14 June 2009

The Complaint of the Anonymous Naupliote

On 22 March 1451, an anonymous Naupliote wrote a poem from a Venetian prison in one of those towers at the upper left. The poem is written in 72 lines of trochaic tetrameter, what the Greeks called "politicals" as it was a form much used for social complaint. This poem is all complaint and it appears to be a complaint written for the Venetian judicial system.

Anonymous had been to the Nauplion fair of Ag. Demetrios, on 26 October, perhaps the previous fall, or perhaps the year before that. He was quite well-off, mostly because of his animals, and he thought well of himself. There was an incident at the fair in which he was somehow involved, and an Albanian named Spatharos was killed. Various individuals who were jealous of his prosperity falsified their testimony to say that Anonymous had done it. He was exiled from the territory.

He went to Mouchli in Byzantine territory, about a day's walk from Nauplion, to complain to the governor, Demetrios (Laskaris) Asan. The Albanians had apparently come over from there for the fair. Perhaps Anonymous did not explain adequately to Asan: he certainly does not explain adequately to us, but he was put in prison, in irons. On occasion he was taken out and tortured for his evidence "with the rope" -- which means he was hauled up by his wrists behind his back and then dropped. After four months of this, Asan gave him a written judgment of aquittal and three
stratioti to escort him out of the territory.

He went to Argos,back in Venetian territory, where the citizens took one look at him and, expecting he would do something involving fraud, insisted that he be jailed again. This time he was held in a private house, which was probably better than irons and the rope. After two and a half months, the governor of Argos wrote a decision that sent Anonymous back to Nauplion. To prison.

That was because, he assures us, the Greek and Venetian citizens at Argos and Nauplion were plotting to gain his wealth and destroy his family.

So there was a hearing before the Nauplion governor, probably Nicolo Valier, and two citizens -- a Fra Nicolo from the Franciscan convent (the Panagia church is now all that remains), and a Marin Catello whose family and relations had been prominent in Nauplion for three generations. There were documents and witnesses.

Anonymous complained of the injustice of it all, so they said he needed to bring his case to the Syndics. Every two years Venice sent around two Syndics to investigate justice in her cities. Anyone could bring a complaint.

Anonymous did not know when to keep his mouth shut, and said--without malice, you understand-- that he **** on the people of Nauplion.

Not a good move. The governor wrote up his report and said that Anonymous had said he **** on the Syndics. Anonymous was fined 14 ducats and put back into prison without being able to see his family. He was alone all day, and four guards locked him up at night.

He wrote up his 72-line complaint Presumably he is still waiting for the Syndics to arrive.

This is an extremely important manuscript. I am presenting a paper on the Anonymous Naupliote at Monemvasia this weekend. You can read his full complaint here.

1 comment:

  1. I was referred here by the excellent blog "Οι λέξεις έχουν τη δική τους ιστορία" and thank them for revealing this fascinating resource


I will not publish Anonymous comments.