The existence of Galaxidi dates since 1393 BC. The various events, the inscriptions,the finds, the graves intermingle with the legends and it is very difficult to disentangle them.
The city was originally built 130 m above the sea, on a hill, near the location of today's church of St.Blasius and it was called Oianthi. This church was destroyed by an earthquake and it was rebuilt from preexisting old walls. All the surrounding area is an archeological site. The city was built two centuries before the Trojan war by Locros, a descendant of Defkalion. After his death a monument was erected to his honour by the Oianthians, called "the Locrion". In one Delphic inscription though it is written that the only sovereign was Armodamos. For a little while the city was also called Katakuzinoupolis, in 1444 A.D., from the name of Constantine Katakouzinos. Oianthi had signed at that time a treaty with the neighboring city of Horakion (Itea-Xeropigado) for peaceful coexistence and resolution of their differences, which proves the degree of civilization of the two cities.
Oianthi was a nautical city and was connected with many cities by sea with which it had commercial and diplomatic relations. The regime was an authoritarian one, under a tyrant.Later on, the city of Galaxidi was founded by the sea and remained the main residence city of the people of Oianthi until today.
In the beginning the people were living of piracy against enemy ships and caves were constructed to hide the ships in the location of Kavos and Potamaki. During the Peloponnesean War, Oianthi was an ally of Aitoloi and Philip,wanting to take revenge of Oianthians, declared war against them and conquered them. In the 3rd century B.C. Galaxidi became a nautical center and made alliances with other cities. Old texts found in Galaxidi talk about the nautical city with the marine history and heritage of the passion for the sea which until today remains a characteristic of all people of Galaxidi. Rigas Fereos' charta (map) in 1797 presents the name of Oianthi and Pentayi for today's Galaxidi. The presence of a small forest of pine trees, which are used in building ships, indicates the growing art of constructing means of marine transportation in Oianthi.
The historian Constantine Sathas of Galaxidi,studied and presented a lot of information about the history of Galaxidi from the prechristian times until the 6th century A.D. In a cosmography book of a foreign writer many important cities are mentioned like Athens,Piraeus, Elefsis,Nafpaktos and Oianthi.In the middle of the 6th century A.D. the city was destroyed from an earthquake and from attacks of barbarian troops.It then changed its name and when it was rebuilt, due to the economic development of its inhabitants,it was named Galaxidi.
In the 9th century it is mentioned as Pentayi (five saints=pente ayi) but later on it is mentioned again as Galaxidi,which remains its name until today.
The most probable origins of the name Galaxidi are the following: It may come from a plant (Galaxida) or from a Byzantine local ruler whose name was Galaxidi. But the origin which seems more appropriate is that it comes from the word Galaxavra, daughter of Oceanus-king of the seas- whose name means the place of worship of the seas.
From the 6th to the 9th centuries A.D. Galaxidi grew to become a famous nautical and urban center with a chair of the archibishop as shown in a list of the Byzantine emperor Leon the Wise. The monk Efthymios writes that during the invasion of the Bulgarians in 981-996 A.D. Galaxidi was a growing city. This is also evident from manuscripts which are saved from the monastery of the Saviour Christ built by Michael Komnenos .
In 1660,Galaxidi was destroyed during an attack of pirates and the remaining inhabitants found refuge in the west side where they built their settlement and two churches: that of Panayia (Virgin Mary) called "Kleftopanayia" and that of the Prophet Elia.This settlement was called Palaio-Galaxidi (Palaio=old) because of the old materials used to build it.They stayed there for 13 years and according to local witnesses Saint John (Prodromus) revealed and advised them to go back to their original site by the sea to rebiuld their city.This is what they did and named their city Pentayi (Five Saints) because of the five churches they built.The name stayed until the 17th century,when it changed back to Galaxidi.
The people of Galaxidi were quite rich because due to their marine occupation brought a lot of money to their homeland. But this did not make them indifferent nor reconciliatory with their various conquerors.On the contrary they had above all the the freedom of the Nation, Christianity and human dignity.
The Chronicle of the monk Efthymios presents that from 981 A.D. until 1700 A.D.Galaxidi was not simply a city but a small regime with high ideals. Recent archeological diggings verified that Galaxidi has a history of 3400 years starting 1393 B.C. They found a lot of copper, golden and silver coins mainly Macedonian in the harbour of the ancient Oianthi.It is known that the civilization started from the sea and all marine lands became the origins of civilization.Thus Galaxidi with its long marine history founded a special civilization in Focis (the State where it is located) Galaxidi and its people became synonymous to the sea and shipping.
During that time ships are built with the skills of the people of Galaxidi not only in the city but in others as well, such as Messologgi and Nafpaktos.
In the 18th and 19th century A.D. Galaxidi was the first Greek harbour with famous shipyards and nautical fame beyond Greece.Many ship owners from the entire land of Greece came to the shipyards of Galaxidi not only to build their ships but also to recruit captains and crew from Galaxidi,known for their honesty,hard work and marine abilities.The nautical growth remained strong during the 19th century and especially during the Liberation War which started in 1821.
During the 19th century the preparation for the liberation war of the Nation from the Ottoman empire is intense.At that time groups of men with few or primitive arms formed the so called "armatoloi" and "kleftes".The prominent ones in Roumeli were Katsantonis,Androutsos,Karaiskakis,Blahavas and Tsekouras,two brothers from Galaxidi.Galaxidi declared a non-stop war for the liberation of the nation in the sea and in the land.
During the period of the secret movement of Filiki Society, the marines from Galaxidi were in constant contact through the Patriarch Gregorios the 5th with the Archibishop of Salona Essaias who was a member of the Filiki Society. Because of the freedom to travel in the seas of Ionian and Aegean and in Efxinos and the Mediterranean the city of Galaxidi became quite rich, and civilized with autonomous government and privileged taxation.It had a harbour and 40 big ships, a lot of smaller ones and land force.
The privileged situation of Galaxidi was mainly because of:
The reasons which influenced the people of Galaxidi to contribute to the liberation war of 1821 were national,moral and psychological. They first joined forces with people from other cities of Roumeli in Messologgi and later in Hydra.On March 26, 1821 they declared the start of the war (about 1400 men) with Ioannis Metropoulos as their leader in the location of the present church of Saint John Prodromos.In the neighboring city of Saint Efthymia they joined forces with Panourgias and his men and moved to Salona in order to liberate its castle. Among them was Ioannis Karalivanos and on the 10th of April 1821 the castle was conquered by this group of fighters from Galaxidi as well as the whole historic city of Salona. It was the first turkish fort which fell in the hands of Greeks.
They moved on to Alamana and Gravia having the Archibishop Essaias with them. On the bridge of Alamana the legendary hero Athanassios Diakos was caught by the Turks and later on brutally killed.The remaining 117 people were locked in the Hani of Gravia with Odysseus Androutsos. Among them, 52 were from Galaxidi according to the historian Sathas.Everybody fought with pride until the end.
The people of Galaxidi went on to Nafpaktos which they surrounded. But personal interests and passions among the rulers caused the murder of Ioannis Metropoulos at the age of 41 in his sleep.His death not only created a lot of sorrow among his followers, but also was the cause of their leaving the city of Nafpaktos. The Turks then took advantage and burned the city and all the ships.
Galaxidi as a marine center had also started the war in the sea.In their ships, captains from Galaxidi raised the local liberation flag in black and white showing the eagle (Greek nation) attacking the dragon (Ottoman empire). With all their fleet they left the harbour with destination to Nafpaktos and Patra to cut off the connectivity of Turks from Roumeli and Peloponnese.
The contribution of Galaxidi from land and sea during the liberation war was the cause of the decline of the city which sacrificed itself during that holy war of the nation.
The cultural contributon of Galaxidi was big as well. Among the three big newspapers in Roumeli was that of Galaxidi.The other two were the Aitoliki of Messologgi and Acheloos of Agrinio.
The people of Galaxidi continued their fight by organizing a small fleet before the fleets of Hydra and Spetses come to existence.The leader was Constantin Dedousis. Later on the joined fleets of Hydra, Galaxidi and Spetses surrounded from the sea the city of Nafpaktos and prevented the contact of the Turks from the sea. The ships of Hydra and Spetses at some point left and the fleet of Galaxidi remained to continue with Agamemnon, the ship of Bouboulina, which left as well after a while for Spetses.The Turks then decided that it was time to get rid of Galaxidi since it was a major threat in the area of Corinthia-Nafpaktos-Patra. The Turk-egyptian fleet with the Egyptian Ismael Gibraltar as their leader left the harbour of Patra and went to Galaxidi on September 22, 1821. Most of the ships of Galaxidi were out in the seas offering their services to the liberation war.Galaxidi had been left without defence with only few men who fought heroically until the end.The city which had cultivated and taught the highest virtues of honesty,dignity with its heritage and riches was burned and destroyed in one day.
However,after a few months of its destruction Galaxidi managed to rebuild its shipyards and made its comeback as fighters in the Corinthian sea against the Turks.
In the land now,organized troops of Kioutachis came on to Messologgi destroying everything which came in their way.They passed by Galaxidi and Salona. Again Imbraem left Patra and came to the sea of Galaxidi.This time the inhabitants had time to leave the city and Imbraem only captured 30 small ships.
The third time the scheme of the Turks succeded and Galaxidi was completely destroyed.
Many historians (mainly from Peloponnese) hid the historical facts about Galaxidi and presented only those about Peloponnese. In the national archives there are two documents from Galaxidi which describe the action of the historic city of Galaxidi. After the liberation of the new Greek state, a commitee of nautical people was formed with Andreas Miaoulis as president.This commitee decided to honor the marine warriors of 1821. Among them were 11 from Galaxidi.
In 1860, Galaxidi managed to have its shipyards in operation again and, at the same time, they formed 3 nautical insurance companies with founders and members responsible to pay in case of a ship damage of another member depending on the proportion of contribution which was based on the ship's value.
It was an ideal insurance which even astonished the greater at the time insurance company:LLoyd's.
In 1892 the growth reaches its height with 550 ships sailing in the seas and continuing Galaxidi's nautical presence. Those 550 ships were mainly owned by the families of Levantis, Kammenos, Petradzas, Chardavellas, Metropoulos and Vlamis.
However during the last decade of the 19th century the Galaxidi fleet starts falling behind. Steam replaces sails but the Galaxidi fleet does not follow.
Galaxidi is considered the second nautical center after Syros.It had a school of captains which was in operation before those of Hydra and Aspropyrgos.
In the area of Roumeli Galaxidi was prominent with its big ships capable to cross the oceans with a capacity over 1100 tons. Among them were:
It is not an exaggeration if we mention the second part of the 19th century the captain's era.That era was presented and praised by the well known writer Eva Vlami in her renowned book "Galaxidi-the fate of a marine state".
Those same captains when they retired,were coming back to Galaxidi and they were either occupied with astronomy or with painting.We thus have pieces like that of captain Elias Skourtis who constructed the radiac cycle on the floor of the church of Saint Paraskevi and the sun clock in the entrance,captain Zacharia who preserved the mermaid of his ship,captain Petros Petradzas who painted (among other things) the reception of Othon in Galaxidi, captain Efthymios Petradzas and others.
It was not unusual for that time to meet people from Galaxidi who knew many foreign languages like English,French,Italian,Russian,Turkish even Arabic. Most financial exchanges were in foreing golden coins,napoleonia or english or turkish golden lire.
The cultural growth of Galaxidi became quite evident after the independence about 1830 and remained until today with writers, painters, scientists who became known in Greece and abroad. Among them was Constantin Sathas, historian and writer who was born in 1842 and died in 1914. He conducted his research for 50 years in the biggest centers of his time: Venice, Piza, Florence, Genova, Paris. He published more than 20 books( in french), 75 papers which helped him in research of Greek history. France presented him with the golden metallion of the Academy for his distributions.
Eva Vlami-Lekatsa is anoter famous writer from Galaxidi. She studied literature and music and became famous in the literary circles even in her first appearance as the writer Spyros Melas said. She was honored with the Ouranis award for the book "Skeletovrahos".
The most recent writer from Galaxidi, Costoula Metropoulou, studied law and has written 11 books. She was awarded the Ouranis award for her book "Faces and Figures".
In painting Spyros Vassiliou created his own school with his personal style. He studied in the Ecole des Beaux Arts and in 1930 was awarded from the Academy of Athens for his designs for the icons of the church of Saint Dennis in Athens. He published the book "Ships from Galaxidi", where beautiful pictures (mostly painted) of the ships are presented.
The churches of Galaxidi were constructed before 1821.The biggest one St.Nickolas was rebuilt in 1827-1902. Its temple is well known throughout Greece as a masterpiece of sculpture in wood.
The church of St.Paraskevi presents a simpicity and a mysterious atmosphere. It was built before 1821 and graves with roman tombstones were found in the churche's grounds.
The church of St.John Prodromos was built before 1821 as well. It is very picturesque and it has an icon drawn by the Byzantine painter Michael Damaskinos in the 16th century showing the holy family.
Other churches are those of St.George on the small island with the same name, St.Andreas, Zoodochos Pigi known as Kleftopanayia. In the 19th century two thieves under Krikelas kidnapped two youngsters who were inside the church. The youngsters were sons of rich families of S.Petradzas and E.Katsoulis. To release them the gang received 1000 golden napoleonia coins thus the church is known as Kleftopanayia.
Comments can be sent to the author : Panayiotis G. Petradzas email:firstname.lastname@example.org Physicist - MSc Telecommunication Engineer