A Short History of Stoupa

A Short History of Stoupa

Stoupa was known in ancient times as Lefktra, a Free Lakonian City which declared independence from stoupa1wtmkSparta, and this name survives as Lefktron, the village immediately behind Stoupa. Pausanias called here on his travels and recorded that  "Lefktra is two and a half miles from Pephnos (Agios Dimitrios). Why the city is called Lefktra I have no idea, but if it was named after Lefkippos, son of Periers, as the Messinians say, I suppose that is why the people here worship Asklepios most of the Gods, believing he was the son of Lefkippos's daughter Arsinoe. (Asklepios was a son of Apollo and was raised by Cheiron, a wise centaur, who taught him medicine and the art of healing.
He became the patron of that art and was eventually worshipped as a god).

There is a stone statue of Asklepios and elsewhere of Ino. (Minor goddess of the sea with the power to save sailors from shipwrecks). There is also a shrine and statue of Priam's daughter Kassandra, locally called Alexandra; and there are wooden idols of Karneian Apollo exactly according to the traditions of the Lakonians of Sparta.
On the Akropolis is a sanctuary of Athena with a statue and there are a shrine and sacred wood of Love at Lefktra; in the winter water runs through the wood but even if it flooded it could never clear away all the leaves that drop from those trees in early spring. (meaning it was a large wood?).

I will describe something that I know happened on the the ground near the sea at Lefktra in my own time.
A wind carried fire into the wood and destroyed most of the trees; when the place was stripped bare they found a statue put up there to Zeus of Ithome.
The Messinians say this is a proof that Lefktra belonged to Messinia in ancient times but it is possible that even if the Lakonians lived at Lefktra from the beginning, they could still worship Zeus of Ithome." 


Clearly Stoupa was a substantial settlement, ownership of which was disputed by Lakonia and Messinia but all that survives from Pausanias' description is the acropolis, now called the Kastro (castle) after the fortress built there by William (Guillaume) de Villehardouin in 1252 following the conquest of the Peloponnese by the Franks. It was called Beaufort but very little remains to be seen except for a few walls and the remains of a tower on the summit. The castle was also called "Yisterna" which means cistern and there is a large cistern on the summit. The Museum in Kalamata displays a small, carved marble head of Athena which was found here.

From this time on, the History of Stoupa parallels that of the rest of Exo Mani. There are very few old houses in Stoupa but that is not surprising - because of attacks by the Turks and pirates, nobody would have lived so close to the sea shore and they would have concentrated further inland at Lefktron where there used to be some tower houses. Stoupa itself would not have developed until after the Greek War of Independence when it would be deemed safer to live on the shore and even now it is little more than a village because the population during the winter is very small compared to summer.



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