Tag Archives: Venice

Spinalonga : Venetians, Ottomans, Lepers

Spinalonga is a tiny island off Crete, next to a much larger peninsula, also (confusingly) called Spinalonga. It (the little island) was one of the really interesting places we visited on my recent trip to Greece. It was a beautiful day when we went there, as you can see from the image below, taken from the boat.Spinalonga, off Crete, from sea

The island has a long history and was strategically important during the wars between the Venetian and Ottoman Empires. The Seventh (and last) of the Ottoman Venetian Wars was in 1714-1718. That was when Venice finally lost Spinalonga to the Ottoman Empire.

Strategic importance?

Map of Greece, Crete, SpinalongaThis is where Spinalonga lies (circled in red on north-east of Crete in this map of Greece and the Adriatic):

The island was part of Venice’s extensive fortifications against the Ottoman Empire. They acquired Crete after the Fourth Crusade in 1204. They began fortifying Spinalonga in 1578, with blockhouses at the highest points and a ring of fortifications. This map shows their work.Spinalonga, Venetian fortifications

One of the huge bastions (highlighted yellow in the early Venetian map above) is named after Luca Michiel, the engineer who planned it in 1579. It has seven cannon ports. The half-moon-shaped (mezzaluna) Bastion Michiel is still impressive, both from the landward side and from the sea. Definitely not the place to attempt a hostile landing.

Spinalonga, Basion Michiel, land side Spinalonga, Bastion Michiel, from sea

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Silk, Silliness and Sumptuary Laws

Silliness and Sumptuary Laws

Greek temple at Paestum, ItalyTime: 7th century BCE. Place: an ancient city under Greek law. A fanciful tale by Joanna…

A free-born woman, drunk and reeking of wine, leaves the city accompanied by two female slaves. She is wearing a splendid gown with a purple border, and has gold jewellery in her ears and round her neck. Outside the gates, she meets a man wearing a Milesian-style cloak with a gold-studded ring on his finger.

What do you think might be going on in this silly tale of mine?

The answer was inspired by this first written record of sumptuary laws which made me gasp and then chuckle when I first read it.

gavel balance judgement integrityA free-born woman may not be accompanied by more than one female slave, unless she is drunk; she may not leave the city during the night, unless she is planning to commit adultery; she may not wear gold jewellery or a garment with a purple border, unless she is a courtesan; and a husband may not wear a gold-studded ring or a cloak of Milesian fashion unless he is bent upon prostitution or adultery.

In the light of the laws above, you have probably worked out what the man and woman are up to. But I’ve got them sticking to all the laws in the book while they’re at it 😉

Clearly, in those days, any wife would know what her man was planning when he went out wearing his Milesian cloak. Or even just his gold-studded ring. Continue reading