Lakonian Emigration

This summer in Areopoli, Mani, I visited the one-of-a-kind Adouloti Mani bookstore. The owner, Georgios Dimakogiannis, is also a publisher and his store is a treasure for anyone seeking information about the southern Peloponnese and Mani in particular.

In his magazine, Adouloti Mani – Laconia Odos, Issue 3, 2019, was an article about emigration from Lakonia in the early 1900’s. That was the experience of all four of my Spartan grandparents, and I wanted very much to read the story. I tackled the translation using a dictionary and online translators. It is by no means exact and it is somewhat redacted, but it certainly illuminated for me the realities of their experience. I scanned the original article and it can be accessed here. If you read Greek, you may prefer to read that untouched version which also has additional photos.

Lakonian Emigration

by Donald-George McPhail  (author, researcher, historian)
published in Adouloti Mani – Laconia Odos, Issue 3, 2019

From 1896 to 1921, more than 400,000 inhabitants emigrated from Greece. The legend of America as the “land of promise” and as a refuge for emigrants around the world  undoubtedly permeated Laconia. The years of misery that plagued the predominantly rural population—agricultural disasters, government mismanagement, uncertainty and insecurity, frequent military drafts, and grief over the loss of the war in Thessaly–caused thousands of Greeks to board foreign ships and emigrate. They left haunted by poverty, with the sorrows of their homeland in their hearts, and trusted that things will change in the New World. They believed that in this way they would pay off their homes, marry off  their sisters, and help their parents, their families, and their villages. They hoped that in a few years they would return rich, honored and equipped for a better life.

Emigration was also due to the fact that the demand for labor was greater in America and the wages paid were much higher than in the immigrant’s home country. The Greeks who immigrated to overseas countries had no qualifications other than physical fitness. They were illiterate, naive and innocent deprived people who had no awareness of their power, nor of course their rights.

Greek Immigration to the USA


  1. First Immigration: 1873-1899; 15,000
  2. The Great Wave: 1900-1917; 450,000
  3. The Last Exodus: 1918-1924; 70,000
  4. The Era of Restrictions: 1925-1946; 30,000

Preparation for Departure

The trials of the poor and destitute migrants, who cared little for amenities they had never tasted, began long before the trip. Most were unaware of the great difficulties that awaited them in the New World, which hundreds of immigration brokers presented as the Promised Land.  The trip required a lot of money, and the loan agents were looking for security. So, among the emigrants  were many small farmers with mortgaged land.  Even for the very poor and the landless, there was a way. They were bound by employment contracts and so they paid off their fares, as slaves literally, by working in the railways or mines.

Usually the departures of the ocean liners, especially the Greek ones, were festive. The decks were packed by immigrants who waved their handkerchiefs to those who led them, along with the curious crowds who thronged the pier. The band of the municipality played, the ship’s whistles blew, and flags decorated the ship and pier. Last greetings were exchanged with those poor immigrants who had left their hometown and had lived for a few hours in Gythio and Kalamata.

Before 1907, the Greek transatlantic wave to America was overseen by foreign steamer companies until the establishment of the first Greek passenger line. The ports of departure were Piraeus and Patras. Subsequent Greek ocean liners were generally poor, small, slow-moving, and badly traveled trips without even the minimum comforts of a boat.

Life on Board

Judging by the horrible living conditions during the journey on the ships, especially those from 1907 to 1937, immigrants were considered as “cargo.” The third-class steerage areas beneath the main deck were packed with rows of iron or wooden double beds. Passengers were literally on top of each other in desperately narrow spaces. From the very first day, the crowds, the exuding fumes of vomit, the smell of passenger bodies and the lack of elementary cleanliness caused the atmosphere to be suffocating.

The bunks were filled with straw or seaweed. There were no chairs, stools, or  tables. Luggage, clothes, utensils and all belongings had to somehow fit  between the narrow beds. Separation of women passengers was impossible. In their quest for isolation, women hung clothes around their beds to create a rudimentary curtain. The women had the opportunity to dress before eating breakfast and leaving their compartments. They could not arrive late or there would be no food available. Usually, they were not as harassed by their male passengers as by the crew men.

Upon boarding, each passenger was given a spoon, a fork and a tin cup. When breakfast was announced, everyone crowded into an open area as there was no dedicated dining room except for a space with a few tables and benches where women and children would usually sit. The men had to go through the serving area and then find some place to eat, or go out on the windswept open deck.

For ventilation, the law provided for two small “windshields” for every fifty passengers. These “windshields” ended up on the main deck, which was usually a short distance from the surface of the sea, causing third-class passengers to be sprayed with frozen ocean water.

Baths were taken on open decks between seats and compartments.  Showers were in small iron “cabins” and the water was seawater. Needless to say, passengers rarely used them. They were used for washing dishes and clothes, without soap or towels and with cold salty water.

The ticket issuing agencies described the food as healthy and nutritious.  In reality, however, it was so poorly cooked that many found it inedible. The only exception to the whole trip was the last meal before arrival, a supper that could smell like delicacies such as fried potatoes.  The farewell dinner dinner was intended to give pleasure to the next day’s arrival and inspection by the health authorities.

Various states had been slow to adopt provisions for the proper transport of passengers, resulting in steamboat companies exploiting the unfortunate immigrants. An American law stipulated that each passenger could have no less than 2.83 cubic meters. Two children under eight years were counted for one passenger. If this space was not available, the ship’s master had to pay a $50 fine per passenger, but there was never any control by authorities and no relevant fines were imposed.


When the ship anchored in America, a fleet of small boats encircled the ocean liner. Men from the Immigration and the Public Health Services boarded the ship and quickly passed through the first and second class cabins, giving a cursory inspection of the passengers in those seats. They then went down to the “fragrant” compartments where the third-class passengers were to examine each traveler. This was the most time-consuming part of their job. When the Public Health people reboarded their boat to go to other vessels, the ship raised the anchor and  slowly headed to the port of New York Harbor, traveling through the fumes of the tugboat towing it.

Upon  arrival, the immigrants’ day was just beginning. After an endless wait on the ship for the checks to be completed, they began to finally descend the staircase of the ship, loaded with their luggage. So overloaded, they headed to the Aliens Service boats waiting for them to take them to the famous Ellis Island known to the Greek immigrants as “Castigari” (from Castle Garden).

Ellis Island

Ellis Island, off Manhattan, was the main hub for immigrants arriving in America from the late 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries. There, immigrants were put to the final test, undergoing medical examinations to approve their entry into the United States.  There was tight control for medical conditions that were contagious. Most passed the check and then forgot the hassles of traveling. But if someone was ill or unbalanced he was obliged to return to the port and surrender to the steamship company for repatriation. These unfortunates were sent back to their homeland at company expense, a fact which made steamship companies careful when selecting passengers.

When stringent requirements for trachoma and other contagious diseases were understood, health authorities in Greece examined travelers and checked for trachoma because eye disease would prevent entrance into America. Ophthalmologists in Greece were stationed in Ageranos, Mani and elsewhere in Laconia where prospective immigrants went to make sure they had no contagious conditions or, if they did, to make them well.


The immigrants, after endless suffering, were finally admitted onto the new Promised Land where other adventures began for them. Most newcomers, at least in the early years, stayed in New York and New Jersey. There were small hotels and small shops owned by Greeks, who welcomed them when they were unloaded from the boats that brought them to the south of Manhattan from the Ellis Island. The city was expensive and most had less than thirty dollars in their pockets, so they were in a hurry to continue their journey.

The Greeks who progressed in America were mostly employed in textiles, heavy industry, coal mines and railroads. They often worked for twelve hours and lived in unhealthy homes, cramped in small rooms. Life for Greeks working in the mines and on the railroads was especially difficult. They lived in tents or wooden huts and their diet was very poor. The savage exploitation of underage children, who worked as “blackboots” [the shoeshine business operated by  compatriots] prompted the intervention of American and Greek consular officers.

I don’t think there is a Lakonian that doesn’t have a relative, even a remote one, in America. At the beginning of the previous century, thousands with the hope for a better tomorrow left for the distant continent.

On the Internet, the Ellis Island archives are available, the small island in New York in which all immigrants were registered. While researching for immigrants to America, I worked with this website and found information about Ligerian residents who immigrated to America between 1892 and 1924. For those who don’t know, Ligereas (Λυγερέας) is the smallest local district of the municipality of Gythio and is my wife’s village. I found details of the Ligerian immigrants where their disembarkation was recorded at Ellis Island, a few hours before they were “sucked” into the new land. I found over 190 residents in 32 arrivals reports which contained valuable information that even today’s descendants did not know.


Photo Credits:  All photos are from Mr. McPhail’s original article.
Note:  Mr. McPhail is half Scot, half Greek and he married a Greek lady from Mani. He never went back to England he raised his family ​in Greece. His full name in Greek is written as Ντόναλντ-Γεώργιος Μακφαίηλ. (Many thanks to Marina Haramis for this information)








The Times of Our Ancestors’ Lives: Part One

Who we are is a product of multiple factors:  genetics, environment, and opportunities (or lack thereof). So it was with our ancestors. Where they lived and how they lived framed their mortal existence; but it was their personalities which molded their lives.From the villages of Sparta and the southern Peloponnese came a great exodus of young men in the 1880’s to mid-1900’s. Seeking relief from poverty and focusing on a new world, the majority were from Laconia, perhaps as many as 3/4 of its adult males (ages 18-35) eventually left. They embarked as pioneers and emerged as prototypes, paving the way for the thousands who followed.

Knowing their environment is critical to understanding the choices our ancestors made. I am finding that Thomas W. Gallant’s Modern Greece is an excellent resource, and its chapter, “Society and Economy” describes the everyday world of a rural Greek village and home. In this post, I have extracted information from Gallant’s book to help us understand the times of our ancestors’ lives.

Although over 50% of the Greek population today resides in the Athens metropolitan area, this was not the case 100 years ago and before. The 1861 census revealed that 74% of adult men were farmers or sharecroppers; by 1920, this barely dropped to 70%. [i] Thus, the majority of families’ financial securities were tied to crops, a variable commodity. The demise of the current crop caused a revenue crisis in the 1890’s which, in turn, was a major factor in the earliest wave of emigration.

The typical village had a population of 200-300, or 600-700 people. In 1920, almost 52% of the population of Greece lived in villages of less than 1,000 people, and about 35% of people lived in villages of less than 500 people.[ii]

Theologos, Oinountos, Laconia, 2017. This village is 6 km straight up a mountain, and is the home of my great-grandmother, Stathoula Zaharakis

Villages around Sparta are nestled in majestic mountains, and until the mid-1900’s many were accessible only by foot or donkey. Building in the foothills and even atop mountains was a necessity, as flat, arable land was scarce and designated for farming. Space in the center of the village was reserved for the church and the town square or platea, the hub of social life.

The arid climate and hot, dry summers required a source of water, and villages were settled near rivers or streams. Even today after hundreds of years, pure mountain water gushes freely from rocks and every village has fountains which are in constant use.

left: water gushes from the mountain in Pikoulianika; right: a fountain in the platea of Xirokambi.

In the summer, shepherds took their flocks of goats and lambs to graze high in the verdant hillsides, several kilometers from their home. There, they lived in small huts known as kalyva. A settlement of several huts occupied by shepherds of the same village could get its own name. For example, a group of huts occupied by shepherds from the village of Soha would be given the name Kalyvia Soha. During winter, the shepherds would leave the mountains to reside in their primary home in the village.

Most farms were single-family peasant households. The father was the primary laborer, with his sons assisting as they grew old enough to work in the fields. Women also helped by weeding (considered to be “woman’s work”) and on a seasonal basis during harvests. The primary focus was to provide enough food for the family; therefore, a variety of small crops would be planted:  wheat, barley, maize, legumes with some olive and fruit trees, and vines. Tools were wooden and rudimentary. Livestock would include a donkey; sheep and goats for milk, cheese, hides and wool; and chickens for eggs and meat.[iv]

Despite its self-sufficiency, every Spartan family needed cash. Goods such as salt, tea, coffee, gunpowder, and metal had to be purchased. Dowries had to be provided. Funerals and weddings necessitated money, as did medical and other family expenses. Thus, a means of generating cash income was required. Many families grew a “cash crop” which could be sold locally, such as tobacco, grapes, or cotton. Some produced extra olive oil or wheat. In other cases, groups of male kinsmen (brothers, fathers and cousins) or entire families would work as seasonal wage laborers harvesting grain or picking grapes. Or, men might acquire skills such as smiths, knife sharpeners, carpenters and masons. They would travel the countryside, offering their skills in small villages that could not support a full-time artisan on their own.[v]

Our Spartan ancestors would have encountered a “myriad of movement across the countryside” of ξένοι (foreigners) whose livelihoods necessitated being on the move:  transhumant  shepherds of certain ethnic groups who specialized in large-scale animal husbandry, or itinerant merchants who transported goods over land on donkeys.[vi] “The image of the nineteenth-century Greek villagers as ensconsed in their little villages, isolated from and ignorant of the wider world, is grossly inaccurate. No village was an island unto itself. The Greek countryside was a fairly dynamic place characterized by a relatively constant movement of people across it and periodically punctuated by the larger-scale arrival and departure of work gangs, itinerant merchants and artisans, donkey caravans, shepherds with their families and flocks, and of course, the dreaded bandit gangs which continued to be a menace to society until late in the century.”[vii]

Thus, despite the relative isolation of many villages, people were exposed to news, ideas, and customs which expanded the microcosm of their world.

[Part Two will cover the social world of men and women, and the home.]

[i] Gallant, Thomas. Modern Greece, New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016. p.127.
[ii] ibid., pg. 128.
[iii] ibid., pg. 129.
[iv] ibid., pg. 135.
[v] ibid., pg. 140.
[vi] ibid., pg. 140.
[vii] ibid., pg. 141.



Amykles Book, Excerpt: St. Nikon

This is the final post of excerpts from the book, Amykles, by Sarantos P. Antonakos.

“With the Ottoman conquest, the Greeks could only preserve their identity by remaining steadfastly faithful to the Orthodox Church.”  Steven Runciman[1]

Runciman’s observation answered a question I had long pondered:  how did my ancestors ever survive four hundred years of Ottoman rule–a period of harsh military invasion and grim Muslim occupation? To these enslaved people, their Orthodox faith was far more than a religion.For twenty generations, Hellenes endured the unendurable by clinging tightly to their Christian beliefs and trusting in God for deliverance.

For this, they can thank St. Nikon.

St. Nikon,the Metanoeite. Wikipedia.

Nikon, the Metanoeite (preacher of repentance) re-introduced Christianity to parts of Greece. Born about 930 A.D. in Paphlagonia (an area in Asia Minor, currently northeast Turkey) he became a Byzantine monk and was sent abroad by his abbott to preach the gospel and teach the Bible. He began in Crete in 961, re-christianizing the citizens whose religion had lapsed under Muslim rule.

He then preached in Athens and Thebes, eventually arriving in the Peloponnese. His ministry extended from Naplion and Corinth to Laconia. His impact in Sparta was so profound that Antonakos describes his work and influence in a chapter titled, St. Nikon and Amykles, translated[2] excerpts below.

“After St. Nikon came to the area of Lacaedaimon, he beheld the Byzantine state ‘and these barbarian Christians.’ He built two churches: one in Sklavochori and one in Parori. The choice of these villages were not random. He built churches to fight the pagan influences. In Sklavochori was the ancient Temple of Apollo–a pagan center. Parori was occupied by Slavs who believed in other gods.

Throne of Apollo in Amykles; photo from The Amykles Research Project

“Sparta became his second motherland and the base from which he taught the Holy Book throughout the whole Peloponnese. In Sparta and Lacedaimon (as it was well known back then), St. Nikon met great difficulties–first, from the reactions of the Jews and many corrupted people of Sparta; and on the other hand, he had difficulties spreading the Holy Book because of the Slavic influence in the western borders of Mani. St. Nikon was help by the bishop of Sparta, Theopemptos, and the great general of the Peloponnese, Vasileios Apokaukos.

“After St. Nikon established the two churches in Lacedaimon, he entered Mani, Kalamata, Methoni and others and he taught the faith of Christ. Returning to Sparta, he became sick and made a home in a cave in a location named Moros. After eight days when the Saint was good again, many people who had been there to receive his blessings became witnesses to a miracle that he did. The people were thirsty and there was no water in the area. St. Nikon, after praying, hit the land with his stick that had a cross on it and from the place he hit, much water started flowing like a spring, clean and clear and pure in taste.

St. Nikon, image from the Orthodox Church in America

“After the miracle, the Saint did not return to Sparta. He went to Amykles and people and elders came together to see him and they were inspired by him. In Amykles, St. Nikon found relief after physical exercise and spiritual testing. In this place, besides the spiritual power, we must add the love of the people of the village and their faith, something that St. Nikon was meeting very rarely in hostile areas around Sparta.The great respect of the people of Amykles towards St. Nikon can be proven from the fact that they were the first who came immediately by his invitation to help him build the temple of Sotiros at the Acropolis of Sparta. They gave him materials (limestone)–so much that some people said that it was taken from the ancient temple of Apollo in Amykles.

“A story is found in the monastery of Agios Tessarakonda in Sparta, written in the Will of this Saint:  ‘Even as I many times was building one step, the next day I found two. The next I was building two and finding four. When I had many materials, a man came from Sklavochori and promised to help me, but he was lazy and the temple was not being built. One night, St. Sotiris came to that man in a dream and told him “I am going to take your soul.” The man asked why, and St. Sotiris said, “I am Sotiris, the one that Nikon is building the Temple for Lacedaimon. You promised him materials [that you did not bring] but your house is full of blessings. For this reason, you are lazy. Bring the materials and you will have profit.” The man brought materials to St. Nikon and they worked together.

“When the Spartans heard that St. Nikon was in Amykles, they ran to him, begging him to return to Sparta and with his blessing, to save the city from starvation that had killed many people. Nikon willingly returned. He banned the Jews from Sparta and they settled in Anavryti and Tripi.[3] Later, these Jews were christianized and adapted socially with the local people.

“After the movement of the Jews from Sparta, St. Nikon with the help of Bishop Theopemptos began to build a church devoted to Sotiros, the Theotokou and St. Kyriaki. A man named Aratos, who was doing business with the Jews, was against this. Aratos got a high fever and he died. After this miracle, many people adopted Christianity. In 981, St. Nikon went to Corinth where he healed the heavily injured Apokaukos [a general of high rank and political power, mentioned above]. Upon returning to Sparta, he performed more miracles.

“St. Nikon died in 998 and according to oral tradition, he was buried in Amykles. ‘His name is known in Lacedaimon in glory for mortal people and he is a spring of miracles.’  To the people in the land of Sparta, the Saint will forever be the ‘father and guardian‘ of them.”

During the Turkish occupation, St. Nikon’s ministry in Greece was generally forgotten except in Sparta. After the Revolution of 1821, Father Daniel Georgopoulos composed a service honoring the Saint. In 1893, the Diocese of Monemvasia and Lacedaimonia recognized him as their patron saint when a church in Sparta was dedicated to him. His life is commemorated yearly on November 26.

Antonakos’ history of Amykles has captured the times, spirit and resiliency of these extraordinary people. The more I read, the more I want to learn! I have been counseled by a wise teacher that we must first know the history before we can understanding our ancestors. And, I might add, ourselves.


In 1982, Sarantos P. Antonakos published Amykles, a history book about his native village. Amykles is one of my ancestral villages, too–the birthplace of my 3rd great grandfather, Panagiotis Zarafonitis. I am beyond excited to have found this book in the Central Library of Sparta, and I copied some of the pages relevant to my family. With sincere thanks to Giannis Michalakakos for his translations and history lessons, I am learning much about this beautiful village and the lives of my ancestors. 

To read part one about the village of Sklavochori, click here.
To read part two about Machmoutbei, click here.
To read part three about the Battle of Machmoutbei, click here.

[1] Runciman, Steven. The Lost Capital of Byzantium: The History of Mistra and the Peloponnese. 2009: Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 102-103.
[2] My deepest appreciation to Giannis Michalakakos for his translations.
[3] Andonakos’ perspective on this issue:  there was a Jewish presence in Mystras because the city was a commercial center. When St. Nikon began proselyting, this caused both religious and political tensions between the Jews and the Orthodox church. When sickness and starvation permeated Sparta, St. Nikon attributed that to the Jews, using this opportunity to ban them from Sparta and send them to Anavryti and Tripi.


Amykles Book. Excerpt: The Battle of Machmoutbei

This is a continuation of the previous post about Machmoutbei. These posts are excerpts from the book, Amykles, by Sarantos P. Antonakos, with translations by Giannis Michalakakos

Thirty ordinary men successfully resisting the Egyptian army of Ibrahim Pasha? This is the stuff of action movies! And this story is true. During the Revolution of 1821 the people of Sklavochori, with support from other Laconians and Maniots, wrote a heroic but not well-known page in the history of the Revolution of 1821.

After the catastrophe of Missolonghi, Ibrahim Pasha returned to the southern Peloponnese. Humiliated after three defeats by the Maniots, Ibrahim brought in Egyptian army reinforcements and began a full assault in Laconia.

Ibrahim Pasha; Wikipedia

In 1826, his army of 25,000 men reached Mystras. He found the city abandoned as its citizens had fled, hiding in the caves and crevices of the Taygetos mountains. After looting Mystras, the army spread throughout the Evrotas valley where it did not leave “one rock upon a rock.” Ibrahim devastated the region and burned everything in his path. The villages of Sklavahori, Agios Ioannis, Magoula, Parori and Anogia faced, for the first time, sheer catastrophe.

General Panagiotis Giatrakos and his Laconian captains led their forces to battle in the villages of Perivolia, Georgitsi and other areas. But the most serious resistance against the Egyptian armies was made in the tower of Machmoutbei. Thirty people–volunteers from the region led by a priest, Panagiotis Roussos, and Captain Giannakis Theofilakos–entered the tower.They were well prepared with stores of food and ammunition, and a fierce determination to repel the Egyptian forces.

Antonakos writes:
When the first soldiers of Ibrahim Pasha reached the tower, the Greeks started a rain of fire. Even though the Egyptians used stronger aggressive attacks against the tower, Papa Roussos, the priest, showed heroic resistance and pinned them with great damages. Very dangerous for the people inside the tower was the artillery of the Egyptians, which was posted in the cliffs near the tower and was very successful against the building.

A critical moment for the Greeks was the death of their leader. On the 16th day of the siege, Papa Roussos tried to fix an opening in the tower at midnight, using a candle. At that moment, an Arab sniper hit him with success and killed him. Despite this  loss, the defenders of the tower continued their resistance. After 16 days, Ibrahim saw that even his artillery was not effective against the tower. He ordered his mechanics to dig ditches in order to place explosives and blow up the tower. The defenders of the tower understood what was happening, and in order to be safe, they decided to make a heroic exodus [exit the tower]. When darkness fell around 10:00 on Day 17, they opened the doors and went down to the yard of the tower. There, they stayed until midnight. Under the leadership of Dimitris Karagkioules, a heroic fighter with seven wounds from previous battles, they took only their swords and with the help of the darkness and cover from the tower walls, they escaped. When they met Arab patrols, Karagkoulies, who knew the Arabic language, tricked them into thinking the men were Ibrahim’s soldiers.  

In this way–with no casualties–they escaped from the tower. When they reached Socha Kalyvia, they shot the last patrol of the Egyptians and celebrated their freedom. Then, they moved to the mountain Taygetos and went to the camp of Panagiotis Giatrakos. Of the 30 men who were in the tower of Machmoutbei, two were missing. One was the leader, Pappa Roussos, who was shot while trying to close a gap in the wall, and the other was a man named Kokkinakis who had been seriously injured in the foot and could not follow the exodus.  

The morning after the Greeks exited the tower, the Egyptian soldiers were afraid to enter. When they did, they found that the only defender left was the injured Kokkinakis. They were disappointed that General Panagiotis Giatrakos was not there. Ibraham Pasha gave orders to demolish the biggest part of the tower. The marks of this destruction were obvious and the older people in the area still remember them.

The profound significance of this event is encapsulated by one sentence of the Certificate of Aristeia [an honorary award] given to Anastasoula, the daughter of Papa Roussos:  Through this siege, they [the defenders] bought time and the Christians of Lacedaimon were saved from captivity by the Arabs. 

Aristeia certificates, signed by the Giatrakos brothers (all of whom were Laconian captains) were also issued to Giannakis Theofilakos and Dimitris Karagkioules.

Unfortunately, I could not find a picture of the tower of Machmoutbei. However, this photo is representative of an Ottoman tower built in the Peloponnese; circa 1808, in Monemvasia.

Tower built by Ottomans, c. 1808; Monemvasia.; sent by Giannis Michalakakos.

After the Revolution, the Tower of Machmoutbei was taken over by the Giatrakos family, and eventually purchased by Sarantos Antonakos. The tower has now been demolished and its materials were used to surround the field of St. Paraskevi. During the demolition, pieces of ancient stones with architectural designs were found embedded in the walls. It is likely that these fragments were part of the ancient sanctuary of Amykles, a site currently under archaeological excavation (see this website).  For two hundred years, the Tower of Machmoutbei had stood as a mighty fortress and a symbol of strength through many battles and sieges, including those of World War II.

This is a photo of a well built in the 1800’s in Machmoutbei. It stands outside the house of Savva Antonakos (Savvenas).

Translation: Well of Machmout Bey, outside the house of Savva Antonakou (Savvelas). Source: Amykles, Yesterday and Today, published 2016 by the Women’s Syllogos of Amykles

This story of the Battle of Machmoutbei touched me deeply. It is not just general history–it is my history, as my Zarafonitis family lived there during this time. There are innumerable stories of heroism and fortitude that will never be found in formal history texts. I am grateful for authors such as Antonakos whose works bring perpetuity to their villages, and edify descendants with both knowledge and pride.

The last post in this series will explore the ministry of St. Nikon in Amykles and the villages around Sparta.  
To read part one about the village of Sklavochori, click here.
To read part two about Machmoutbei, click here.

In 1982, Sarantos P. Antonakos published Amykles, a history book about his native village. Amykles is one of my ancestral villages, too–the birthplace of my 3rd great grandfather, Panagiotis Zarafonitis. I am beyond excited to have found this book in the Central Library of Sparta, and I copied some of the pages relevant to my family. With sincere thanks to Giannis Michalakakos for his translations and history lessons, I am learning much about this beautiful village and the lives of my ancestors. This is the third  post with excerpts from the book.

Greece 2017. Part Three: Corinth

I have wandered along many paths of my ancestral villages, but in Corinth I walked where the Apostle Paul walked. Standing on holy ground was a sacred experience which renewed my connection to my faith and to the Lord.

Ancient Corinth, Temple of Apollo

After he preached to the Athenians on Mars Hill, Paul continued his ministry in Corinth where “many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.” Paul’s first mission in Corinth lasted 18 months, A.D. 50-52 (Acts 18:11).  As he walked the narrow stone paths, he established the church of Christ and preached His gospel.

Stone inscribed with the words of Paul ( 2 Corinthians 4:17).

Spot where Paul was put on trial before the proconsul Gallio in AD 51. The case was dismissed and Paul was released (Acts 18:12-17).

Ancient Corinth was one of the largest and most important cities of Greece, with a population of 90,000 in 400 BC. Both destroyed and rebuilt by the Romans, it became the provincial capital of Hellas with a mixed population of Romans, Greeks and Jews. Situated halfway between Sparta and Athens on the Isthmus of the Peloponnese, it was the crossroads between northern and southern Greece. In addition, its two ports–west on the Corinthian Gulf and east on the Saronic Gulf—positioned it as the major trade route between Asia and western Europe.

The archaeological sketch below (photo taken at the site) depicts the magnitude of the ancient city.

The ancient city of Corinth

I had to stretch my imagination to visualize the city portrayed above, with what remains today.

The Museum was filled with artifacts excavated from the site. They were meticulously preserved and displayed in a manner befitting the glory of the ancient city.

Museum interior at Corinth

Every display case was a “feast for the eyes” and a delight to the historian. These are just a few of the photos I took.

Museum artifacts

Museum cabinet

The life-size statuary both inside and outside the Museum were astounding to see. The marble carvings remained remarkably pristine throughout the centuries.

Statuary, interior

Statuary, exterior

Immersing myself in the site of Corinth reminded me that one can be a tourist, or one can be a traveler (see the difference). I prefer the latter.