MELISSA

Melissa is a village in Exo Prosiliaki Mani. The name Melissa is since 1958, whereas before it was called Malitsina, Maltsina and Maltzina.

Traditional village with stone built houses on a line of low cliffs that remind of a flying creature. In fact, this is the main reason it was called Melissa (=bee).

The ancient road that connected Gythion to Kardamyli, meaning Exo Prosiliaki and Aposkiaderi Mani, crosses the village. This made the village an important strategic place. The new road crosses the village, too.

There are three fountains close to the village with plenty of water, whereas the surroundings are exceptionally beautiful.

Today, it is the local compartment of Smynos Municipality that unfortunately, is, by mistake, recorded as Smynous Municipality.

It is a self-sufficient community since 1912 and one of the villages of the old Melitini Municipality since 1835. It was the centre of the Episcopate of Maltzini up to 1833; the last bishop was Filikos Joachim that participated and greatly contributed to the preparation of the revolution in 1821.

In Melissa, there is Heroitsa (or Roitsa) Monastery that is devoted to Holy Mother. The offer of the monastery in the pre revolutionary years was very important. Both Maltzina and the Monastery offered support and hospitality to the first kleft of Moreas Captain Zaharias Barbitsiotis, who organised his parapet close to Heroitsa, which we now call “the ruins of Zaharias”.

It’s worth mentioning the relation of Melissa to Smynos River, which was the last natural border of free Mani and the rest of Greece occupied by the Turks. Smynos offered the “pleasing water” (see Pausanias, ch. 24, verse 9,10) about the watering of ancient Gythion and the motion of the watermills. It still offers it today to water Exo, Kato and Mesa Mani and to produce electricity. The parish church of Melissa and ex episcopate, must be of the Byzantine Times and celebrates on the 21st November, the Assumption of Virgin Mary. The temple of the cemetery is also devoted to Holy Mother. There is a chapel in the memory of All Saints, whereas the rest of the seven chapels are devoted to different saints.

Today, they produce olive oil and Kalamata olives, they occupy themselves with cattle breeding, orchards and honey, whereas up to 1960 the basic income was from pines, figs and wine, all of exquisite quality.

Melissa has never been a big village; census 1835, 281 residents, 1907, 339, 1940, 275. Nevertheless, it was a vibrant village with big families, the members of which moved to Athens, Gythion, abroad to be finally distinguished in management, army, Education, Justice, politics, commerce, etc.

Unfortunately, the last few years, like in many other villages of Mani, there are no children born and the 100 residents recorded in 2001 are getting less and less.

Aristeidis Grafakos

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