Ottoman Conquest of Athens, 1456-58

On June 4, 1456, the city of Athens was conquered by the Ottoman general Turahanoğlu Ömer Bey during the reign of Fatih Sultan Mehmed.

After the conquest of the city, the last Duke Francesco II Acciaioli fled to the Acropolis, where he held out for two more years until he surrendered in July 1458. Thus, Sultan Mehmed II entered Athens in August 1458 with Ömer Bey.

Ottoman Bazars of Athens | Wikimedia

The people of Athens had suffered from the political, economic, and religious oppression of the Franks for two centuries; therefore, they were relieved to receive the new Sultan, who promised them to offer freedom, equality, and justice.

The second last Duke of Athens, Francesco I Acciaioli, was the son of Nerio II Acciaioli by his second wife Chiara Zorzi. After Nerio II’s death, Chiara fell in love with the Venetian Bartolomeo Contarini, who had come to Athens on Business. In order to marry Chiara, Bartolomeo killed his wife in Venice.

Bartolomeo, thus, married Chiara and also took a share in her government in Athens. At this time, Francesco I was the duke of Athens but under the regency and influence of his mother Chiara. Unhappy with Venetian influence, the Athenians on behalf of Duke Francesco I complained to Sultan Mehmed II.

Sultan intervened and both Bartolomeo and the young duke Francesco I were summoned to Adrianople. Sultan then sent the young duke’s cousin, Francesco II, to Athens as a Turkish client duke, and Chiara was thus deprived of her power in the city. Francesco I was never heard of again.

Francesco II now became the last duke of Athens. It is said that the new duke imprisoned Chiara in Megara and later killed her. At this, her lover and husband, Bartolomeo, appealed to the sultan for justice. Therefore, to establish order, Sultan Mehmed ordered the annexation of the city to the Ottoman Empire.

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