29 March 2011

The Nauplion Petition

Detail from the Camoccio map of Nauplion,
showing the piers and the route up to Akro-Nauplion
(See Section 8 below)

The same day the Signoria answered the Argos petition, 26 July 1451, it answered a much longer petition from Nauplion. Nauplion had more money, and better grammar and spelling in its petition, but it, too, was also having a difficult time.

Venice acquired Nauplion and Argos in 1388, but then Theodoros I Palaiologos, the Despot of the Morea, occupied Argos. It took until 1394 to get him out without actually going to war. Argos had its own administration for three years, but after the Turkish invasion in 1397 (see Section 1 of the Argos petition) Argos was administered by Nauplion. In 1442, Argos was again given its own administration. You will see in the Nauplion petition how infuriating this was to them, the contempt they have for Argos, and how they have tried to get Argos back under control. You will also see how Argos has tried to fight back.

Again, this is my paraphrase of sections of the Venetian document.

* * * * *.

1. Your Signoria promised your subjects of Nauplion to observe their traditions, and the citizens consented to a tax from which you could collect a certain sum to pay the salaries of the podestà, the guard, and certain other positions, and the rest would go to repair the walls, and other needs, such as supplying the galley. Your Signoria has added the salaries of the rettor of Argos, the camerlengo, and castellan, and so the money that should be put into repair of the walls is spent on salaries. The city gate is in a dangerous condition and the walls of the suburb are crumbling. The port needs clearing, parts of the castle walls are earthen, and the rest near ruin. Your citizens are in danger because everything is open and anyone can go in and out at any time as they please. We are in the jaws of the wolf, by land and by sea. Your subjects and loyal citizens humbly supplicate and request that you will provide for the needs and necessities of this place. We ask you how the funds of this city can pay the aforementioned salaries since God knows the taxes that come in can in no way supply them.

Response: Since we desire the safety of the city and so the walls are repared, for the next 5 years the treasurer of Nauplion will retain from every salary 2 hyperpera out of every 10, and the fine from every judgement be paid to the treasury, and these used for construction and repair of the walls. We further desire that the podestà convoke the council and persuade them to contribute to the said work on their part.

2. Some of the rettori of Argos, and especially the one there now, against the will of Your Signoria and against custom, have taken new action harmful to your treasury. From ancient times to the present Nauplion and Argos were one place, joined, with one ruler, one treasury, one signoria, and the treasury always at Nauplion, but the present rettor wants to divide the territory between Nauplion and Argos, and have a treasury at Argos, and farm the taxes and do things never done with great prejudice to your treasury at Nauplion, and the rettor collects his salary from the treasury at Nauplion. We remind Your Excellency that Argos compared with Nauplion is a village and a warehouse, and no one lives there but people who work the land, all foreigners,* while Nauplion has good citizens, and has maintained its old traditions better than any other terra.

Your citizens and feudatories of Nauplion have their own land and collect their rents, and now the rettor of Argos will not let them collect, but insists that they must move from Nauplion and reside in Argos if they want to collect. There never was such injustice. We remind Your Signoria for the good and well-being of your place, so we can live openly, that it please you to direct the said rettor, and his successors, that there should be no such innovation but that things are to remain as they were; that the rettor does not collect his salary from Nauplion; and that he cannot make concession of or alienate or sell any land, but that it all should be handled in Nauplion as it was before; and that the administration of Argos should be under that of Nauplion as it was in times past.

Also, that the rettor of Argos cannot hold criminal proceedings without the consent and direction of the podestà of Nauplion, and that anyone who has a complaint should appeal to the administration of Nauplion, and in this way it will work to the honor of Your Signoria, otherwise manifest peril will follow one day when those of Nauplion are cut apart from those of Argos.

Response: 1. As of last June 27, we provided that the rettor of Argos may make no impediment to our taxes. 2. We write and direct the said rettor of Argos that he permit our feudatories to live in Nauplion and collect the rents they have in the territory of Argos. 3. We do not want to make innovations in criminal matters, but the liberty and authority of the rettor of Argos is to be preserved according to his commission.

3. We remind Your Signoria, for the good and well-being of your città, that because misser Despoto Greco [Demetrios Palaiologos] and his barons and subjects appropriated the territory of Santa Marina of Didymo, and castra, and other territories under the jurisdiction of Nauplion and Argos from the beginning, and also planted by the former treasurer, ser Giovanni Catello. This should come back under your jurisdiction and the treasury of Nauplion have the benefit. Also all the wheat and grain will be brought to Nauplion, so that we can give to your other places that have need.

4. We remind Your Signoria for the good and well-being of the Nauplion treasury that in the jurisdiction of Nauplion and Argos are a good number of Albanians who have taken an oath and have been subjects of Your Signoria for a long time with their families. They are forced into personal service and their crops taken by the zefali [κεφάλη, governor, Demetrios Lascaris Asan] of the Despot and the treasury loses the annual payment from them. We would remind Your Signoria that nothing has been done about misser Despot up to now, and because it is expensive to send a gentleman from Venice we would remind you that misser Priamo Contarini is provveditor and ambassador, and he could go to the Despot with great efficiency because he speaks Greek.**

Response: We will write the Despot Demetrios in appropriate manner that he should return the lands and castra, and that he should make no more attacks on our Albanian subjects.

5. Also, we remind Your Signoria for the good and well-being of your commune, that since the old men who knew the boundaries and fields of your commune are dead, a thousand conflicts have developed between Your Signoria and your feudatories. Please direct the podestà to make new descriptions and assignments so that everyone knows his own and the citizens of Venice have what is due them.

Response: With all consideration, we want the podestà and captain of Nauplion to correct the errors and to consign lands to the feudatories, keeping the records of all the lands in the Nauplion treasury.

6. We remind Your Signoria for the sake of good order, that traditionally when someone was banned from Nauplion for homicide he was banned from Argos, and when he was banned from Argos for homicide he was banned from Nauplion, but when the rettori came from Venice to Argos, this was not observed but if one committed homicide in Nauplion he went to Argos, and if in Argos he came to Nauplion. This is against honor, and it happens daily. Please direct that it be as before, so that one banned from Nauplion is also banned from Argos, and vice versa.

Response: It is our desire that a person banned from one place be banned from the other so that homicide and crime end.
. . .

8. We remind Your Signoria for the well-being of your subjects and also for the benefit of the treasury that the podestà here need firewood, and since there is no large gripparia here to send, so they have been sending the boats here. They unload at the port and the former administrators have demanded that the villeins here carry the wood on their mules to his residence, and then the gate is closed and they cannot go out to work. Considering that the administrators here are poorly paid, will Your Signoria assign 3 ducats a year from the treasury to transport the wood?

Response: We do not want to make any innovations: let the custom continue.

9. We inform Your Excellency for the well-being of your commune that in the territory of Nauplion, Thermissi has such remarkable salt wells that the whole Levante can dig out a well of gold ("un pozo doro"). This is not guarded and the Albanians and subjects of the despotate come take the salt. One could say that the whole Morea is supplied without spending a soldo.*** In this way your treasury suffers great damage. If Your Signoria sends an ambassador to the Despot and this matter is settled, your treasury would have great profit. We remind Your Signoria that ships go to Syria for salt and leave money there. It is more convenient to come from Candia for Nauplion salt, and the salt is better than that of Syria. This would be better and make a great profit, and benefit for your città.

Response: We are writing the Despot in the appropriate form and will let you know what happens.

10.When the Despot or his barons come to your territory, and the administration has to give them grain for their horses, and feed them, and they do the same thing at Argos, that is double the expense for your treasury, and makes a heavy tax on your poor subject who have to bear the expense. This is contrary to custom. We ask you to pay for the gifts.

Response: The Despot and his barons come rarely and the expense is minimal. We will not make any innovations.  

* * * * * *

* The 'foreigners' are primarily the Albanians, and some Greeks, from the Morea that Nauplion invited in to replace the huge number of Greeks taken away by the Turks.  

** Contarini's knowledge of Greek was extremely useful in handling the case of the Anonymous Naupliote.

*** A soldo was a very small coin.  A day laborer would earn perhaps 12-15 a day.

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