EPIC BATTLES AGAINST THE OTTOMANS SINCE 1570 AND DURING THE FIRST DECADES OF THE 17TH CENTURY

  1. The strategic importance of Porto Kagio and the actions for the erection and demolition of the castle in the period 1569-1570

“In 1569 some important events turned the attention of the sultan to Peloponnese. The rebellion of the Maniots in Peloponnese led captain pasha to bring back the order. Ten ships arrived to Mani in order to rebuild a castle that would control the descendants of Sparta (according to the 24th May 1569 report of the Venetian Barbaro, as it is mentioned in the work of the Austrian Hammer: ΙΣΤΟΡΙΑ ΤΗΣ ΟΘΩΜΑΝΙΚΗΣ ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡΙΑΣ, volume 5, page 39)”.

The castle which was built in 1569 (Turciotogli-Olimnionas or Monige as it was called by the Venetians and Castro di Maina as it was called by the locals) was occupied by the Venetian admiral Querini in June 1570. The occupation took place during his way from Hania towards Corfu with landing operation from the sea but also with the simultaneous attack of a force from land with the help of the Maniots of the area. The operation was rather easy under the combined fires from sea and land. The Turks in the beginning gathered in one of the towers of the castle and, following, under the pressure of the attackers who turned the rest of the canons against them, they surrendered with a treaty. After its occupation, the castle was demolished so as not to be used again in the future nor impede the sail of the Venetian fleet towards the Aegean and Crete, whereas Querini took with him all the ammunition of the castle and its defendants as prisoners.

The fact of the demolition of the castle is indirectly attested by Turkish documents which were published in the following years and to which there are mentioned cancellations of sending soldiers there. For this reason, in the next period the Ottomans in their operations from the sea use mostly landings to the bay of Kolokythia (Kotrona).

The demolition of the castle which equals with the eviction of the Ottomans from the only secure place of surveillance of Mani is accompanied by intense rebellious feelings; the first sign being the intrusion to the neighbouring Turkish areas, such as Kalamata to the west and Sidirokastro and Bardounia to the east. The military actions were victorious and forced the Turks to deprive themselves in the castles of those areas. During this revolutionary period 1570-1571 the Maniots asked from the Venetians arms in order to achieve the occupation of a castle that would protect them in case of counterattack of the Ottomans with powerful troops as well as their protection from the sea in case there showed up in the area a Turkish fleet.

During this period there are two operations of the Maniots mentioned in the sea centred in the area of Porto Kagio. In the first one, the inhabitants of Lagia imprisoned the Turkish commercial ship (fousta), which transferred wheat and fat. The attackers Maniots from Lagia apart from the merchandise arrested 12 prisoners. In the second one, while the Venetian ship which was at porto Kagio was after a small Turkish boat that had approached Marmari coming from Hania the three passengers came out to the shore to save themselves and were arrested by the Maniots. One of them was the agas of the castle Porto Kagio which had been conquered the year before. It seems that he was set free from the first imprisonment but came back to the area to evaluate the possibility of rebuilding the castle and he was imprisoned again by the Maniots this time.

  1. The Pasha of Ioannina Aslan campaigns in 1614 to Mani. Events that happened before and after.

Ba. The “supervision” of the movements of the Maniots by the Turks.

The participation of the Maniots in all the revolutionary movements during the 17th century had led the Turks to the formation of a system of supervision with the construction or maintenance of castles at the borders of Mani. This system, after the demolition of the castle built in Porto Kagio by the Venetians and the Maniots, included the castles of Passava, Bardounia, Arna and Sidirokastro. The first one closely observed the movements of the ships in the sea, whereas the rest aimed at the control of the attacks outside Mani to the areas that were under the Turkish rule. The Passava castle due to the close distance from the sea was rather vulnerable to assaults. As mentioned by Hammer to his work History of the Ottoman Empire, it was occupied in 1600 by the Maniots. From the files that came out to the light of research there is information relevant to this event regarding the time that its occupation lasted.

However, we can assume that this movement resulted from the encouragement of the Maniots by the presence of the Christian fleet at their coasts, either Spanish or of the knights of Saint John that before a few decades had been defeated by the Turks and were evicted to Rhodes and were in search of a secure dwelling and at that time they ended up in Malta after the permission of the French. In order to deal with all these leagues the Turks appointed duties to the pirates of North Africa having formed a long lasting cooperation with them. After the death of the famous pirate Hairedin Barbarosa, the control of the seaways to the Mediterranean on behalf of the Turks passed on to the Muslim pirate Musolin Reis.

Bb. The battles of 1614 and the strategic success of Musolin Reis.

In 1614 a new military success of the Maniots started, although it ended up with a strategic defeat. The area where the events took place was the bay of Kolokythia (Kotronas) for the naval operations and the northern mountainous area for the land operations. The encouragement of the Maniots by the arrival of a great number of Spanish ships to Porto Kagio led them to attack the neighboring Turkish castles that resulted to the occupation of Passava and the loss of the life of 500 Turks. This event, though, pushed the sultan to send powerful force of army headed by the pasha of Ioannina Aslan and fleet headed by the Muslim pirate Musolin Reis, who knew the land of Mani due to pirate operations in the previous years.

The last one with a strategic ploy, faking withdrawal, surrounded the combatant Maniot bodies, whereas the Turkish forces occupied a large part of the Maniot land (four out of the seven big mountains), whereas in the battles almost 600 Maniots lost their lives. After the pursuit of the Maniot troops and their push off to the mountainous areas, the Turkish army returned to their bases collecting many of the animals the Maniots had taken with them when they had left for the mountains. They also arrested hundreds of prisoners, even those who came for negotiation. The loot of the campaign was collected at the Turkish ships that had anchored below the fortress of Neokastro at the port of Pylos.

For this success, Musolin Reis was rewarded with the administration of Mystras (that apart from Laconia went up to Messinia, up to the area of Methoni). The Maniots afterwards pulled back to the mountains (shelters and cages), and those that were left in the lowland temporarily accepted the situation and the payment of tax that was imposed on them. These events took place in August and September 1614 and the winner Musolin Reis had already planned in the following year to campaign from Mystra in order to occupy the rest part of Mani. (Characteristic narration of the events derives from the files of Venice, where from the historian K. Mertzios drew documents with the relevant information that were collected by the Venetian officers from their spies in Mani and from sailor men who realized the commercial trips amongst Zante that was under the Venetian rule and the neighboring areas. In the appendix three of them are published)

APPENDIX

  1. Zante 8th September 1614. The Intendant submits to the Doge the report of the sent spy as soon as he came back from Mani.

Testimony of Dionysios Athinaios sent to Moreas: “Eight days ago I arrived to the arm of Mani at the location Passava, where the Turkish army was. They told me that the Turkish fleet sailed off to Navarino, where they arrived after two days and saw 75 Turkish galleys anchored there. I heard that within a distance of 15 miles at the location Prodano, two Turkish ships had been sent by Kapoudan Pasha in order to spy the movements of the Spanish fleet. They were attacked by two Spanish ships and after a short fray the Turkish ships were captured by the Spanish. They say that the Turkish army consisted by 30.000 men and that amongst them there are 7 Greeks, Turkish subjects. They arrived from the neighboring places and 2000 more Turks with guns and they were all ready to campaign against the Maniots, as the Turks were furious against them since the Maniots had killed in the recent time almost 500 Turks, whereas they only had lost 60 men dead or prisoners. Asked how many were the Maniots that can carry guns, he replied that they are about 20.000, under different captains who are waiting with great eagerness the Spanish fleet without the help of which they cannot do it as they don’t have enough ammunition and if it is needed they will escape to the mountains. When he was asked where the Maniots keep their families, he replied that they are secured in the caves. It is said that the Turks lack food and that the Maniots have burnt the grass of the plains in order to deprive the animals of the Turks from food and poisoned some of the wells, whereas they kept for their own use other hidden wells, unknown to the Turks….”

Bc. The military events of 1615 (new intrusion and defeat of Muselin Reis and return of Aslan Pasha). The luck of the Maniot prisoners in 1614.

The first months of 1615, Muselin Reis set off from Mystras with 1000 armed soldiers in order to complete the occupation of Mani and to collect the submission taxes in the areas he had conquered the previous year. In the areas of Mani, he passed from, he asked the inhabitants to surrender their guns. In one of these visits, according to what is described by the spies of Venice, a priest replied to him that Maniots were not women and they wouldn’t surrender their guns. Then, Muselin Reis ordered his men to beat the priest and then hang him. This event infuriated the Maniots who attacked the armed soldiers and after a vicious battle, beat them, killing 800 of them and massacred Musolin Reis. Only 200 of them managed to escape.

In order to deal with the situation after the murder of Musolin Reis by the Maniots, Aslan the Pasha of Ioannina was ordered to come back to Mani so as to bring back the order in the area. For this reason he waited apart from the land forces and reinforcements via sea from the Pashas of Evia and Nauplio according to the promise of the Bezir Xalil who was at that time Kapoudan Pasha.

The Spanish who were informed about the success of the Ottomans in 1614 in Mani and the military events at the beginning of 1615 sent to the Maniot waters at the end of the summer, their ships for nautical surveillance and obstruction of the Turkish fleet. Aslan Pasha who had gathered 25.000 armed men attempted with this excessive military force to submit the west areas of Mani that were still free. He attempted to come close to the mountainous regions starting from Kalamata, whereas the centre of his operations was the Byzantine Zarnata (Kabos Avias). The Spanish fleet that from Porto Kagio entered the Messinia Bay (Koroni Bay, as it was called at that time) with an intelligent plan decimated the Turkish troops that took the ships for their own. This Spanish contribution and the fact that winter was approaching, during which all military operations, especially in the mountains, stopped.

Finally, all though he approached the hideouts where the Maniot soldiers had escaped to, he didn’t manage to have a battle and so the situation after his departure remained with the Ottoman occupation in its typical form, considering that the majority of the inhabitants had left to the mountainous areas of Taygetus and lived free.

It is certain that Aslan Pasha after the definite withdrawal from Mani took with him the Maniots as his prisoners in 1614. In combination with another information for the actions of the bishop of Mani for the liberation of his compatriots in 1616, but also with a relevant tradition of the inhabitants of the island of the lake of Ioannina, they are the descendants of the Maniot prisoners of 1614.

Appendix: a) report of the Intendant of Zante to the Doge of Venice relative to the narrated events, b) extract relevant to the bishop of Mani from a report of the Intendant of Corfu to the Doge and c) publication of Con. Mertzios for the inhabitants of the island of Ioannina to «Ηπειρωτική Εστία» In 1961.

 

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