Mapping “Melancholy-Pleasing Remains”: The Morea as a Renaissance Memory Theater

Veronica Della Dora

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In the introduction to the English version of Vincenzo Coronelli's Historical and Geographical Account of the Morea (1687), antiquarians and historians are promised “loci memoriae”. On the accompanying maps, the peninsula and its cities are presented as a vast epic theatre for the Venetian struggle against the Turks, echoing the glory of ancient enterprises and myths. Ancient Greek, Medieval Frankish, and modern Venetian/Turkish topographies are layered upon the eternal physical features of the peninsula. Human and non-human Peloponnesian features become what Pierre Nora named “loci memoriae”. Encyclopaedic systems for information storage, Renaissance maps were conceived as memory theatres, enabling the viewer to memorize recent and past events through spatial visualization. Renaissance maps (especially atlases) were also “theatrical” in that they set the viewer on an elevated position, allowing him a distanced view of the world as a stage for the lives, works, and salvation of its human occupants. At the time of the Venetian conquest, Morea was portrayed by Coronelli and others as an epic stage for the clash between Good and Evil (the Venetians and the Turks); a stage on which local inhabitants found little, or no place. Every map is about inclusions and exclusions. Thanks to “its rhetoric of truth” it naturalizes non-presences, helping forgetting through selective remembering. The proposed paper considers processes of remembering/forgetting Morea in different Renaissance cartographic traditions: transitional mappae mundi, map cycles, isolari, and commemorative medals.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationViewing the Morea
Subtitle of host publicationLand and People in the Late Medieval Peloponnese
Place of PublicationWashington DC
PublisherHarvard University Press
Number of pages475
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Structured keywords

  • Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition

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