Short Nikiti history

Nikiti is one of the oldest towns in Halkidiki. The history of its traditional settlement dates back to the 14th century AD. Herodotus, in his history of the Persian wars, mentions the city of Galipsos which probably was located close to Castri cape about 2.5 km from Nikiti.

The reasons for the decline of Galipsos are not exactly known. It was likely destroyed in one of the many wars of the classical and roman era. Nevertheless, archeological evidence indicates that during the roman and early byzantine periods, there were at least three coastal settlements close to the current location of Nikiti.

In medieval times, Nikiti history begins circa 14th century AD. The archives of Xenophon monastery in Mt. Athos, mention two inland settlements in the area. In these archives, the location of Nikiti is called land of “Neakitou”. According to the most approved opinion, the name “Nikiti” was evolved from “Neakitou”. Yet, the origin of the name “Neakitou” is unknown.

The fact is that sometime in the 14th century AD, the people from the coastal settlements started to move inland in order to avoid pirate raids. The most infamous pirates were the Catalan who, in early 14th century have established themselves in Potidea a few kilometres away from Nikiti. They were a band of ex-mercenaries of the Byzantine emperor, known as the Catalan Company who, by exploiting the weakness of the late Byzantine state, devastated large areas of the Greek peninsula from Macedonia to Athens. Considering the proximity of the Catalan base and the ferocity of their raids, it is reasonable to assume that the Catalans were the main reason that forced people from the coastal area to abandon the land of their ancestors and move inland. Hence, they settled in the land of “Neakitou”, a location well hidden from pirates, establishing the town that is now Nikiti. Very probably, people from the two inland settlements mentioned in Xenofon archives merged with them, so after 15th century there was only one bigger settlement in the area. This is confirmed by Ottoman census papers which indicate a village named “Nikito” in the area in mid 15th century, few years after the Ottoman occupation of Halkidiki. It is interesting to note that the name “Nikito” very probably derives from “Neakitou” which confirms the theory for the evolution the name.

Under the Ottoman rule, Nikiti was a lively little settlement. The people were mainly farmers and fishermen. Around seven hundred souls lived in Nikiti at the time of the Greek war of independence in 1821. Halkidiki was one of the few places in northern Greece that tried to revolt against the Ottomans and Nikiti was a major contributor to this revolt. However, the war in Halkidiki did not succeed as in the south of Greece and the Ottomans burned Nikiti to ashes.

Then, many inhabitants choose to emigrate to the south seeking safer places to live. They settled in the islands of north Aegean and in south Greece. Their descendants still live there. However, most of the people stayed and rebuild Nikiti during the 19th century. The most important old buildings in Nikiti, the church of St. Nikitas and the elementary school are dated since 1870, meaning that Nikiti had by then fully recovered from the calamity of the unsuccessful revolt. It seems that the policy of relative autonomy in the management of local matters adopted by the late Ottoman state, helped the town to develop both in economic and in population terms. After all, the Ottomans were mainly concerned about the tax collection from their subjects.

After the liberation in 1912, there was a period of expansion of the town however very slow due to the side effects of two world wars in 1914-18 and 1940-44, an unfortunate campaign of the Greek army in Turkey in 1919-22, which resulted to an immense wave of immigrants from Asia Minor, an economic crisis in the 30s and a civil war in 1946-49.

Nevertheless the people of Nikiti came through all the difficulties that the events of the first half of the 20th century inflicted on their lives. During the second half of the century the town flourished. It expanded towards the sea and more land was gained for cultivation. Not only the old bee-keeping tradition was kept alive but currently Nikiti bee-keepers are among the major honey producers in Europe. Tourism became an important source of income and many hotels have been built around Nikiti while there are over five hundred rooms available for rent during the summer period.

Modern Nikiti is the major town of Sithonia. It is the seat of Sithonia municipality and one of the most rapidly developing towns of Halkidiki.