. and Garriga, S., ‘Barcelona's water supply, 1867–1967: the transition to a modern system’, Urban History, 41 (2014), 415–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Tomory, L., ‘Water technology in eighteenth-century London: the London Bridge Waterworks’, Urban History, 42 (2015), 381404CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 ‘Modernization’ is a loaded term and the so-called ‘modernization theory’, which was developed in the 1960s, has come in for much criticism. The use of this term by the authors of this article does not refer to any specific general theory on the shift from ‘pre-modern’ to ‘modern’ societies. For the purpose of our research, we simply posit that certain features of the developed western world – such as the ‘modern infrastructural ideal’ and the recruiting of functionaries as well as the enlisting of the services of professionals on the principle of merit and not in accordance with heredity and privilege, to name just two such features that directly relate to our research – can be labelled ‘modern’. ‘Modernization’ is therefore used as shorthand for a comparison of those specific features found in the most developed parts of the world and elsewhere, Greece in our case. For such a use of the term ‘modernization’, see Gallant, Thomas W., Modern Greece (London, 2001), xiiiGoogle Scholar.

4 Tsokopoulos, V., Megala technika erga stin Ellada, teli 19ou – arches 20ou aiona (Athens, 1999)Google Scholar; Karadimou-Gerolympou, A., ‘Poleis kai ypaithros. Metaschimatismoi kai anadiarthroseis sto plaisio tou ethnikou chorou’, in Chatziiosif, C. (ed.), Istoria tis Elladas tou 20ou aiona, vol. B1: ‘O Mesopolemos, 1922–1940’ (Athens, 2002), 59105Google Scholar; Chatzis, K., ‘La modernisation technique de la Grèce, de l'indépendance aux années de l'entre-deux-guerres: faits et problèmes d'interprétation’, Études Balkaniques, 40 (2004), 323Google Scholar; Kaika, M., City of Flows: Modernity, Nature, and the City (New York, 2005)Google Scholar; Chatzis, K. and Mavrogonatou, G., ‘Technologia kai dimosia sfaira stin Ellada: to zitima tis ydrodotisis tis Athinas mesa apo to prisma tis “dimopoiisis”, 1880–1914’, Ta Istorika, 28 (2011), 323–42, and 29 (2012), 145–70Google Scholar; Theodoridou, L. (ed.), I ektropi tou Strymona. Ta megala exygiantika erga tou Mesopolemou (Serres, 2017)Google Scholar; Sakellaridou, A., Samarinis, P. and Chatzikonstantinou, E., ‘To egcheirima kataskevis odikon ypodomon sti mesopolemiki Ellada mesa apo to paradeigma tis “Symvasis Makri”’, in Avdela, E., Alvanos, R., Kousouris, D. and Charalampidis, M. (eds.), I Ellada sto Mesopolemo (Athens, 2017), 83106Google Scholar; Papastefanaki, L., I Fleva tis gis: Ta metalleia tis Elladas, 19os–20os aionas (Athens, 2017)Google Scholar; Arapostathis, S. and Tympas, A. (eds.), ‘History of technology in Greece, from the early 19th to 21st century', Special Issue of History of Technology, 33 (2017)Google Scholar.

5 Graham, S. and Marvin, S., Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition (London, 2001)Google Scholar.

6 There is only a small corpus of scholarly work on the history of the city of Ioannina in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. See nevertheless Dimitriadis, E., To Vilaeti ton Ioanninon kata to 19o aiona. Giannena. Apo tin ‘poli-pazari’ stin ‘poli-praktoreio’. Istoriki Chorologiki-poleologiki-ktiriologiki meleti (Salonica, 1993)Google Scholar.

7 Young, G., Corps de droit ottoman, vol. I (Oxford, 1905), 6984Google Scholar. On the technical and administrative modernization of the Ottoman city, see among others: Freitag, U., Fuhrmann, M., Lafi, N. and Riedler, F. (eds.), The City in the Ottoman Empire: Migration and the Making of Urban Modernity (New York, 2011)Google Scholar; Lafi, N. (ed.), Municipalités méditerranéennes. Les réformes urbaines ottomanes au miroir d'une histoire comparée (Moyen-Orient, Maghreb, Europe méridionale) (Berlin, 2005)Google Scholar; Arnaud, J.L., ‘Modernization of the cities of the Ottoman Empire (1800–1920)’, in Hood, R., Petruccioli, A. and Raymond, A. (eds.), The City in the Islamic World (Leiden, 2008), 953–76Google Scholar, and 1399–408.

8 According to the law of 1870, the municipal engineer took part in the deliberations of the council and was even able to vote. In the law of 1877, he sat in on council meetings as a ‘consultant member’ only.

9 For examples of works in Ioannina carried out by engineers of the province, see Karadimou-Gerolympou, A., Metaxy Anatolis kai Dysis. Boreioelladitikes poleis stin periodo ton Othomanikon metarrythmiseon (Athens, 1997), 126–31Google Scholar.

10 Pyrsinellas, V., Istoria tis poleos ton Ioanninon (Ioannina, 1959–60), 66Google Scholar.

11 Ibid., 66–8, 72. On the figure of the Ottoman engineer from the end of the eighteenth century to the early twentieth century, see Martykánova, D., Reconstructing Ottoman Engineers: Archaeology of a Profession (1789–1914) (Pisa, 2010)Google Scholar.

12 On the city of Herakion (Kandiye), see Spanakis, S., I Ydrefsi tou Irakleiou, 828–1939 (Heraklion, 1981), 89102Google Scholar.

13 Lampridis, I., ‘Perigrafi tis poleos Ioanninon’ (1887), Ipeirotika Meletimata, vol. B, 2nd edn (Ioannina, 1993), 1415Google Scholar.

14 Dimitriadis, To Vilaeti ton Ioanninon, 166.

15 Dakaris, S., ‘I ydrefsi ton Gianninon stous chronous tis Tourkokratias’, Ipeirotiki Estia, 17 (Sep. 1953), 919–23 (especially 919–20)Google Scholar.

16 On water fountains in this part of the city as well as the probable route of the aqueduct, see Salamagkas, D., Giannotika Symmeikta (Ioannina, 1959), 8590Google Scholar. On the two reservoirs, see Dakaris, ‘I ydrefsi ton Gianninon’, 920–3.

17 Ntatsi, E., ‘Enas agnostos poleodomikos chartis ton Gianninon tou 1902’, in Ipeiros: Koinonia-Oikonomia, 15os–20os aionas (Ioannina, 1987), 91108Google Scholar.

18 Pyrsinellas, Istoria tis poleos, 64.

19 Ibid., 74.

20 See the minutes of the municipal council meetings (hereafter MMCM) housed in the Ioannina Municipal Archives (hereafter IMA): IMA/MMCM, 26 Feb. 1913, 27 Feb. 1913, 4 Apr. 1913.

21 Kitsikis, N. (ed.), Techniki Epetiris tis Ellados, vol. B (Athens, 1934), 210Google Scholar. Unless otherwise mentioned, information about Greek engineers is drawn from this publication.

22 IMA/MMCM, 23 Oct. 1935, 10 Dec. 1935.

23 Ch. Tsetsis, Aftoi pou kyvernisan ta Giannina. Dimarchoi-Dimotikoi Symvouloi, 1913–1998 (Ioannina, 1998).

24 Poulis, P., Istoria tis Ellinikis Dimosias Dioikisis, vol. I: 1821–1975 (Athens and Komotini, 1987), 8992Google Scholar; Nikolaïdou, E., ‘I organosi tou kratous stin apeleftheromeni Ipeiro, 1913–1914’, Dodoni, 16A (1987), 497610Google Scholar.

25 IMA/MMCM, 9 Apr. 1914, 14 Apr. 1914.

26 To facilitate cross-country comparisons, sterling to drachma rates in the inter-war period were as follows: in 1914, one pound sterling was equal to 25.2 drachmas; in 1922, the rate was 166.5; in 1923, 296.4; in 1927, 368.6; in 1931, 352.8; and in 1936, 539.3.

27 A copy of the contract, eventually signed on 18 Jun. 1914, can be found in the Genika Archeia tou Kratous – Istoriko Archeio Ipeirou (General Sate Archives of Greece – Historical Archive of Epirus) (hereafter GAK–IAI). See ‘Ar. 1185: Ergoliptikon fotismou kai ydrefseos tou Dimou Ioanniton’, GAK–IAI/Geniki Dioikisis Ipeirou (hereafter GDI), F. 224, Ypf. IV, 1923. See also IMA/MMCM, 9 Apr. 1914.

28 IMA/MMCM, 2 Jul. 1914.

29 Hering, G., Die Politischen Parteien in Griechenland, 1821–1936 (Munich, 1992)Google Scholar.

30 ‘Ar. 174: Antigrafon Apofaseos tou Dimotikou Symvouliou tou Dimou Ioanniton’, GAK–IAI/GDI, F. 224, Ypf. IV, 1923; IMA/MMCM, 10 Jul. 1935.

31 20 years later, the Ministry of Transport employed more than 300 engineers. See Antoniou, Y., Assimakopoulos, M. and Chatzis, K., ‘The national identity of inter-war Greek engineers: elitism, rationalization, technocracy, and reactionary modernism’, History and Technology, 23 (2007), 241–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

32 On Loprestis, a graduate of the R. Scuola d'Ingegneria di Padova in 1893, see Chatzis, K. and Mavrogonatou, G., ‘Marathon dam: a collaboration between American and Greek engineers’, Engineering History and Heritage, 166 (2013), 1325, on 6 and 21Google Scholar.

33 ‘Ar. 20: Antigrafon apofaseos tou Dimotikou Symvouliou Dimou Ioanniton’ (meeting of 31 Jan. 1927), GAK–IAI/GDI, F. 300, Ypf. I, 1928; ‘Ar. 45: Antigrafon apofaseos tou Dimotikou Symvouliou Dimou Ioanniton’ (meeting of 22 Feb. 1927), GAK–IAI/GDI, F. 300, Ypf. I, 1928; IMA/MMCM, 31 May 1926.

34 ‘Ar. 45: Antigrafon apofaseos tou Dimotikou Symvouliou Dimou Ioanniton’ (meeting of 22 Feb. 1927), GAK–IAI/GDI, F. 300, Ypf. I, 1928.

35 After studying law at the University of Athens, Pyrsinellas continued his studies in Paris. In 1915, he was elected as a member of parliament for the Popular Party (Laïko Komma), the party opposed to the Venizelos liberals. He was appointed mayor of Ioannina on 3 Nov. 1920 and headed the municipality until 20 Feb. 1923. He became the first elected mayor in Oct. 1925 and remained in this post until Aug. 1929. In 1932–33, Pyrsinellas was again elected as a member of parliament. On Pyrsinellas and his family, see Zagli-Boziou, M., Oi oikogeneies Makri-Pyrsinella (Ioannina, 1998)Google Scholar; Tsetsis, Aftoi pou kyvernisan, 42–5.

36 ‘Ar. 45: Antigrafon apofaseos tou Dimotikou Symvouliou Dimou Ioanniton’ (meeting of 22 Feb. 1927), GAK–IAI/GDI, F. 300, Ypf. I, 1928.

37 Like Loprestis, Arliotis also graduated from an Italian engineering school – the Regio Institute Technico Superiore di Milano – in 1914.

38 IMA/MMCM, 10 Jul. 1935.

39 IMA/MMCM, 10 Jul. 1935, 21 Jan. 1931.

40 Tsetsis, Aftoi pou kyvernisan, 76–8.

41 IMA/MMCM, 29 Nov. 1934.

42 See the accounts provided in local newspapers of the time, cited in I. Nikolaïdis, Ta Giannina tou Mesopolemou, vol. IX (Ioannina, 1995), 228.

43 IMA/MMCM, 21 Jan. 1931.

44 IMA/MMCM, 21 Jan. 1931, 31 Jul. 1931.

45 IMA/MMCM, 31 Jul. 1931, 10 Jul. 1935.

46 When commenting on Georgalas’ report, the mayor noted that the Krya source would also provide better quality water, as revealed by the chemical analyses requested from the chemical laboratories of the Ministry for the Economy by Loprestis himself when preparing his study (IMA/MMCM, 31 Jul. 1931).

47 IMA/MMCM, 31 Jul. 1931.

48 IMA/MMCM, 9 Nov. 1931, 10 Jul. 1935.

49 IMA/MMCM, 10 Jul. 1935. The difference between the sum of 17,433,900.50 and the estimate of 12,350,000 drachmas in the Loprestis–Arliotis study of 1927 can mainly be explained by inflation and the devaluation of the drachma against sterling, which had an impact on the prices of imports used in constructing the water networks.

50 IMA/MMCM, 21 Jan. 1931, 17 Feb. 1932.

51 M. Mazower, Greece and the Inter-War Economic Crisis (Oxford, 1991).

52 IMA/MMCM, 17 Feb. 1932.

53 IMA/MMCM, 23 Dec. 1931.

54 IMA/MMCM, 17 Feb. 1932.

55 Baudant, A., Pont-à-Mousson, 1918–1939: stratégies industrielles d'une dynastie lorraine (Paris, 1980)Google Scholar.

56 The Greek Electricity Company was set up in 1899 by the National Bank of Greece, the General Public Works Company (Geniki Etairia Ergolipsion) and the Thomson-Houston Mediterranean Electricity Company (with French and Belgian capital). See Pantelakis, N., O exilektrismos tis Elladas. Apo tin idiotiki protovoulia sto kratiko monopolio (1889–1956) (Athens, 1991), chs. 4, 11Google Scholar and passim. It was on 31 May 1926 that the municipal council entered into a contract (drafted on 26 Apr.) with the company (IMA/MMCM, 31 May 1926, 16 Sep. 1926).

57 On the terms and conditions of the loan, see IMA/MMCM, 20 May 1936.

58 See IMA/MMCM, 28 Feb. 1934, 25 Oct. 1934, 29 Nov. 1934, 10 Jul. 1935.

59 IMA/MMCM, 1 Nov. 1935.

60 IMA/MMCM, 10 Jul. 1935, 13 Aug. 1935, 2 Sep. 1935.

61 IMA/MMCM, 4 Feb. 1936.

62 Baudant, Pont-à-Mousson, 1918–1939.

63 On these exchanges, see IMA/MMCM, 1 Nov. 1935, 4 Mar. 1936, 13 Mar. 1936, 29 Apr. 1936.

64 ETKA stands for Ergoliptiki Etaireia Technikon Kataskevon. In the early 1930s, it was a general partnership company. Information on ETKA can be found in the Archives of the National Bank of Greece (Istoriko Archeio tis Ethnikis Trapezas (hereafter IAET): see IAET, ΙΑ/ΕΤΕ S36 Υ7.3 F1559).

65 Manolakis appears to have been very active at this time, since he was in the process of negotiating the contract to begin the work of providing water to the city of Volos. See A. Dimoglou, ‘Poli kai topiki aftodioikisi: I periptosi tou Dimou Pagason (Volou), 1881–1944’, University of Ionion (Corfu) Ph.D. thesis, 2003, 229.

66 Technika Chronika, III (35) (1933), 580Google Scholar; VI (178) (1938), 593; VI (64) (1934), 744–5.

67 IMA/MMCM, 7 Apr. 1938.

68 IMA/MMCM, 4 Feb. 1937.

69 IMA/MMCM, 4 Feb. 1937 and 20 Sep. 1937.

70 On these formulas, see Rouse, H. and Ince, S., History of Hydraulics (Iowa, 1957), 170–1 and 177–8Google Scholar.

71 IMA/MMCM, 25 Feb. 1937.

72 Even so, the minutes of a subsequent meeting referred to pipes 275mm in diameter. See IMA/MMCM, 7 Apr. 1938.

73 IMA/MMCM, 3 Mar. 1937.

74 IMA/MMCM, 20 Sep. 1937, 20 Dec. 1937, 20 Jul. 1938, 9 Aug. 1938, 1 Nov. 1938.

75 As for the remaining water connections, the municipality reserved the right to undertake the work required either by public tender or by carrying out the work by itself (IMA/MMCM, 9 Aug. 1938).

76 IMA/MMCM, 28 Dec. 1938.

77 IMA/MMCM, 20 Dec. 1937, 26 Jan. 1938, 20 Jul. 1938, 9 Aug. 1938.

78 IMA/MMCM, 28 Dec. 1938.

79 IMA/MMCM, 6 Mar. 1939, 28 Mar. 1939.

80 IMA/MMCM, 6 Mar. 1939, 28 Mar. 1939, 14 Apr. 1939, 31 Jul. 1939, 21 Aug. 1939.

81 IMA/MMCM, 2 Feb. 1940.

82 IMA/MMCM, 5 Sep. 1939.

83 IMA/MMCM, 5 Sep. 1939 and 13 Nov. 1939. See also IMA/MMCM, 11 Aug. 1939, 22 Aug. 1939.

84 Under the system adopted, each dwelling received a fixed quantity of water in return for which the house owner had to pay the municipality a fixed price (15 drachmas per cubic metre, i.e. the ‘obligatory part of the subscription’). Excess consumption, which was measured by metering, was billed in addition to this fixed amount (IMA/MMCM, 22 Aug. 1939). On water metering and the different types of subscription, see Chatzis, K., ‘Breve storia dei contatori dell'acqua a Parigi, 1880–1930’, Storia Urbana, 116 (2007), 7799Google Scholar.

85 In 1920, the town had a population of 20,765; by 1928, the population was 20,485 and in 1940, it had risen to 21,877 (Karadimou-Gerolympou, ‘Poleis kai ypaithros’, 62).

86 For a survey and references, see Chatzis, K. and Mavrogonatou, G., ‘From structure to agency to comparative and “cross-national” history? Some thoughts regarding post-1974 Greek historiography’, Contemporary European History, 19 (2010), 151–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

87 See the references cited in n. 4.

88 For the presentation and use of this analytical framework, see Bocquet, D., Chatzis, K. and Sander, A., ‘For free good to commodity: universalizing the provision of water in Paris (1830–1930)’, Geoforum 39 (2008), 1821–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Chatzis and Mavrogonatou, ‘Technologia kai dimosia sfaira stin Ellada’.

89 Thus, in 1927, the General Governorship of Epirus received from the Ministry of Interior detailed information about the water supply systems of the cities of Lamia and Heraklion (GAK–IAI/ GDI), F 300 Ypf I, 1928).

90 Brief biographies of the city's councillors can be found in Tsetsis, Aftoi pou kyvernisan. Nevertheless, a prosopography of the key municipal officials (municipal councillors and municipal engineers) is still required.

91 On the notion of engineering culture(s), see Carroll-Burke, P., ‘Material designs: engineering cultures and engineering states – Ireland 1650–1990’, Theory and Society, 31 (2002), 75114CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Supplying the city of Ioannina with ‘modern’ waters, 1913–1940: the ‘modern infrastructural ideal’ in a mid-size Greek town
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Supplying the city of Ioannina with ‘modern’ waters, 1913–1940: the ‘modern infrastructural ideal’ in a mid-size Greek town
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Supplying the city of Ioannina with ‘modern’ waters, 1913–1940: the ‘modern infrastructural ideal’ in a mid-size Greek town
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *