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8-08-2015, 00:36

The phases of western expansion

By the beginning of the fourteenth century, Genoa and Venice were emerging from over four years of conflict, provoked by the Venetians, but which ended with their defeat near the island of Curzola (Korˇcula) in September 1298. During the war, Andronikos II had sided wholeheartedly with the Genoese, only to be abandoned by them when the Genoese concluded their own peace with the Venetians with the treaty ofMilan (25 September 1299). This treaty established their respective spheres of influence. During the war Venice had finally halted Michael VIII’s Byzantine reconquest of the Aegean, adding a few islands to its existing possessions.Henceforth, Venetian authority extended firmly over Crete, the partly reconquered Cyclades, Coron and Modon in southern Messenia, and Negroponte (shared with three Latin lords, the terciers or terzieri in Italian). Venice retained considerable influence in the principality of Achaia (Morea), which Charles II of Anjou (1285–1309) had recently taken from Isabel of Villehardouin and put under the authority of his own son, Philip of Taranto (see above, p. 768). The Venetians enjoyed complete freedom to trade in the Morea and established themselves in its main ports, Clarence and Patras. The Genoese had gained the rich alum pits of Phokaia on the coast of Asia Minor in the 1260s (see also above, p. 757). In 1304 their admiral Benedetto Zaccaria seized Chios, to protect his trade, and succeeded in securing recognition of the occupation of the island from the basileus. At the same time, the Catalan Company, mercenaries rashly summoned by Andronikos II against the Turks and left without pay from the imperial treasury (see above, pp. 809, 811), extended their influence across the Aegean; they ravaged Thrace and thenMacedonia, before going on to conquer in 1311 the duchy of Athens, where they remained until 1388. As for the Angevins, they tried to resist the Greek despots of the Morea and began to favour a degree of Italianisation in the principality of Achaia at the expense of the French element which had predominated under the Villehardouins.3 The first half of the fourteenth century, at least until 1348, saw all parties consolidate their positions. Venice refused to participate in Charles de Valois’ plans for the reconquest of Constantinople and drew closer to Byzantium; a new agreement concluded in 1324 compensated Charles for the losses he had suffered. Five years earlier, a treaty had been signed between Venice and the Catalans, who had been threatening the Venetians’ measures to strengthen their authority over the terciers in Negroponte. Venice did not succeed in fully subduing the Cretan revolts of 1332 and 1341, which were provoked by the excessive demands and levies of the local dominante. Above all, Venice engaged in the struggle against the Turks, with whom the Catalans had no hesitation in allying: the Venetians played a major part in the Christian union of 1332, the naval league of 1344–5 and the dauphin Humbert II de Viennois’ crusade in 1345. In Greece, the Catalans strengthened the duchy of Athens under the control of their vicargeneral Alfonso Fadrique (1318–30), seizing Neopatras and Siderokastron, and halting Walter of Brienne’s attempt to recover his dukedom. But in 1315–16, the infante Ferrante of Majorca failed in his bid to exploit his rights over the principality of Achaia, which passed from John of Gravina’s authority to that of Robert of Taranto. The latter’s mother was Catherine de Valois, titular Latin empress of Constantinople, who granted substantial land concessions in the principality to the Florentine banking family of the Acciaiuoli, in compensation for their loans to her. The fate of the Genoese possessions was more unsettled. Since Martino Zaccaria refused to recognise Byzantine sovereignty over his Aegean possessions, Andronikos III Palaiologos (1328–41) drove him out of Chios in 1329 and Phokaia in 1340, which both returned to the Byzantine empire for a while. But in 1346, exploiting the weak regency of Anne of Savoy andHumbert de Viennois’ hesitant leadership of his eastern crusade, the Genoese fleet of Simone Vignoso recaptured Chios and then Phokaia, installing a government of the mahona there; this would last for two centuries and was made up of the shipowners who had financed the expedition. In February 1347 an agreement was signed between the Genoese commune and the shipowners, clearly outlining each party’s rights on Chios.4 This brilliant feat of reconquest, together with Genoese attempts to control traffic to Constantinople and the Black Sea, sparked off the war of the Straits (1351–5) pitching Genoa against a coalition of Venice, the Catalans and the Byzantine empire. The battle of the Bosporus – a hardfought victory for Genoa in February 1352 – was offset by Venetian success at Alghero (see above, p. 821). The Visconti were instrumental in the peace negotiations concluded at Milan in 1355, whereby the two republics agreed to stop attacking one another; they also agreed that for the next three years neither would send fleets to Tana, the key trading point on the Sea of Azov. The only major effect of this conflict in the Aegean was to enable the Turks to take Gallipoli and reach the gates of Byzantium. In 1355, through the friendship of John V Palaiologos (1341–91), the Genoese Gattilusio family obtained the concession of the island of Lesbos, and then in the early fifteenth century several islands in the northern Aegean. Thereafter, a key objective for the Venetians was to maintain free passage through the Straits to the Black Sea. Although they gained from the basileus the concession of Tenedos at the mouth of the Dardanelles, their occupation of the island in 1376 triggered fresh hostilities with Genoa, the so-called ‘war of Chioggia’ (see above, p. 827). Essentially an Adriatic conflict, like the previous wars this ended in a stalemate with the treaty of Turin in August 1381. These rivalries prevented any effective Christian union against the Turks, whose progress in the Aegean was inexorable; they raided the Peloponnesian coast incessantly, and captured Thessaloniki in 1387, taking Neopatras and Salona in 1394. They also blockaded Constantinople, and although pressure on the City was relieved by Boucicaut’s expeditionary force, it was only the Turks’ crushing defeat at the hands of Timur in 1402 that broke the siege (see above, p. 832 and below, p. 852). To meet these pressing dangers, Venice strove to strengthen Graeco-Latin Romania through a policy of annexation. It purchased Nauplion and Argos in 1388 from Marie of Enghien, widow of Pietro Corner and heiress to these lordships, and tightened its control over Negroponte and the Cyclades. The Venetians also enlarged their territory of Coron and Modon in Messenia, took over temporary administration of Patras, and finally offered direct, if ill-fated, aid to the Latin crusaders at Nikopolis in 1396. Crete was their one weak point. The island revolted again from 1363 to 1367, under the leadership of the Venetian fief-holders Gradenigo and Venier, in league with Cretan archontes such as John Kalergis. The rebellion was against the weight of taxation imposed by the Dominante and its rejection of any debate on the matter with a Cretan deputation. An army of mercenaries sent from Venice suppressed the rebellion with ferocious reprisals. Overall, Venice succeeded in holding her possessions together and protecting them from the Turkish advance, even though it may have aroused the hostility of the Greeks or the petty Latin lords of the Peloponnese.5 There were profound changes in mainland Greece in the second half of the fourteenth century. In 1348, when theGreek despotate of theMorea was being established, Stefan Duˇsan (1331–55) annexed Thessaly and Epiros to his Serb dominions.Great Latin lordships were created:Niccol`o Acciaiuoli, grand seneschal of the kingdom of Sicily, was the largest fief-holder of the non-Greek part of the Morea with lands in Messenia, Elis and Corinthia, while his cousin Giovanni was archbishop of Patras from 1360 to 1365. On Niccol`o’s death, his cousin Nerio inherited part of his Moreot possessions, lost them to the Navarrese Company, but took Megara from the Catalans; most importantly, his acquisition of Athens in 1388 brought eight decades of Catalan occupation to an end. The Tocchi ruled Leucas, Cephalonia and Zante and sought to seize Corinth on the death of Nerio Acciaiuoli in 1394. Finally, we cannot ignore the remarkable good fortune of theGenoese Zaccaria family, heirs ofMartino, the former master of Chios. Centurione I Zaccaria was grand constable and served three times as bailo of the Morea. After the death of Peter of San Superan, head of the Catalan Company and self-styled prince of Achaia from 1396 to 1402, Centurione I’s grandson Centurione II dispossessed San Superan’s heirs and became the last Latin prince ofAchaia from1404 to 1432. Centurione was, in turn, dispossessed by his son-in-law, the Byzantine despot of theMorea, Theodore II Palaiologos (1407–43).6 Thus through these successive dispossessions the principality passed from Angevin toNavarrese dominion, ending up in the hands of the last scion of an old Genoese family, before reverting to Byzantine control. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the Aegean was thus divided between several Latin powers, which were gradually eroded by the advancing Turks and the Byzantine despotate of theMorea. The Venetians organised their possessions into several regimina. These included Candia, covering Crete and the island of Cerigo; Negroponte, extending over the island of Euboea, Skyros and the Northern Sporades, and Bodonitsa on the coast of Thessaly; Corfu, comprising the island itself, which had been annexed in 1387, Butrint in Epiros and Naupaktos on the Gulf of Patras; Nauplion and Argos, which encompassed the island of Aegina; and finally Coron and Modon, incorporating the island of Sapienza. Venice also extended her protectorate over the Cyclades, administering Tenos and Mykonos directly, and had several trading posts outside her own territory, such as Thessaloniki in Macedonia, and Ephesos and Miletos on the coast of Asia Minor. Since 1309 Rhodes had been in the hands of the Knights Hospitaller, who for two centuries provided a strong Christian bulwark against the Turks; the island served as a staging-post on the shipping routes to Cyprus and Syria. The Genoese domain was more limited: Chios, Samos and Old and New Phokaia were held by the mahona; there was a Genoese trading post at Ephesos; and Lesbos, Lemnos, Thasos, Imbros, Samothrace and Ainos were held by members of the Gattilusio family, but without strong ties to Genoa. Thessaloniki came under Venetian protection from 1422 to 1430, while the duchy of Athens was in the hands of Antonio Acciaiuoli from 1403 to 1435, and Centurione II Zaccaria held sway over theMorea from 1404 to 1432, although this was gradually reconquered by the Byzantine despotate. Latin commerce developed within this territorial framework, but also in the Byzantine and Turkish domains. The Latins came to dominate the whole of the Aegean and the Balkans, and some of their towers and fortifications mark the landscape to this day. Long-distance trade was encouraged by the concession of privileges, which sometimes legalised earlier capture. Venice had obtained complete freedom to trade in Byzantine territories in 1082. Under the agreement made in 1209 withWilliam of Champlitte, Venice secured full ownership of Coron and Modon, possession being confirmed by the treaties concluded in 1268 and 1277 with Michael VIII Palaiologos. In the principality of Achaia, Venice had also enjoyed privileges since the settlement of the Franks in the early thirteenth century. Finally, in 1394 an agreement with Theodore I Palaiologos (1380/1–1407), despot of the Morea, restored the Venetians’ customary freedom to trade in the despotate. Theywere thus able to develop their trading activities throughout the Aegean hindered only by the daily harassment of the tax collectors and agents of the Byzantine fisc. These officials were ready to challenge imperial concessions, especially concerning the export of wheat, which often prompted lengthy negotiations. From1261, theGenoese also enjoyed total exemption from the Byzantine kommerkion; however, they had to wait for the treaties of 1304 and 1317, concluded with Andronikos II, before they could freely export wheat produced in the empire. John VI Kantakouzenos’ (1347–54) attempts to free himself of Genoese economic domination were short-lived: the so-called ‘Latin war’ (August 1348 – March 1349) was disastrous for the Byzantines. The Pisans also obtained exemption from all customs dues during the reign of Michael VIII. This was not the case with the other Latin nations: although the Catalans managed to reduce their tax paid from three to two per cent in 1320, they never won total exemption. TheNarbonnais paid a tax of four per cent throughout the fourteenth century, and the Anconitans two per cent. The Florentines had to wait until 1422 to benefit from reduction of the kommerkion by half and the people of Dubrovnik until 1451 to see their duties reduced to two per cent. Despite these variations, the Latins were generally better placed than the Greeks, who had to pay the kommerkion at the full rate. This was one of the reasons for Latin supremacy over their Byzantine counterparts.7 The second pillar of western trade was the network of colonies and trading posts with permanently settled Latin populations. This emigration naturally extended the vast inurbamento movement whereby the Italian mercantile republics drew from their surrounding countryside (contado) the human resources necessary for their economic development. We shall leave aside the Cyclades, where the Venetians were no more than a handful of conquering families: onNaxos, the Sanudo and then the Crispo families; on Karpathos, the Corner (Cornaro) family; the Ghisi on Tenos,Mykonos and Amorgos; on Cerigo, the Venier family and on Santorini, the Barozzi. Similarly, in ports of call such as Coron and Modon, the permanent Latin population was insignificant compared with passing merchants and jobseeking sailors. The Latin population must be evaluated quite differently in territories of some substance. For fourteenth-century Negroponte it would be difficult to put the Latins at a figure of more than 2–3,000, out of a total estimated population of 40,000. In Crete the earliest extant census dating from 1576–7 mentions only 407 Venetian families settled in the cavalerie, but takes no account of the Latin bourgeois in the towns. It seems reasonable to put the number of Venetians on the island at several thousand – 10,000 according to Thiriet, 2,500 according to Jacoby. They divided into fief-holders: sergenterie for non-nobles, cavalerie for noble Venetians, and bourgeois in the towns. Among these fief-holders were the greatest names of the Venetian aristocracy: Dandolo, Gradenigo, Morosini, Venier, Corner and Soranzo. They were subject to heavy levies for the defence and exploitation of their domains, but their common aim was to maximise production from their lands and to secure free trade in cereals from the Dominante. The Venetian bourgeois of Crete practised crafts or professions in the towns and shared above all in the profits of long-distance trade.8 Estimates for theGenoese possessions in the Aegean are just as uncertain. The Gattilusio family admittedly only attracted a handful of fellow citizens at Lesbos, in the northern Aegean, which they occupied at the beginning of the fifteenth century. While dominant at Chios, the Zaccaria had only a few companions and a garrison of 800 soldiers.Under the administration of the mahona, a report addressed to the doge of Genoa in 1395 by the podest`a Niccol`o Fatinanti makes it possible to estimate the Latin population at nearly 400 families, i.e. about 2,000 individuals. Among them, the mahonesi themselves emerge as the most active participants in long-distance trade; they enjoyed a monopoly on the sale of alum and mastic, the chief products of Phokaia and Chios.9 Were the Latins settled in the trading posts and colonies of theAegean the sole actors in economic life?Orwere theGreeks and Jews fromtheByzantine empire associated with them in trading activities? Looking at the only official texts – the deliberations of the senate and otherVenetian assemblies – one might conclude that the Venetians monopolised trade between the city and its colonies in Romania, with their subject populations only minimally involved in local and regional trade, and with profits going exclusively to the citizens of Venice and her fleet. But new evidence is coming to light to challenge Thiriet’s rigid segregation of Venetian colonial society. The study of Cretan notarial acts of the fourteenth century currently underway shows that many associations were formed between Latins, Greeks and Jews for long-distance trading. The fact that Venetian fief-holders and Byzantine archontes were the ringleaders of the great Cretan revolt of 1363 suggests some community of interests between the various ethnic elites. On Chios, some Greeks and Jews played an equal role with Latins in long-distance trade: Antonius Argenti, Rabbi Elias andMaster Elixeus all invested capital in societates with Latins, participating in maritime insurance or the transport of cereals, as well as local trade and the provisioning of small ships between the island and the mainland nearby. In this sense, the increase in maritime and mercantile activities in Latin Romania undoubtedly had an impact on the native elite.10 However, the Latins controlled the main naval commissioning and navigational organisation. At Venice, the senate strictly regulated the system of mudae: the dates of bids and galley sailings, ports of call, merchandise to be loaded and the size of the crews. The system even covered the traffic of unarmed vessels bringing home surplus merchandise. The mudae of Cyprus, Syria and Alexandria paid compulsory visits to Modon and Candia, while the mudae of Romania necessarily put into port inMessenia and Negroponte. The Cyprus muda was suppressed in 1373, when the Genoese took Famagusta and wanted to enforce a trading monopoly to benefit the port. On the Genoese side, organisation was laxer: only in 1330 were galleys banned by the officium Gazarie from sailing alone for the Levant beyond Sicily. There was no regular convoy, but it was made mandatory for the owners of galleys to sail together (in conserva), so as to minimise the risks to precious commodities in transit. There are indications that the Genoese sent two convoys a year to Romania before 1350; thereafter it was reduced to one. But Genoa never managed to establish a system of bids comparable to that of the incanti at Venice, often leaving it in private hands. The Catalans did not organise regular convoys to the east before the end of the fourteenth century. Besides these regular sailings, unarmed ships would trade along the Aegean coasts; the Venetians put in at Negroponte and Thessaloniki, also at Ephesos andMiletos, while theGenoese shipped great quantities of alum from Phokaia and Chios to Flanders. Private shipments, less well-known than the convoys, should not be underestimated.11 As in the west, Latin trade in the Aegean was based on contracts drawn up in the presence of a notary; merchants were bound together for a voyage or longer periods by colleganze and commende, societates and contracts of exchange, maritime insurances and procurements. The Venetian notarial deeds from Crete, Coron and Modon, and those of the Genoese notaries of Chios, were no different from those drawn up at Genoa or Venice. The function of these contracts was to raise the necessary capital, insure the ships and cargos and create interdependencies that protected the rights of absent parties. Of particular note are the contracts defining the terms on which the mahonesi could exercise their monopoly on the sale of mastic: they divided the production to be sold in the three great geographical zones shared between the Giustiniani families, who made up the mahona.12 Taken as a whole, these contracts show how diverse were the social origins and class of those involved in the mercantile economy. Although most merchants in theVenetian colonies came from the coasts of the Lagoon, and those of the Genoese trading posts from Liguria, these documents reveal many other traders at work. Catalans, men of Languedoc and Provence, Pisans, Florentines, Lombards and Anconitans, men from southern Italy andDubrovnik and former refugees from Syria-Palestine were also involved in long-distance trade, either on their own or in association with representatives of the two great Italian maritime republics. The Aegean was truly a ‘free trade community’ – one where rivalries could develop, but also where individual potential could be fulfilled, given capital, opportunity and a spirit of enterprise.