Platamon Castle is a castle – city of the Middle Byzantine period (10th century AD) and is built southeast of Mount Olympus. Its tower, which dominates the national road, is the most impressive acropolis in a Greek castle.
The castle is located in a strategic position that controls the crossing of the Tempi valley and the road from Macedonia – Thessaly – Southern Greece. It is built on the site of ancient Herakleia. The place name “Platamonas” is mentioned for the first time in 1198 in a chrysobulo of the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos. Most probably, there was a Byzantine castle on that spot as early as the 10th century.
After the Fourth Crusade and the fall of Constantinople in 1204, Platamonas came under the jurisdiction of Boniface Mompferatikos, ruler of Thessaloniki, who, following the feudal practices of the West, ceded it to the Lombard knight Roland Piskia, who is the one who built the castle on the site of the ancient ruins.The castle remained Frankish for a very short time. It was conquered in 1218 by the despot of Epirus Theodore Angelos and after the battle of Pelagonia (1259), by the emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos. Around 1385 it fell into the hands of the Turks, who kept it in good condition, as it served as a base of operations against the rebels of neighbouring Olympus
In 1425 the Venetians occupied Platamonas, in an operation during which 100 Turks were burned alive inside the castle. But in 1427 the Turks recaptured it. At the end of the 18th century Platamonas was a chariot village, led by Tsaknakis, while the hero of the ’21 Georgakis Olympios was the commander. In 1770 it was occupied for a short time by the Greeks, as well as in 1825 and 1878. It was bombed by Captain Sahtouris in 1897 and since then it was abandoned by the Turks. On 15-16 August 1941, a New Zealand battalion clashed with German units in the area of Platamonas and the battle ended with the retreat of the New Zealanders after the Germans had bombed the castle.
Structural, Architectural and Fortification Elements of Platamon Castle
In Platamon Castle
we find the 3 basic characteristics of medieval fortresses: the first enclosure, the second enclosure which is also the acropolis and the central tower. The outer wall of the castle has a polygonal shape. It is reinforced by three enclosures and is maintained in good condition. The outer enclosure is spacious and the entrance is located on the southeastern side. On the same side, a ruined rampart is visible. The height of the walls reaches 9. 5m to the right of the entrance. and 7. 5 m on the left, while the thickness varies between 1. 2 and 2 metres.On the northeastern side rises the majestic central tower of the defensive complex with an octagonal shape, 16m high. and 2m thick. whose entrance was, for safety reasons, at a height of 2m from the ground surface. Above the two gates there was another tower, today destroyed. In the area of the castle there is the church of Agia Paraskevi (the only one of the 5 that existed there in the past) which during the Turkish occupation was converted into a mosque. At the southern end of the fortification there is a square tower about 5 metres high, which is relatively the best preserved part of the fortification of Chrysopolis.
It’s natural beauty of the hill, immediately after the Thessalian narrow straits of Tempe and the access to Macedonia, the imposing Mount Olympus
, with a rocky outcrop penetrates deep into the blue waters of the Aegean Sea, fully verifying the ancient name of the place, Platamon (rocky edges on the sea). The location, from the most remote antiquity until today, dominates the nerve axis of Thessaly-Macedonia and the ancient roads from the south to the north and every day a multitude of people pass through its underpasses. The importance of the site was enhanced by the strong fortification of the rocky outcrop, which must have been particularly strengthened by the noble Rolando Pisscia and according to European standards, presenting today an impressive completeness of preservation for the whole of the Greek mainland. In particular, Platamon Castle consists of a polygonal-shaped wall with battlements and a perimeter, while the whole is reinforced by eight quadrilateral towers. On the southwestern side, where the rocky terrain is exceptional, the acropolis is located with a separate wall and its octagonal tower dominating the area and the whole region, being visible from hundreds of meters with a strong semiotics beyond practicality. The tower is about 18m high. Internally, it was structured in four levels: the basement, which served as a cistern in times of siege, the ground floor, the first and the second floor. Two vertical and intersecting walls that start from the basement and reach approximately up to the second floor, divide the whole into four spaces, while the original method of housing remains unclear.
Platamon Castle passed under the control of the new rulers in 1386. However, it was recaptured by the Venetians in 1425, during the period when they also occupied Thessaloniki. The Ottomans defended themselves and the hard siege resulted in great damage to the fortification and especially to the citadel. After the recapture of the castle the Venetians undertook major interventions with an improving tendency and this is particularly evident in the citadel. The above actions are expected due to the importance of the depositories of Kassandria and Platamonos for the region of Thessaloniki. The Castle of “Platamena”, as the Venetians refer to it, remained in their hands for at least two years and was finally surrendered to the Turks, probably through economic negotiations, in 1427, after a short siege, paving the way for the subsequent fall of Thessaloniki in 1430. Its key position, which among other things protected the area from pirate raids, led its conquerors to maintain and reinforce it. Besides, during the first quarter of the 15th century, at a time when Ottoman power in Macedonia and Thessaly had not yet been fully established, the threat to the castle from the sea was evident.
In the Present-day
In its present form, the outer wall retains one of its oldest parts on its northeastern side, but the ramparts belong to the Ottoman phase, since they were then filled in. Nevertheless, it seems that craftsmen familiar with the old Byzantine building practices were used, which is almost to be expected. The part that received the interventions is distinguished for the placement of stones in a layer framed, however, by sections of horns. The above form of building could find quite comparable elements with old architectural forms, not necessarily fortification forms, even in Constantinople itself. Subsequently, the gate of the castle, a catalyst for its very structure, was subjected to interventions during the Ottoman period. In its present form, the gate is still the only main access in the middle of the south side, which is accessed by a cobbled road. It consists of a double access system in the shadow of a strong tower. The inner one has been opened in a wall of the Middle Byzantine phase and bears a lintel with a pointed arch, probably of Frankish origin. On the contrary, the external one was opened on the southern wall of the tower, whose masonry is representative of the last Byzantine building phase. The square space between the doors was also the ground floor of the tower. The latter building received many interventions by the Ottomans, while its basic structure is distinguished by a floor and a wooden barrier of the inner gate that was lowered with chains and a waterfall.
From the first enclosure one enters the second by passing through the only access to the second wall, which is located near the main tower and under its protection. Originally the acropolis had an entrance in the middle of the eastern side of the wing. Its opening was 2. 40m. and its marble threshold is preserved “by the country”. It had an internal propylon supported at its four corners by numerous armoured columns, the oldest material in reuse. Later, the citadel and its precinct were built in the northeast corner of the citadel. Then a new gate, the one that survives today, was opened on the northern wall, while the original acropolis was rendered useless and this side of the wall was connected with a small addition to the wall of the citadel. The opening of the newer gate is considerably smaller, just 5’5″. and on its inner side it is topped by a Byzantine semicircular arch, which is defined by a rectilinear lintel. However, at the same key point of Platamon Castle, the Ottoman interventions are even more pronounced, since on its outer side it bears an Islamic pointed arch, coming from the most recent repairs. The octagonal tower (donjon) has been suggested to have been built probably at the end of the 15th century, on the site of the modern citadel, with a height of more than 20 m., with eight sides 4. 30 m. long. and entrance on the southwest side. Similar free towers, not attached to another building, are found mainly in Serbia and Romania. In Greece, the most related parallel is found in Methoni, Messinia, where an octagonal tower is preserved today. The remarkable thing about the last monument is that its first building phase is also placed at the end of the 15th century, possibly by the Venetians. The prominent tower of Platamonas also has certain features in common with the so-called White Tower of Thessaloniki, which are found in the form of the masonry, an element that possibly reflects Venetian influences. The prominent tower of Platamonas also has certain features in common with the so-called White Tower of Thessaloniki, which are found in the form of the masonry, an element that possibly reflects Venetian influences. The consideration of all the above has led some researchers to propose a later date for the tower of Platamon Castle based on additional morphological correlations with the tower of Top-Kapi in Constantinople. Also, inside the tower, smaller or larger configurations are found, such as the division of the ground floor space, fireplaces, cabinets on the thickness of the walls, etc. consistent with the current post-Byzantine period.
The above reflects the constant interest of the Ottomans in the Kastro, since it remained a point of particular importance for the region. In this way, and according to the above, the walls were strengthened and increased in height, especially on the south side. In addition, the threat of pirates was not the only one, since armed groups of the Greek-speaking population (“thieves”) also began to appear. Consequently, behind its walls were built houses, workshops, temples and burials, all the elements of a medieval castle town. The above picture is exactly described by the sources of the times. Years of excavation research inside the Castle brought to light the ruins of three churches (conventional A’, B’ and C’) built during the Byzantine period and renovated at the end of the 17th century, confirming the existence of a small Christian community, the well-known seat of the Bishopric of Platamonos and Lycostomio. However, the transfer in the early 18th century of the seat of the diocese to the now prosperous Ampelakia led to the decline and the withdrawal of the Orthodox element. Simultaneously with the above, the particularly important military position of the castle forced the Turks to use the acropolis and the Acropyrgion in its entirety.
The Location of Platamon Castle
The importance of the location is possibly evident from the incident in the Chronicle of Constantine the Governor in 1715, according to which the Pasha of Iconium was executed in Platamonas, by order of the Sultan. Also, in a high place there was the baruthane, i. e. the powder magazine. Subsequently, and amplifying the above, Clarke in 1801 reports that he was not allowed to spend the night within the walls of the castle but in an inn in a small village beneath it which bore on its walls architectural elements, perhaps from ancient Herakleion. In the 19th century, a widespread famine epidemic, known in other areas of the Ottoman territory, dealt a severe blow to its occupation, while Pouqueville mentions the existence of 150 wooden Turkish buildings. Then, in the second half of the 19th century, it is inhabited only by 25 gunners with 5 cannons and has 16 houses. It is noteworthy that some of these cannons were discovered during the conservation works, were repositioned on wooden bases and are now on display, as well as their metal projectiles.
In 1881, after the annexation of Thessaly to the then Kingdom of Greece, Platamon Castle became the guardian of the new borderline, while during the following Greek-Turkish war, it was heavily bombarded by ships of the Greek fleet (1897), which forced its guards to abandon it. The recent events predict its gradual alienation from its original function after centuries and introduce it into the modern era of a monument of exceptional importance and beauty. During the Second World War military operations against the Axis forces began. History records the battle between New Zealand forces and parts of the German army on 14-16 April 1941.