A short historical and numismatic overview By 1285/6, Charles I d'Anjou was dead and his heir Charles II was held captive in Messina to the Aragonese, who had occupied the island as a result of the Vespri Siciliani. So the regency of Robert II d'Artois for the Angevin domains put Guillaume de la Roche -- the "Megaskyr" and Duke of Athens -- in charge of the Principality of Achaea as baillie. Guillaume was the most powerful vassal of the Angevins in Greece, as the Duke of Athens owed traditional allegiance to the Prince of Achaea and because after the Viterbo treaty of 1267, Charles I had become overlord of all Latin Greece. The Frankish tower of Markopoulo in Attica, built under the de la Roche dynasty around the early 13th century. These defensive fortifications follow the typical keep shape that is well-known in Western Europe and were used primarily as local fortifications, points of surveillance and as a network of beacons, to warn against raids. Of Burgundian origin, the Maison de la Roche were the founders of the Lordship of Athens and Thebes. Othon/Odo de la Roche rode for Boniface de Montferrat and was acknowledged in 1204 as Lord of Athens, marking the beginning of the Burgundian domain in Attica. Between 1205 and 1212, Othon pacified the local population and assured the Greek landowners who decided to accept his lordship. He was also the first to take on the Greek title of "Megaskyr" -- possibly in a bid to make his rule more acceptable to the locals -- but his official title used in his correspondence is the Latin dominus Athenarum. After the murder of Boniface in 1207, Othon decided to side with Latin Emperor Henry of Flanders which in turn granted him Thebes (1209) as a hereditary fief. The relationship between Athens and Achaea begins with a joint campaign by Othon and Geoffrey de Villehardouin in 1210-1212, which resulted in the capture of Argolid and Acrocorinth. Subsequently, Othon received fiefs in the Argolid -- Damala, Argos and Nauplia and usufruct rights over Corinth in return for an oath of allegiance to the Prince of Achaea. That oath was usually kept by the Lords and later Dukes of Athens even after Viterbo, until 1291, when Helena Angelina refused to acknowledge Angevin overlordship and pay homage to Isabella de Villehardouin and her consort Florent d'Avesnes-Hainaut, as required by Charles II. Helena's statement of independence can also be related to the status her husband Guillaume enjoyed between 1285 and his death. The castle of Argos was conquered by Geoffrey and Othon in 1212 and refortified with a citadel defended by large round towers and an enceinte defending an outer bailey. Othon kept it and the neighboring Nauplia for himself. Guillaume was the grandson of Othon and inherited Athens and the associated domains from his brother, Jean de la Roche, who died in 1280. By marrying Helena Angelina of the Thessalian despotes of Neopatria, he established an alliance with the Komnenodoukai of the north, establishing a buffer zone between his lands and the Palaiologoi. An extremely able and well-liked lord, Guillaume de la Roche had the ear and loyalty of the Morean barons and governed Achaea with the same consideration and care as he governed his own realm. But this bailliage turned him from a first rank vassal into the most powerful lord in the whole Frankokratia. As a result, it is likely that at this point (according to Tzamalis) he begins striking deniers tournois -- the billon coinage of the land -- in his own name, very likely at Thebes, where he had his power base, in part to cover for the cessation of the Achaean mints (or at least the one at Glarentza) after the Vespers of 1282, in part to assert his prestige as power broker in Greece. A denier tournois of Guillaume I de la Roche, struck at Thebes, possibly not long before his demise in 1287, during a time when the Athenian coinage was developing from the very rare experimental types to a regular coinage of the land, and the minting operation at Thebes began supplying the market with a more stable output of coins. Specs: AR19mm 0.7g billon denier tournois, Thebes mint (primary), cca. 1287(?). + ⁑ G ⁑ DVX ⁑ ATENES ⁑; Cross pattee + ⁑ ThEBE ⁑ CIVIS ⁑ ; Chateau tournois, with a horizontal bar and three dots and open circles at each corner. Malloy 85, Metcalf MN(1971) XXXIX, 14, Tzamalis GR103. The new denier tournois was very experimental during its initial period but, by the death of Guillaume in 1287, the mint at Thebes was delivering coinage with enough success as to be continued by the regency of Helena Angelina (1287-1291) for Guillaume's minor son Guy, who would rule the Duchy of Athens as Guy II (1294-1308). Specs: AR19mm 0.81g billon denier tournois, Thebes mint (primary), cca. 1287-1288(?). + ⦂ G ⦂ DVX ⦂ ATENES ⦂ Cross pattee + ⦂ ThEBE ⦂ CIVIS ⦂ Chateau tournois, with a large arch, open circles at each corner. cf. Malloy 86, Metcalf MN (1971) p. 186, cf. Tzamalis GR105 A possible early issue (according to Tzamalis) from the regency of Helena Angelina for her son Guy II, keeping an immobilized legend of Guillaume I. This type is later than the one above, which is contemporary (judging by the privy marks) with an early and very rare experimental minority issue of Guy II, naming the young prince GVIOT. The GVIOT type is very rare, which means that it probably did not get the approval it needed from the new administration to be minted en masse. An interesting link in the evolution of the tournois at Thebes, marking the passing from the early experimental types (1285-1287) to the regular simplified types that were mass produced and used in the 1290s. This issue is probably part of a series of deniers tournois that ties the early, arched types, with the transitional bar chateau types -- it should be between Class A, early variety and Class B, transitional variety cf. Malloy p. 386. The characteristics of this specimen: the long arching part, the three dots in the middle spire arranged in triangular shape and the open circles at each corner tower are reminiscing of the first issues. But the reverse legend of ThEBE instead of ThEBES and the annulet-only stops point to a later transitional phase. Metcalf notes this type with bar and horizontal dots at the base of the middle spire as the most plentiful variety in the Pylia Hoard, but this sub-type with the arching part and the triangular setting of the dots in the chateau seems to be less common, although it is currently identified as Malloy 86/Tzamalis GR105. Although both types are not of the earliest tournois of the Duchy but rather of the period around 1286-7, they both keep some early features and they are both rather scarce, coming from a period of a couple or so years after the opening of the mint. The intricacies of the design are beyond the regular tournois of Glarentza or Corinth and indicate a professional operation by very skilled celators. Tzamalis likens the early and transitional Athenian chateau designs with the evolution of a tournois from the Genoese "city gate" coinage, a design that was very popular throughout the Levant by the second quarter to mid 13th century, being used in 1235 by the petty coinage of the County of Tripoli or by the Hospitaller Knights in Rhodes in 1310, and by Guillaume I de la Roche himself on the copper coinage of Thebes in the early 1280s. Whether this likeness is warranted or not, the design of these late 1280s tournois of Thebes is unlike their earlier competitors of Achaea and shows a deeper level of care, quality control or even artistic interest. The two coins above come from an old British collection, possibly gathered around the mid 20th century or earlier, a rather fitting provenance considering the continuous interest invested in the history of Greece by British institutions such as British School of Athens. More digging into the provenance might also prove worthy. The Athens that the Maison de la Roche knew Othon and his heirs fortified the Acropolis and incorporated ancient ruins into their new capital citadel. The fortifications reused much of the earlier Greek and Roman masonry found on site and some newly-quarried stone and had a most distinctive keep guarding the gates of the Propylaia, close to the Erechtheion. Today these medieval structures are no longer standing. Because of this, a dating of the structures and a viable chronology are very difficult to ascertain. The keep has been assigned to a later phase, dating from the revival of the Duchy by Nerio Acciaioli in 1388. However, Chaucer references a high and imposing tower inside the Acropolis citadel in "A Knight's Tale" which was written in 1382, 6 years prior to the installation of the Acciaioli regime: "The grette tower, that was so thikke and stroong, Which of the castel was the chief dongeoun [...] Was even joynant to the garden wal. [...] As was his wone, by lyve of his gayler Was risen and romed in a chamber an heigh In which he al the noble citie sigh." The Frankish tower of the Crusader citadel of Athens, on the Acropolis, next to the Propylaia; the Erechtheion can be seen to the right. The tower was dismantled in 1874/5 at the urging of H. Schliemann, who wanted the Acropolis purged of post-classical structures, causing irreparable damages to the whole area and practically destroying the citadel and most medieval buildings (and some Roman and pre-Roman that had been incorporated into the Crusader fortifications). Photograph made by W. J. Stillman, cca. 1870. But very likely the keep is part of the defense system put in place by Othon or Guy I. If we look for similar structures still standing, the best preserved is the one at Markopoulo which was pictured above, and which stands about 20miles north-east of Athens, with a probable date in the first quarter of the 13th century. In his work The Frankish Tower on the Acropolis, Athens: The Photographs of William J. Stillman, from the Annual of the British School of Athens, 1987, P. Lock doesn't do much else than to reiterate what had already been proposed: either an early de la Roche dating, a later Acciaioli dating or and even later Venetian assignment. The Athenian Acropolis in 1860, with the Frankish keep, the Propylaia, the medieval enceinte built by the de la Roche and the Parthenon in the back. Photograph taken by Demetrios Constantin. D. Nicolle's Crusader Castles in Cyprus, Greece and the Aegean 1191-1571 doesn't dwell on the Acropolis citadel and its medieval structures, as they had already been taken down and purged when he compiled his work on medieval and crusader structures. The purism of a well-meaning but exclusivistic fanatic left us without an extraordinary body of fortifications and monuments of high historical and aesthetic value and without what we could have learned by studying them and their ties to the earlier classical ruins of the Acropolis.