Latin Rule in Greece and the Aegean 1274-1580
THE conquest of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 led to the creation of an intricate tissue of Latin states in Romania, and it is their later fortunes which form the subject of this chapter (see map 6). The most prestigious of the creations, the Latin Empire of Constantinople, was also the weakest. Surrounded by enemies, and failing, despite their strenuous efforts, to attract the settlers they needed for long-term viability, the Empire's rulers staggered from crisis to crisis while searching in vain for a western protector. The coup de grâce, Michael VIII's reconquest of Constantinople in 1261, completed the shift in western interests towards the southern and western part of Romania which had begun with the collapse of the ephemeral 'Kingdom of Thessalonica' in 1224; military aid from Latin Christendom could be dispatched more rapidly towards southern Greece, and the Venetians could deploy their naval superiority with greater effectiveness there and in the Aegean and Adriatic islands. The most important of the surviving states were the Principality of Achaea, which occupied the classical Peloponnese (or Morea, as both Franks and Greeks termed it), and the Duchy of Athens. The Peloponnese was overrun by William of Champlitte and Geoffrey of Villehardouin in 1204-5, and ruled by Geoffrey's descendants. Athens was conquered by Boniface of Montferrat in 1204 and consigned as a fief to the Burgundian lord Odo of la Roche. Odo and the dynasty which he established came to govern Attica, Boeotia, and the Argolid. Seventeen islands in the Cyclades were seized in 1207 with comparative ease by a group of Venetian entrepreneurs led by Mark Sanudo, who partitioned the islands as fiefs amongst his followers, retaining Naxos and several other islands for himself, and ruling with the title Duke of the Archipelago.