- Situated between Greece and Asia Minor (qq.v.), interspersed with numerous islands and an indented coastline, the Aegean was crucial to the economic prosperity of Byzantium. Constantinople (q.v.) needed free access to the Aegean for its food supplies and for trade, which provided important customs duties through Abydos (q.v.). Some of the islands, such as Crete (q.v.), supplied grain to Constantinople. Defense of the Aegean evolved from the seventh-century naval command of the theme of Karabisianoi (qq.v.) to inclusion in the eighth-century theme of Kibyrrhaiotai (q.v.). In the ninth and 10th centuries there was further administrative development aimed at preventing Arab raids into the Aegean from Crete, which the Arabs (q.v.) seized around 828. However, by the end of the 11th century, Venetian economic power dominated, and after 1204 it was assured by their control of Crete, Euboea, Andros, and Naxos (qq.v.), as well as ports on the Hellespont and the Sea of Marmora (qq.v.). The Aegean spoils of the conquest of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade (q.v.) made possible a Venetian colonial empire in the East.
Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . John H. Rosser .
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