The Dukes of Naxos: Naxos has always been a center of trade, cultural heritage, and wealth in Greece. There is no doubt regarding why many countries wanted to establish their rule over it. The Republic of Venice was one of them, which had been interested in the Aegean islands for a long time. After the Byzantine Empire collapsed following the Fourth Crusade, the Venetians could fulfill their dream of control over these islands.
In 1207, Marco Sanudo arrived at the harbor of Potamides (Agiassos) to the southwest of Naxos along with eight galleys loaned to him by the Venetian Arsenal and captured the island.
The Naxian people tried to put up a battle but failed, and Sanudo got control of the area after a five- or six-week siege. Sanudo eventually conquered the whole of Naxos as well as other Cyclades islands and proclaimed himself as the Duke of the Duchy of the 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 province 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 (a system of granting dedicated streams of state income to people and institutions from the 11th to the 15th century). Thus, a little conflict between the locals and the Venetian lords occurred. 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 now export corundum and marble mined on Naxos to Venice. Sanudo ruled as the Duke of the Duchy for about twenty years. Other islands he had control over included Paros, Anafi, Milos, Sifnos, Kythnos, Thera, Amorgos, Kimolos, Sikinos, Tinos, Andros, Syros, Mykonos, Skyros, Ios, Serifos, Kea, Skopelos, Antiparos, and Cerigotto (Antikihira). 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, the Byzantine Empire managed to retrieve many islands, but not Naxos and Paros. In 1383, the Crispo family overthrew Sanudo's heirs to become the Dukes of the Archipelago. In 1566, Crispus was overthrown by the Ottoman Sultan, Salim II, and a Portuguese Jew named Joseph Nasi was appointed by the Turks. He would incidentally end up being the last Duke of the Archipelago. Nonetheless, that was not the end of Latin Christian rule; 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 stayed Venetian until 1714.
After the death of Joseph Nasi in 1579, Naxos was ruled by the Ottomans until 1821, with a gap between 1771-1774 when Russians had control of the island.
The names of all the Dukes of the Duchy of the Archipelago are listed below.
The Sanudo Dynasty
- Marco, I Sanudo: He accompanied his maternal uncle, Enrico Dandolo, on the 4th Crusade. He eventually became the first Duke of Naxos and the Archipelago.
- Angelo: He succeeded his father in 1227 as Duke of Naxos and the Archipelago. His fleet of ships helped to defend Constantinople against the attack by the Bulgarian Alliance. The suzerainty over Naxos and the Archipelago was conferred upon him by the Latin Emperor as a reward for his services.
- Marco II: He became Duke after his father in 1263. The island of Milos rebelled against his rule. This rebellion was led by a Greek monk who Marco II had thrown into the sea. He lost the islands of Sifnos, Sikinos, Ios, and Polykandros (today named Folegandros) to Byzantine forces, but the rest of the islands were included in the peace treaties negotiated by Venice with Emperors Michael VIII and Andronikos I in 1277 and 1285. Duke Marco II blatantly rejected Venetian claims of 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 in 1303. He attempted to reassert the authority of Naxos over the lost islands recaptured from the Byzantines, but his attempts were unsuccessful.
- 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 the Archipelago in 1323. He attacked Mykonos and conquered the islands of Santorini and Therasia in 1335.
- Giovanni I: He succeeded his brother in 1341. He supported Venice in the Venetian-Genoan war but was captured and taken as a captive to Genoa in 1354. He was released under peace terms formulated between the two in 1355.
- Fiorenza: She succeeded her father and became the first Duchess of Naxos and the Archipelago in 1362.
- Niccolo dale Carceri: He succeeded his mother in 1371. He lived in Euboea and appointed Januli Gozzadini of Anafi his regent in Naxos. His people resented him, which led to his murder with the involvement of Francesco Crispo, who immediately became his successor.
The Crispo Dynasty
- Francesco, I Crispo: After murdering his predecessor, he became Duke of Naxos and the 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 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 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 in 1433.
- Gian Giacomo: He succeeded his father at birth in 1447.
- Guglielmo II: Under the division of territories decided upon by his father, Francesco I, he received Anafi island. 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 in 1463.
- Giacomo III: He succeeded his father 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 in 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 was killed in 1494.
- Francesco III: After his father died 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 the Archipelago. He was so cruel that the inhabitants 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, too. 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 and captured the fortresses of Kephalos and Paroikia, putting his 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 many smaller islands before invading Naxos in 1536. Duke Giovanni IV finally agreed to pay homage to the Ottomans on November 11th, 1536.
- Giacomo IV: He succeeded his father in 1564. However, the citizens were fed up with the corruption under his rule and appealed to Sultan Salim II to appoint a better leader. Joseph Nasi was appointed to rule as the Duke, while Giacomo IV was imprisoned by the Venetians. Shortly after Joseph Nasi became Duke, the citizens, unwilling to submit to a Jew, pleaded for the release and restoration of Giacomo IV. However, when Giacomo was released, he was not allowed to take his previous title.
- Joseph Nasi: He was the Duke of Naxos and the Archipelago until 1579, after which Naxos came under Turkish rule. Throughout the 13th and 14th centuries, the island enjoyed immense prosperity and wealth. However, from the second half of the 14th century, war and piracy disrupted the economy of Naxos. But once under Ottoman rule, thanks to their orderly measures, the island got rich and regained its old glory.