At the southwest part of Taygetus, a little bit before the mountain is cut by the col that leads to Areopoli, at the area of Polyaravos (the village at the southwest edge of the territory of Gythion Municipality, close to the borders of the territories of Lefktron and Vytilo Municipality) the third and last battle of the Maniots against Ibrahim took place. The outcome of the battle was decisive, because after that he resigned from his intention to submit Mani.
We have already referred to this battle in the columns of our newspaper (issue 8-November 1999). We thought it would be advisable to republish a “document” about the battle which has been published many years ago by Donald Mc Fail with a foreword who was at that time publisher-director of the newspaper ΚΑΠΕΤΑΝ ΖΑΧΑΡΙΑΣ published by Lygeras Association. This document was written after the dictation of the disinterested fighter of the struggle for the national liberation Elias Tsalafatinos and was send along with his biography by Elias Zeritis. Honouring the anniversary of this epos (August 1826) we present it in order to estimate the information mentioned in it (the preserved extract of this narration mainly refers to the preparatory stages of collecting troops) considering that they describe also the course of the troops of Ibrahim to the area Bardounia and Malevri during their course to the east side of Taygetus after their failure at Verga and Diros, their passage from Alagonia and the submission of the county of Mystras.
“Polyzaravos Battle in Mani at the county of Malousiou (1) at the borders of Bardounia”
Narration (and biography) by Elias Tsalafatinos.
The numbers refer to the notes published at the end of the narration.
“Elias Tsalafatinos (2) being in Vytilo, found out that Ibrahim was heading to Mani so he came with thirty Spartans to the village Agios Nicolaos where he found Stamatis Rozos and his men; they all went to the castle of Bardounia and waited for Ibrahim, but he came from the left side close to Gythion and camped at Basava. Jeorgios Mavromihalis was in Miniakova. The Turks attacked against the Spartans who were there, but could not resist and so retreated to the straits of Lagada and Trikefaloi. The Turks chased them and some went to Kotzia monastery, but since they found resistance they went back. Jeorgios and the rest of the chieftains occupied the straits where it was impossible for the Turks to go through. Coming from there, they camped at Polyzaravos and tried to open the way in order to go down to the county of Mesa Mani (Kakavoulia). Being in Skamnitza, Salafatinos to whom Zygiotes came headed by Panagos and Stefanos Christaias and Skyfianoi headed by Ioannis Fioretis and Dimitrios Boutzoulis (3) the number of whom exceeded the 350 men, suddenly heard gunshots against Polyzaravon and shouting. “Turks at Polyzaravon”. Those in Skamnitza ran to help. Salafatinos coming to Polyzaravon met Petropulakis on the way with his men and convinced him to take to the battle. But pretending he had foot ache, he left (4). At the same time, P. Giatrakos being in Desfina with his compatriots came to Polyzaravo, whereas Jeorgios Grafakos with forty men fighting against the enemy from the village Desfina came to Polyzaravo, too. There was Vasileios (name difficult to read) with his mother and sister who got scared and decided to leave (5). “Here, it will be grave of everybody; there is no way you will leave alive from the house”, said his mother. Then, Giatrakos went up to the mountain opposite Polyzaravos. The Turks had already entered the village and the Greeks took cover. Venetzanakis Moutzirakos took cover in the upper houses at Plagiana. At that moment, men from Skamnitza came who entered Vavoulis’ house. Seeing people coming all the time, although only a few, the villagers took courage. Some of the Turks wanted to take cover at a rock in order to stop those who were coming to help the village but since it was already taken by Giatrakos they retreated and came back to their camp” (6).
(1) The right one is “Malevriou”. It is a mistake which shows that the writer of the text didn’t know the area.
(2) The fact that the text starts with the name of the glorious fighter from Vytilo makes it clear that he described the events and somebody else took notes and that he possibly wrote the text later. Elias Salafatinos never wrote texts, because he was illiterate.
(3) Maybe it means Boutseli.
(4) I believe that Salafatinos belittles D. Petropoulakis, because he is talking about him. He gives the impression that Petropoulakis didn’t take part in the battle of Polyaravos. On the contrary, Karakasonis in his book “Η Τριήμερος μάχη του Πολυάραβου”, mentions: “Dimitris Petropoulakis in the body and soul handsome along with other Maniots, in the night 13th August went to reinforce the parts that till that moment confronted the enemy attacks….D. Petropoulakis had caught with Tsalafatinous, Skyfianos, Mavromichalaioi and Troupakis the center of this line…..D. Petropoulakis was really brave in this battle………… For his virtues, he was honoured with the medallion of bravery. It is obvious that at the time this narration was written, Salafatinos was influenced by the friendly position of Petropoulakis family towards the government and the opposite position of Mavromichalis family. Maybe this is why he throws dirt at Petropoulakis.
(5) The incident is unknown because nobody else would know about it since it took place between the mother and sister and if it had happened they would never make it known so as not to be defamed.
He was born at Vytilo around 1780-1782. He was the son of the big family of Stefanopoulos. There is darkness about his past. His present descendants claim that their grandfathers left for Messini of Italy during their eviction in1675 by Lyberakis Gerakaris. They came back later changing their Italian name Lavarenti and taking the Greek name Katsanos due to their dark skin. At Vytilo their relatives know them as Lavourentoi. Salafatinos took this last name by a nick name tsalafos-salafos which means thoughtless and warlike due to his character. In the age of 40 he was found by the revolution of 1821. His activity was impressive from the first moment of the struggle. He started as a small captain of the bodies of the family of Mavromichalis. Petrobeys trusted him and always sent him to battle with one of his sons and brothers. He was the guardian angel of all the relatives of the Mavromichalis house, whom he served faithfully, timidly and silently.
A few information is scattered in stories and memoirs for his activity. As usual the historians neglected the contribution of Mani. That is why Salafatinos is not known. He took part in many battles against the Turks and his activity was multidimensional. It starts from Areopoli after he swore with Elias Mavromihalis to come back to Mani only if all Greece is liberated. In order to keep their vow they promise not to have a haircut. In the beginning of 1822 he follows Elias Mavromihalis to Evoia. Unfortunately, the operation failed and the worst Elias was killed at the battle of Kokkinomylos on 12th January 1822. He comes back to Morea and goes wherever the mother country calls him always with someone of Mavromihalis family. He was always in the front side and a great fighter, he inspires fear to the enemy and courage to the Greeks. The other chieftains asked for loans from Mavromihalis family. In Mani he came back in 1826. Of course his vows were not fully fulfilled. He had glorified his name in many ways, though. He becomes Aias at Verga and stops Ibrahim with the Egyptians at Polyaravos. Although some historians haven’t written his military deeds but they wrote about his disinterestedness. When in June 1823, his country was grateful about his services he was offered 200 grosia, which he denied saying that he didn’t want it because the country was poorer” . Sp. Melas at «Γέρος του Μοριά» writes. Bring me diamonds to write Salafatinos name. There is further honour. He is offered the rank of Lieutenant-General but he denies saying that the stadium of the struggle is still open and those who don’t fight till the end take honours illegally and out of time. The minister of war Christos Perraivos, when the text sent by Salafatinos was transferred to the parliament along with the diploma of the Lieutenant-General said “He was the first to show in action the real work of the good patriot he was beyond glory for the glory of his country, whereas worthy and unworthy men everyday seek for glory in promotions”.
Elias Salafatinos died in Athens on 15th November 1856.