Kynouria is a historical area in the district of Arcadia, which includes the seaside section of the district and the northern slopes of Mount Parnonas.
Administratively, Kynouria is now divided into two municipalities, the municipalities of North Kynouria and South Kynouria.
The most important settlements of Kynouria are Leonidio, Astros, and Tyros. A section of Kynouria includes the villages of the Tsakonians, a population group that speaks the Tsakonian dialect. Their area occupies part of the southernmost part of the district.
In antiquity, Kynouria was the country of the Kynoureans, who were people probably of Ionic origin. Later the Dorians settled in Kynouria. The State of Kynouria soon became the target of its powerful neighbors. It was mainly the bone of contention between the Spartans and Argives, as it was between the two states. Despite the intense pressure of its neighbors, Kynouria probably remained independent until the time of the Argive Tyrant Feidon, when it passed to the control of Argos. Argos was then at its peak. After the Feidon period, however, Argos gradually began to decline while Sparta became stronger. The fate of Kynouria seems to have been decided in 546 BC, in the battle of Thyrea or also known as the battle of the chosen six hundred men, where Sparta prevailed over Argos and gained control of Kynouria. Kynouria remained under the Spartans until 338 BC when Philip II handed over northern Kynouria to the Argives, leaving the southern region of Prasion and Tyros, (which was originally the natural border of ancient Sparta) to Sparta.
Important cities of ancient Kynouria was Thyrea and Anthini from North Kynouria and Prasies, Tyros Polihni, Glypia, and Mario in South Kynouria.
Thirea – Eva
Eva was built near the monastery Loukous were in antiquity there was a sanctuary of Polemokrates. In the 2nd century at Eva, the famous sophist and politician Herod Atticus bought the land where he built his famous mansion.
Prasies – Vrasies
The most important center of South Kynouria in antiquity was the small town of Prasies or Brasies.
The Prasies placed over the port of Plaka Leonidiou the hill of Agios Athanasios.
Information about Kynouria from the Archaic period, are mainly drawn from two large votive altars of Apollo Tyrita, between Melana and Tyros, and from the temple of Maleata at Kosmas. Also, we find information from tombs city lawn of Prasies at Leonidion, and settlements in Marmaralona in Xerokambi and Koutri Ano Meligous (from were the marble head of Meligou was taken, now settled in Copenhagen). From the 8th century onwards Kynouria stubbornly asserts the Spartans and the Argives. After repeated conflicts arrive in one of the most exciting battles of Greek history, the battle that took at 546a.d and went down in history as the «Battle of Thyreas» or «battle six hundred elite» in which winner was the Spartans.
Tsakonia is located in the east of the district of Arcadia and occupies the biggest part of the eastern side of Mount Parnonas. It covers one-third of the countryside of Kynouria, beginning at the coast line of Agios Andreas and ending at the Argolic Gulf. The Tsakonochoria are Prastos, Sitaina, Kastanitsa, Agios Andreas, Tyros, Pera Melana, Pragmatefti, Sabatiki, Livadi, Vaskina and Leonidio (the capital of Kynouria).
The people living in these areas are named Tsakonians and originate from the ancient Dorians. They managed to maintain their original dialect, the Tsakonian, up to this very day. Today this dialect is spoken mainly by older people.
Many interpretations have been given about the meaning of the geographical name Tsakonia and the name Tsakonians, some of which are the following: the mountainous and inaccessible place, the outer-Lakones, the porters, the Jekones – the selected body of the Byzantine army, that were used as the castle guards and who were famous for their military capabilities (according to Constantine Porphyrogennetus in the Chronicle of Monemvasia).
Tsakonian Dress – Tsoubes
The traditional dress of Tsakonian women is called, tsoubes. In fact, it is the outer red waistcoat made out of felt, that was worn by the Tsakonian women, at first as a wedding garment and later at celebrations. Originally the rich Prastiotises wore the tsoubes, thus highlighting their superior social position. The tsoubes consists of: the “ogiuma” (the shirt), the “vrachani” (the dress in green or olive green colour), the “zipouni” (the short jacket with long and wide sleeves), the “magliki” (the silk scarf) the “zostra” (the waistband ornated with a silver belt) and the “fesi” (the round cap).
The traditional Tsakonian dance is a closed circular dance with ancient origins, where the left elbow of the first dancer is placed over the right elbow of the second dancer with the fingers crossed and tightened. Many interpretations have been given about the origins and possible sources of the Tsakonian dance. Mr. S. Karras claimed that it depicts Apollo’s fight with Python, the snake that protected Gaia’s sanctuary at Delphi, while another view is that it symbolizes the exit of Theseus from the maze with the help of the thread that Ariadne gave him
Because of the mountainous and rough characteristics of the area, it has managed to maintain intact to a large part the local dialect, which is known as the tsakonian dialect. The science of linguistics supports that the tsakonian dialect is the survival of the ancient doric dialect and particularly an altered form of the new Lakonic language. The tsakonian dialect is divided into two dialects: a) the north (Kastanitsa, Sitaina) and b) the south (Leonidio, Tyros, Pera Melana, Pragmatefti, Sambatiki, Livadi, Agio Andrea, Praso, Vaskina, Paleochora).
As people with wanderlust, the Tsakonians during the Byzantine times created communities on the coastline of Asia Minor in Propontida. As a result a third dialect was created, the tsakonian of Propontida that was spoken until the years of the Asia Minor Catastrophe in the villages of Vatika and Chavoutsi.
The Tsakonian population, showed a high patriotic attitude throughout Greek history. During the Greek Revolution of 1821, a lot of Tsakonians were members of the “Filiki Eteria” (or “Society of Friends”) and took part in the siege of Tripolitsa, in the siege of Monemvasia and in other great battles. The capital of Tsakonia was Prastos until 1826 when it was set on fire by Ibrahim Pasha and its inhabitants spilled out mainly towards the fertile plain of Leonidio. After the liberation of Greece, the Tsakonochoria were divided between the municipalities of Limnei, Vrasies and Sitaini, while after 1840 they were divided between the municipalities of Limnei and Vrasies. Since then, the Tsakonians have preserved their cultural identity unchanged and have been engaged in agriculture, livestock farming, crops, and sea trade.