15.09.39, Tsougarakis and Lock, eds., A Companion to Latin Greece

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Sharon Gerstel

The Medieval Review 15.09.39

Tsougarakis, Nickiphoros I., and Peter Lock, eds. A Companion to Latin Greece. Brill's Companions to European History, 6. Leiden: Brill, 2015. pp. 529. ISBN: 978-90-04-28402-9 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
Sharon Gerstel
University of California, Los Angeles
gerstel@humnet.ucla.edu

This ambitious collection of eleven essays, written by well-known scholars, provides an introduction to the study of Latin Greece. The volume, which emphasizes recent research and highlights new directions in scholarship, is useful both to newcomers to the field and to specialists. A chronological table, maps, and lengthy bibliography of primary sources and secondary literature make this volume an excellent tool for teaching. Although the essays cover a wide range of subjects, a comprehensive index allows readers to find common links across chapters with ease.

The first chapter, written by Nickiphoros I. Tsougarakis, provides a concise overview of the historical events that led to the fracturing of Greece into polities whose borders and rulers changed over time. A review of the historiography of the field focuses primarily on the contributions of historians. For the vast literature on the castles, churches, and archaeology of Latin Greece, the reader is asked to search the footnotes of individual essays and to consult the bibliography. The chapter concludes with a brief summary of each essay.

In the well-crafted second chapter, "Crusades and Crusaders in Medieval Greece," Nikolaos Chrissis examines the major developments in crusading in Frankish Greece--the defense of the Latin Empire or protection of Latin possessions in Greece; the rise of the anti-Turkish Leagues intended to curb the power of the naval beyliks; and the pan-European movements against the Ottomans. These crusades, which took place from the 13th to 15th century, involved numerous expeditions and individuals. Chrissis analyzes the motivations of States to engage in crusade and the concomitant shift in crusade rhetoric and imagery. The author provides a fascinating account of the methods of financing those who took up the cross. His detailed discussion of specific individuals, including Martino Zaccaria, Humbert II of Vienne, Humbert V of Beaujeu ("the hammer of Languedoc"), Philip the Good of Burgundy, and John Hunyadi, reveals the motivations of individuals who followed this path. Chrissis suggests that crusades could bring the Greeks and Latins together, particularly in common cause against the Turks. But cooperation only extended so far. Distrust and suspicion lingered, and ultimately worked against pan-European unity.

In the third chapter, "Land and Landowners in the Greek Territories under Latin Dominion, 13th-14th Centuries," Charalambos Gasparis examines how the Venetians and Franks administered their newly conquered lands and how properties belonging to the Greek Church were redistributed. Gasparis probes the varied compromises between foreign powers and indigenous residents over land ownership. In many of the territories, as attested in the Assizes of Romania, land management was rooted in Western feudal practices--the exchange of military service for land, the complex networks of personal allegiances, etc. But, as Gasparis demonstrates, Western practices were tailored to local needs, especially when the support of the Greek population was needed. Much of this chapter focuses on Venetian Crete, beginning in 1211 with the Concessio Crete, the document of the first colonization, and extending up to the end of the 14th century. Gasparis also outlines approaches to land management in States where the rulers shared Frankish ancestry--the Kingdom of Cyprus, the Principality of Achaia, and the island of Corfu.

In Chapter Four, Anastasia Papadia-Lala takes a broad chronological look at the Stato da Mar, beginning in 1204, the year of the capture of Constantinople, and ending in 1797 with the surrender of Venice to Napoleon and the consequent incorporation of the Ionian islands into the Départments Mer-Égée, Ithaque, and Corcyre. The author examines the social stratification of the ethnically mixed populations found in the Greek-Venetian East, from the nobles/feudatories or "citizens" (cittadini) to the indigenous villagers (popolo, plebe). As the title of the chapter suggests ("Society, Administration and Identities in Latin Greece"), the author takes an inclusive view of society, moving beyond the well-documented male nobles to consider Orthodox villagers, women, and Jews. A discussion of communities and communal councils raises important points about social stratification, economic ranking, and cultural snobbery. The chapter concludes with a brief consideration of Genoese possessions in the Aegean.

The fifth chapter, authored by Nicholas Coureas, addresses "The Latin and Greek Churches in former Byzantine Lands under Latin Rule." This is an in-depth study of institutional exchanges between the Latin and Greek Churches, as well as relationships at the local level. Coureas describes monastic orders, especially the mendicant orders that established houses in former Byzantine territories, and the military orders, including the Templars and Hospitallers. Of interest is his discussion of the enigmatic Order of St. Sampson, which originated in Constantinople. Although an excellent overview, some general statements could have been footnoted or supported with more precise information. For example, it would be helpful to know which churches on Naxos and Cyprus support the author's contention that "some Greek churches [on these islands] had separate altars so that both the Greek and the Latin rites could be celebrated" (159).

Chapter Six, "The Economy of Greece," the work of David Jacoby, summarizes his work on the re-orientation and restructuring of trade networks in the Eastern Mediterranean following the conquest of Constantinople on 1204. This essay, focusing on networks established by Venice and the Frankish Principality of the Morea, goods and commodities, the rural economy, and the growth of monetization, is a comprehensive study of the region's micro and macro economy. Jacoby places late medieval Greece within a changing European economy, whose demands had an impact on the marketing of export-oriented surpluses. The author also returns to his previous studies on tanning and silk weaving to consider industrial activities in the region's urban centers. This chapter, which incorporates much of Jacoby's foundational work in the field of economic history, is an excellent assignment for advanced students.

In a beautifully written chapter, Julian Baker provides an overview of "Money and Currency in Medieval Greece," presenting research to date and looking at historical implications of the data. The essay begins with a discussion of coin finds in Greece, assembling excavated coins, hoards, and finds today in private or public collections. Of enormous interest is Baker's classification of hoards by dates of concealment; not surprisingly many of the hoards were buried at times of political and social instability, c. 1204-10 and 1311. In a discussion of coin production in medieval Greece, the author summarizes the complicated issues surrounding the denier tournois, a local currency. A section devoted to coin usage takes a diachronic perspective of coinage within the region, looking at the production of coins in certain parts of medieval Greece. Finally, Baker discusses how coinage can be used to understand regional or site-related histories.

David Jacoby's second essay, "The Jewish Communities in the Social Fabric of Latin Greece: Between Segregation and Interaction," the eighth chapter of this volume, studies the "Romaniotes," medieval Greece's Jewish population. Using archival materials, Jacoby documents the Jewish individuals and communities on the Greek mainland and islands, looking at their sources of income, their relationship to the Christian population, and instances in which they faced discrimination. Moving beyond the well-known urban communities, Jacoby introduces information about Jewish rural settlements, or "rural sites inhabited, owned, or rented by Jews," a subject that has not been thoroughly examined to date (274-75). Well-documented and with much new information, this chapter is a welcome contribution to the volume.

The three last chapters turn to literature, architecture and art in medieval Greece. In Chapter Nine, "Literature in Frankish Greece," Gill Page focuses on the Morea, the crusader court in the Peloponnese known for its courtoisie. The multi-lingual and culturally diverse Peloponnese gave rise to several well-known works, including, most notably, the Chronicle of the Morea, an epic poem that has been the focus of sustained scholarly interest. Page's essay begins with a study of the "Chansonnier du Roi" (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fonds français 844), a songbook made, most likely, for William II de Villehardouin. The author then turns to the Chronicle of the Morea and its audience. Focusing on the Greek version of the Chronicle and on evidence internal to the text, Page proposes that the work was intended for oral performance and reception. The author places three vernacular romances--The War of Troy, Florios and Platzia-Flora, and Imberios and Margarona--within the same cultural milieu, suggesting that they, like the Chronicle, were orally transmitted and likely created in the Morea--"an ethnically mixed society with a strong localized identity" (325).

Maria Georgopoulou's essay, "The Landscape of Medieval Greece," the tenth chapter in the volume, views post-1204 Greece--both Venetian Crete and the Morea--as a "colonial landscape." The essay provides a review of recent literature in the field before turning to the architectural remains. Here, the essay moves back and forth between the two regions, examining administrative structures before turning to the construction and decoration of churches. The essay includes examples of monumental sculpture--reliefs like the lion of St. Mark built into Venetian fortifications. The chapter is well documented and attempts to synthesize a great deal of information. Readers interested in the church of St. George at Karditsa, which contains the tomb of Anthony le Flamenc (358-59), should turn to the subsequent essay for a different view of the church's construction and patronage (374-76).

In the last essay in the volume, "Monumental Art in the Lordship of Athens and Thebes under Frankish and Catalan Rule (1212-1388): Latin and Greek Patronage," Sophia Kalopissi-Verti examines monumental art of Latin and Greek patronage. The author's command of the monuments is superb, and she deftly moves the reader through a number of churches, commenting on their imagery, patronage, and style. Although few surviving works can be assigned to Latin patronage, the large number of mid-13th-century churches in Attica and Boeotia indicate that the local population--financially secure--was able to hire workshops of high-quality painters. The tension between adherence to the traditional Comnenian painting style and adoption of new Western forms is played out in a region where mixed populations co-existed, making use of the same painters and often venerating the same saints. The author notes that certain aspects of iconography indicate that ecclesiastical art could be employed to assert opposition or rapprochement between the Latin and Greek Churches. A short section on the Catalan Domination (1311-88) introduces the small number of churches and monuments constructed in this period. These include the church of St. Nicholas Mavrika in Aegina, which records the name of the Catalan ruler, Don Alfonso Fadrique.

The chapters, in sum, provide a well-balanced view of Latin Greece and offer a starting point from which students and researchers can begin to learn about this complicated region. The essays are both scholarly and accessible, a task that is always challenging. With footnotes at the bottom of each page, color images, and an ample bibliography, the design and format of the book contributes to its success. One glaring absence in the volume is a chapter on the archaeology of Latin Greece, a subject that is raised in several of the essays, but one that is never fully explored. The important finds from Corinth, Thebes and Rhodes and survey data from Naxos, the Corinthia, and Boeotia would have made a welcome (and important) addition to the volume.

What this volume makes clear is the central importance of Latin Greece to the study of the Mediterranean and, indeed, to the study of late medieval and Early Modern Europe. The region's enduring ties to both the West and Byzantium, its role in agricultural production and the exportation of vital commodities, its mixed population, and its multiple religious confessions, place Latin Greece at the center of current discourses about identity, networks, and globalism. Providing an impressive range of materials, this volume challenges the reader to think critically about local and regional transformations at a time of political uncertainty.

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