22 October 2008

Nauplion: The Forks

The picture to the left is a detail of the oldest known image of Nauplion and shows the city's circumstances in the 1530s. There is the advance wall of 1480 sealing the space between Palamidi and the shore, the palisade along the marsh, the Albanian neighborhood (they were probably not allowed to live inside the city), the meat market, and the "forks."

That would be the two little forked poles with a crossbeam in the little peninsula left of the moat. And you can see how they worked here or here (upper left).

The forks appear only once in Nauplion's records, which is of course no indication of how much they were employed: the Byzantine and Frankish records are essentially non-existant, most of the Venetian are burnt or lost, and I cannot read the Ottoman.
But they come into a court action about a fief, a hundred years before this picture.

In 1412, the
podestà of Nauplion assigned half of Giovanni Cavaza's fief to Manoli Murmuri. Giovanni, a Nauplion official and a merchant in linen and wool, had died 6 years earlier. He had also been billing the Nauplion treasury for repairs to his private home and getting Venice to send out timber for it. Other than possession of the fief, Cavaza has no importance here. A fief contained about 200 stremmata of land. The medieval Morea stremma varied between 900 and 1900 square meters, depending on the kind of land, so this definition is not at all helpful, but just over 4 stremmata at 1000 m2 is equal to one American acre. A fief was a lot of land.

This assignment of half a fief to Manoli Murmuri was cancelled by action of three legislative bodies in Venice in April 1413 and the half-fief was eventually transferred to Giovanni Catello in January 1415. This Giovanni was senior member of a very large and progressively powerful family in the city. In 1416
Murmuri's brother Michali, Nicolò Murmuri, and someone's brother named Gregorio -- tried to kill Giovanni. They failed but he was so badly injured that he lost his right hand.

There is a gap of eight years in the narrative. Then in 1424, the Murmuri brothers bribed a
rusticus to kill Giovanni. Giovanni was ambushed when he went out to inspect his vineyard. Again, he survived the assault, though he received five wounds. The rusticus disappeared.

The brother of the rusticus testified against him and named Michali, Nicolò, and Gregorio as responsible. Catello's complaint to the Venetian Signoria in 1424 sought legal action against the three: the
rusticus was not the real problem. Signoria, however, declared that when the rusticus was found, he was to have his right hand amputated before he was hanged from the “forks.”

We have no idea what happened to the rusticus.

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