In ancient years Katakolo was located in the ancient city of Fia, near St. Andreas’ beach. Killini and Katakolo were the only two ports of the preference of Ilia. During the Homeric years, Katakolo was a famous fortress near the Iardanos river and in the second half of the 5th century B.C (during the Peloponnese war) Katakolo became Athenians’ anchor point to conquer Ilia. The port was destroyed completely by a powerful earthquake (6th century A.C.), but until now from St. Andreas’ bay we can see the two remaining small islands Korakas and Tigani. Many shells and remains from Neolithic period up until Romans’ years have been found and witness Katakolo’ s existence during the centuries. During the Byzantine period and the Middle- Ages, Katakolo had a strong strategic role and magical Pontikokastro, built by the Vilardouins at the remains of the acropolis of Fia, is the proof of it. After Greece’s liberation from the Turks the centre of Katakolo was dislocated and obtained its current geographical place.
The first mention of the village as “Katakolo” is found in a commercial document, around the beginning of the 16th century. The center of the village, from its first years, was undoubtedly its port, which gained special importance, not only for the wider region, but also for the country in general. The reason for this was the trade of the region’s raisins, which were suitable for the production of wine for the French market. Characteristic of the rise of the port at the end of the 19th century was the increase of the population, which in 1879 was 301 inhabitants, in 1989 612, in 1896 755, and in 1907 682.
Along with the ports of Piraeus, Patras and Syros, Katakolo was one of the first ports in the export trade. During the Turkish rule, the main port of the region was located at the mouth of the Alfeios river and was moved to Katakolo after the liberation. Initially, in 1850, a decision was issued to establish a port in Agios Andreas, but with a new decision in 1855, the construction of which was transferred to Katakolo due to its gentler seabed. Thus, with workers from Zakynthos, the construction of the port began. With the rise of the port and for the transport of goods, especially raisins, the Pyrgos-Katakolou railway was built in 1882. Which gradually, beyond its commercial role, gained popularity by transporting large numbers of passengers who wished to move to the beaches of the area. But Katakolo was an exporting place even before the Corinthian raisin, with the main goods being wine, flax, hides, cereals and other similar products to the Ionian Islands. Today the port still plays an important role, but mainly for tourism.
Regarding the nomenclature of the village, several versions have been formulated. First of all, it should be mentioned that officially the writing “Katakolo” was given by gazette on 14/10/1940, while from here you can see all the gazettes concerning administrative changes of Katakolo. The most well-documented conclusion, wants the name “Katakolo” to come from the physical location of the village, as an edge (kolon). Other theories that have been developed, without however being sufficiently documented historically, are that the name came i) from the twin upper city-lower city that prevails in many areas of our country, with Katakolo being a paraphrase of the lower city (kato poli) that referred to the port of the settlement (upper town) around the castle, ii) from the Katakalos family that dominated the area during the Venetian occupation, iii) from the phrase “ai kata kolou” which meant “to the back” and is attributed to the Kefalonians and Zakynthians when they exiled illegals and other marginals from their islands to Katakolo.
Special mention should be made of one of the most important historical events in the region, the seafight of Katakolo on September 30, 1821. This is a relatively unknown page of our local history, when the Greek fleet under Andreas Miaoulis faced in the sea space in front of the estuary of the Alpheios, fierce attack by Kara-Alis who with his heavily equipped boats put our Greek sailors in a disadvantageous position.
However, at that critical moment, Speciotis Botasis made a daring attempt that saved the entire squadron. As it is stated, he advanced rapidly with his Nava between Turkish ships. Instead of turning the cannons against him, they, fearing that the Spetio ship was a fireball, hastened to move away to a sufficient distance.
Then Botasis launched there a boat full of flammable materials and set it on fire, creating artificial smoke on the surface of the sea. The smoke was so thick that after a while the ships became invisible to each other and Botasis quickly switched to Greek. The Turks, believing that the burning boat was the Spetsio ship, were afraid of the rush to burn it and started firing cannons against the source of the smoke and thus the Greek ships managed to escape by sailing and pass around Katakolo!
(source: Pyrgos Central Public Library)
Finally, it’s worth mentioning the importance of Pyrgos – Katakolo railway. The railway started working on November 1882 and constituted the second railway in the country after Athens-Piraeus railway. Its construction was due to raisins’ exportation (increased after the destruction of the French crops by phylloxera). The railway was 12.5 km, constructed by A. Streit and financed by the General Credit Bank, during the governance of Koumoundouros. In 1896 the raisins’ crisis affected and the function of the railway but although its problems the railway has continued its function until August 1998.
The railway reopened in 2007 and up until now has offered the opportunity to tourists to visit Olympia, by stopping only in Pyrgos.
Below you can see photos of Katakolo, of historical importance, which have been taken from pages in social media concerning Katakolo and the wider area.