(1900 Times Atlas of the World)
1204 The region is acquired by French families (de la Roche/Enghien).
1388 The Venetians buy the fortress.
1540 The Venetians surrender Nauplia to the Ottomans.
1686 The Venetians return to Nauplia.
1715 The Ottomans invade the region and seize the fortress.
According to tradition Nauplia was founded by Nauplius, a son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, on a short promontory at the eastern end of the Argolic Gulf (aka Gulf of Nauplia). Argolis is the region of northern Peloponnese where the Mycenean civilization developed between 1600 and 1100 BC.
Palamidi, a large rocky hill to the east of Nauplia, is named after Palamedes, a son of another Nauplius, king of Nauplia, who participated in the Trojan War. Palamedes lost his life in the war; he was not killed by a Trojan but by Odysseus (Ulysses) who reproached him for having revealed his trick for not going to war (Odysseus had pretended to be insane).
Fortifications of Acronauplia seen from Palamidi
After the 1204 conquest of Constantinople by the Frank knights leading the Fourth Crusade, Argos and Nauplia were assigned to Othon de la Roche; the fiefdom was eventually acquired by the Enghien family until it was sold to Venice in 1388. At that time the town was located on the promontory and it was protected by walls built by the Byzantines (Castel de' Greci in Venetian accounts) and enlarged by the de la Roche/Enghien (Castel de' Franchi).
Acronauplia seen from the modern town
The decision to buy Nauplia had the objective of protecting the activity of Venetian merchants; their presence at Nauplia was established as early as the end of the XIth century as a consequence of an edict by Emperor Alexius I Comnenos issued in 1082 by which Venice was granted access to all Byzantine ports; this in return for the Republic's help in protecting the Empire from the attacks of Robert Guiscard, the founder of a Norman kingdom in southern Italy and Sicily.
Southern side of Acronauplia which required minimal fortifications because the high cliff did not allow enemies to attack on that side
At the time of the Venetian acquisition of Nauplia the Byzantines were gradually taking control of the whole of the Peloponnese to the detriment of the remaining Frank fiefdoms. They established a Despotate of Morea (Peloponnese) which was only formally a part of the Byzantine Empire and which at least initially was able to cope with the growing Ottoman threat.
Gate which was the main access to the old town
For some time after having acquired Nauplia, the Venetians did not bother about fortifying it, but after Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople in 1453, they realized that the Ottomans were a real threat to their possessions; more so after the Ottomans conquered Mistra (1460), the capital of the Despotate of Morea and Negroponte (1469), an island held by the Venetians since 1204.
Gate of one of the partitions of Acronauplia
New fortifications including a circular bastion (Castel del Toro o Torrione) were built to the east of the existing ones; all walls of the previous fortifications were maintained so that the town was partitioned into three separately defensible sections.
In 1499 the Ottomans waged war on Venice; they conquered Lepanto, Navarino, Corone and other fortresses, but not Nauplia and when eventually a peace agreement was signed in 1502, the Venetians were able to retain the town.
(left/centre) 1473 inner gate; (right) former bell tower of the church built during the Frank possession of Nauplia
The new fortifications proved again their effectiveness in 1537 when the Ottomans vainly attempted to seize Nauplia and Malvasia which were the only parts of Peloponnese not in Ottoman hands; in 1538 however a Christian fleet was routed near Preveza and the Venetian Senate decided to reach a peace agreement with Sultan Suleyman I. In 1540 Alvise Badoer, a special envoy, was sent to Constantinople to negotiate a truce and eventually a lasting agreement; he was given latitude to surrender Nauplia and Malvasia "as a last resort".
Western side of Acronauplia
Badoer soon realized that the Ottomans were determined to obtain the two fortresses; he embarked upon lengthy negotiations in the hope of modifying the Ottoman position, but eventually he gave up and the Sultan obtained what his troops had been unable to conquer in the battlefield. It was eventually discovered that the Ottoman obstinacy in wanting the two fortresses was due to the fact that they knew about Badoer's mandate; the information was passed to them by the French ambassador to Venice who learnt it from his sources inside the Council of Ten, the major governing body of the Republic.
During the Ottoman rule the importance of Nauplia as a commercial port declined while it remained a safe haven for the Ottoman fleet; in 1686 the Venetians, led by Francesco Morosini, the former commander of Candia, after having seized the southern part of Peloponnese, attacked Nauplia; the fortifications provided the defenders with a great advantage, but after an Ottoman counterattack was easily repelled by the Venetian musketry, they surrendered.
Details of the cannon
The Venetians brought with them cannon with a very elaborate decoration which shows the skill of their foundries; all this attention to winged lions, coats of arms, laurel wreaths and flying angels was indicative of a tendency to
turn away from the fact that the might of Venice was declining.
Some of the cannon on display at Nauplia were cast in the foundry of the Alberghetto; they were a veritable dynasty of bronze-workers and they are mentioned in Venetian records as early as 1498; in 1514 they were involved in casting parts of the monument to Cardinal Battista Zeno in S. Marco in Venice (see a detail in a separate window); the Alberghetto foundry continued to work for the Venetian Republic until its end in 1797 because in 1792 a member of the family was appointed chief founder. GBAF most likely stands for "Giovanni Battista Alberghetto Fonditore". For another example of Italian cannon turned into a work of art you may wish to see Cannone di S. Paolo (in a separate window) at Museo del Bargello in Florence.
(left) Western bastion; (right) gate opened by Fleet Commander Agostino Sagredo in the early XVIIIth century and inscription saying it was opened to facilitate the access of the garrison to the town (Militium Commodo)
The Venetians decided to make Nauplia the capital of the Kingdom of Morea as they called the Peloponnese; they felt the medieval settlement of Acronauplia was unfit for this new role and they relocated its inhabitants to a newly designed town near the harbour.
Palamidi seen from the eastern fortifications of Acronauplia
The fortifications of Acronauplia were not particularly strengthened by the Venetians after they reconquered the town because they focussed their attention on building a new state-of-the-art fortress on Palamidi.
View of Bourtzi from the Cannon Terrace
The name Bourtzi derives from burç, a Turkish word meaning tower (Uzuncaburç = tall tower) and it is used to indicate isolated fortifications; in Greece there are bourtzi at Modoni, Skiathos and other locations, but the best known bourtzi is that of Nauplia.
Details of the sea fortress
The small fortress was designed by Antonio Gambello, an architect from Bergamo, in 1471; initially it was made up of a single tower; bastions were added later on, giving it the ship-like appearance it has today. It was further strengthened by the Ottomans who closed the entrance to the harbour by laying a chain from Bourtzi to the pier.
Sign of fish restaurant "Arapakos" showing the chain between Bourtzi and the town
Move to page two: Palamidi and the Venetian/Ottoman/Greek town
Excerpts from Memorie Istoriografiche del Regno della Morea Riacquistato dall'armi della Sereniss. Repubblica di Venezia printed in Venice in 1692 and related to this page:
Napoli di Romania
Delle nobil Città, ch'accrescevano un tempo splendore all'antica Argia, hoggidì Saccania, ò Romania
Minore, dovitiosa parte della Morea, conserva sin'al presente le vecchie primitie NAPOLI,
da Sosiano detta NAPLI, dalli Greci ANAPLIA, e NAUPLIA da Tolomeo. Questa forte Città, e
celebre Emporio sortì da Naupliò figlio di Nettuno, e Amimone il proprio stabilimento nell'ultimo
ricesso d'un Golfo volgarmente di NAPOLI, da Tolomeo ARGOLICUS SINUS chiamato sù la sommità
d'un picciol promontorio, che diffondendosi in due lati, col'uno che s'estende al mare, forma a
Naviganti largo, e sicuro Porto; coll'altro, che guarda la Terra, vieta a passaggieri una tal commodità
al commercio, non potendo questi condurvisi sopra, che per una sol via erta, augusta, e disastrosa, fraposta
al Monte Palamide, e alla Marina, appresso la quale è situato in guisa, che da tre parti frena il corso all'onde,
con rive si alte, e dirupate, che in ogni occasione d'insidie, leva affatto il commodo al Nemico,
non solo di sbarcare militie, mà di battere anco dalle Galere alla Città le mura; il Porto pure, che quanto spacioso
nel seno, tanto più angusto nella bocca, non ammette all'ingresso Galere senza l'haver queste una dopo l'altra scorso per
qualche tratto un Canale, esposte con grave loro cimento all'Artiglieria, sendo custodito da ben proveduto castello,
che per esser eretto sopra un scoglio in circa trecento piedi nel Mare, non può esser espugnato da gente di Terra;
ne per sorprenderlo, ponno à causa delle molte secche avvicinarsegli grossi legni; in somma non ha posto lacuno,
ove non sij concorsa la natura a munirla, l'industria à confermarla; ne è men considerabile nelle circonstanze del sito,
che riguardevole nella qualità de titoli; poiche altre volte era Episcopale
sotto l'Arcivescovo di Corinto, hor'è Archiepiscopale Capitale, distante
55 miglia d'Atene, 60 da Misitra, 36 da Corinto, ed'è
seggio del Prefetto della Provincia, in cui si numerano sessanta mille Greci, oltre moltitudine
d'altri habitanti, quali secondo Pausania, furono anticamente Egittij, ch'assieme con Danao vi
dimoravano, come in loro Colonia, onde come variò nel corso del tempo costumi, cosi nel progresso
degl'anni humiliò se stessa a più Principi.
Introductory page on the Venetian Fortresses in Greece
List of the fortresses
|Geographic area||Location||Ionian Islands||Corfù (Kerkyra) Paxo (Paxi) Santa Maura (Lefkadas) Cefalonia (Kephallonia) Asso (Assos) Itaca (Ithaki) Zante (Zachintos) Cerigo (Kythera)||Greek Mainland||Butrinto (Butrint) Parga Preveza and Azio (Aktion) Vonizza (Vonitsa) Lepanto (Nafpaktos) Atene (Athens)||Peloponnese (Morea)||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, Passavà and Chielefà Mistrà Corinto (Korinthos) Argo (Argos) Napoli di Romania (Nafplio) Malvasia (Monemvassia)||Aegean Islands||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)||Crete||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.