Author Topic: The Turkish Conquest of Morea (1460-1461)  (Read 129 times)

Offline Vetus Ordo

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The Turkish Conquest of Morea (1460-1461)
« on: May 31, 2019, 09:21:16 PM »
The Turkish Conquest of Morea (1460-1461)

In Byzantine Real History.

The Arvanites farmers and soldiers living in the Roman lands of Morea, during the course of time rose to an influential group inside the military of the Despotate of Morea (1349-1460). After the death of Konstantinos Palaiologos on the walls of Constantinople (1453), the Arvanites declared rebellion against his two brothers: the pro-West Thomas Palaiologos and the pro-Turks Demetrios Palaiologos. The long rivalry between Thomas and Demetrios undermined the authority of the Palaiologian family in the region. The Arvanites of the lands controlled by Thomas proclaimed as their commander, an illegitimate son of the last Latin Prince of Achaea, called John Asen Centurione, while the rebels on Demetrios domain chose Mathew Kantakouzenos as their chief. Mathew was a descendant of the Kantakouzenoi a clan known for its deep antagonism against the Palaiologoi.

Thomas and Demetrios, unable to supress the revolt, sought the assistance of the Sultan, who was their overlord, so to subdue the uprising on their behalf. Indeed the Turkish armies sent to Morea ultimately overwhelmed the rebellion and forced Centurione along with Cantacuzenos to exile. Nevertheless, the good relationship between the two despots and the Sultan was not meant to last: the Palaiologoi were unable to gather the demanded vassal tribute for the Ottomans, in addition to that the pro-West sympathies of Thomas kept making Mehmed suspicious. Also the Sultan had plans to use Morea as his military base, for his future campaigns against the Italian peninsula and Papacy; he couldn’t afford to lose this valuable strategic piece of land to the Venetian Republic or to other Christian powers. This time, Mehmed himself led a great army to the Peloponnese, determind to have his tribute paid. Hearing of the Sultan’s arrival, Thomas with his wife and children run to Mantinea ready to flee to Italy. But it wasnt the easiest ride for the Sultans troops which indeed met significant resistance in their way.

The Ottomans were challenged in Corinth, the garrison of the strong rock fortress of Acrocorinth successfully repelled all the attacks of Mehmed and they only surrendered after the pleas of the local Metropolitan to the governor Matthew Asen, who couldn’t witness his Christian people starving to death. The Sultan, impressed by the bravery of the besieged, allowed the garrison to leave the battlefield with full military honours, as a sign of respect. Also, the fortress-town of Mouchli, governed by Demetrius Asen, brother-in-law of the Despot Demetrius, was defended furiously, but when the Turks cut off their water-supplies they were forced to surrender. Then the Sultan, chose to give another chance to the Despots to prove their loyalty, he ordered a tribute of 3.000 pieces of gold, allowing them to continue their rule in Morea under the watchful eye of a Turkish governor. The proposal was accepted by both brothers. Meanwhile, Thomas still struggled to arouse Western aid, on the 1st of June of 1459, Pope Pius II opened a Council at Mantua, there the influential Cardinal Bessarion made a call for arms against the infidel torturing Morea. The Holy See reacted with excitement to the proposal of a “Morean Crusade” but the final reaction was rudimentary. The visit of Bessarion with Papal envoys to the German Empire brought no crusaders and the Habsburg Emperor Frederick III refused to help.

Pope Pius frustrated by the passiveness of his flock, hired and equipped at his own expense two hundred soldiers. To this cause he was only assisted by the Duchess of Milan, Bianca Maria Sforza, who offered another hundred men for the sake of Thomas. This meager crusade army failed to storm the city of Patras but could reconquer Kalavryta. Thomas, taking advantage of the situation tried to penetrate in Demetrius’ domain. Under the incitements of the Ottoman government the two brothers were forced to swear peace with each other, but when Thomas refused to handle Demetrius some of his towns, brotherly war escaladed again. Mehmed had enough of this family drama; he concluded that the political instability of Morea could only be solved through the formal full annexation of the Despotate to the Ottoman Empire. This time, the expedition was led by the Sultan and he encountered no local opposition. Demetrios was convinced to surrender himself to Mehmed without locking his family behind the strong walls of Mistra.

The conquest proved effortless, inside Demetrius’ domains only the towns of Karditsa and Gardiki defied the invader, once the cities fell, the males were slaughtered and the women along with children were reduced to slavery. The one bright exception of heroic opposition was met at the castle city of Salmeniko, a medieval town between Vostitsa and Patras. Its governor Graitzas Palaiologos and the Salmenikiotes held out in the citadel of the city for 1 long year, until the July of 1461. Graitzas was described as “the only man” of Morea by one Ottoman commander. He was able to escape the Turks. He ended up in Lepanto, where he was honored by the Venetian Republic.

Thomas and his Western allies, abandoned the city of Salmeniko to its fate, with his wife and family he immediately set sail from Messenia to Corfu and then Italy, to the Papal court of Pius II. He arrived – wisely – with some of the most precious relics of Christendom, the relics of Saint Andrew (spiritual father of the Patriarchate of Constantinople), from Patras. Since then, Thomas and his relatives settled at Italy. Thomas became a pensioner of the Pope and was recognized as the de jure Roman Emperor of the East by the Western sovereigns. He died in 1465, having failed to accomplish his splendid ambition to lead a crusade against Mehmed and reclaim his homeland. On the other hand, the Sultan gave to the submissive Demetrios an appanage of islands and towns so to live with his family members there in peace. Eventually Demetrius name was defamed and he was deprived of his appendage and was reduced to poverty. Eventually Mehmet, during a crisis of generosity took pity on Demetrios family and offered them a house in Adrianople, providing them with a decent income.

The hopes of Demetrios to have his daughter, the young Helena, in the Sultan’s harem were proved vain. Mehmed feared, it was said, that a high-spirited girl might try to poison him. Even though Helena received a grant pension and an establishment of her own, she faded away in the next years, having been forbidden to marry. She died in her 20’s. The grief-stricken parents of Helena followed their daughter to a depressing end, after taking monastic vows. Morea was now under the entire Ottoman control with only exceptions: the Venetian colonies (Methone, Corone, Nauplia, Argos), the unbowed Mani peninsula, and the town of Monemvasia. Soon the Venetians proved inefficient to preserve their domains, leaving Mani as the last unconquered Roman/Rhomioi stronghold to Peloponnese. The Rhomioi in the future centuries vainly hoped for foreign aid from Venice or another Western power, led occasional rebellious movements against their Ottoman masters, with all being unsuccessful. Nevertheless it was in Morea that the successful Rhomioi War of Independence (1821) rose its flames in 19th Century.

he rebellious Moreans were foresaken and at the Palace of the Despots in Mistra, the centre of the Palaiologoi family, resided one Turkish governor, ruling a peaceful distant Ottoman province.
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Offline Prayerful

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Re: The Turkish Conquest of Morea (1460-1461)
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2019, 05:06:21 PM »
I need to see Mystras one day, a successor to Sparta, capital of the Despotate of Morea, nearly the last light of an ancient empire. It honestly wouldn't be the hardest thing to do, nor that expensive, just the time might be lacking.
Padre Pio: Pray, hope, and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.
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