The earliest traces of human presence established with certainty from the Neolithic years. Rich findings of the time, and the Bronze era, have been identified in the areas of Marmaralona (Xerokampos), Koutri (Agios Ioannis), Agios Georgios (Meligou), Heronisi, Paralio Astros, Leonidio and Geraki.
The first inhabitants belonged to the pre-hellenic races, Pelasgians, and later in the region settled in the Arcadians, and in the coastline (along with their location in the plain of Argos) the Danaoi. Then the Ionians installed in Kynouria. The creators of the Mycenean culture, the Achaeans, came to Argolis around 1600 BC and soon extended to the region Parnon. Kynouria was at that time part of “the land of Argos”.
With the “descent of the Dorians” started the ex-dorism of the locals and the region was split between the Dorians in Sparta, Arcadians in Tegea and Dorians in Argos. In the region “Fonemenoi” of Agios Petros, next to the road to Karyes, were found three large stones (ancient temples dedicated to Hermes), who represented the limits of the territories of Argos, Tegea and Sparta.
The historical ancient times
In the region of Parnon, and especially Kynouria, from the late 11th century BC, and up until the Roman times, was claimed by both Sparta and Argos, two cities that were constantly in competition. Some areas were controlled by Argos and others by Sparta, while the demarcation lines between them constantly changed. The intense hostilities between these two cities, although it did not encourage the development of a great urban center in the region, led to the construction of several forts, towers and unauthorized outposts, whose relics have been preserved until today.
Despite the constant upheavals, some major settlements, usually fortified, developed during this period. In the NE region, which in ancient times was called Thyreatis, the main settlement was Thirea and the secondary Anthini, Nirida, Eva and Astros. The SE region was the country of Prasiai, where the main settlement was Prasiai and secondary Polihni, Tyros and Glyppia. Geronthres and the ancient Marios, who held the position of the current villages Mari and Geraki, were in south-west side. The Prison of Pausanias in Tegea, must have been at the fortified hill in Kakkavouleri (20 minutes from Vourvoura). Finally, the ancient Karyes were probably in north of the current village.
After the subjugation of the region by the Romans in the 2nd century BC, the wars ceased between the hellenic states and the region developed economically. During the Roman period, the settlement that flourished was Eva, which became the most important city of Thyreatis.
The jewel of Thyreatis
Around mid-2nd century AD, Tiberius Klaudios the Herod Atticus, built on Eva a luxurious villa and provided the settlement with aqueducts, baths, groves, and statues. Herod was attracted here not only by the beautiful and tranquil landscape, with its rich vegetation, abundant water, but also the fertile plain of Thyreatis, of which a large part could have been used. Recent excavations have revealed in Eva many buildings, mosaics and statues of exceptional art. Several of these findings today adorn the Archaeological Museum of Tripolis and the small Archaeological Museum of Astros, which is housed in the former School Karytsioti.
Geraki: An unknown Castle-Town
The region of Geraki, although it is generally unknown, it is characterized by the presence of many valuable and Byzantine monuments. Opposite of Geraki, at the top of a hill, now dominate the relics of a Byzantine castle-town. The famous castle was built by the Franc Baron Guy de Nivele, who had been granted the area in 1209, to manage it. This large and extensive fortress was a station of communication between the castles of Mystras and Monemvasia. In 1262 passed into the hands of the Byzantines, which further strengthened the walls and inside the castle built many churches, like Agia Paraskevi and the Virgin Mary. The church of St. George, which is also inside the castle, is dated around the 11th century.
The “Byzantine” Geraki, built in the southern foothills of Parnon, is one of the most important historical settlements, with many Byzantine churches. In the same location was built the ancient Geronthres and the later Byzantine settlement Ierakion. Many pieces of the ancient city, as well as inscriptions and pieces of ancient temples, were put in several Byzantine churches of the subsequent settlement. During the Frankish rule, the settlement moved to a position where now dominate the remains of the medieval castle-town. After the Turkish rule, the inhabitants relocated again in the present location of the village.
The Byzantine-Medieval period
From the 4th century AD the region of Parnon, and also Peloponnese, was part of the Byzantine Empire. The Christian religion spread out from the 6th century AD, as evidenced by grave inscriptions found in Paliostolos, N-NE of Stolos, where ruins of a paleochristian village were found.
In the 8th century appeared the Slav tribes (Milingoi and Ezerites), who settled in inaccessible areas of Parnon. The periodical uprisings (from the 8th to the 10th century.) were put down by the army of Byzantium and they slowly became Christians and greeks. The Milingoi left many place names such as “Melingitika Kalyvia” near Astros, and the “Meligou” near Agios Ioannis. In the 13th century (A ‘Frankish sovereignty) the region passed in the hands of the Franks and the Venetians, who, in order to ensure their sovereignty, built the fort in Geraki and the Castle of Orias in Xerokampi.
The Tsakones, not recognizing the Frankish sovereignty, had often attacks against them. The subjection of the Tsakones and the mountain region of Parnonas took place after the delivery of Monemvasia to Franks (1250).
After the battle of Pelagonia (1259) and the recovery of Constantinople by Michael Palaeologus, the area returned to the sovereignty of the Byzantine (1262). But the fighting and looting had not stopped. The Peloponnese did not prosper any more. The Venetians continued to be interested in the region and thus in around 1400 they took Astros. A few years later the region passed into the hands of the Turks, who invaded the Peloponnese in 1460.
Prastos: The historical capital of Tsakonia
In the 18th century and the first years of the 19th, Prastos was in a great growth, with a population of over seven thousand, and socio-economic structure which differed greatly from that of a present mountain village.
At that time trade and shipping were flourishing and trade relations of Prastos had reached Istanbul, Russia, Turkey, Egypt and France. For the disposal and storage of the products, many locals, and other Tsakones had settled in several major cities, but mostly in Istanbul, where they retained laboratories and warehouses. The goods were usually transported by ships from Spetses and Hydra, whose major shareholders were merchants from Prastos. The exported products were oil and acorn from Tsakonia and Mani, silk from Mystras, cotton from Argos, raisins from Corinth, wine of Samos etc. The imported ones were caviar, maize, textiles, indigo, coffee, sugar and other luxury goods.
Prastos because of the lucrative trade had developed significant economic power and had become a historical capital of Tsakonia. The village was decorated with soaring towers, churches, aqueducts etc. The glow of Prastos extinguished after the destruction from Ibrahim.
The Turks, the 1821 Revolution and the recent years
The dominance of the Turks lasted from 1540 to 1685 (A’ Turkish Rule). The area of Parnon was almost never inhabited by Turks, but has suffered from looting and kidnappings every time they showed revolutionary intentions.
In 1687, Morozini defeated the Turks and the region passed into the hands of the Venetians (B’ Venetian Rule). The Venetians kept their possessions until 1715 and managed to thicken the population and to intensify the various crops for their own benefit. After 1715 the region was again overrun by the Turks (B’ Ottoman Rule).
In the 18th century and until the Greek revolution, the region had two important villages, Agios Petros and Prastos. In the area of Thyreatis the settlement of Agios Ioannis evolved more, together with the surrounding monasteries, creating a valuable intellectual life. In a relative acne were also the neighboring villages of Meligou, Platanos and Tristena (Charadros).
At the end of the 18th century, Astros started to evolve again. One of the top benefactors was Dimitrios Karytsiotis, a wealthy merchant in Trieste. Karytsiotis founded a school in Agios Ioannis (1798) and its annex to Astros (1805).
With the beginning of the revolution, residents of the southern region organized a military body and sent it to conquer Monemvasia, while residents of the northern region focused mainly on Vervaina, in anticipation of an attack against Tripolitsa. The choice of Vervaina as a place of concentration of Hellenic revolutionary, especially Kynouria and Tegea, was not random. The village, built in a natural fortress location, near major road crossings and with a panoramic view of the plateau of Tripoli, has held a very important strategic position. The camp of Vervaina was the first and one of the most important camps in the first few days of the revolution. On March 25 of 1821 the revolution was declared. On May 18 1821 the body of the Turks was divided into three parts and attacked the Greeks in Vervaina, Ano Doliana and Dragouni. The historic victory of the Greeks in Vervaina and Doliana rose the morale of the Greeks combatants.
In 1822 Agios Ioannis hosted for two and a half months the Government of Revolutionary Hellas and in spring of 1823, Astros held the Second National Assembly.
In 1826, Ibrahim, furious from his losses, burned Agios Petros. The same fate had Agios Ioannis, Kastri, Meligou, Platanos, etc. and then Prastos. During the Ottoman Rule, the region of Mount Parnon has hosted many prominent figures of the revolution. The most important captain and legend of Parnon during the pre-revolutionary period was Zacharias Barmpitsiotis. Zacharias, aka “Head-Coronel of Morias”, wanted to unite all the “Thieves” under his command. Nearly all of Laconia and Tsakonia were organized by him. Near the xakoustoi fought Many great “Thieves” fought beside him, as captain Thanassis Karabelas from Vervaina. In the group of Zacharias belonged -at a young age- Theodoros Kolokotronis, later the famous “Old Man of Moria” and prime mover of the revolution.
With the liberation of Hellas, Prastos and Agios Petros became provincial capitals of the newly established State and the mountain of Parnon was split between the Perfecture of Arcadia and Laconia. During the german-italian rule, the area of Parnon became one of the most important centers of resistance against the invaders. With the withdrawal of troops occupying the region, the area was once again “tested” by the Civil War. The area of Parnon, from the mid-19th century, slowly lost its prestigeand, like all mountainous regions of Greece, the population decimated from internal and external migration. By the end of the Civil War, the region was unable to recover. The difficult living conditions and the hope for a better future have heightened the phenomenon of migration and the region was led to an economic and demographic collapse. It is characteristic that while in 1940 the population of the region was around 29,000 inhabitants, in 1991 barely exceeded the 12,000 residents.
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