District in Ancient Greece and a nome (department) in present-day Greece, which gave its name to a Roman province and a Crusader Principality, both larger than the district.

The Achaeans were one of the principal peoples who formed Ancient Greece.   The district of Phthiotis in southern Thessaly and on the north of the Euboean Gulf was anciently called Achaea, but the area where the name persisted lies in the northwestern Peloponnese, between the Gulfs of Corinth and Patras in the north and the Erymanthos mountains in the south, with Elis lying to the west and Corinth to the east.

After the fall of Byzantium in 1204, it became part of the large Crusader Principality that bore its name.  It was incorporated in the Byzantine Despotate of the Morea in 1432, and became Ottoman in 1458.

A part of independent Greece from 1830, Akhaía was joined with Elis to form a nome until 1899, when it became separate.   Since 1987 Akhaía has belonged to the the region of Western Greece (Dhytikí Ellás), which lies on both sides of the Gulf of Patras;  before then it was part of the Peloponnesos region.

ACHAEA, Principality.

Crusader State in southern Greece, 1205-1430;  sometimes called Morea.

It was founded in 1205 in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade’s destruction of Byzantium.   Boniface of Montferrat, disappointed at not becoming Emperor, campaigned in Greece.   By 1205 much of the Peloponnese was in Crusader hands and Boniface appointed William of Champlitte as its ruler.   William’s father had been the son of a Countess of Champagne, though not of the Count.   In 1208, when William had to return home to deal with family affairs, Geoffrey de Villehardouin was appointed as interim ruler.   He had come independently to the Peloponnese by sea in 1204 and was already active there when Boniface entered the peninsula, though he accepted William’s lordship.   William died on his journey home.   His nephew, who had been sent out to replace him, also died, so Geoffrey was elected Prince by the Crusader nobles of Achaea in 1209.   By then Boniface of Montferrat was two years dead, killed in battle, and his son was an infant, so Geoffrey de Villehardouin submitted to the Emperor Henry, the only one of the Latin Emperors with real political ability.

Geoffrey and his Villehardouin heirs created the most powerful of the Crusader States in the Aegean region.   There were twelve great fiefs, two held by the Prince, ten by individuals.   These ten nobles plus the Archbishop, six Bishops and the commanders of the three Military Orders constituted a Council, which shared the functions of government with the Prince.   In secular affairs the Principality generally was conciliatory to the Greeks, but as with all the Crusader conquests Orthodox Bishops were replaced by Latin ones and some of the Greeks emigrated to regions that remained Orthodx, in Epirus and in Anatolia.

At the height of its power, the Principality held practically all the Peloponnese.   The last Byzantine stronghold, Monemvasia in the southeast, was taken in 1246.   The northeastern corner was held by the Crusader Dukes of Athens as a fief from the Princes of Achaea.   Venice held the southwest, with its towns of Coron and Modon.   The result of the feebleness of the Latin Empire was that the Prince of Achaea became the most powerful of the Latin Princes.  In 1236 the Latin Emperor recognised him as overlord of Euboea and the Aegean Duchy of the Archipelago.

In 1259 the Principality suffered a blow from which it never fully recovered.   Prince William II was captured by Michael VIII Paleologus, at first co-Emperor in Nicaea, and from 1261 the restored Emperor in Constantinople.   William was released  in exchange for three fortresses in the southeastern Peloponnese in 1261.  He knew that he lacked the resources to resist a revived Byzantium, and so he allied himself in 1268 with Charles of Anjou, the new King of Sicily, whose second son, Philip, married William’s daughter, Isabella.  By their agreement, if Philip died without offspring, his father would become the heir to Achaea.   The childless Philip died the year before William, with the result that the greedy, grasping Charles inherited Achaea in 1278.

The Angevin Kings of Naples controlled Achaea for a century, and were nominal lords for longer.  Charles I was efficient and ruthless.   His possession of Achaea meant that the Byzantines were cautious in the Morea for the time being.   In the earlier years of Angevin rule the government was sometimes exercised by a bailli sent out from Naples, sometimes held by Isabella de Villehardouin and later by Mahaut, her daughter by her second husband, Florent of Holland.   Florent was a successful ruler.   He had the advantage over any efficient bailli that his wife was of the old princely family.   A bailli served the interests of the Kingdom of Naples first and foremost, not the inhabitants of the Principality.   From the point of view of the King, though Isabella and later her daughter could appeal to the affections of the Franks in Achaea, they both were inclined to behave as though they were the rightful ruler.  For example, after Florent’s death in 1297 Isabella married a third time, failing to get the permission of King Charles II of Naples for her marriage, as she was supposed to do.   It turned out badly.   Her husband, Philip of Savoy, Count of Piedmont, was only interested in Achaea for his own benefit.  In 1307 Charles II secured Achaea for his second son and Philip departed.   His descendants in Piedmont (by another marriage) used the title of Prince of Achaea until their extinction in 1418.

Mahaut, the daughter of Isabella and Florent, occasionally ruled in Achaea, but like her mother she was liable to treat Achaea as her own.   For much of the 14th century Achaea served an appanage for one of the Neapolitan princes, who mostly did not go there, and who were more interested in what they could get out of it than what they should put in to ensure the future.   The most effective of the Crusader states in Greece and the Aegean became ill-governed and impoverished.   All the while the Greeks in the Morea were gradually chipping away the Principality’s territory.

From 1377 to 1381 the Knights Hospitaller held Achaea but were displaced by a band of Navarrese adventurers, one of whose number, Peter of St. Superan, bought the title of Prince from the King of Naples in 1396 (though he forgot to pay).   When he died in 1402 the government passed to his widow, but she was soon displaced by her nephew, Centurino Zacciaria, who held lands in Arcadia.   He too sought the permission of the King of Naples to use the title of Prince, but he was more honest than his uncle and actually paid up.  The Principality by this time consisted of Achaea proper and Arcadia;  the rest had been lost, mostly to the Greek rulers of the Morea, but Elis in the west had been taken by Carlo Tocco, Count of Cephalonia, early in Centurino’s reign.

Centurino entered into a subservient alliance with Venice in 1407.   In 1415 he paid homage to the Emperor Manuel II when he came to the Peloponnese to invest his son Theodore as Despot, but this did not prevent the Byzantines in the Morea putting pressure on the fading Principality the following year.  In 1427 the Greek Despots of the Morea began the final forward advance of their territory and in 1430 Centurino bowed out, his daughter marrying one of the Despots, Thomas Paleologus, brother of the Emperor.

From him and another brother the Ottomans seized the Peloponnese in 1458-60.

ACHAEA, Roman province.

The province was much more extensive than the Greek district, covering the whole Peloponnese, Attica, Euboea and the northern shores of the Gulf of Corinth.  In the reforms of Diocletian (late 3rd century) the province became part of the diocese of Moesia and then, when that divided, of Macedonia.

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