The Despotate of the Morea (Greek: Δεσποτᾶτον τοῦ Μορέως) or Despotate of Mystras (Greek: Δεσποτᾶτον τοῦ Μυστρᾶ) was a province of the Byzantine Empire which existed between the mid-14th and mid-15th centuries. Its territory varied in size during its existence but eventually grew to include almost all the southern Greek peninsula known as the Peloponnese, which was known as the Morea during the medieval and early modern periods. The territory was usually ruled by one or more sons of the current Byzantine emperor, who were given the title of despotes (in this context it should not be confused with despotism). Its capital was the fortified city of Mystras, near ancient Sparta, which became an important centre of the Palaiologan Renaissance.
Despotate of the Morea
Δεσποτᾶτον τοῦ Μορέως
Seal of Demetrios Palaiologos as Despot of the Morea
|Status||Semi-autonomous appanage of the Byzantine Empire|
|Capital||Mystras (with Glarentza after 1428)|
|Common languages||Medieval Greek|
|Religion||Eastern Orthodox Church|
|Despot of Morea|
|Historical era||Late Medieval|
|31 May 1460|
|Today part of||Greece|
The Despotate of the Morea was created out of territory seized from the Frankish Principality of Achaea. This had been organized from former Byzantine territory after the Fourth Crusade (1204). In 1259, the Principality's ruler William II Villehardouin lost the Battle of Pelagonia against the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus. William was forced to ransom himself by surrendering most of the eastern part of Morea and his newly built strongholds. The surrendered territory became the nucleus of the Despotate of Morea.
A later Byzantine emperor, John VI Kantakouzenos, reorganized the territory in 1349 to establish it as an appanage for his son, the Despot Manuel Kantakouzenos. The rival Palaiologos dynasty seized the Morea after Manuel's death in 1380, with Theodore I Palaiologos becoming despot in 1383. Theodore ruled until 1407, consolidating Byzantine rule and coming to terms with his more powerful neighbours—particularly the expansionist Ottoman Empire, whose suzerainty he recognised. He also sought to reinvigorate the local economy by inviting Albanians to settle in the territory.
Subsequent despots were the sons of the Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos, brother of the despot Theodore: Constantine, Demetrios, and Thomas. As Latin power in the Peloponnese waned during the 15th century, the Despotate of the Morea expanded to incorporate the entire peninsula in 1430 with territory being acquired by dowry settlements, and the conquest of Patras by Constantine. However, in 1446 the Ottoman Sultan Murad II destroyed the Byzantine defences—the Hexamilion wall at the Isthmus of Corinth. His attack opened the peninsula to invasion, though Murad died before he could exploit this. His successor Mehmed II "the Conqueror" captured the Byzantine capital Constantinople in 1453. The despots, Demetrios Palaiologos and Thomas Palaiologos, brothers of the last emperor, failed to send him any aid, as Morea was recovering from a recent Ottoman attack. Their own incompetence resulted in an Albanian–Greek revolt against them, during which they invited in Ottoman troops to help them put down the revolt. At this time, a number of influential Moreote Greeks and Albanians made private peace with Mehmed. After more years of incompetent rule by the despots, their failure to pay their annual tribute to the Sultan, and finally their own revolt against Ottoman rule, Mehmed came into the Morea in May 1460. Demetrios ended up a prisoner of the Ottomans and his younger brother Thomas fled. By the end of the summer the Ottomans had achieved the submission of virtually all cities possessed by the Greeks.
A few holdouts remained for a time. The rocky peninsula of Monemvasia refused to surrender and it was first ruled for a brief time by a Catalan corsair. When the population drove him out they obtained the consent of Thomas to submit to the Pope's protection before the end of 1460. The Mani Peninsula, on the Morea's south end, resisted under a loose coalition of the local clans and then that area came under Venice's rule. The very last holdout was Salmeniko, in the Morea's northwest. Graitzas Palaiologos was the military commander there, stationed at Salmeniko Castle (also known as Castle Orgia). While the town eventually surrendered, Graitzas and his garrison and some town residents held out in the castle until July 1461, when they escaped and reached Venetian territory. Thus ended the last of the Byzantine Empire proper.
After 1461 the only non-Ottoman territories were possessed by Venice: the port cities of Modon and Koroni at the southern end of the Morea, the Argolid with Argos, and the port of Nafplion. Monemvasia subsequently surrendered itself to Venice at the beginning of the 1463–1479 Ottoman-Venetian war.
Alexios Laskaris Philanthropenos (Greek: Ἀλέξιος Λάσκαρις Φιλανθρωπηνός; fl. 1429–1449) was a senior Byzantine official and governor in the Despotate of the Morea during the last decades of the Empire's existence.
He first appears in 1429, as governor (kephale) of Vostitza (modern Aigio), taking part in the siege of Patras by the Despot of the Morea (and later last Byzantine Emperor) Constantine Palaiologos. An opponent of the Union of the Churches, he corresponded with Gennadios Scholarios and Bessarion (who composed a treatise on the procession of the Holy Spirit for him), and took part in the 1439 Council of Florence, but left it early. In 1446 he was named kephale of Patras. Constantine Palaiologos sent him to Emperor John VIII Palaiologos in Constantinople in autumn 1448 to settle a dispute with his brother Thomas Palaiologos, but before Alexios arrived at the capital, he learned that the Emperor had died. In December he set out for Mistra along with Manuel Iagaris Palaiologos to bring the news of John's death and Constantine's proclamation as Emperor and oversee his coronation (January 1449).Andronikos Asen
Andronikos Asen (? - 1322?) was the epitropos ("steward, overseer") of the Byzantine province of the Morea between 1316 and 1322.Battle of Gardiki
The Battle of Geraki took place in c. 1375 between the Latin Principality of Achaea and the Byzantine Greek Despotate of the Morea, at the fortress of Gardiki in Arcadia, southern Greece.
In 1374, Francis of San Severino was sent as the new bailli (viceroy) by the Angevin Queen of Naples, Joan, to take control over the Principality of Achaea. According to the Aragonese version of the Chronicle of the Morea, he attacked the Byzantine possessions, and laid siege to Gardiki. The Byzantine Despot of the Morea, Manuel Kantakouzenos, came to the castle's aid with a thousand cavalry and two thousand infantry. The Achaean army was considerably smaller, numbering 300 horse and 600 foot soldiers. Among its ranks, however, were a number of young men who had just been raised to knighthood—the Chronicle gives their names as Jorge and Vasili Galentini, Johan Alaman, Galiani de Baliano, and Asan and Martino, sons of the grand constable of Achaea Centurione I Zaccaria. Impetuous by nature, they led a charge against the Byzantine lines, defeating the Despot and forcing him to retire. The castle however continued to resist, and San Severino in turn was forced to raise the siege.Battle of Megara (1359)
The Battle of Megara occurred in 1359 between an alliance of the Christian states of southern Greece (the Despotate of the Morea, the Principality of Achaea, the Knights Hospitaller and the Republic of Venice), and of a Turkish raiding fleet. The battle was a victory for the allies.Battle of the Echinades (1427)
The Battle of the Echinades was fought in 1427 among the Echinades islands off western Greece between the fleets of Carlo I Tocco and the Byzantine Empire. The battle was a decisive Byzantine victory, the last in the Empire's naval history, and led to the consolidation of the Peloponnese under the Byzantine Despotate of the Morea.Catherine Zaccaria
Catherine Zaccaria or Catherine Palaiologina (Greek: Αἰκατερίνα Παλαιολογίνα; died 26 August 1462) was the daughter of the last Prince of Achaea, Centurione II Zaccaria. In September 1429 she was betrothed to the Byzantine Despot of the Morea Thomas Palaiologos, and married him in January 1430 at Mystras.She remained in the Morea as Thomas' consort (basilissa) until the Ottoman conquest in 1460, after which she fled to the Venetian-held island of Corfu. There she died on 26 August 1462, being buried in the Monastery of Jason and Sosipatros.By her marriage with Thomas, she had four children, the sons Andreas and Manuel and the daughters Helena (wife of Lazar Branković of Serbia) and Zoe (wife of Ivan III of Russia).Cleofa Malatesta
Cleofa Malatesta da Pesaro (also Cleofe, Cleopa or Cleopha) (floruit 1420 – died 1433) was an Italian noblewoman and the wife of Theodore II Palaiologos, Despot of the Morea, brother of Constantine XI, the last Byzantine emperor. She was a daughter of Malatesta dei Sonetti, Count of Pesaro, and Isabella Gonzaga. She married Theodore Palaiologos in Mystras on January 21, 1421, or sometime in 1422 in an arranged marriage that was part of an initiative of her uncle, Pope Martin V, to join Western (Roman Catholic) with Orthodox nobility, who in this way hoped to gain political alliances against the Ottoman Turks.George Palaiologos Kantakouzenos
George Palaiologos Kantakouzenos (Greek: Γεώργιος Παλαιολόγος Καντακουζηνός; ca. 1390 – 1456/59) was a Byzantine aristocrat, a member of the Kantakouzenos family, and adventurer. He is also known by the Turkish nickname Sachatai, which he earned in the service of the Despot Constantine early in his military career.Glarentza
Glarentza (Greek: Γλαρέντζα) was a medieval town located near the site of modern Kyllini in Elis, at the westernmost point of the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece. Founded in the mid-13th century by William II of Villehardouin, the town served as the main port and mint of the Frankish Principality of Achaea, being located next to the Principality's capital, Andravida. Commerce with Italy brought great prosperity, but the town began to decline in the early 15th century as the Principality itself declined. In 1428, Glarentza was ceded to the Byzantine Despotate of the Morea, and served as its co-capital, being the residence of one of the Palaiologos despots, until the Ottoman conquest in 1460. Under Ottoman rule, Glarentza declined rapidly as the commercial links with Italy were broken, and by the 16th century was abandoned and falling into ruin. Little remains of the town today: traces of the city wall, of a church and a few other buildings, as well as the silted-up harbour.Helena Palaiologina, Despotess of Serbia
Helena Palaiologina (Greek: Ελένη Παλαιολογίνα, Serbian: Јелена Палеолог/Jelena Paleolog; 1431 – 7 November 1473) was a Byzantine princess who married Serbian Despot Lazar Branković, who ruled from 1456 until his death in 1458. After Smederevo fell to the Ottoman Turks on 20 June 1459, she fled Serbia for the Greek island of Leukas, where she converted to Catholicism. She later became a nun, assuming the name of Hypomone (Хипомона, υπομονή meaning "patience" in Greek).John Eugenikos
John Eugenikos (Greek: Ἰωάννης Εὐγενικός, Constantinople, after 1394 – Laconia, after 1454/5) was a late Byzantine cleric and writer.
He was the brother of Mark Eugenikos, and like him an ardent opponent of the Union of the Churches. Originally a notary and nomophylax at the Patriarchate of Constantinople, his opposition to the Union saw him exiled to the Despotate of the Morea, where he also died. John participated briefly in the Council of Florence that ratified the Union, and also travelled to Trebizond and Mesembria.
John Eugenikos was a prolific writer, from polemical writings attacking the Union to rhetorical ekphraseis and monodies, prayers, hymns and sermons, including an ekphrasis of Trebizond and a lament on the Fall of Constantinople. 36 of his letters also survive, but most of his corpus remains unpublished.Manuel Kantakouzenos (usurper)
Manuel Kantakouzenos was a Greek rebel leader who started a revolt against the Palaiologos family in the Byzantine Despotate of the Morea.
He was the grandson of Demetrios I Kantakouzenos, the last Kantakouzenos governor of the Morea. Shortly after the fall of Constantinople and the death of the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI, Manuel with the local Greek population joined 30,000 Albanians in a revolt against the two brothers, Thomas and Demetrios, rulers of the Byzantine Morea.It was public knowledge that the two brothers hated one another, and using this situation to his advantage, Manuel headed this revolt in 1453. He was soon proclaimed by the Albanians as a Despot and in order to please them, he took the Albanian name "Ghin" and also called his wife "Cuchia".His situation was favorable in the beginning, but that quickly changed. The Palaiologos brothers soon realized that they needed outside help to succeed and appealed to the Ottomans and Venice to receive it. The Ottoman overlord of the Morea decided that the province would stay in the hands of Thomas and Demetrios and assisted the two brothers. With minimal Ottoman support, the brothers joined together and crushed the revolt the following year, in 1454.Matthew Palaiologos Asen
Matthew Palaiologos Asen (Greek: Ματθαῖος Παλαιολόγος Ἀσάνης; died 29 March 1467) was a late Byzantine aristocrat and official, related to the Asen and Palaiologos dynasties.Medieval Greece
Medieval Greece refers to geographic components of the area historically and modernly known as Greece, during the Middle Ages.
Byzantine Greece (Early to High Middle Ages)
Northern Greece under the First Bulgarian Empire
various High Medieval Crusader states ("Frankish Greece") and Byzantine splinter states:
Kingdom of Thessalonica
Principality of Achaea
Duchy of Athens
Despotate of Epirus
Despotate of the Morea
Northern Greece under the Second Bulgarian Empire (Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria)
Ottoman Greece (Late Middle Ages)Michael Kantakouzenos (died 1316)
Michael Kantakouzenos (died 1316) was the first epitropos ("steward, overseer") of the Byzantine province of the Morea, a position he held from 1308 till his death in 1316.
In 1308, Byzantine emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos passed a decree, which stopped the appointment of new governors of the Morea every year and that this position be given to one person until his death. After the decree was passed, the first epitropos the emperor appointed was Michael Kantakouzenos. His coming to the Morea was a blessing for the local population in the poor province because he stopped the practice of corrupt governors who tried to pull off a "get rich quick" scheme in their 12-month term. He enabled economic stabilization within the province in his short 8-year term, giving his successor, Andronikos Asen, the possibility of starting a war of conquest.
Michael Kantakouzenos died in 1316. He was survived by his son, John, who became emperor in 1347.Morea
The Morea (Greek: Μορέας or Μωριάς) was the name of the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece during the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The name was used for the Byzantine province known as the Despotate of the Morea, by the Ottoman Empire for the Morea Eyalet, and by the Republic of Venice for the short-lived Kingdom of the Morea.Morea revolt of 1453–1454
The Morea revolt of 1453–1454 was a failed peasant rebellion carried out against the rule of the brothers Thomas and Demetrios Palaiologos, rulers of the Byzantine Despotate of the Morea in the Peloponnese peninsula.Mystras
Mystras or Mistras (Greek: Μυστρᾶς/Μιστρᾶς), also known as Myzithras (Μυζηθρᾶς) in the Chronicle of the Morea, is a fortified town and a former municipality in Laconia, Peloponnese, Greece. Situated on Mt. Taygetos, near ancient Sparta, it served as the capital of the Byzantine Despotate of the Morea in the 14th and 15th centuries, experiencing a period of prosperity and cultural flowering. The site remained inhabited throughout the Ottoman period, when it was mistaken by Western travellers for ancient Sparta. In the 1830s, it was abandoned and the new town of Sparti was built, approximately eight kilometres to the east.
Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Sparti, of which it is a municipal unit. The municipal unit has an area of 131.948 km2.Peter Bua
Peter Bua (or Peter Boua; fl. 1450s) was an Albanian nobleman of the late medieval Despotate of the Morea (Peloponnese) who was the chief instigator of the Morea revolt of 1453–1454. After the revolt, he was recognized by the Ottoman Empire as the official representative of the Albanians of the Morea.
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|Greek states after 1204|