Get to Know the Duchy of Athens in the Middle Ages of Greece
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The country of Greece has gone through a significant number of forms, sizes and rulers throughout its history. One of these was the Duchy of Athens. This Crusader state encompassed Attica, the region that Athens is located in, and Boeotia, which is located directly to the northwest of there, and existed from 1205-1458. The area had previously been under the rule of the Byzantine Empire, and it would be ruled by the Ottoman Empire after this 253-year period ended.
Three languages were primary ones here at one time or another. From its founding until 1311, French was the primary language spoken in the Duchy of Athens. At this time, the Duchy of Athens was under the rule of Otto de la Roche, who had served as a knight in the Fourth Crusade. He was from present-day Rigney, France. He declared himself, “Sire d’Athenes,” which translates as “Lord of Athens” while the Greek citizens referred to him as “Μέγας Κύρης,” which translates as “Great Lord.” He and other dukes throughout the Duchy of Athens’ history resided at the Acropolis.
In 1308, rulership of the Duchy of Athens was passed to Walter V of Brienne. Although he spent time in places such as present-day France, Italy and Greece, he later learned Catalan, most likely when he spent time in captivity when he was used as a hostage so that his father, a military commander, could be released.
Three years later, he was killed by members of the Catalan Company, mercenaries who he had hired but then did not pay, during the Battle of Halmyros. Leadership would ultimately go to King Frederick III of Sicily in 1312. From a year prior to his arrival until 1388, Catalan was the official language of the Duchy of Athens. It was also at this time when each city and district started having its own governor, a system that copied what was taking place in Sicily.
Eventually, the Acciaioli family of Florence captured and started ruling over the Duchy of Athens. Rulership was later held by the Republic of Venice, and, in 1444, the area fell under the oversight of the Ottoman Empire’s Constantine XI Palaeologus. In 1456, Ottoman ruler Turahanoglu Omer Beygained took control. That turned out to be just two years before the Duchy of Athens ceased to exist. The last Duke of Athens was Francesco II Acciaioli.
From 1388 until the end of the Duchy of Athens, Greek was the official language of the area. It should also be noted that Greek had been widely spoken in the years that preceded then too.
Throughout its existence, the Duchy of Athens was overseen by the Kingdom of Thessalonica, Kingdom of Sicily, Crown of Aragon, Republic of Venice and Despotate of the Morea. This area remained with the Ottoman Empire until the Greek War of Independence, which started in 1821, sparked the First Hellenic Republic to be declared as an independent state one year later.
Categorized in: Modern Greek History
This post was written by Greek Boston