What is the history and culture of Nafplio?


Nafplio is a coastal city in the Peloponnese region of Greece, and one of the most charming and picturesque destinations in the country. It has a long and fascinating history that spans from ancient times to the modern era, and a rich and diverse culture that reflects its various influences and periods of domination. In this blog post, we will explore some of the highlights of Nafplio’s history and culture, and why it is worth visiting this beautiful city.

The ancient origins of Nafplio

Nafplio’s name derives from Nafplios, a mythical figure who was the son of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and Amymone, a daughter of Danaus, the legendary king of Argos. According to legend, Nafplios founded the city and made it a prosperous seaport. He was also the father of Palamedes, a hero of the Trojan War, who was credited with inventing many things, such as the alphabet, weights and measures, lighthouses, dice, and chess.

The area around Nafplio has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, as evidenced by archaeological findings. However, few traces of the ancient city remain visible today, except for the walls of Acronauplia, the oldest part of the city that stands on a rocky hill overlooking the sea. The ancient city was overshadowed by its neighboring Argos, which was one of the most powerful city-states in the Peloponnese. Nafplio was conquered by Argos in the 6th century BC, and remained under its control until the Roman conquest in 146 BC.

The medieval and Ottoman periods

After the decline of the Roman Empire, Nafplio fell into obscurity for several centuries. It re-emerged in the medieval period, when it became an important strategic point for the Byzantine Empire and later for the Frankish crusaders who occupied Greece after the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The Franks built a castle on Acronauplia and made Nafplio part of the lordship of Argos and Nauplia, which was ruled by various noble families, such as the de la Roche and the Brienne.

In 1388, Nafplio was sold to the Republic of Venice, which fortified it further and made it one of its main naval bases in the eastern Mediterranean. The Venetians called it Napoli di Romania, to distinguish it from Napoli (Naples) in Italy. The Venetians also built another castle on Bourtzi, a small island at the entrance of the harbor, which served as a prison and a defense against pirates.

In 1540, after a long siege, Nafplio was captured by the Ottoman Empire, which renamed it Mora Yenişehir (New City of Morea). The Ottomans ruled Nafplio for almost two centuries, except for a brief period between 1686 and 1715, when it was recaptured by the Venetians. During this time, Nafplio maintained its commercial and maritime importance, but also suffered from epidemics, earthquakes, fires, and rebellions.

The modern era

Nafplio played a crucial role in the Greek War of Independence (1821-1829), which aimed to liberate Greece from Ottoman rule. It was one of the first cities to join the revolution and became a stronghold for the Greek rebels. In 1822, it was besieged by a large Ottoman army led by Dramali Pasha, but managed to resist thanks to its fortifications and its defenders’ courage. The siege was lifted after Dramali’s defeat at Dervenakia by Theodoros Kolokotronis, one of the most prominent leaders of the revolution.

In 1827, Nafplio became the seat of the first Greek government under Ioannis Kapodistrias, who was appointed as governor by the Great Powers (Britain, France, and Russia) that supported Greece’s independence. Nafplio also became the first capital of Greece until 1834, when it was moved to Athens by King Otto I, who was chosen as the first monarch of Greece by the Great Powers.

During its short period as capital, Nafplio witnessed many significant events in Greek history. It was here that Kapodistrias was assassinated in 1831 by his political opponents in front of the church of Agios Spyridon, where his bullet holes can still be seen. It was also here that the first Greek Constitution was drafted and ratified in 1829, and the first Greek Parliament was established in 1828. Moreover, it was here that many public buildings, schools, and cultural institutions were founded, such as the National Bank of Greece, the National Library of Greece, the National Gallery of Greece, and the Archaeological Museum of Nafplio.

The culture of Nafplio

Nafplio’s culture is a reflection of its rich and diverse history. It combines elements from ancient Greece, Byzantium, Venice, France, and Turkey, creating a unique and captivating atmosphere. Nafplio’s culture can be seen in its architecture, its cuisine, its festivals, and its museums.

  • Architecture: Nafplio’s architecture is a blend of different styles and influences. The most dominant feature is the Venetian style, which can be seen in the elegant mansions, the colorful balconies, the arched windows, and the narrow streets of the Old Town. The Ottoman style is also evident in some mosques, fountains, and houses. The neoclassical style is present in some public buildings and monuments from the 19th century. The most impressive examples of Nafplio’s architecture are the three castles that dominate the city: Acronauplia, Palamidi, and Bourtzi.
  • Cuisine: Nafplio’s cuisine is a fusion of Mediterranean flavors and ingredients. It is based on fresh seafood, meat, vegetables, cheese, olive oil, herbs, and spices. Some of the local specialties are goges (pasta with cheese and butter), kleftiko (lamb cooked in parchment paper with potatoes and cheese), pastitsio (baked pasta with meat sauce and béchamel), dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), baklava (filo pastry with nuts and syrup), and loukoumia (Turkish delight). Nafplio also produces high-quality wine, ouzo (anise-flavored liquor), and tsipouro (grape pomace brandy).
  • Festivals: Nafplio hosts many festivals throughout the year that celebrate its history and culture. Some of the most popular ones are the Carnival (February-March), which features parades, masquerades, dances, and pranks; the Nafplio Festival (June-July), which showcases music, theater, dance, and art performances in various venues around the city; the Argos-Mycenae Festival (July-August), which offers cultural events inspired by ancient Greek mythology and history; and the Nafplion Marathon (March), which attracts thousands of runners from all over the world.
  • Museums: Nafplio has several museums that display its rich cultural heritage. Some of the most notable ones are the Archaeological Museum of Nafplio, which exhibits artifacts from prehistoric to Roman times; the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation Museum, which presents traditional costumes, crafts, and everyday objects from the 19th and 20th centuries; the War Museum of Nafplio, which illustrates the military history of Greece from ancient times to modern times; and the Komboloi Museum, which showcases a collection of worry beads from different countries and cultures.


Nafplio is a city that has a lot to offer to its visitors. It has a long and fascinating history that spans from ancient times to the modern era. It has a rich and diverse culture that reflects its various influences and periods of domination. It has a beautiful architecture that blends different styles and influences. It has a delicious cuisine that fuses Mediterranean flavors and ingredients. It has many festivals that celebrate its history and culture. And it has many museums that display its rich cultural heritage. Nafplio is a city that deserves to be explored and enjoyed by anyone who loves history and culture.