If you came to this page directly, you might wish to read a page covering the old fortifications of Nauplia first.
Western and southern sides of Palamidi seen from Acronauplia
Ulysses, not wishing to go to the war, feigned madness. However, Palamedes, son of Nauplius, proved his madness to be fictitious; and when Ulysses pretended to rave, Palamedes followed him, and snatching Telemachus from Penelope's bosom, drew his sword as if he would kill him. And in his fear for the child Ulysses confessed that his madness was pretended, and he went to the war. Having taken a Phrygian prisoner, Ulysses compelled him to write a letter of treasonable purport ostensibly sent by Priam to Palamedes; and having buried gold in the quarters of Palamedes, he dropped the letter in the camp. Agamemnon read the letter, found the gold, and delivered up Palamedes to the allies to be stoned as a traitor.
Apollodorus - The Library - English Translation by Sir James George Frazer.
(March 1806) The most curious relic of antiquity at Nauplia, perhaps, is the name Palamidhia, attached to the steep and lofty mountain which rises from it to the south-east; for Palamedes having been a native hero, (..) the name is so connected with the ancient local history of the place, whether true or fabulous, that we cannot but infer that Palamedium has been applied to this hill from a very early period, although no ancient author has had occasion to notice it. (..) The outer wall is low on the side towards the sea, and the rock, though very precipitous on that side, is not inaccessible to a surprise. (..) Under the sea-face, at the foot of the precipice, there is a road leading along the shore.
William Martin Leake - Travels in the Morea - 1830
(above) Palamidi seen from the east; (below) fortifications on this side
One of the reasons why in 1686 the Ottomans surrendered Nauplia was that the Venetians placed their artillery on Palamidi, a rocky hill to the east of the town. The Venetians were therefore aware that the control of Palamidi was essential to the protection of Nauplia; the western (towards the town) and southern (towards the sea) sides of Palamidi did not require major fortifications because of the nature of the ground. The other sides of Palamidi did not enjoy the same natural protection and therefore the Venetians decided to build a complex of walls and bastions to prevent the enemy from reaching the top of the hill.
(left) Eastern walls; (right) "Themistocles" Bastion seen from St. Andrew's Bastion
The Venetians decided to fortify the entire top of Palamidi, rather than concentrating their effort on its western end; the area covered by the new fortress was almost as large as that of the town. The original design by Antonio Giazich had the shape of a star, but the actual fortress ended up by having a very irregular aspect; it was made up of imposing bastions each of which was a small fortress; the main one, which housed a church dedicated to St. Andrew, has retained its original Venetian name, while the others are named after ancient Greek heroes.
St. Andrew's Bastion and the steps leading to the town
From the town there is a
covered passage of steps up to the fort, and on
one side of it an open flight, mounting in zig-zag, the latter for common use, the former for
security in war. (..) There is an advanced work adjoining the
rocks at the southern extremity, the salient
angle of which is as high as that of the principal cavalier. Leake
The most impressive feature of Palamidi is St. Andrew's Bastion because of the 857 or so steps which allow direct access to the fortress from the town; the design of the bastion was such that it protected the upper section of the steps, while another section was protected by a vaulted passage. The new fortress was built in just three years between 1711 and 1714.
(left) Gate towards the town; (right) winged lion above a small inscription making reference to Agostino Sagredo, commander of the Venetian navy
At length an order is
issued, and in the afternoon I ride up, by a circuitous route, to the southern extremity of the
castle, and entering by the gate on that side,
find the Janissary aga and his staff waiting for
me at the gate; he accompanies me round the
The administrative/military organization of the Venetian Republic was rather complex and it was based on a distribution of responsibilities; the navy was commanded by a Provveditor da Mar who usually resided on Corfu; he was assisted by a council of naval officers; the Peloponnese (or Morea) was placed under the responsibility of a separate governor; other officers were responsible for monitoring the expenses incurred by the navy and the garrisons of the fortresses. The commander of a fortress was often appointed on the basis of agreements reached in Venice among the members of the most important families; these agreements did not necessarily consider the actual military experience and leadership of the appointee. The shortcomings of such a management system showed all their negative impact in December 1714 when the Ottomans waged war on Venice with the primary objective of reconquering Morea.
In September 1714, at the end of a long career, Alessandro Bon was appointed governor of Morea; he reported to the Senate that he found that too many fortresses were built by his predecessors, including a major one at Modon without giving proper consideration to the need of garrisoning them appropriately and ensuring adequate supply of ammunition. The complex of fortifications of Nauplia (Palamidi, Acronauplia, Bourtzi and the city walls) would have required a garrison of at least five times that which appears in Venetian accounting records (1279 men).
(left) Bastion showing slight Ottoman modifications in the shape of the sentry boxes; (right) interior of St. Andrew's Bastion
It is of a remarkable construction: the
interior part consists of three cavaliers, or high
redoubts, entirely detached from one another,
and surrounded by an outer and lower inclosure.
There are many brass-guns mounted on the
ramparts, some of which carry stone-balls of a
foot and a half in diameter. (..) There are nine cisterns of water in the fort about thirty feet long,
six wide, and six deep. There is a better provision of powder and artillery here than is usual
in Turkish fortresses. Leake
The actual Ottoman campaign started only in June 1715. The Venetian Senate vainly called for help from Austria; Emperor Charles VI was too busy in consolidating the territorial gains he made as a result of the Spanish Succession War and he was not interested in opening a new front. The Senate hoped to appease the enemy calling for negotiations, but with no result because the Sultan regarded the occupation of Morea as unlawful. Overall the Venetian governing bodies were unable to develop an effective political or military strategy to cope with the impending war.
The Ottomans seized Tinos, Corinth and Aegina easily; on July 9, 1715 they laid siege to Nauplia and in less than two weeks they conquered it because the Venetian mercenaries were unable to effectively control all the defensive lines. The Ottomans noticed that the maritime walls of the town were almost unguarded and they managed to set foot on the wharf of the harbour from where they entered the town and opened the main gate. The Venetians retreated in disarray inside Palamidi, but were unable to check the assailants. Alessandro Bon was wounded and died a few days later while he was being transferred to Constantinople to be paraded in front of the Sultan. Under these circumstances the Provveditor da Mar chose not to come to the rescue of Nauplia and of the other fortresses under attack and concentrated all his forces in the defence of Corfu.
Side streets of Nauplia
(ca 1801) The streets are spacious, handsome, and run in direct lines: but they are dull and solitary. Some handsome houses (..) bear the appearance of ease and opulence.
Franšois Charles Hugues Laurent Pouqueville - Travels in the Morea, Albania, and other parts of the Ottoman empire - 1817 edition
Modern Nauplia retains the grid of orthogonal streets which was designed by the Venetians when they relocated the inhabitants of Acronauplia to the new town.
Catholic Church (which was turned into a mosque)
Before the year 1790, the Pasha of the Morea resided at Anapli (Nauplia), much of the commerce of the Morea then centered at Anapli, and there were several French mercantile houses. The moving of the seat of government to Tripolitza in 1790, was followed in 1791 by a plague, which lasted for three years with little intermission; it prevailed in almost every part of the Morea, but was particularly fatal in Anapli. Leake
(left) Courtyard of a Venetian building; (right-above) winged lion of St. Mark in the main square; (right-below) Venetian coats of arms and symbols in the courtyard of the said building, including that which is shown in the image used as background for this page
Since that time the town has not prospered; it is now only inhabited by the agas who possess lands in the Argolis, by the soldiers of the garrison amounting to about 200, commanded by a Janissary aga, who resides in the fort of Palamidhi, and by some Greek shopkeepers and artisans. (..) In the midst of these miseries, however, the fortifications and store-houses of the Venetians still exhibit a substantial grandeur never seen in a town entirely Turkish, and testify the former importance of the place. Leake
Warehouse for the supplies to the Venetian ships and its lion of St. Mark
The heart of the new town was a rectangular square where a large warehouse was located; today the building houses a very interesting museum with exhibits from ancient Tiryns, which was located just a few miles north of Nauplia.
Ottoman memories: (left) a fountain built making use of Venetian elements; (right) an Ottoman gun bearing the Sultan's tughra (calligraphic monogram)
The war between the Ottomans and Venice ended in 1718 with the Peace of Passarowitz. It was the last war between these two powers; a long period of decline began for both of them. At the end of the XVIIIth century Nauplia was a sleepy provincial town.
In Nauplia are two or three mosques. Few Greeks live in the town. (..) It is very difficult to form any idea of the number of souls in a town where almost the whole population is Turkish. (..) The city below has retained more of European architecture than other towns of the Morea.
William Gell - An Itinerary of Greece With a Commentary on Pausanias and Strabo - 1810
Second large mosque and a detail of its fašade; it was built in 1730 and it housed the first meetings of the Greek Parliament. It is known as Vouleftiko (Parliament)
(November 1821) We anchored on the west side of the Gulf
of Napoli, some distance from the shore. Napoli
di Romania was at this time in possession of
the Turks, but blockaded by the Greeks. The
town looked well at a distance, with its minarets
and mosques. The possession of the Palamide (..) was of great advantage to the Turks, and
the place was well fortified on the land side as
well as by sea.
(June 1822) The town had about six months previously been given up to the Greeks, the garrison having been actually starved out. Horse-flesh had been sold at the rate of nine shillings for an English pound, and sugar at about twenty shillings per pound! A handful of bean-meal had been delivered out to each of the principal people of the seraglio per day, and the Pasha said he had seen human flesh eaten! The camels had all been devoured.
John Madox - Excursions in the Holy land, Egypt, etc. - 1834
Theodore Kolokotronis, one the leaders of the 1821 Greek uprising, managed to conquer Nauplia which in 1828 became the see of a provisional Greek government. While in many parts of the Peloponnese all mosques were torn down, this did not occur in Nauplia because they were turned into buildings housing institutions of the newly born state. Their minarets however were pulled down.
The Greek government was led by Giovanni Capodistria (who adopted the Greek spelling Kapodistrias), a noble from Corfu who studied medicine at Padua. He was supported by Russia because for many years he had been a senior diplomat of Tsar Alexander I. In 1831 Kapodistrias was assassinated while entering the church of Agios Spiridionis, patron saint of Corfu. He was killed by members of the Mavromichalis family, in retaliation for the arrest of their leader; the Mavromichalis were the de facto rulers of the Maina (Mani) peninsula and they resented Kapodistrias' attempts to impose modern laws and practices in their fiefdom.
Neoclassic palace built by King Otto (Othon in Greek)
In 1832 an agreement between Russia, France and Great Britain "appointed" Otto, a Bavarian prince, as the first king of Greece; the young king (he was 18) arrived at Nauplia with a small retinue of German advisors and 3,500 troops; he decided almost immediately to move the capital from Nauplia to Athens, which at the time was a minor town of some 5,000 inhabitants. The actual move occurred in 1834 and Nauplia returned to be a sleepy provincial town before becoming an important tourist resort and the starting point for visiting Mycenae and Epidaurus.
Return to page one.
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) or you may wish to read excerpts (in Italian) 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.
Introductory page on the Venetian Fortresses in Greece
List of the fortresses
|Geographic area||Location||Ionian Islands||Corf¨ (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, PassavÓ and ChielefÓ MistrÓ 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|