Duchy of Archipelagos

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The Duchy of Archipelagos, 1450.
Coat of arms of the Duchy of Archipelagos

The Venetian Duchy of Archipelagos ( Egeon Pelagos , also called Duchy of Naxos ) was an island state in the Aegean Sea , which arose after the Fourth Crusade .

Prehistory and foundation

The Italian city-states, especially Genoa , Pisa and Venice , had interests in the Aegean long before the Fourth Crusade. There were Italian trading colonies in Constantinople with considerable influence on Byzantine domestic politics, and Italian pirates often raided settlements on the coasts. After the collapse of Constantinople in 1204, in which Venice played a prominent role, the lagoon city was able to ruthlessly implement its policy in the Aegean Sea.

The Duchy of Archipelagos was created in 1207 by Marco Sanudo , a participant in the crusade and nephew of the former Doge Enrico Dandolo , who had led a Venetian fleet to Constantinople. The accompanying campaign was an undertaking that was not coordinated with Heinrich von Flanders , the ruler of the Latin Empire . Sanudo was accompanied by Marino Dandolo and Andrea and Geremia Ghisi, but also by Ravano dalle Carceri , Lord of Euboea , and Philocalo Navigaioso, Lord of Lemnos .

With eight galleys on loan from the Venetian fleet , he entered the port of Potamidides in the southwest of Naxos and began to conquer the island. The orthodox Naxiots did not surrender without resistance: in the interior they held the fortress of Apalyros, which only surrendered after several weeks of siege, despite the support of Genoa, which saw itself excluded from the Aegean trade due to the pirate actions of the Venetians.

With Naxos in his hand, where he made himself Duke, Sanudo conquered Milos and the rest of the Cyclades in 1210 . He had a strong fortress built and divided the islands into 56 provinces, which he distributed as feudal fiefdoms among the leaders of his men. They had mostly joined him in anticipation of such rewards and so far had borne their own costs. His companions Carceri and Navigaioso had received their islands from Henry of Flanders and were legally vassals of the Latin Empire; and Sanudo, too, preferred Heinrich's sovereignty rather than remaining a subject of his native Venice.

The conqueror himself ruled for 20 years (1207-1227) as Duke Marcos I, surrounded by Latin seigneurs on more than two dozen islands, some of which swore allegiance to the duke, others directly to the emperor in Constantinople. Sanudo's personal possessions were the islands of Paros , Antiparos , Milos , Sifnos , Kythnos , Ios , Amorgos , Kimolos , Sikinos , Syros and Folegandros . Other islands were owned by Dandolo ( Andros ), Ghisi ( Tinos , Mykonos , Skyros , Skopelos , Serifos , Chios ), Jacopo Barozzi ( Thira ), Leonardo Foscolo ( Anafi ), Marco Venier ( Kythira ) or Jacopo Viaro ( Andikythira ).

Administration and economy

On the islands, as well as on the mainland, the introduction of Latin feudalism brought little disruption to the ingrained system of the Greek islanders who were familiar with the related Byzantine Pronoia system. In most cases the Greeks lived relatively peacefully under Venetian rule, especially since the Venetians lived in the cities, the locals more in the countryside. The Venetians brought Catholicism to the islands, but because of their small number and frequent absence, this had no effect on the Greeks. More essential for the Italians was control of trade with the larger islands and mainland Asia Minor , which now surrendered, although the islands continued to belong to the Latin Empire and later to the restored Byzantine Empire until the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century Ended. In addition to ensuring safety on the trade routes, the new gentlemen delivered corundum and marble to Venice, both from Naxos. Some of the Latin feudal rights survived on Naxos and other islands until they were abolished by the Ottomans in 1720.

The compulsory introduction of Latin Christianity was of greater importance . The Orthodox bishops were deposed and Latin altars were erected in all major churches.

Later story

The annals of the duchy are filled with the names Sanudo, Dandolo, Ghisi, Crispo, Sommaripa, Venier, Quirini, Barozzi and Gozzadini. 21 dukes from two dynasties ruled the archipelago, one after the other as vassals of the Latin emperors in Constantinople, the Villehardouin dynasty from the Principality of Achaia , the House of Anjou from the Kingdom of Naples and from 1418 finally the Serenissima . In 1236 the duchy was nominally given to Wilhelm von Villehardouin, later Wilhelm II of Achaia. Towards the end of the 13th century, many of the island, with the exception of Naxos and Paros, were recaptured by the Byzantines. In 1317 the Catalan Company looted the remains of the duchy, in 1383 the Sanudos were overthrown by a revolt of the Crispos. Finally, under the Crispos, social order and agriculture declined, while piracy flourished.

Collapse and Ottoman conquest

Before the last Christian duke, Jacopo IV. Crispo, was deposed by Sultan Selim II in 1566 , he was already paying tribute to him . His successor, appointed by the sultan, was the Portuguese Marrane Joseph Nasi , who was the last duke ever from 1566 to 1579, and who owed his appointment to the assumption that a foreign Jew could not win the support of the Orthodox Greeks and thus establish an independent rule . Joseph Nasi was the nephew of Donna Gracia Nasis and was married to her daughter Dona Reyna. After Joseph's death in 1579, the sultan largely expropriated the widow, except for 90,000 dinars , which had been written into her ketubba (marriage contract). With this inheritance, Dona Reyna founded a newspaper in Hebrew , first in her Belvedere palace on the Bosporus, and later in a suburb of Constantinople.

But even now, Christian rule on the archipelago was not yet completely over, as the Bolognese Gozzadini survived as lord of Siphnos and other small islands until 1617, and the island of Tenos belonged to the Venetians until 1714.

Other Venetian areas in the Aegean

The Venetians controlled other islands in the Aegean Sea as colonies that were not part of the Duchy or the Empire. In 1204 they bought Crete from Boniface I of Montferrat , the leader of the Fourth Crusade, took it from the Maltese Enrico Pescatpre, who had occupied the island in 1206, between 1207 and 1211 , and installed Jacopo Tiepolo as the first duke. Venice also ruled Evia ( rule of Negroponte ), where it maintained a trading colony in the city of Chalkis , as well as various ports on the Greek mainland.

List of the Dukes of Archipelagos

Sanudo dynasty

Crispo dynasty

Representative of the Ottomans


  • Charles A. Frazee: The Island Princes of Greece. The Dukes of the Archipelago . Adolf M. Hakkert, Amsterdam, 1988. ISBN 90-2560948-1

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