09 November 2011

Determining the Dividing Line: 1480 & 1482

Aerial view of the (modern) Venetian Argolid.

Once the peace settlement for the Venetian-Ottoman war had been put in writing, it had to be worked out on the ground -- literally. The 14th provision of the settlement provided for lands taken by the Venetians to be returned to the Ottomans, and the 15th provided for lands taken by the Ottomans to be returned to the Venetians.  This meant that, in many cases, both sides had to determine what actually belonged to whom.  There were two main issues for the Argolid.

1. The Ottomans held Argos: Argos had not actually been taken in the war, but before the formal declaration of war, so it was not covered by the 15th provision. 

2. The Ottomans held the entire Argolid peninsula as the result of the surrender of Demetrios Palaiologos in 1460.  It had been agreed in correspondence between the Doge, Giovanni Mocenigo, and Mehmed, that the boundaries were to be those boundaries.  However, Demetrios had appropriated the territory in about 1449 (#3 here) despite the treaty made by his uncle Theodoros in 1394 which assigned this territory to Venice, and the matter had been in negotiation when the Morea disintegrated.

A third issue was that the sançak-bey of the Morea, Suleiman, had arbitrarily set Nauplion's boundary at the stream of Profitias Elias, on the road to Tiryns, and Nauplion was strangled for land for its food.  The governor, Bartolomeo Minio, had had two tense and unsatisfactory encounters with Suleiman on this matter.  Whatever the attitude of the sançak-bey, Minio's letters show that he was tense, legalistic, and hostile.

The official boundary commission arrived in Nauplion on 12 August, 1480. The Venetian representative was Giovanni Dario, and the Ottoman was Sinan Bey, protogero of Greece, the official over the sançak-beys of Greece. Minio was less than a week out of sickbed after nearly dying from an attack of malaria.  He was not ready for all this, but he found a house for Dario and another for Sinan -- "the best that I could manage, considering the condition of the place" -- making him a gift of 30-40 ducats "so that Your Lordship's affairs will prosper."

Sinan sent for the sançak-bey, and the cadis of Karitena and Kalavrita.  When the Turks arrived, Sinan, Minio, Dario, and their staffs met them at Argos where they were joined by the cadi.  They seated themselves in the sançak-bey's pavilion -- a great tent -- and went over the main issues to be settled, the castles of Kiveri (actually, Myloi), Kastri (Hermione), and Thermissi and the salt pans. 

Minio immediately said he had documents demonstrating Venetian ownership.  The Turks said they had documents demonstrating Turkish ownership: these territories were listed in Mehmed's cadaster of 1460 and had already been assigned.  

They spent two days arguing this.  The Venetians produced witnesses, beginning with the Greek bishop (possibly Demetrios Pigasi), and then the oldest citizens.  All the witnesses testified for the Venetian position, and the testimonies were written down in Greek and Turkish and compared for accuracy.  The Turks agreed with them and said that Mehmed made the final decision.

Then there was the boundary between the actual cities of Argos and Nauplion.  Minio said he had documents and witnesses: more important was the fact that Nauplion territory had 20,000 people and Argos fewer than 200 households (or about 800 people).  Nauplion needed a fair share of land.  This was fine with the Turks, but they wanted to leave the Albanians out of the population numbers, since they were foreigners. (This would have reduced the Nauplion population by at least 4000 people and possibly several thousand more.) There was an impasse.  Finally, they decided to ride the boundaries while the oldest citizens from both sides pointed out where the line had traditionally been.

They began across the bay from Nauplion, at the White Tower by the shore and "the river which is ours," went up to Kefalari, then started east across the plain. No problems were found and, coincidentally, Nauplion fiefholders in the area had made more gifts to Sinan and the sançak-bey.  As they went along, a secretary for each side noted descriptions, wells, trees, points of significance, drawing out a map. Once they encountered an Albanian settlement which had been paying taxes to both the Ottomans and the Venetians, in the hope of being left alone.  

A problem came up when they got to the monastery of Osios Theodosios (Minio called it San Theodosio).  

Osios Theodosios at the end of the road, quite isolated even now. 
Google maps (click to enlarge). 

Osios Theodosios was in Ottoman territory, but Minio argued for it to be given to Nauplion, as the Greeks thought it was a miraculous shrine. (They still do, and I have a bottle of holy water from the well on my iconostasis.)

Another problem came up when they got to the end of the bay of Drepanon, and the mountain pass giving access to the narrow coastal road to the plain of Candia.

Google's version of the enclosed bay of Drepanon (center)
and the triangular plain of Candia (right). (Click to enlarge.)

Nauplion's stratioti had been given the land at Candia to support themselves, and pasture their horses.  Further, this land gave access to Kastri and Thermissi. The Turks produced two witnesses "of the vilest sort" who testified that, on the contrary, this land had always been despotate territory.  Minio said he had documentary proof of possession.  The Venetians asked for their own witnesses to be heard on this matter.  Then Sinan said he had no authority to hear witnesses, and that this territory had not been mentioned in his commission. It may or may not be relevant that there were no fiefs in this area whose fief-holders could make gifts.

It was August.  It was hot. Minio was still weak, and Dario had chest pains.  We don't know how Sinan and Suleiman felt, but at this point they had spent 10 days on horseback and matters were not going well at all.  There was a great crowd of concerned citizens, potential witnesses, and the curious, trooping along with the dignitaries and their staffs.  No one seems to have noticed that the beach at Drepanon was lovely and that they could all do with a swim.  Instead they broke up and went home.  Dario, however, went back to Argos with the Turks.

Dario spoke Turkish, liked Turks, and he and Sinan were well-acquainted.  The next morning Dario sent Minio a note to say Sinan had agreed to Osios Theodosios, and to leaving a route to Thermissi.  Candia was still at issue.  Minio called in the citizens and showed them the proposal.  It was generally agreed to accept Sinan's proposal, but keep Candia open for discussion, and they offered a few modifications of the dividing line.  Minio sent a messenger to Dario.

Dario sent back the messenger with a note suggesting that representatives from both sides go look at the two sets of proposed boundaries one more time.  So six men from Nauplion met six men from Suleiman and they went out to look again.  They came back and reported that they all agreed with the Nauplion lines. Sinan said Nauplion could have Candia until further notice. 

It should be noted that these discussions had been primarily between the two governors involved, Suleiman and Minio, with Sinan and Dario mediating. So Dario acquired, without Minio, everything that Minio wanted.  The agreement had to be submitted for Mehmed's approval.  Mehmed sent a letter saying that, although Kiveri, Thermissi, and Kastri had been given as timars to his people, he was returning them to Nauplion for the sake of peace. 

Mehmed died three days later and it all had to be done again.  People from Beyazid's new sançak-bey met with Minio's people and went over the lines in April 1482, very quickly.  April in the Argolid is a delight -- yellow flags grow in the coastal streams, the fields are full of poppies, the nights are cool. There was a period of delay while various timar-holders argued against the former lines, and once again Minio started bringing out witnesses and documents,  but they were confirmed without too much difficulty.  Again, the agreement had to be submitted to Beyazid, and again, approval was given.

Both times, the details of the boundaries and the agreements were written down by the Turkish scribe and Minio's secretary, and two copies made in Greek which were compared for accuracy.  The documents for Constantinople were signed by the Venetian side, and the documents for Venice signed by the Turkish side.

Somewhere in Venetian archives is the boundary commission's map of the Argolid boundaries.  I have examined every unidentified map in the Archivio di Stato, trying to find it.  There are more archives, more papers to be discovered.

Read about the boundary commissions in more detail here.  

Minio's letters reporting the boundary commissions can be found here, particularly in letters 5, 21, 22, 74, 77.

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