One name that immediately comes to your mind when you mention Nafplio, is "Ioannis Kapodistrias". Why this name is so remembered and related to the city? Because he was the first Governor of Greece during its first transitional years as an independent state, because he established the first School of Agriculture, the first printing shop and because you probably remember that he introduced the cultivation of potatoes. Unfortunately, with his murder at the Church of St. Spyridon on October 9th 1831, his magnificent work and a very important period for Greece ended.
Ioannis Kapodistrias was born in Corfu on February 10th 1776, he studied at the monastery of Santa Giustina, and he learned Latin, Italian and French. During the period 1795-1797, he studied medicine at the University of Padua in Italy. His first political steps start early, the year 1803, where he was secretary of the territory of the Ionian State. From 1815 to 1822, he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire. On April 14th 1827, the National Assembly of Trizina decided that he would be the first Governor of Greece.
As governor, his work was difficult and multidimensional, since he was facing a lawless nation in anarchy, that after 400 years of slavery, was trying to stand independently on its feet. Thus, he gave basis to the armed forces and tried to submit them under a higher command, launched important reforms to organize the state machine and to establish the legal framework of the new state.
Walking in the historic streets of Nafplio, in every corner there is something to remind you of this important leader: the first Greek pharmacy in the Three Admirals' Square, the first High-school, that houses nowadays the City Hall, the first Military Academy, that he founded and currently houses the War Museum, the Cathedral of Saint Spyridon, where he was assassinated.
The Panhellenic (Panellinion)
His work was multidimensional and difficult. Undertaking the government of the new state, Kapodistrias initially dissolved the parliament and abolished the old constitution. In place of the House of Representatives, he set up the Panhellenic Assembly with 27 members, but having no jurisdiction, and created a cabinet headed by him. He divided the country into administrative Districts and created Courts.
Founder of ...everything
Among other things, he founded the National Mint and established the symbol of palm-tree for the national currency, founded the National Monetary Bank, he built new schools, established an ecclesiastical school in Poros, an Orphanage and an Archaeological Museum in Aegina island, an School of Agriculture in Tiryns, a Greek and French Printing Office also in Aegina, he rebuilt the cities of Messolonghi and Patras, he provided loans to the islanders for the purchase of ships and the construction of shipyards in Poros island and Nafplio. Together with Andreas Miaoulis, he tried to suppress piracy and transferred the fleet to the jurisdiction of the government. He founded the "Evelpidon" (cadet) Military School aiming to organize the armed forces. In fact, he continued the war with the Ottoman Empire, fearing that the British would limit the borders of Greece. He tried with foreign banks to acquire a loan for the state, but unfortunately England opposed. However, Russia and France undertook to financially support Greece (the Tsar sent 3,750,000 French francs).
It is worth noting, that he offered all his money and property for the purposes of the state and refused to accept a salary.
His urban work
Kapodistrias is responsible for the opening of many streets and squares in the old city of Nafplio. One of his great works, was the opening of the "Great Road" (Megalos Dromos); a name by which you will hear many locals call the King Constantine's road, who led from the entrance of the city to Syntagma Square. It is worth noting, that it is considered the oldest street of classicism in Greece.
Kapodistrias insured many buildings from fire, in an Insurance House in Trieste, because in many stone buildings floors built of wood were added, which could easily catch fire. Insurance labels were placed on these buildings and some are still preserved today.
Kapodistrias had many dislikes. Due to its strategic location, Greece was a serious attraction for many countries that wanted to consolidate their dominance in the Mediterranean. England encouraged any internal disputes, because it considered Kapodistrias a friend of Russia. The fact that he did not give any power to the local authorities and appointed his two brothers, Augustine and Viaro Kapodistrias, to key positions, led him to a conflict with the "Kotzabasids" (landowners) and the shipowners. Hydra became the center of the anti-kapodistrian struggle.
On the morning of October 9th 1831, outside the church of St. Spyridon, Constantine and George Mavromichalis shot and stabbed Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias to death, as he went to attend Sunday's Mass. Constantine Mavromichalis was shot on the spot and the enraged people finished him off and threw his body in the port, while his brother George took refuge in the French embassy. However, he surrendered and was sentenced to execution.
His murder attributed to the Mani custom of vendetta, since Kapodistrias had imprisoned Petrobeis Mavromichalis, because a rebellion broke out in Mani. However, no one can say for sure if that was the reason for his assassination or if there was a strategic undermining of foreign countries.
Kapodistrias' embalmed body was transported to Corfu, where he was buried in the "Platytera" Monastery.
Did you know that?
Kapodistrias is credited with introducing the cultivation of potato. The strange thing lies in the way that he found to make them accepted by the people. At first, he imported a load of potatoes and offered them to the citizens. But no one was interested. Knowing the Greek habits, he then ordered the whole shipment of potatoes to be unloaded in public display at the docks of Nafplio, but to be strictly guarded. Soon, rumors were heard about the potatoes, that since they were so well guarded, they had to be of great importance. Then of course, some people tried to steal them. The guards had been ordered to turn a blind eye and actually allow the stealing to take place! Soon all the potatoes in the cargo had been stolen and Kapodistrias' plan to import them into Greece had succeeded.