Myths & legends

Numerous myths and legends have been associated with the broader area of Vatika, particularly with Cape Maleas. These stories have been passed down from one generation to the next, creating a rich tradition of oral history.

Agia Irini
According to the researcher Dr. Eleftherios Alexakis “places assume the form of a mythological text linked directly and indirectly with the collective memory and imagination” (2011). A typical example is the tradition surrounding the origins of the monastery of Aghia Irini, as told by a resident of the village of Velanidia:
Once upon a time, as a ship was about to sail from Piraeus for Mani, in the southern Peloponnese, a young blind girl approached the captain and his crew and asked them to take her wherever they were going. At first the captain refused, but eventually gave in to the girl’s entreaties. But when they reached Cape Maleas, they decided to put her ashore. After giving her some bread, olives and water, they wished her good luck and left her by a cave.
When her food was all gone, she found some water in the cave. After drinking the water and making a wish, she slowly began to gain her sight. Looking up at the mountain, on a high rock she saw a strikingly beautiful young woman, who greeted her. When the girl asked her who she was she replied: ” I am Aghia (Saint) Irini. I have made you well and that is my home over there. Don’t be afraid, for I will always come to your aid.
As soon as she had spoken, the woman disappeared. Greatly moved, the girl climbed up quickly to look for the saint’s hermitage. But she found nothing. She realised that somewhere nearby, the saint’s icon would be found. Later, the girl married a local nobleman and told him the story, adding that the only thing she asked of him was to go to Cape Maleas to the place where she had seen the saint, to look for her icon and build a monastery to her there.
Her husband raised no objection and gathered together a number of labourers and headed for the cape. After digging in several places, they found the saint’s icon a few days later, and built the monastery of Aghia Irini that still stands there today.

Source: Stavrianos 1968, 52-55, from Anarygyros P. Kounoupas, Velanidia.


Many of the myths concern the pirates who terrorised the local population and passing ships for many centuries. There are stories associated with nearly every point on the peninsula, such as this one about Sarigalis:
A site on Cape Maleas is named after Sarigalis, a pirate captain who had his lair on the steep slopes of the cape.
When piracy was at its peak, Sarigalis established a base on the rugged rocks of Cape Maleas, carrying out forays with his men to rob any ship that dared pass by. The rocky coastline was dotted with the hoists and pulleys used for launching his boats.
Yet one day Sarigalis fell gravely ill. He sent his deputy and crew out to raid a passing ship while he looked on from his mountain lair. Suddenly, he saw the ship sail off and his own boats sink. Realising it was all over for him, he threw himself off the cape and drowned.
The hoists and pulleys he used for his boats can still be seen on the rocks.

Source: Stavrianos 1968, 51, from Ioannis. A. Karantzis, Velanidia.

More information about the local legends and myths can be found in the following text:
Αlexakis, Eleftherios (2011). Popular traditions and the landscape of Cape Maleas: An anthropological approach. International Symposium on the Cultural Environmental Heritage and Landscape “Cape Maleas: From Homeric to Contemporary Landscape” 30 April – 1 May 2011. Monemvasia, Laconia»


The myth of the stone ‘Frigates’ of Marathias (Elika)
It was a time when kings had no power, when Greek waters were aflame with the terror of piracy –   Turks, north Africans from the Barbary Coast – that spread panic among the peoples of the Peloponnese coast.
That was the time in which this myth had is origins.
Late one summer afternoon, ships’ masts appeared on the far horizon flying pirate flags. As the ships approached, slowly but steadily, the alarm was raised by the guards manning Elika’s two towers. They had been watching the vessels approach trying to see if they were in fact pirate frigates. There was no doubt about it.
The guards began sending signals along the coast to warn villagers of the threat looming in the distance. When the people saw the signals, they panicked. Exhausted from repeated pirate raids and disheartened because no one could do anything to help them, they turned to the little chapel of Aghios Georgios and fell on their knees in the faint hope that their prayers to the saint would be answered.
If the approaching frigates turned out to be Greek ships they would be welcomed. But if they were pirates come to loot homes and farms, then let the saint work a miracle and turn the ships to stone on the spot!
And in fact, just then a fire broke out on one of the ships and all of them suddenly turned to stone! The people of Elika had been saved! The ships were transformed into rocky islets that stand just off the shore of Marathia. Ever since then, these stone ships have stood there, battered by the seas to remind the people of the help given to them by the saint.

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.