15 August 2009

Nauplion: The Advance Wall

Thirty years ago and more, cycling home on the back road from Tiryns, I came across a wall behind the bed of a winter stream, with cannon embrasures, such as you see in the picture to the right. This year I found it again. The picture on the left shows that the ground level is a bit higher, but that the big stone on the right has not been touched. The stonework looks a lot like the embrasures on the fortress of Palamidi, which means that this wall was built by the Venetians about 1700.

Thirty years ago there was also a small Venetian-built chapel to Ag. Pareskevi, and well-posts that looked remarkably like the little obelisks on the Venetian staircase up the front of Akro-Nauplion. I assumed it had been a Venetian estate with its own fortifications, and on occasion wondered just what two cannon and the wall were supposed to defend against.

My last day in Nauplion, I bought a splendid book, The Nauplion of the Foreign Travellers by Aphroditi Kouria,
and on the bus back to Athens discovered in it three Venetian maps showing the troop disposition of the 1686 Venetian conquest. All three of those maps showed a zig-zag advance defence wall for the conquest.

This is a detail from one of the maps, and I will just comment in passing that the three cypress trees are still there -- you can see them far to the left of the road, coming from Argos, just before the high-security prison. Here is another view of the wall in relation to Nauplion -- more or less -- and notice the hill on the right.

A couple of things to notice here, before we get back to the wall itself. Behind the wall are little rectangles showing the disposition of troops, there is a glimpse at bottom left of the Venetian fleet at Karathona beach, and at the bottom right is the beginning of an alphabetized list of the military units referring to the little rectangles. This is a German map: it lists Papeliner, Maltezer, Sclavonier, Bataillon Italianer, Bataillon Saxen, and so on. The Venetian map lists Maltese, Papalini, Sassoni, Venetiani, Fiorentini, Milanesi, and marinari. This was a massive effort, intended to recreate the Venetian empire lost to the Ottomans, and it was led by a Swedish count Königsmark. After accomplishing Nauplion, the army went to Athens and a gunner from Luneberg blew up the Parthenon. These maps are not perfect on geography. They are propaganda maps showing the various participants in a victorious, and excessively brutal enterprise, but they are good enough on the important details.

Look at the map again. The zig-zag wall leads to a hill, and off the right of the hill you see a stream or river, or a stream bed. There is a bridge over it now but water is a seasonal thing. Thirty years ago I bounced down across the dry bed and back up on the cycle, this year I drove across the bridge. Now look at this image from Google Earth:

That is the hill at bottom left, Profitias Elias beside the security prison. The green line makes a zag and a zig and follows the line of the stream to a white blotch which is where I photographed the cannon embrasure. From that point the stream continues distinctly visible in the aerial view, but that is all of the zig-zag I have been able to find so far. Prison construction would have obliterated anything to the left. The wall that I know runs between the two parallel roads on the right. I am proud of this discovery: wall, maps, photograph. The next trip, I will walk that zig-zag and see what happens, unless someone reading this does it first and writes me. Please send photographs.

1 comment:

  1. Diane,

    Wow. That's cool.

    The zigzag is quite similar to the course of the walls on the north slope of Mt. Oneion.

    Thanks for the great footwork.



I will not publish Anonymous comments.