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General History

History > General History > Origin of the notions of Exo Dimos and Mesa Dimos.

History > General History

submitted by George N Leontsinis on 26.10.2006

Origin of the notions of Exo Dimos and Mesa Dimos.

The notions of Exo Dimos and Mesa Dimos arose historically out of the relationship between the old and sizable town of Ayios Dimitrios (which later came to be known as Paliochora, "the old town"), and the emergence of the town of Hora (to the South), and 3 other towns which constituted the islands main fortifications.

Ayios Dimitrios was the town sacked by Barbarossa in 1537.

pp. 46-47. The Island of Kythera. A Social History. (1700-1863). George N Leontsinis.

"....shortly before the sack of Ayios Dimitrios, the new settlement of Kapsali, the later Chora, had begun to develop into a sizeable township thanks to the efforts of the Venier, who had seen that it was needed for the island’s security. Thus, by the time the old capital was destroyed (1537), there was another town in existence ready to suc­ceed it. The rapid growth of the new capital and the emergence of a new nobility there, gave rise to a lasting state of mistrust and hostility between the southern and northern parts of the island — the Mesa Dimos (‘Inner Municipality’) and the Exo Dimos (‘Outer Municipality’) as they came to be known when the administrative divisions were reor­ganised after the union of the Ionian Islands with Mainland Greece. The origins of this estrangement are undoubtedly to be found in the destruc­tion of Ayios Dimitrios and the upheavals that followed it. It subse­quently developed into open antagonism and led to lasting friction between the new (post- 1537) nobility and the lower classes (both towns­people and peasants) in the later centuries of Venetian rule.

Two opposing forces were at work throughout this period. On the one hand there was the constant population loss due to warfare and disease; on the other, the arrival of new immigrants from places nearby. The net result was a community in which many different elements were intermingled and the rate of population growth was always very slow.

The geographical distribution of the villages on the island was sim­ilarly affected by events from within and without. Initially, the pattern was set by the course of events in the early centuries of political fluctua­tion between administrative dependence on the Peloponnese (before the Frankish conquest), the rule of Venice’s vassals the Venier, and the rule of Greek archontes from Monemvasia. As time went on, it was also affected by the location of the various fortresses that were built.

The citadel of Ayios Dimitrios, in the north-east corner of the island, was the first of the chain. Its construction was essential to the safety of the population and therefore to the success of the drive to attract settlers. Then the Venier, who regarded population growth as a matter of the utmost importance, decided it was necessary to have a second fortress in the south of the island. The castle of Chora-Kapsali, dated from these early years, consisted of an enceinte surrounded by a walled entrenchment with towers, turrets, barbettes and other defence works. In time a considerable settlement grew up close to it, destined to become the chief town of the island, after the destruction of Ayios Dimi­trios, and to play an important part in local history thereafter. Two other castles of some importance to the defence of the island, those of Mylopo­tamos and Avlaimon, completed the chain of major fortifications. It was Barbarossa’s raid in 1537 which compelled the Venetians to take more effective measures for the island’s security. Sizeable villages grew up little by little round both of these later sites; first at Mylopotamos (Kato Cho­ra Mylopotamou) and much later at Avlaimon. The order of size of the four towns or villages was the same as the chronological order of con­struction of the four castles, namely: Ayios Dimitrios, Chora-Kapsali, Mylopotamos, Avlaimon.

Whenever the island was attacked the inhabitants would take refuge in the nearest castle. All four of the major fortresses, incidentally, had civilian houses within their enceintes. Pirate raids were evidently a fre­quent occurrence, to judge by the number of crypt and cave churches found on the island, which were used as places of sanctuary by those who were not within reach of a castle.

Notable Kytherian. Professor George N Leontsinis

The Island of Kythera. A Social History. (1700-1863). George N Leontsinis.

Preface & Acknowldgements

Chapter 1: Introduction

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1 Comment

submitted by
Rebecca Messina
on 02.11.2014

Where may I get some more information about the Venetian castle/fortress/museum which exhibits the coat(s) of arms of early-prominent families of KYTHERA. Who were the prominent families? Any existing records of the surnames? Enjoyed your writing very much. Thank you. Rebecca Leontarakis Messina