Kingdom of Thessaloniki

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The Kingdom of Thessaloniki was a short-lived Crusader state established after the conquest of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The eponymous capital of the kingdom was today's northern Greek city ​​and then the Byzantine metropolis of Thessaloniki . After 20 years, the existence of the Kingdom of Thessaloniki ended in 1224 with the conquest of the city of Thessaloniki by the despot of Epirus Theodoros I. Angelos Komnenos Dukas .

Position and extent

Crusader states in 1204 after the conquest of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade, including the Kingdom of Thessaloniki
Territorial expansion of the Despotate of Epirus, among other things, at the expense of the Kingdom of Thessaloniki between 1204 and 1230, which it completely incorporated

The Kingdom of Thessaloniki initially (1204) comprised the areas of today's Greek administrative region Central Macedonia , East Macedonia and Thrace (Western Thrace), Thessaly and parts of central Greece . The southern border was marked by the river Sperchios and its valley from the west to the Malian Gulf in the east. Adjacent neighbor was the Duchy of Athens , another Crusader state and vassal of the Kingdom of Thessaloniki. The western boundary was the mountain ranges of Pindos -Gebirges and its southern sequels (Agrafa Mountains, Tymfristos formed massif) and separated the Kingdom of Thessalonica from its western neighbor, the Despotate of Epirus , a Byzantine state. The northern border was similar to today's northern Greek border and separated the Kingdom of Thessaloniki from the Bulgarian Empire . In the east, the Kingdom of Thessaloniki bordered the domains in Thrace which were directly subordinate to the Latin emperor . In contrast to the present, the areas around Kastoria, Edessa, Veria and Florina did not belong to the Kingdom of Thessaloniki, but represented the southern areas of the Bulgarian Empire, which were between the Kingdom of Thessaloniki in the east and the Despotate of Epirus in the west.

The northern and western borders in particular were subject to constant fluctuations due to the repeated clashes between the Kingdom of Thessaloniki on the one hand and the Despotate of Epirus in the west and the Bulgarian Empire in the west and north.


Boniface de Montferrat , the leader of the Crusade, was viewed as the new emperor by both the Crusaders and the Byzantines after the conquest of Constantinople in 1204. However, the Venetians considered him too closely related to the Byzantines, as his brother Konrad had married into the overthrown imperial family - they wanted an emperor they could more easily control and chose Baldwin of Flanders as emperor of the new Latin Empire .

Boniface reluctantly accepted the decision - and set out to conquer Thessaloniki , the second largest city in the empire after Constantinople. The argument about it with Baldwin, who also claimed the city, he won after he had handed Crete over to the Venetians . In 1204 he conquered Thessaloniki. Boniface initially viewed Thessaloniki as an independent kingdom. On the intervention of Baldwin, however, he had to subordinate the Kingdom of Thessaloniki to the Latin Empire. The title "King of Thessaloniki" was never officially used by Boniface.

After conquering Thessaloniki, Boniface turned south and gradually conquered large parts of mainland Greece. Initial Byzantine resistance, especially by the Byzantine governor of Nafplio and Argos Leo Sgouros, was broken by Boniface through repeated military successes over Byzantine remaining forces, including a skirmish at Thermopylae . In 1204 Boniface conquered Athens and bequeathed it as a fiefdom of Athens to the Burgundian Odo de la Roche. From 1204 to 1205 Wilhelm von Champlitte and Geoffrey von Villardhouin conquered the Peloponnese and became feudal lords of the Principality of Achaia . Thus, all lands south of the river Sperchios were given by Boniface as fiefs of the kingdom of Thessaloniki. After the defeat of the remaining Byzantine army, the island of Evia also surrendered, which Boniface gave as a fief to Cacero. After the conquest of Athens, Boniface marched across the Isthmus of Corinth on the Peloponnese and besieged the cities of Corinth and Argos at the same time, where Byzantine forces were remaining. An emerging rebellion in Thessaloniki in 1205 caused Boniface to return to Thessaloniki, where he put down the rebellion, while at the same time the Latin Emperor Baldwin I was defeated by the Bulgarian Tsar Kaloyan in the Battle of Adrianople on April 14, 1205 . The Aegean islands were awarded to Boniface in 1203 by the Byzantine emperor Alexios IV Angelos; as early as 1204 Boniface sold the claim to these properties to the Republic of Venice . He also ceded Crete and a small stretch of land in Macedonia ( Kassandra ) to the Venetians for a payment of 1,000 silver marks and an annual lease of 10,000 florins.

Boniface's reign lasted less than three years when he was killed in an ambush in the Eastern Rhodopes by Tsar Kaloyan of Bulgaria on September 4, 1207 . The kingdom passed to his son Demetrius , a child, so the actual power was wielded by various nobles. They rose up against the Latin Empire immediately, but were crushed by Emperor Heinrich in 1209. Heinrich's brother Eustach was installed as regent for Demetrius. The Latin Empire subsequently took over military control of the Kingdom of Thessaloniki through command of the kingdom's fortresses.

Michael I Angelus , ruler of the Despotate Epirus , tried to take advantage of this situation in 1210 and attacked the Kingdom of Thessaloniki. The Bulgarian Empire also tried to take advantage of the unclear leadership situation with its southern neighbor and to conquer territory by means of a military attack. Heinrich defeated both the armed forces of the despot of Epirus and the Bulgarian Empire, thus ensuring the continued existence of the Kingdom of Thessaloniki.

The successor to Michael I Angelos as despot of Epirus, Theodoros I Angelos , continued the attacks after Michael's death in 1215. In the 9 years between 1215 and 1224 he succeeded in successively conquering the territory of the Kingdom of Thessaloniki. In 1217 Theodor I Angelos arrested the Latin emperor Peter on his return by land after an unsuccessful attempt to conquer Durazzo (today Durrës ), which was under the rule of the despotate of Epirus, and thus robbed the Latin Empire of its crowned empire in the same year in 1217 Emperor. The subsequent reign of Conon de Béthune until 1221 did not allow any military intervention in favor of the Kingdom of Thessaloniki, which could no longer count on the military support of the Latin Empire of Byzantium and increasingly lost territories to the despotate of Epirus.

In 1222 the military situation worsened to such an extent that the widow of Bonifatius von Montferrat and his son and heir to the throne Demetrius von Montferrat fled to Italy. Pope Honorius III. was urged by both to declare another crusade to save the city of Thessaloniki and thus the kingdom. However, this call found little support, so that the crusade led by Wilhelm VI. was too weakly armed by Montferrat and came too late with regard to an effective relief of the city of Thessaloniki, meanwhile besieged by the despot of Epirus. The final end of the kingdom of Thessaloniki was sealed by the fall of the city in 1224 to Theodor I Angelos, who was crowned Emperor of Thessaloniki after the conquest of Thessaloniki. The crusaders under William VIII of Montferrat and Demetrius of Montferrat managed to land on the Greek mainland and advance to the town of Almyros in Thessaly, where a diarrhea epidemic in 1226 killed the majority of the crusaders without any further armed conflict, including William VIII of Montferrat on September 17th, 1226. Demetrius von Montferrat fled back to Italy, where he died in 1227.

After the death of Demetrius von Montferrat from 1227 to 1316, the title of Thessalonica was still claimed by various people and for a time it was inherited within the family of the Dukes of Burgundy .

Kings of Thessaloniki

king Reign Regents Remarks
House Montferrat (Aleramides)
Boniface 1204-1207 Fourth Crusade (1202-1204)
Demetrius 1207-1224 Oberto von Biandrate (1207–1209)
Eustach von Flanders (1209–1216)
Berthold von Katzenelnbogen (1217–?)
Guido Pallavicini (1221–1224)
Conquest of Thessaloniki by the Byzantine despot of Epirus Theodoros I Angelos .

Titular Kings of Thessaloniki

House of Montferrat

After the loss of Thessaloniki, the kingdom degenerated into a mere title for the House of Montferrat. Margrave Wilhelm VI. attempted reconquest in 1225, but died shortly after his arrival in Greece. The young King Demetrius took his exile at the court of Emperor Frederick II in Italy, where he died in 1230. In his will he had designated the emperor to inherit his rights as to whether these also included the kingship of Thessaloniki, but it is unclear, at least the emperor never used this legal title and also made no claims against the Greek despots of Epirus. On August 31, 1239, Emperor Friedrich II finally ceded all claims bequeathed by Demetrius in his will to his nephew, Margrave Boniface II of Montferrat . He never used the title of king either.

The Latin Emperor Baldwin II , as the overlord of the Kingdom of Thessaloniki, must have come to the conclusion that the House of Montferrat had forfeited its rights due to its inaction to recapture Thessaloniki. In any case, in 1240 or 1243, in a bull of gold, he bestowed the kingdom on William of Verona , one of the three lords of Negroponte . He was not only a tried and tested warrior with a chivalrous disposition, but also married to Helena, who is known as the "niece of King Demetrius" (Helenæ, neptis quondam Demetrii regis Thessalonicensis) and through whom the enfeoff was given dynastic legitimacy. The exact family origin of the "niece Helena" remains obscure. Jean Alexandre Buchon assumed her to be a daughter of Agnes von Montferrat with Emperor Heinrich and, alternatively, a granddaughter of Margaret of Hungary and Emperor Isaac II.

  • The house of Montferrat and the possible origins of the "niece Helena" after Buchon:
Isaac II
Angelus byz. Ks .; † 1204
Margaret of Hungary
Boniface I of Montferrat
Kg. Thessaloniki; † 1207
Elena di Bosco
Manuel Angelos
† 1212
Kg. V. Thessaloniki;
† 1230
Ks. V. Const .; † 1216
William VI.
Mkgr. v. Montferrat; † 1225
Helena the niece

Wilhelm von Verona
Boniface II.
Mkgr. v. Montferrat; † 1252
Wilhelm VII.
Mkgr. v. Montferrat; † 1292

Andronikos II. Palaiologos

The loan from 1240/43 ultimately had no consequences. It is not known whether William of Verona or one of his descendants ever tried to enforce the claim to Thessaloniki. In any case, it was no longer raised by the House of Montferrat. With the marriage of the Yolande von Montferrat († 1317) to the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II. Palaiologos in 1284, the family finally gave up their claim completely by giving it as the bride's dowry in the marriage and thus to the Greek imperial family .

House of Burgundy

After Constantinople was lost to the Greeks in 1261, Emperor Baldwin II was forced to take exile in France. In order to gain money and allies there, in January 1265 he had sold the claim to the Kingdom of Thessaloniki to Duke Hugo IV of Burgundy , who had promised military support for the reconquest of Constantinople. Apparently, the emperor has again come to the opinion that all previous rights holders have forfeited their claims due to inaction and the kingdom has thus become free for a new loan. However, the Duke of Burgundy and his immediate descendants had made no effort to do so. For example, Charles of Anjou , King of Sicily, in his alliance treaty agreed with Emperor Baldwin II on May 27, 1267 in Viterbo, stipulated the right to move into the Kingdom of Thessaloniki for his family, in the event that none of the other rights holders in the near future would make serious efforts to retake Thessaloniki. After the death of Baldwin II , his son Philip assumed the imperial title and, in order to please his father-in-law Charles of Anjou, he gave the kingdom of Thessaloniki to his brother-in-law Philip of Anjou on March 10, 1274. On July 3, 1281, Charles of Anjou forged an alliance with Venice in Orvieto in order to prepare a large-scale campaign against Constantinople. The plans of Charles and thus the importance of Philip came to an abrupt end in March 1282 with the outbreak of the Sicilian Vespers .

In contrast to the House of Montferrat, the House of Burgundy retained its rights, which once again gained in importance. In 1313 Philip I of Taranto , the grandson of Charles of Anjou, came to France. There he married Katharina von Valois and secured the dignity of Constantinople in her name. As such, he formally entrusted Louis of Burgundy with the Kingdom of Thessaloniki in Fontainebleau in July of the same year , apparently after his eldest brother, Duke Hugo V († 1315), renounced this dignity. “King Ludwig” himself married the heiress of the still existing Principality of Achaia , with whom he actually traveled to Greece. There, however, he had no opportunity to conquer Thessaloniki, but had to fight a battle for Achaia with a rival pretender. He died childless in 1316. The rights to the Kingdom of Thessaloniki have reverted to his older, second brother, Duke Odo IV († 1350). He in turn sold them on directly to Philip I of Taranto on October 8, 1231.

Neither Philip of Taranto nor any of his heirs have ever held the title of king of Thessaloniki, nor tried to enforce a claim to the kingdom.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f George Finlay: The history of Greece: From Its Conquest by the Crusaders to Its Conquest by the Turks, and of the Empire of Trebizond 1204-1461. William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh 1851.
  2. ^ Norman Housley: The later crusades, 1274-1580: From Lyons to Alcazar. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1992, ISBN 0-19-822136-3 .
  3. James Emerson Tennent: The History of Modern Greece, from Its Conquest by the Romans BC 146, to the Present Time. Henry Colburn, London 1845.
  4. ^ Edward Gibbon: The history of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, with notes by Dean Milman and M. Guizot. John Murray, London 1855.
  5. ^ A b Donald M. Nicol: Byzantium and Venice: A Study in Diplomatic and Cultural Relations. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1988, ISBN 0-521-42894-7 .
  6. ^ Richard von San Germano : Chronica. In: MGH SS. 19, p. 362.
  7. J.-L.-A. Huillard-Bréholles : Historia diplomatica Friderici secundi. Volume 5/1, 1857, p. 380ff.
  8. ^ Augustin Theiner (ed.): Raynaldi, Annales ecclesiastici. Volume 21, 1870, No. 45, pp. 271f. The dating of the golden loan certificate is incorrect. "MCCXLIII" (1243) is given as the year of its establishment, but followed by the remark "imperii nostri anno primo" for the first year of the emperor's rulership. Baldwin II was crowned emperor at Easter 1240 and from then on had counted his reigning years, the first of which was therefore 1240/41. The enfeoffment is often associated with the conquest of Tzurulum (today Çorlu ) by the emperor in 1240, in which William of Verona took part. Cf. Jean Alexandre Buchon (ed.): Histoire de l'empire de Constantinople;… par Du Fresne du Cange. Volume 1, 1826, pp. 275f. From the papal side, however, it was only recognized by Innocent IV in 1243.
  9. JA Buchon: Recherches et matériaux pour servir a une histoire de la domination française aux XIIIe, XIVe et XVe siècles dans les provinces démembrées de l'empire Grec a la suite de la quatrième croisade. Volume 2, 1811, pp. 66f; Histoire de l'empire de Constantinople;… par Du Fresne du Cange. Volume 1, 1826, p. 276.
  10. ^ E. Perard: Recueil de plusieurs pièces curieuses servant à l'histoire de Bourgogne. 1664, p. 508.
  11. Elie Berger: Layettes du trésor des Chartes. Volume 4, 1902, No. 5284, pp. 220-224; G. Del Giudice: Codice diplomatico del regno di Carlo I. e II. D'Angiò. Volume 2/1, No. IV, 1869, pp. 30-44.
  12. General Encyclopedia of Sciences and Arts . First Section AG. Hermann Brockhaus, Leipzig 1867, p. 263 ( full text in Google Book Search).
  13. ^ E. Petit: Histoire des ducs de Bourgogne de la race capétienne. Volume 7, No. 6475, 1901, p. 507.
  14. ^ E. Petit: Histoire des ducs de Bourgogne de la race capétienne. Volume 8, No. 6928, 1903, p. 258.