26 February 2013


Kladas and his nephew, the Menaia brothers, the Busichii brothers, and others lost their lands as a result of the peace settlement between Venice and Mehmed II: the lands were in Mani and Mehmed got Mani. Giovanni Dario and Halil  Bey, along with the sancak-bey and other officials, had to negotiate the territorial boundaries between Kalamata territory and Methoni-Koroni territory. 

In this process, several people ended up keeping properties that might have been thought on the wrong side of the boundary.  
Marin Sisani and Nicoli Romagni kept theirs at Marolendi. The Ca' Gezzo people of Koroni kept Dargenin. And Jacopo Testa, a Venetian merchant from Methoni, kept the castle of Cosmina he had received from Despot Thomas (he also had a document with a silver seal confirming his father-in-law's possession under the Principality of Achaia fifty years earlier).  These people had all apparently been able to give the sancak-bey and Halil Bey adequate presents.  

What is interesting here is that Cosmina is one of the very few fiefs that can be tracked through various owners, and we have information for Cosmina from 1354 to 1480.  Cosmina was a kastro with a tower located just inland from the modern town of Chrani on the coast road, mid-way between Koroni and Kalamata.  It was apparently in the position of the (now-deserted) village of Vigla ("watch tower") which is reached on a steep stony path up from Chrani. 

In 1354 Cosmina was one of the 15 or so fiefs held by Nicolas Acciaiuoli who served Catherine of Naples (who had inherited the title of Frankish Empress of Constantinople) and Robert of Tarentum (who had inherited the title of Prince of Achaia from the house of Anjou which had robbed it from the Villehardouins). From that period we have a list of 8 free men living in the fortress, and the names of owners of five deserted farms.

Then in 1357, Cosmina was assigned to Jean Siripando of the court of Naples where he was a knight, professor of law, chancellor, councillor, and intimate friend of the royal household.  He probably never went there but he received an elaborately detailed document which lists the names of the paroikoi who lived within the walls of the kastro, and their sons and male, the existence of a wife, omits daughters, and specifies what they owe the estate annually.

As mentioned earlier, the paroikoi had to pay in cash, and the days of personal service owed -- angaria -- were also owed in cash, and the amounts specify different kinds of coinage.  So we get entries like: 
  • Georgius Potamiatis habet uxorem, filium Athanasium, tenetur pro tercia parte stasie sue yperpera quatuor sterlingia novem et tornenses tres, et pro ejus servicio personali ypeper quinque.  
  • Pappa Theodorus Lurea habet uxorem, filium Georgium, tenetur solvere yperpera quatuor sterlingia duo et tornensem unum, et pro ejus servicio personali yperpera quinque.
Also as mentioned earlier, some monetary equivalents are: 1 hyperper = 24 soldini/deniers/sterlings = 1/2 ducat.  1 soldo = 4 tornesi/toneselli.  I do not know the value of this money, in terms of prices and what one could buy, but we do know that coinage was always very scarce in the Morea.  

There are 46 households in this list of paroikoi, 43 headed by men and 3 by women (2 widows, 1 daughter).  Twenty-one of the households have sons -- 12 have 1 son, 5 have 2 sons, 3 have 3 sons, 1 has 4 sons, for a total of 35 sons.  Daughters are not listed. Seven households have a brother or in-law in residence.  In adding up the list, I find 52 men and 33 women.  I have invented 35 daughters to balance off the 35 sons.  With the invented daughters, I have a population in Cosmina of 155 paroikoi (although two priests are noted as free men, and therefore not liable for personal service).  

The 155 paroikoi come out to an average household size of 3.3, which is extremely low for the households I have been examining.  I have not looked at lists for other fiefs, but the low number brings to mind multiple Venetian complaints of how few villani they have (because of raids from the Principality and from Turkish ships), and how difficult it is to get adequate food for Methoni and Koroni.  

There is a gap of information from 1357 until 1402 when the Venetian senate commended the owner of Cosima, a Rosomica, for the protection he had given Venetian paroikoi within his walls.  The governors of Methoni and Koroni were instructed to be extremely cooperative with him.

At some point, Petro SanSuperan,  Prince of Achaia, assigned Cosima to Nicolò de Leonessa of Patras and Methoni. The Leonessa were a prominent Patras family originally from the Abruzzi, close to the Accaciaiuoli  in the previous century as one was Archbishop of Patras and his brother was Nerio of Corinth. 

Nicolò knew Cyriaco of Ancona when he visited Patras in 1437. Nicolò's father, Aegidius, was a doctor to the Prince of Achaia, and a merchant with a house and business on the central plateia in Patras. The Prince gave him a fief near Patras. He was also doctor to Carlo Tocco, who gave him another fief near Patras some years later.  He also had a house and in-laws in Methoni.  A great many legal documents concerning Aegidius de Leonessa have survived, mostly in Greek. Carlo II Tocco gave Nicolò a fief near Patras.

In 1447 Cyriaco, travelling south to Koroni, says that the fields and countryside were verdant and charming, with peaceful gardens and trees abounding in foliage, although he does not mention Cosmina or Nicolò specifically.

There is another gap until 1454 when Nicolò's son-in-law Jacopo Testa received Cosmina in 1454 in an argyrobull from the Despot, Thomas Palaiologos, in appreciation for Nicolò's services.  Testa was an extremely wealthy merchant doing business in Patras which was Thomas' main residence, and in Methoni.  Two surviving documents from Methoni in 1479 and 1480 indicate a large interest in the wine and oil trades, making contracts through 1485.

The date of 1454 is significant: after the Albanian-Greek rebellion, the despots needed to secure friends wherever they could find them, and in 1460, when Thomas finally left the country for Italy, escaping from Mehmed, he stopped by Cosmina on the way from Leondari to get a boat at Pylos/Navarino. This was probably when Testa took up permanent residence in Methoni.

In 1465 Sigismundo Malatesta, commander of the "crusade" in the Morea against the Turks, camped at Cosmina for some time.  His army was saturated with plague, and one can only imagine the effects of plague, too many men, and too many mouths, on a farming community.  We know nothing of Testa during the Malatesta occupation, but given the similarity of the names, and the fact that Patras had been a Malatesta holding during 1424-1430, I can only wonder.  

Then in 1480, we have the records of the boundary negotiations, and Testa's success in holding on to his territory.  You can see from his family history that he must have been able to give a very suitable gift. He seems to have died in in 1496, leaving a son, Antonio.  Cosmina disappears from the records.  

Documents sur le régime des terres dans la principauté de Morée au XIVe siècle. J. Longnon & P. Topping. Paris, 1969.



  1. Thank you for the valuable information you give us and the attractive way you do it. You refer to household size you have being examining and consider the figure 3,3 extremely low.Can you opine on the average "household size" and/or the upper/lower limits this figure could flucuate in the period you study?
    Best Regards
    Takis Katsafados

  2. In this blog, about Argolid villages in 1700, I run through some numbers and try to show the distinction between household size and number of children.

    These numbers work well with anything I have found from 1460, & from Thessaly in the 1300s.

    I've found household sizes up to 4.9, and down to 3. The multiplier I normally use for households or "hearths" is 4.2 -- this has seemed to work fairly well. So when I am told Argos has fewer than 200 hearths, I figure that is barely 800 people, at most.

  3. Thanks your reply
    Do you think that this "family multiplier" has to be distinguished between hearths ("fuoci") in castles (walled strongholds) where high population density would be expected and simple villages (casali) and to which quantitative extent (especially in the 14th c.)
    Thanks in advance
    Takis katsafados

  4. Good question. So far I have used the household multiplier for general population numbers. You will see it at work in a couple of weeks, in a blog I am doing on what I have learned about city sizes. I wouldn't use it for a castle -- say, the Venetian or Turkish castles -- as they would have had garrisons & so would not be made up of households. You wouldn't have a high population density in a castle otherwise unless in times of stress, which is where you get the large numbers for Nauplion in the 1530s, when the Turks had been taking over more and more land. I have only done Cosmina for the 14thC, & it will be a while before I have time to work up a few other settlements to see how their numbers compare.

  5. One example: within the castle of Vardounia (area abt 2000 sq.m.), according to Muazzo (1695), in the 40 houses, 230 souls are measured (Κόμης [3], table ΙV, BARDUGNA, p.481), thus we come to a family multiplier of around 6!
    Very interesting is to examine the cases where garrisons and households were simultaneously accomodated within the walls of a castle. This I think fits better to earlier than Venetian or Ottoman fortified settlements

  6. I suspect there was a tremendous age/gender imbalance because of the soldiers. Do you know if any of the Venetian censuses made any breakdown for Vordounia of ages or genders? Some census takers did, some didn't, which is very frustrating. I don't know how you would work out anything like this for Nauplion, which is what I know most about. The Castle of the Greeks was always a Greek residential area. For the Castle of the Franks there is no real indication of residences except for one for the castellan in about 1402 [I have an article in Academia, "The Wooden Towns"], comments by Bartolomeo Minio governor in the 1480s, and then a Greek man & wife are given permission to live there in the late 1400s. Otherwise, I only know of 70 Cretan archers living up there, although there must have been a few residences of city/civil employees.

    There were residents in the lower city before the walls are completed, but it is never called a castle.

  7. To the best of my knowledge there is not a Venetian census breaking down ages and genders both in Mani and Vardounia. Only "fuochi" and souls (generally) wherefrom various "family coefficients" are derived. The absence of the number of the females at the counting is underlined by Παναγιωτόπουλος (Πληθυσμος και οικισμοί Πελοποννήσου 13ος - 15ος αι.) p. 28-44. He is commenting very informatively I think, on the subject after the documents IV,V (1354) of Longnon-Topping, Regimes... about the 290 hearths of South and West Peloponnese.
    From this survey is the following for your easy reference
    Souls per hearth Hearths Population
    1 49 49
    2 80 160
    3 78 234
    4 47 188
    5 21 105
    6 9 54
    7 5 35
    8 1 8
    totals 290 833
    average "f.m." 2,9
    Can one speculate on the percentages of garrison and civilians to the population of a castle? Any related information is not known to me

    Takis Katsafados

  8. 2.9 is a shockingly low number. I do not know anything about that period, for ex., had there been extreme weather for several years, famine, plague. The V made it a point to get rid of all the Turks, but that should not have affected the general population averages.

    Minio seems to have had a garrison of 70 crossbowmen & 300 fanti in Nauplion in the early 1480s but I have no population numbers other than 20,000 for the whole territory. Venice had 4 port cities: the garrisons were concentrated in those 4. Stratioti were not garrison troops.[my book available on Academia.

    Otherwise,the only information I have for garrisons is in Carl Hopf, Chroniques gréco-romaines inédites ou peu connues publiées avec notes et tables généalogiques, in which he has excerpts from Stefano Magno's chronicle. There Magno gives the numbers the Ottomans left at garrisons in the first winter of the Peloponnesian War.

    My very maximum civilian population estimate in brackets for a few places.

    Corinth, 1500 [1400]
    Mouchli 200 [500]
    Salmenikon 60
    Clarentza 80 [400]
    Kalavryta 130
    Arcadia 150
    Leondari 150 [850]
    Mistra 120 [1000]
    Nasopo (?) 150.

  9. I misread what you wrote & was thinking of Topping on 1700, not on 1354. 1354 would have been just after the Black Death, & those numbers might indicate the results of plague. I'll take a look at them.

  10. For the 2,9 I think the problem with this figure is rather "technical" in so far as probably the females are not or at least are not fully counted. This I assume from the boys to girls ratio of 197/63 for the same sample (ibid. p.34)which is unnatural.
    I agree with the reluctance to express opinion on the percentage of garrisson and civils due to lack of information.
    As a matter of fact my main area of interest is the medieval Maina both Byzantine and Frankish (9th to 13th c.)and due to lack of sources one has to come to examine the ruins at the sites themselves trying to conclude on the issue in question, judging from the number and nature of buildings, houses etc. Τhe byzantine term πολίχνη, κάστρο was a settlement within walls with the organization of a town and is definitely different from the 15th century and onwards fortresses.
    Takis Katsafados


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