Paliochora

Kythira, Greece

Paliochora, known by its contemporaries as Agios Dimitrios, was a village on the island of Kythira in southern Greece. The village was the first major settlement on the island since antiquity, and was sacked by the Ottoman Fleet Admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa in 1537. The fall of the village was a significant turning point in Kythirian history, and remains one of the island’s preeminent folktales.

Geography

The remote location, rough terrain, harsh weather, and seemingly continuous attacks by pirates had left the island of Kythira without infrastructure or administration until modern times. Any coalescence of peoples anywhere on the island had quickly resulted in a pirate raid, which subsequently led the island’s inhabitants back to their dispersed grazing fields. Although evidence exists of a major settlement during antiquity at the village of Paleopoli, Agios Dimitrios was the only major exception to this lack of civilization. The village was located in the fork of two canyons where a strategic stronghold could be erected. Most importantly however, the ‘island’ stronghold between the two canyons was significantly lower than the surrounding cliffs. This hid the village from anyone who did not come directly to it.

History

The official founding of Agios Dimitrios is unknown. Accounts indicate some of its original founders were present at the time of the village’s destruction, placing its foundation sometime in the mid fifteenth century. Since the Kythirians kept the location of Agios Dimitrios secret and its strategic location ensured a strong defense against any pirates, the island quickly grew economically and in population. By the 1530s, the population had reached 800 (more than any town on the island even today), fifteen churches, and twenty priests.

The city was destroyed in 1537 by Admiral of the Turkish fleet Hayreddin Barbarossa, the so-called “black menace” of the sea, who sacked the town, massacred many inhabitants, burned and ravaged the once vibrant capital city which was not to be ever inhabited again.

The island remote location and subsequent lack of a substantial population or economy led major powers to neglect it in coming centuries. At the turn of the eighteenth century the island was claimed by France, followed by Russia, Britain, and finally Greece in 1864.

Today

These days only ruined parts of it remain. Entering this area, you will find remnants of houses, as well as a few Byzantine churches. It is believed that around 70 houses and 20 churches used to be located within the walls of the castle.

The castle is surrounded by greenery and you can only get there on foot via a dirt road that starts outside Potamos. From there, it will take you about 1 hour to reach it.

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Address

Kythira, Greece
See all sites in Kythira

Details

Founded: 12th century
Category: Historic city squares, old towns and villages in Greece

Rating

4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Rosa Pujales Paradela (2 years ago)
It is really impressive and a must! We don't regret the visit even an inch! Truly worthy (at least for us).
jeremy kalous (2 years ago)
Fabulous ruins. Byzantine. The setting is incredible with the gorge plummeting below the ruins. There are even faded frescos. One of the best sites I have seen in Greece. Must see this place!
Konstantinos Velenis (2 years ago)
Unreal location of a destroyed city by Barbarossa. Definitely read the story before going there. A must see on the insland. Be careful to wear a hut and bring water if you go during the day as it lacks of shadows and it is not organized.
Stavros Apostolou (3 years ago)
A historical place with a lot of "energy". The gorges that surround the fortified location are impressive and breathtaking. The visitor can still see part of the fortificacions, old churches and remains of other buildings. Pure byzantine medieval architecture. Parts of church iconography can still be seen, but it is a pity that they are not protected against weather.
Efthymis Mitsos (6 years ago)
Atmospheric abandoned old Town of Kythera, I followed a very nice path from village Trifyllianika to Paleochora (2km, about 1 hour walking). There are great remains of the castle and Byzantine churches. Be careful when walking through the remains because the town was built on the edge of the cliff.
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