A duchy in the Cyclades Islands (mod. Kyklades, Greece) with its capital on Naxos, established after the Frankish- Venetian overthrow of the Byzantine Empire and ruled by Venetian families until its conquest by the Ottoman Turks in 1566.
The sources for the conquests of the Aegean islands in the wake of the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204) are late in date and vague in content. They are agreed that there was little opposition to the Latin newcomers, but their focus of attention was upon lords and lordships. The chronicle of Andrea Dandolo (1309-1354) concentrates on the titles acquired by various Venetian families in the Aegean, giving no details of the size, progress, and nature of the Venetian conquest. This source implies that there was one leader, Marco Sanudo, the nephew of the doge Enrico Dandolo, but that leading participants had their own ships and presumably a fairly free hand. The chronicler Daniele Barbaro (1511-1570) drew a distinction between Sanudo’s expedition to Naxos, which he placed in the winter of 1204-1205 and regarded as having been undertaken with the backing of his uncle, but without the knowledge of the Latin emperor, and the more general conquest of 1206-1207. Both chroniclers assumed that Venetian rulers of the Archipelago in their own day could trace their roots back to the original Latin conquerors.
The names of the six ruling families of the Archipelago around 1212 are derived from Barbaro’s chronicle and from various Venetian family histories. Marco Sanudo (d. 1227), duke of the Archipelago, occupied Naxos, Paros, Antiparos, Milos, Siphnos Kythnos (Thermia), Ios (Nio) Amorgos, Kimilos, Sikinos, Syra, and Pholegandros. Marino Dandolo, perhaps the elder brother of Marco, received Andros. The Ghisi brothers, Andrea and Geremia, ruled on Tinos, Mykonos, Skyros, Skopelos, Seriphos, and Kea. The other beneficiaries were Jacopo Barozzi on Thera (Santorini), Leonardo Foscolo on Anaphe, Marco Venier on Kythera (Cerigo), and Jacopo Viaro on Cerigotto. Whether they held these islands from Marco Sanudo or by retrospective grant of the Latin emperor is unclear, but they were expected to exercise their lordship in the Venetian interest. The Venier family on Kythera followed an overtly philhellenic stance, marrying brides from Greek families in 1238 and 1295. By 1363 they lost their island to direct rule from Venice when they became involved in a revolt of Venetian settlers on Crete. Intermarriage between the island families and the wider Venetian community in the Aegean, the subdivision of island lordships to accommodate younger sons, and the occasional leases of islands resulted in the increase and sometimes replacement of some of the original island families.
The first Turkish attacks on the islands were noted in 1318 with raids on Santorini and Karpathos. Raiding intensified in the 1330s and continued throughout the fifteenth century. Some of the islands, such as Andros, were virtually depopulated: the resettlement of Albanians on some of the islands was the remedy adopted by Venice to prevent this. The Turks occupied the island of Naxos for a time in 1344, which resulted in the enslavement of 6,000 of the islanders and the flight of many to Crete. The dukes drew closer to Venice, assisting it in its wars with Genoa and in the suppression of the revolt on Crete but at the same time seeking accommodation with the Turks whenever necessary. In 1566, Chios, and soon after Naxos, fell to the Turks, and with this event came the effective end of the duchy of the Archipelago. The Turkish seizure of Naxos was in part ascribed to a petition to the sultan Selim from the Orthodox Christians of the island begging his help to remove the debauched duke Giacomo IV Sommaripa. The tax farm of the island was granted to the sultan’s favorite, Jacopo Nasi (d. 1579), and the Venetians restored Giacomo briefly in 1571. The last duke of the Archipelago sought accommodation with Sultan Murad III and died in Istanbul in 1576. Thereafter the islands passed under direct Ottoman administration.
The significance of the islands was at once strategic and commercial. During the frequent naval wars in the Aegean between Venice and Genoa between 1260 and 1360, the islands were both harbors for succor and bases for state- sponsored piracy. At the time of the conquest, the Greek inhabitants seemed to have looked upon the Latins as a source for stability and an outlet for island produce, especially products such as corundum from Naxos and the mastic of Chios, which had ready markets in the West.
The limited population of the islands, together with scarce food and water resources and communications restricted by tides and winds, did not intensify aggression between Greeks and Latins. Latin settlement was limited to the towns of the larger islands and seems to have constituted less than 10 percent of the population. However, 20 percent of the Cycladic islanders followed the Latin rite, a remarkably high proportion compared to the legacy of the Latin Church in other territories occupied by the Latins. The increase in Turkish raiding during the fourteenth century led to the relocation of settlements inland. The towers and fortifications that the Latins built were designed to protect the inhabitants rather than to overawe them.