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8-08-2015, 00:23

The latin empire’s main components

The internal structure and development of the Latin empire were rather complex. Various trappings at the coronation of Emperor Baldwin I on 16 May 1204 evoked similar Byzantine ceremonies, and the Byzantine stamp can also be seen in the titles of the emperors, their officers and their dignitaries, as well as in imperial documents. The adoption of these features was partly prompted by the emperors’ desire to emphasise the continuity of Byzantine imperial tradition and thereby enhance their own legitimacy. Greek officials serving in the imperial court also acquainted the conquerors with the intricacies of the Byzantine fiscal system and to a large extent ensured its survival.4 Yet the nature of the political and socio-legal regime of the Latin empire, defined in the treaty ofMarch 1204, and the operation of its government were largely moulded on western feudal patterns and in response to pressing military needs. The conquest and the ensuing distribution of fiefdoms led to the territorialisation and geographical extension of the vassalage network which had existed within the crusader host during the Fourth Crusade. Each fief-holder, however, also swore to render military service to the emperor, the supreme lord. A novel feature of the Latin empire was the institutional and political position of Venice within its framework, as both subordinate and equal to the emperor. Venice was subordinate in two ways: firstly, as a collective political entity within the feudal system of government headed by the emperor; and secondly, the individual fief-holders in its portion of the empire undertook to fulfil the same military obligations as their crusader counterparts. In fact, however, Venice played the role of an intermediary between the emperor and its own fief-holders. Its officers apportioned the fiefs among Venetians and foreigners who assumed military and fiscal obligations toward the doge and swore fealty to him; its chief representative in the empire, the podest`a serving in Constantinople, was responsible for the collective discharge of the military service owed by the fief-holders; and, finally, the Venetians retained a separate military contingent under Venice’s own command. On the other hand, Venice maintained exclusive control over other components of its portion of the empire and exercised its authority over those holding property in it. Its decisive contribution to the crusade and the conquest of Constantinople, as well as its separate military contingent, made Venice a political heavyweight with respect to the emperor, establishing virtual parity with the crusader barons in the early years of the Latin empire. In that formative political stage Venetian representatives participated in various governing bodies, whose decisions affected political, territorial, institutional and judicial developments. The combination of subordination and parity in Venice’s position was extended and amplified on a symbolic level by its podest`a. These Venetian officials used titles and regalian elements borrowed from Byzantium alongside those utilised by the emperors themselves, in order to project a quasi-imperial standing both inside and outside the empire. The great distance from Venice, and political expediency, explain the diplomatic initiative shown by several podest`a up to the 1230s. It is clear, though, that their policies conformed with the interests of the city of Venice and were closely aligned with it. There are no grounds, therefore, for assuming that the podest`a adopted an autonomous political course or attempted to bolster their own status at the expense of the Venetian doges. Soon after Baldwin I was proclaimed emperor, Venice obtained the election of a Venetian as patriarch of Constantinople, in accordance with the treaty of March 1204. However, Tommaso Morosini considered himself a representative of Pope Innocent III (1198–16), rather than a Venetian citizen promoting Venice’s interests in the Latin empire, which explains his tense relations with the Venetian podest`a. The patriarchs controlled property yielding substantial revenue in the City. Venice also took advantage of its major role as a maritime and commercial power. On several occasions Venetian ships helped the emperors in the defence of Constantinople; her subjects played a dominant role in the City’s trade; and her quarter there – substantially enlarged in 1204 – was the hub of commercial activity, attracting both Venetian and foreign settlers. Venetian settlers were also established at Raidestos and Gallipoli, ports of call on the Dardanelles belonging to Venice and administered by its representatives until 1235, when they were occupied by John III Vatatzes. In order to reinforce its position in the empire Venice increased the number of its subjects by grantingVenetian nationality to Latin foreigners among her fiefholders, Latin city-dwellers, Greeks and descendants of mixed Venetian– Greek parentage known as gasmouloi.5 The principality of Achaia, the third major Frankish state of Latin Romania, survived the Latin empire by some 170 years. It took Geoffrey I of Villehardouin and his sons Geoffrey II of Villehardouin (c. 1226/31–46) andWilliam II of Villehardouin (1246–78) until 1248 to conquer the entire Peloponnese, except for the Venetian enclaves of Modon and Coron in southern Messenia. After the fall of the kingdom of Thessaloniki in 1224 the other Frankish lords established in Romania rallied around Geoffrey I of Villehardouin. From 1236 the counts of Cephalonia recognised the suzerainty of the princes of Achaia. In return for his promise of help, in 1248 William obtained lifetime suzerainty over all but four of the Aegean islands from Baldwin II, an ascendancy which in fact persisted into the fourteenth century. Some years laterWilliam II of Villehardouin would assert his new position. In 1209 the lord of Euboea, already a vassal of Boniface ofMontferrat, had also acknowledged the suzerainty of Venice, yet the agreement was only ratified in 1211. His successors in the three main lordships of Euboea followed suit. This enabled Venice to intervene in the feudal affairs of the island on several occasions, notably from 1256 to 1262, when Venice supported two of these lords who refused to recognise the overlordship of William of Villehardouin. In 1258 William defeated an ally of the rebel lords, the duke of Athens Guy I of La Roche (1225–63), who subsequently acknowledged his vassalic subordination to the prince. Eventually, in 1262, the danger of a Byzantine reconquest prompted all sides to put an end to their conflicts.6 The military might of the principality of Achaia was demonstrated on several occasions; in 1236 and again in 1238, Geoffrey II of Villehardouin came to the rescue of Constantinople with his forces, and fromMay 1249 to May 1250 his brother and successor William joined the French king Louis IX’s crusade to Egypt. However, in 1259 the troops ofMichael VIII Palaiologos, then still ruling at Nicaea, inflicted a severe defeat upon William, his vassals and allies at Pelagonia in Macedonia. For about two years the principality was governed by women in lieu of their captive husbands. After the Byzantine recovery of Constantinople in 1261 William agreed, as the price of his release, to cede three important strongholds in the south-eastern Peloponnese to Michael VIII; among them was Monemvasia, which had remained in Frankish hands for only around fourteen years (see also above p. 754). After regaining a foothold in the peninsula, the following year the Byzantines proceeded to expand. To counter their mounting pressure and in return for promised assistance from the new king of Sicily, Charles I of Anjou (1266–85), William II of Villehardouin agreed in the Treaty of Viterbo (1267) that after his death, the principality of Achaia and its dependencies should be transferred to the king. This move was made with the acquiescence of William’s lord, Emperor Baldwin II, who also granted Charles suzerainty over the islands of the Aegean, Corfu and all Latin possessions in Epiros. After the death ofWilliam in 1278 Charles took hold of the principality of Achaia and sent his bailiffs to govern it. In 1289 his son Charles II of Anjou (1285–1309) awarded it to William’s daughter Isabel of Villehardouin on her second marriage to Florent of Hainault, and the couple took up residence in the principality. Florent established a truce with Byzantium in the same year, yet in 1295 war again broke out. By now Byzantine rule in the Peloponnese extended from the southeastern region, recovered by Byzantium in 1262, to Kalavryta in the north, and thus covered a large portion of the peninsula. Florent’s most serious problem was the refusal of Helena, mother and regent of the young duke of Athens, Guy II of La Roche (1287–1308), to acknowledge his suzerainty. Yet after coming of age in 1296, the duke did homage to Isabel and Florent. A stronger alliance between the two parties was established in 1299 when Isabel betrothed her little daughter Matilda (Mahaut) of Hainault to Guy. In 1294 Charles II of Anjou assigned all his eastern dependencies to his son Philip of Taranto, who thus became immediate overlord of Frankish Greece. In 1301 the widowed Isabel of Villehardouin married the count of Piedmont, Philip of Savoy (1301–7), who shortly after arriving in the principality aroused the opposition of various barons and knights with his infringements of Achaian feudal custom. The next year Philip put down a revolt of the indigenous population in the mountainous Skorta region, prompted by new taxes, and in 1303 he campaigned in Epiros in support of Charles, yet later refused to provide further assistance. Since Philip of Savoy delayed doing homage to his immediate overlord, Philip of Taranto, in 1307 Charles declared Isabel to have forfeited her fief. Four years later, Isabel was still claiming her rights and those of her daughter Matilda (Mahaut), but to no effect: Philip of Taranto (1307–13) had definitively become prince of Achaia.

 

 

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