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8-08-2015, 00:24

Latin settlement in romania: law, institutions and socie

The establishment of Latin rule over extensive portions of Romania opened the way to western immigration and settlement in these territories on a scale much larger than before 1204. With the exception of the Venetians, the new Latin settlers initially came from the ranks of the conquerors, many of whom were knights. The Latin population was gradually reinforced in numbers and became more diversified, the majority of the newcomers hailing from Italian cities. However, our lack of adequate quantitative data makes it impossible to assess the extent of Latin immigration. About 1225 some 450 mounted warriors were dispersed throughout the principality of Achaia, yet it is not clear how many of them lived there with wives and children. In 1210Othon of La Roche (1204–25), duke of Athens, mentioned localities in which only twelve Latins resided, a reference to feudal lords and their retinues settled in isolated mountain castles or fortified rural mansions. Some of these lords occasionally resided in the houses they owned in cities. Most Latins, however, whether knights or commoners, tended to live permanently in an urban centre, preferably protected by walls, or inside an acropolis, regardless of their previous lifestyle or occupations. Such was the case, for instance, with the crusader knights and Venetian fief-holders in theGallipoli peninsula.To some extent this marked preference of the Latins for urban settlement in Romania derived from economic considerations, in particular those of merchants and craftsmen. Yet it also arose from the psychological urge of a minority group for security, keenly aware of its isolation amidst an overwhelmingly Greek population. The largest Latin concentration in the conquered territories outside the Venetian colonial empire occurred in Constantinople between 1204 and 1261. The major economic role of the City, aswell asVenice’s improved position and extended quarter there, attracted primarily Venetian immigrants. In Frankish Achaia the establishment of the princely court at Andravida prompted further settlement in this locality and contributed to its urban development. Italian bankers and merchants took up temporary or permanent residence at Clarence, the port founded near Andravida in the first half of the thirteenth century, and turned it into an economic centre connecting the principality of Achaia with the kingdom of Sicily and Venice.However, Latin migration in Romania did not always result in permanent settlement. Some of those established in Latin Romania left after a while for other destinations. After the establishment of the Latin empire, knights whose pay was in arrears or who were dissatisfied with their living conditions either returned to the west or left the emperor’s service to fight in his neighbours’ armies. In addition, some Venetians who had kept up close ties with their kin in Venice, and retained property there, returned home after spending many years in Constantinople or other cities. The Byzantine recovery of the imperial capital in 1261 triggered an exodus of some 3,000 Latins, the majority of whom were undoubtedly Venetian settlers.7 As already noted, the conquering knights transplanted their own political organisation and social regime to Romania, except in the Venetian portion of the Latin empire. Yet their encounter with the local population required significant accommodations. As in the west, the society of the territories they settled became highly stratified, with a clear distinction between the upper, knightly class and the other strata of society. This distinction was bolstered by the knights’ strong class consciousness – expressed in the ceremony of dubbing – and their particular values, lifestyle, mentality and culture. Yet even within this Frankish elite there was pronounced social differentiation. Vassalage and the holding of fiefs entailing military service provided the backbone of the social and political hierarchy, yet only higherand middle-ranking noblemen exercised judicial and legislative authority and rights of taxation. The stratified nature of the feudal hierarchy is best known from the principality of Achaia. The barons, one of whom was the Latin archbishop of Patras, enjoyed a strong position, participating in the decisive deliberations of the princely court, and exercising high justice. Among the other tenantsin- chief of the prince, from the second half of the thirteenth century we find some Italian bankers and merchants to whom the princes had granted knighthood and fiefdoms in return for financial assistance. There were several ranks of feudatories below the direct vassals of the prince. The lowest rank included those individuals who were not members of the knightly class: sergeants, owing mounted military service in return for land or a payment, and archontes, members of the local elite (see below, pp. 772–3).8 Our knowledge of thirteenth-century feudal custom in Frankish Achaia derives mainly from a private legal treatise, known as the Assizes of Romania. This compilation was completed between 1333 and 1346 in French, the language of the Frankish knights, yet survives in a Venetian translation presumably prepared in Negroponte in the late fourteenth century.9 Achaian feudal custom developed from a mixture of imported and local elements. The conquerors and their successors borrowed principles, rules and formulations from their lands of origin, among them Champagne, as well as from the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, where the Frankish kings and nobility faced many similar problems to their own. Traces of the feudal custom from the kingdom of Sicily also appeared after 1278, when the principality came under Charles I of Anjou’s rule. The determining factors in the development of the legal system, though, were legislative acts and judicial precedents established by the princely court of Achaia, registering the dynamics of Frankish problem-solving. Within this framework, the feudal custom of the principality had one novel feature: it incorporated elements of Byzantine law relating to the patrimonial lands held by Greeks and to the status of dependent peasants. The Assizes confirm the strong legal and political position of the prince, reflecting both the tensions which occasionally arose between him and his barons, and the barons’ cooperation with the princely court, for which we also have evidence from other sources. The Assizes deal extensively with matters of vassalage, fiefdoms, the military service they owed, and with the rights of lords over their peasants, but only marginally with non-feudal holdings, commercial cases and the drafting of wills. The extension of Achaian suzerainty over most islands of the Aegean in 1248 resulted in greater involvement by their Frankish lords, like the dukes of Athens and marquises of Bodonitsa, in the political, military and above all the feudal life of the principality. The collapse of the Latin empire in 1261 increased this involvement – which continued after 1278 under the bailiffs appointed by Charles I of Anjou and the princes ruling the principality directly – spreading Achaian feudal customs throughout the territories subject to the suzerainty of the Frankish princes.10 Representatives of Venice served as baili in the city of Negroponte (presently Chalkis) from 1211, dealing with judicial cases involving Venetians and their assets on the island. Their jurisdiction increasingly extended to feudal matters, drawing on Achaian custom. In 1262 the island’s overlord, William II of Villehardouin, checked their interference in that field (see above, p. 767), and Venice refrained from exercising feudal jurisdiction in Euboea for the next half century or so; however, some Venetian lords in the Aegean continued to submit feudal cases to the Venetian baili in Negroponte. This jurisdiction stimulated Venice’s interest in the use and preservation of Achaian feudal custom and induced her to sanction a Venetian version of the Assizes in 1452; this version acquired legal force throughoutVenice’s colonial empire, save inCrete. The reliance on Achaian custom contributed decisively to the piecemeal extension of Venetian lordship over Frankish Negroponte and some neighbouring islands, a process completed in 1390.11 Venice also used other means gradually to undermine the authority of the lords of Euboea in the city of Negroponte.12 As a result of Latin settlement, society in the Latin territories of Romania, other than those ruled by Venice, was divided into two distinct groups. While religious affiliation was not of major importance in daily life, it constituted a criterion of basic social stratification and individual identity. The Latins belonging to the Roman church enjoyed the superior status of freemen – Francus or Frank being synonymous with both Latin and freeman – while the local society remaining faithful to the Greek church was collectively debased. Two factors drove this important change in local, formerly Byzantine society. Firstly, the conquering knights projected their own concept of a rigidly stratified society onto it, translating Byzantine social realities into legal terms. Secondly, since the abstract concept of statehood upheld in Byzantium was alien to them, all the prerogatives and functions of the imperial government, which had retained their public nature in the empire, were transferred into the hands of feudal lords. This again was in accordance with the legal system prevailing in western feudal society at that time. The overall privatisation and decentralisation of state authority in judicial and fiscal matters, the twin features of feudalisation in Latin Romania (except in Venetian-ruled territories) arrested social trends in Greek society and had a direct bearing on the status of its members. Before 1204 the basic social and legal distinction within Byzantine society had been between free individuals and slaves. Social as well as economic differentiation among freemen was not expressed in legal terms, and they were all subject to the same imperial laws and courts. The Byzantine elite – the archontes, great landlords, high- and middle-ranking imperial officials and imperial dignitaries, mostly living in cities – thus lacked a legal definition. The Frankish knights, however, considered them members of a well-defined socio-legal class, similar to their own yet not equal. The knights’ status was hereditary, subject to a legal system different from that governing the bulk of the indigenous population. With the breakdown of Byzantine imperial government in the years just before and particularly those following the Latin conquest of Constantinople, the archontes in many areas of Romania assumed control over the local population. By and large, those who negotiated the submission of the cities and territories under their control were allowed to keep all or portions of their patrimonial estates and the dependent peasants living in them. In the duchy of Naxos the small number of Latin settlers prompted the conqueror,Marco I Sanudo, to adopt a conciliatory attitude toward the Greeks, integrating archontes among his feudatories. In Frankish Achaia the converging interests of the Frankish knightly class and the archontes, more numerous than elsewhere, led to the archontes and other Greeks being gradually absorbed into the ranks of the feudatories who owed simple homage, the lowest stratum in the Frankish feudal hierarchy. This legal integration did not affect the status ofGreek patrimonial estates, which remained hereditary andwere governed byByzantine law, as before the Latin conquest. Fromthe mid-thirteenth century, especially after the return ofByzantium to the Peloponnese in 1262, the Frankish leaders’ concern to ensure the loyalty, cooperation and military service of the archontes led the Franks to grant them fiefdoms under feudal custom, thus furthering their social rise. They even dubbed some archontes to knighthood, a status that became hereditary. In most cases, however, this social process did not induce the Greeks to adopt the westerners’ creed, nor did it make the Latin knights less reluctant to intermarry with them. The limits of the legal and social assimilation achieved by the archonteswere also illustrated by the persistence of a cultural gap between the two groups. The archontes’ social promotion enhanced their status within their own traditional community, yet deprived that community of an elite willing to oppose Latin rule.13 As noted above, the entire local population underwent a process of debasement as a result of the conquest. Except for the archontes, all Greeks sank into a state of dependency, since in principle they became paroikoi or dependent individuals, regardless of their personal status or place of residence before 1204. The Assizes of Romania distinguish between only two categories of Greeks, archontes and paroikoi, the latter also called villani by the Latins. In practice, however, the situation was more complex and a distinction apparently existed between local urban and rural populations. Political expediency accounts forGreek autonomy in Adrianople, held since 1206 by the Greek arch¯on Theodore Branas under Venetian lordship. And we may safely assume that the Greek court operating with Latin consent in Thessaloniki in 1213 upheld the rules of Byzantine law regarding the paroikoi and their assets, as distinct from those of non-dependent city-dwellers.14 However, continuity in the use of the Byzantine term paroikos conceals a major change in the legal status and social condition of theGreeks to whom it was applied. Under Byzantine rule, paroikoi were peasants considered legally free. As such they had access to imperial courts, although they were attached either to the imperial fisc, to an ecclesiastical institution or to an individual lord, and were subject to important personal restrictions. With the privatisation of governmental authority under Latin rule paroikoi were deemed legally unfree, like dependent serfs or villeins in the west; they were therefore members of a legal class from which they could escape only by a formal act of emancipation. The presumption of dependence was so strong that free status had to be duly proven by Greeks who enjoyed it, preferably with the help of documents, if doubts arose. The subjection of the paroikos or villein to his lord was far more rigorous than it had been in the Byzantine period. He was considered a mere chattel and tied to the estate of his lord, who wielded almost unlimited authority over him, except for criminal justice which was reserved for competent courts. The legal capacity of the paroikoi in their handling of landed property and goods was also far more restricted than in the Byzantine period. Cases of manumission appear to have been rare. Paradoxically, in the absence of Byzantine imperial authority this whole process also adversely affected those dependent peasants who were subject to archontes and Greek ecclesiastical institutions. Even lower down the social scale than villeins were the slaves, whose numbers grew as a result of the frequent warfare and piracy in Romania. Many slaves were exported to the west or to Muslim countries. In the portion of the Latin empire under its direct rule, Venice adopted the principles and policies of the Frankish knights vis-`a-vis the social stratification of Greek society and the privatisation of taxation owed by the peasantry, while maintaining state control over the property and rights it granted out. Moreover, Venice strictly upheld the public nature of Byzantine judicial and fiscal authority as exclusive state prerogatives.15

 

 

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