16 June 2010

Evliya in Nauplion

Evliya Çelebi visited Nauplion -- Anapli -- in 1668, at the end of his tour of the Morea.  He loved travel, but he hated travel on boats and he had been putting off attending the siege of Crete which had now been going on for twenty years.  He was not in best reporting form by the time he got to Anapli -- possibly because he did not have time to finish out the notes he took there -- but some of what he says is interesting, and there are a few details not found elsewhere.  There is such a discrepancy between his extensive accounts of the history of Anapli, and his brief notes on everything else, that I suspect he lifted the history from other writers.
One of the first things he did after he arrived was to go up the sixty-five steps of the minaret on Akro-Nauplion in order to see the whole city. While up there, he  made a sketch of "the appearance and the principal buildings of the entire city on a piece of paper."  This has not survived, but he was quite taken with the views in Anapli:
"Outside the city gate that leads in from the lower suburb to the citadel, there is a porch, or loggia, looking out over the harbor. From here, the harbor and the lower city are spread out beneath your feet." (This "porch," by which everyone now enters Akro-Nauplion by foot, is nicely shown there by the round tower on the Schaeffer archaeological map.)
He reported the icy-cold water in the huge cistern on Akro-Nauplion. (I was able to look into this cistern in 1977, when I did not know what I was seeing, but it was fairly extensive and had unmatched columns with unmatched capitals. It was then incorporated into the modern city water storage system, and I have no idea if anyone ever took any photographs. It is behind the rectangle indicated as Zisterne near the bottom of the Schaeffer map .)
He also mentioned the cannon mounted behind wicker shields which are included here in the nearly contemporary view of Nauplion published in Bernard Randolph.  Evliya is the only traveler who mentions the amazing fish invasion:
Every year the grey mullet pay a visit to a magical charm and come into the harbor, at which time they are caught. . . there is a magical fish charm in front of the Castelli (Bourdzi), and the mullet come in under its influence and fall into nets in the hands of the fishermen. This brings a great wealth of fish to the people of Anapli.
(We saw this fish invasion in October 1977 -- Evliya was in Nauplion in October 1668 -- for a couple of days you could almost walk across the harbor on the backs of the fish, and the old men were pulling them out with unbaited hooks.)
Nauplion has long had a Saturday market. In the fifteenth century, it was outside the  walls.  Thirty years ago, it was almost in the same position. Now it occupies the lower end of the long park that divides the old city from the new. In Evliya's time it was a Sunday market, attended by villagers from all the nearby villages and estates. He reported the many mosques, shrines, and tekkes. He said the lower city had three gates. This is one of the rare occasions when his numbers are too small: there were actually four. He reported the "gentlemen of quality" and the boys. Evliya liked boys:
The heart-stopping boys are very famous. These beauties are circumspect and honorable, angel-faced, elegant in form and appearance, and exquisite in delicacy and sensitivity. . . All the fresh youth wear crimson Algerian clothing in colored broadcloth, for they are all young hearties . . ..
The ladies "wear mantles of colored broadcloth and have broad-brimmed hats bound on with ribbons around the cheeks," and he noted the names of Adawiyye's three veiled daughters: Mevzune Kadu, Rabiye Kadu, and Amise Kadu. The slaves were mostly of European origin "with names like Perviz, Shehban, Behzad, Muli, Bali, and Feroz. These were males. The female slaves "have names such as Reproof, Secretary, Dispossession, Elevated, Amber, Soul's Ransom, Passionate." Evliya said little about the Greeks. They lived in the western section of Akro-Nauplion, the part that has been called "castle of the Greeks" since the 13th century. He said there were "seven monastic and patriarchal churches" though that is unlikely. He said that "most of the populace are sailors or naval carpenters . . . and there is an entire class of watchmen and castle sentries." There were also three Greek doctors -- Benefşeli, Mihalaki, and Manolaki, a slave.
Evliya's numbers are always tricky. He writes about the numerous public baths -- you can see the last remaining bath just below the Byron Hotel -- and seventy private baths, amd the many fountains, and while the private baths may be a bit much, the Venetians who arrived twenty years later did find 37 fountains. The water for these fountains came from two sources. "That from Kasim Paşa (Agia Moni) is sweet. The other sources is from Old Anapli. (Tiryns) It is flat and bitter." (Thirty-some years ago the same comparison was still being made, and in fact, the two springs have very different flavors.
The Ottomans who took over in 1540 had built an aqueduct into the city, and the remnants of their fountains are popular targets for tourist photographs, although most of what is seen now comes from Ottoman reconstruction after 1715. (I found ten fountains last year. Both of these fountains here belong to houses I think date originally from Evliya's time.) The cisterns for Anapli's fountains are quite remarkable and several survive. One serves as the crypt-chapel for the Catholic Church. Another, immediately across from Ag. Spyridon, is a luxurious bathroom for the Amfitriti Hotel.
Evliya reported 200 shops. The Venetians found 113, so he was not outlandishly far off. He said there were 1,600 great mansions, and the Venetians listed 795 houses in all, so these numbers suggest that it might be possible to come close on occasion by dividing Evliya by two. At the harbor, the numbers really begin to wander: "A thousand ships can lie here if they are moored so close together that the gunwales crack against one another, but if they lie loosely at anchor . . . it is a safe harbor for three hundred ships." (Maybe two hundred fishing boats squeezed together?)
While he was based in Nauplion, he went down into the Argolid peninsula to Avgo, Methana, Poros,Thermissi and Kastri, then up to Kazarma, Kutzi, Corinth, and back to Nauplion, staying at the great estates where he seemed to know all the landlords. He finally was not able to avoid going to Crete, and in fact, the fleet with which he sailed tipped the military balance and forced the Venetian surrender the next year. The grand admiral of the Ottoman navy arrived in Nauplion with his ships, and interrupted Evliya at dinner:
Welcome back, Evliya my lad . . . Quick now, Bre, jump into my galley and let me take you across to Crete. . . . so I sent six of my horses, three of my slaves and two loads of heavy baggage off to Zekeriya Efendi's tenant-farm estate at Kutsi. (On the road to Argos, this was one of the largest private landholdings the Venetians identified twenty years later.) For my humble self, I kep one horse, one trunk of clothing and three slaves, and thus lightly and simply equipped . . . I went with Zekeriya Efendi and boarded Abdi Paşa-zade Hasan Bey's dark-colored war-galley, taking along my horse and slaves. That evening your humble servant spent in the stern cabin with Hasan Paşa, in pleasant conversation and in readings from the Koran.
The quotations are from Pierre A. MacKay's translation of Evliya's travels in the Morea. This post is in support of the Evliya Celebi conference that began Thursday in Istanbul.


  1. This is really lovely. Stephen Reinert, Late Byzantine & Early Ottoman History, Rutgers University.

  2. Good to know before our visit to Nauplion in December. We're traveling lighter than Evliya, however.


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