Usually the top priority of a traveller in Greece is to visit temples and sites of the classical world.
Little attention is paid to the many other interesting memories of Greek history during the Byzantine Empire and, after its fall in 1453, until the emergence of the Greek Kingdom in the 1830s. Venice played a role in Greece for nearly a thousand years.
I resolved, by God's assistance, to make this Voyage into the Levant to which purpose I hasten'd to Venice, where I arrived about the beginning of June, in the year 1675. (..) Great part of my Journey being like to be through the Venetian Territories; and therefore, I think, it may not be altogether impertinent to give a short Account of that so ancient, wise, and potent Republic. The most serene Republic of Venice, as they are stiled, is the ancientest Free-State that now flourisheth in the World; and notwithstanding the great losses they have sustained from the innumerable Armies of the Turks, have yet such large and fruitful Territories, as make them the objects of the Envy and Jealousie, not only of the Grand Signior (the Sultan), but also of most of the Christian Princes, their Neighbours. (..) From Altinum, Aquileia, and other Neighbouring Cities, such as could escape the fury of Attila, the inhabitants fled to these little Islands, where now Venice standeth. Thus did they unenvied, and unsuspected, in the last extremity of Fortune, lay the first Foundations of one of the noblest, richest, and securest Cities in the World. And although in several Ages after, their encrease was not full so considerable, as to be feared or envied, yet so soon as they began to be so, they still defended themselves with so great success, as made their Neighbours content to be at Peace with them. (..) But now among the Islands of the Archipelago, they have only Cerigo and Tine; which, with Istria, and the Coasts of Dalmatia, Corfu, Cephalonia, and Zant, are all that remain of the Levant part of their Dominions: All which Provinces, and Cities in them, are commanded by Governours, dignified with particular Titles, according to the greatness and importance of the several places, as Generals, Proveditors, or Counts, who are chosen by the Senate, and enabled by their deputed Power to act and judge in all Causes; from whose Sentence no Appeal can be made, but only to the Senate of Venice.
A journey into Greece by George Wheler, Esq., in company of Dr. Spon of Lyons - 1682
A possession of the Byzantine Empire, Venice gained political independence in the VIIIth century as a result of the reaction to the Iconoclasm imposed by Emperor Leo the Isaurian. Venice was allied with the Byzantine Empire in restraining the expansion of the Normans who, after seizing Bari, the last Byzantine stronghold in the west, had conquered Dyrrachium (today in Albania and known as Durres) in 1081 and attempted to reach Constantinople. Venice sent a fleet to help Emperor Alexius I and in return was granted trading concessions within the Empire, thus gaining a predominant role in Mediterranean trade.
The First Crusade weakened the Byzantine Empire and Venice profited by gaining some bases in the Ionian Islands to support trade. In 1125 the little port of Modon in the Peloponnese secured the Venetian control over the maritime route between the Ionian and the Aegean seas.
As a reaction to a massacre of Venetian merchants in Constantinople, Venice manoeuvered the Fourth Crusade into an expedition against Constantinople and ended up with the possession of Crete, Negroponte (Euboea) and several other islands in the Aegean Sea.
The expansion of Venice continued until the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. The Sultans started a series of wars to gain control of the Venetian possessions. This process lasted more than three centuries. Only in 1715 with the fall of Tinos was the Aegean Sea freed from Venetian presence, but the Ionian Islands were retained by Venice until the Republic fell in 1797 as a result of Napoleon's first Italian campaign.
Clickable map (1900 Times Atlas): hover on the dots
Venice had no large army, but had a powerful fleet, so the strategy to retain the Greek possessions was based on building fortresses which could resist the Ottoman attack until help could arrive from the sea. To achieve this in 1542 a Magistracy of Fortresses was established, which had jurisdiction over fortifications in the maritime and mainland dominions, and over the arsenals of sea territories of the Republic. The map shows the fortresses built or occupied by the Venetians in Greece. By hovering on the blue dots you can read the name of the fortress (the names are those given by the Venetians) and by clicking on them you move to the related page. For fortresses in Crete the link is to a page giving a brief overview of the Venetian rule over the island and with the links to the page of each fortress. In many pages the text includes quotes from British writers who visited the sites during the Venetian rule or soon after it.
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. You can also read a 1692 description (in Italian only) of the fortresses of Morea (Peloponnese) and of some other locations.
List of the fortresses
|Geographic area||Location||Ionian Islands||Corfų (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, Passavā and Chielefā Mistrā Corinto (Korinthos) Argo (Argos) Napoli di Romania (Nafplio) Malvasia (Monemvassia)||Aegean Islands||Negroponte (Chalcis) 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|
Other fortresses/archaeological sites:
|Genoese bases||Metelino (Mytilini) Metimno (Molyvos) Samothrace Cunda (Alibey) Thassos Fochies (Foca) Candarli Cismes (Cesme) Scio (Chios)||Fortresses of the Knights of Rhodes||Lero (Leros) Calimno (Kalimnos) Coo (Kos) Castel S. Pietro (Bodrum) Symi Nissiros Rhodes (Rodos) Lindos Castelrosso (Kastelorizo) Other fortresses||Ottoman fortresses||Imbro (Gokceada) Tenedo (Bozcaada) Seddulbahir Kale Sultanieh (Canakkale) Kilitbahir||Other sites||Patmos Dodoni (Dodona) Nikopolis Roman Corinth Hadrian's Athens Veria Kastoria Thessalonica Philippi Kavala Meteora Dion Platamonas Constantinopole/Istanbul Adrianopolis/Edirne Bursa Pergamum Roman Smyrna Sardis (Sart) Ephesus Afrodisia Delphi Eleusis Ioanina Kos Priene Miletus Didyma Iasos Euromos Delos Knossos Phaistos Gortyn Sounion Moni Arkadi Kritsa Olympia Mycenae Tiryns Ancient Argos Epidaurus Milas Troy Assos Manisa (Magnesia)||Other Venetian fortresses in this website||Chioggia Cirenes (Kyrenia/Girne) Clissa Famagusta Nicosia
Palmanova Peschiera Ravenna Verona
The image in the background of this page shows a relief depicting the winged lion, symbol of Venice.