(1900 Times Atlas of the World)
1207 Marco Sanudo, a Venetian adventurer, conquers Nasso which becomes the capital of the Duchy of the Archipelago which includes many other islands
1566 Jacopo IV Crispo, the last Duke, is cashiered by the Sultan
The noblest remain in its kind that I have seen is on a little rock not far from the castle but single and in the sea. Tis the relique of a temple once dedicated to Bacchus. The whole surface of the rock is yet strewed with fragments of pillars and of pedestals with pieces of cornishes. (..) All that is entire is the gate that led into the temple; it consists only of three pieces and is plain to an uncommon degree, but in this simplicity there is true dignity.
Thomas Broderick - Letters from Several Parts of Europe, and the East: Written in the Years 1750, etc.
We visited the ruins ot a temple of Bacchus, upon an insular rock on the north side of the port. The portal of this temple has been long famous, and an account of it is given in every book of travels where Naxos is mentioned. It is asserted, that the isle was once connected with Naxos by means of a bridge and an aqueduct. (..) We were struck with admiration at the massive structure and the simple grandeur of that part of the temple which still remains standing: it consists of three pieces only of the Naxian marble. (..) Below these are large square masses, which belonged to the threshold. (..) The view through this portal, of the town of Naxos with its port, and part of the island, is very fine.
Edward Daniel Clarke - Travels in various countries of Europe, Asia and Africa in 1799-1804
XVIIIth century travellers were fascinated by the surviving portal of a never completed temple which had (and has) a unique evocative power.
Archaeological Museum of Antioch: floor mosaic depicting Ariadne at Naxos and two seasons
The antiquities of Naxos relate almost exclusively to the worship of Bacchus. The inhabitants are still much addicted to drinking, and every medal and gem of the island prove how prevalent the rites of Bacchus once were. (..) A public fountain near to the town is still considered by the inhabitants as the fountain of Ariadne, and it is called by that name. (..) Their wine maintains its pristine celebrity, and we thought it excellent. Clarke
The temple was built in the VIth century BC and either it was dedicated to Apollo (this is assumed because it is oriented towards the island of Delos, the site of a famous sanctuary dedicated to this god) or to Dionysus/Bacchus who met in Naxos lovely Ariadne whom Theseus had deserted, and married her without delay. The temple was never completed and over time its columns and walls were removed and used as building material for other purposes.
Tis one of the best towns I have yet seen in this part of the world and the castle which stands in the highest part of it is a very confiderable building for the country. The first duke of the Archipelago Marco Sanudo built it and it is yet sound enough to stand a great many ages. Tis a strong building and was once the palace of the duke. It stands in a large place of defence built with very thick walls and flanked with towers of very great strength. Broderick
The castle of Nasso is not a traditional one, but a group of fortified buildings arranged in a way that they controlled the access to the top of the hill, where Marco Sanudo built his own fortified palace (which had a tall tower, now almost totally ruined). The only remaining fortified house belonged to the Crispo family who took over the title of Dukes of the Archipelago from the Sanudo.
In the streets of Kastro
The island was for three hundred years the residence of princes appointed by the Venetians as Dukes of the Archipelago; from the beginning of the thirteenth century, when the Emperor Henry gave this title to Marco Sanudo, until the expulsion by the Turks, under Selim the Second, of Giacomo Crispo, the twenty-first and last duke. It is owing to this circumstance that the Venetian costume still exists among the Latin ladies. (..) The town makes a neat appearance from the harbour, but has altogether the character of an antient Greek city when it is entered; the streets being irregular, deep, narrow, and dirty. Clarke
The top of the hill is still called Kastro and there are only three narrow gates to access it; the design of the streets helped its defence.
Being told that a Latin archbishop resided in the place, we paid him a visit. (..) By his kindness we were admitted to the churches, which have the privilege of being furnished with bells, as at Patmos. (..) The Latin families live together in the castle, or fortress, separated from the Greeks, not only by situation, but by numberless petty feuds and jealousies. Clarke
The Roman Catholics still live in the upper town of Naxos, around the ruins of the old castle.
James Theodore Bent - The Cyclades - 1885
The heirs of the Venetian families lived in Kastro, where they built a Catholic Cathedral, while the wealthiest Orthodox families lived immediately outside it in a quarter called Borgo. When in 1566 the Turks put an end to the Duchy of the Archipelago, they did not actually put an end to the supremacy of the families of Venetian descent. The only thing they were interested in was collecting a yearly amount (called tributo or harach in Turkish) and an island run by a limited group of landlords was reliable from this point of view. The King of France, with the agreement of the Sultan, acted as protector of the Catholics living in the Ottoman Empire: his coat of arms meant that the archdiocese of Naxos was under his protection.
(above) Coat of arms of the Crispo: (below) other civil and ecclesiastical coats of arms which relate to the period of the Ottoman suzerainty over the island
The Jesuits have great possessions here, and thro' means of the French Ambassador, have got a command from the Grand Signior, that none of his Officers shall molest them; they paying their Tribute yearly at Constantinople.
Bernard Randolph, b. 1643. The present state of the islands in the archipelago.
Nothing is to be heard but tables of genealogy; some deducing their origin from the Paleoloyi, or from the Comnenii; others from the noblest Venetian families. Clarke
The Le Lasticqs, the Barozzi, the Frankopouli have most of them fine houses, with the remains of Venetian greatness about them. (..) We visited most of the Latin families on the hill, and saw their treasures of embroidery and jewellery preserved since the Venetian days. We visited the Capuchin convent, which looked thoroughly Italian, and the superior conversed in Italian. Bent
Kastro shows evidence of churches and monasteries built during the Ottoman suzerainty during which all the Cycladic islands had a rather autonomous government and enjoyed a high degree of religious freedom.
Mitropolis (Orthodox Cathedral) in Borgo
The church is in no bad state in Naxia; they have an archbishop of each party, a Greek and a Latin one. (..) The churches are numerous and there seems a great deal of devotion in the island, but it is there, as with us, principally among the women and the poorer people. Broderick
The lower part of the town is all Greek, and contains the metropolitan and other churches; here every house is inhabited by Greeks, for it is only up on the hill, where is still a Capuchin convent close to the fortress, that the Latins live. Bent
Naxos was not without reason said by the Greeks to be better to the inhabitant than to the stranger; I had but a mean opinion of it when we landed (..) but I now find it to be the pleasantest and finest of all the islands I have yet seen. The plains of Angarez and Carchi (Chalki) are the pleasantest spots I ever saw. (..) I have not seen such profusion of fruits any where as in these fertil parts of Naxia; the figs, pomegranates and mulberries are beyond description; plentiful and excellent. Even the rougher parts of the island afford olives and the citron and the sides of the hills abound with all the orange and the lemon. Broderick
The want of a proper port for large shipping has saved Naxos from many a visit on the part of the Turks. We were told that not a single Moslem could he found in the whole island, and that many of the inhabitants of the interior had never seen a Turk. Clarke
Fortified towers in Chalki
are now for the most part disused and falling into ruins,
as also are the large towers, where once lived the
Venetian proprietors around Chalki. It is a place of the
past, but very lovely in its decay. (..) At Trajaia, we were given a large Venetian tower
all to ourselves with a commanding view, the lower
storey of which was a pigsty, the top storey a dovecote. (..) After the extinction of the Latin Duchy, the Latin
nobles continued to occupy the highest position in the islands; most of the fertile land belonged to
them; even to this day they still bear the title "baronakki"
(little barons) and the old coats-of-arms are over the doors. Bent
Marco Sanudo introduced a feudal system in Naxos: the island was split into fiefdoms, which were assigned to Sanudo's partners. This partition of the island lasted for many centuries. The family running a village lived in a fortified mansion. Chalki, the early medieval capital of Nasso at the foot of Apano Castro (the site of a now lost fortress) was run by two families and low walls marked the boundaries of their fiefdoms.
Fortified house in Apeiranthos
Everywhere in Naxos they have a bad word for the people of Apeiranthos; a village of robbers, we were told it was, away in the mountains. (..) overlooking from a rocky eminence a fairly fertile valley, by which the sea could easily be approached. (..) The Apeiranthiotes are thrifty and well-to-do; they have comfortable houses, far better than the other Naxiote villagers. Bent
I have no where seen party animosity carried so high as in this island; the Latin and the Greek gentry mutually hold each other in contempt and have long done so. Broderick
The Bellonia Tower, a few miles off the main town, is now a charming residence. It still has a twin chapel for both Catholic and Orthodox functions. These twin chapels were built on many islands (see the church of Moni Arkadi on Crete) in an attempt to promote better relationships between the two religious communities. In 1582 however this effort was frustrated by the Reform of the Calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII: the Orthodox Church did not endorse the reform and thus the main religious festivities were celebrated by Catholics and Orthodox on different days, thus adding another cause to the existing frictions between the two communities.
Archaeological Museum of Naxos: floor mosaic depicting the Rape of Europa
The image used as background for this page shows a street plaque in Kastro which celebrates Marco Sanudo.
Introductory page on the Venetian Fortresses in Greece
List of the fortresses
|Corfų (Kerkyra) Paxo (Paxi) Santa Maura (Lefkadas) Cefalonia (Kephallonia) Asso (Assos) Itaca (Ithaki) Zante (Zachintos) Cerigo (Kythera)
|Butrinto (Butrint) Parga Preveza and Azio (Aktion) Vonizza (Vonitsa) Lepanto (Nafpaktos) Atene (Athens)
|Castel di Morea (Rio), Castel di Rumelia (Antirio) and Patrasso (Patra) Castel Tornese (Hlemoutsi) and Glarenza Navarino (Pilo) and Calamata Modon (Methoni) Corone (Koroni) Braccio di Maina, Zarnata, Passavā and Chielefā Mistrā Corinto (Korinthos) Argo (Argos) Napoli di Romania (Nafplio) Malvasia (Monemvassia)
|Negroponte (Chalki) Castelrosso (Karistos) Oreo Lemno (Limnos) Schiatto (Skiathos) Scopello (Skopelos) Alonisso Schiro (Skyros) Andro (Andros) Tino (Tinos) Micono (Mykonos) Siro (Syros) Egina (Aegina) Spezzia (Spetse) Paris (Paros) Antiparis (Andiparos) Nasso (Naxos) Serifo (Serifos) Sifno (Syphnos) Milo (Milos) Argentiera (Kimolos) Santorino (Thira) Folegandro (Folegandros) Stampalia (Astipalea)
|Grambusa (Granvousa) Castello (Kasteli/Kissamos) La Canea (Xania) Souda Candia (Iraklion) Rettimo (Rethymno) Spinalonga and Castel Mirabello Castles on the southern coast Sittia and Paleocastro
You may refresh your knowledge of the history of Venice in the Levant by reading an abstract from
the History of Venice by Thomas Salmon, published in 1754. The Italian text is accompanied by an English summary.