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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

V: The Morea, 1364-1460,   pp. 141-166 PDF (10.1 MB)

Page 145

Ch. V THE MOREA, 1364—1460 145 
 Gregory XI's letter to Nerio was one of the invitations which the pope sent
to the Latin lords in the Levant, to the Byzantine emperor, to the doges
of Venice and Genoa, and to the kings of Hungary and Aragonese Sicily to
attend a congress at Thebes in October 1373. There Gregory hoped to form
a grand alliance against the Ottoman Turks, whose crushing victory over the
Serbs at Chernomen on the Maritsa (September 26, 1371) imperiled the entire
Christian position in southeastern Europe. But the project of a crusading
congress was most impractical in a year, 1373, which saw Genoa attack Cyprus
and Louis of Hungary declare war on Venice. Indeed, the pope himself seems
tacitly to have abandoned the utopian scheme only a few months after its
conception. Instead he tried to raise a small fleet of twelve ships to be
stationed permanently in the Aegean Sea and the Straits in order to impede
Turkish communications between Asia Minor and Thrace. Gregory asked queen
Joanna and Philip of Taran to, among other rulers, to contribute galleys
to the allied fleet, 10 but even this modest objective could not be realized.
The pope neverthe less persisted in his efforts to persuade the monarchs
of the house of Anjou—Louis of Hungary and Joanna of "Sicily" (Naples)—to
con tribute to the defense of the Greek empire. He emphasized that the fall
of Constantinople would lead to the Turkish conquest of the entire Balkan
peninsula, including Achaea and the Aegean islands, following which Hungary
and Italy would be directly menaced. There could be no hope of a passagium
generale to recover the Holy Land unless Byzantium were first saved.11 
 Like so many similar papal appeals in the fourteenth century, this was in
vain. The crusading zeal of Gregory XI was an anachronism in the 1370's.
He had no more loyal adherent and vassal than the much maligned queen of
Naples, who was, indeed, soon to lose crown and life for supporting the French
line of popes in the first years of the Great Schism. But Joanna was both
unwilling and unable to give more than lip-service to the ideal of the crusade,
although it was in theory the raison d'être of the Angevin kingdom
of Naples. 
 On the death in 1373 of Philip II of Taranto without heirs, Joanna decided
to exercise direct rule over his Greek possessions, of which she had long
been suzerain. But Philip left a sister, Margaret, whose 
10. Probably in June, if not in March, 1373: O. Halecki, Un Empereur de Byzance
a Rome (Warsaw, 1930), p. 277, note 3; Philip seems to have promised two
vessels (ibid., p. 300). Halecki rightly questions whether the congress of
Thebes actually met; most historians of Latin Greece assume that it did (cf.
ibid., chapters X—XI). Cf. also Rubió i Liuch, Diplomatari de
l'Orient català, p.423, note 1. 
11. Letters of Gregory XI to Louis and Joanna, October 27, 1375, analyzed
in Halecki, Empereur de Byzance, pp. 314—315. 

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