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The name Morea (Μωρέας) for Peloponnesos first appears in the 10th century in Byzantine chronicles. Presumably it stems from the Slavic invaders of the 7th and 8th centuries, who occupied the peninsula and were at last subjugated to the Byzantine Empire shortly before 1200.

There is some uncertaintly over the origin of the name: it may derive from the Slavic word for sea, more, to mean "land on the sea", but some scholars — mostly modern Greek — state in contrast that the form Morea derived from an alleged Middle-Greek moreas ("mulberry") or conjecture a rearrangement of the Greek terminus Romea (for "Roman Empire") to Morea. The case is still unclear.

Morea was organized into a despotate under the late Byzantine Empire, centred on the fortress of Mistra near Sparta. The despots of Morea were usually the heirs of the Byzantine emperor. See Mistra for more information and a list of rulers.