'... these fortresses of medieval Greece
'... a haven ...
'Some exist in texts only and their sites are not yet known. Others exist as physical remains without textual pedigree ...'
Why: As Peter Lock notes, there's a dearth of information on these castles and no authoritative list. This website records my own effort to create such a list.
What: A very unfinished list of castles dating from the refortification of the cities in the late Roman Empire to the establishment of the modern Greek state in its current form.
How: The information on castles owes a great deal to Paul Hetherington's Byzantine and Medieval Greece (London, 1991). Peter Lock, The Franks in the Aegean (London & New York, 1995) and Alexander Paradissis, Fortresses and Castles of Greece (Athens, 1973), are the other main sources. The Hellenic Ministry of Culture sometimes provides some useful information - its particularly good at arial or landscape views, which give a good sense of the overall shape of a site. The pictures were mostly taken with Olympus E-series DSLRs.
Riot Act: the design of this site, and (unless otherwise stated), the images and texts here are my own work and the normal rules of copyright apply. Every effort has been made to ensure information on these pages is correct but I take no responsibiity for any inaccuracies. You can email me on althusian[at]gmail.com.
Getting to the castles: should you wish to visit castles in Greece, be warned that some are hard to find! So take all the usual precautions you would take on a walk in Greece, bearing in mind temperatures, lack of water etc. Sometimes they are easily found (eg Nafplion), many can be seen but are hard to reach (eg Amfissa), and others can't be seen until you're close (Ipati/Neopatras). A copy of Hetherington plus a current edition of The Rough Guide are probably the best place to start, plus the best maps you can get. If you have some Greek, ask local people (especially shepherds). Bear in mind they will think it very odd that you're interested in a pile of old masonry ...
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A note on the role of castles
Lock , who provides the clearest recent history of the Latins in the east in his The Franks in the Aegean 1204-1500, is unconvinced of the military value of the castles in his period (see pp.75-80). Hence his comment that '[...] we might conclude that the prime function of the castle was to consolidate conquest rather than achieve it. The castle as administrative centre, storehouse and statement of power was more significant than any purely military function' [p.75], and 'It is difficult to escape from the impression that castles were built to be captured.' He considers that they played only a limited strategic role, though does conclude that castles could 'slow up any re-conquest' . (I hope that summary has done justice to his argument.
I wonder if this view underplays the value of castles. In addition to the roles Lock suggests (administrative centres, storehouses for military supplies, 'display'), I think there are three points that emphasise their significance. First (and speculatively) one is often struck by how often they are in direct line of sight from other castles (Lamia and Ipati, for example). Perhaps castellans could signal the approach of enemies to their distant allies. Second, they played a key role in more modern conflicts (despite the availability of artillery and explosives). As one of many examples, the castles of Nafplion were held by various Greek factions during the early years of the War of Independence, which was significant enough to make other factions move elsewhere. Thirdly, I think it is easy to underestimate the security that a strong stone wall, a water supply, and perhaps food could offer in days before motor transport; this aspect is perhaps confirmed by the significant role that castles played during the War of Independence.
Unless otherwise stated, the text, images and design of this site are (c) the author. This page last updated 1 Sep 07