There are still many dark and unknown signs about the Karagiozis theatre origins, so, the history of its creation is based on oral traditions and legends. The most well-known oral tradition refers to the legend of two friends in Proussa, (Asia Minor), Karagiozis and Hadziavatis.
Hadziavatis was a building contractor and he had been employed to build the seraglio of the pasha. At the site he engaged workers and craftsmen and Karagiozis was made foreman of the whole lot.
He was a carpenter but he had the talent of a master-craftsman. When the pasha found that progress on the seraglio was slow he threatened Hadziavatis with death.
Hadziavatis was scared and told the pasha the truth: that it was all the fault of Karagiozis who told the workmen funny stories from morning to night and had them all in fits of laughter. “Pasha”, he said, “I don’t want to get rid of Karagiozis. I need him badly on the site. But perhaps you could scare him a bit”.
So the pasha called Karagiozis and told him angrily that if he heard any more about joking on the building site he would put him to death. But what could Karagiozis do? It was just the way he was made. The joking on the site continued and when the pasha heard about it he killed Karagiozis. Everybody was very indignant about this unjust execution of Karagiozis. So, to calm the people down, the pasha built a fine monument in Proussa and had Karagiozis buried there with great ceremonial. But the pasha was very upset over his unjust action and he became seriously ill.
The other gentry, to amuse their sick pasha, brought Had zia vatis to the sera glio to re count Kara giozis’ tales. One day Hadziavatis cut out a paper figure of Karagiozis, stretched out a piece of white cloth on which he shone a lamp and gave a Karagiozis performance. The pasha was so delighted that he gave Hadziavatis permission to give performances wherever he liked and that’s how the Karagiozis shadow theatre was born. There is also the legend referring to the story of a Greek man from Hydra island, named G. Mavromatis (Mavromattes). Mavromatis is said to have brought the shadow theatre from China to Turkey (18th c.) and when he decided to settle permanently in Constan ti no ple, he adapted his lifestyle and his theatre to Turkish customs.
Thus, he gave his surname to his protagonist but in the Turkish language and that was Karagoz, lengthened in Greek to Karagiozis. Kara means black (in Greek mavro) and goz means eye (in Greek mati). Mavromatis = Black eye = Karagöz. When Mavro ma tis died, Giannis Brachalis, who was his assistant, brought the art of shadow theatre and Karagiozis in Greece.
The first historically confirmed information about Karagiozis Theatre comes from the mid – 17th century and presents it as a show depicting scenes from the life of the Turks.
Many maintain that Karagiozis was Turkish theatre but was familiar with the mentality of the people who lived in the Turkish Empire. It is difficult to imagine that a Turk, Jew or Armenian was the creator of Karagiozis, especially one inspired by the life of two Greeks, Hadziavatis and Mavromatis.
Quite simply the impression was created because, after the appearance of Karagiozis, Turkish rule spread to all the countries of the Byzantine Empire and consequently shadow theatre took on a form and expression consistent with the new socialconditions, namely Ottoman. Karagiozis depicted Turkish life because it took shape during Turkish rule and was addressing mainly the Turks. It was necessary therefore, that the central figure should be given a Turkish name, otherwise it was impossible to satirize the phenomena and institutions of Turkish life.