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STENIS RIVER

The relation between a river and a community

Undoubtedly, water is the element without which there cannot be life.  The early man searched for water everywhere and it is near riverbanks that the greatest ancient civilizations commenced and evolved.

That is also the case with Steni, the first inhabitant(s) settled at the banks of the river, which today crosses through the village and is known as "River of Steni" in the official topographic maps of the state.  The visitor today can ascertain -through the morphology of the terrain -that water ran its course through this place for thousands of years, thus the imposing canyons that were created in this region.

The waters of this river were the thing that became the cause for the settlement to begin and -later on -to evolve into a community.  The report that the first inhabitant of this place was a shepherd reveals that he inhabited here due to the abundance of water for his livestock.    

The river's water was the community's prime mover ever since the times of the first habitant and until recently, when due to the continuous drought the river stopped bearing its precious commodity.

The first piece of evidence that the water was used for the need of the inhabitants, not only of the village but perhaps also of other neighboring villages, is the water mill - flourmill, which was most probably constructed at the center of the village around the 16th century.

The water came via a stone-made raceway along the river and through the force of its fall from above it set the millstones in motion, grinding the wheat.

The second water mill was constructed around 1880, two hundred meters east of the first one and on the opposite riverbank. 

Just like in older times -but also in the previous era, when every house has its own supply of water -the women came to the area next to the first water mill and washed the family's clothes, there were the water fell from above, forming small ponds amidst the rocks.  This is where the village's "plystario" (washhouse -washing place) was every day, the women washing the clothes barefoot and bashed them with the "Faoutes" (wooden, flat beaters) so as to clean them.  This was the most frequented and most cheerful area of the village.

The water coming from the river was the one used for the needs of the house and the animals, while the men and women came here every day to fill their crocks and carry them home on their shoulders. Although less of it, the river's water continued to flow during the months of summer, still being enough to cover the needs of humans and animals.

In the summer, after first building a "dimma" (an embankment) higher above the location of their houses, the inhabitants -or at least those with estates could be irrigated because of the altitude -would irrigate their gardens with that water, having various trees such as pomegranates, citrus-trees, and seasonal fruits.  There were even cases when in the case of a drought they would also irrigate some crops, provided of course that they were near the village.

The river's water was the reason why there were five oil-mills in the village, since large quantities of hot water were needed in order to extract the oil from the olives.  All of the aforementioned oil-mills were situated next to the river.

The bridge over the river, joining the two parts of the village, was the meeting point for men during the evenings, sitting on the "pperivazia" (ledges, the bridge's protective sides) and listening to the river flow while chatting. 

The area around the bridge and all the spots around it, the washing place, the flourmill, the oil-mills, and the watering places for the animals, were all full of people throughout every month of the year.

The River has offered not only to the adults and the animals but also to the children, which would not come out of the water in the summer whenever they were free of helping in the agricultural tasks or whenever they finished their daily classes.  They had traced some natural ponds that the water created amidst the rocks and were competing about which one would go in first when the water was crystal clear.

The elders nostalgically remember those days when the river was the village's point of reference, because all of its daily life revolved and depended upon the water that flowed throughout the year.  The river brought each person closer to the other, since everyone had to meet somewhere near its banks, in the middle of the village, many times in a day.  Especially for the women, it was the only place where they could go without asking their husbands and could learn the village's latest "news".

Although the river had only good things to offer to the inhabitants, it sometimes reminded them its presence more stressfully, especially during the months of winter and after intense rainfall.  It came down violently with a thundering roar and when they heard it they all run to se "the river coming down".  As it passed through it swept everything in its path; the inhabitants of pervious times made mentions of cases when the waters swept away oxen and sheep.  When the river came down rapidly, the waters covered the village's bridge and split the village in two, leaving the two parts without any contact between them for days.

However, the villagers never held a grudge for the river, knowing that it would "die down" soon and again offer them all those things it always did -only good things.

Steni owes its creation and its existence to the water, which provided it with life for centuries, and to the river that guided the water to the sea throughout the season.

The river, without ever asking them for something in return, provided for the locals -but they also showed their gratitude and their respect; so, when the official land registration was taking place in 1925, the inhabitants of Steni made it their own by naming it "River of Steni", since -indeed -it only crossed through Steni and it was only to Steni that it offered its blessings.

 
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