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1263 Battle of Prinitza ★ ★ ★ ★
Outcome: A legendary victory of the Franks of the Principality of Achaea 1263
War  &  Enemy: Enemy:
Byzantine-Latin Wars
Battle Type:
Surprise Attack
The Battlefield Prinitza Location:
Printiza, Elis, near Ancient Olympia, Peloponnese, Greece
Modern Country:
  The Byzantines(emperor:  Michael VIII Palaiologos) The Enemies
Commander: Constantine Palaiologos Jean de Katavas
Forces: few thousand 312 knights
Background story: At the Battle of Pelagonia (1259), the forces of the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos had killed or captured most of the Frankish nobles of the Principality of Achaea, including the Prince William II of Villehardouin (r. 1246–1278). In exchange for his freedom, William agreed to hand over a number of fortresses in the southwestern part of the Moreas peninsula and Achaea to become a vassal of Byzantium. In early 1262, William was released, and the forts of Monemvasia and Mystras, with the districts of Mani and Krystaina, were handed over to the Byzantines.
Soon after his return, however, William asked the help of Pope and suggested a joint action against Palaiologos. In July, Pope Urban IV nullified William's oaths to the emperor, and appealed to the Western princes for aid against the "schismatic" Byzantines.
In late 1262, William visited the region of Laconia accompanied by an armed retinue. Despite his concessions to the Byzantines, he still retained control of most of Laconia, in particular the city of Lacedaemon (Sparta) and the baronies of Passavant (Passavas) and Geraki. This display of armed strength worried the Byzantine garrisons, and the local governor, Michael Kantakouzenos, sent to Emperor Michael to ask for aid. In response, the emperor quickly organized an expedition headed by his half-brother, the sebastocrator Constantine Palaiologos with the parakoimomenos John Makrenos and the megas domestikos Alexios Philes as subordinate commanders. This army, composed chiefly of Turkish mercenaries and Greek troops from Asia Minor, was transported to Monemvasia on Genoese vessels, while the small Byzantine fleet was sent to harass the Latin island holdings in Euboea and the Cyclades.
The Battle:
After arriving at Monemvasia, Constantine Palaiologos laid siege to Sparta, while the Byzantine fleet seized the southern coasts of Laconia. In the meantime, William travelled to Corinth to request the assistance of the other Latin princes of Greece. They, however, proved unwilling to come to his aid, while many of William's Greek subjects openly sided with the Byzantines. Constantine Palaiologos saw this as an opportunity to conquer William's principality outright. Abandoning the fruitless siege of Sparta, he marched his army up the rivers Eurotas and Alfeios towards the Achaean capital, Andravida.
During William's absence, Andravida had been left in the charge of John Katavas, a man known for his bravery but now old and suffering from gout. According to the Chronicle of Moreas, upon learning of the approach of the enemy, Katavas took the 300 or 312 men available and marched out to meet the Byzantines whose numbers are variously given in the Chronicle as 15, 18, or 20 thousand. It is certain that these figures are greatly inflated, and the Byzantine army must have numbered a few thousand at most. Either way, it considerably outnumbered the Latin force.
The Byzantines were confident of their own strength, and were reportedly dancing and singing. At a narrow defile at Prinitza (near Ancient Olympia), Katavas attacked the Byzantine army and inflicted a resounding defeat upon it: many Byzantine soldiers were killed, while the remainder scattered and sought refuge in the surrounding woods. The sebastokrator Constantine himself barely escaped with his life, and fled with the remainder of his troops to the safety of Mystras. Having won a major victory, Katavas prudently refused to pursue the Byzantines and returned to Andravida.
Aftermath: Next year Palaiologos was defeated again in Makryplagi and thus the Latin rule in Peloponnese was secured for another generation.