31 October 2011

What Happened to the Parthenon's Stud Farm

Detail from an icon of Ag. Menas, Emmanuel Lampardos, 16th C.
Istituto Ellenico, Venice

What happened to the stud farm is a good question.  Most of this will come from work by Julian Chrysostomides* who transcribed mounds of documents from the Acciaiuoli period.**

Nerio Acciaiuoli, Lord of Corinth (acquired in 1371 as security for a loan) and first Florentine Duke of Athens (a new title that year) died on 25 September 1394.  Two months earlier a visitor had noted that he was aged and unwell. A few days before he died, "sano de la mente ben che infermo del chorpo," he had made his will which begins with the request that he be buried in Santa Maria de Setines, the Atheniotissa or Christian Parthenon.  We don't know if that request was fulfilled.

In the second section of his will
he leaves the city of Athens to Santa Maria de Setines. The silver, gold and jewels Accaiaiuoli had earlier removed for his ransom have been mentioned before: he asks that the silver be restored to the door, and that all the other furnishings, gold, silver, jewels and precious stones be bought back and restored to the church.  I wrote earlier that we didn't know how that worked out: I still don't.

Nerio asked that twenty canons say masses night and day for his soul (which he probably needed), and that these be provided for out of the intrade, the income, from Athens. The intrade was also to pay for repairs to the cathedral.  All this was to be handled by his executors, who were to be backed up by the Signoria of Venice.

He left a rouncey to each man in his employ, and gave the Bishop of Argos the horse of his choice.  Otherwise, he left all the çumente, his spelling of jumenta -- horses -- in his stables to the church in Athens.  This would be the famous stud farm, and in the contemporary world, "stud farm" implies race horses.  But in my understanding of medieval terms, jumenta were animals that could carry weight -- war and pack horses.  That understood, he certainly had a very large stud farm, or farms: one witness recalled seeing a herd of fifty 3-year olds at Vasilicata, on the coast west of Corinth.  Three horses in the Acciauoli stable, corserii -- war horses, were valued at 300 ducats apiece.

Carlo Tocco, Duke of Kefalonia, was married to Nerio's daughter Francesca. Theodoros Palaiologos, Despot of Mistra, was married to Nerio's other daughter Bartolomea.  Each considered himself the rightful heir to Corinth and all that was Nerio's, quite apart from Nerio's own opinion.  There ensued a great tangle of events, bad behavior, falsified documents, disguises, the participation of the Navarrese and Evrenos Bey, war around Corinth, and intimidation of the executors. Chrysostomides explains it all as clearly as anyone can.*

Tocco won, for a while, although in less than a year he was reduced to selling Corinth to Theodoros who had occupied the territory with Turkish help. (And two years later, in 1397, Theodoros offered Corinth for sale to the Hospitallers.) But while Tocco still considered himself a winner, one of the first things he did was to send twenty of the best horses as a gift to Beyazid, who was going to war in Wallachia.  

Financing this required selling and pawning a considerable amount of jewels and silver from Corinth. (The Venetians reported that everyone who sat at table with Francesca ate and drank out of silver vessels, and after Tocco got there, they didn't.)  The twenty were to be taken by his brother, Leonardo, to whom he gave the largest and most valuable courser, a grey. He also gave a horse to the person he sent to take over Francesca's castle of Megara, and other horses to assorted people who had come with him from Cefalonia.

Then he packed up Francesca, the jewels, pearls, silk cushions, wall hangings, furniture, curtains, beds, mattresses, and a great many horses and palfreys and sent them ahead of him to Cefalonia.  Nerio had made Francesca his heir to Corinth: he was quite capable of mentioning Tocco had that been his intent.  In fact, it looks as if he wanted neither of his sons-in-law involved.  Nothing is reported of Francesca's opinions, but it is clear from the statements of various participants that there was a great deal of personal loyalty to her and none at all to Tocco.

As best I can understand, the Greeks of Athens did not like the idea of belonging to a Latin cathedral, and asked for Ottoman help.  In the summer of 1395, a small Turkish force took over Athens.  One of Nerio's executors, the castellan Matteo de Montona, sent to Negroponte for Venetian help, in accordance with the will.  The bailo there, Andrea Bembo, sent down enough soldiers to drive the Turks out.  A Venetian administration was sent out from Venice, which decided that since so many horses had disappeared from the stables, there was not enough income to support twenty canons, and so the twenty were reduced to eight.

At the time of Nerio's death, his son Antonio was Lord of Thebes.  Nerio had, as one witness said, kept Antonio "on a very short leash."  So quite a few people were surprised when, in 1402, having observed that there was a very small Venetian force to defend Athens, Antonio took over Attica and all of Athens except the Acropolis.  After seventeen months, the Venetians surrendered from hunger.  Except for an interval of four years, Antonio was Duke of Athens until 1451.  Early on, because of Turkish raids, he moved the stables to Negroponte, good relations with the Venetians having been restored.

So that is, more or less, what is known about what happened to the Parthenon's stud farm. Other provisions of the testament will be considered in another entry, but given all the fassaria, I am skeptical as to how much Corinth, Argos and Nauplion actually received from what they were bequeathed.

* Julian Chrysostomides, "Corinth 1394-1397: Some New Facts," Byzantina 7 (1975) 83-110.
** Julian Chrysostomides, Monumenta Peloponnesiaca (Camberly, 1995) #160 et seq.

26 October 2011


Handprints from when I was 9 and my brother was 4.

A recent post by Kostis Kourelis reminded me of visit to Argos in 1978.  I had taken my daughters over from Nauplion to look at the remains of the Roman baths and theater.  If there was a guard in those days, he paid no attention to us and we were able to go through the tunnels of the baths, crawl into openings, climb over walls, and enjoy the triumph of our own discoveries.

I started looking at the little knee-high columns, the stacks of dried mud-pies in the hypocaust. The hypocaust carried heat under floors supported on these stacks of  sun-dried mudpies, four square plaques on the top and four on the bottom, varying numbers of round plaques between. This square-round-square stacking is apparently unique to Argos.

I sat down on the ground beside a column and began unstacking the mudpies.  On the lower side of each round mud-pie was a handprint, much longer than mine in the fingers, much narrower than my piano-trained palm, and with a greatly enlarged pad at the base of the thumb. The whorls and ridges of each individual fingerprint were quite distinct.  This handprint appeared on most of that stack and I called the daughters to see. They each began unstacking a column and I began another -- we were careful to keep the plaques in order so we could replace them exactly -- and then two other handprints began to appear again and again: smaller hands, both with the same long fingers, narrow palm, and enlarged pad.  There were other handprints, but the majority were these three sizes with this distinctive shape.

We were looking at the production of a specific family, this father and two children making mudpies, hundred of mudpies, for the baths.  Estimating the little columns on a plan of the hypocaust and averaging mudpies in a column gives a rough total of 15,000 mudpies. How many mudpies could they make in a day? How long could this employment last?  If we had unstacked other columns, would we have found other families.

That was all, but for a half hour we were touching the hands of this family of Roman Argos.  

An important discussion of childhood in the Roman Empire, here.

20 October 2011

Scholarios talks about Theodoros II Palaiologos

  The churches of the Monastery of the Pantokrator,
now the Zeyrek Çamii, where the last Palaiologoi were buried.

The Byzantine Studies Association of North America begins its annual meeting Friday, this time in Chicago. I will be speaking on the construction of the throne room wing of the palace of Mistra which was built about 1430 under the aegis of Theodoros II Palaiologos.

I have apparently written about Theodoros in sixteen other entries, and I have written with increasing despair. Recently Pierre MacKay translated for me the speech Scholarios made after Theodoros died, which adds considerable nuances but does nothing to alleviate the despair.

Theodoros died in Selybria in June 1448 of plague, and was buried with his father and brother in the Pantokrator in Istanbul.  He had exchanged Mistra with Constantine for Selybria in 1444, anxious to be close to Istanbul where their brother the Emperor was increasingly weakened from gout, sure that he was entitled to inherit the throne.  George Gennadios Scholarios, the High Judge of the Court of Constantinople, spoke at the memorial before John VIII and the court. Possibly his brother Demetrios was present, and certainly his mother, Helena. Scholarios began:

I have put off my speech about the deceased brother of our mighty emperor until this day, in the third month after his death, not because I had no sense of what to say about him, nor because I thought it was proper to add my silence as one more misfortune for him but (the truth will out), understanding that that the enmity that many feel for him will have abated over time, and that thus, more reasonable judges of arguments in his favor will be found, and that those who are absolutely intolerant of listening to this memorial utterance will be less offensive toward me. 
His own feeling, and the enmity in the court, had been so intense that the eulogy had to wait for three months. This enmity is somewhat explained later in the speech, but some things have to be deduced.  It appears that certain people had urged Theodoros in his desire for the throne, probably because John had been very ill.  Scholarios spoke in September.  John died the end of October.  Fortunately, Theodoros died first:

He did not cause loss to any of the Greeks, but as he was on the verge of doing so or, as it seemed to some that this was so, he departed this life, which is his good fortune, that in such an evil circumstance he succeeded in doing nothing that was irreparable.
Scholarios spent considerable time at the beginning of his speech discussing how each of us has failings, and people have to be judged by the totality of their characters and not just by one incident.  He admitted that Theodoros was a fair and just ruler, and he was most respectful of his parents.  Then Scholarios cut loose and spoke of the Turkish incursion of 1423  and of the subsequent assault on the Isthmus of 1446.
There is one thing that one might blame him for, if one failed to give it proper thought, that fecklessness about the Isthmus of Corinth, which led to his being defeated, the people of Peloponnesos being taken captive, and a great many being killed. But if one were not to acquit the man of this, neither will his brother's actions be spared . . . It would not be right for the most stalwart Constantine to be deprived his praise for this . . .  nor should anyone burden his brother with responsibility for not setting up the wall strongly in the first place. That, the earlier and also the later collapse of the wall was a matter of the vileness itself of those living within the isthmus, as were the misfortunes that oppressed the entire Peloponnesos . . . the Peloponnesians knew not how to come to a call for aid, nor, if they did come, how to defend the land and keep it safe, being unwilling to confront the enemy, or, if they did face up to him, not having the courage to endure and to overpower him but rather to desert and run . . . while those who were destroyed by their own cowardice of spirit and intention seem to the observer who knows nothing about the defects and sicknesses of the ruled to have been ill-generaled and badly governed. The present population of Peloponnesos can be said to be heirs of the land and the name of the race only, but of the virtue of their forefathers they they have not even what might seem to be the expected inheritance of bastard offspring.

 Floor plan of the Pantokrator.

In 1423, the troops of Turahan Bey had come all the way to the walls of Mistra before returning home, and it was the Albanians alone -- "those laborers who had taken over Peloponnesos" -- who made any effort to stop them.  Those would be the same Albanians whom Manuel had praised for their work in building the wall.  Coincidentally, it was in that year of 1423 that Theodoros was considering becoming a monk.  Recently, in the winter of 1446, Constantine and Thomas had to defend the Isthmus against Murad II, the Greek troops cut and ran, and the brothers barely escaped alive.  Murad's troops went as far as Patras before turning back.  

Scholarios gave personal information, some of it a little surprising.  I had not expected Theodoros to have such physical interests:
Was he not strong? Was he not athletic? Was he not a fine rider capable of guiding an untrustworthy horse down a hillside? Was he not ready to set his hand to anything that anyone might have conceived in reason? Was he not superior in dexterity of hand and nature to the masters of crafts? But all this is a matter of physical skills.whereas he was better in more important thing: he was a lover of learning, a quick learner and thus a polymath. I shall pass over the rest, but in calculation, and geometry and in the so-called organizations of the sciences who was there who handled such matters better in both theory and practice?

Just possibly, Theodoros talked a great deal too much.  Scholarios is complimentary, but still:

In quickness of tongue, grace flowering in words, and cleverness in conceptions whether with or without training, I do not think there was any one at all who could equal him. Rather I think it came to him from God. Who, on hearing him speak would not forget his own circumstances, who would not be delighted and would not beg to hear more, as it flowed continuously, to the extent that they were able to neglect their necessary concerns.
Apparently, his interest in becoming a monk had started even before he was married, in 1421.  Scholarios makes only the most limited mention of his marriage and family: 
Such a man he was, zealous in his private self, and happy in public goods. He was blessed with a distinguished marriage and proved to be the father of a fine child resulting from this marriage with a most distinguished family, and came to a similar end. He did not enslave cities, nor place a yoke on peoples.

 Scholarios' information combined with the letters Bessarion wrote to Theodoros (links below) -- quite apart from the information we have from his marriage, gives us an exceptional portrait of character and personality, for any Palaiologos, and certainly for the period. It is not a pleasant portrait.

Translation copyright © Pierre A. MacKay, October 5, 2011.  Text from M. Jugie, L. Petit, and X.A. Siderides, Oeuvres complètes de Georges (Gennadios) Scholarios, vol. 1. Paris: Maison de la bonne presse, 1928: 247-283.

More on Theodoros: 


14 October 2011

Marieta Dario

Carpaccio, Unknown Woman

Marieta was the only child of one of the most interesting men ever known in Venice. At the age of 26, on 6 February 1499, she made a testament, "
considering that nothing is more certain than death, and nothing more uncertain than the hour of death, not wanting to die without a testament so that my affairs are left disordered, sound of mind, intellect and body, but close to childbirth  . .

She lived six more years, dying in 1505 from an unrecorded cause.   She was born in about 1473 to the woman Giovanni Dario called "mia Chiara," in their house at S. Apostoli near the Rialto bridge.  In 1478 and 1484-85, Dario had won Venice such concessions from two Ottoman sultans that the city presented him with Ca' Dario, which he so charmingly restored, and 1000 ducats for Marieta's dowry. He was Cretan, and perhaps Chiara was, too, though he was a Venetian citizen, and Marieta was born out of wedlock, but for a few years he was the most valuable person Venice had.

 "to Chiara, mother of my daughter Marieta":
from Giovanni Dario's will of 1 October 1493, made just before he died.

She was married, in 1493, to the boy next door -- Vicenzo Barbaro, the son of Giacomo Barbaro and Nicolosa Bochole.  He may not have been a boy at all: his parents were married in 1448, so he may have been considerably older than she.  All that is known of him is that a particularly violent outburst of temper got him excluded from the Great Council -- all patrician males over the age of 20 were members -- for ten years.  That, and the fact that he is almost unmentioned in her will -- she identifies herself as his wife, but her children are left in the care of her mother Chiara, and Ca' Dario is left to her son at the age of 25 -- and any other that might be born -- with Chiara to be in charge. (Her daughter could inherit at 20.)

Dario loved Chiara dearly, that comes through in his various testaments. He had adopted his sister's sons and brought them to Venice from Crete to share his business ventures: in his testaments he asked that they regard Chiara as their mother.  Only one of them, Francesco Pantaleone, was alive when he made his will, and Dario left Ca' Dario jointly to him and Marieta . When Marieta made her testament she left Francesco half of something, probably the house, but it is not perfectly clear what.  What is is clear that Marieta controlled several pieces of real estate, including an estate near Padua, and had a variety of investments. Dario had given her 1000 ducats at marriage, in addition to the 1000 from Venice, so she had considerable financial autonomy.

When she made her 1499 testament, Marieta had one son, Gasparo, born about 1496.  Giacomo was born about 1501 and Giovanni probably 1502-3, unless he was the child with which she was pregnant when she wrote the testament.  So much personal material involves the words "about," "may," "probably".

Marieta was buried, at her request, in her father's tomb at Sta. Maria della Grazie, on a small island near S. Giorgio Maggiore. Much later, the church was used as an Austrian ammunition depot: the ammunition exploded in 1849, destroying the church and all its tombs.

What happened to Ca' Dario after Marieta died is vague, but she had specified that it be rented out.  The next we know of it, Ca' Dario was used as a residence for the orators -- ambassadors -- of Signor Turco at least three different times starting in 1514.  The office of the governor of one of the state banks was responsible for preparing the house for visitors, and for their expenses.  When a Turkish ambassador arrived, his ship was met at Lido by sixteen patricians dressed in scarlet who escorted him to Ca' Dario.  The ambassadors must have been delighted with the Turkish fountain room Dario had installed.  In 1515, the ambassador was provided 6 ducats a day for expenses, but by 1517 that was reduced to 5 -- rank ingratitude when that year the ambassador had brought with him the head of a commander from Bulgaria where the Turks had won an important battle.

In 1522, when Gasparo was of age, he and his brothers made claim for possession of Ca' Dario and this was granted. The document survives, with the signature of Doge Antonio Grimani. After that, information on Ca' Dario disappears until the early 1800s.

The notary's draft of Marieta's testament (click to enlarge).

My thanks to Emanuela Brusegan Flavel of Venice who transcribed Marieta's testament for me.



08 October 2011

The Negroponte Hoard, Part Two

Some of the "Negroponte hoard," now in the British Museum.

Go here for more on this treasure.
* * * * *
I recently presented a couple of items from the "Negroponte hoard" -- it is neither a hoard nor all from Negroponte -- and thought it might be a pleasure to look at more of the individual items.    The British Museum lists 389 items, mostly multiples of buttons, in this collection which was a bequest to the museum in 1897 by Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks, Director of the museum.  His total bequest consisted of more than 6000 items, and such a private collection in the possession of a museum director would now be considered highly questionable.  I do not know about the financing of the BM in 1897 -- perhaps a reader does -- and this may have been its primary means of acquisition.  But it leaves a bad taste.  The Dalton catalog of the holdings says that the items were acquired "in the first half of the nineteenth century" but provides no more information about the acquisition.

(These pictures should all enlarge when clicked on.)

First, BELT ORNAMENTS.  You can see similar belts in 15th C Byzantine and Italian portraits.  These are all Italian, and I would prefer Venice for the first two.

Note that the item to the lower left has a Malatesta shield,
with initials L and B: the third Malatesta shield  in this collection.

BUTTONS.  Byzantines had massive assemblages of buttons on their formal garments -- forty or so at times -- and every single button gets its own catalog listing.  These are the ones I like best.  Most of them are not as charming.



The number 1821 is the ring's original catalog number.
The number now is AF-1860.  It is an extremely large ring,
a thumb ring, or for a man.

The "hoard" included an elegant silver bowl:

And an ancient Greek cup.

Go here to look up items from this collection at the British Museum under the term "Halkida" or "Halkida gold".

02 October 2011

Cyriaco and the Little Metropolis

 Watercolor of the Little Metropolis by Mary Hogarth, ca. 1910.

When I was first in Athens in 1977, I was given to understand that the Little Metropolis was dated to the 11th century. I have seen that date floated back to the 9th and forward to the 13th, and find that the 12th is preferred on Google.  I didn't mind this at all.  I was, and have been, enchanted by its exuberance and utter charm.  In fact, it was the first "Byzantine" church I ever saw, and for the next year, until I went to Thessaloniki, other Byzantine churches were a great disappointment.

However, a graceful work of scholarship a few years ago by Bente Kiilerich (below) shows definitively that it had to have been built after Cyriaco of Ancona visited Athens in 1436.  The reasoning works like this:  Cyriaco collected inscriptions.  These inscriptions were mapped and numbered by Edward Bodnar.  The Metropolis, and Cyriaco #36 which is built into the Metropolis to the right, are marked on Bodnar's map.  (click to enlarge)

But Cyriaco's #34, #35, and #37 are on the left, just inside the modern entrance to the Agora and near those large statues of men with snakes' tails.  

  Drawing by Cyriaco of statue in Agora

Kiilerich reasoned that Cyriaco would not have interrupted his notes to go across Athens for one inscription, and then go back to take up where he had left off.  And if he had, he certainly would have noted other inscriptions on the church, easier to spot and more interesting.  Thus, the inscription mapped to the Metropolis must have been in the Agora when Cyriaco saw it.

It is not an exciting inscription and even Kiilerich had trouble photographing it: 

Southwest corner.

So this charming lace-covered chapel was built after 1436.  Kiilerich would have it built after the Ottoman take-over in 1456, but I find that unlikely.  I have posted here twice about Florentine houses in Athens, and given images of Florentine houses on the Acropolis, and of one built into the Lantern of Lysicrates.

Mid-century Florence was enthralled with graceful ornamentation -- think Alberti's architecture, Donatello's Cantoria, Fra Angelico.  Florence was also enthralled with things Greek, and Athenian.  Two of the wealthiest Florentine merchants and collectors of art and Greek manuscripts -- Palla Strozzi and Piero de Medici -- bankrolled Cyriaco. This building of the Little Metropolis has a completely different attitude from "Byzantine" churches with spolia.  In them, spolia seems, for the most part, very specifically placed -- look at the other spoliated Byzantine churches in the Plaka area.  For this building, spolia is the whole purpose of its existence.

Eastern apse.

West wall. 

Olga Palagia (below) has already suggested, en passant, a Florentine origin for the construction, and I hope she will go further with this.  I would add the suggestion that it was built as a private chapel by a wealthy Florentine merchant-collector.  Cyriaco gives us much evidence for Italians in the islands putting up spolia on the walls of their buildings, though almost nothing they were finding was up to the quality of most of the pieces here. (I note, on the map above, that the Little Metropolis and below it, on the semi-circle, the Lantern of Lysicrates to which a Florentine house was attached, were both outside the old city walls, and so possibly in areas with space for surrounding grounds.)

Eastern apse.

This is work for another scholar, and I hope someone looking for a dissertation topic will take up the question of Florentine Athens and what remnants may be still recoverable.

South wall.

Bente Kiilerich. "Making sense of the spolia in the Litte Metropolis in Athens," Arte Medievale n.s.4 (2005) 95-114.

Olga Palagia. "The date and iconography of the calendar frieze on the Little Metropolis, Athens," Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 123 (2008) 215-237  Download at .http://uoa.academia.edu/OlgaPalagia/Papers

More on Cyriaco: