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CHAPTER IX.

BYZANTINE PROVINCE IN THE PELOPONNESUS RECONQUERED

FROM THE FRENCH.

SECT. 1.- EARLY STATE OF THE BYZANTINE PROVINCE. GOVERN

MENT OF THE DESPOT THEODORE I.

The emperor Michael VIII, no sooner took possession of Misithra, Monemvasia, and Maina, wbich had been surrendered to him as the ransom for William Villehardoin, then he sent able officers into the Peloponnesus to command these fortresses, with instructions to spare no exertions or intrigues for recovering possession of the whole peninsula —for he hoped with ease to raise such a rebellion of the Greeks as would expel the French from the territory they retained. The Sclavonians of Mount

Taygetus, covered by the Byzantine garrison of Misithra, which was made the residence of the principal officers from Constantinople ; the Tzakones, finding their communications with the rest of the empire opened by sea, in consequence of the possession of Monemvasia ; and the Mainiates, assisted by the imperial troops in their country -all flew to arms, and drove the French from their territories. The Sclavonians of Skorta were less fortunate, for they were surrounded on every side by French barons, and all the avenues into their mountains were guarded by strong feudal fortresses. Indeed, Akova and Karitena, two of the impregnable holds of the feudal lords of the

WAR OF GREEKS AND FRANKS. 269

soil, commanded the very heart of their country. After a vain resistance their power was completely broken. But the Greeks, though they swept over nearly the whole peninsula in the first tide of national enthusiasm, and displayed the imperial eagle before the palace of the princes of Achaia, at Andravida, were still unable to encounter the French on the field of battle. They received two overthrows—the first at Prinitza, where a small body of French knights and men-at-arms, under John de Katavas, defeated the Byzantine army with great loss. But this disaster did not prevent the advance of the Greeks into the plain of Elis. The second defeat of the imperial troops was more decisive. The armies met at the defile of Makryplagi, and the Byzantine troops were routed with great slaughter. Their generals were taken prisoners, and the commander-in-chief, the granddomestikos Alexis Philes, died in prison; while Makrinos, the second in command, on being ransomed by his suspicious master, who suspected him of secretly plotting with the prince of Achaia, was deprived of his eyesight as soon as he returned to Constantinople." For five years, (1264 to 1268) the war was prosecuted with varied success ; but at length the exhaustion of both parties induced them to conclude a truce, which was subsequently converted into a permanent treaty of peace. These events have been already noticed in reviewing the history of the reign of William Villehardoin, prince of Achaia.” It has also been mentioned that, in the year 1341, a number of the French barons offered the sovereignty of Achaia to the Greek emperor.” The Byzantine throne was at that time occupied by John V., (Paleologos) and the regency was in the hands of his mother, Anne of Savoy; but John Cantacuzenos, the grand-domestikos, chap. ix. acted as prime-minister. This treason of a portion of $ 1. the French nobility would probably have proved the T forerunner of the speedy subjection of the whole principality to the Greek empire, had the rebellion of Cantacuzenos not prevented the Byzantine administration from paying any attention to the affairs of this distant province. The Byzantine strategos at Misithra, who governed the Greek portion of the peninsula, was unable to show much activity, for he was watched with as much jealousy by the primates and archonts of the province, to prevent an increase of his administrative power, as the Frank princes and baillies at Andravida were by the barons and knights of the principality of Achaia. At last the success of the rebellion of Cantacuzenos enabled that emperor to send his son Manuel to the Peloponnesus as imperial viceroy, with the title of Despot, in the year 1349. The despot Manuel Cantacuzenos found the country suffering severely from the incessant forays of the Franks of Achaia, the Catalans of Attica, and the Seljouk pirates. Each district was exclusively occupied with its own separate measures of defence ; each archont and landlord pursued his own private interest as his only rule of action, without any reference to the national cause. The open country was everywhere left exposed to be plundered by foreign enemies, while the walled cities were weakened by intestine factions. Manuel, however, arriving in the peninsula with a strong body of troops, succeeded in concluding a peace with the principality of Achaia ; and this circumstance left at his disposal a force sufficient to repulse the attacks of the Turkish pirates, and to put an end to the civil dissensions that prevailed among the Greek archonts themselves, so that the Peloponnesus enjoyed more security under his government than it had known for many years. The despot had, nevertheless, his own personal views to serve, for patriotism was not an active principle in any class of the Byzantine Greeks. The

* Pachymeres, tom. i. p. 138, edit. Rom., confirms the general account of the events recorded by the Chronicles of the Conquest.

* See page 237 of this volume.

* Cantacuzenos, 384, page 259 of this volume.

A. D. 1264-1268.

RANCOUR OF THE PELOPONNESIANS.

271

position of his family at Constantinople was by no means CHAP. IX. secure, and he resolved to take measures for maintaining $1. his own authority as despot in the Peloponnesus, no matter what might happen elsewhere. Under the pretext that it was necessary to keep a fleet cruising off the eastern and southern coasts of the peninsula, to protect the country from the ravages of the Seljouk pirates, he imposed a tax on the Byzantine province. The collection of this tax was intrusted to a Moreot noble, named Lampoudios, whose previous intrigues had caused him to be exiled, but whose talents induced Manuel to recall him to office. The arbitrary imposition of a tax by the despot was considered an illegal act of power, and the Greeks everywhere flew to arms. Lampoudios, considering the popular cause as the one in which he was most likely to advance his own fortunes, deserted his patron and joined his insurgent countrymen. For a moment all the intestine broils and municipal quarrels, which even time rarely assuaged in the rancorous hearts of the Peloponnesian Greeks, were suddenly suspended. The mutual hatred which the archonts cherished to the hour of death, and the feuds which were regularly transmitted as a deathbed legacy to children and to heirs, as an inalienable family inheritance, were for once suspended. The Moreots, if we may believe the perfidious Cantacuzenos, in this record of his son's fortunes, were on this single occasion sincerely united, and made a bold attempt to surprise the despot in the fortress of Misithra ; but Manuel was a soldier of some experience, trained in the arduous school of a treacherous civil war, and with a guard of three hundred chosen men-at-arms, and a body of Albanian mercenaries, who now for the first time make their appearance in the affairs of the Morea, he sallied out from the fortress, and completely defeated the Moreot

1 These strong expressions, which depict the present state of Maina, are copied from Cantacuzenos, Hist. p. 751.

army. The patriotic confederacy was dissolved by the loss of this one battle. Some of the archonts submitted to the terms imposed on them by the despot, some attempted to defend themselves in the fortified towns, while others endeavoured to secure their independence by retiring into the mountains, and carrying on a desultory warfare. But the landlords, as soon as they saw their property ravaged by the Byzantine mercenaries, quickly made their peace with the despot. The fall of the emperor Cantacuzenos induced the people of the Peloponnesus to take up arms a second time, in the hope of expelling Manuel; and they welcomed Asan, the governor deputed by the emperor John W. to supersede the despot, with every demonstration of devotion. Manuel was compelled to abandon the whole province, and shut himself up in the fortress of Monemvasia with the troops that remained faithful to his standard. His administration had been marked by great prudence, and his unusual moderation, in pardoning all those concerned in the insurrection against his plans of taxation, had produced a general feeling in his favour. When the first storm of the new outbreak was in some degree calmed, the archonts came to the conclusion that it would be more advantageous to their interests to be ruled by a governor who was viewed with little favour by the central power at Constantinople, than to be exposed to the commands of one who was sure of energetic support. The consequence of their intrigues was, that Manuel Cantacuzenos received an invitation to return to Misithra, and soon succeeded in regaining all his former power, and more, perhaps, than his former influence. He contrived, also, to obtain the recognition of his title from the feeble court at Constantinople, and he continued to

CHAP. IX. § 1.

1 These Albanians were from the despotat of Acarnania, a name then given not only to the ancient Acarnania and the west of Ætolia, but also to the southern part of Epirus.

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