Mystras map, Peloponnese Greece - Detailed map of Mystras Peloponnese - Mystras travel information
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Mystras is located 5 km. NW of Sparta in the prefecture of Laconia.  In 1204 the Western participants of the Fourth Crusade captured Constantinople, the seat of the Byzantine Empire,  and founded the Latin Empire of Romania.  The most important state founded by the Franks was the Principality of Morea.  In 1248 William II de Villehardouin,  with the capture of the Fortress of Monembasia, conquered Laconia.  In 1949 he built a castle on the summit of Myzethra hill, a very steep foothill situated on the northern slopes of Mt. Taygetos.  In the Chronicle of the Morea the  following passage is found: " After searching through these parts, He found a strange hill, as though cut off from the mountain, about 5 km. away, above Lacedaemonia (Sparta).  Wishing to fortify this hill, he ordered a castle built on its summit. and he named it Myzethra".  The name Mystra is thought to be derived from Myzethra, a popular Greek cheese.


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Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus in 1259, at the battle of Palegonia, captured William II de Villehardouin and held him prisoner for three years.  Meanwhile the Byzantines had recaptured Constantinople from the Franks.  At this time the Byzantine Emperor asked Paleologus for ransom for his freedom. 
In 1962 Paleologus purchased the freedom of his Barons and his own with the cession of the castles that the Byzantine Emperor wanted.  From the Chronicles of Morea:  To give to the Emperor in exchange for their liberty, the castles of Monembassia and le Grand-Maigne. And last of all, the most beautiful, that of Myzethra".   


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Long before 1300 BC Myzethra hill was starting to get inhabited.  Many churches and houses were built.  Meanwhile the Franks influence had greatly declined in Greece. Thus Mystras role became significant within the Byzantine Empire.  In the next two centuries Mystras became known as "the Florence of the East" and was very respected by both the countries to the West and the Byzantine Empire.  In 1448 Constantine XI Paleologus, the last Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, was crowned at Mystras.  In 1460 the city was captured by the Turks and in 1464 by Sigismondo Malatesta of Rimini  captured the city but not the castle.  From 1687-1715 the city was held by the Venetians.  In 1715 it was recaptured by the Turks.  Mystras was one of the first cities to be liberated from the Turks in 1821


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