Article of the month: June
Silver denier of Guy II with Latin inscription: Gui Dux Atenes (Guy, duke of Athens)
The city of Athens found itself in a decline long before the Fourth Crusade. But the situation was worsened by the arrival of the Franks, who destroyed and pillaged churches and monuments and did violence to the population. After the fall of Constantinople and partition of territory of Byzantine Empire in 1204, Athens was ceded to Burgundian knight Otho de la Roche (ruled 1205–1225), who founded a dynasty. The hegemony was seated in Thebes and included initially Attica, Boeotia, Megaris and later Nauplion (1210) and Argos (1212). Otho shared with his nephew Guy the rule of Thebes, which was annexed to his jurisdiction after 1210-1211. The duchy of Athens controlled four ports: Piraeus, Nauplion, Atalanti and Livadostro.
The Burgundians maintained their family fiefs for more than a century. Otho, after governing his acquisitions for twenty years approximately, returned to Burgundy leaving his nephew Guy (1225–1263) as his heir. The latter became known by his involvement in the strife for the Euboean succession (1256–1258) against William II de Villehardouin. In 1258 he was defeated with the Frankish coalition by William in Karydi, near Megara, and then went to Paris, where he received the title of the duke of Athens by the French king Louis IX.
In 1303 the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos hired a body of Catalan mercenaries in order to confront the Ottomans in Asia Minor. Soon, however, the Catalans were converted from simple mercenaries into dangerous enemies, who sacked the Greek lands. Gautier de Brienne, the last French duke of Athens, aspiring to stretch the boundaries, used the Catalan Company (compagnia), in order to achieve his goal, but without paying the agreed amount. It would not be long before the collision took place. After their victory in 1311 at the battle of Orchomenos in Copais, the Catalans conquered Thebes and then Athens abolishing the Frankish rule and establishing the Catalan rule.
The Greek population accepted uncomplainingly the change of rule. Unable to put up any resistance, the people observed passively the changes in the political situation, which did not differ from the previous one, since it did not improve their situation. The Greeks that remained in their lands and did not seek asylum in other Frankish and Venetian-ruled regions tried to survive under the new occupation in the hope that the new conqueror would ensure for them better living conditions.
Peace and order that had ceased to exist in the 12th century, when the coasts of Attica had been transformed into piratic hideaways, were restored during the Frankish occupation. The Franks organized the administration and the economy of the region on the basis of specific rules and placed church and trade under their strict supervision, a fact that influenced significantly the social organization and the life of the Greek subjugated population.
Crusaders who had at times settled in Attica and Boeotia – from coarse soldiers to French feudal lords – came from countries that were not familiar with the Greek classical culture. Florentines, however, were different: Florence in mid-14th century was a true centre of Greek studies. It is fair to say that it seems to have little influence on the Florentine conquerors of Greece, who were mainly interested in securing their territorial rights and consolidating their rule rather than seeking to experience local culture.
Published: March 24, 2019
For many years we have had an image of those Gentiles who stood at the intersection of Judaism and Greco-Roman piety in the classical world; they are called the "God-fearers". In 1962 the classicists' primary reference work, Pauly-Wissowa, distinguished God-fearers from proselytes (i.e., converts). The God-fearers are more numerous: "they frequent the services of the synagogue, they are monotheists in the biblical sense, and they participate in some of the ceremonial requirements of the Law, but they have not moved to full conversion to Judaism through circumcision. They are called... sebomenoi or phoboumenoi ton theon". The Encyclopedia Judaica in 1971 stated that "in the Diaspora there was an increasing number, perhaps millions by the first century, of sebomenoi, gentiles who had not gone the whole route towards conversion."
Published: December 1, 2018
German influence in the Pacific dates from the early 1860s when the Samoan-based form Godeffroy & Sons established trading posts in many parts of Polynesia and Micronesia. Contacts were intensified and extended to parts of Melanesia (mainly the Solomons and the Bismarck Archipelago) in the 1870s. Following the German unification in 1871, a number of areas were subsequently annexed as protectorates and colonies, including the Marshall Islands (1878), North East New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago (1884), the Marianas and the Carolines (1898), Kiautschou (1898) and Samoa (1899).
Published: May 5, 2018
In 1191 King Richard the Lioheart seized the Island of Cyprus from Greek governor, de facto independent ruler, Isaac Comnenus. Richard soon realized his inability to govern the island as part of his kingdom in England and France and made the strategic decision to sell the island to the Knights Templar for 100,000 gold bezants. It was a wise decision which financially helped Richard a great deal, enabled him to fully focus on struggle to regain the Holy Land and ensured that the island was left in hands of loyal Christians always prepared to help defending the Holy Land. It seemed like a perfect solution.
Published: May 1, 2018
When a relief party sent from England arrived at the Roanoke Colony on the East coast of the United States in 1590, they found the settlement neatly dismantled, and not a soul to be found. Some 115 men, women, and children had simply disappeared. The only clue was the name of a nearby island, Croatoan, carved into the trunk of a tree. And thus was launched one of history's great mysteries: The Lost Colony of Roanoke.
Published: April 21, 2018
At its fullest extent, the Roman Empire stretched from around modern-day Aswan, Egypt at its southernmost point to Great Britain in the north but the influence of the Roman Empire went far beyond even the borders of its provinces as a result of commerce and population movements. Contrary to popular belief which holds that the Sahara Desert was an impossible obstacle to trade prior to the Middle Ages, the Romans had a robust and dynamic network of connections to Sudanic and Sub-Saharan Africa. Slaves, gold, foodstuffs, and spices were transported from complex urban settlements on the Niger river, onwards to oasis cities in the Sahara, before finally reaching Rome’s bustling ports on the coast of North Africa. Going in the opposite direction, gemstones, textiles, and coins reached cities along the fertile banks of the Middle Niger.