Chapter 11 – Cracks from Within
The life may be awful outside the walls of Glarentza, but the situation is hardly any better inside the walls – everything from food down to water is under strict rationing, walls must be continually manned, and the constant harassment and distraction made by the Roman besieger put a constant stress on the Latin defenders. To keep the morale, Centurione II Zaccaria showers his knights and men-at-arms with rich gifts and generous promises, swearing to double their fiefs once they repulse the Romans. As for placating the representative of the Giustianiani family who controls the port of Glarentza, which Centurione was forced to sell during his first war with Theodoros the Despot of Morea in 1408, he promises expanded trade right after the war.
Coat of Arms of the Giustianiani– A prominent family from both Venice and Genoa who maintained a de facto independence as lord of Chios. The
The failure of the first assault by the Roman provided a small boost of morale to the defenders, giving Centurione additional hope to hold out. The next few weeks after the initial assault were calm and eventless, until the guards on the watchtower bring a novel development to Centurione.
“The Romans did what?”
“Milord, you must see for yourself.”
Centurione steps upon the top of his watchtower, and to his astonishment sees the Romans have set up four camps close to the ditches which have been filled during the initial assault. Large canvases hide the camps from the sun and direct observation from the walls of Glarentza, but the countless laborers moving in and out of the camps gives a hint on the purpose of these camps.
Centurione observes carefully the camps, he soon discovers that the laborers that enter the camps all have with them digging tools and equipment, while the ones exiting the camps have heavy bags on their backs. During one of such trips, a laborer slips and falls, his bag falling to the ground revealing sands and dirt.
“This is impossible!” Centurione is no stranger to warfare, he instantly understands the Roman purpose, sapping - to dig a tunnel beneath the earth and towards the walls of Glarentza. What he finds surprising however, is that Glarentza is situated is on layers of hard gravel, which would in most cases render sapping impossible.
“Prepare the cannons!”
Not soon after Centurione’s order, the two cannons open fire upon the Roman camps. To the disappointment of the defenders, the cannon balls fall short of distance. The Romans have learned the range of the cannons during their first assault, and has set their camp accordingly.
While Centurione is furious at the range of his cannons, the trade representative of the Giustiniani sets his foot on the watchtower: “My good lord Centurione, I have heard the Greeks have begun sapping, is it true?”
“It is but gimmicks, the ground beneath us is all gravel, they will be foolish to continue digging. Soon they will waste their manpower and provision, all for nothing.” Centurione tries to calm the representative with words – the man may be sly in business, but is a complete stranger in warfare. So, when he receives the reassuring words from Centurione, he can only take them for granted.
For the next couple of weeks, all eyes on the walls of Glarentza are fixated on the Roman camps – The more dirt and sand are carried out each single day, the more worrying the mood becomes. In the meantime, the Latins have tried many ways to disrupt Roman progress with faint attacks, cannon fire, or cavalry charges. All attempts failed, only leaving more wounded and demoralized soldiers. The veterans all know what it means when the Romans successfully dig their way to the walls – the walls will certainly collapse, and they will be overwhelmed by the attackers. The Latins have tried to dig their own tunnel to counter Roman sapping efforts, but to their dismay the ground surrounding their castle is indeed of gravel, making their digging effort fruitless.
“How can the Greeks continue to dig on gravel? It doesn’t make any sense!!?” Centurione is visibly frustrated by the Roman progress – a massive mound of dirt has been assembled next to the Roman camps, making everyone know the huge progress they have made over the past three weeks.
“Maybe…they found a path between the gravels?” the representative in opposition to Centurione looks calm and steady.
“It can’t be, it must be some tricks!” Centurione refuses to believe what he sees. He turns his face towards the representative, speaking as calm as he could: “We will hold the castle, the Greeks will have no business in Glarentza! Do not forget that if the barbaric Greeks take Glarentza, they will revoke all trade privileges given to Giustinianis, privileges which I have granted.”
“Of course, my lord, we are all on the same boat.” The representative bows courtly and leaves the walls. On his way down, one of his servants comes close to his ear and whispers: “a small boat has approached the harbor during the night, a messenger wants to see you.”
The representative nods slightly.
Next day, as Centurione finishes his morning routine with a prayer in the chapel and walks outside, he is suddenly confronted by a dozen of his knights, all clad in armor. Guessing that they have come to petition for a frontal attack, Centurione walks towards them with a smile: “I appreciate your valor…”
“Lord Centurione, we have come to petition…”
“I know, I know, but you must be…”
“For a negotiated surrender.”
Centurione is in shock, he couldn’t believe what he just heard. The knights surround him, then opens a small pathway, and the representative suddenly appears and walks straight to Centurione with a faint smile.
“My lord, I know you have fought valiantly, which I admire. Unfortunately, the situation has become untenable. The Greeks… The Romans have completed their sapping, and they can blow up our walls any minutes, and slaughter us all effortlessly. Fortunately, the Romans send their proposal for surrender yesterday, and it is indeed a generous one: If we surrender now, the Romans will spare our lives, we can keep all our weapons, and all belongings which can be moved by foot. The Roman will in addition carry us into the realm of Count Tocco. We therefore strongly urge you to accept such offer of peace.”
“YOU… Traitors!” the veins of Centurione are all exposed by the anger, his face glowing red. He reaches for his sword in subconscious, but finds the left side of his belt empty. He then remembers he left his sword at the gate of the chapel.
“Traitor, what harsh words my lord. But you see, you misunderstands us, we, all of us, only wishes to safeguard your security. None of us wants to see you perish in a hopeless fight.”
Centurione looks around, and to his despair only sees faces cold as stone. He knows all is lost, his men have decided to surrender, and there is nothing he could do.
“Alas, I give my consent.”
“Wise choice my Lord. Tell the Romans that we accept their terms and surrender.”
On 28th of May, 1417, a sunny morning, the last holding of the County of Achaea, the mighty castle of Glarentza surrender to the Romans.