Lordship of Argos and Nauplia

Argos and Nauplia
Lordship in fief of the Principality of Achaea (de facto autonomous)[1]


Arms of the Brienne family

Capital Nauplia
37°36′N 22°46′E / 37.600°N 22.767°E / 37.600; 22.767Coordinates: 37°36′N 22°46′E / 37.600°N 22.767°E / 37.600; 22.767
Government Feudal lordship
Historical era Middle Ages
  Established 1212
  Sold to Venice 1388

During the late Middle Ages, the two cities of Argos (Greek: Άργος, French: Argues) and Nauplia (modern Nafplion, Ναύπλιον; in the Middle Ages Ἀνάπλι, in French Naples de Romanie) formed a separate lordship within the Frankish-ruled Morea in southern Greece.[2]

The cities were granted as a fief, following their conquest in 1211–1212, to Otto de la Roche, Duke of Athens, by Geoffrey I of Villehardouin, Prince of Achaea. The lordship remained in the possession of the de la Roche and the Brienne Dukes of Athens even after their expulsion from Athens in 1311, and those Dukes continued to be recognized there. Walter VI of Brienne was largely an absentee lord, spending most of his life in his European domains, and the lordship was inherited by his sixth son, Guy of Enghien. It then passed to his daughter Marie of Enghien when he died in 1376. In 1377, she married Peter Cornaro, who would also reside there until his death in 1388. Shortly after his death, Marie sold the two cities to Venice and retired there, but Argos was seized by the Despot Theodore I Palaiologos, while Nauplia by his ally, Nerio I Acciaioli. Nauplia was soon taken over by Venice, but Argos remained in Byzantine hands until 1394.


Map of the Peloponnese with its principal locations during the late Middle Ages

In the first years of the 13th century, already before the arrival of the Fourth Crusade in the Byzantine Empire, Argos and Nauplia became the centre of an independent domain under the Greek lord Leo Sgouros. Sgouros had exploited the feebleness of imperial authority, and like many other provincial magnates proceeded to carve out his own principality. From his hometown Nauplia, he seized Argos and Corinth, and attacked Athens, although he failed to take the Acropolis of Athens.[3][4] By early 1205, Sgouros had advanced into Boeotia and Thessaly, but was forced to abandon his conquests in the face of the Crusaders under Boniface of Montferrat, who advanced south from Thessalonica. Boniface overran Thessaly, Boeotia and Attica, where he installed his followers as barons, and his men invaded the Morea. Sgouros and his men held out in the citadels of Argos, Nauplia and Corinth, however, even after both Boniface and Sgouros died, in 1207 and 1208 respectively.[5][6] The three fortresses were kept under siege but not conquered by the Crusaders until the fall of Acrocorinth in 1210, followed by Nauplia and finally by Argos in 1212. The Lord of Athens, Otto de la Roche, played a major role in their capture, and as a reward the Prince of Achaea Geoffrey I of Villehardouin gave him Argos and Nauplia as a fief, along with an income of 400 hyperpyra from Corinth.[7][8][9] The area of Damala (Troezen) in the Argolid was also given to the de la Roche, but soon passed to a cadet branch of the family, which assumed the Barony of Veligosti.[10]

Under the de la Roche Dukes of Athens

After the death of Otto I, some time between 1225 and 1234, Argos and Nauplia were inherited by his son Otto II de la Roche, while the duchy itself went to Guy I de la Roche. In April 1251, Otto II sold his Greek possessions to his brother Guy I in exchange of 15,000 gold hyperpyra and the latter's lands and claims in France.[11]

From their possession of Argos and Nauplia–as well as one half of Thebes, which Guy I de la Roche held on behalf of the Prince of Achaea[12]–the de la Roche were feudatories of the Villehardouins. William II of Villehardouin's ambitions to hegemony over all the Latin states of southern Greece, however, irritated many of their rulers and barons, including Guy de la Roche, who refused to acknowledge William's claim to Achaean suzerainty over his patrimony, the Duchy of Athens. This led de la Roche to side with the Prince's enemies in the War of the Euboeote Succession (1256–58), which ended in a crushing Achaean victory.[13][14] Following the capture of William II by the Byzantines in the Battle of Pelagonia (1259), in 1261 the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos received a number of fortresses in the southeastern Morea (Monemvasia, Mystras and Grand Magne, possibly also Geraki) as a ransom for the Prince's release. According to George Pachymeres, Argos and Nauplia were also demanded by Palaiologos, but in the event they remained in Latin hands.[15][16] In the 1270s, with the rise of the Latin renegade Licario, who became a Byzantine admiral, the Argolid suffered repeated raids at the hands of Licario's corsairs.[17]

Under the Brienne family

In 1309, Walter I of Brienne succeeded to the Duchy of Athens, but he and many of the most important lords of Frankish Greece fell in the Battle of Halmyros in March 1311 against the Catalan Company. In its aftermath, the Catalans took over the Duchy of Athens and, with the military capacity of the remaining Latin states of Greece crippled, threatened to invade the Morea and take over Argos and Nauplia as well.[18][19] Walter's widow, Joanna of Châtillon, went to France to solicit aid from her father, the Constable of France Gaucher of Châtillon. Over the next few years, with support from the Angevin Kingdom of Naples and the Papacy, Joanna dispatched men and provisions to the Argolid, which was administered in her name by the local Frankish brothers Walter and Francis of Foucherolles.[20]

In January 1321, Joanna's son Walter II of Brienne came of age, and assumed the burden of defending Argos and Nauplia. Despite his repeated pledge to recover the Duchy of Athens, financial constraints kept him occupied in Italy, despite generous aid from the King of Naples. His efforts were further complicated by the persistent refusal of the Republic of Venice to support anti-Catalan ventures. It was not until 1331 that he managed to lead an expedition to Greece, but even so he preferred to attack the Despotate of Epirus first; from there he proceeded to northern Boeotia, but his campaign was a failure as the Catalans avoided battle: Walter had neither the troops to overwhelm the Catalans nor the money to sustain a prolonged war of sieges and attrition. After further ventures and adventures in Italy and France, Walter II was killed at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356.[21][22][23] During this time, the Argolid suffered raids by the Catalans in the 1310s, as well as the Aydinid Turks under Umur Bey in 1332, which coincided with a prolonged famine that required food to be imported from Italy.[24] At the same time, Argos and Nauplia also came within reach of the expanding Byzantine province in the Morea, which by ca. 1320 had expanded from the southeast to include most of Arcadia and Cynuria.[25] The increased threat to the lordship prompted Walter II to construct two new castles, which first appear in his will of 1347: at Kiveri (Chamires in French) across the Argolic Gulf from Nauplia and Thermisi (Trémis) further east along the coast, across Hydra Island.[1][26]

Under the Enghien family

Walter II died without direct heirs, as his only son had died as a child during his 1331 campaign. He was succeeded in his titles and claims by his sister Isabella of Brienne and her husband Walter of Enghien, but were immediately devolved on their numerous children. While the couple's second (and eldest surviving) son, Sohier of Enghien, received the County of Brienne and the rights to Athens, it was a younger son, Guy, who became "Lord of Argos, Nauplia and Kiveri".[1][27][28] Guy married Bonne of Foucherolles, strengthening his ties to the most important among the local Frankish families. Guy's reign was troubled by the threat of the Ottoman Turks, against whom he proved a courageous leader, but also by an increasingly troubled relation with the local populace, who in 1360 rebelled against increased taxation on figs and raisins and blockaded Guy's men in their castles.[27][29] In 1362, Guy became a Venetian citizen. Two years later, he sided with Philip II of Taranto in the civil war over possession of the Principality of Achaea against the Princess-dowager Maria of Bourbon and her supporters.[30] In 1371, the Enghien brothers launched another attempt to recover the Duchy of Athens from the Catalans, but the campaign failed as the Acropolis resisted and Louis of Enghien fell ill. The Enghien retreated, and Guy concluded a truce with the Catalans. This was to be the last such effort, for troubles in Italy occupied Guy's brothers, and the looming Ottoman threat forced the Papacy to a policy of supporting the Catalans.[31]

On Guy's death in 1376, the Lordship was governed by his brother Louis, until the marriage of Guy's daughter Maria (born 1364) to the Venetian Peter Cornaro in 1377. Louis seems to have launched some raids against the Catalans in 1377, but this was overshadowed by the fall of the Duchy of Athens to the Navarrese Company in 1379.[32][33] Maria of Enghien and Peter Cornaro were often dependent on Venetian aid during their rule of Argos and Nauplia, and Venice's influence in that time rose to such an extent that, in A. Luttrell's words, "the [Venetian] senate considered these places more or less as Venetian possessions".[34] When Peter Cornaro died in 1388, Maria, unable to defend her possessions, sold them to Venice (12 December) in exchange for an annual subsidy of 700 ducats. Before the Venetians could arrive to take over the two towns, however, the Byzantine Despot of the Morea Theodore I Palaiologos, and his ally and father-in-law Nerio I Acciaioli seized them with the aid of an Ottoman army under Evrenos. Although the Venetians were quickly able to oust Nerio from Nauplia, Argos remained in Theodore's hands for six years, until 11 June 1394.[35][36][37] After Maria's death in 1393, her uncle Engelbert I of Enghien claimed her inheritance, but when the Venetians provided the document of sale, and suggested that they would be willing to cede the castles if he could pay for their defence, he dropped his claim.[38] Argos remained in Venetian hands until conquered by the Ottomans at the outbreak of the First Ottoman–Venetian War in 1463, while Nauplia lasted longest of all Venetian possessions in the Morea, and was surrendered to the Ottomans in 1540 at the end of the Third Ottoman–Venetian War.[39]

Lords of Argos and Nauplia


  1. 1 2 3 McLeod 1962, p. 379.
  2. Bon 1969, pp. 110, 491–492.
  3. Setton 1976, pp. 21–23.
  4. Fine 1994, pp. 36–37.
  5. Bon 1969, pp. 55–56.
  6. Fine 1994, pp. 63–64.
  7. Bon 1969, pp. 58–59, 68, 70, 486.
  8. Setton 1976, pp. 36–37.
  9. Fine 1994, p. 90.
  10. Bon 1969, pp. 486–488.
  11. Longnon 1973, pp. 65–69.
  12. Bon 1969, p. 68.
  13. Setton 1976, pp. 68, 79–80, 420–421, 432ff..
  14. Longnon 1973, pp. 71–73.
  15. Bon 1969, p. 123.
  16. Setton 1976, pp. 98–99, 427.
  17. Setton 1976, pp. 427–428.
  18. Luttrell 1966, p. 34.
  19. Topping 1975, pp. 107–108.
  20. Luttrell 1966, pp. 34–35.
  21. Luttrell 1966, pp. 35–37.
  22. Setton 1976, pp. 447–453.
  23. Fine 1994, p. 248.
  24. Luttrell 1966, p. 37.
  25. Setton 1976, p. 154.
  26. Bon 1969, pp. 494–495.
  27. 1 2 Bon 1969, p. 236.
  28. Luttrell 1966, pp. 37, 38.
  29. Luttrell 1966, pp. 38–39.
  30. Luttrell 1966, p. 40.
  31. Luttrell 1966, pp. 41–42.
  32. Bon 1969, pp. 236, 263.
  33. Luttrell 1966, pp. 42–43.
  34. Luttrell 1966, pp. 43–45.
  35. Bon 1969, pp. 263–269.
  36. Luttrell 1966, pp. 47ff..
  37. Topping 1975, pp. 153–155.
  38. Luttrell 1966, pp. 46–47.
  39. Fine 1994, pp. 567, 568.


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