History of Vies
Millions of years ago, the territory of what is now the municipal department of Vies (also known as Vatika) lay under the sea. The geology of the region has since undergone many changes due to major upheavals in the deepest levels of the earth’s crust.
During the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods it was most likely inhabited, along with the rest of the Peloponnese.
The abundance of Neolithic ceramic inscriptions found in the southern Peloponnese indicates that there was always life in this part of Greece: scattered findings, mainly stone axes and mattocks found in ruins of settlements in Vatika, show that humans were active there in that period.
More information is available about the following, Proto-Helladic period, such as the precise positions of habitations and findings of pottery. The local economy was initially based on farming and livestock breeding.
Around 1900 BC (the Meso-Helladic period), there was a massive migration of peoples, during which time the Achaeans took over the Peloponnese. Herodotus writes that important urban centres sprang up at Asopos, Elos and Vies. The latter developed as a trading centre and its inhabitants came into frequent contact with the peoples of the Cycladic and other islands, Crete and the rest of mainland Greece.
During the Mycenaean period (1600-1100 BC), three cities flourished in the region, forming what was known as a Laconian Tripolis. One of these was Side, named after the daughter of Danaos or Zarakas, king of Karystos on the island of Euboea, who had taken refuge on Cape Maleas from the wrath of the goddess Hera. According to one theory, Side is now submerged near the Byzantine chapel of Aghios Georgios, Velanidia, where there are signs of major landslides along the coast and the seabed is scattered with potsherds.
Another theory puts the site of Side further to the north at Velanidia; less likely is the possibility that it was at Pavlopetri, or even Porto Cayio on Cape Tenaro.
Itis was one of two cities built by Aeneas after the fall of Troy. On his way home to Italy he was forced to take shelter in the bay of Vies. According to Curtius, Itis lay south of Neapoli at Palaiokastro.
Aphrodisias was also supposed to have been built by Aeneas or possibly by inhabitants of Kythera. It was situated either where Daimonia now stands, or north of the village of Aghios Georgios where the remains of a fortification and other structures have been found.
Between 1050 and 950 BC Heraclides Boeus, realising the strategic importance of the region for maritime trade, decided to found a city-state there and forced the inhabitants of the three towns to build a new city. He called on the goddess Artemis to show him where this city should stand. The goddess sent a hare, which dived into a burrow under a myrtle bush. This was where the city of Boeae (the ancient name for Vies) was built. At the time Pausanias was travelling in the area (174BC), the local inhabitants were still worshipping the myrtle and the goddess Artemis.
In the 6th century BC, Sparta had conquered the cities of Laconia and Vies became a focus for its enemies. During the Peloponnesian War it was attacked and looted by Athenians, forcing the inhabitants to build high walls.
In the early 2nd century BC, the Roman general Titus Flaminius gave the coastal towns of Laconia their freedom and formed the Lacaedemonian League, which later under Augustus would be renamed the Free Laconian League.
This was a time of prosperity for Vies, as it had become an important trading centre and port, and issued its own coins. Farming, fishing and shipping all flourished.
However, in later centuries the town fell into decline and was completely destroyed in the massive earthquake of 375 AD, when it was partly submerged.
Various settlements known as Vatika (a derivation of Boeae) emerged at different times, but were at the mercy of pirates.
Many of its inhabitants took part in the war of independence against the Turks, as members of the Philiki Etairia and in land and sea battles.
After independence, the area was divided into two administrative units: Boeos, with the village of Lahi as its centre, and Maleas, centred on the village of Faraklo.
In 1840 the two were merged into the municipality of Vies, with its capital the settlement of Pezoula, renamed Neapoli in 1845. It included the villages of Faraklo, Mesochori, Kastania (upper and lower), Velanidia, Aghios Nikolaos, Lahi and Elafonisos.