Around Ellenika, Stavroudaki & Chavouna
Such was Kea’s wealth of agricultural and mineral re sources and the strategic importance of its geographical position in early Antiquity that, beyond the four cities of the Tetrapolis, there were other scattered, agricultural communities on the island. One such was in the area of Ellenika (8.5km), reached by continuing south along the main road after the Episkopi turning. (The modern toponym ‘Ellenika’ normally indicates an ancient settlement.) Ellenika marked the northern limit of the territory of Karthaia, the island’s richest city: several ancient roads lead between here and Karthaia, and the area has a scattering of ancient remains and many re-used spolia—for example at the church of the Taxiarchis, at the church of Aghios Nikolaos (150m left of the school), and at the village spring-house. From the centre of the village, a track leads 1.8km west to the monastery of Aghios Panteleimon (follow straight, without turning off). The route is lined with splendid examples of Valonia oaks. The church is a simple stone-built late 16th century structure, with unadorned interior and ancient spolia outside its east end. It is the tranquil and unaltered setting, with the monastic courtyard still inhabited by local farmers, and the site’s magnificent views that are most memorable. A short distance beyond to the north a path leads past a spring and to the ruins of a 13th century church, of which the apse survives, with contemporaneous paintings of Hierarchs, grouped around a simple episcopal throne constructed of schists. These are the remains of the former monastery of St John the Baptist where Michael Akominatos, the bishop of Athens who was forced to flee during the time of the Latin domination, lived and wrote until his death in 1220. The remains are referred to locally as the ‘Synthronon of Timotheos’, in honour of the holy Timotheos, bishop of Euripos, who stayed here in the 16th century while build the nearby monastery of Aghios Panteleimon. Timotheos was an ascetic, and his presence is also recalled in a hermitic cave to the south of here, to which he retreated. (Reached by returning to the main road, continuing south on it for 2km, and turning right onto a track which leads back north and then circles round the head of the valley to the cave.) A modern church has been erected below the cave. A fluted pagan column fragment supports an improvised altar beneath the rock overhang: a weak spring on the west side of the cave weeps a supply of water just sufficient for a hermit to live on.
At 10km, half-way between Ellenika and the turning for the cave of Timotheos, another track branches from the road in the direction of the sea, towards the conspicuous hill which is visible 3.5km to the south and is crowned by the church of Aghios Simeon. The site suggests a place of ancient cult, and it is no surprise to find many ancient architectural elements incorporated into the surround wall and gate-way.
Some have clearly been adapted in Byzantine times, pointing to a continuity of cult. Further south, along the main road towards Kato Meria, is the attractive 13th century church of the Aghii Apostoli (12km). (1km south of the turning for the cave of Timotheos: church lies short distance to north of road.) The low compact church is of inscribed-cross design with a dome; although renovated inside, several fragmentary areas of wall painting are visible, revealing at least two periods of painting. The series of clear and large-eyed faces in the southwest corner, under the arches and on the pillars are probably contemporary with the building of the church; of the same period is the painting in the apse—Christ, with scroll and finger raised, in a beautifully realised decorative medallion. Chromatically and stylistically different and of later date (16th century) are the Pantocrator, the Evangelists in the squinches and the Nativity scene in the north transept. Once again, the altar is a fluted column-fragment, probably from Karthaia. A good example of the typical Kean stavlos, with corbelled roof closed with wide schist monoliths, stands by the gate in the field above the east end of the church.
In the settlement of Kato Meria (12.5km) are many other traditional Kean structures; directly east of the church of Aghios Giorgios is the ruin of a finely constructed wind-mill, which constituted part of a farm complex, comprising a mill, a paved water-catchment ‘apron’, a well, a cistern and a winnowing-circle—all de signed and built with the care andenuity that comes of an accumulated collective experience.
At the scattered settlement of Stavroudaki (14km) the road divides. On the left branch, leading down towards the sea and to * Ancient Karthaia, just above the point where it ceases to be cement track and becomes a stone kalderimi, is the circular base of a Hellenistic tower—one of several which survey the territory and routes of access of the ancient city.
Kea Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.