Part One: History
July 11, 2016, was a hot but fateful day in Athens. My friend, Giannis Michalakakos, had rearranged his work schedule to take me to the National Library to research my Iliopoulos ancestors who had received Aristeia awards for their valiant service in the 1821 Revolution. To our dismay, the Library was closed for a staff meeting. We deliberated briefly, devised a Plan B, and headed to a university library to find what would become a research bonanza, the book, Koumousta of Lakedaimonos, written by Theodore S. Katsoulakos and Panagiotis X. Stoumbos:
The geographical area of Koumousta, 24 km south of Sparta, is comprised of many villages, both large and small. In modern Greece, the biggest village is Xirokambi with a population of about 1,000 people. The region has four monasteries: Gola and Zerbitsa; and slightly north of Koumousta, Koubari and Katafigiotissa. Xirokambi is the birthplace of my paternal great-grandmother, Poletimi Christakos, (father, Nikolaos) who married Andreas Kostakos. In this book is found the history of her family!
It all began with Christos Rizos. On page 202, we read:
“The family Christakou is old. The first name was Rizos. Christos Rizos is referenced in the Code of Gola in 1761. From this emerged the Christakos surname, while the real name as a nickname survived as Rizeas, which name is old.1”
On the following page, 203, we read: “The families Koumoustiotis and Kyriakakos are branches of the family Christakos2.”
Following the references, we are led to articles in the journal, Faris, Issue 9 (1994), page 9, and the following excerpt from Issue 39 (2005), page 10.
Origin of the families (I), by D. V. Christakos
“My family originally comes from Koumousta. My oldest ancestor was Christos Rizos who is referenced in the Code of Gola in 1761. ‘He donated two fields, one in Kofinidou and the other in Itia in order that Giorgakis, Panagiotis, Christos and Margarita will be remembered.’ From the first name Christos comes the surname Christakos and the name Rizos remains as a nickname. It is sure that chieftain Antonios Koumoustiotis comes from the same family [Rizos] like the family Kyriakakos.”
It took Mr. Katsoulakos and Mr. Stoumbos twenty years of research to write this book. They accessed documents in the monasteries, archives and local sources. The Stoumbos family was among the first in Koumousta, and because of oral tradition, Mr. Stoumbos knew the long histories of the earliest settlers. Because of their dedicated efforts, I now know this part of my history: from Christos & Margarita Rizos and their children, Giorgios and Panagiotis evolved three branches: Christakos, Koumoustiotis and Kyriakakos. My great-great grandfather, Nikolaos Christakos, is among those descendants — so am I.
Giannis has been translating sections of this book that pertain to my family, and I am assisting as his scribe. With our work as a basis, I will be writing posts about the stories of this area and its indefatigable people. They faced Turkish occupation, wars, and unimaginable hardships of life. They endured and triumphed over it all. With their blood coursing through my veins, so can I.
I am most grateful to Dimitris Katsoulakos for permission to cite passages from this book, and to Giannis Michalakakos for his tireless work of translation.