Poros History -
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Introduction to the Poros History Timeline :
An excellent summary of the last 12,000 years of Greek history can be found at A History of Greece.Com and there is little point in duplicating it. The Hellenic Ministry of Culture website, although otherwise excellent, overlooks a lot within eastern Argolis, so this Poros History site extends the range of sites visitors can see as well as indicating major sites within two to two and a half hours' travel of Poros. The object of this page is to lay out the historic background into which the sites visited from Poros can be fitted.
It is important to remember that the present nation of Greece dates only from 1823, for in previous ages the country has either been split up into a range of small city-states (sometimes in alliance) or formed several provinces of various empires. Even now, Greek people may regard themselves as belonging to their home town, village or island, rather than to the nation named Greece. The islands are naturally separated (and united) by the sea, but the mountainous land of Greece has tended to isolate the people in various valleys and plains walled in by seas and mountains. Modern Greece's roads have only broken this problem in the last thirty to forty years. Even now, in 2007, many communities are only linked to the outside world by gravel tracks or by footpaths.
The best way to use this page is to look at specific periods of Matt Barrett's A History of Greece.Com, then to refer to the paragraphs on this page covering Argolis and the Poros area.
Bronze Age Greece (Pelasgian Culture) 4,000 to 2,000 BC :
Barrett : A History of Greece.Com : Bronze and Iron Age.
The most ancient culture within Greece was probably that of the Pelasgians, one of the three key sites in Greece being at Frankthi Cave in Argolis, opposite the Island of Spetses. The remains at most sites are little more than broken walls and a scatter of stone tools, but there is evidence of trade with communities on the offshore islands. Despite the length of its existence archaeology is rather limited, although there is evidence in the later period that walled communities with a central building for a leader already had come into being.
The area around Poros was probably occupied by human beings in the Neolithic period, but the intensive agriculture and building construction since the Bronze Age has left little evidence. Sadly, there is nothing but museum artefacts to see.
Achaian (Minoan and Mycenaean Culture) 2,400 to 1450 BC :
Barrett : A History of Greece.Com : Bronze and Iron Age.
Whilst the Minoan Empire, centered on Crete and Thera (Santorini) was controlling the Aegean, the cities of Argolis were being recorded in Greek legend. Tiryns, Mycenae and Epidauros, remain as ruins recalling the pre-Homeric past. Visitors to Poros have the advantage of being able to take tours to all three of these sites, whose history is significant up to the Classical and Roman periods.
Excavations on Modi Island off Kalavria have revealed settlement and a possible Minoan naval base. More recent excavations in the Methana peninsula uncovered material from the Minoan and Mycenaean periods, much of which can be seen in Poros Museum. The cult of bull-worship and the worship of the Mother Goddess (Demeter) are shown by tiny bull figurines and votive lamps. Lighting a flame to worship the Gods is far older than Christianity and the Classical Gods.
Go and visit :- Mycenae and Tiryns and Epidauros. Poros Museum for finds. Methana for the location.
Golden Age (Classical Culture) :
Barrett : A History of Greece.Com : Golden Age.
This was at the time when the city-states of Athens, Corinth, Epidauros, Aegina, Sparta and Thebes, were growing and approaching their zenith. The invasion and defeat of the Persians was probably Athens's finest hour, but the gradual growth of the Macedonian Empire eclipsed the two largest hegemonies, those of Athens and Sparta.
Go and visit :- Epidauros, Athens (Parthenon), Aegina,/a> and Troezene. Poros Museum. Naos Poseidon. Ancient Kalaureia (Vagionis Bay).
Athens, Aegina and the Epidaurus Asklepion and Theatre, are the best places near Poros to visit the remains of Classical Greece. A visit to the Acropolis, with its Parthenon, Theatres and Erechtheion, makes one visit to Athens a must. Aegina town has the Colonna (Temple of Apollo) and one can go by bus to the beautiful Temple of Aphaia. Epidauros expanded enormously in response to classical medical developments, pilgrimages and Roman 'tourism'.
Macedonian and Roman Empires :
Barrett : A History of Greece.Com : Alexander The Great and A History of Greece.Com : Roman Period.
The growth of Macedonia under Philip and his son Alexander led to the forced integration of all the city-states and the emergence of a proto-Empire that split under Alexander's successors. Greek culture in the main Golden Age centres continued largely unbroken into the days of the Roman Empire, to radically change only when Imperially-sponsored Christianity destroyed the major surviving polytheistic sites of Classical Greece.
Argolis was too important an agricultural area to decline completely, but the closure of sites such as the Asklepieion at Epidauros and the Naos Poseidon must have depressed the local economy. Kalaureia appears to have died out by the end of the Roman period and the Asklepieion at Epidauros was completely abandoned.
Go and visit :- Epidauros, Athens (Parthenon), Aegina and Troezene. Poros Museum. Naos Poseidon.
Byzantine Empire :
Barrett : A History of Greece.Com : Byzantine Period.
The Byzantine Empire's principal impact on Greece was twofold - to give later Greeks the memory of a Greek Empire, whose revival drove the development of modern Greece, and to develop the Greek Orthodox Church following the Schism with Rome. The blend of Greece and Rome that became Byzantine culture was also to heavily influence so-called 'Turkish' civilisation, which owes a tremendous and largely-unacknowledged debt to the civilisation it conquered in 1453.
The Poros area of Argolis is sadly without any major Byzantine sites, although the Church architecture and iconography does preserve the art and culture of the Byzantine period. However, at Trizina, the tottering Church of the Episkopi does survive as the heart of the once-wealthy Diocese of Damala, which throughout the late Byzantine period and the Turkish era was to dominate the area.
The gradual decay of the Byzantine Empire was worsened by the adventurism of nobles from Western Europe associated with the Crusade movement. The Crusades ultimately gave barely a century of Christian rule over Palestine, but seriously damaged the Byzantine Empire. Athens was ruled by a Frankish Count, the Trizina area by a Baron from his fortress Tower of Diateichisma (Castle of Damala). The Castle of Palamides/Palamidi at Nauplion was another key stronghold. Poros Town may have existed as a fishing village and minor trading port, Hydra and Spetses being similar. The Byzantine Empire gradually absorbed some areas, by a mixture of diplomatic recognition, reconquest and patience, but was under constant assault by the sea-going power of Venice and the land armies of the Anatolian Turks.
Go and visit :- Troezene (Episkopi and Tower of Diateichisma / Castle of Damala). Nauplion (Palamidi).
Venetian Republic and Turkish (Ottoman) Empire :
Barrett : A History of Greece.Com : Turkish Period.
The Venetian Republic had first come into Byzantine Greece trading and raiding alongside the Crusaders, but very soon was to establish its own power bases in the Aegean Islands. Products such as olive oil, honey, sponges, coral and pearls, were too important to ignore. After 1453, local Greeks and Franks in the Peloponnesus (then called Morea) handed over the fortresses of Damala, Palamidi and Monemvasia to Venetian protection, but this seems to have lasted for little more than ten years. The Ottoman Empire gradually occupied the remaining islands and provinces that had been under Byzantine control, but was content to have Turkish Governors over still-Christian communities, with the Greek Orthodox Church responsible to the Ottoman Empire for maintaining peace. This may seem a bizarre situation, but in fact may have been a recognition of a fact that bedevilled Greece for centuries; local warlords and merchants may have paid lip-service and taxes to Byzantine, Frankish, Venetian and Turkish overlords, whilst living and working largely for their own benefit.
During the seventeenth century, the ship-owners of Hydra (Ydra) and Spetses (Spezia) had identified various opportunities for cargo-trading right from Italy in the Western Mediterranean up to the Crimea in the Black Sea. Their development of small trading vessels (caiques) able to trade (and raid) to small harbours and sail the Greek coastline, produced a new and powerful class of island-based merchants. The Ottoman Empire appears to have tolerated the occasional acts of piracy by corsairs in return for having a large number of seamen available to crew its own navy. In the meantime, Poros began to flourish, for its great harbour was perfect for loading cargo and for repairing and building wooden ships. Neither Spetses nor Hydra has a completely adequate harbour, but Poros near Hydra and Portocheli near Spetses offered anchorages sheltered from dangerous northerly storms.
Greeks within the Ottoman Empire were tolerated as long as they paid their taxes and did not try to rebel; the Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Church was the nearest that the Greeks had to a respected leader. This may account for the flourishing of monastic institutions at this time, as being the only safe way Greeks could express their own culture. The merchants of Hydra and Spetses may have been involved with the funding of the monastery of Zoodochos Pighi in Poros, for it certainly was the burial place for three significant Hydran merchant families.
The residual influence of Venice on local architecture can be seen in Poros, Hydra, Spetses and Nauplion. Parts of Poros old town look very familiar to anyone who has ever visited the back streets of Venice, except that the alleys are very steeply sloping, rather than flat.
Go and visit :- Troezene (Episkopi and Tower of Diateichisma / Castle of Damala). Nauplion (Palamidi and Nauplion's Bourtzi Harbour Fort) and Zoodochos Pighi Monastery and Poros Old Town.
Revolution and the Birth of Modern Greece :
Barrett : A History of Greece.Com : Revolution of 1821.
The Ottoman Empire had itself been under steady assault from French and British interests, which had been affected by the very piracy that had been a local hazard in the Aegean. The destruction of the Venetian Republic by Napoleon had left some islands unprotected and Britain and France moved into this power vacuum. At the same time, European noblemen on the Grand Tour started an appreciation of the classical Greek and Roman world. The worst manifestations of this were the plundering of Greek art treasures such as the work of Phidias on the Parthenon; Lord Elgin removed the frieze with Ottoman permission, the 'Elgin Marbles' remaining in Britain to this day. The best manifestation was the Philhellenic support for a Greek Christian state freed from Ottoman control. Spurred on by disasters such as the devastating Turkish massacres at Chios and Psara, the Greek-speaking peoples of the islands and the Peloponnese (Morea), lead by the Greek merchants and Greek bandits (Klephts), came together to fight for freedom from Ottoman control. The Greeks succeeded in establishing an independent state with support from Britain, France and Russia, but that was to be just the start of their problems.
Bandits are interested in plunder, merchants are interested in trade, neither liked the idea of central taxation and regulation intrinsic in a state. The consequence was that 'thieves fell out' and nearly lost all that had been so dearly bought. Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first Head of State and Greece's only Governor, had to establish a taxation system and the rule of law. In so doing, he managed to lose the support of the almost-lawless Klephts in the Mani and the rich merchants of Hydra and Spetses, his responses to their rebellion being logical but fatal. In 1831 he tried to use the tiny Hellenic Navy to blockade Hydra and Spetses, the consequence being the tragic events of The Battle of Poros, where a combination of Russian gunnery and Hydran obstinacy lead to the sinking of two ships and the scuttling of two more, leaving a shadow of a fleet to confront the Turks in later years. Kapodistrias imprisoned Petrobey Mavromichaelis, an important Klepht leader, for kidnapping and extortion, but was killed by the man's brothers whilst leaving a Church in Nauplion.
Unable to agree on a successor to Kapodistrias, the Greeks found themselves over-ruled by the Great Powers, who imposed the Bavarian Otto as King of Greece; he was later replaced by King Constantine I, a Danish Prince, who was the founder of the Greek Royal Family.
Within Poros, there are many relevant sites for this period; the Russian Bay Naval Station was a result of Russian involvement in the Battle of Poros. Bourtzi Island was directly involved, as were the cannon seen on the seafront at Poros and Hydra. Zoodochos Pighi monastery was the burial place for Admiral Tombazi of Psara and Admiral Apostoli of Hydra. From the Saga Hotel the old summer palace of King Otto can be seen in TE Poros naval academy.
Go and visit :- Poros Harbour Memorials, Poros's Bourtzi Island, T.E. Poros (Otto's Palace), Hydra (Miaoulis Monument and Town Hall), Spetses (Laskaria Boubolina's house), Nauplion's Bourtzi Harbour Fort, Aegina (Turkish Tower, Aghia Maria), Athens (Parthenon).
Nineteenth Century Growth of Greece.
Barrett : A History of Greece.Com : .
With its position largely guaranteed by the then Great Powers of Britain, France and Russia, the supporters of the 'Megalo Idea' looked forwards to re-establishment of a union of Greek-speaking peoples, if not to a latter-day Byzantine Empire. The problem was that beyond the Greek-speaking islands of the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean lay still the old and rather powerful heartland of the Ottoman Empire. Areas such as Antioch and Smyrna (modern Izmir) held hundreds of thousands of Greek speakers and communities, with ancestry back to the days of Alexander and the old city-state colonies.
A succession of Greek governments gradually expanded their territorial claims to most of the islands of the Aegean, although many islands were still controlled by Italy, Britain and France. Greece gradually expanded its navy and merchant fleet in response to the Turkish threat and the growth of commerce, the expansion of foreign visitors into a tourist industry occurring towards the end of the nineteenth century. Poros, with its harbour and excellent climate, became a popular stop-over for travellers from the 1830s onwards. The presence of the Navy also brought wealth into the area, but the move of the main base to Piraeus in the late 1870s left the town as something of a backwater, Poros having to develop its attraction as a tourist centre.
Go and visit :- Poros Harbour Memorials, T.E. Poros (Otto's Palace).
Early Twentieth Century Greece :
Barrett : A History of Greece.Com : Venizelos and Smyrna and A History of Greece.Com : World War 2.
For Poros, the early twentieth century brought visitors such as Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell, Diana Dragoumis and George Seferis to stay in the town, particularly at the Villa Galini in Kanali. Lawrence Durrell, brother of the zoologist Gerald, came to Poros to meet fellow-writers and to enjoy the wine and food in local tavernas. Unlike Corfu, Rhodes and Cyprus, Poros had not the glamour to attract asses of outsiders, so remained largely unchanged till the 1960s. The political uproar that devastated other parts of Greece left Poros mainly unscathed; the presence of the Naval Base probably discouraged most radicals.
Go and visit :- Poros Harbour Memorials, Villa Galini.
The Second World War was to bring Greece back from a Balkans backwater into the centre of world affairs, mainly because of the ambitions of Benito Mussolini, the Fascist leader of Italy. He decided that his control of Albania and Dalmatia - formerly Venetian possessions - should be extended to Greece as a whole. The Greek government famously said "No !" (Ochi) and the poorly-equipped forces of the Greek Army and the Epirus militia soundly defeated the Italians in appalling winter fighting. Unfortunately, Mussolini called in Adolf Hitler's superbly-equipped Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe to help him, so the Greek forces were broken. At that time, Britain was Greece's only ally, sending soldiers and the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet to help. After hard fighting on mainland Greece and in Crete, the allied forces were forced to withdraw and the Greek government sailed into exile aboard the old battleship ' George Averoff'.
On the mainland and in the islands, the resistance to Nazi occupation grew ever more determined, with the Germans avenging raids and ambushes by partisans with wholesale massacres of towns and villages. The worst aspect of the war is that the Nazis managed to harness local and regional enmities and used Greeks to murder Greeks, leaving a disastrous post-war legacy. Where elsewhere the Quislings were punished (and in many cases, shot) the pro-German groups were never effectively made to answer for their crimes. A further pint of bat's blood in this broth was that Communist and Royalist partisan groups both existed, using weapons from Britain and Russia to continue local differences well after the war.
For Poros, the main record of the war is the Monument in Heroes' Square, but at Piraeus there is the 'George Averoff', which from 1956 to 1985 was moored off Poros. However, there is a very large cypress in the grounds of the Zoodochos Pighi monastery, which partisans hid in when the Nazi forces searched the Monastery in the Second World War. Somewhere in Kalavria a dedicated team of men and women hid and operated a radio set that linked the partisans to British forces, but the details are discreet.
Takis Alexopoulos's father was one of the few boys to survive the Kalavrita Massacre of early December 1943, when over 1400 men above the age of 14 were shot by the German Army. Kalavrita is a remarkable town north of the isthmus of Corinth, about three hours from Poros by road. Its other significance is that it is the site where the 1820s Revolution began and the Greeks dared to fight for independence from the Turkish Empire.
Go and visit :- Poros War Memorial, Kalavrita (west of Athens), Nautical Museum at Faliron (G. Averoff and Velos).
Late Twentieth Century Greece :
Barrett : A History of Greece.Com : Civil War A History of Greece.Com : Post War.
Post-war Greece was marred by the terrible fighting and revenge killings between the former partisan groups. This was in part triggered by the last of the 'Megalo Idea', but was a struggle between Communists, Royalist and Right-Wing politicians. Unfortunately, the existence of Communism was enough to provoke fears that strategically-important Greece would be the centre of a Russian-affiliated Communist takeover, such as those that affected Eastern Europe. The result was American support for some rather unpopular governments, including the infamous Junta of Colonels that came to power in the 1970s. Their rule and the attempt to crush dissent was increasingly bizarre; popular bouzouki music was banned, as was the letter 'Z' used on its own. There remains in Poros a tendency only to bring out the bouzouki in winter, when there are few outsiders around. The departure of the Junta also involved the departure of the US Navy from its base in Greece, but with the ironic legacy of a Greek interest in basketball.
Barrett : A History of Greece.Com : The Junta A History of Greece.Com : Rebellion (November 17).
The abortive attempts to overthrow the Junta back in 1973 included the mutiny on 21st May of the destroyer 'Velos', Commander Pappas and his men being granted asylum in Italy before the ship was returned to Greece. The 'Velos' is now considered as important as the 'George Averoff' and has visited Poros since the Junta fell in 1974. Both ships are at the Nautical Museum at Faliron east of Piraeus.
Barrett : A History of Greece.Com : Newest Democracy and Papandreou-Karamanlis II.
Poros was thankfully outside the worst of the fighting and the Civil War, partly because of its naval importance, but it has continued to develop as a tourist centre in response to the Northern European desire for holidays in the sun. The beaches, tavernas and souvenir shops can be regarded as the latest chapter in a history 12,000 years old. The prosperity Poros enjoys comes largely from its success with tourists both foreign and domestic, but the Naval College (TE Poros) remains as a reminder that Greece has had to fight for all it now possesses.
Go and visit :- The Poros Tavernas. If you can, visit when an Election's in progress. Or you can go to Epidauros and Mycenae, to see modern tourists in the most ancient of sites.
© 2008 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.