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Leo Sgouros ( ) was a Greek independent lord in the northeastern Peloponnesemarker in the early 13th century. The scion of the magnate Sgouros family, he succeeded his father as hereditary lord in the region of Nauplia. Taking advantage of the disruption caused by the Fourth Crusade, he made himself independent, one of several local rulers that appeared throughout the Byzantine Empire during the final years of the Angeloi dynasty. He expanded his domain into Corinthia and Central Greece, eventually marrying the daughter of former Byzantine emperor Alexios III Angelos. His conquests however were short-lived, as the Crusaders forced him back into the Peloponnese. Blockaded in his stronghold on the Acrocorinthmarker, he committed suicide in 1208.

Life

He succeeded his father Theodore Sgouros in ca. 1198 as governor of the area of Naupliamarker and the Argolidmarker, one of the districts known as oria, that collected taxes and provided ships for the Byzantine navy. In ca. 1201/2, when a rebellion in Thessaly and Macedonia led by Manuel Kamytzes and Dobromir Chrysos cut southern Greece off from Constantinoplemarker, Leo established himself as an independent ruler. He then proceeded to take the citadels of Argosmarker and Corinthmarker. His hostility to the church, who by that time were seen as the "defenders of the traditional order" in the words of Michael Angold, was profound: the bishop of Nauplion was imprisoned, while the bishop of Corinth was blinded and thrown to his death from the Acronaupliamarker. Indeed, Sgouros is generally presented as a violent man: in a letter, Michael Choniates, the bishop of Athensmarker, recounts how Sgouros beat to death a young relative of his who had been delivered as a hostage, merely because he had dropped a glass while waiting at his table.

Soon after, while the Byzantine government was preoccupied with the Fourth Crusade, he attacked Athens too, enlisting the aid of the piratical inhabitants of the island of Aiginamarker. His men managed to take, plunder and torch the city, although the inhabitants, led by Choniates, continued to resist from the Acropolismarker. Leaving them blockaded, he then marched into Boeotia, where Thebesmarker surrendered to him, and into Thessaly. Near Larissamarker, he encountered Alexios III Angelos, who had fled the Crusader attack on Constantinople. In exchange for offering protection to the deposed ruler, he received the hand of Alexios' third daughter, Eudokia Angelina (her third marriage), and the title of despotes.

In the autumn of 1204, as the Crusaders under Boniface of Montferrat marched into Thessaly and headed south, Sgouros withdrew before the superior Crusader army. Initially he planned to make a stand in the pass of the Thermopylaemarker, but eventually he retired to the Peloponnese, establishing a defense on the Isthmus of Corinthmarker. The army of Boniface took Boeotia and Atticamarker without resistance, and relieved the blockade of Athens, where Choniates surrendered the city to him. Boniface's first assault on Sgouros' defenses in the Isthmus was repulsed, but the second broke through, and by spring 1205 he controlled the countryside of the northeastern Peloponnese, while the fortified cities held out against him.

Sgouros himself withdrew and was blockaded in his stronghold, the well-fortified citadel of the Acrocorinthmarker, in a siege that was to last five years. Sgouros' resistance was energetic, with sorties that harassed the besiegers. To tighten their siege, the Franks built two forts, one on the hill of Pendeskouphi and one on the eastern approaches. According to legend, Sgouros eventually despaired, and jumped off the high cliffs on his horse. Resistance was continued by a certain Theodore, but in the end, the citadel fell in 1210, removing one of the last major centers of resistance against the establishment of the Frankish Principality of Achaea.

References

  1. Magdalino (2002), p. 491
  2. Magdalino (2002), pp. 257-258
  3. Kazhdan (1991), p. 1886
  4. Angold (2000), p. 206
  5. Magdalino (2002), p. 411
  6. Fine (1994), p. 37
  7. Fine (1994), p. 64
  8. Akropolites & Macrides (2007), pp. 67, 81
  9. Andrews (2006), p. 136
  10. Fine (1994), pp. 64, 67


Sources




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