31 July 2011

Argolid Villages, 1700

Grimani shield, "palato d'argento e di rosso di otto pezzi."
Two versions from contemporary maps.

In 1700, the governor-general of the Morea, Francesco Grimani, ordered a census. It mapped territories, listed names, mapped out ownership of properties, and noted what was being grown on every tree. It itemized butcher shops, mills, ovens, shops and ergasteria. It specified whether houses were owned privately or by the state, and whether the roofs were tile or straw.  In recording personal information, the census distinguished between males and females, and grouped them by age: 1-16, 16-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50-60.  Men were vecchi at 60, women were vecchie at 50.

I have already written about the little Nauplion churches discoverable in the census, but what fascinates me now are the profiles of two villages printed in V. Panagiotopoulos, Πληθυσμος καὶ οἰκισμοι τὴς Πελοποννησοῦ, 13os-18os Aiōnas.

These villages are Kato Belesi and Mikro Lalouka.  (Laloukas is still there, east of Argos on the way to Ag. Triada. Can anyone tell me about Kato Belesi?) Between them, they had 30 families.

The sixteen families in Kato Belesi had an average household size of 4.7, with 1.6 children per household.  The fourteen in Mikro Lalouka had an average household size of 3.6 with 1.3 children.  (The current rate in Greece is 1.5.) These figures strongly suggest -- insist -- that parents were strictly controlling their fertility.  Even so, Belesi's children made up 35% of the population, and Lakouka's 40%. In Greece now children are about 15% of the population and in the US 21%.

Various studies of Greek households over time give similar results, and have been extremely assuring in the work I am attempting for the fifteenth century. Liata's numbers from a several Venetian censuses around 1700, give household sizes ranging from 3 to 4.97 , clustering between 3.4 and 3.9. Laiou found a maximum household size of 4.7 in 1300-1 and a minimum of 3.67 in 1338-41, in northern Greece.  Similarly, the percentage of children and adolescents in Kato Belesi and Mikro Lalouka fit Laiou's profiles for the 14th century, and Baxevannis' for the 1907 Peloponessos.

What is so remarkable to me in these village profiles is the extreme variety of domestic configurations they show.  Only two or three simply have the "nuclear" family of two parents and their children, a configuration that really only comes prominent in Western culture in the later 18th century (has anyone written about what a class- and income-related affair this is?), and "official" after 1900.  Because of the way the data is presented, it is sometimes tricky to decide whether or not two people are a married couple, or a parent and adult child, or some other relationship.

Here are some of the villagers of 1700:

Dimitri Rogachi had 5 of the 13 sons in the village. He was in his 40s and his wife in her 30s. Dimo Yianni and his wife, both in their 50s, had 5 girls in their household -- their grandchildren? These are the households in
Kato Belesi with the largest number of children. For the other households, only three have 3 children, six have 2, and thirteen have 1. In Lalouka, only two households have 3 children, three have 2,  six have 1.

The widow Maria, in her 50s, had the care of three children. The household of the elderly Kosta Yanni had three children and a woman in her 40s.  Stamati Sochina's household consisted of 1 elderly man, two men and a woman in the 16-30 range -- might these be his two sons and the wife of one? Sotiri "of the widow" was 16-30 and lived with his widowed mother. Papa Giogachi, in his 40s, had a wife in her 30s and two daughters. The elderly Cap' Chiriachi and his slightly younger wife had the care of a child, as did Coglia Tanasi and Panno Sisa and their wives. Troublesome generation-gaps are common.

The household of Yanni Sisa consisted of two girls and a boy, all under 16, and no adults -- this worries me. The largest household, that of Kyriako Manessi, had nine individuals: a boy, two men and two women in the 16-30 range, two men in their 30s, and a couple in their 50s. This looks like three generations with three couples and a child, plus two extra men, but the configuration could be accounted for in other ways. The Manessi household was probably the best-off household in that village.

Each person who uses the Grimani data formulates it in different ways. The tables I am working on from Pangiatopoulos do not specify what kind of roofs these peoples' houses had, or how many olive trees they owned.  I would like to know more about their lives: I suspect they were difficult. I am recalling clichés such as "the short and simple annals of the poor."  The stories of the people of Kato Belesi and Mikro Lalouka were anything but simple.

Grimani shield from the Nauplion walls,
storehouse of Nauplion museum.

For more reading on the Nauplion census, see Ευτυχια Δ. Λιατα, Το Ναυπλιον και η Ενδοχωρα του απο τον 17ο στον 18ο αι (Αθηνα, 2002).


  1. Kato Belesi is modern Lyrkeia (according to the Megali Elliniki Engyklopaideia, and the Epitomo Geographiko Lexiko tis Elladas, by Michael and Photeine Stamatelatos, p. 445.

  2. Lyrkeia -- I've driven through there. Thank you so much.


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