You may find it hard to keep track of the number of times you’ve strolled through Abyssinia Square. This unique corner of Athens has maintained its distinctive character over the years. Some might describe it as a “retro downtown area,” with its bazaar that seems to transport you back in time. Antique items, each with their own story and secrets, await new owners to carry them forward in time. However, what remains unknown to many is the origin and significance of its name. The tales from Old Athens are indeed fascinating.
Abyssinia Square and the special history of its name
The initial configuration of the square was made in the 1860s. Until 1875 the area of the square and around was called Manganaria and this was because of the church of Agios Nikolaos Manganaria, which had however been demolished since 1848. It is said that generally, the name Manganaria came from the manganarides, the silk craftsmen.
As far as its name is concerned, the square is more likely that it was named after the Ethiopians who lived in the surrounding streets. However, according to many scholars who have dealt with the subject, the name Abyssinia began to exist in 1922 as it was there that the help of Ethiopia was offered to the refugees of Asia Minor. In fact, it was the then regent and later emperor of the country, philleina, Haile Selassie, who was responsible for the campaign of financial assistance to Greek refugees.
But what does Abyssinia mean? The name itself comes from the inhabitants of the al-Ḥabaš area. The reason for the area, which today lies territorially between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The inhabitants were called Habesha, a name that is conceptually translated as "frankincense collectors"
Another interesting fact is given to us about the famous bazaar, Yusourum. It is clearly the oldest and most famous bazaar in Athens with thousands of visitors looking for something to buy. You will find it walking in the picturesque historical triangle of the old town, between the shopping streets of Ermou and Hephaestus.
The bazaar in the square began operating in 1921. But why is it called Yosurum and where does it owe its name? It all starts with the family of Noah Yusurum or Yeshurum which came in 1863 from Smyrna. The father decided to settle with the family in Monastiraki as an antique dealer along with other families of his co-religionists. What made him stand out was his character and behavior. He was such a lovable man and because the Athenians liked him they named in his honor the entire area of Abyssinia Square as Yusurum. In addition, a member of the Yeshurum family, he was the first president of the Antique Dealers' Association, which had been founded in 1922.