Case Studies - Guilds - Greece

The guild of craftsmen and merchants of wool fabrics in Philippoupoli, Thrace


Type of institution for collective action

Guild (Craft and Merchant guild)

Name/description institution  

Guild of producers and traders of wool fabrics (abatzidhes)


Greek territory under the Ottoman rule (current Bulgaria)


Northern-Eastern Thrace

Name of city or specified area 

Phillippoupoli (current name: Plovdív)

Further specification location (e.g. borough, street etc.)



Photo of workshops and market of

the abatzidhes. Picture posted on blogspot of Filippoupolis, click here for link to source.

Patron Saint


Foundation/start of institution, date or year

May 15, 1685

Foundation year: is this year the confirmed year of founding or is this the year this institution is first mentioned?

It is the year when this institution is first mentioned: on May 15, 1685 the first meeting of the Greek craftsmen and merchants of wool fabrics in Philippoupoli took place. In that meeting Hatzidimos was elected as the leader (potomastoras) of the guild.

Foundation act present?

No, but there is the guild’s charter, which was written in 1804. Until then the functioning of the guild was based on customary rules.

Description of Act of foundation

The charter of the guild consists of eight chapters:

  • the first chapter refers to the unity that the guild members should maintain;
  • the second chapter refers to the obligations of the members regarding the general meetings of the guild;
  • the third chapter indicates the entrance fees that new masters should pay;
  • the chapters 4-6 describe the obligations of the masters regarding their social activities, the supply of the raw materials and the pricing;
  • the chapters 7-8 describe the obligations of the apprentices and the servants regarding the duration and the tasks of their apprenticeship or service;
  • finally, it was mentioned that whoever violated the aforementioned rules or helped somebody to hide an offence should be punished.

Year of termination of institution


Year of termination: estimated or confirmed?


Act regarding termination present?



Description Act of termination


Reason for termination?

The conflict between different ethnic groups in Philippoupoli in the mid-nineteenth century, followed by the division of the guild of “abatzidhes” in 1857, and the War between the Ottoman Empire and Russia in 1877-78 caused the dissolution of this guild, among other craft guilds which were also in decline at the same period.

Recognized by local government?


Concise history of institution

The guild of producers of wool fabrics not only dominated the local market of Philippoupoli, but also regulated the economic and social life of the whole Thracian region. The development of the guild of “abatzidhes” was rapid: during the eighteenth century, their workshops absorbed 50,000 ok. (64,145 kilograms) wool per year and produced annually 15,000 tons of wool fabrics.


During the nineteenth century, there were important commercial houses in Philippoupoli with representatives in many commercial centers of the Ottoman Empire and the West, where the wool fabrics, produced by the members of the guild, were sold. In 1762, the guild evolved to “credit bank”, providing loans to its members at 12-14 percent for bonds. In parallel, the entrance fees were constantly increasing.


Moreover, it is claimed that the guild contributed to a large extent to the modernization of the governance of the Greek communities: in the early nineteenth century, the economically powerful producers of wool fabrics were the leaders of the movement for democratization. In 1809 the “karabatzidhes” (as particularly the traders of wool fabrics were called), influenced by the liberal ideas of the West, fought in order to participate in the communal government, which was until then appointed  by the Bishop. In the end, guilds’ members succeeded to be elected as laity both to the body of Elders and to the Ecclesiastical Court.


So, both the social status and the economic power of the “abatzidhes” were steadily increasing, allowing the guild to be active in philanthropy. In 1830, the guild provided a loan of 10,000 grosia (Ottoman currency) at a ten percent interest rate to the Church, under the condition that the profit from the interest would be distributed by the Bishop of Philippoupoli to the poor of the city. In 1852, the reserve fund of the guild reached the amount of 150,000 grosia.


However, from 1850 onwards, conflicts between Greek and Bulgarian citizens started to challenge the stability of many guilds, including the guild of the “abatfzidhes”. In 1857, the guild was divided, and although it maintained relatively powerful for a couple of decades, in the last years of the nineteenth century it finally terminated its operations.


Painting of wool market of Philippoupoli (current Plovdív).

Picture posted on blogspot of Filippoupolis, click here for link to source.


Special events? Highs and lows? Specific problems or problematic periods?

See above.


Numbers of members (specified)

There were  126-130 members when the charter of the guild was signed (1804).

Membership attainable for every one, regardless of social class or family background?

The access to the guild was rather open to everyone, regardless of social status or family origins, but not regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation. The third chapter of the guild’s charter was explicit about this: no master coming from an other ethnic group than the Greek one could be accepted as member of the guild.

Specific conditions for obtaining membership? (Entrance fee, special tests etc.)

According to the third chapter of the guild’s charter, any master who wanted to become member of the guild had to pay an entrance fee. The sons of guild’s members used to pay the half fee, which was called “filia” (meaning “friendship”), because a banquet followed after each nomination of a new master . From 1789 onwards, the entrance fee was called “mastoria”. The amount of the fee was not stable; in contrast, it increased rapidly from 10 grosia at the beginning of the guild’s operation to 40 grosia in 1772, 100 grosia in 1805 and finally to 200 grosia in 1815. Sometimes the government tax (20-50 grosia) was also added to it.

Specific reasons regarding banning members from the institution?


Advantages of membership?

  • For the producers of wool fabrics, the main advantages of membership were the supply of the raw materials and the pricing of the products in equal terms, avoiding unfair competition.
  • For the traders of wool fabrics, the most important advantage of membership was the distribution of the products in fair terms, making use of the developed commercial networks in both the local market and the markets abroad.

Obligations of members? 

  • The younger members should show respect towards the older ones.
  • All members should participate in the general meetings of the guild and make decisions considering the common good and not their personal interest.
  • Guild members should accompany only other members of the guild and should not accompany apprentices or members of other guilds.
  • The servants should work for two years for a master and then be free to leave, while the apprentices should not be accepted by any other master if they had not yet completed their service to the previous one.
  • The leader of the guild (protomastoras) should be elected, after the control of the accounting records, jointly by the masters (craftsmen and merchants). He should take over the fund and convene general meetings whenever important issues came up.
  • In the first century of the guild’s operation, the masters had to elect an Administrative Committee of five or even ten members, in which clerics also  participated.

Literature on case study

  • Apostolidis, M., 1940-1941. The archives of the guild of abatzidhes in Philippoupoli. Archives of Thracian Folklore and Language Thesaurus, 7, 9-65.
  • Apostolidis, M., 1936-1937. The archives of the guild of abatzidhes in Philippoupoli. Archives of Thracian Folklore and Language Thesaurus, 3, 145-95.
  • Apostolidis, M., 1929. Two documents for Philippoupoli from the early 19th century. Thrakika, 2, 325-68.
  • Deligiannis, B.N., 1935-1936. The abatziliki in Thraki. Archives of Thracian Folklore and Language Thesaurus, 2, 68.
  • Diakovitch, B. (ed.), 1921. Annuaire de la bibliotheque nationale de Plovdiv, p. 206.
  • Oikonomidou, N.G., 1933. K. Oikonomos. Thrakika, 4, 207.
  • Papathanasi-Mousiopoulou, K., 1985. Guilds and Professions in Thraki 1685-1920. Athens.
  • Vourazeli-Marinakou, E., 1950. The guilds of Greeks in Thraki under the Ottoman rule. Thessaloniki.

Sources on case study

  • National Library of Philippoupoli:
    • 104: The charter of the guild of abatzidhes (1804)

Links to further information on case study:


Current case study composed by

Kleoniki Alexopoulou, Utrecht University.