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physical, geographical expression of the empire. Proportionately, and as
part of his total employment of the Roman terminology, geographical
associations are only marginally less frequent in Akropolites; however,
compared to Choniates™ rich lexicon of geographical terms (fourteen in
all) used with the genitive formula or the adjective, Akropolites uses only
chora, eparchia, p»liv (polis: city), ‚rov (horos: borders), horia and Šstu
(asty: town). Michael Doukas of Epiros takes over ˜some part of the land of
Romans™ (.±), and the Latin emperor Henry wins ˜many cities and lands
of Romans™ (·.µ). Akropolites™ use of Rhoma¨s is comparable: Theodore
±
Doukas ˜put under himself much of the land of Rhoma¨s, that which had
±
been held by the Italians™ (±.“µ), and the Frankish conquerors are similarly
described as ˜coming into the inheritance of all the things of Rhoma¨s™ ±
±°° Being Byzantine: Greek: identity before the Ottomans
(.±). In the ¬rst of these pairs, ˜of Romans™ could be understood in an
ethnic sense, as denoting lands occupied by ethnic Romans not subject to
a Roman empire any more. Alternatively, this usage could re¬‚ect an ideal
territorial extent of the empire, looking back to its pre-±° extent; this
is supported by the parallel use of Rhoma¨s, and would be reminiscent of
±
Choniates.
However, a comparison of the use of the plain formula by Choniates
and Akropolites suggests that the later writer attached comparatively little
importance to the territorial expression of empire. He is comparatively
ready to accept territorial acquisition, by anyone, but rarely concedes the
rule of people; in other words, compared to Choniates, he manages to
divorce the Romans, in their political dimension at least, from the land
they occupy. Choniates had been happy to use the plain formula to indicate
territory: other groups or powers are, for example, ˜to the west of Romans™ or
˜neighbours to Romans™ (e.g. ±. and ±±.“µ). As noted above, Choniates
also speaks of the territory of the empire as that which is ˜under Romans™, i.e.
under Byzantine Roman rule. In contrast, Akropolites only uses the plain
formula in a geographical context to say that land becomes ˜under Romans™ “
i.e. that it is newly taken by Romans and incorporated into the state. This is
perhaps a subtle difference but is indicative of the fact that Akropolites has
no clear conception of an extensive swathe of land that is quintessentially
Roman in a political sense by virtue of its age-long occupation by Romans,
and thus rule by the state whom they embody, and this is a radical departure
from the earlier world view typi¬ed even by Choniates. Of course, it is easily
explicable by the grim facts of Akropolites™ own times: places occupied by
ethnic Romans were now far from guaranteed “ or even likely “ to be
politically Roman. It was an awkward fact and one that required careful
handling.
Above all, Akropolites manipulates the key terminology of Roman-ness
to endorse the imperial claims of Nikaia and to downplay the less than
glorious aspects of the contemporary Roman situation. For Akropolites,
the Romans are those who profess allegiance to the emperors based at
Nikaia.± Thus, although he uses the phrase ˜emperor of (the) Romans™
comparatively rarely (only four occurrences in all), he uses it only with
reference to an emperor of Nikaia (·.±, ·., ±.±) or to the emperors
based at Constantinople before ±° (·.). It is clear that he holds the
Nikaian Romans to be the same group as those Romans who ruled in
Constantinople before ±°. Thus, John Asen II of Bulgaria feared ˜the
improved prosperity of the Romans™ because he was ˜leader of a people

± Macrides °°·: ±“, “·.
The thirteenth century: ambition, euphoria and the loss of illusion ±°±
that had of old been subject to the Romans™ (µ.“µ). Here, the ¬rst
˜Romans™ are the Romans of Nikaia while the second are the Romans of
Constantinople; the two groups are clearly to be identi¬ed. More explicitly
still, in ±± Constantinople is ˜again under the hand of the emperor of the
Romans™ (±.±); Michael VIII Palaiologos is thus portrayed as the clear
successor of the emperors in Constantinople.
The terminology of imperial rule, which he uses with remarkable prodi-
gality, is similarly employed by Akropolites. Although only Nikaian or pre-
±° emperors are given the title of ˜emperor of (the) Romans™, Akropolites
nevertheless unequivocally portrays the Latin emperors in Constantinople
as emperors, although always quali¬ed by name, by place (always Con-
stantinople) or by peoples (Latins or Italians). The Bulgarian leaders are
also frequently given imperial titles, again quali¬ed by name or by people.
In contrast, the emperors of Nikaia are most often referred to without any
quali¬cation, and thus the legitimacy of Nikaian imperial rule is enforced
by the sheer bulk of references to their emperors as basileus, unquali¬ed
by name, place or people. In addition, there is a distinct falling-off in
the application of basileus and its cognates to non-Romans as the His-
tory progresses. The last such non-Roman occurrence of basileus is to
John Asen II of Bulgaria, less than halfway through the work. By the
retaking of Constantinople, the Latin emperor has been reduced to ˜the
imperial ruler™ (±.±“) and ˜Baldwin, lately ruler in the imperial style
(t¤€ basilik¤€ . . . kat†rconti Baldou©nwƒ) in Constantinople™ (±.µ“
.) Likewise, the Bulgarian ruler is in the latter half of the History typi-
cally an Šrcwn (archon: ruler, for example, ±±.“·, ±µ.±). In these ways
Akropolites subtly enhances the position of Nikaia, brings out its rise
to pre-eminence, and evokes a sense of Nikaian legitimacy while yet in
the early stages of his account accurately re¬‚ecting the chaos of compet-
ing claims in the early years after the fall of the City. Akropolites™ skil-
ful rhetorical manipulation of the key imperial vocabulary, notwithstand-
ing, reveals a limited acceptance of the imperial status of the Latin con-
querors and, as noted above, this grudging recognition is also perceptible in
Choniates.
As with his manipulation of the key vocabulary of Roman-ness, Akropo-
lites uses the terminology of empire above all to heighten the contrast
between Nikaia and its major Roman rival based in Epiros. The Doukas
rulers of Epiros are not permitted any unquali¬ed attribution of imperial
status, and Akropolites emphasises their status (as he saw it) of rebels
against Nikaia whenever he can. Theodore Doukas, who had himself
crowned emperor at Thessaloniki in ±, is in the History merely ˜named™ or
˜proclaimed™ emperor (.µ, °.±, ±), and the Epirot ruler is more typically
±° Being Byzantine: Greek: identity before the Ottomans
an –gkratžv (egkrates: master, e.g. °.°, .). In other words, Nikaia™s
rivals in the west are portrayed as less legitimate emperors than were the
Latins or even the Bulgarians. The crucial difference as far as Akropolites™
account is concerned is that, unlike the Latins or Bulgarians, the Epirots
were claiming Roman status and could logically be seen as Romans; they
were therefore more of a threat to Nikaia™s own imperial ambitions.
Returning to the vocabulary of Roman-ness, the same agenda is clear:
Akropolites is again adroit in his belittling of the Epirots, despite having
a dif¬cult tale to tell. He had had to confront the fact that the Nikaians
and the Epirots were often at war and, judging by pre-±° standards, he
would have had to admit that both had good title to be called Romans.
This became particularly signi¬cant from the ±°s, when the two sides
were directly at war with each other starting with the Nikaian capture of
Thessaloniki from the Epirots. However, Akropolites is quite clear about
who was Roman on that occasion:

Thus the city of Thessaloniki came under the Emperor John, or rather under
the Romans, for the enemies to Romans who had been holding her (o¬
g‡r aÉtŸn krato“ntev –nanti»fronev <Rwma©oiv) were over and done with.
(.±“±)

The state of Epiros was thus the enemy of Romans.
Akropolites is generally very careful to avoid calling the people of Epiros
˜Romans™, and there is only one occasion where he acknowledged the pres-
ence of Romans in the army of Epiros: on the occasion of the ill-fated
Epirot campaign against Bulgaria in ±° the Epirot army was ˜made up
of Romans and westerners™ (±.°“±). As alternatives to Rhomaioi, Akropo-
lites called the Epirots ˜Theodore Komnenos™ people™ (.“·), ˜the rebel
Michael™s people™ (±.±), ˜the local people™ (±., ±·.±“±µ) and ˜the ene-
mies™ (±.±, ±.), and by the use of such phrases he contrasted them with
the Rhomaioi, or alternatively with ˜we™, especially in the passages dealing
with Nikaian“Epirot con¬‚icts (±“µ° and ±·±“). It is true that Akropo-
lites limits his use of Rhomaioi for either side in such wars (favouring ˜we™
for the Nikaian side, as we shall see), and this is reminiscent of Choniates™
treatment of the various rebellions against reigning emperors in the twelfth
century. However, his systematic limiting of ˜Roman-ness™ to one side only
in accounts of what would have been civil wars in the previous century,
and were certainly wars between two peoples who both saw themselves
as Romans, is a striking departure from the pre-±° perspective, where
anyone in the extent of the empire was a Roman.
The thirteenth century: ambition, euphoria and the loss of illusion ±°
Note especially ±±.“: ˜to the western regions, to those people there
who are opposed to Romans™: Akropolites clearly had his doubts about the
residents of the western regions, and along with this different residence
came differences in character. He says that ˜the race of westerners™ (t¼
dutik¼n g”nov) or ˜the residents of the western regions™ (o¬ t¤n dutik¤n
o«kžtorev) lacked stamina and tended to be changeable (±·.±µ“). This
is an interesting attitude because, as we shall see, one of the ways in which
Akropolites classi¬es barbarity is by behavioural difference; moreover, the
speci¬c fault of the people of the western regions is identical to a speci¬c
behavioural aspect of the Latins “ lack of stamina (·.°). The people of
the western regions were thus presented by Akropolites as something less
than Roman.±µ
In conclusion, Akropolites downplayed the Epirot claim even to the
extent of denying Roman status to Nikaia™s rival. Although it is true that
Theodore Doukas ˜wanted all Romans to have him as emperor™ and offered
to exalt the people of Didymoteichon in Thrace ˜above all other Romans™
(°.“µ and ±“±), we are also told that Theodore Doukas ˜did not want
to stay in his proper place and usurped the empire™ (.±“). Strikingly,
Akropolites also used the terminology of barbarism, a terminology with
which he is typically extremely sparing, to belittle the Epirot imperial
claim:
Being ignorant with regard to the institutions of the empire, he [Doukas]
dealt with the undertaking in a more Bulgarian, or rather more barbarous, way
(BoulgarikÛteron £ mŽllon barbarikÛteron). He was not aware of proper
order, nor of method nor of any of the time-honoured imperial institutions.
(.“±)

Akropolites was not the only Nikaian writer to identify the rulers of Epiros
with the Bulgarians who had preceded them and settled extensively in
western Greece, and who were their main rivals in the region.± He is
generally so sparing in his use of the terminology of barbarism that there
is surely more than merely geography behind this slur. Although Akropo-
lites acknowledged that the ruling Doukas family of Epiros was related to
the Nikaian emperor John III Vatatzes “ they were thus Roman by genos,
at least in the sense of family “ his use of key vocabulary implies that
Theodore and his so-called imperial state were not merely not Roman,
they were the opposite of Roman, and this will be further discussed
below.

±µ ±
Macrides °°·: µ“. Nicol ±·: .
±° Being Byzantine: Greek: identity before the Ottomans
Akropolites: the ethnic Roman identity
Even though Akropolites makes such adroit use of the terminology of
Roman-ness for political ends, and the primary Roman identity is political,
centred on loyalty to the Nikaian successor state, the ethnic Roman identity
is also clearly discernible in Akropolites. Although the vast majority of the
occurrences of Rhomaioi refer to the Romans of Nikaia, Akropolites also
has Romans outside this Nikaian context.
For example, in the early days of Laskarid power, there were Romans
in Asia Minor who were not loyal to Nikaia: Akropolites comments that,
in these early days, Theodore Laskaris had enough problems with the
Latins but ˜was no less troubled by the Romans™ (±.µ). It would perhaps
be marginally possible to understand this as referring to Romans in a
political sense, people who had loyalty to the idea of empire if not to
Theodore Laskaris as a person. However, in the context of the centrifugal
forces acting against imperial rule at the time, this is better understood
as having an ethnic sense: these were Roman foes of Laskaris rather than
Latin foes; Akropolites wants to underline an ethnic rather than political
aspect of these people. Another revealing reference tells how, when John
Asen II of Bulgaria defeated Theodore Doukas of Epiros at the battle of
Klokotnica in ±° and overran northern Greece, Asen ˜returned the lands
to the inhabitants, leaving a certain one of the forts to be ruled by Romans,
and placing the majority under himself™ (.“). The inhabitants who
were thus ceded lands would have included some ethnic Romans, perhaps
concentrated around urban centres. It seems unlikely that Akropolites was
here describing a single fort governed by Nikaia surrounded by Bulgarian
territory; rather, this was a fort occupied and guarded by ethnic Romans
native to the area, within and under the Bulgarian state.
Of three references with more unequivocally ethnic connotations, the
case of Melnik presents a similar set of circumstances to the fortress example
just cited. Upon the death of John Asen II of Bulgaria in ±±, Nikaia
took advantage of Bulgarian disarray to move into northern Thrace and
Macedonia, areas historically part of the Roman empire but heavily settled
by Bulgarians over several decades. Akropolites presents the people of
Melnik, on the River Struma north of Thessaloniki, as having a choice “
to stay under Bulgarian rule or to swap their allegiance to the Byzantine
Romans, to Nikaia. The Melnikot leader Nicholas Manglavites argued:
But since the emperor of the Romans has approached us, we ought to entrust
ourselves to him . . . one who has in the past been just to us. For our land belongs
to the rule of the Romans. The Bulgarians are more greedy in their management
The thirteenth century: ambition, euphoria and the loss of illusion ±°µ
of affairs. They have become masters of Melnik, but we are originally from Philip-
popolis, and by race we are Romans (t¼ g”nov <Rwma±oi). Moreover, the emperor
of the Romans in fact has rights over us, even if we have belonged to the Bulgarians.
(·.±“°)

This exposition combines three elements in Akropolites™ conception of
Roman identity. The Melnikots were drawn towards the Romans ¬rstly
because they had a history of being ruled by Romans and the area where
they lived had been within the historical extent of the Byzantine Roman
empire. All this is very reminiscent of Choniates™ political identity based
on territory and the expectation of imperial rule. Additionally, though,
the Melnikots were of Roman descent “ genos, and this is associated with
their place of origin. Manglavites did not mean by this that he and his
audience had personally moved to Melnik from Philippopolis, rather, he
was citing the historical foundation of Melnik by people from the older
town. Here then, through the use of genos, Akropolites makes an appeal
to a transgenerational ethnic identity which could override the political
control of Melnik. Given the choice, the Melnikots opted for political
control which was coincident with this ethnic identity.±·
Again, Akropolites™ use of Rhomaioi in the Peloponnesian context is par-
ticularly striking. He is relating how the armies under and allied to Michael
II Doukas of Epiros gathered in ±µ for the campaign against Nikaia that
would end in defeat at the battle of Pelagonia, and he describes the army
of the Frankish Prince William de Villehardouin of the Morea, saying: ˜he
led a very great number of men-at-arms. They were of the Frankish race
and also included Roman residents of Achaia and Peloponnese, whom he
[Prince William] ruled. Most of these were of the race of the Lakonians™
(±.±“±). This passage describes Romans who were actually ¬ghting
for the Latin Prince of Achaia in his campaign, with the Epirots, against
Nikaia, and is one of only two references in the History to anything Roman
in outright con¬‚ict with Nikaia. Here then, ¬rstly, the rule of Latins over
a part of the erstwhile Byzantine Roman empire is accepted. At no point
does Akropolites protest against Villehardouin rule in the Peloponnese; as
noted, he was relatively happy to speak of others gaining territorial control.
However, this passage speaks of the rule of Romans, as people, and this is
much rarer in Akropolites. As we have seen, Akropolites worked hard at
limiting the application of Romans to Nikaian subjects, and the political
content in his use of the terminology of Rhomaioi is abundantly clear. This

±· Macrides °°a: °“µ.
±° Being Byzantine: Greek: identity before the Ottomans
usage, then, contrasts strongly with his approach to the Epirots, discussed
above.
The treatment of the Peloponnesians also contrasts with Akropolites™
treatment of Constantinople. Even though it must have been perfectly
obvious that ethnic Romans were living under Latin rule in the capital “
indeed Akropolites himself grew up there under Latin rule “ he never

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