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Castle Damala

 

Castle Damala was the Acropolis of ancient Troezen which was also inhabited during the Middle Ages. During the Frankish rule (Frankokratia), the ancient settlement was upgraded to a castle in order to keep watch over the local fiefdom. The castle was built during the 13th century on the ruins of the ancient Acropolis of Troezen. It was apparently abandoned when the population moved to a flatter area where the modern village of Troezen is located today. References to Castle Damala are rare during the Byzantine period as opposed to the period of the Frankish rule when more information on the fate of the area is provided. The castle is mentioned in the Aragonese text of the “Chronicle of the Morea”. It seems that it was utilized by local Frank lords. The Barony of Eldamala (or Eldamalet) was a medieval fiefdom subject to the Principality of Achaia. Castle Damala is also mentioned as part of an inscription on a deniers tournois (CASTE DAMALA) issued by the Baron of Veligosti and Chios, Martino Zaccaria during the period of 1325 – 1345 (Frankish coins dating back to the middle of the 13th century were discovered in the tower during an excavation by E. Legrand).  

 

The chronicle mentions that the barony was established in 1209 after the conquest of the Peloponnese by William I of Champlitte. He gave 4 timars to Jacque de la Roche, a French knight in the area of ancient Troezen. The knight built the "Caste Eldamala" and the name was changed to Damalas as part of a process of Hellenization. The castle was a tower intended to supervise and control the fiefdom. As it was customary, the castle was named after the knight who built it. Damalas was the medieval successor to ancient Troezen. It developed at the same place the ancient city had once flourished, substituting it as the administrative centre of the greater area. 

Historical research indicates that after 1230, Damalas was given to Guillaume de la Roche who was Baron of Veligosti. The last family of the fief were the Zaccaria (coin * of Martino Zaccaria ** where he is referenced as the Baron of Veligosti and Damala). 

 

The castle was under the control of the Byzantines after 1382 as part of the Despotate of the Morea. In 1456, the castle of Damala is mentioned as one of several strongholds that local Greeks considered handing over to Venice. The proposal was favorably considered. The chronicle of Stefano Magno states that indeed the Venetians seized Damala in 1463. However, the same chronicle mentions that the Castle of Damala belonged to the Venetian commander of Nafplio. Sometime during the 15th century, it fell to the Turks. In 1531, the area of Castle Damala was under Ottoman rule. 

 

* The date of circulation of the coin by Martino Zaccaria is mentioned in the magazine Parnassos (11/10/1877).

** In Chios, Martino Zaccaria (1307- 1329) minted Venetian coins: 1/4 ducato, grossi and denier tournois.

 

Structural, Architectural and Fortification Elements

 

The most distinctive structure is the Palace of Theseus or the “Tower of Diateichisma” as it is called. It dominates the area offering a representative example of historical continuity. The tower was originally built in the 5th century BC, but the superstructure is medieval. The succession of the different periods can be easily observed in the pictures. A. Bon mentions it as a castle – shelter. The top of the castle is rubble masonry. In the map of Ancient Troezen by N. Faraklas (which was based on an older map by G. Welter), there are two defensive enclosures which are interpreted as remnants of the Byzantine Walls.

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