Zarnata castle-Mani

It is within the juridiction of the Municipality of Stavropigio (Varousi), situated approximately 500 m. away from the town of Kampos. It is one of the four big castles of Mani. Entire its exterior curtilage is built on the wall of a pre-historic citadel – probably of Enopi. Traces of a polygonal wall made of large hewn stones on the fitting points still exist nowadays. 
The castle of Zarnata, or else the Castle of Koumoundarakis, was built by the Turks in the middle of the 17th century, as it is confirmed in a letter sent to the British chief-incommand Morozini by a comitee from Mani in August 1684, in which it is mentioned that the Ottoman conqueror “made another (castle) in Zarnata, which means the end of our city”. Moreover, French traveller Spon visited Morias in 1675 and wrote this about the castles of Kelefas and Zarnata: “At a small distance from Mani we had the pleasure of being informed by some locals, sailors on our boat, about the current situation in our homeland. They told us that some time ago Turks forced them to consent to him building, and he had two castles built on their beaches” (Kougeas, p.274). The remains of the castle’s tower still stand. 

In this castle of Zarnata Panagiotis Koumoundourakis, chieftain of Stavropigio and the fourth bey of Mani, took shelter in 1803, when he was dethroned and had young bey Antonios Grigorakis, Turks and all the other chieftains of Mani moving against him. It was only Theodoros Kolokotronis who assisted him and in fact he was bleesed in battle. Finally, with the help of the Mourtzinoi, only Kolokotronis was able to get away. He writes: “I had to help him for the sake of friendship. 3.000 Turks and Maniates were moving against Koumountourakis...he surrendered and the armada took him as a slave” (Th. Kolokotronis, Narration of events, p.12). 

Inside the castle of Zarnata, to the east, there was a significant post-byzantine temple of Saint Nikolaos, built probably during the second Venetian occupation. The temple had been left to fall apart and it was built by the locals in the middle of another castle, Zoodochos Pigi, around 1776.



During Turkish occupation the name Zarnata defined the general area of ancient Gerinia, very accurately described by famous Nikitas Nifakos, in his doggerel “History of entire Mani – social mores in political verses”: 

Pigadia and Selitza, there are two Mantineies, 
Trikotzova and Doloi, again two of them. 
Varousi, Kampos, Gastitzes, even Malta, 
Mprinta and Nerova are all in Zarnata.

Zarnata, which is not even marked on the map any more, and is now only a toponym referring to the hill with the castle, used to include the entire area. Kampos was Zarnata, only with a different name. Even the castle of Garmpelia (a castle near the big castle) is called by Fratzis “the castle of Zarnata”. Also, in the old times, the village of Orova was called “Orova of Zarnata”. And Stavropigio (Varousi) is related to the diocese of Zarnata (it is less convincing that it derives from the crossway, because then it should be called “Cross”). The diocese is mentioned as an exarchate for the first time in 1618. Since 1781 it was the Diocese of Zarnata and in 1811 it was promoted to an archdiocese. And in 1819 it became the eparchy of Zarnata, because Petrompeis, as the ruler of Mani, has its seat there (Kougeas, ps. 288-297). 

Zarnata, after being granted so many ecclesiastic titles, was finally covered by its status of exarchate and “Stavropigio of Zarnata” was simplified to the toponym “Stavropigio”, that made dissappear the historic and beautiful name Zarnata. Kougeas has dedicated a whole chapter to the etymology of Zarnata, putting forward all the possible explanations: from “arna” and the latin suffix ATA. Probably of a slavic root, indicated by the type “Tsernata” or “Tsarnata”. Even the presumptive derivation from the aquatile plant “cyperus”, which some – probably Slavs – called “zerna” in the 10th century, again with the suffix –ata. In the documents of Nevers and Garzoni it is always written as “Zernate” (Kougeas, p. 319). 

We are allowed to express another theory. Could it be that the name of the ancient city – the place of which is identified here – had initially been alterated by the Byzanntines and Gerinis became GERNA and GERNATA, with the suffix –ata, that meant possession? Letter G could have been pronounced as Z by foreign conquerors. And syllable GE-ZE, preserved for a long time, was easy to become ZA during what we call “preventive assimilation”.