Cephalonia, Zakynthos and Ithaca
The beginning of the Frankish conquest in the islands of Cephalonia, Zakynthos and Ithaca was linked with the personality of the powerful pirate (archipirata, princeps piratarum, "the then most powerful pirate of the sea") and admiral of the Sicilian fleet Margaritore or Megaritis, known to the chroniclers of the late 12th century. He developed significant activity as the trustee of William II, Norman king of Sicily. In Latin documents of 1192 and 1193 he signed in Greek, as Margaritos Vredesinos admiral count Melitios. Irrespective of Margaritos’ unclear descent, it is certain that William, after the Norman invasion of 1185 against the Byzantine provinces, granted him the new Norman acquisitions in the Ionian Sea, in exchange for the services he had offered to the Normans.
Ten years later, in 1195, Mahius or Mateo Orsini, possibly offspring of a Sicilian branch of the family of the counts palatines of Rome succeeded Margaritos as the ruler of the Ionian islands. In order to secure his position, Mateo recognized the dominion of Venice and of the pope and later of the prince of Achaia. That same period the Orthodox bishopric of the islands was abolished, the Episcopal thrones were occupied by Latins and the feudal system was put into force. The successor of Mateo, Ricardo, the "most noble count of the palace and seigneur of Cephalonia, Zakynthos and Ithaca", authenticated in 1264 the estates of the Latin bishopric of Cephalonia. During the reign of the latter Frankish ruler, Cephalonia had become a refuge to pirates.
The Orsini family did not only rule the Ionian islands, but it also conquered Epirus in early 14th century, thus acquiring the title of the despot as well. Certain members of the family embraced the Orthodox dogma and married Greek women. Giovanni I Orsini restored the church of Parigoritissa in Arta and ordered the transcription of Homer in simple Greek language. After the death of Giovanni II Orsini in 1335, the islands were occupied by the Anjou, who as rulers of Achaia had the islands under their suzerainty until then.
The Angevin occupation lasted until 1357, when the said Greek territory was ceded to the Italian family of the Tocchi, who remained in power for over a century and secured unity in the governance of those three Ionian islands. In 1357, Robert of Taranto ceded Cephalonia, Zakynthos and Ithaca to the governor of Corfu Leonardo I Tocco - son of William - as reward for the services he had provided when he was a captive of the king of Hungary.
After the expansion of his dominion to Leukas, Leonardo I Tocco attempted to reinforce his position against Venice, the pope, the Anjou, but mostly against the Albanians of Epirus, by entering into family relations with the Florentine family of the Acciaiuoli.
This policy gave the family of the Tocchi increased power, which reached its peak during the 15th century with its expansion to the continental coast, after Carlo I Tocco had conquered Ioannina (1411) and Arta (1416). He received the title of despot by the Byzantine emperor Manuel Palaiologos and maintained the Byzantine tradition. Seated in the islands of the Ionian Sea or in the acquisitions in Central Greece, the dynasty of the Tocchi attempted to win over the populations by ceding to the seigneurs, according to the Chronicle of the Tocchi, "inheritances", "estates", "kratimata" and "pronoies". Following an analogous policy on the religious front, Leonardo III (1448-1481), the last of the Tocchi dynasty, reinstated the Orthodox episcopal throne of Cephalonia that had been abolished by the Orsini.
Venice was not pleased with the increased influence of the Tocchi. The downfall of the duchy of the Tocchi by the Turks (1479) gave the opportunity to the Serenissima to intervene resolutely in the Ionian Sea and succeeded, through the treaty of 1484, in annexing Zakynthos and later, in 1500, Cephalonia and Ithaca.