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understood in an ethnic sense; certainly, in such cases an ethnic identity
is almost certainly present as a component of the dominant political iden-
tity. More indisputably ethnic in association are the usages, as above, that
distinguish the Romans as one group living alongside other groups and
not necessarily under secure Byzantine Roman rule, or otherwise being
in close contact with another group. One interesting case in Gregoras is
that of the ˜Roman and Persian doctors™ (xi.µµ.±) treating Andronikos III
Palaiologos; presumably all the doctors were resident at court and in some
sense subjects of the empire, but this could be a way of distinguishing them
by descent (and perhaps type of training).

Gregoras: what makes a Roman?
We can also get an idea about what it was to be Roman by looking at
cases of those who were not. A highly signi¬cant episode in this respect is
Gregoras™ account of the ˜Skythian™ (in other words, Cuman) woman who
˜wanted to come over to the Romans and to receive holy baptism™ and who
fell in love with a Christian captive (xi.µ.“µ.±).
This story comes in Gregoras™ account of the late ±°s, and presumably
recounts something of a cause c´l`bre in Constantinople at the time. The
ee
woman in question was living on the north side of the Danube river, an area
heavily settled by the Cumans from the mid thirteenth century after their
defeat by the Mongols in ± forced them to move west. The object of her
affection was a prisoner taken on one of the numerous raids into Byzantine
Roman territory, speci¬cally into Thrace. The Cuman woman bought the
prisoner as a slave; it is assumed that they fell in love and, indeed, he
promised not to abandon her even if they were to go away somewhere else.
She had one child by the Christian, and was pregnant with another when
the Christian™s wife was also captured and brought north of the Danube.
±µ
The nightmare of the fourteenth century
The Cuman (who is presented as a model of consideration throughout
the story) then bought the man™s wife as well as a domestic servant. In
time, the Cuman was able to be baptised, and in due course the whole
household made its way to Constantinople. At this point, the former wife
made a complaint to the patriarch against the Cuman, saying that she had
stolen her husband; however, a patriarchal examination of the whole story
redounded only to the credit of the Cuman woman. It was agreed in the
end that the Cuman should be paid the price of the husband whom she had
fairly bought, so that she could have the money to bring up her children
in a foreign land; she would then give up her husband to his former wife.
In the end, justice was done when this former wife was again taken captive
by the Cumans (!) and the Cuman woman and her chosen man were then
again able to live together.
This is a fascinating story because its theme is very much that of changing
identity. The Cuman woman wanted ˜to come over to the Romans™, and in
many ways she did that “ she married a Roman, she became an Orthodox
Christian, and she even came to live in Constantinople. However, despite
all this and bearing in mind that she is moreover throughout portrayed
as an admirable individual, the foreign woman nevertheless remains a
˜Skythian™. There is a very strong association in this story between being
Roman and being Christian, and while it is also notable that her husband
is identi¬ed only as a Christian captive from Thrace, and is not speci¬cally
called a Roman, the implication is nevertheless very clear that he was one,
and, for that matter, that his former wife was Roman also. Gregoras uses
˜Roman™ just once in the account to ¬ve occurrences of ˜Skythian™, and
repeatedly calling this woman ˜Skythian™ helps to distinguish her from
her Roman rival in the story but also rams home her alien identity. It
should be noted that, as a Cuman, the woman came from one of the
northern peoples traditionally seen as the archetypal barbarians, although
this admirable woman is perhaps signi¬cantly at no point identi¬ed as a
barbarian.
Gregoras™ single use of Rhomaioi in the story deserves extra attention.
When he says that the Cuman woman ˜wanted to come over to the Romans
and to receive holy baptism™, the connection with Christianity is clear but,
less obviously, Gregoras is also making reference to a political identity. This
woman wanted to become (and in the end did become?) a Roman not in
any sense of ceasing to be an ethnic Skyth but in the sense of becoming a
subject of the empire. Moving to the empire is as important as becoming
Christian in this story, which shows that in this collective political sense
only it is possible to become Roman while not changing one™s basic identity.
±° Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
The story of the Skyth might suggest that it was impossible to lose an
ethnic identity but, in apparent contrast to the Skythian, there is also the
¬gure of Theodore Palaiologos, marquis of Montferrat.· Theodore was
the second son of Andronikos II Palaiologos by his second wife Yolanda
(renamed Eirene by the Byzantines), daughter of the marquis of Montfer-
rat. Andronikos had had two sons by his ¬rst wife, Anne of Hungary, so
Theodore was the emperor™s fourth son and fourth in line for the impe-
rial throne. However, Theodore turned his back on the empire when he
inherited and moved to the Italian marquisate on the death of his mother™s
brother John in ±°µ. Despite having a mother of western origin, the fact
of being born into, and growing to adulthood in, the imperial family
(Theodore was  when he succeeded to the marquisate) would surely
seem to have been enough to make someone by birth a Roman. However,
Gregoras is quite clear about Theodore: ˜in outlook and in faith and in
appearance and shaved beard and in all his ways of behaving he was utterly
a Latin™ (ix..±µ“±).
In the case of the Skythian woman, it should be remembered that she had
gained baptism and residence within the empire, but nevertheless remained
ethnically Skythian in Gregoras™ account: thus descent, birth identity, was
the most crucial criterion of identity. The case of Theodore seems to
suggest in contrast that descent was not as important, although Theodore
was admittedly of mixed parentage. But is it that simple “ is Gregoras
really saying that Theodore had become a Latin? No: the very fact that
Gregoras emphasises Theodore™s Latinity so explicitly in itself reveals that
the marquis was not considered wholly Latin. His alien qualities stood out
by virtue of being expressed in a Roman. Thus, descent again remained
pre-eminently important, as with the Skythian woman.
Appearance and ways of behaving are clearly important here, the cul-
tural baggage expressive of ethnic identity, even if descent was always the
sine qua non. It was assumed that one™s ethnicity (one™s birth identity)
should be expressed or made apparent by these external aspects. Gregoras
gives few clues as to the detail of these ethnic signs, and most of the evi-
dence is negative. From the example of Theodore we can see that Romans
had an outlook, a faith, an appearance which included unshaved beards
and, generally, a set of ways of behaving which were all different from
the characteristics of Latins. It will be noted that the only speci¬c detail
is that of the ˜shaved beards™, and this certainly seems to have been an


· Laiou ±: “±°; Angelov °°·: ±“.
±±
The nightmare of the fourteenth century
important marker, being also speci¬cally mentioned by Pachymeres in
the case of the Romans in Asia Minor who went over to the side of the
Catalans (Andronikos .“µ). Gregoras does not give a lot of behavioural
information, and in this he differs from Pachymeres or Choniates; how-
ever, he does echo the familiar type of criticism of westerners as robbers
and profane men (the context is the establishment of the Latin empire)
and, repeatedly, as arrogant: Latin arrogance means they are never content
within their bounds (x..“) and Italians rush at theology with very
great arrogance (x.µ±·.“±±). However, such comments can tell us only that
the Romans thought they themselves were well-behaved.
In the story of the Skythian woman, we are told that she had long wanted
˜to . . . receive holy baptism™ (xi.µ.“); it is plain that the receiving of
holy baptism was one element of ˜going over to the Romans™, and the
Orthodox faith surely was essential in the Roman identity. However, it is
worth emphasising again that there is no talk of this woman changing her
basic identity “ in other words, orthodoxy, unlike descent, was a necessary
but not suf¬cient condition of being Roman.
Gregoras returns to the theme of changing identities with his account
of Kral Stefan Uroˇ IV Duˇan™s conquests in the early ±°s and, especially,
s s
the ruler™s formal assumption in ± of the title ˜emperor of the Serbs and
Romans™. Gregoras™ account is heavily satirical in tone:
he proclaimed himself emperor of Romans, he changed the barbarian way of life
for Roman behaviour and the diadem and all the distinctive garb, whatever was
¬tting to this mighty rule . . . (xv.··.±“)
Taken literally, the great kral stopped living like a barbarian and started
living like a Byzantine Roman emperor.
Gregoras is here making accurate reference to Duˇan™s frank mimesis
s
of Byzantine Roman court ceremonial and trappings: Duˇan did indeed
s
have himself represented as a Byzantine Roman ruler, and even referred
to himself as the new Constantine. The details given here all relate to
his imperial status rather than to any more basic Roman characteristics,
and this passage relates to political developments under Duˇan rather than
s
being any kind of statement on the kral™s ethnic identity. This use of Roman
vocabulary to describe and satirise the efforts of the kral in itself reinforces
the fundamentally political nature of Roman identity for Gregoras.
In his continuing account, however, there is more that is relevant to
the ethnic identity. Gregoras deals with the areas under Serbian rule, and

 Soulis ±: °“µ.
± Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
suggests that the land ruled by the kral could be divided into land essentially
Serbian in character on the one hand and land essentially Roman on the
other, both determined by the ˜accustomed ways™ of those areas:
and he [Duˇan] provided him [his son] with the rule, according to the accustomed
s
ways among the Triballoi [i.e. the Serbs], of the land from the Ionian Gulf and from
the River Istros [the Danube] as far as the city of Skopje . . . while to himself went
the rule, according to the accustomed ways among the Romans, of the Roman
lands (<Rwma·k¤n cwr¤n) and cities there, as far as the entrances to the passes
around Christoupoli. (xv.··.“±)

Again, Gregoras is accurate about Duˇan™s actual practice here, re¬‚ect-
s
ing the kral™s attested policy of ensuring continuity in the lands he had
acquired from the Byzantine Romans. In the interests of stability in these
lands, Duˇan maintained the bulk of the Byzantine Roman administrative
s
system, reaf¬rming existing Roman charters for formerly Roman towns and
retaining many Roman of¬cials in post. Landowners were recon¬rmed in
their estates and Greek remained the of¬cial language, with a separate chan-
cellery for the formerly Byzantine Roman and still Greek-speaking areas
of the Serbian empire. However, Gregoras also reveals here a belief in
the importance of cultural baggage in establishing identity, irrespective of
political control, and this reveals the in¬‚uence of the ethnic sense of iden-
tity as well. In this account of Duˇan™s rule, Gregoras again illustrates that
s
Roman identity could exist outside the bounds of actual Roman political
control. Important in determining such politically anomalous identity was
the cultural baggage that almost certainly re¬‚ected ethnic descent, and this
thus included the detail of law and administration (˜the accustomed ways™)
in the Roman areas under Serbian rule. These lands and cities were almost
certainly called Roman, ¬rstly, because of these legal and administrative
systems but also, and secondly, because the people in them were Romans
by culture, religion and so on.
This may well also be the ethnic context for other identi¬cations of land
as Roman in Gregoras, making his use of chora in the genitive formula
worth a closer look. From the nature of the historical material, Gregoras
most often has to refer to Byzantine Roman territory when it is under
threat and it is thus perhaps not surprising that many references to Roman
land using this formula refer to it being invaded or borders being crossed.
In most cases, the territory can clearly or arguably still be seen as politically
Byzantine Roman, and this is true for several occurrences of chora in the

 Fine ±: °“±; Obolensky ±·±: “; Soulis ±.
±
The nightmare of the fourteenth century
genitive formula, further reinforcing Gregoras™ politically focused Roman
identity (cf. ix.µ“). However, some occurrences in point of fact refer
to territory no longer held by the Byzantine Romans. Thus lands and
cities actually seized by Serbs are described as ˜of Romans™ (x.°.“,
xv.·.µ“); and a t»pov (topos: district) held by Latins is identi¬ed as
˜of the Romans™ (xvii..±±“±). Such expressions could be interpreted
as further appearances of the imagined empire (as with Choniates) but,
alternatively, Gregoras may be relying only on the ethnic Roman identity
to describe certain areas as Roman simply because they are occupied by
ethnic Romans and operate in Roman ways.

The example of Theodore Palaiologos strongly suggests that it was possi-
ble to lose one™s cultural identity as a Roman, while perceived descent “
the ethnic sense of identity “ was yet extremely signi¬cant in the case
of the Skythian woman and remains an issue in any consideration of
Theodore. Similarly, however seriously we take Gregoras™ description of
Duˇan™s assumption of ˜Roman behaviour™, the kral emphatically remained
s
Serbian. Descent conferred an ethnic identity that ought to be con¬rmed
and validated by external signs, and if descent and signs coincided this was
suf¬cient to confer a Roman identity even where the hugely important
political aspect was lacking. However, in individual cases, it was not nec-
essary for descent to be accompanied by signs: descent was the basic and
solely suf¬cient guarantor of identity. Again, political identity on its own “
as, arguably, acquired by the Cuman woman “ was not enough to change
one™s basic identity which depended on birth and descent.


Kantakouzenos: what makes a Roman?
Just like Gregoras, Kantakouzenos was able to accept Romans existing
outside the Byzantine Roman state, even though for him the political
aspect of Roman identity was so much to the fore. He can therefore be
seen to acknowledge the ethnic Roman identity, especially in multi-ethnic
contexts. There are references to the Roman quarter in Mamluk Cairo
(iv..), to Romans as opposed to Genoese ˜Latins™ in Chios, Phokaia
or Lesbos (e.g. ii.·., .“, ·.±·) and to Romans, not Turks, in
Asia Minor (e.g. ii.°.±“±µ). In all of these locations, there was at best
only a sketchy connection with Byzantine Roman political power. In the
case of Cairo, the emperor was appealing to the sultan on behalf of the
Romans in the city, and this was primarily out of a sense of religious
± Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
responsibility. The context makes it very clear who had political control
of these Romans “ and anyway, this occurrence comes in the words of
the sultan himself, making it a foreigner™s perception of Romans. Regard-
ing Asia Minor, these areas were steadily being lost to the Turks and
were at best only debatably Roman. As for Chios, Phokaia and Lesbos,
the central issue here is that these communities were between Byzantine
Roman and Latin rule, switching from one to the other as circumstances
changed.
In the case of Chios, Kantakouzenos goes into the judicial arrangements
specially devised in order to accommodate the different traditions of the
two communities in considerable detail (iv..±“±), in a model familiar
from other ethnic borders in the middle ages. Back in the tenth century, the
emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitos had commented that each nation
had different customs, laws and institutions (above, p. ), and it was
similarly well established in the west that different peoples had their own
legal systems.° Further, it was held that the individuals of speci¬c groups
had the right to legal autonomy even if they were not living within their
home territory, and where there were different ethnic communities living
side by side, then plural judiciaries were a favoured solution.± This was
the situation in Chios: Kantakouzenos agreed with the Genoese that cases
involving only Romans would be judged by a Roman judge, but that in
cases involving both Romans and Genoese the Roman and Genoese judges
would sit together to judge the case.
It should come as no surprise that ethnic identities thus became more
de¬ned and more explicit in situations of multi-ethnic interaction. Here

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