Sarakatsani - Orientation

Identification. The Sarakatsani are transhumant sheep- and goatherders of continental Greece. Their non-Sarakatsani neighbors refer to them as "Vlachs," a reference to their seasonal migrations in search of pasturage for their flocks. This term is, however, misleading, for it suggests a cultural or linguistic relationship with the Kousovlachs and Albanian Vlachs, ethnic minorities who speak an entirely different language than the Greek dialect used by the Sarakatsani.

Location. Sarakatsani live in the Pindus massif and the southern fringes of the Rhodope mountain range of Northwestern continental Greece. They are found in greatest numbers in the provinces of Epirus, Thessaly, Macedonia, and Thrace. The demands of their sheepherding life-style require them to spend half the year (May to November) high in the mountains, until the winter snows set in and they have to seek the more benign climate of the coastal plains on which to graze their flocks.

Demography. Census data do not specify figures for the Sarakatsani as a discrete group; firm population figures are not available. In the late 1950s their number was estimated to be somewhere in the vicinity of 80,000 throughout Greece.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Sarakatsani speak a local dialect of Greek.

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