Palamidi Castle: winning the Greek revolution
When we arrived late at night at our Airbnb, we were immediately taken by the view of the Palamidi fortress, lit up on the adjacent mountain. Palamidi looked over us from its perch no matter where we went in Nafplio. We did not know much of the history of Palamidi at the time, but there was a feeling of importance about the place. It turns out that the first stronghold that the Greeks managed to capture, and gain themselves a political foothold in, was the Palamidi fortress (Municipality of Nafplio).
On our first full day in Nafplio we went up the 900+ steps to explore the Palamidi fortress. I kept stopping to take pictures and say “Wow, look at that view! It keeps getting better and better.”
Palamidi fortress is right on the coast, so as we rose above the city we could see the water stretch out below us on one side, and Nafplio on the other. We could see all the way to our Airbnb. There was a castle on the mountain next to Palamidi, which we were able to get great shots of, though we had to get creative to block out the big ugly concrete building that had been built in front of it (apparently a school).
Nate had Felix in the backpack carrier, and when we got to the small ticket booth at the top of the stairs we both had to stop to catch our breath. The man inside made a comment about Nate carrying Felix, looking both impressed and horrified that we had not taken the driving route up, before he sold us our tickets and we headed into the fortress.
Once inside we took Felix out of the backpack to let him walk around. We each took one of Felix’s tiny hands, and he stuck his feet way out in front of him onto each step, grunting as he pulled himself up, using our arms and support more than his own legs.
Built with a series of 8 bastions that connected to one and other with a wall, but could each function independently, the fortress seemed to continue on and on into the distance. If one bastion fell then each other one could operate independently (Municipality of Nafplio), which makes that take over by the Greeks all the more impressive.
The entire fortress was built in 3 years from 1711 to 1714! (Papathanassiou). The Venetians had managed to take Nfplio back from the Turks in 1684, and built the Fortress in an attempt to strengthen their hold on the city. Fortress Palamidi is situated in order to control the port, the city, the entrance to the gulf of Argolis and the castle (Papathanassiou).
In 1715 Fortress Palamidi was captured by the Turks, continuing the rule of the Ottomon Empire in the area (Papathanassiou). 1821 was the beginning of the Greek revolution, and the leaders of the revolution saw Palamidi as a stronghold that could give them a seat for the government. Palamidi was put under siege, and the though the attempts to storm the fortress failed, the Turks were unable to re-supply and began to starve (Papathanassiou). The Turks agreed to surrender if they were not relieved within 25 days (Phillips & Walter, 1897, pp. p.96-107).
Relief of Nauplia (Nafplio) became top priority to the Ottoman Empire, with their main garrison set to the mission. The Ottoman fleet would meet the main garrison to resupply and aid them. The plan was solid, and the Turks set out expecting to meet little resistance in their campaign (Phillips & Walter, 1897, pp. p.96-107). Meanwhile in Athens, the Greeks celebrated a victory when the acropolis fell, but instead of safe refuge that the unarmed prisoners (many of them women and children) had been promised, an Albanian Savage, Nikkas, incited the slaughter of the Turks to show that they would not surrender. The slaughter lasted for an entire day before the French arrived to provide passage to those who had survived. Dremali, who led the main garrison of the Ottoman Empire, wreaked vengeance for the behavior of the Greeks, and marching across the land with a huge military display, rumors of his army exaggerated the numbers, and garrisons fell to him with little resistance. He took the impermeable rock of Acrocorinthos without resistance. Demitris should have succeeded without difficulty, but he underestimated the Greeks, and instead of using Acrocorinthos as his base and proceeding to reclaim the land one territory at a time, he marched his entire army to Nauplia (Nafplio) without even bothering to secure defiles and set up lines of communication along the way (Phillips & Walter, 1897, pp. p.96-107).
The eloquent legislators of Greece gathered in Argos fled at word of the Turkish approach. Only a few remained, among them Kolokotrones and Demetrius Hpsilanty. A small band of Greeks, led by Mainote Kariyonni managed to seize the Larissa, the medieval castle on the acropolis of ancient Argos. With no hope of success Hypsilanti and 700 men attempted to storm the fortress, buying time for Kolokros to build an army, and cut off the Turkish retreat by occupying the defile of Devermaki. Dramali and his army could not advance on Nauplia (Nafplio), they had no lines of communication, and they would soon discover that their retreat was blocked. To make matters worse, the Ottoman fleet, who were supposed to be resupplying them, must have also underestimated the Greeks. Instead of keeping pace with Dramali and his army, they chose their own route around the Peloponnese, showing up too late to do any good (Phillips & Walter, 1897, pp. p.96-107).
When Dramali attempted to retreat, with the idea of securing the defile Devermaki, where Kolokros and his army were waiting. Almost all of Dramali’s troops were massacred. The Ottoman fleet finally arrived, but, realizing that they were too late, the Ottoman admiral turned his fleet around and sailed away. With that the starving Turks that had held Palamidi for so long surrendered, marking the beginning of Greece as a nation, with Nafplio as its capital (Phillips & Walter, 1897, pp. p.96-107).
The guy at the ticket booth must have been getting bored, because he asked us where we were from when we started on our way back down the stairs. When we told him Canada he launched into a story about the time he had gone to Nebraska in the winter. It was -22 degrees Celsius, and he thought he was going to die. It was so cold he couldn’t breathe. When he looked out across the land it was so flat it went on and on, and he couldn’t process it. His eyes didn’t know what to do. He indicated the mountains around us as he described it, like the mountainous landscape was clearly how thing should be. Then I made the mistake of asking him if there was a good place around to buy coffee beans. He started going on about how it used to be, when there were stores across the city that roasted your own beans, and the smell that would waft out the door, but now everything is industrial and all of those places are gone. He cautioned us though that when we made coffee not to use the tap water or we would taste the chlorine. After all that you would expect him to be drinking one of the finest brands of Greek coffee, but in the back of his guard tower it was easy to see the container of Nescafe instant coffee.
Fortunately we were not in a hurry to get anywhere, but the conversation was going on quite a long time, and he wasn’t done. He appraised Nate, looking at the backpack carrier that Felix was perched in, with a kind of horrified fascination. He then informed us of some Norwegian women he had seen with a baby on their back and another on their front. He spoke with a kind of awe, as he explained about the one time he had done the stairs, and how his calve muscles had turned to jello. We finally left the security guard, and climbed back down the stairs. We found a little cafe at the bottom and stopped for a drink, and to rest our legs that were now feeling a little like jello themselves.
Municipality of Nafplio. (n.d.). Palamidi. Retrieved May 05, 2019, from https://www.nafplio.gr/en/arxaiologikoixoroiseimiamenu2/62-2011-03-20-10-43-36.html
Papathanassiou, M. (n.d.). Palamidi. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.kastra.eu/castleen.php?kastro=palamidi
Phillips, & Walter, A. (1897). War of greek independence, 1821 to 1833. p.96-107 New York, New York: C. Scribner's Sons. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://archive.org/details/warofgreekindepe00phil/page/96?q=palamidi.