In the area east of the village of Vyziki, in Arcadia, on a hill near Tropea, stand the ruins of the Frankish castle of Akova, one of the 12 baronies founded in the Peloponnese by Geoffrey Villehardouin. Of this castle today survive parts of the exterior wall as well as a half-destroyed square tower at its southwestern side.
In accordance with the mutual fate that haunts all castles of the Medieval period, this castle had gone through many owners by the time of its destruction. In 1318 it was sold to Ioannis Katakouzinos and Andronikos Paleologos, in 1458 it was conquered by Mehmed II the Conqueror, in 1684 it was conquered by the Venetians and in 1715 it fell into Turkish hands again. With the passing of the centuries it closed down and was gradually abandoned.
There are several legends surrounding the history of the castle. The best known is the one regarding the mythical Amazon that protected the fortress, daughter of Villehardouin, who, according to the tradition, had only one breast; that’s why the castle is also known as Castle of Monovyza (“single-breasted woman”).
Akova was one of the most important baronies in the region of Skorta during the Middle Ages. Its location was approximately where the Arcadian village of Vyziki is currently situated, in the municipality of Tropaia. The area was also known as “Akovai”. These names most probably come from the word “aqua”, which in Latin means “water”. This scenario sounds more probable, since this area indeed enjoys plenty of water, especially from River Ladon.
The principality of Achaia was divided into 12 baronies after the Fall of Istanbul by the Franks in 1204, during the redistribution of the territories of the Byzantine Empire, and Akova was one them. It was given to Baron Gauthier de Rosières, who decided to build a castle there. The Franks named it Mategriffon or Mathegriffon, which means “Ellinofonion” (murder of the Greeks), indicating their brutal domination in the region.
The ruins of the castle still stand on a low hill plateau. Sections of the outer wall and the square tower bring back memories from the glory days this castle has seen, when Akova was one of the most powerful baronies in the Peloponnese. The castle was built in 1250 in a strategic location, overlooking the entire plain. In 1318 it was sold to Andronikos Palaiologos and Ioannis Kantakouzinos. In 1458 it was seized by Mehmed the Conqueror, who completely destroyed it. In 1684 it was seized by the Venetians and in 1715 by the Turks by the Treaty of Karlowitz and this is when it acquired some form of autonomy.
The castle is now known as the “Castle of Monovyzas” or “Castle of the Amazon”. Both names are connected with a legend based on the castle being protected by an Amazon with one breast, daughter of Villehardouin, who bravely defended it. It is also mentioned as the “Castle of the Lady”, either by the niece of Baron de Rosières, Margaret, who was the first lady of Akova, or by the second daughter of Villehardouin, Margaret, who was also known as the Lady of Akova (Domina Matagrifon).