Harnessing the energy available to humans through the power of running water, hydro or hydraulic energy, was the most significant step in the evolution of grain milling technology. The invention of the watermill made use o a natural force to operate a mechanism that until now had to be operated by a man or an animal.
In Greece there were two basic types of watermills. The older “Roman” that utilized a large, upright exterior millwheel with blades and the “Oriental” or “Hellenic” (as it became known due to its widespread use throughout the Byzantine Empire) which incorporated a much smaller, horizontal, interior wheel.
The invention of the horizontal waterwheel solved the problem of mill construction in areas where water flow was limited. In that way even remote mountain and island villages could do their own milling: all that was required was a tiny creek or stream. Parallel advances were made in the design and construction of various hydraulic support systems such as water gathering, water distribution, water storage and direction of the water flow into the water towels that would power the milling mechanisms. The value of those peripheral public works often far surpasses the value of the mills themselves.
Watermills were used primary to grind barley and rarely wheat or corn. The miller’s fee was generally paid in flour. The reason watermills were preferred, even in locations where the conditions were more favourable for windmills, was: they took less time and material to build, were much safer to operate, simpler to use and matain and could operate in all weathers.
While walking on the reserve, you will be able to witness the ruins of the watermill that was built here. Make sure to look up and find the edge where the water was falling from, creating the force necessary to start up the mill.
Bibliography: “7 days” cultural supplement to the newspapaer “KATHIMERINI”
Article: “Hellenic Watermills” by Dora Antoniou & Maria Sigalou