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The Dukes of Naxos: Naxos has always been a center of trade, cultural heritage and wealth in Greece. There is little doubt then as to why many countries across the world wanted to capture and establish their rule over it. Among them was The Republic of Venice who had been interested in the Aegean islands for a very long time. After the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade, the Venetians could now fulfill their dream of control over these islands.
In 1207, Marco Sanudo arrived at the harbor of Potamidides to the southwest of Naxos along with eight galleys loaned to him by the Venetian Arsenal and captured the island. The Naxiotes tried to put up a battle but failed and Sanudo eventually got control of it after a five-six week siege. Sanudo eventually conquered the whole of Naxos as well as other Cyclades islands, eventually proclaiming himself as the Duke of the Duchy of Archipelago (The Byzantine name for the Aegean) in 1210 with Naxos as its capital.
Marco Sanudo fortified the island further and divided it into 56 provinces. He introduced a feudal system whereby, each of the provinces was distributed as fiefdoms and assigned to the nobles in Greece. The introduction of the feudal system in Greece was quite easy as the locals were already familiar with the Byzantine system of the pronoia. There was thus a little conflict between the locals and the Venetian lords. By gaining control over the Aegean islands, the Venetians assured themselves safe traveling routes to conduct trade with other islands off of Anatolia.
Besides secure routes, the Venetians could also now easily export corundum and marble mined on Naxos to Venice. Sanudo ruled as the Duke of the Duchy for about twenty years. Other islands that he had control over included Paros, Anafi, Milos, Sifnos, Kithnos, Thera, Amorgos, Kimolos, Sikinos, Tinos, Andros, Syros, Mykonos, Skyros, Ios, Serifos, Kea, Skopelos, Antiparos, and Cerigotto. His reign was followed by that of twenty-one dukes of two dynasties namely the Sanudo Dynasty and the Crispo Dynasty.
By the end of the 13th century, many of the islands with the exception of Naxos and Paros were won back by the Byzantine Empire. In 1383, the Crispo family won a battle against and overthrew Sanudo's heirs to become Dukes of Archipelago. In 1566, the Crispos were overthrown by the Ottoman Sultan, Salim II and a Portuguese Jew by the name of Joseph Nasi was appointed by him who would incidentally end up being the last Duke of Archipelago. However, it was not the end of Latin Christian rule entirely, a family of Bolognese, survived as lords of Sifnos, Kythnos and five other little islands in the Cyclades until 1617. Even the island of Tinos remained Venetian until 1714.
After the death of Joseph Nasi in 1579, Naxos came under Turkish rule till 1821 with a gap between the years 1771-1774 when Russians had control over it. Below is the list of names of all the Dukes of the Duchy of Archipelago.
- Marco, I Sanudo: He accompanied his maternal uncle, Enrico Dandolo on the 4th Crusade. He eventually became the first Duke of Naxos and Archipelago.
- Angelo: He succeeded his father in 1227 as Duke of Naxos and Archipelago. His fleet of ships helped to defend Constantinople against the attack by the Bulgarian Alliance. The suzerainty over Naxos and Archipelago was conferred upon him by the Latin Emperor as a reward for his services.
- Marco II: He became Duke after his father in the year 1263. The island of Milos rebelled against his rule. This rebellion was led by a Greek monk whom Marco II had thrown into the sea. He lost the island of Sifnos, Sikinos, Ios, and Polykandros to Byzantine forces but his remaining islands were included in the peace treaties negotiated by Venice with Emperors Mikhael VIII and Andronikos I in 1277 and 1285. Duke Marco II blatantly rejected Venetian claims to suzerainty over the islands. He recaptured the lost islands in the war between Venice and Emperor Andronikos II. But their new leaders asserted their independence from Naxos and recognized Venetian suzerainty.
- Guglielmo I: He succeeded his father to become Duke in the year 1303. He attempted to reassert the authority of Naxos over the lost islands that were recaptured from the Byzantines with little luck.
- Niccolo I: His father sent him to assist the Knights of Saint John in their conquest of Rhodos in 1309. He was in charge of a contingent operating from Naxos at the battle of Kephisos in 1311. He also fought at the battle of Elis against Infante don Fernando de Mallorca. He eventually became Duke of Naxos and Archipelago in 1323. He attacked Mykonos and conquered the islands of Santorini and Therasia in 1335.
- Giovanni I: He succeeded his brother to become the Duke in 1341. He supported Venice in the Venetian-Genoan war but was captured and taken as a captive to Genoa in 1354. He was eventually released under the peace terms formulated between the two in 1355.
- Fiorenza: She succeeded her father to become the Duchess of Naxos and Archipelago in 1362.
- Niccolo dale Carceri: He succeeded his mother to become Duke of Naxos and Archipelago in 1371. He lived in Euboea and appointed Januli Gozzadini of Anafi to be his regent in Naxos. His people resented him and this led to his murder with the involvement of Francesco Crispo who was immediately accepted as his successor.
- Francesco, I Crispo: After murdering his predecessor, he became Duke of Naxos and Archipelago in 1383. He captured the island of Andros. He also left his territories to be divided among his five sons.
- Giacomo I: He succeeded his father to become Duke of Naxos and Archipelago in 1397. In 1416, Sultan Mohammed I sent a Turkish fleet to attack the Cyclades island. The Duke died on his way to meet Pope Martin V at Mantua.
- Giovanni II: As per the division of territories decided upon by his father, Francesco I, he received Milos and Kimolos in 1397. He succeeded his brother to become Duke of Naxos and Archipelago in 1418. In 1431, Genoa seized Naxos and Andros and Duke Giovanni II was forced to make a treaty with them to retain his independence.
- Giacomo II: He succeeded his father to become Duke of Naxos and Archipelago in 1433.
- Gian Giacomo: He succeeded his father at birth in 1447 to become Duke of Naxos and Archipelago.
- Guglielmo II: Under the division of territories decided upon by his father, Francesco I, he received Anafi. He acted as joint regent for his great-nephew Duke Gian Giacomo, succeeding him as Duke with the agreement of his nephew in 1453.
- Francesco II: He succeeded his uncle to become Duke of Naxos and Archipelago in 1463.
- Giacomo III: He succeeded his father to become Duke of Naxos and Archipelago in 1463. The Turks attacked Naxos in 1477. The citizens of Naxos were treated as Venetian citizens after the 1479 peace agreement which ended the Venetian- Turkish war.
- Giovanni III: He succeeded his brother as Duke in the year of 1480. He invaded the island of Santorini. The citizens of Naxos, fed up with his tyrannical rule, besieged him in his castle. He was freed with the help of Knights of St John from Rhodos but the populace continued to hate him. He eventually was killed in 1494.
- Francesco III: After his father's death in 1494, Venice directly ruled the duchy for a while before restoring it to him in 1500 when he became the Duke of Naxos and Archipelago. He was so cruel that the population appealed to Venice to dethrone him. He was declared insane and imprisoned by the Venetians in 1509 but was soon released. He returned to Naxos where he murdered his wife and attempted to murder his son. He was overthrown by the people and sent to Santorini in custody. He was later transferred to Candia where he died.
- Giovanni IV: He succeeded as Duke of Naxos in May 1517. He claimed Paros, captured the fortresses of Kephalos and Proikia, putting his own officials in charge. However, in 1520, Venice ordered it to be transferred to Fiorenza Venier. Naxos was attacked by Turkish corsair Kurtoglu. Khaireddin Pasha captured a lot of the small islands before invading Naxos in 1536. Duke Giovanni IV finally agreed to pay homage to the Ottomans on 11th Nov. 1536.
- Giacomo IV: He succeeded his father to become Duke in 1564. However, the citizens were fed up with the corruption under his rule and appealed to Sultan Salim II to appoint a more suitable leader. Joseph Nasi was appointed by him to rule as the Duke. Giacomo IV was imprisoned by the Venetians. Shortly after Joseph Nasi became Duke, the citizens unwilling to submit to a Jew pleaded the release and restoration of Giacomo IV. However, while Giacomo was released, he was not allowed to take his previous position as Duke.
- Joseph Nasi: He was the Duke of Naxos and Archipelago till the year 1579 after which Naxos came under Turkish rule. Throughout the 13th and the 14th Century, the Naxos island enjoyed immense prosperity and wealth. However, from the second half of the 14th Century, war and piracy greatly disrupted the economy of Naxos. But once under the Ottoman rule, thanks to their orderly measures the island's riches and opulence grew manifold and it regained its old glory.