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7-08-2015, 21:28

The duchies of calabria and otranto

The term Calabria was originally applied to a late Roman civilian province corresponding to theTerra d’Otranto. In the mid-seventh century the imperial possessions underwent a severe crisis with the civilian administration finally breaking down and the Lombard dukes of Benevento capturing large areas. It is likely that, as a result of an administrative reorganisation in the late seventh century, the name was applied to a duchy ruled from Reggio and covering both those areas remaining under Byzantine rule, the Terra d’Otranto and southern Calabria (i.e. the lands south of a line running from the Crati river – to the south of Cosenza – to Amantea on the Tyrrhenian coast).72 This period marked an important stage in the hellenisation of both areas, probably largely as a result of immigration from Greece and Sicily rather than settlements of refugees from theMuslim invasions further east or official transfer of soldiers or peasants. In the early eighth century Otranto was lost to the Lombards and the term ‘duchy of Calabria’, which previously included present-day Apulia, was confined to the old civilian province of Bruttium in the south-west toe of Italy, which came under the authority of the strat¯egos of Sicily. The duchy is mentioned in the Taktikon Uspensky (842–3) but does not appear in the Kletorologion of Philotheos of 899, presumably because it became the main power base of the strat¯egos of Sicily, when most of Sicily had fallen to the Arabs.73 Disappointingly little is known of the duchy in this period from written sources, but archaeological research has pointed to a move away from settlements on the plains and coast towards hilltop sites and to fairly widespread circulation of eastern goods such as pottery.74 Only after 885–6, when Lombard Calabria was conquered by Nikephoros Phokas (see above and below, pp. 298, 560) does the position become clearer. Even less is known of Calabria’s imperial neighbour on the heel of Italy, the duchy of Otranto. Otranto and Gallipoli remained Byzantine at the time of the Lombard advances of the late seventh century, but some time after 710 Otranto was lost. It was restored to the empire in 758 by King Desiderius in return for Byzantine help against a rebel duke of Benevento. The case for the area’s status as a separate duchy depends on a seal of uncertain date, and the duchy’s non-appearance in the Taktikon Uspensky (842–3) suggests that at some stage it was reincorporated in the duchy of Calabria.75 The boundaries of imperial rule are uncertain; the duchy may have been confined to the dioceses which clearly came under the jurisdiction of Constantinople, Gallipoli and Otranto, or it may have included all the Terra d’Otranto including Oria. Excavations have suggested that Otranto was a rich centre, probably thanks to its strategic importance as the main point of entry for imperial troops and officials sent to the west.76 However, following the swift reconquista of Lombard Apulia from 876 the capital became Benevento and later Bari.

 

 

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