The Lecce Mandate is a area occupied by Greece in the closing days of the Second Sicily War, put under their administration at its end. It is equal to about one-half of the former Lecce Province of Italy. Official Greek documents refer to the mandate as Longobardia, after the old Byzantine Province in the area.
In Roman times the region was in the Provincia Calabria. As contained the nearest ports to the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, under the Roman emperors it was often used as a point of embarkation for the East. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Lecce was sacked by the Ostrogoth king Totila in the Gothic Wars. It was conquered by the Byzantines in 549, and remained part of the Eastern Empire for five centuries, with brief conquests by Saracens, Lombards, Hungarians and Slavs, along with minor Italian states like the Duchy of Benevento.
The County of Lecce and Principality of Taranto, both active in the province, were two of the largest and most important fiefs in the Kingdom of Sicily from 1053 to 1463, when the county was annexed directly to the crown, the principality having already been annexed seven years previously. In 1480, without warning, an Ottoman Turkish fleet invaded the town of Otranto, landing near the city and capturing it along with its fort. The Pope called for a crusade, with a massive force built up by Ferdinand I of Naples to fight them off. The Neapolitan force met with the Turks in 1481, thoroughly defeating them and in 1537, the famous Turkish corsair and Ottoman admiral Barbarossa captured Otranto and the Fortress of Castro. The Turks were eventually repulsed from the city and the rest of Puglia. To avert another invasion by the Ottomans, a new line of walls and a castle were built in the first part of the 16th century.
In 1943, fighter aircraft based in the area helped support isolated Italian garrisons in the Aegean Sea fighting Germans during World War 2. Because they were delayed by the Allies, they couldn't do anything to prevent an Italian defeat there. In 1944 and 1945, B-24 long-range bombers based here flew missions over Italy, the Balkans, Austria, Germany and France.
Lecce Province, while escaping any direct attacks, was hit fairly soon after Doomsday by fallout from the nuclear attack on the naval base at Taranto. Much of the Central and Northern regions of the province were rapidly abandoned, with the refugees fleeing northward, and across the ocean to the Ionian Islands. A fair number would flee the southern reaches as well.
Very little authority remained in the area by 1984. Outside of the northern parts of the Province, west of the now-abandoned city of Lecce, and isolated villages, largely Griko in population, in the south.
In 1985, and again in 1986, the government of Heptanesa established a pair of short-lived outposts in the region. Other matters, along with no discoveries in the area of any significant numbers of human life, led to their rapid abandonment. The only finds of significance were at the small air base near Lecce, where all usable equipment was looted and brought back to Corfu, along with survivors. It is believed that some of the modern Sicilian military equipment is based on some of the technology left behind, though since no records were made, this is only a guess.
A general offensive by the Sicilians in 1987 into Southern Italy did not take control of the province immediately. Due to forces surviving in number at Bari, the Sicilians first had to take that city. It would end up falling amidst little resistance in July of 1988. This provoked another wave of refugees, many of which went northward or southward from the area - the Griko communities also fled to Heptanesa, where they would eventually form a major lobby group, along with displaced Italians, to retake the area. Frequent calls for regaining the area would happen from these groups in the future. The last areas of Lecce Province not under Sicilian control would be taken in August of that same year.
Over the next two decades, the area would be slowly re-inhabited, as those who had fled earlier in the 1980s, along with some Sicilian colonists, moved into the region. The population, however, had dropped greatly, outside of the city of Lecce and its environs, where the efforts were based.
In part due to the lobbying - and also claims put forth by Sicily for their islands - Heptanesa long desired the region, if for no other reason than for their own security. Their right to the region was guaranteed both upon their admission to the Greek Confederation and the Greek Federation.
With the outbreak of the Second Sicily War in the fall of 2009, Greek setbacks on other fronts led them to launch a long-planned invasion of the area, north of Lecce itself, far ahead of schedule, to try and distract the Sicilians. While eventually a failure, it would serve the Greek military several valuable lessons. Afterward, the area served as a primary base for the Sicilian campaign in the Ionians, which they eventually lost, after which they moved their forces to the Italian front lines. A few months later, Greek forces launched another invasion of the region, this time landing near Otranto, in early December, 2010. This attack proved far more successful, and is thought to have been the primary reason for the Sicilian government deciding the war was no longer worth it and asking for a ceasefire and peace, which was granted.
Under the terms, the Greek government remained in control of the region, primarily for use as a military base, so long as they promised to eventually hold a referendum on the region joining the Federation. Of course, with no time limit this could mean 6 months, 20 years, or more. The Sicilian colonists in the Greek-controlled region were deported back to Sicily in exchange for Greeks and others held prisoner by the Sicilian regime.
It is expected by outsiders that the area will end up being a bastion for any rebels opposing Sicily on the Italian mainland as well.
Government and Politics
Lecce is under military occupation at this time, and as such has no real civilian government, though the Greek military is in the process of setting a small regional one, under the government of Heptanesa, to run the area in civilian matters, even though the military will remain in overall control. Currently, General Dimitrios Grapsas of the Greek Army is the Military Governor of the Mandate.
The government of Heptanesa is currently working on some sort of election for the area, in which the people will vote on a council to vote on matters, under their Civil Administrator for the territory, who will be in charge overall of non-military concerns. To this end, Father Franco Coppola, a Catholic priest who came to the Ionians with the first Italian refugees from the region in 1983, and a leading Italian among the refugees in Heptanesa from Italy, has been given the post, though it is believed that he will be promoted in the coming months, and would then resign if the Pope wishes it so.
Anyone who was a government member under Sicily, except for the policing structure, has also been banned from participating in any of this.
It is also believed that Italians in Heptanesa will be encouraged to move here, and that the Griko language will be made mandatory in some form as well.
Given the fighting that has occurred in the area, the main engine of the local economy at this time is the Greek military.
Construction of a port at Otranto is also under way - expansion of the harbor, and dredging it, primarily.