29 April 2012

Diplomatic Expenses

Detail from Carpaccio, Triumph of St. George

Bartolomeo Minio twice had to negotiate the dividing line between Argos and Nauplion territories with the Ottomans. The first was in August 1480, to fulfill the terms of the peace settlement between Venice and Mehmed II.  The second was in April 1482, because Mehmed had died and all agreements had to be renegotiated with Beyazid II.

This 1480 commission was the first territorial definition in a very long time, certainly since 1460 and the period of the despots when borders between the despotate and Venetian territories had been extremely porous.  At Methoni-Koroni, the lands of several Italians who had fiefs over the borders -- Marin Sisani, Nicoli Romagni, the Ca' Gezzo family, and Jacopo Testa
-- had been included in the Venetian limits because they had given gifts to the Ottoman negotiators.  At Nauplion, Minio reported giving the lead negotiator, Sinan Bey, 30-40 ducats as a gift to ensure things went well, as well as providing the housing expenses for him and his suite.  In fact, between gifts and expenses, Minio paid out 100 ducats before they ever got to the negotiations He was going to collect a quarter of that from the citizens, but he was concerned about the burden it would be for them.

In 1482, Minio wrote, after the territorial agreement had been written out, the sultan's slave (who had accompanied the emin who conducted the negotiations) refused to hand it over until he had received a present, which amounted to 30 ducats and 6 braccie ("arms") of scarlet cloth for a robe.  Minio gave the emin 40 ducats, and 6 braccie of scarlet.  The scrivan who wrote up the agreement (and who had been most generous) got 10 ducats, the emin's three servants 5 each, and the translator 2, for a total of 97 ducats.  This did not include the cost of the cloth, or the candy, or the expenses for food.
The governor at Methoni wrote Minio that they had spent a total of 300 ducats on various gifts that year.

Certain Naupliots got more benefits out of the boundary settlements than others: the holders of the castelli at Castri (a Palaiologos) and Thermissi (including the bishop), and the mills of Kiveri/Myloi. Then there was the land held by the church of the bishop, and assorted other less important fiefs.  Minio decided to prorate a good share of the expenses for gifts according to how much each of these had profited.  Things must have improved for the fiefholders considerably in the past two years, after the first definitions of boundaries, as Minio did not this time seem concerned about burdening them.

No one thought these diplomatic expenses at all unusual.  Minio wrote in other letters about making gifts of wine, fish, sugar, bread, honey, candles, white cloth, and silver cups to various Ottoman officials, and told of being given camels' hair cloth and a blue sash.  These were more the sort of gifts exchanged between visitors or neighbors, and it is interesting that he is in the position of providing basic goods, as well as small luxury gifts.

Read and download the letters of Bartolomeo Minio from Nauplion.

24 April 2012

April 1941: Part Two

British troops passing Palamidi, going to Tolo. LIFE Magazine.  

Continuing the accounts from last week:

Bernard Ryan, 2/1st Australian Infantry Battalion, Redhead, NSW: 

We reached the vicinity of "T" Beach on 25th April, after passing through, I think Nauplion & Argos . . . My recollection is of a couple of days spent taking cover in gullies with Messerschmidts & Stukas attacking anything that moved.  . . . One memory I have is of seeing fireflies for the first time -- they do not occur in my country so far as I know.
      At last our turn came for evacuation and for the first time since arriving in Greece, I saw the sea.  I don't think there was any moon but we could make out the shape of the ships quite close to the shore, perhaps no more than 100 yards away.  At the head of the queue was a small barge or lighter and I was near enough to it to see a group standing on it waiting to be transferred to the ships . . . Whatever the intention, the barge or lighter did not move at all while I was watching it.  I calculate there is a very good chance I would have been in the next batch to board the craft.  A story went the rounds at the time that the thing was stuck on the bottom because it was overloaded and no-one would disembark to allow it to float free . . . It remained stranded by the outgoing tide and the ship sailed away.
      Dawn found us at a village which may have been Tolo.  We set up a defensive perimeter of sorts, although weapons of any kind were scarce, and there was some firing exchanged between us & the German troops who were now appearing in force.  It still had not been realised by most of us that the evacuation was over & that we had been left behind.
      During that day I saw the waters of the bay in full sunlight and even in the circumstances I realised why the coastline of Greece was so famous.  There was a small island perhaps a quarter mile from shore and I remember a woman in a small rowboat standing up & calling to someone on the island. (I saw no Greeks in the village at "T" beach except the woman in the boat out in the bay.)  I saw an English sergeant take the ammunition out of his revolver & throw it into the bay.   . . .  In the afternoon there was a meeting between one of our representatives and the German command . . . The news that we were prisoners of war was brought to us by a Salvation Army major, I can even remember his name -- Major Hosier.  It was about 5 o'clock in the afternoon of 29th April 1941.  I cannot begin to convey to anyone the sense of shock . . .
       Our imprisonment started with a march of about 3 hours in the early part of the night . . . I am sorry to say that in the doorway of a few houses along the road -- not many -- people stood giving the raised hand of the Nazi salute.   [In Nauplion] we were in a compound at the foot of [Palamidi] next day, 30th April, and looking up the first thing to take the eye was a huge swastika flag flying over the fort . . . I think we spent one or two days & nights there in the open. There was no shelter but that was no novelty if you were in the infantry.
POWs, Nauplion.  

We travelled to Corinth by rail and I think it may have been a narrow gauge railway, in closed trucks, and of course without any contact with the Greeks. At Corinth we spent, I estimate, about two months in a huge compound which I believe had been a Greek military barracks.  There were buildings there, filthy of course, but a least they provided a roof over the head.  In this prison camp we joined another 3000 or 4000 allied troops who had been captured at Kalamata  . . . In addition to about 5000 British, Australian & NZ troops, there were Yugoslav, Cypriots and a few hundred Indian civilians who were said to have been brought to Greece to look after mules or donkeys.  As well, there were a couple of thousand Italians who had been made prisoners by the Greek army near the Albanian frontier . . .
     In Corinth we did have some contact with the Greek civil population, in that the Germans allowed the Greeks to set up a few food stalls, just inside there wire, where, if you were lucky enough to have any drachmae, you could purchase such items as dried fruit & the like.  About once a week the Germans took us down to the beach to swim and I remember a Greek woman attempting to distribute a basket of bread among us being roughly handled by the Germans for her pains . . .
     The compound at Corinth was a really dreadful place -- open latrines, lice, bugs, and starvation.  We spent two months there &  then moved to Salonika, which was much worse.  The journey to Salonika was by rail & on foot, where bridges & tunnels had been wrecked.  There were many escapes on this journey and a number of fatalities.  Some who escaped lived with the Greek people for two years evading capture at what must have been great risk to the inhabitants who sheltered them. 
* * * * * *

There is much more in Bernard Ryan's account which begins with his background in Australia, an interlude in Alexandria, his arrival at Piraeus, rail trip to the north of Greece, and arrival at Veria with the Aliakmon in flood, where their retreat began and he was injured. He describes the retreat, being bombed at the Larissa railway station, passing through Athens, and then comes the section excerpted above.  He left Greece on a train (with a German military band playing "Roll out the Barrel," for prison camp in Germany. 
* * * * * *  

Sometimes the midday sun, sometimes handfuls of light rain
and the beach covered with fragments of ancient jars . . .
Friends from the other war,
on this deserted and cloudy beach
I think of you as the day turns.
                                     G. Seferis

19 April 2012

April 1941: Part One

Destroying equipment at Nauplion.

In the summer of 1978, swimming just outside the harbor at Nauplion, I glimpsed on the seafloor what looked like part of the bridge of a ship.  The Blue Guide mentioned the British-Anzac retreat in April 1941 from Greece.  Later, I wrote to leading newspapers in Australia and New Zealand, asking if anyone remembered Nauplion.  This post and the next will consist of excerpts from the dozens of letters I received about those days.  I have not edited the excerpts beyond indicating where I have omitted text.  
* * * * * *

Jack Underwood, 1st. Aust. Corps Salvage Unit, Wollogong, NSW:

I was evacuated from Nauplion . . . on April 25, 1941.  I was just 20 years of age then and a driver with a bomb disposal, salvage-cum-recovery unit.  . . . I did keep a diary . . . unfortunately I was rather busy at Nauplion and scrawled in fewer lines in those couple of days. . . I was given duty of destroying (per tipping over cliff) trucks, cars, bikes, etc. which were arriving hourly bearing personnel of every description and country.  For a depression kid who never owned more than a push bike it broke my heart to see such a waste. This carnage went on all day during which we were bombed pretty consistently although casualties were surprising light.
      I just noticed I wrote: "bloody Stukas again!" -- Remember coming back from cliff face and seeing quite a few bodies at road-side.  I clearly remember being assigned to group and under cover of darkness moved northwards to Argos (from Nauplion) . . . We were told our ship was to be the Ulster Prince.  Recall the ship sidling into bay, then to our horror saw it run aground. . . with a short period, over came bombers with grounded ship as target.  Ship caught alight and continued to burn throughout night, lighting up whole area.
     In early hours of morning in came the Glenearn and we boarded her "ducks" and ferried out bay to her.  One of "ducks" was hit by a destroyer and sunk with loss of life.  Ours made it to mother ship but boarding was all haywire with many of us taking a ducking in attempts to get aboard.  . . . Might add in passing, with me was my father who had joined AIF with me claiming to be my elder brother!

Jim Roberts, Manly West, Queensland

I was with the 6th Div Signals  . . and we fought the rearguard action during our withdrawal from Greece, on reaching Argos . . . a sad sight met our eyes, the ship on which we were to escape on was in flames, having been hit by the German bombers . . . we traveled to Kalamata and waiting as we had received a radio signal that a ship would pick us up from there.  In the early hours of the morning we saw a light coming in from the sea and it was a destroyer.  My brother and I were two of the last soldiers to board her on her final run to the Dilwara, as we found out after the war that a Sgt friend of our was captured half an hour after we left.

 Troops of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force at Nauplion. 

Michael Stark-Brown, 2nd NZEF, Aukland, NZ

. . .  Our route was south to the town of Trikala, east to Larissa, southeast to Volos, then southwest to Lamia where we dug in.  Our stay was not much more than a week when the Greek army to the west was overrun and we had to pull out again.
      This time we uplifted the 25th Maori Battalion and brought them back in one night through Eleusis and Corinth to Nauplion where they marched to Tolo and were taken out that night.  We hid up in a pine forest till dark then went back to Corinth to pick up the rearguard battalion.  Back at Nauplion my most vivid memory was at how quickly the Greek peasants took everything moveable before we destroyed the vehicles.  The heavy vehicles like repair trucks were tipped off a cliff into the sea, the rest the radiators and engine sumps were drained and motors raced at full gun until everything broke, tyres were shot and slashed to bits and all told it was a shambles.  At about 2 am on 25th April we went on board the troop carrier Glengyle and after a fairly hectic sea voyage made it to Suda Bay.
      . . .  On food, we fed quite well on the whole during the Greek affair.  During the actual withdrawal we fed like lords.  We had huge food dumps etc. in our area and were told to help ourselves before they were destroyed.  . . . it was rather a gamble as none of the cases was labelled and if you did not know what the numbers meant, anything could happen.  . . . I understood several Greeks were later shot by the Germans for being in possession of foodstuffs they had acquired from the dumps.  On the whole, the people we met were very hungry even before we landed there.  It was not unusual for the females to offer themselves or even their daughters to the troops in return for food.  Tea was the highest price commodity with canned beef running a close second.
      . . .   Probably about 80% boredom.  The remainder? 18% a lot of noise and about 2% drama and danger.

Ex. Sgt. R. J. Corbett, Brisbane, Queensland:  

I left Athens in a small convoy on 23rd April and after some drama we crossed the Corinth Canal and arrived during bombing and straffing at the small port of Argos.  We were a bit short on sleep -- and rested all day -- the 24th  -- in tense German air activity.
     At midnight we were instructed to gather at the loader's edge and were ferried in small boats to the side of the Stirling Castle (I believe that was the name*) and clambered aboard . . . I remember bread & coffee  & a long sleep until dawn. A heavy AA gun mounted on the predeck began firing and scared the daylights out of me.  I jumped up and saw we were part of a convoy preceded by many Royal Navy ships -- 2 of the 3 aircraft were hit and we proceeded to sea.  News was that we were on the way to Egypt.  However -- after passing Crete, I understand the crew volunteered to go back to Greece to pick up further troops.  It was 25 April. . . . The ship turned round and we were off-loaded on Crete at Suda Bay.

 Soldiers being evacuated on the Thurland Castle.

* Not Stirling, but Thurland Castle.

13 April 2012

Pavane for a Dead Princess: Part Seven

 Agia Sophia, Mistra

Nikeforas Cheilas said: 
When the appointed day came, the day on which our Saviour consented for our sake to be nailed to the cross, on that same day and at that same hour of His sufferings and burial, she died and was entombed together with Christ.
Cleofe Palaiologina Malatesta died on Megali Pareskevi, April 10, 1433, about noon, in childbirth.  Her husband was beside her bed, mixing some medicine. There was a sudden hemorrhage, a great deal of blood, a dead baby.  Bessarion said she flew out of his hands. 

She flew away, Cheilas said, leaving amazement.

No one expected death, though she had spoken seriously to friends about her thought that she might not survive. She had given birth successfully before, though she had been afraid, then, too.  Doctor Pepagomenos said her body was built for childbearing.  But she had been keeping an exceptionally austere fast, standing much of each night in prayer, and she  had become extremely anemic.  You could expect a hemorrhage with anemia. 

Cleofe's body was carried on a bier up the hill to the palace chapel of Agia Sophia and interred that afternoon -- some people in the city only learned about it when they saw the procession, Theodoros following the bier, beating his head with his fists, howling (ὀλολύζοντος). The bier was mobbed, everyone trying to put a hand to support her. 
Mistra was struck as if by a collective wound, Pepagomenos said: it was if everyone had a sudden fever in the bones.

Like a crystal shattering, Cheilas said. He had come up to Mistra, expecting celebration, as they had celebrated before when this woman first came from Italy -- a light from Hesperia, he said. 

You gave us then a celebration, showing us all something new, a reason to sing sweetly, songs worthy of your goodness and of the good fortune that came to us from you . . .  But now you set us to deep grieving, to uttering long cries of pain,
to weaving a tragic song, antiphonal to our former hymns,
Pepagomenos implied that the baby was a boy:
But we were hoping that a successor for the race and a continuation of the monarchy . . . that there might be skipping and dancing in your realm, . . .that we might sing rightly about this and hymn it to the limit of our abilities. 
 When they spoke of her later, it was in terms of light, and music.  The Epitaphios service that evening must have been unbearable.

Translations: Pierre A. MacKay. For his translation of Cheilas' monody for Cleofe, go here.  For the sources for Cleofe's death, here.

Pavane for a Dead Princess, I
Pavane for a Dead Princess, II
Pavane for a Dead Princess, III
Pavane for a Dead Princess, IV

Pavane for a Dead Princess, V
Pavane for a Dead Princess, VI
Glory Days
Theodoros' Poem to Cleofe

Theodoros II Palaiologos

Malatesta "dei Sonetti" Malatesti
Bessarion to Theodoros, II
Bessarion to Theodoros, I

Her Most Dear Daughter, Helena
Scholarios talks about Theodoros II

07 April 2012

The Church in the Street -- Εκκλεσία στους Δρόμους

Some who minister at The Church in the Street:
Georgia, Georgia, Irene, Helen, Agnes
Mary, Vassilis  

[At 11 minutes in this Swedish film shows the Church in the Street.]

Just after that first Easter, Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." An interracial, interdenominational group in Athens -- The Church in the Street -- Εκκλεσία στους Δρόμους -- now on Pieros Street -- has been doing that daily since it was formed in early 2009.  I was privileged to volunteer with them briefly. If some of guests are homeless, undocumented unwanted, addicts, defenseless -- harassed by the police, harassed by right-wing patriots, harassed by their embassies, more are Greeks wounded by a collapsing economy.

Although Εκκλεσία στους Δρόμους is directed by male clergy, it is mostly women who serve.  The budget is small and unreliable, foodstuffs minimal and changeable.  Sometimes they can give bottles of water: sometimes the water disappears.  Volunteers come and go. Important clergy and bank directors come to visit and are photographed, but the budget does not increase.   This is not the only feeding program in Athens -- far from it -- but this is the one I know.

Here, as a reminder of what Easter means, are portraits I took -- with permission -- of the guests I knew in 2009 and some of those who minister to them.

 Georgia who feeds multitudes with five loaves and two fish.

 Agnes, who has served every day since the food program began.

 Arm of policeman, left, trying to keep me from taking photographs



Pastor Jimoh


One of the founders, the late Ephraim Boms. 

For more on the complexity of the problems, read this.

01 April 2012

Archons: Petro Bua

Drawing by Gentile Bellini, ca. 1480. 

When The City was taken in May 1453, the Morea went into panic.  It was said that both the despots, Demetrios and Thomas were leaving for Italy.  No one knew what was going to happen to the Morea. There was no identifiable authority.  This is when Petro Bua enters the written record.  He urged the Albanians to elect their own leaders, and they did, and despite Greek historians recording this as a revolt or uprising, they were in fact filling the void left by the total failure of the Greek despots.  

The Albanians in Thomas' despotate of the former Principality of Achaia chose Centurione Asan Zaccaria, claimant to the Principality and half-brother to Thomas’ wife. He had "escaped" from prison at Chlemoutzi where Thomas had held him since he had tried to join Murad's invasion of the Morea in 1446.  Those in Demetrios' despotate chose Manuel Kantakuzenos, Demetrios' governor of Mani, great-grandson of the emperor John VI Kantakouzenos, and grandson of Manuel Kantakuzenos, Despot of the Morea.  Both men, neither Albanian, were reasonable heirs to the territories for which they were chosen.  Sphrantzes said that essentially all the Albanians in the Morea were in revolt: the Venetians said thirty thousand.

Petro Bua was identified by Chalcocondyles as a man of rough manners and dishonorable character (Πέτρου τοῦ χωλοῦ, ἀνδρὸς τὸν τρόπον οὐκ ἀγαθοῦ), an identification that modern Greek writers have accepted without question and without evidence, because he was Albanian, although after all the time I have spent with Manuel Rallis and Demetrios Laskaris Asan (whom Chalcocondyles never criticizes), I am not clear how that description would distinguish him from a great many other archons.  In fact, in contrast to what the Venetians reported about Rallis and Asan, they reported Petro Bua to be a sterling character.
More specific information about him has survived than for most of the other archons in the Morea. [But see note below.] His great-grandfather, Ghin Spata, had been Serbian despot of Angelokastro ("Despot of Romania") and governor of Arta and Nafpaktos. His grandfather, Paul Spata, had been forced out of Angelokastro by Carlo Tocco in 1405 and then had handed over Nafpaktos to the Venetians in 1407. The family seems to have moved into the Morea then, along with a great many other Albanians, and may have been part of the immigration that Manuel II so praised. A clan-leader (the fall-back description for Albanian leaders), Petro Bua was probably a kefali for the despotate, though there is no evidence for where. When Manuel Kantakuzenos was chosen leader of the Albanians revolt against Demetrios, he took the name Ghin, the name of Petro’s father and the name Petro would have given a son of his own: this may suggest a particularly close relationship between them.

The 1453 attempts at leadership and organization quickly spun out of control, with the despots under attack and fighting each other for supremacy, and Ottoman forces being invited in to help or to tame the rebels.  Various individuals were in negotiation with the Venetians and the Genoese and the Neapolitans, and finally twelve archons  decided the only sane thing to do was to guarantee their own protection by Mehmed.   I have written on this before, and it need not be repeated, other than to say that Petro Bua (Petro end of first line below, Bua, misspelled,

beginning of second line) was one of the twelve.  The dean of Moreote historians, Denis Zakythinos, in his brief discussion of this document, lists the first eleven archons -- all Greeks -- and then adds "etc." for Petro Bua.  Bua is the outsider in this group of archons, not just as an Albanian, but also because to judge from surviving documents his family had apparently not intermarried with the families of the other archons on the list, although later in the century we find marriages of Buas with descendants of Manuel Rallis and Krokontylos Kladas.

By 1459 Venetian documents called him caput of all the Moreote Albanians, and he, with Manuel Rallis -- one of the twelve -- was fighting with the Venetians at the Isthmus in August 1463.  It is not clear what happened to their agreement with Mehmed: I speculate that Mehmed's land assignments in 1460 took little account of that document.

Bua was frequently noted as having sent written information when kapetanios in the 1464-78 war, and although all of the archons can be assumed to have had the Byzantine education of their class, of the twelve, it is Bua, the Albanian, who is recorded as owning important manuscripts.  Uncle of the famous condottiere, Mercurio Bua -- he had no sons of his own so Venice recognized his nephews Mercurio, Nicolò, and Petro as sons -- Petro Bua was still leading stratioti for the Venetians in the Ionian islands twenty-five years after the submission and as late as 1489 was being given a new contract by Venice.   I am not sure when he died: I find no mention after 1489 until May 1501 when he is "the late Petro Bua."

He was crippled (χωλος) but not so much that he could not ride a horse.  He was given a gift of fine scarlet cloth in 1464 in appreciation of his loyalty to Venice. He made at least three trips to Venice to get payment for his troops.  In 1476 Venice gave him triple the cash gift they gave Kladas at the same time. In 1478 the Doge made him a knight and gave him a gold robe. Thirty thousand Albanians regarded him as their leader.  This just about takes care of all the "facts" we have for Petro Bua: it is not enough.   

ADDITIONAL NOTE 4/3/12: On further reflection, I do not feel I can trust the genealogies I have seen for Petro Bua, in that if they give him sons, how can I believe in his father?  If anyone knows primary sources for family before 1454, I would be grateful to know about them.  Also, I have been looking at the Albanian names in TT10, part of the Ottoman cadaster for 1460-63.  I am finding clusters of names I know were used in his immediate family in the vicinity of Gardiki -- and of Chlemoutsi.  This suggests possibilities, but cannot prove them.