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Stoupa was known in ancient times as Leuktra, a Free Lakonian City which declared independence from Sparta. This name survives as Lefktron, the village immediately inland from Stoupa on the other side of the main road. Pausanias called here on his travels and recorded that:

Leuktra is two and a half miles from Pephnos [Agios Dimitrios]. Why the city is called Leuktra I have no idea, but if it was named after Leukippos, 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 Leukippos’s daughter Arsinoe. There is a stone statue of Asklepios and elsewhere of Ino. 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 Leuktra; 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. I will describe something that I know happened on the ground near the sea at Leuktra 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 [ancient Messene]. The Messinians say this is a proof that Leuktra belonged to Messinia in ancient times but it is possible that even if the Lakonians lived at Leuktra from the beginning, they could still worship Zeus of Ithome.”

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view over Stoupa from the Castro

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. Panoramic views make the short walk up worthwhile (refer to the map to see where the walk starts). The castle was also called ‘Yisterna’ which means cistern and there is a large cistern on the summit. The Archeological Museum in Kalamata displays a small but beautiful marble head of Athena that was found here.


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