14 March 2012


Κροκοντηλος – Krokontēlos

This is not the name Κροκόδειλος used in Mazaris and Sphrantzes for "crocodile," although most people then and now would not hear -- if articulated -- the difference between the sounds of -d- and -nt-. In fact, Sphrantzes wrote, "Κροκόντυλος , or rather, as his associates called him, Κροκόδειλος," making a distinction between the name and the animal.  Since Sphrantzes very probably knew Krokontulos Kladas -- both of them being associated with the despot Thomas in the Morea between 1453 and 1460, I have decided to use his spelling for the sake of avoiding as much as possible the automatic crocodile-association.

The man who paid for the inscription, a part of which is used as spolia at the church of Zoodochos Pigi, Karitena, is almost certainly not the Krokontulos of my concerns, but is probably in the family, even an ancestor.  This inscription -- I am told there are more pieces in a church but I have never been able to get access to the church -- identifies him as "servant of the basil---", probably the basilissa, Zampia Lusignan Kantakouzene of a century earlier.

I have recently been reading The Chronicle of Morea in the Greek, French and Aragonese versions, with the company of the splendid book by Teresa Shawcross,* examining the story of Corcondille.  Corcondille appears only in the French version, which looks like this:

Et trova .j. bon homme grec de la Grant Arracove que un sournom estoit appellés Corcondille, qui estoit la venue pour vendre sa soye: liquelz entra en paroles avec cellue chevalier. Sire monseignor Girars se corouça par yre que il ot. Si fery d’un tronchon de lance que il tenoit en sa main cellui Corcondille, ne say .j. cop ou .ij.
There was a Greek man of standing at Great Arakova** whose surname was Corcondille who had come [to the fair] to sell his silk.  He had words with a certain knight.  Sir Girars struck him because of the anger he had.  He struck him a blow with the lance which he had in his hand, this Corcondille, I don't know, one or two blows.
[Notice it says "surname."  We know of several people named Ακροκόνδυλος in the 1370s.]

There was an annual fair, in June, in the broad grasslands just south of Nikli/Tegea -- beautiful country -- to which people came from all over the Morea. It was a Frankish fair but close to the Byzantine border.  Corcondille was a man of mature age, as we learn he has a Frankish son-in-law. He had public respect and owned a house in Great Arakova.  This public humiliation was untenable, and Corcondille felt he would die of shame if he did not make Sir Girars "die the bad death" -- "faire le morir de male mort."  He decided that the best way to go about it was to get the nearby castle of St. Georges into Greek hands.

Corcondille went up to see his kinsman, Leon Mavropapas at Chelmos in Mantinea.  Mavropapas commanded a contingent of Turkish mercenaries for the Byzantines.  They worked out a plan.  Corcondille went back south to his son-in-law, Amimo, who was cellarer of St. Georges, and his friend Bonifaces who was glad to share in any rewards. 

Mavropappas brought his Turks to a castle near the border, a hundred of them, travelling by moonlight.  The narrative is not perfectly clear, but it seems that Amimo managed to lock the look-out in the dungeon.  Crocondille and his friends came to the gate, overcame the guard and locked them up, and then lit a fire on the tower to signal Mavropapas who arrived at dawn with his Turks and took possession of St. Georges.

There is then a long narrative about the Frankish siege of St. Georges by Florent of Hainaut which involved building a second castle and importing a trebuchet expert.  The narrator sensibly says there is too much to relate, and that Florent died.  The narrative runs through 21 sections: Corcondille disappears after the 14th, and we never know if Sir Girors died the bad death.

Now, the version in the Aragonese chronicle omits Corcondille completely.  He tells of a commander of the Emperor going to the fair to buy horses -- whatever the price -- and arms.  Having done so he armed the Greeks who raided a celebration the Franks were holding at a church.  The commander apologized to the Frankish captain who rejected his apology.  So the commander went to the parallel Greek fair, and arranged for them to attack the Franks and then retreat.  The pursuing Franks were caught in an ambush, and the Greeks took the Frankish castle at Nikli and several others.

This is essentially the same story, told two ways -- the Greeks trick the Franks, using horses. (Does this story sound familiar?)

But there are three more stories in a very short chronicle accompanying the most important manuscript of the French chronicle that mention St. George.  Perhaps they are this story, perhaps not:

[Florent of Hainaut] fought with the emperor Quir (Kyr) Andronigo Paleologo which lasted 7 years after the taking of the castle of St. George of Scorta, which was in 1294.

In 1319, the 3rd indiction, on 3 February, at night, he took the castle of St. George of Scorta, by the treason of Mote--dou Liege and of  Nicolucho of Patras, who betrayed them and gave it to Sgoceco.*** 

In 1320, the 4th indiction,**** 19 September, the castle of St. George was given by Nicoluchus of Patras where he was castellan to Quir Andronico Assaigni (Asan).*****

The French chronicle is very clear that the castle of St. George was near the fair, toward the eastern side of the Morea, and that is what Scorta indicates.  It never tells us that Corcondille was given the castle.  This site cannot be identified on the ground.

The castle of Ag. Georgios that Krokontulos Kladas gave Mehmed II was toward the western side of the Morea, south of Karitena.  I deduce this from the routes and acquisitions of Mehmed given by the various chronicles. Additionally, Kladas was loyal to Thomas which indicates his land was in Thomas' despotate.  This site cannot be identified on the ground either  A third of the width of the Morea separates the two sites.

How does one link Corcondille and St. Georges with Krokontylos and Ag. Georgios?

*Teresa Shawcross, The Chronicle of Morea: Historiography in Crusader Greece (OUP 2009). 

** Possibly Karies. 
*** I don't know who "he" is and I don't know who Sgoceco is.
**** The indiction numbers are wrong for both years.
***** This section tells us that Asan also got Mathegriffon (Akova), Polyfengos, and Karitena.  They are too widely dispersed to be of any use in locating St. George.


  1. Dear Diana

    very interesting post.

    Throughout the Greek version of the Chronicle of Morea, tha area of Scorta is mentioned always in junction with that of the Barony of Karytaina (roughly). So usually toponyms such as Araklovon, Karytaina, Alfeios, Omplos (tributary river to Alfeios), the castles of Crevecoeur and St Helen are mentioned together with the term Scorta. This is on the western part of Morea, and quite distant from Megali Arahova (assuming M.Arahova is Karies-Kynourias).
    Now, Arahova is a quite common slavic toponym in Greece which was substituted (i think during the '30s) with the greek equivalent word of Karies (walnut tree).

    An alternative Karies village may be found somewhat closer to the Scorta area (south-southwest of Karytaina. 37 26 17 N, 22 00 16 W). This Ano-Karies village (950m) which is closε to Lykaion mountain is another candidate and in my opinion a more likely candidate for the M.Arahova of the Chronicle of Morea. It holds a strategic position as a gate to the Scortan mountain plateau and overlooks the lower lands towards the east (what is today megalopolis then Veligosti) the Roman held lands which was the route of invasion.

    Another interesting story is that of the pretender(Geoffrey de Bruyeres: "ὁ μισὶρ Τζεφρὲς ἐκεῖνος ντὲ Μπριέρες")to the Barony of Karytaina relative of the recently deceased Baron came to unsuccessfully claim the Barony during the Bailiffe of Nicholas of Saint Omer (1287-1289). Wanting to take revenge for this refusal he managed to fool the Castellan of Araklovon,pretending to be sick, and finally take possesion of the Castle. His intention was to sell it to the Romans for hyperpyrs. The victim-castellan (Filokalos his name)send message to M.Arahova to messier ''Simon de Bidon'' who immediately rushed with his 'scortans' to block the kleisourai (entrances).

    'Ἀφότου γὰρ ἐγένετον τὸ πιάσμα τοῦ Ὀρεοκλόβου,
    ὁ καστελλᾶνος παρευτύς, Φιλόκαλος τὸ ὄνομά του,
    στὸν κιβιτᾶνον ἔστειλεν μαντατοφόρους δύο,
    μισὶρ Σιμοῦν τὸν ἔλεγαν, τὸ ἐπίκλην ντὲ Βιδόνη·
    ἐκεῖσε εἰς τὴν Ἀράχοβαν, τὴν λέγουσιν μεγάλην,
    ἦτον μὲ τὸν λαὸν τῶν Σκορτῶν στὴν γαρνιζοῦν ἐτότε.
    Τὸ πρᾶγμα τοῦ ἀφηγήθησαν καὶ τὴν δημηγερσίαν
    ὅπου ἔποικε ὁ μισὶρ Ντζεφρές, ἐκεῖνος ντὲ Μπριέρες,
    ἐπιάσε γὰρ τὸ Ὀρεόκλοβον, θέλει νὰ τὸ πουλήσῃ
    τῆς κεφαλῆς τοῦ βασιλέως, ἐμήνυσέ του νὰ ἔλθῃ
    νὰ τοῦ δώσῃ τὰ ὑπέρπυρα, τὸ κάστρον νὰ ἔχῃ ἐπάρει.'

    Again M.Arahova is described in the vicinity of Araklovon and the river Alfeios. This story also resembles a lot with the one where corcondille manages to occupy St George.

    I Believe that Corcondille of the Chronicle must have been a Scortan archon.

    And i also believe that St George must be searched around this region. Antoine Bon and Jean Longnon propose Lykosoura as the castle of St George. (Longnon Jean. Topographie et archéologie de la Morée franque. Journal des savants. 1969, pp. 193-242)


  2. I am away from home for some time and do not have access to my books and notes, including Longnon and Bon, so this will be brief. Yours is the traditionally accepted identification.

    I am uneasy at calling Corcondille in the Chron. Fr. an archon as we do not really know about the urban "archon" under Frankish rule. Corcondille was "a man of standing" and in business.

    I am very interested in the prominence given to eastern Moreote sites in the Chronicles, both in the hands of the Franks, and in the new Byzantine fortifications after their acquisition. Bon does not read the Chron.Fr. closely enough. A historian with whom I discussed my findings is also interested in an eastern St. Georges.

    Fortunately, the work I am doing does not require an identification or formal decision. There is no surviving physical evidence, east or west, with which to work.


  3. Yannis, you give another example of taking a castle by a trick/betrayal. This theme appears so often in the Chrons. and in Greek tradition that I wonder to what extent it is a fundamental topos (Troy) and how we can know if it actually happened in a particular instance. I know nothing about similar literature from France, Italy, etc., so I don't know whether other traditions take castles by tricks. But this is something I would love for someone to tell me about.

  4. Forgive me for commenting on such an ancient post, but I am a bit confused on the different "Corcondille" mentioned here... Are we to presume that these are allusions to some members of the Kladas clan in the Morea for a a century before the revolt? Is there no credit to Sathas' theory that the Kladas' came from Chimarra in Epirus just a generation before?

    In any case, love your blog.

  5. Thank you for writing. The name is in the Morea. I think I have made it clear that I do not know how or if the names connect. The evidence is lacking. I believe there is a connection: that is another matter. I have seen no evidence to support the Sathas theory.


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