The Municipality of Styra
The Municipality of Styra includes the narrowest section of the island of Evia. Styra the main town of the Municipality, is located 89 kilometers south-east of Chalkida. Mountain Kliosi (685 meters) and its foothills create an idyllic landscape in the region, completing the picture provided by the lace-like coast of the gulf of Evia and the bays of Almiropotamos and Nea Styra. The small Stouronisia islands give the impression of guarding the bay of Styra from the western side. The largest, is the island of Styra (ancient Aigeilia), whilst smaller ones are Verdouni, Agios Andreas and Fonia or Founias.
Further south, in front of the bay of Almyropotamos, is the island Kavalliani, which is considered to be Pliny’s Glaykonnisos. The Municipality of Styra (with a population of over 3.000) today comprises a territory of 188.583 km² including Styra, the main city and the perished Almiropotamos, Mesochoria, Nea Styra and Polypotamos. Smaller hamlets are Kapsala, Panagia (Almyropotamo’s beach) – near by the Leon, the ancient promontory, according to the geographer Ptolemy, Lefka, Nimboorio, Raptei, Tsakei, etc. There are beautiful beaches on both sea, The Agean and the Euboean gulf. The Stouronisia are an ideal spot for small trips and fishing leisure. A visit to the famous and mysterious Drakospita (Dragon house) is a must for any visitor in Styra.
Roots & settlements within the picturesque Styra
Neimporio or Nimporio as it was more commonly referred to on maps, is one of the small coastal settlements of Styra, located on the boarders of the Municipilities of Styra and Marmara. Its name comes from the amalgamation of the words “neo” and “emporeio”. During the Byzantine period, emporeio referred to the :skala”, the port where the transportation of produce took place. The coast of Neimporio is magically enchanting.
The settlement of Kapsala is located on the road which connects Styra with Karista. Two other hamplets which belong to the Municipality of Styra are the Kangadaioi and Lefka. The village of Polypotamos is located exactly in the centre of the most narrow section of Evia (6 km wide). The roofs of the houses are covered in a type of tile which is abundant in the area. The settlement of Elaichoris belongs administratively to Polypotamos.
Almyropotamos is the north-east village of the Municipality of Styra, in an area of great interest. It has 500 residents and is set in a rocky hill-side in front of the valley which spreads out from the Dipotamo river. The visitor can admire an old building of 1860, used till today as the site of the community. The coastal hamlet of Panagia belongs administratively to Almyropotamos, as does the islet of Kavalliani. Many commentators identify Kavalliani as the ancient Glaukoniso, where the Olympic winner Glaukos, son of Dimilos, was buried by his felloe Karystians.
The paleontological survey in the valley of Almyropotamos, has uncovered many important findings which belong to mammals of the so called Picermius fauna. These are mainly the remains of small bodied horses which were no higher than 1.30 meters tall and had three toes on each foot, megatheriums, antelopes, dynothyriums etc. According to specialists, Picermius fauna belongs to a steppe environment and has an Asian origin; it is dated to around 8 million years ago. Near the beach we can also find the two famous old age-old olive trees, huge trees protected by the Ramsar Convention (1997), as unique monuments of nature. In the fountain of Almyropotamos (cold watered river)_ live eels, sea turtles, ducks etc.
The mesohoria of the Municipality of Styra took their name from own of the villages. These villages, aside the Mesohori itself, are Riza, Souristra, the Charitides, and Korfiotes, which is located on the height. Along with hamlets of Raptaion and Tsakaion, they have a population around 600.
The villages are located around 3.5km from the Agean sea and have two exits onto discharges of the small dry streams, where there are the bays of Almiriki (or Armirorichi) and Limnionas. During the German occupation, Greek and British members of resistance escaped to the Middle East from these bays and that at Tsakaia. The bay of Limniona with its clean white sand has today developed into a summer resort.
There is a stone fountain with a vaulted arch at Kamara. This village was known as Paleohori in Byzantine times. The hermitages of St. Dimitrios, St. Nicolas and St. George, with a vaulted arch in the sanctuary, are still standing. In the ravine there are the remains of a water-mill which was built in 1890. A trip to the ruins of the Monastery of the Evangelism of the Tsakaians,which today still functions as a monastery due to the presence of one nun, is worth to visit.
Nea Styra has today evolved into a summer resort with great prospects for further development. It was once however nothing more than the seaport of Styra and a beautiful coast. The first settlement, with the name of Gkisouri, was built in 1895. It took the name of Nea Styra in 1940. Today, Nea Styra is served by one of the ferry lines which connect southern Evia with shores of eastern Attica. There are also regular car ferries to and from Agia Marina on the opposite coast.
Dragon houses (Drakospita)
These houses were built from such amazing materials and, more to the point, in such an amazing way, that our good ancestors could not think of any other explanation for them, aside from the possibility that they were created by supernatural powers. There are many such constructions in Southern Evia, testifying that several centuries before history began to written, people who were truly “dragons” passed this way. And they were most likely “dragons” not only in terms of physical strength, but in strength of mind and in the ability to invent building methods which even in our period of hi-technology leave modern architects and engineers with their mouth open.
The dragon houses of Evia then, some of which are still in an excellent condition, are human constructions, the products of people who lived on the island before the seventh century B.C. and used them either as temples or their houses.
There are twelve dragon houses in Evia which are known today. In the past, only the dragon house of Ochi and three at Styra, the “Pali laka dragko”, that is four in total, were known. As a result of the determination and hard work of Professor Bikos Moustopoulos, we now know of a further eight.
Just less than two kilometers down the road past Kapsala is the dragko Limiko. This dragon house is the easiest to visit from Styra. Three other near Styra, which constitute a group, are known by the name Pali laka Dragko. Near Metsifi to Stiron is the Mariza or Louthmiel dragko. On the peak of the hill, at the feet of the Mariza dragko, there is another dragon house called Kioiuka dragko. At Aminos north-east of Styra, is the Kroi, the Ftoch Dragko, which consist of the two buildings at a height of 270m. The Tsougka Dragko is an hour away from the village of Stoupaioi. Further from Tsougka Dragko at Kiafi Yiard, is the Dragko Kastro. The best-preserved and best-built is not known by any specific name and is to be found on the peak of Mt.Ochi at a height of 1404 meters.
History of Styra
Styra, the site of the Municipality, is an old historic small town, and the tourist Nea Styra by the sea, which is relatively new and rapidly developing settlement. The first written reference to Styra is found in the “Illiad” of Homer, in the “catalogue of ships”, where its participation is mentioned, along with other Euboean cities, in the Troyan war under the command of Elafinor. The ancient Greek histographers, especially Herodotus, classified the population of Styra as part of the pre- Hellenic Indo-European tribe of the Dryopes. According to the lexicographer Stefanos Vyzantios, the Dryopes settled initially around Oitis and Parnassos. After the arrival of the Dorians they were forced to move towards Peloponnese and Euboea, occuping the are of Dystos, Styra and Karystos. In contrast with this view, the ancient geographer Strabo attributed the foundation of Styra to colonist from Marathon.
The dominant theory in comparative linguistics at the end of the eighteenth century identified the etymology of the root of the place name Styra with the Phoenician goddess Astarte (Astira) and the establishment in the area of a Phoenician trading colony. Today, this view has been rejected and today’s generally accepted version is that the name “Styra” comes from the Sanskrit word “Stoura” which was current around the ninth century B.C. and which means bull or ox.
Styra was conquered by the troops of the Persian general Dates during the Persian campaign against Greece in 490 B.C. Before the battle of Marathon, the Persians transported the captured Eretrians to the small islet of Styra, the ancient Aigileia. During the second Persian campaign against Greeks, the Styreans took an active part in the struggle against Xerxes’ forces, with two triremes and an infantry battalion taking part in the battle of Plataia in 479 B.C.
From the 477 B.C. Styra, along with all the other cities of Evia, participated in the Athenian league. The Styreans took part in many military campaigns on the side of the Athenians during the Sicilian expedition of 415 B.C. in the second phase of Peloponnesian War. It appears that in the early fourth century B.C. Styra came under the dominance of Eretria, since epigraphic evidence of the time refers to it as though it were an Eretrian territory. During the Lamian War between the Macedonians under Antipater and the Athenians in 322 B.C., the Styreans supported the former. As a result the city was destroyed by the army of the Athenian general Leosthenes.
The Styreans, along with the Eretrians and the Chalkidians were famed for their prowess at fishing for deep-red shell – fish. During the period of Roman rule, the economy of the Styra and Karista region was founded on the mining of its famous marble, which in antiquity was called Karystian or Styrean stone. It was called Euboean or according to Latin writers, cipollino. It was a green-veined marble from which were made columns of the Library of Hadrian in Athens, and which was in great demand in the Roman and Byzantine periods.
During the period of Frankish rule in Evia the settlement of Styra was located on its present site, in the shadow of the castles of the Armenians or Lamernians, the ruins of which are preserved at the top of the hill of St. Nicolas oe Diakpoftis (450m) above Kliosi. The castle was built over the walls of the ancient Acropolis of Styra. At the beginning of the 1.300s the fortress was conquered by the Catalans, who sold it to Venetians in 1373. It was still in use after the occupation of Evia by the Ottomans in 1470.
It was also during the period of Frankish rule that Albanian- speakers were first settledin Evia, after a decision by the Venetian Senate (20 April 1402), with the purpose of using this population in the defense of the island. A second wave of the Albanian – speakers arrived in Evia around 1425. These Albanian-speakers settled in the region which stretches out to the south Ochi as fas as Avlonari and Aliveri. These populations mixed with and were absorbed by the Greek population which was already there. The memories of these events are today preserved in the form of linguistic idiom of the region of Styra, the (Arvanitika), a combination of Greek, Albanian and Medieval linguistic elements. This idiom was spoken over the last few years by a large part of the population. In our days it tends to vanish as well as the traditions related to it. This “language” was considered barbaric, so the school teachers tried to eradicate it, aiming to the clean and perfect Greek, without any relation to the Turkish occupation. This leaded to the vanishing of a whole tradition of songs, music and cultural elements.
The Styreans (Stouraites)took active part in the struggle for the liberation against Ottomans. On 12, Junary 1822 on the hill of Kokkinomilos, nort-west of Styra, one of the most dramatic pages in modern Greek history was written. Elias Petrobey Mavromichalis and a few brave men entrenched inside a wind-mill, the ruins of which still remain, were besieged by the Ottoman hordes of Omer Bey of Karystos, and suffered a martyr’ death. A monument was erected to act as a local reminder of the sacrifice of the Maniat was-lord and his fellow fighters.
A few months after the battle of Kokkinomilos, in June 1822, Nikolaos Kriezotis was appointed head of the Greek revolutionary powers in Evia. On 20, March 1823 Kriezotis fortified the slope of Diakoftis below the castle of Armenians, with the purpose of using the area as a base for the military campaign to besiege Karystos. On 23, March 1823 the Ottoman forces attempted to occupy the area and destroy the revolutionaries. After a six-hour battle Ober Bey’s forces were repelled by the Greek fighters. The Battle of Diakoftis had a greater effect on the course of the revolution in Evia, reinforcing the morale of the revolutionaries as it was the first time that the fearful Bey of Karystos had been defeated in battle by the revolutionary forces.
Modern Styra is a beautiful and well cared for market town, which also acts as the seat of the Municipality of Styra. It lies at a distance of around four kilometers from the sea and Nea Styra. Important historical monuments of the medieval and modern periods are the Castle of the Armenians, and the two small churches found inside it. The stone-covered church of St. Nicolas, built in the early 1800s, is located at the peak of the hill on which the castle lies, and the hill takes its modern name from the church. The Church of Virgin Mary of the castle was, as two inscriptions near the entrance testify, rebuilt in 1746 on the ruins of an earlier single-aisle covered basilica. Other small churches of the area include the little historic church of St. Anne at Kapsala, built during the period of Ottoman occupation, and the cruciform-shaped Byzantine temple of the SS Theodore at Reouzi (a hamlet of the Municipality of Styra).