Amykles lies adjacent to Sparta, south of the city on the road to Gytheio. It is a village of historical and religious prominence, dating to pre-8th century B.C. It is the site of the ancient Throne of Apollo, and is discussed in the writings of Pausanias. This website has photos, historical data and artists’ renderings of the sanctuary as it would have appeared in ancient times.

The sanctuary sits on a large hill overlooking the village of Agia Kyriaki. Because it is under archaeological excavation, the site was fenced and we were unable to enter.  Information on the progress of the dig can be found here:

Ruins under excavation

The church at the top of the hill overlooks a spectacular valley, and it is easy to understand why the Throne was erected there.

A magnificent view of the valley below

My friend, Popi Zarafonitis who lives in Amykles, was my tour guide. She explained that over the years, rocks were taken from the ancient sanctuary and used to erect buildings, such as this Byzantine church of Agios Theodoros.

Agios Theodoros, Amykles

This rutted, dirt road which winds through olive groves was the path of an amazing destination–two churches, one Byzantine, one 19th century–situated “exo-horio” (outside the village).

In the photo below, the square building on the left is what remains of the Byzantine-era church; its 19th century “modern” counterpart is the one on the right. We went inside the older church and I was astonished to see that the 15th century icons painted on stone were still visible–a testament to the faith and resilience of those who labored to build it and worship within. 

Ancient Byzantine church is on the left; 19th century counterpart is on the right

These walls still speak

Old Amykles is a step into ancient history. Today’s Amykles is a step into culture. Recently, a festival was held by the Church to benefit the poor in the community. As always, there was music, food and dancing.

Amykles–a beautiful blend of past and present.

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.

Amykles Book, Excerpt: Sklavohori

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 first posts of several, with excerpts from the book.

Prophet Ilias Church, built in the late 13th century, Amykles.

In the Preface, Mr. Antonakos writes: Amykles was the salt and the pepper for  the Spartans and for the whole Laconian peninsula, a religious, cultural and commercial center. The people lived here hundreds of years in the middle of a very fertile plain through which the Evrotas River passed and it was from then, until today, the subject of study of hundreds of scientists and researchers.

Among several profiles of prominent men in Amykles is a paragraph about Georgios Dimitrios Zarafonitis, a soldier who fought with distinction in the Revolution of 1821.

Antonakos, Sarantos P., Amykles, pp. 250-215; 1982; Athens. Repository: Central Library of Sparta Greece

The translation reads: στ. Zarafonitis George.

          Soldier of the sacred struggle was Georgios Zarafonitis, who, immediately after the start of the revolution took up arms, and after he entered became the head of relatives who fought all the battles in Morea.
During the invasion of Ibrahim Pasha, the house of Zarafonitis was burned to the ground by the Arabs, like many of his fellow countrymen. Zarafonitis sent an application to the state to recognize his services on 19 May 1846 [
he is applying for an Aristeia award]. The application included a certificate from the chieftains G. Sklavohoriti, P. Matalo, etc.
In this certificate, the chieftains of Lacedaimon referred among others “… Mr. George Dimitriou Zarafonitis, citizen of Sklavohori of the municipality Amykles of this province (Lacedaemon) from the beginning of the Holy Fight, in charge of his relatives, put himself under the direction of the chief Panagiotis Giatrakos, and he was with us in different battles like the seige of Tripolis, the battle of Fragoviso, Kerasis, Ververa, Valtezi, Doliana, even in the siege of the fortress Nafplion, Corinth, Patra and when Dramali Pascha came in Argos, Vervenakia and after his disaster in Messinia, fought against Arabs in Coroni, Methoni, and Neokastro, also in Kalamata in Verga of Almyro and in the horrible battle of Polyaravo.
This Greek during all the time of the revolution served military and did his duty with passion and extreme obedience to his superior officers. from his certificate I can assume that he was a very good soldier.”

Unfortunately, a paper trail between this hero of the Revolution and my Panagiotis does not exist. But using “educated deduction” and knowing that families of the same name from the same village are related, I can claim Georgios as part of my ancestral clan.

Another reference to Georgios is found in a list of men from Sklavohori who served as Jurors. This was published on 2 November 1894 in ΦΕΚ, the official newspaper of the Government of Greece. In the page below, he is enumerated on line 12; he is age 50 and a resident of Sklavohori (click on image to enlarge).

General Archives of Greece
List of Jurors – 1849
FEK: Official Government Newspaper of Greece
2 November 1894
Line 112 , Georgios Zarafonitis, age 50, of Sklavohori, farmer
FHL: Film #1038847, section-6, image 28; Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

Sklavohori, the home of Panagiotis and Georgios, is the same village as Amykles. As is common in areas of foreign dominion, name changes occurred over the centuries. It is an unusual word, certainly not of Greek origin, and Mr. Antonakos addresses this on page 201, Sklavohori. It is a fascinating study.

a.  Some researchers opine that the name was given when Slavs occupied the area. However, Slavic tribes resided in the region known as Amykles in 750 A.D;  and the name “Sklavohori” is not mentioned in any documentation until 1432 — 700 years after the Slavs departed.

b.  When St. Nikon resided in Lacedaimon from 968 to 998, the village was called Amykles and Amyklion. When the life story of St. Nikon was written in 1142, the region still was known as Amykles; proving that the name change occurred later.

c.  All of the Slavic toponyms in Laconia, which are many, were given when the Slavic tribes settled; this did not happen in Sklavohori.

d.  No villages in the plains of Evrotas (where Amykles is located) have Slavic names. Slavic place names are found in mountain villages, where the Slavic tribes retreated so as to remain inaccessible from those determined to evict them (the Franks, the Byzantines, etc.).

These facts support the theory that the name Sklavohori was given much later than the Slavic occupation of the region. Thus, Mr. Antonakos proposes two other, more plausible, explanations:

a.  The name comes from the word, “slave” or “slavery.”  Feudal rulers enslaved Greek citizens, and gave them land to farm, which was located in the fertile plains of Sparta. A literal translation of the name, Sklav-ohori, would be “village of slaves.”

b.  In the island of Tinos in the Aegean Sea, there a a village named Sklavohori. However, there was never a Slavic presence there. The village was given its name because its citizens had been enslaved.

As I wandered through Amykles/Sklavohori in July, I could not imagine this village of my ancestors once being a den of enslavement. The land is a beautiful and abundant valley nestled under the Taygetos mountains; its citizens are hospitable, filled with the spirit of φιλότιμο (filotimo).

The beautiful cemetery belies the hardships and tragedies that the heroes and citizens of Amykles overcame. My family is among them.

Amykles cemetery, July 2017


Return to Greece, 2016. Part Seven: Digging Deeper

This is the seventh post in a series about my trip to Greece, June 30-July 20, 2016 — an amazing journey of history, family and discovery. Previous posts can be found here.

The most important lesson I learned when traveling in Greece is:  never arrive anywhere between 1:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon. That rule makes scheduling easy — repositories in the morning; solo time in the afternoon; family time in the evening; dinner at 9 or 10:00 p.m. I had to tweak this a bit to squeeze in all I needed to do.

General Archives of Greece, Sparta office, July 2016

General Archives of Greece, Sparta office, July 2016

Archives in the mornings — there’s no better way to start the day! The Sparta Office is a treasure chest filled with nuggets of genealogical gems:  documents, books, records. When I arrive, I learn that my archivist friends are on overload: Mrs. Pepi Gavala and her assistants, Michail Sovolos and Maria Stellakou. They explained that many government offices are now closing or consolidating, and sending their records to the Archives. Boxes lined the hallway, waiting for these good people to catalog and store them. Mindful of their workload, I settled in the main room and begin to dig for gold.

Research room, Sparta Office of the General Archives of Greece, July 2016

Research room, Sparta Office of the General Archives of Greece, July 2016

During my visit in 2014, I had obtained digital copies of the basic records for my family:  Male Registers (Mitroon Arrenon) and Family Registers (Dimotologion). I dug into these collections again for my newly-found surnames, and then for a few friends who had requested lookups. I asked Michalis for School Records from Agios Ioannis, and he brought me several books. I was very surprised to see that some of them had only girls’ names! As a Greek researcher quickly learns, there are few official records naming women. These truly are a treasure, as I can now begin to construct entire families, not just males. The school records for Agios Ioannis range from around 1900-1940; the exact tmeframe I need for my grandparents’ era. I stayed until 3:00 closing time, digitizing pages that listed my surnames. What a great find!

School Record Books, Agios Ioannis, Sparta Archives office, July 2016

School Record Books, Sparta Archives office, July 2016

Example of a School Record for Agios Ioannis, GAK Sparta Office, July 2016

Example of a School Record for Agios Ioannis, GAK Sparta Office, July 2016

Gregory Kontos arrived in the early afternoon to join me for three days of research. It was hot, hot, hot! And every repository was closed, closed, closed. So we filled the empty 1:00-4:00 p.m. timeframe by going to a place that never closes — the cemetery. Up and down the rows we walked, Gregory reading surnames off the headstones while I snapped photos of the ones that were a “yes.” The sun was scorching this July mid-day and there was no breeze, but we persevered until every name on every grave was read. Then it was time to enter the osteofilakio (οστεοφυλάκιο), the ossuary building.

One of two cemeteries in Agios Ioannis, Sparta, July 2016

One of two cemeteries in Agios Ioannis, Sparta, July 2016

There is limited cemetery space in Greece; therefore, families “rent” a burial plot for three years after which the bones are exhumed and placed in an ossuary. Walking into the osteofilakio is an almost sacred experience. Boxes on shelves line the walls; each inscribed with a family name and holding the bones of the deceased. Icons, photos, flowers, candles and small bottles of oil are carefully arranged around the boxes. A spirit of peace permeates the building. This is holy ground.

Ossuary house, Agios Ioannis Cemetery, July 2016

Ossuary house, Agios Ioannis Cemetery, July 2016

It was not until we left the cemetery and began driving towards town that we realized there are two cemeteries in Agios Ioannis. We returned the following afternoon and searched the second one. Next time I make a research plan, I have to make sure that I thoroughly vet all locations of potential resources.

Gregory and I had a full schedule for 1-1/2 days in Sparta: the Archives, two cemeteries, the Mitropolis, the Central Library, Amykles, and the Dimarheion (Town Hall). And of course, dinners with my family who have embraced him as one of us.

Prior to leaving for this trip, I had spotted a Facebook post about a newly published book about families from the village of Amykles. Since this is the birthplace of my Eliopoulos and Zarafonetis great-grandparents, I was very excited to meet Kaliopi Zarafonetis, the driving force behind this project. amykles-book-2 Gregory and I connected with Kaliopi in Amykles where she described the book’s genesis. There had been a village event which featured a display of old photographs. Everyone was surprised at the extent of the collection, but Kaliopi had the foresight to realize that these treasures would be lost if they were not preserved. Thus began her initiative to create the book. I was thrilled to see page after page of Eliopoulos and Zarafonetis families, most of which are most likely connected to mine. One of my great surprises was to learn that my cousin in Agios Ioannis had married a woman whose grandmother was a Zarafonetis from Amykles – a double connection!

Carol Kostakos Petranek and Kaliopi Zarafonetis, Amykles, July 2016

Carol Kostakos Petranek and Kaliopi Zarafonetis, Amykles, July 2016

On to the repositories. I was on the hunt for death records for specific members of my family. My cousin, an attorney for the government in Sparta, had contacted a colleague in the Town Hall and we obtained the certificate for a member of the Linardakis family of Vordonia. I was surprised to learn that death records for Agios Ioannis are in the Town Hall of Magoula, not Sparta! Unfortunately, I did not make it there but it is the first item on Plan A for the next trip.

The Sparta Dimarheion has books of Male Registers and Town or Family Registers, as seen on the shelves in the photo below. However, clerks are busy handling daily government functions and research requests are often put aside. I did pick up a form to use for future mail-in requests.

Sparta Dimarheion (Town Hall), July 2016

Sparta Dimarheion (Town Hall), July 2016

Record Request Form, Sparta Dimarheion, July 2016

Record Request Form, Sparta Dimarheion, July 2016

Our task at the Mitropolis in Sparta was to obtain specific pages of the Marriage Books for a friend. Although Gregory and I had been there in 2014, I was unsure if we would be granted access to the books again. My concerns were  unfounded. We were warmly greeted by a priest who brought us whatever we requested. When Gregory mentioned that the books were fragile and should be preserved, the priest replied that there had been discussions with the European Union about digitizing the records, but the talks had not come to fruition.

We were warmly greeted by a kind priest at the Mitropolis; Gregory Kontos and Carol Kostakos Petranek, Sparta, July 2016

A kind priest helped us at the Mitropolis; Gregory Kontos and Carol Kostakos Petranek, Sparta, July 2016

Then it was on to the Central Library of Sparta, located around the corner from the Mitropolis. This time our search was for history books of villages in Laconia, usually written by teachers during summer months. Giannis Michalakakos gave me the name of his colleague, Konstandinos Tzanetakos, who is a librarian there. We found Konstandinos in the section for Laconian history and he showed us the shelves that held many village histories.

The Laconia History section of the Central Library of Sparta; with Konstandinos Tzanetakos and Gregory Kontos; July 2016

The Laconia History section of the Central Library of Sparta; with Konstandinos Tzanetakos and Gregory Kontos; July 2016

There were books for lots of Laconian villages, but none for Agios Ioannis. Giannis explained this was because Agios Ioannis had begun as a settlement beneath the towering Mystras castle, and that any noteworthy event had occurred in Mystras and not in its valley. I had harbored a secret hope that I would find something, but my friend was right. Anyone looking for a history book can call or email the library to see if there is a book for their village and if so, obtain the name, author and publisher. Most likely, our friends at the Laconia bookstores, Laconia Odos in Skala and Adouloti in Aeropolis, can then locate the book for purchase.

Our tasks in Sparta were completed, so Gregory and I headed to the west coast of Laconia to visit the Archives in Kalamata. Why there? I was hoping to find a clue — any clue — as to whether my Kostakos or Eftaxias family may have been in the Kalamata region before they headed northeast to Spartan villages. I had been told that my great-grandfather, Andreas Kostakos, could have come from Pyrgos (see previous post).

This was my first visit to Kalamata, a charming city by the sea.

The city of Kalamata, Messinia, July 2016

The city of Kalamata, Messinia, July 2016

Waterfront, Kalamata, July 2016

Waterfront, Kalamata, July 2016

However, traffic in the city is a nightmare! The streets are one-way, very narrow, and very crowded. And horror of horrors — this is where I had my first car accident in Greece. It was a fender-bender at an intersection, and because we were moving so slowly, damage was minimal and no one was injured. But, I quickly realized the complexities of such a situation in a country where my language skills are not optimal. Calling the police and the car-rental agency, and talking with the other drivers could have been truly awful. Luckily, a passenger in the other car spoke perfect English and handled everything with grace and good humor. I was so grateful! Somehow I found my way back to the hotel and parked my car. I refused to let this mishap unnerve me, and I also refused to move the car until the day I left!

Accident! This is the car that hit mine in Kalamata, July 2016

Accident! This is the car that hit mine in Kalamata, July 2016

Gregory and I were very happy to meet in person our friend, Giota Siora. Giota is a Facebook friend on HellenicGenealogyGeek. Despite working full-time, she spends many hours online helping people with their research. For her devotion, she is greatly appreciated and respected.  Giota met us at the Kalamata Archives and introduced us to the Archivist, Anastasia Milioni, who also happens to be the wife of the mayor. This Archive has an extensive record collection for the Messinia Prefecture, including records of churches, land, houses, elementary schools, newspapers, military. The collection was greatly enhanced when Mrs. Milioni responded to a request from the GAK Central Office to ask local services to send their records to the Archives. Unfortunately, we were unable to do any research as the Archives is in the process of moving to a new location. Books were packed in boxes, and the office was essentially empty.

The Kalamata Archives is headed for a new home, July 2016

The Kalamata Archives is headed for a new home, July 2016


Giota Siora, Anastasia Milioni, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Kalamata Archives, July 216

When I inquired about possible records for the Eftaxias and Kostakos names, Mrs. Milioni did a computer search and found a few documents which look very promising. Two especially stood out:  a contract naming a Kostakos family in Anavriti, which could confirm oral tradition that the family had lived there prior to Agios Ioannis; and a contract for an Eftaxias family in Kalamata. After the office move, I will contact Mrs. Milioni and ask her to access these for me. I continue to be impressed with the kindness and professionalism of the Archivists in both Laconia and Messinia. They truly desire to be of help and will set aside whatever they are doing to be of assistance to researchers.

Giota suggested that we walk to the Dimarheion, or Town Hall, on the chance that we kalamata-dimarheion-signmight access records there. Visiting this municipal office, I was again reminded that clerks are extremely busy handling daily matters. Someone walking in and asking for records that are 150 years old are, at best, a distraction and at worst, an annoyance. This is especially true when there are six people standing in line, vying for a clerk’s attention. I was also reminded that the municipality has records only for its specific area of jurisdiction (unlike the Archives which has records for the entire prefecture).  Since I was looking for Pyrgos, a village not in the Kalamata jurisdiction, the clerk was not able to be of assistance. The lesson of that day was:  location is everything!

Dimarheion, Kalamata, July 2016

Town people waiting patiently for help on a Friday afternoon at the Dimarheion. The line stretched outside the door. Kalamata, July 2016

Every hour of my research trips are filled to the max. Sometimes “the force” is with me and I have amazing success; sometimes not, and the disappointment becomes a “learning experience.”  Nothing is lost; everything is gained. I love the ride!