Argyro Pigadi through time

Argyro Pigadi, perched on a slope of Mount Triantafyllia at 1000 meters altitude, is the most mountainous village of the Municipality of Thermo. It is an ancient village. The beginning of its course in time goes back to the era of the Aetolian Nation, 4th century B.C.

In the village center and around the church of Saint Demetrius, we can easily detect parts of an ancient wall that probably enclosed a fortified citadel.

“There are huge stones in the area of Saint Demetrius’s church, relics of the ancient acropolis,” is mentioned in the Aetoloakarnanian and Evritanian Encyclopaedia, Volume B, Argyron Pigadion.

The ancient wall

According to Archaeologist Dr.Ioannis Nerantzis, in his book “THE LAND OF AETOLIANS,” the history of the village is connected to the history of the nation of the Aetolians, with the local Aetolian tribe inhabiting the Gidomandritis valley, from its sources to its confluence with Evinos.

In a documentary about the village, Ioannis Nerantzis points out:

“Let’s talk about the village’s diachronic course and start from the beginning of the settlement. The settlement was built in ancient times by the Aetolians. It was one of the settlements of the Aetolian racial society. We have archaeological evidence for the settlement’s creation and beginnings here in Argyro Pigadi. One archaeological proof is the existing ruins, probably from the ancient acropolis…”.

The repair work in the surrounding area of Saint Demetrius’s church in the summer of 2011 brought to light the foundations of an ancient building just behind the temple’s bema. An archaeological find of which Ioannis Nerantzis states:

“Given that all Christian churches were built on the ruins of ancient Greek temples, we assume that these prominent foundations are the foundations of an ancient sanctuary. Now, we can see the last consecutive cultural and religious situation before us. However, the successive building foundations of different cultural periods allow us to see the succession of generations and the existence of the “new order of things” from antiquity to the post-Christian period. We see the destruction of the ancient Greek civilization by the post-Christians, that is, by the people of the post-Christian period. Nevertheless, from its creation and their first settlement to today, the village inhabitants retain in their DNA the same Greek spirit, soul, Greek features, and Greek ethos “.

The foundations of an ancient building

“Paliospita” site

The discovery in 1987 of two cube-shaped tombs reveals the existence of a cemetery in the “Paliospita” location, where probably the first site of the settlement was.

The Western tomb closed

The Eastern tomb open

Ioannis Nerantzis continues:

“The third and most important archaeological evidence is that each village had its cemetery. Two ancient tombs, cube-shaped, were found: one was “kterismenos,” meaning it contained “kterismata” (grave goods), and the other grave was empty. Apparently, they were part of the ancient cemetery of this ancient community.”

At the same time, the fact that we can find ancient tiles throughout the village proves an ancient settlement existed in the same place.

“The soil is full of ancient tiles,” writes Dimitris Loukopoulos.

“So far, the information of Loukopoulos is confirmed because in all the village surface there are scattered ancient tiles, another proof of the inhabitation of the area since antiquity,” says Ioannis Nerantzis.

Ancient tiles

Also, another archaeological evidence for the inhabitation of the area since antiquity by the Aetolians is the fact that in the “Index of the clay objects of the Agrinio Archaeological Museum (with the number P.480)”, a conical clay inscribed seal is recorded as coming from the village Gertovos (Argyro Pigadi)

The clay conical seal

The seal inscription

The photos of the two tombs and the seal come from the Photographic Archive of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Aetoloakarnania and Lefkada.

So, there has been life in this village for thousands of years, with a population that varies according to times and conditions.

The French traveler Pukeville, who visited the region’s villages in 1815, reports that ten families inhabited Gertovos. We have no data for earlier times.

During the Ottoman occupation, many people chose to reside in the inaccessible mountain village. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, militants from Epirus and their families found refuge in the remote Argyro Pigadi.

Kostas D. Maragiannis, in his book “Argyro Pigadi (Gertovos) and the Church of St. George,” writes: “I have come to my research that after the exit of Messolongi in 1826 many Souliotes came here to hide from the Turks and live. Other Epirots lived here at that time. As I read a long time ago, in texts by Epirot historian B. Krapsitis, many Greek Revolution fighters left their wives and children in the Apokouro villages, which were an asylum and an impregnable fortress of Aetolia. The Giornokos villages of Argyro Pigadi and the Dermati of Evritania were the most remote and inaccessible villages of Roumeli in Modern Greece…”

Also, in the Aetoloakarnanian and Evritanian Encyclopedia, we read, “According to the local tradition, the first inhabitants of the village came, during the Turkish occupation, from Tepeleni, escaping the persecutions of the conquerors.” Kostas D. Maragiannis documented this information: “Thanasopoulos, Lysgaras, Peristeris families came from the Souli villages, Dimas family were from Northern Epirus, the last to die here was Odysseus Dimas, while Zafracas family came from Tepeleni.”

The Siadimas family was among them. A member of this family was the chieftain of Apokouro Kostas Siadimas.

Lawyer and writer Dimitrios Prionas writes in the online newspaper “The New Age” of Agrinio: “ According to the family tradition, Kostas Siadimas came from Souli… Siadimas family arrived safe in Lamia, where they stayed for a while, returned to Evritania, and finally settled in Gertovos.”

And Kostas Triantafyllidis writes in “Riza” Magazine, Periodical Edition of the Association of Agrinians in Athens, Issue 59: “Kostas S(i)adimas, according to tradition, was born around 1780 in the village of Apokouro, Gertovos (Argyro Pigadi). “Halfway to the village, you come across the Lysgareiko small house with ancient tiles on the roof. From the North side of it, you can see the ruins of Siadimas’ house, the captain of the 1821 Revolution”, Dimitris Loukopoulos recounts in his wonderful travelogue (1940-1942). Konstantinos was his grandfather, Ioannis, his father, and Sophia, his mother.”

The ruins of Siadimas’ house

Kostas Siadimas

The fact that the first temple in honor of the Neomartyr St. George was built in Argyro Pigadi indicates the village’s relationship with the Region of Epirus. St George the Neomartyr was martyred in Ioannina in 1838, and only three years after his martyrdom, they built the church in Argyro Pigadi.

The Church of Saint George in a photo by Iraklis Milas, from an article in the newspaper TA NEA

The Icon of St. George

The Saint George icon was a donation made by the Souliotis chieftain Nikolaos Kaskaris, of whom Kostas D. Maragiannis, in his book: “Agrinio. A walk around the place. An approach to persons and happenings,” writes, “An 1821 Chieftain. He came from Souli, but his family, according to the late Lawyer and Ethnic Adviser Tassos G. Akridas, settled in Argyro Pigadi because the Turks pursued them. From there, he moved to Agrinio after the 1821 liberation.”

Vasilis Talaganis also came from Epirus. He led the way in the temple building, and his name appears on the building inscription as its creator. Persecuted as well, he settled in the village before 1821 and participated in the Greek Revolution.

The origin and life course of the persecuted men and the mountain, which cultivates a sense of freedom and makes people rough and disobedient, contributed to Argyro Pigadi’s leading role in the 1821 uprising.

Teacher and researcher Kostas Marinos, during the presentation of his book “Apokouro Fighters of 1821” in Argyro Pigadi in August 2004, noted:

“Argyro Pigadi, literally and metaphorically an eagle nest, holds, since the years of the Great Fight of 1821, an important, and let’s say a double, first place. He gave most of the fighters from all the surrounding villages and the region captain, General Kostas Siadimas.”

In his book, he mentions the following fighters:

1. Gertovitis or Kioupas Dimitrios 2. Giortovitis or Kioupis Andreas 3. Gertovitis Tasios 4. Dimopoulos Georgios 5. Dimopoulos Konstantinos 6. Zafrakas or Zafrakopoulos Sotirios 7. Ioannou or Kousios Efthimios 8. Kotzalos Dimitrios 9. Kostakis or Kostakopoulos Athanasios 10. Kostakis or Kostakopoulos Georgios 11. Kostakis or Kostakopoulos Panagiotis 12. Lianos Ioannis 13. Lianos Konstantinos 14. Lianou Vasilo 15. Papadopoulos Athanasios 16. Papadopoulos Konstantinos 17. Papanikolaou Athanasios 18. Papanikolaou or Papadopoulos Vasilios 19. Siadimas (without Christian name) centurion 20. Siadimas Konstantinos or Konstas 21. Skondras Ioannis 22. Talaganis Vasilios 23.Tzaparis Dimitrios 24. Tzaparis Thomas 25. Fifis or Fifopoulos Christos 26. Fourtounas Christos 27. Cheimonas Konstantinos.

Kostas Marinos

With the establishment of the modern Greek state, Argyro Pigadi followed the course of the mountainous villages of Greece, and, of course, its people participated in all Greek wars.

Many Argyropigadites took part in the 1912-1922 wars. They gave their lives:

Georgios Aristides Zafrakas, Andreas Spyridon Karageorgos, Vassilios Athanassios Kostopoulos, Nicolaos Theodosios Kostopoulos, Lambros Dimitrios Panagiotopoulos, Dimitrios Ioannis Priovolos, Miltiades Ioannis Priovolos, and Ioannis Athanasios Sotiropoulos.

Fallen Heroes Memorial

From the Greek-Italian war of 1940, Peristera Kotsalou recalls:

“In the Albanian war, 19 people left the village. I was out in the fields with the sheep, and I counted them. Thanassis Talaganis and a son of Thanassis Kostopoulos, Yiannis, were killed.
Elias Georgios Karageorgos, Dimitrios Fotios, Panagiotopoulo, Panagiotis Christos Talaganis, and Christos Ioannis Tsolkas lost their lives in the following Civil War.”

But even in times of peace, the contribution of the mountain villages was significant not only with the people who remained in the area and were productive, paying substantial taxes, but also with the migrant human resources. The scarce natural resources allowed for a limited number of inhabitants, around 200, and because they usually had many children, some had to relocate in search of a better life.

The first census of the Greek State of 1834 gives the following record of the villages in the area:

 Residents Families
Amvrakia 147 29
Gertovos 125 19
Kossina 133 33
Berikos 91 20
Nerosyrtis 14 4
Derikova 32 8
Tsampatina 15 4
Tseveliassa 107 16

From the following censuses, for Gertovos – Argyro Pigadi, we have the next course:
1846: 147, 1890: 218, 1920: 224, 1928: 205, 1940: 284, 1951: 198, 1961: 210, 1971: 165, 1981: 89

Today there are few permanent residents and cultivators, and the village’s image has gradually changed.