2106 – The Athos maps of Piri Reis

The author of this blog is our Athos friend Japetus, who is an expert on maps. Many thanks for this fine translation and interesting story.

Piri Reis was an Ottoman admiral who, after having travelled all around the mediterranean and collected info on the spot, he compiled his atlas called ‘Kitab-i Bahriye’ based on italian maps.

The maps are from the manuscript: Süleymaniye, Aya Sofya 2612, from the year 1525

Chart 6. Taş Öz [Thassos]

To the southeast of Arpa port [Ierissos] towards Mount Athos, there is a bay. There the ships can find safe anchorage when strong south southeastern winds blow. Characteristic of this port, when ships are coming from the sea, are the two small islets at the peak of the cape. Keeping these islands to the left, ships can enter the port. These islands are located behind the cape. Southeast from them lies a big monastery which they call Vatubid [Vatopediou]. In front of the monastery there is a shallow small port. But when the wind blows from the sea, no ship can anchor because the area is wide open. To the east southeast lies another monastery which is called Aynaroz [Pantokratoros ?]. Close to the Arpa port that we mentioned, lies yet another big monastery which is called Filandar [Chilandariou]. It is a place with vineyards, orchards and nice waters.

Chart 7. Ayanoroz [Mount Athos]

This place is an oblong peninsula with a length of eighty miles. Between the shores of Rumeli and the peninsula is a narrow land passage. This passage is low and dry and has a width of one mile. The peninsula we mention is full of mountains. The peak of this cape is so tall that can be seen from Keriye [Ikaria] island which lies two hundred and eighty miles away. This mountain is so high that is always covered with snow. At its slopes there are monasteries where monks live. At the past the number of these monasteries reached three hundred and sixty. Nowadays though, only sixty are left. Nineteen of them are by the sea, the rest towards the mountain. At these monasteries nothing female can be found, only males. Following their loose thought, the monks subject themselves to suffering. They don’t give information to the turkish corsairs about christian corsairs, nor do they tell to the christians about turkish ships. Whoever the pirates are, they are not reluctant to offer them provisions. They act like that because they are scared. One of these monasteries is called Alaveri [Lavra]. It stretches to the east of the mountain, lies two miles away from the sea and is built on a height. It looks like a castle. Around it there is running water and is surrrounded by orchards of orange and lemon trees. There are also a lot of cherries. The monks gather them every year and they dry them. They prepare by themselves all the provisions for the year. This is what they live from. The monks in this monastery are about four hundred. Each one, depending on his order, suffers his martyrdom in his own cell. The monks prepare the bread with the help of an ox. They have a circular marble plate. At its center they nail a wide wooden board which turns continuously towards its sharp edge. It looks like a mill. When the ox turns, the monks with the help of a stick continuously lay the dough under the wood, until it is ready. Afterwards they finish kneading it with their fists. They bake a thousand and eight hundred loafs at a time.

Lavra harbour or port by Peter Howorth

In front of the monastery (Lavra) there are big rocks that create a small port where only one ship can enter. As the opening of the port faces to the northeast, when NE winds are blowing the waters are rough. It once happened to us. While docking to this port with a caique, an east northeastern wind started to blow and the caique was smashed. The monks immediately ran and cross-tied the boat with ropes at four points. This way it couldn’t move at all. So we were saved from the storm and we continued our trip. Out of the port and following the shores of Mount Athos heading west, there is a port that faces to the east. There a ship can dock as long as it ties ropes from both its sides. The place is narrow.

20th century map of Ammouliani island, map with depths

Afterwards, moving west northwest, one arrives at the inside of the gulf where there is a small island called Tavuk [=chicken / Ammouliani]. Once the monks kept here their chickens. A small saltwork exists. There are tulips planted here with beautiful petals. No others are like them elsewhere. But the monks of Mount Athos call this island Donkey island. […]

detail of the Piri Reis map

1. اربه ليانى – Arpa limani – Ierissos port
2. فلاندار – Filandar – Chelandariou
3. واتى بيت – Vati Bit – Vatopediou
4. اياروزه – Ayaroza – ?
5. الاورى – Alaveri – Megistis Lavras
6. ايابورون – Aya burun – cape Akrathos
7. ولق قزى منصطرى – Valiq kizi manastiri – Skiti Ag.Annis ?
8. تاوق اداسى – Tavuk adasi – Ammouliani island


(edited by Herman Voogd)

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3 Responses to 2106 – The Athos maps of Piri Reis

  1. Japetus says:

    It’s interesting the name that he gives to the Ierissos bay, Arpa port, as this has passed to our times at the name of the cape, Arapis…
    Also interesting the naming of Ammouliani as Chicken island. As eggs where always very important to the lifes of the monks, not so much for eating as for iconpainting, and as chickens at that time were not allowed inside Athos being female, they were keeping them outside.. Nowadays, chickens can be found though in some kelia and sketes…
    As for the name ‘Donkey island’ it was unforunately a common name given to many small uninhabited islands within Greece, due to the mentality of the people of that time, to abandon the older animals who couldn’t work anymore to small islands… This name was also given to Ammouliani and contrary to what people believe, it doesen’t derive from ‘Ammos’ ie sand, but from the mules that were found there, giving the name Moulariani or Mouliani which has been by time changed to -the better sounding- Ammouliani…

  2. Japetus says:

    It should also be noted that this book had two original editions. The first one of 1521 and an updated one of 1526. The charts at the post are from the second version. There has been also another version of the Bahriye book much later, more than 150 years or so after, with updated new maps -not from P.Reis himself of course- that still used the same text.
    From all these editions, two different variations were made, a plain one for the actual use by sailors on ship and a luxurious edition, heavily decorated and illuminated, for the use of the sultan and the officers in palace as a reference atlas..
    Below is an image of the plain version of the first edition (1521) and one of the luxurious version of the third edition (1650-1700).



  3. Eleftherios Papagiannakis says:

    BRAVO, this is the real national history !

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