THE VENETIAN DOMINION IN THE GREEK TERRITORIES
The 13th century
The 13th century was a crucial period for both Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, and even more for the Greek territories. The century began with an emblematic event for the Byzantine Empire: the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders in the spring of 1204. In addition to the temporary overthrow of the Byzantine Empire and the establishment of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, in the Greek peninsula, as well as in the Aegean and Ionian seas, Franks and Italian rulers established short- or long-lived hegemonies. The political environment in the wider Greek area changed decisively, indelibly marking certain geographical areas. The “Distribution of the territories of Romania” (Partitio terrarum imperii Romanie), which was signed in March 1204, drove to the conquest of the area, but mainly determined the balances between all those who had participated in the Fourth Crusade. Thus, that agreement separated the Frankish crusaders on the one hand and Venice on the other, and determined their shares from the “booty”. The image provided by the document is not exactly the same as the image of the Latin dominions in Greece, as crystallized a few decades later. Changes in the persons and the areas that belonged to them had already occurred since the beginning of the conquest of the area after agreements between the crusaders. During the 13th century the struggle for conquest and domination in the area, as well as for the maintenance of political balances and relations of subordination between the local Latin rulers was fierce. Political, military and economic weaknesses, the establishment of the byzantine state of Epirus and the empire of Nicaea after the fall of Constantinople in 1204, as well as the recapture of the capital city in 1261 by Michael VIII Palaiologos, led many of the Latin, and especially Frankish states to disappear as early as the 13th century. The fall of Constantinople (April 13, 1204) was followed by the proclamation of the Latin emperor (election: May 9, coronation: May 16), the ratification of the Distribution (August) and the official concession of the territories of Romania to the beneficiaries (September). The army of the crusaders, divided now on into separate divisions and with leaders in each of them claiming hegemony, poured into the Greek peninsula to occupy what was due to it. The chaos that prevailed after the collapse of the byzantine capital and the central government completely weakened, with certain exceptions, the resistance of the population against the crusading army. Thus, within the next few years, all the claimants had occupied most of their land and settled there as rulers of small or large “states”. The forms of resistance of the population varied, both during the conquest operations and after the conquest and the establishment of the Latin hegemonies, according to the conqueror and the way he treated the conquered people, or even according to local political and social conditions. There is a clear difference in the way of conquest between the two main poles of Latin domination in Greece, the Franks, i.e. the Crusaders, and Venice. Franks, as a conquering army, claimed and occupied the almost unknown areas granted to them. On the contrary, Venice, with political planning, acquired, after advantageous agreements, the right to conquer the places that more interested it, treating the areas and their inhabitants with the necessary seriousness aiming at a long and successful domination. A difference between Franks and Venice is also observed on the treatment of the local population. The Frankish rulers did not try to affect significantly the position of the common people as well as the local landlords and the Church, having in mind their numerical inferiority and wanting to avoid great reactions. On the contrary, Venice initially tried, and especially in Crete, to bar the local population along with its upper class and the Orthodox Church, promoting its own citizens to both the political power and the upper social class of the landowners, and replacing the Orthodox with the Latin Church. The partial success of such a plan in Crete during the 13th century, due to the revolts of the local byzantine landowners, gave Venice the opportunity to avoid similar mistakes in the organization of its future colonies. However, her diplomacy and her solid and clear policy on the organization of her colonies, as well as the almost complete control by the central authority of the metropolis, benefited both the Venetian metropolitan state and each colony in separate. The Venetian colonies in the Greek territories not only survived for many centuries, but also experienced special economic and cultural development. On the contrary, those of the Frankish states who managed to survive faced serious political problems as early as the middle of the 13th century, which forced them to turn very quickly to powerful rulers for protection. Gradually and until the beginning of the 15th century, the Frankish states of Greece had all disappeared. The Latin domination spread to almost the entire Greek peninsula, from Macedonia to Crete and from the northern Ionian Sea to the southeastern Aegean and Cyprus. Among them, there were knights from various states, cities and regions of Western Europe, who dominated after 1204 for short or long periods in the area. Latin rulers could be classified into two large groups, the French-speaking and the Italian-speaking ones (Venetians, Genoese and families from other Italian cities). They could be also distinguished to those who emerged as rulers of states in the context of the Fourth Crusade and the “Distribution of the territories of Romania”, and those who took advantage of the conjunctures in the region during the turbulent years of the 13th and 14th century and occupied certain areas. In the long term, the differences between the image of Latin domination, as presented in the document of the “Distribution” and the one that finally prevailed from the fourteenth century onwards is a result of the establishment of the byzantine “states” of Epirus and Nicaea, the recapture of Constantinople in 1261 and the new Latin rulers beyond the Crusaders. One of the most important shares of the “Distribution” was that of Venice, which spread in the areas of Albania, western Greece from Epirus to Etoloakarnania (with the natural border of Pindos in the east), in parts of the western Peloponnese, in Ionian Islands and some Aegean islands. However, the byzantine “state” of Epirus, which was established in a large part of western Greece, canceled the settlement of the Venetians in the area or expelled them where they were already settled. Thus, Durres and the island of Corfu, which had been ceded by Venice in 1207 to ten of its noble citizens, were occupied in 1215 by Michael Doukas of Epirus. However, parts of the west coast, as well as all the Ionian Islands, were to fall much later and gradually to Venice, and formed important and long-lasting colonies. From the allotted parts of the Peloponnese, after an agreement with the Frankish ruler of Achaia, Venice, with the treaty of Sapienza in 1209, took the important ports of Methoni and Koroni, and secured commercial privileges in other ports and areas of Peloponnese. However, here, as in the Ionian Sea, Venice managed much later to occupy three important Peloponnesian cities: Argos (1388), Nafplio (1389) and Monemvasia (1460). The islands of Aegina and Salamis, which had been ceded to Venice through the “Distribution”, did not fall into her hands, but quite later and only Aegina. On the contrary, Euboea and the Cyclades became colonies under its direct or indirect dependence. Between the years 1207 and 1212, with the authorization of Venice, the noble Marco Sanudo together with members of other important Venetian families organized a campaign and occupied the Cyclades and other Aegean islands. The crusader Boniface of Montferrat occupied Euboea in 1205 and immediately after ceded it to three nobles from Verona, the so-called terzieri. The island was initially under the protection of Venice and much later (1390) in its possession. An important point of Venetian control were also the islands of Kythera and Antikythera, which had fallen at the beginning of the 13th century to the Venetian families of Venier and Viaro respectively. At the end of the 13th century, Venice had established the colonies of Crete with the dependent islands of, Methoni and Koroni. At the same time, it controlled the Duchy of the Aegean (islands of Naxos, Paros, Antiparos, Ios, Kythnos, Sifnos and Milos), and the islands of Andros, Tinos, Mykonos, Skyros, Skopelos, Skiathos, Kea, Amorgos, Santorini, Anafi, Karpathos, Astypalea, Lemnos, Kythera and Antikythera possessed by Venetian citizens. With the exception of Crete, all the above-mentioned places were ports with limited hinterland or small islands, which, however, were located in important points for its trade routes. It should be also noted the important position of Venice in Constantinople during the Latin Empire, but also after the re-establishment of the Byzantine Empire, thanks to the docks and the spaces it had there, but mainly thanks to the important commercial privileges that it continued to enjoy until the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. The Venetian presence in the Greek territories, which had been founded back in the 10th century, was consolidated with the Fourth Crusade, while its development in the following centuries was even more impressive. Its Maritime State (Stato da Mar), as it was formed after 1204, despite the occasional losses, continued to strengthen until the end of the 15th century, while in some parts of Greece it was maintained until the end of the 18th century.
The Latin population in the Greek territories
The Latin population in the Latin states of Greece always remained extremely limited, especially in the Frankish states of mainland Greece. With the exception of the families of the rulers and those of their officials, who were also the ruling class of the local states, the Greek regions accepted a minimum of Latins as permanent residents in their territories. Therefore, at the beginning of the 13th century the Greek population had to deal only with the leaders and future rulers with their circle and not a Latin population that would arrive en masse to settle next to them or in their place. Mass movements either directly from the West or from the crusading states of the Eastern Mediterranean to the Greek regions never took place. This includes all the Frankish and Italian states, except those of Venice and partly of Genoa. The Venetian colonies in Greece attracted a significant number of Venetian merchants, mainly in urban centers and ports, for permanent or semi-permanent settlement. Crete, especially, with the organized dispatches of colonists from Venice in the first half of the 13th century was the only Greek region that accepted for permanent settlement, apart from the merchants, a remarkable number of Venetians of the middle and upper class. Those colonists received land on the island as a fief and formed the local feudal ruling class, alongside the small corresponding Greek. Thus, it is no coincidence that Crete was also the only region in which during the 13th century revolts broke out that threatened not only the order on the island, but also the Venetian rule. Although these revolts were not clearly and always against the Venetian dominion and pro the byzantine emperor, they were a dynamic reaction to the new political and socio-economic situation imposed by Venice on them. On the contrary, where the local ruling class of Greek landowners, such as that in the hegemony of Achaia, did not lose its privileges, the reaction to the new ruler was limited or non-existent. The Frankish rulers tried to pursue a policy of rapprochement with the local population, perhaps knowing, due to their small number, their inability to overthrow the previous situation. Venice, on the other hand, devised from the outset a clear policy of organizing colonies under its direct dependence. In addition, while for the Frankish states there was no metropolis but only a sovereign ruler, for the Venetian colonies, the presence of the metropolis was decisive. However, these two diametrically opposed policies were a significant factor for the survival and development of the Latin states. While the Frankish states as early as the 13th century struggled to survive by presenting political instability, the Venetian possessions in Greece was expanding territorially and presented political stability and continuous economic development. The long duration of Venetian dominion in most of its colonies allowed the settlement there not only members of the bourgeois and feudal class, but also gradually members of the lower social strata of the metropolis, as ordinary professionals, sailors, soldiers and even peasants in their new homeland. This is especially evident, from the 14th century henceforth, mainly in Crete and the Ionian Islands and less in the other colonies, which after all were ports with a very small hinterland. At the same time, and almost exclusively in the ports of the Venetian colonies, there is a permanent or temporary settlement of persons, mainly merchants or sailors, from other western European regions (e.g. other Italian cities, Catalonia, France, etc.). The limited Latin population in the Frankish states and the short life span of most of them is the reason why the traces of Latins in these areas are relatively few. On the contrary, the legacy left by Venice in the areas that were part of its Maritime State is great. The Frankish rulers and feudal lords were attached to the place, but they were a world completely separate from that of the local population. In the Venetian colonies, on the other hand, over the years, and with the exception of the highest officials sent from the metropolis, a large number of Venetians were born, raised, lived in them and connected their interests with them. All of them, although they always remained Venetians, were attached to the place of their birth and had a direct relationship and contact with the local population. Greeks and Venetians came very close, resulting in the best possible coexistence of the two elements and social cohesion in the Venetian colonies.
Venice acquired Crete in August 1204 and only three years later the Venetian fleet headed to the island, expelled the conqueror Enrico Pescatore and established the first Venetian duke of Crete, Giacomo Tiepolo, in Candia, the capital city of the island. However, the real conquest of Crete begun in 1211, when the first group of colonists dispatched from Venice arrived in Crete. All those events constituted a turning point for the history of the island. Furthermore, the participation of the newcomer colonists in the administration and defense of the island as the ruling class constituted an equally important political step for the local people and undoubtedly for the consolidation of the Venetian dominion. This arrangement played a crucial role in the formation of the social and economic landscape and, in the long term, the very appearance of the island, during the four and a half centuries of Venetian rule (1211–1669). Without losing their identity or losing sight of their origins, the Venetian feudal lords of Crete developed distinctive characteristics that sprang directly from the land in which they settled, and from the links that they established with both the Greek feudal lords and the agrarian population, the greatest part of which was Greeks and Orthodox. To ensure successful colonisation, Venetian policy encouraged the identification of the settlers’ interests with those of the island. The decision of Venice to treat the conquest of Crete and its organisation as a question of fundamental reorganisation underlines the seriousness with which the Serenissima viewed the newly acquired colony. The complete redistribution of land and the subjugation of the local population and its Church to a new regime were the key elements in the new dispensation planned for Crete. Everything – land, people and institutions – found themselves under the jurisdiction of the Venetian authorities. The island’s land was allocated to many Venetian citizens from various social and economic strata, with an appointed government already in place that would rule and control the newly arrived colonists. Crete was treated both as an island that would become a key location in the eastern Mediterranean and as a colony that required radical reorganisation if it was to fulfil its great potential. Crete saw the political and administrative system of Venice transferred virtually intact to the island, with a corresponding hierarchy, administrative councils and officials. The local population was barred from positions of authority, and their participation in the administration of the island was mainly restricted tο low-level positions. Nevertheless, aside from the exercise of political power and participation in the military defence of the island, in the eyes of the state, the natives and the Venetians had equal rights. Despite the political changes, the administrative system that the Venetians instituted on Crete also reveals a number of continuities. The delay in gaining complete control of the island held up the plan to divide Crete, like the city of Venice itself, intο six administrative departments (the sexterii). The local authorities relied instead on the existing model for the organisatiοn, administration, and defence of the colony. The Byzantine tourmai (τούρμαι) and their castles provided the basis for both the promotion of colonisation during the first half of the 13th century and for the defence of the colony. The tοιιrmai in what is today the prefecture of Herakleion formed the six sexterii that welcomed the first colonists in 1211 when they arrived, divided intο six groups according to the sexterium to which they belonged in Venice. Later, small groups of tourmai formed the three remaining departments of Crete, which are Siteia, Rethymnon and Chania. These four departments (Candia, Siteia, Rethymnon and Chania), called territorii, are almost identical tο the four prefectures of the island today. This impressive continuity in the political geography of Crete dates back tο the late Byzantine period and has held through the periods of Venetian and Ottoman rule into the contemporary era. The redistribution of the land of the entire island took place as laid down in the document relating to the first dispatch of colonists to Crete in 1211 (the so-called Concessio Crete). During the 13th century, a significant proportion of Crete’s Greek landowners ultimately succeeded in retaining their estates, mainly thanks to their rebellions; nevertheless, the Greek estate owners were fully integrated into the new landowning system alongside the Venetian feudal lords. This redistributiοn was based tο a significant extent οn the pre-existing land ownership system. Thus, the Byzantine state land in the hands of Greek landowners, as well as the land of the imperial monasteries, automatically passed into the possession of the Venetian state, which then redistributed it. A part of the land belonging tο the former Orthodox Church (the archdiocese and dioceses) also passed into the possession of the newly established Latin Church of Crete. The fate of the land held under full ownership during the second Byzantine period in Crete (961–1204) was somewhat different: although Venice also considered it to be public land, it remained in the hands of its existing owners. We do not know what proportion of the land was held under what terms during the second Byzantine period in Crete, but it seems that public land predominated. Ιn this way, Venice succeeded in at least satisfying the aspirations of those Venetians it dispatched to the island in organised expeditions during the first half of the 13th century (1211–1252). Despite the change in the regime of land ownership, some continuity was maintained in the local agricultural population. Most of the Byzantine paroikoi (πάροικοι) became dependent peasants and were renamed νillani. With the new land ownership regime, degrees between villeins (villani) were established in accordance with their dependence on the land or on their feudal lord (villani feudorum or iιιre millicie and villani feudatorum or extra feudum) or on their owner (villeins belonging tο feudal lords, the state and the church). Until the early years of the 13th century, the remaining free smallholders in Crete lost their land and remained free peasants (franchi), but economically dependent on the landowners. However, all the above farmers, dependent or not, continued to work the land of the new or old landowners just as they had before and tο render what was legally required almost exactly as they had before. Despite the feudal-style land ownership regime, the central authority remained a powerful presence, just as it had during the Byzantine period, preventing any especially oppressive actions οn the part of the feudal lords and protecting certain rights enjoyed by the farmers. This framework allowed the everyday life of Cretan farmers to continue essentially unchanged after the arrival of the Venetians. The predominance of the Greek population in the Cretan villages also remained unchanged during the Venetian period. For most of the 13th century, all feudal lords lived in the cities and only visited their estates and villages from time to time. In the last decades of the same century, however, some feudatories gradually began to live permanently in their villages. Around the same time, foreigners of both Latin and Greek origin and freed slaves started to arrive in Crete and settle in the villages as farmers. Nonetheless, the features of the new government and the role of Crete as a colony inevitably affected the island’s economy, which was and remained predominantly agrarian. The leading role assigned to trade by the Venetian population and the insistence of the metropolis οn wheat sufficiency resulted, especially after 1250, in an intensification in the production of certain agricultural and stock-raising commodities, such as cereals, wine and cheese. In turn, exporting these products led to a revitalisation of the local market. The changes in the agricultural sphere were gradual and centred οn increasing both the production of certain crops and the land available for cultivation. At the same time, certain parts of Crete, primarily highland areas (Anopoli in the Sfakia area, Eleftherna in the Mylopotamos area, the Lassithi plateau), were systematically depopulated, as they were considered hotbeds of revolt. Ιt was forbidden tο inhabit or cultivate these areas, which favoured an increase in forested areas. Vineyards and cereal cultivation had already dominated Cretan agriculture before the arrival of the Venetians, but their surface area now grew considerably and spread across the entire island, as attested by the numerous grants of new land specifying cultivations of this type that have survived from the last quarter of the 13th century. The second important area of the Cretan agrarian economy was livestock. Large quantities of leather, wool and cheese were produced in the mountainous areas of the island, and cheese in particular was exported to various destinations. Τhe demand for wooden barrels for the storage and transportation of wine, in addition to the need for timber for Crete’s shipyards, also led tο a gradual change in the island’s forestation, primarily apparent in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Despite the importance the Venetian authorities placed on Cretan agrarian products, there is a marked absence of any official policy to support the countryside with the construction of roads, bridges, irrigation systems and other infrastructure and public works projects. Τhe Venetian authorities simply maintained the existing systems, which often dated back tο the Roman era. Ιt was left tο the feudal lords tο take the initiative for such projects, an initiative with limitations, since all actions taken served their own private interests. Official Venetian policy for the countryside related primarily to defence, with the construction and upkeep of castles, the control of bandits and rebels and the attempt to increase the population by attracting migrants. There is no doubt also that local authorities indirectly influenced agricultural production in order to increase trade and guarantee wheat and other cereals for the state’s warehouses. Notwithstanding major changes in the agrarian system οn Crete, change was minimal, at least during the 13th century. Τhe revolts that continually broke out throughout the same century were an important factor in the slow pace of change, since they caused destruction in the Cretan countryside and isolated entire regions, often for considerable lengths of time. From the 14th century onward, the growing political stability enabled swifter changes in the Cretan countryside, although to a much lesser extent than in the cities οn the northern coast. Τhe increase in the number of feudal lords, the reduction in the size of the average fief and the consequent emergence of distinct economic strata within the feudal class served partially to distinguish the interests of individuals within this class. It resulted in differing rates of development in greater or smaller rural regions, depending οn the power of the lords in possession of the estates there, the quality of the cultivated land or the distance from a city or the sea. In turn, this led many small or medium-sized feudal lords to take up residence in the villages, thereby increasing the Latin element in the Cretan countryside. Another major change targeted the Orthodox Church of Crete. In order to consolidate its dominion, Venice abolished the local Orthodox Church, replacing it with the Catholic Church. Although it neither outlawed Orthodox dogma nοr forbade the local population from observing its religious duties, nor favoured the Catholic Church by supporting “conversion”, the absence of Orthodox bishops and an archbishop made it difficult for the lower clergy to function properly. Nevertheless, despite these institutional changes, the religious life of the natives was not disrupted to any significant degree. The Orthodox priests (papades/παπάδες) continued to have a prominent presence on the island and many churches were built throughout Crete, especially in the countryside, during the 13th and 14th centuries. Perhaps the most important change in the history of Crete during the period of Venetian rule was the development of the island’s urban landscape and economy. When the Venetians arrived on the island as its new rulers, they found a single small city, Chandax (Χάνδαξ), which was renamed Candia (or Candida in Latin). It had a small population within its Byzantine walls and, as the contemporary Venetian sources reveal, there was inadequate housing for the new feudal lords and an abundance of empty plots. The harbour of Candia was in decline; its only quay, which dated from the period of Arab rule, while open to ships in the early 1200s, was nevertheless in disrepair. The Venetians managed to keep the harbour open and accessible to various vessels until the end of the 13th century. They began to make substantial improvements during the last decade of the 13th century and then mainly in the fourth decade of the 14th century. These actions coincided with the increase in maritime trade and in the volume of merchandise passing through the port of Candia after the easing of political unrest οn the island. From this pοint οn, the authorities ensured the maintenance of the harbour and its facilities improved on a regular basis. Venice ensured the development of the sites where the other cities of Crete’s northern coast (Chania, Rethymnon and less importantly Siteia) later stood by dispatching colonists and allowing them to settle as feudal lords. Chania is a typical example: οn the arrival of the third group of Venetian colonists there in 1252, it was designated a civitas, though one in need of “rebuilding”. The Venetian authorities clearly specified in the relevant document the form the city should take in order to be regenerated. This initiative aimed at creating a new urban centre, harbour and administrative centre, in order to enable the organisation of the surrounding area, coordinate its defence and establish the place of residence for the feudal lords in the region. Rethymnon developed in a similar fashion in the same period. The much smaller Siteia and several regional fortified settlements, such as the castle of Mylopotamos, developed in the centuries that followed. The emergence of Crete’s other three cities reflects the new decentralisation in the early 14th century through the new administrative units or territorii. Each one of these cities was now the capital of its own territorium. They acquired local political government (rector) and administrative services that corresponded tο those in Candia (public treasury, chancellery, local council of feudal lords), even though they remained under the control of the island’s central administration. This system allowed local problems to be monitored more closely and solutions to be applied more easily. The organisation of the harbour and its incorporation into local and more widespread maritime networks was an important step in further developing each city and strengthening its local administrative centre. This process started already in the 13th century and was intensified during the centuries that followed. In turn, this led tο the emergence of local markets that attracted native and foreign populations. The increase in population, and the strengthening of the local economy, provided the impetus for the gradual development of professionals and artisans, who slowly but surely came tο form a small but flourishing urban ‘class’ in the cities of Crete, especially in Candia. By the 15th century, the three cities on the north coast of Crete (Candia, Rethymnon and Chania) had developed their own unique social, intellectual and artistic life. The improvement of the cities, the organisation of their ports and their integration into maritime trade routes and the marketing of local agricultural products by the Venetians contributed to demographic growth in the Cretan countryside. Numerous settlements on the island dating from the Byzantine period flourished, especially those located in fertile lowlands or near cities or in places easily accessible by the sea. Crete, mainly from the 14th century onwards, became an economic centre for a vast region in the south-eastern Mediterranean, capable of attracting merchants, tradesmen and economic migrants either of Greek or Latin origin. The existence of castles for the island’s defence and the presence of their officers, the castellans (castellani), also contributed to revitalising the life in the villages. In this new political, social and economic context, a novel relationship between the countryside and the cities emerged. The Cretan peasants faced a new reality with the challenges associated with a bigger city market, a significant number of merchants and a well-organised state mechanism with administrative, judicial and policing authorities. Hence, from the 13th century, and mainly during the 14th century, the city offered them diverse opportunities: the feudatories, who offered land, a wholesale and retail market for their agricultural products, and the possibility of loans. At the same time, the villages attracted merchants and new temporary or permanent residents from the cities or other villages of the island, as well as from outside Crete. This political and economic environment inevitably also created a new social reality, especially evident for Crete during the Venetian rule. Despite the targeted revolts against the new domination – mainly in the 13th century – and the occasional limited local conflicts, the native Greek population not only cohabited with other ethnic elements, but actually blended with them. Mixed marriages in both urban and rural areas significantly promoted this interaction. All these factors contributed to the emergence of a local – Cretan-based – identity in both the Greek and Latin populations. A notable expression of this identity was the revolt of Saint Titus (1363–1367), through which a section of the local Venetians, from noble and powerful families, with the support of certain local leading Greek families, tried (unsuccessfully) to sever ties with the mother city and become autonomous. The arrival of the Venetians in Crete in the early 13th century proved to be something more than simply a change of master. What followed οn a political, social and economic level can be viewed as inevitable changes experienced in the late Middle Ages; however, the identity of the overlords was to prove a decisive factor in both the adoption and acceleration of change. There can be nο doubt that Crete’s size, soil and position in the eastern Mediterranean, combined with the economic and political power Venice had already begun tο acquire, had a positive effect: the island experienced a period of remarkable growth and development between the early 13th century and its fall tο the Ottomans in 1669.
Methoni and Koroni
Methoni and Koroni joined the maritime colonial state of Venice in 1209 after the sign of the Sapienza treaty between the Venetians and the Frankish rulers of the Peloponnese and since then their history has changed dramatically. By 1500, when the Ottomans conquered them, the two small Messinian port cities not only grew rapidly as two small urban centers, but mainly developed into two major stations on the sea trade routes of Venice, hence they were called "eyes of Venice" (oculi capitales comunis Venetiarum). As they developed, they enclosed both within their walls and in their suburbs, a relatively small population, but with interesting characteristics, representative of the time and the role of the two cities. Along with the local Greeks and a few Jews, the Latins, mainly of Venetian but also of other origin, were gradually increased. We do not have figures for the population of Methoni and Koroni during the 13th and 14th centuries. The first relevant information concerns the castle and the suburb of Koroni, whose population according to the Order (Commissio) of the proveditori Filippo da Molin and Agostino Querini, who would travel to Methoni and Koroni in 1401, was very limited. In fact, the information available to the Venetian authorities at that time spoke of a population of 380 persons, of whom only 80 were Latins. Considering that Methoni in the 14th century faced a bigger demographic problem, then the number of its inhabitants was probably less than the 380 people of Koroni. So, we can relatively easily imagine the small size of these two settlements during the 13th century. Initially, during the 13th century, both cities were ruled by a castellanus. Since the beginning of the 14th century the Castellans became two, were chosen from among the Venetians of the metropolis for a term of two years each, and alternated in each city for a whole year. The two Peloponnesian ports were inhabited permanently or temporarily by many Venetians and other Italians, active mainly in small and medium-sized maritime trade. The trade relations of the inhabitants of Methoni and Koroni with the rest of the Peloponnese were important, while it was particularly dense with Crete, as a Venetian territory too. Venetian and Greek merchants regularly crossed the Cretan Sea, transporting products from one side to the other for local consumption or for exportation to other ports, the main of which was always Venice. The Orthodox and Latin Churches, in contrast to Crete, coexisted with an Orthodox and a Catholic bishop in each of the two cities. In fact, the role of the Orthodox bishops was particularly important, especially from the 14th century onwards, as they were the ones who undertook with the permission of the Venetian authorities to ordain the Orthodox priests of Crete, where there were no bishops. In both cities, and even inside the castles, there were catholic cathedrals (Saint John in Methoni and Virgin Mary in Koroni), while catholic monastic orders were also established there (the Dominicans in Methoni with the church of Virgin Mary and Franciscans in Koroni with the church of Saint Nicolas).
1. Latin dominion in the Greek territories
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