(1900 Times Atlas of the World)
1538 A Spanish-Venetian fleet is defeated by the Turks near Preveza (Battle of Preveza)
1684 Venetians conquer Preveza
1699 Preveza is assigned to the Turks by the peace of Carlowitz
1718 Preveza is assigned to Venice by the peace of Passarowitz
1798 Conquered by Ali Pacha of Tepeleni
Preveza is located at the tip of a narrow peninsula which closes a large internal gulf, known as Gulf of Arta or Ambracic Gulf. Its strategic importance was such that the town changed hands several times. In the small map at the top of the page the cartographers of the 1900 Times Atlas used for Preveza the symbol meaning fortress, because at that time the town was protected by three fortresses and a moat.
June 22, 1805. Prevyza, or Prevesa, for it is now
written in both ways in Greek, though the latter
form is probably Italian, contained 2,000 families,
when the French arrived in 1798, but has now
not more than 1200. When the Venetians took
it in 1684, there are said to have been only 70;
the rapid increase after that time is easily accounted
for, by the commercial advantages of the position,
and by the importance of this place, as well as of
Parga and Vutzintro, to the safety of Corfu and its
canal, which induced the Venetian government not
only to protect the people against their Musulman
neighbours, but to be vigilant in preventing their
own proveditori and other officers from indulgeing in their accustomed rapacity. The houses
are dispersed over a large space, each having
a garden or small plot of ground attached to it,
containing fig, walnut, and apricot trees, with
a few culinary herbs. (..) All the best
houses, some of which, built in the Venetian
style, show the former opulence of the place, are
now in ruins. Prevyza is still, however, one of
the best towns in Greece, and has an agreeable
William Martin Leake - Travels in northern Greece - 1835
Today Preveza is a thoroughly modern town with little evidence of its past.
The Turkish Bey, or resident of the Sultan, receives the tithe on land, which is let every year
to the Greeks in lots, and the maritime customs,
which, are four per cent, on exports, and two per
cent, on imports, as under the Venetians. The
Bey commands a garrison of thirty-six soldiers,
but takes all his directions for the management of
the police from the Greek magistrates, who still
preserve the Maggior Consiglio and other Venetian courts. The Consiglio consists of nobles,
some of whom, as in the Seven Islands, may be
found digging in their olive grounds. (..) The Prevyzans express themselves very grateful to Russia, whose consul takes
care that no encroachments are made on these
privileges, either by Aly Pasha or by the Bey.
Hence, Prevyza at present is one of the happiest
towns in Rumili, though with such a neighbour as Aly there is no saying how long this
condition may last. (..) The further part of the ruins of Nicopolis, are in Aly
Pasha's dominions: the nearer ruins, and the
lagoon called Mazoma, belong to Prevyza. Leake
The fortress of St. Andrew is the only one which dates back to the Venetian period: the current set of walls and buildings however is due to an 1807 reconstruction by Ali Pacha and to many later modifications. Some worn out reliefs portraying a man and a beast were placed on the walls; because their design is very naive, it is unlikely that they came from Nikopolis (similar reliefs can be seen also in the gates of Ioanina).
Prevyza, March 1809. - Since my visit to this
place in 1805, the Porte having found that very
little accrued to it from Prevyza and the other
ex-Venetian places, after paying the expences of
the residents and their little garrisons, was tempted
to sell them to Aly Pasha, thus virtually
violating the treaty of 1800, by which the Sultan
engaged to maintain these places in their Venetian
laws and privileges, and liable only to a fixed
duty on commerce and land, to be paid to a
resident Bey; instead of which, he now gives them over to a man whom he cannot control,
and who has already treated them with every
kind of vexation. Prevyza has been the principal
sufferer. Its alliance with the French when the
place was taken by assault in 1798, furnished the
Vezir with an excuse for extortion and cruelty,
which has lasted ever since, and the population is
now reduced to less than half its number at that
Thursday, August 26th, 1813. I walked in the morning with the Consul to see the Vizir's new palace. It is very large, and the only three rooms finished were spacious; very superbly gilded, and the pannels adorned with daubs which were called landscapes. But had it been the most splendid in the world, all pleasure and admiration would have been prevented by a contemplation of the tyranny displayed in the building of it. Every day a certain number of Greeks, and on one day, in the week all in the town, were compelled to work at it gratis, having only their wretched meals afforded them.
William Turner - Journal of a Tour in the Levant - 1820
St. George's castle is located at the western end of Preveza and it faces the Ionian Sea, whereas St. Andrew's Castle is inside the Gulf of Arta. It consists of a rather plain rectangular set of walls.
Tuesday, August 24th, 1813. I took a walk in the morning with my countrymen to an extensive olive-grove (stretching three miles) behind the town. Here we found many poor Greeks lying about, who have no other habitation than the shelter of the trees, New fortifications are rapidly building, (at which the Greeks are forced to work, being rigorously, watched to prevent them from emigrating,) consisting of a ditch, from 25 to 30 feet wide, and a wall supported by bastions, which latter is yet unfinished, all round the town. Turner
Ali Pacha built another fortress a mile or so north of St. George's Castle; it is called Pantokrator fortress after the name of a small church built on its top (it is shown in the background of this page). The seaward rampart was added in the late XIXth century.
Interior of the fortress
Ali Pacha had a penchant for fortresses; he built at least ten of them along the coast of Epirus. The purpose of this effort was to consolidate his power on the territories he had conquered by preventing rebellions and interventions by France, Russia, Britain and chiefly by his own master, the Ottoman Sultan. Eventually young Sultan Mahmut II restored his authority in Epirus and in 1822 Ali Pacha was beheaded in Ioanina.
View towards the island of Santa Maura (Lefkada)
The fortress is built on a cape which protrudes from the coastline. This affords a clear view over
Santa Maura. Ali Pacha made an attempt to conquer that island, but he did not reach his objective.
The image above shows the battlefield of the 1538 engagement between the Ottoman fleet led by Hayruddin Barbarossa and a Christian fleet under the command of Andrea Doria: the Ottomans moved northwards from Santa Maura and although the Christian fleet was larger they forced it to flee.
Views of the fortress built by Ali Pacha at the southern entrance to the Gulf of Arta
Augustus founded Nicopolis in honour of the naval victory which he gained before the mouth of the gulf over Antony and Cleopatra, who was herself
present. (..) Here are several remains of ancient
buildings of Roman construction. (..) Where the Strait is
narrowest, and immediately opposite to the castle
of Prevyza, the Vezir has constructed a serai and
small fortress. There is every probability that
the Roman ruins are remains of some of the
buildings of Actium, established by Augustus, for
the breadth of the Strait answers perfectly to the
"less than 5 stades" of Polybius, or the "something more than four" of Strabo, or the "500 Roman paces" of Pliny. (..) The Apollo here worshipped was surnamed Actius, and his temple Actium. Leake
Actium is the site of the naval battle in which Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa defeated Antony and Cleopatra in an epic clash of some 800 vessels in 31 BC.
Introductory page on the Venetian Fortresses in Greece
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 (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.