Karyes Pafsanias

Antiquity - 4th Century B.C.


The site of the ancient settlement of Karyes is allegedly located at the entrance of the current settlement at the riverside of Diros river.

The name of the ancient small town was Karyaí(1), Káryai(2) or Karyá(3) and the residents called Karyátis (fem. Caryatid) Karyaíos and Karyéus. It owes its name to the many walnut trees that since then existed in the region.

The exact location of the ancient settlement has not yet been defined, due to the lack of the necessary excavations and the presence of building relics or temple ruins. However, during the cultivation of the soil and digging house foundations coins, pottery fragments, bones and funerary monuments have been uncovered that bear witness to the presence there of the ancient settlement.

The limits of the "demos"(community) of Karyes are determined by the nature of the ground morphology. At northeast was the ridge of mount Parnon, an area now called "Zigos" and follows the northern division of the Vourvouriotis river. At north to northwest follows the mountaintop "Elatos" and at west the mountaintop "Tsiouka" and the beginning of the current plain of Karyes. At south follows the current separation with Sellasia community and finally at east and southeast there is no clear distinction, because this area was inhabited in ancient era.

Homeric Era

Before the arrival of Dorioís (Dorians) in the Peloponnese, were in the Arcádes (Arcadians) and Tegeátes (Tegeans). Tegéa was consisted of nine (9) municipalities, one of which was the Karyatic. Tegéa participated with its own troops in the Trojan War and testimonies indicate that the area was inhabited before the Trojan War. Therefore the Karyátes were not Dorioís, but Arcádes.

After the First Messenian War, Sparta conquered areas of Skiritida and Karyés, but it did not made the inhabitants "Helots" (slaves), forced them to become allies and let them have a relative autonomy. Within this autonomy, residents maintained the worship of the Arcadian Artemis - Kallistos, the "Karyatin Artemis" with nymphs and religious dances, unlike the Dorian upright of the Dorian Artemis-Tauropolos, of struggles and blood.

Historic Era

During the Second Messenian War, the leader of Messinias Aristomenis in one of the raids in the outskirts of Sparta, grabbed some of the girls who took part in dance in honor of Artemis Karyatid and returned them to their families after received rich ransom . The above fact show that during that period Karyes was considered as Spartan territory.

Because of the war between Sparta, Messéne, Tegéa and Árgos, from the 8th till the mid-6th century BC, the area was either Tegéan or Spartan. However, from the mid-6th century and on, Karyes follows the fate of Sparta.

5th-4th Century BC

The area of Karyes constitutes the Northeast frontier of the Spártan state and a place where the Spartan kings and generals sacrificed the "Diavatíria" (Passing Through) ceremony, during which they decided if the gods favored military campaigns or not. Thucydides says that King Ágis, son of Archídamos, while campaigning against the Árgos, followed the eastern avenue towards Karyes. There he made "Diavatíria" sacrifices, in which the "sacred not proved blessed", and he returned to Sparta.

During the invasion of Thébes in Laconia land (369 BC) under the leadership of the generals Epaminóndas and Pelopídas, Karyates dreamed of their independence from the Spártans and allied with them, as did the Arcádians. But Spartans did not had any forgiveness of this apostasy and, according to Xenophón(4), the next year campaigning against the Arcádians, passed from Karyes slaying all the inhabitants. After this incident it took many years for its residents to rebuilt the city.

In 338 BC, by the omnipotence of King Philip of Macedonia and the refusal of Sparta to recognize him as a leader, the city of Sparta falls in isolation and decline. Therefore Karyes regain their autonomy.

(1) Karyai from Xenophon (Hellen. ST,5,25) and Pafsanias (C,10,7)
(2) Káryai from Thoukidides (V, 55, 3) and Pafsanias
(3) Karyá from Theopompos (Fragmenta Historicorum Gr. Theop. 55)
(4) Hellinika Ζ,1,28

Source: Κ.Μ. Pitsios (1948), Karyaí (Aráchova) Lakedaímonos, Historical, Cultural Study

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