[Mistra; Mistras; Myzithras]
Site of the Byzantine capital of the Morea (Peloponnese, Greece), on a foothill of the Taygetos range, c. 5 km south-west of Sparta. It was originally called Myzithras, but this name was later corrupted to Mystras (‘mistress’).
The castle of Mystras was founded in 1249 by William II of Villehardouin (reg 1246–78), prince of the Frankish principality of Achaea. In 1259 he was defeated and captured by Michael II, Despot of Epiros (reg 1236–71), at the Battle of Pelagonia in northern Greece; in 1262, in order to pay his own ransom, William was forced to concede the castle of Mystras to the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (reg 1261–82). Soon afterwards Mystras became the capital of the growing Greek province of the Morea and expanded to accommodate the inhabitants of the vale of Sparta, who moved there for greater protection during the continual warfare between the Franks and Greeks. At first it was governed by a resident Byzantine general. In ...