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it can be seen most clearly that Kantakouzenos™ conceptions of Roman
identity included individuals and communities not subject to Byzantine
Roman political rule “ or at least subject only very theoretically. In their
way of life, these people were still Roman; so, again, descent coupled with
external indications was a sign of identity. In the case of Chios, this ˜way of
life™ included legal tradition; in the case of Cairo, it is clear that religious
custom is also important.
A further hint on the content of ethnic Roman-ness may be gained
from the un¬‚attering contrast drawn by Kantakouzenos between the ways


° Cf. Bartlett ±: °·“ for Spain; Lydon ±µ: ±°“· for Ireland; Richter ±: ·“ for Wales.
Michael Palaiologos made appeal to this principle in his arguments against trial by ordeal “ see
above, pp. ±°“±.
± Bartlett ±: °“±±, ±“°; Geary °°: ±µ“µ.
±µ
The nightmare of the fourteenth century
of life at the Bulgarian and the Byzantine Roman courts, as he speaks in
regard to the latter of ˜Hellenic and imperial laws and customs™ (ii.µ°µ.±“
). The emphasis on law and custom is reminiscent of Gregoras on Duˇan s
and the Serbs, and although Kantakouzenos gives no more clues on the
external phenomena of the Roman-ness which is beyond the political (we
may speculate about language, dress, etc.) the given aspects of religion and
legal tradition are strongly suggestive of a sense of ethnic identity based on
presumed shared descent.

However, the situation is in fact a little more complex than this. Kan-
takouzenos also deals with several groups who were surely as Roman as
the Romans of Cairo, Lesbos, Chios or Phokaia in terms of the externals
of their ways of life, but who were apparently not Roman, namely, the
Peloponnesians, the Verrhiotes of Macedonia and the Epirots. These three
groups are never called Roman “ but why this difference? The fact is that
Kantakouzenos is happy to assign the ethnic Roman identity to certain
groups, and ignore their lack of any political Byzantine Roman identity,
while he denies other groups any ethnic identity because they explicitly
lack any political identity. The question might be why he can overlook the
political aspect in some cases but not in others.
Starting with the Epirots, we have seen how Kantakouzenos insisted on
the status of Epiros (Akarnania) as immemorially part of the Byzantine
Roman empire and, given this insistence, it is therefore surprising that he
never calls the residents of the area ˜Romans™. Rather, he always sticks to
localised names “ the Artans, the Rogioi, or the Akarnanians. The situation
is the same in the case of Verrhoia in Macedonia, where Kantakouzenos
speaks of the leaders of the Verrhiotes (iv.±.±), who had been corrupted by
the Serbs into surrendering to them. An alternative here would have been
to speak of ˜the Romans in Verrhoia™, in a formula akin to that employed
in the cases of the Romans of Cairo, Lesbos, Chios and Phokaia touched
on above. Comparably, the ethnic Romans of the Peloponnese are called
˜Peloponnesians™.
However, there were important differences between Verrhoia, Epiros
and the Peloponnese on the one hand and Cairo, Lesbos, Chios or Phokaia
on the other. Firstly, the situation in Verrhoia was not polyethnic such
as would typically promote a hardening of ethnic positions with an
emphasis on border-markers: there were not two or more groups exist-
ing alongside each other in Verrhoia, so there was no need to speak
of ˜the Romans™ of Verrhoia as opposed to any Latins of Verrhoia. In
± Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
Epiros, though, there were contrasting groups, and Kantakouzenos nev-
ertheless succeeds in distinguishing between locals and the incoming Ital-
ians of Taranto without recourse to the terminology of ˜Romans™: the
locals™ fatherland is the ˜empire of Romans™, but they are not named as
Romans any more directly than this. So, polyethnicity cannot be the whole
answer.
More important perhaps is that, in the case of Verrhoia and Epiros, Kan-
takouzenos was dealing with an explicit leaving of the Byzantine Roman
fold, whereas in Cairo the situation was long established, and in Lesbos,
Chios and Phokaia the situation was and had been for some time in ¬‚ux.
In the case of Epiros, although the Angevins had been exerting in¬‚uence,
there was no real ethnic rivalry for control of the region. Kantakouzenos
and his master Andronikos III Palaiologos were recovering an area for the
empire which had long been in outright opposition dating back to the days
of the empire of Nikaia. This agenda is clear in Kantakouzenos™ speech
(ii.µ°.±µ“µ±.±°, see above, p. ±µ), which is addressed to the native people
of the region; Kantakouzenos accuses them of wrongdoing in involving
the Angevins, and he characterises the native rulers of Epiros as fraudulent
rebels against the empire. In other words, in avoiding the terminology of
Roman-ness for the people of Epiros, Kantakouzenos is following Akropo-
lites (and also Pachymeres to a lesser extent) in denying Roman identity
to the empire™s Roman rivals, and the political Roman identity is domi-
nant over the ethnic in his approach to Epiros. His refusal to acknowledge
the Epirots as fellow Romans is a statement about their political identity,
and only incidentally about their ethnic identity. Kantakouzenos is not
ostensibly interested here in their ethnic identity, apart from the fact that
historically these people had been politically Roman, and this fact ought
to condition their contemporary political status. Thus, the historical trans-
generational political identity of the Epirots was one aspect of their ethnic
identity, and this ethnic identity should have dictated their political identity
(but it did not).
As for the position in Verrhoia, in contrast to Lesbos, Chios and Phokaia,
this was not a long-established position of political ¬‚uctuations or foreign
occupation, but was new and a situation against which any emperor would
feel the need to put up some defence. Of¬cially, Stefan Duˇan of Serbia
s
was Kantakouzenos™ ally in the civil war between Kantakouzenos and the
regency for John V Palaiologos, but he had in effect taken advantage
of the civil con¬‚ict to make massive gains in Macedonia. Verrhoia was
one of the last areas to fall. It was a signi¬cant and prosperous town
lying inland to the west of Thessaloniki, and its importance is shown
±·
The nightmare of the fourteenth century
by the fact that Kantakouzenos appointed his own son Manuel as its
governor from ±. The fact that the leaders of Verrhoia had not only
seceded to the Serbs but had in so doing rejected the rule of his own son
may well have fed Kantakouzenos™ hostile presentation. Kantakouzenos™
choice of the localised term Verrhoiotes in place of any mention of their
Roman status may be coincidence, a simple varying of vocabulary; it is
highly likely, alternatively, that he could be denying the Verrhiotes any
Roman identity because of their explicit disloyalty “ just as was the case
in Epiros. Kantakouzenos knew these people were ethnically Roman, but
their rejection of the political Roman identity has meant that they cannot
be called Romans in this account. Again, he is only concerned with the
political Roman identity here.
The case for this interpretation is strengthened by Kantakouzenos™
approach to the Peloponnese where, unlike Verrhoia and Epiros, the sit-
uation was far more comparable to the situation in Chios or Phokaia in
that this region was in ¬‚ux between Roman and Latin control. The context
once again involves his own son, Manuel Kantakouzenos. In ±, John
Kantakouzenos, now emperor, sent Manuel to the Peloponnese as the new
governor based at Mistra. Manuel had already been given the title despot,
and this meant that he would be ruling the Byzantine Roman territory in
the Peloponnese as the emperor™s deputy:

Then too, the Peloponnese seemed ready to fall apart on all sides. This was not
only because of the attacks of the Turks in their great ¬‚eets or because of the
Latins who hold that land called Achaia by the Hellenes and who are subjects of
the prince, but also and even more so because of the people themselves (sf¤n
aÉt¤n) continually hostile to each other, laying waste each other™s possessions,
and slaughtering . . . (iv.µ.“)

Despite the polyethnicity and the unstable condition of the region, then,
Kantakouzenos again avoids calling the local people Romans. Instead, he
calls these ill-behaved residents of the Peloponnese the Peloponnžsioi
(Peloponnesioi: e.g. iv.µ.±, °, ., ±°) or the ˜residents™ (µ.±·“±). There
are two alternatives here. Firstly, Kantakouzenos could mean to denote ˜the
people who live in the Peloponnese™, regardless of ethnic origin, and as
we shall see below this could cover ethnic Romans, Franks, Turks, Slavs
and more. Kantakouzenos seems to contrast the Peloponnesians with the
Latins and Turks, saying that the new despot

 Fine ±: °°“.
± Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
made treaties with the Latins, in order to preserve the residents from harm from
them, and he opposed the barbarians [i.e. the Turks], winning many victories, so
that they would not attack the Peloponnesians . . . and he was well-disposed to
the leaders of the Peloponnesians . . . (iv.µ.±“°, .“)

This does not rule out a multi-ethnic understanding of Peloponnesioi. The
uses of ˜Latins™ and ˜barbarians™ here may be understood as signifying
external enemies “ the Latin principality of Achaia, the pirate ¬‚eets “ and
need not be read as implying that Manuel himself had no ethnically Latin
or Turkish subjects. Under this explanation, Kantakouzenos™ avoidance of
Rhomaioi is easy to understand on an ethnic basis.
However, the context works against an understanding of Peloponnesioi
as having primarily ethnic content. Rather, Kantakouzenos™ use of the term
is politically driven “ he uses it speci¬cally because these residents of the
Peloponnese, who should have been loyal to the empire as represented by
his son Manuel, were not so loyal. It is further likely that Kantakouzenos
in fact thinks of the Peloponnesioi as ethnically Roman rather than multi-
ethnic, and in never calling them Roman, despite the fact that there were
Latins (not to mention Turks) against whom he could contrast ˜the Romans
of the Peloponnese™, he departs from the approach of Akropolites to the
Peloponnesian ˜Romans who served the prince™ (above, p. ±°µ).
The fact that Kantakouzenos™ approach is overwhelmingly politically
based is shown by the very clear implication that these Peloponnesioi ought
to be loyal to the empire; in other words, even though he avoids calling them
˜Roman™, he nevertheless clearly identi¬es them as subjects of the Byzantine
Roman state. After all, this whole exposition comes in the context of him
sending his own son to rule over them as a despot: these Peloponnesisans
thus owed allegiance to the state in a way that their Latin neighbours did
not. Still, and notwithstanding, they are not identi¬ed as Roman. In name,
then, Kantakouzenos denies Roman identity to the Peloponnesians, but in
the actions and attitude he expected of them he shows his belief in their
Roman status since he characterises them as rebels who were expected to be
loyal. His attitude is confused, but we can say from this that, although you
could be a Roman while not being a subject of the Byzantine Roman empire
(like the ethnic Romans on Chios or Lesbos), you could not, it seems, be
explicitly disloyal to Byzantine Roman rule and remain a full Roman. Here
indeed the primacy of the political identity for Kantakouzenos is manifest.
In the case of the Epirots, Verrhiotes and Peloponnesians, Kantakouzenos
deals only with their political identity; given their explicit disloyalty to
the empire, they cannot be called Romans. Any question of their ethnic
±
The nightmare of the fourteenth century
identity is ignored “ save for the fact that they were viewed as people who
should have been loyal to the empire, and this expectation rested to some
extent on their transgenerational ethnic identity. Political considerations
dictate Kantakouzenos™ treatment of these people, but he is nevertheless
working with an implicit ethnic understanding of Roman-ness.
This underlying ethnic understanding is shown by the fact that, con-
trariwise, explicit loyalty to the Byzantine Roman state was not suf¬cient
to make you Roman if your transgenerational birth identity was other. A
striking example of this is the Catalan soldier-architect Juan de Peralta “
a devoted adherent of Kantakouzenos “ who is described as ˜one of the
Latin subjects of the emperor™ (iv.°.±); there is also the Latin Frances,
sent as an ambassador from Kantakouzenos to Pope Clement VI in ±·.
Frances is described as ˜of the Latin race; he had served the emperor for a
very long time™ (iv.µ.±µ“±). Overall, Kantakouzenos shows in these cases
that the ethnic aspect of identity is important to him: presumed descent
is a sine qua non for being a Roman, and no amount of political Roman-
or non-Roman-ness could, ultimately, override this. Nevertheless, political
loyalty also remained a necessary though not suf¬cient condition.

As we have seen, Gregoras and Kantakouzenos saw the Roman identity
primarily in terms of the political institution of the empire, which had an
inherited authority over a certain territory and by which that territory was
organised. It was a community under threat; its territory was shrinking and
on the periphery debatable; there was a strong association with ill fortune,
defeat and decline. This political Roman identity existed alongside, but
did not always coincide with, an ethnic Roman identity. For those who
were ethnically Roman, ideally, the transgenerational participation in the
political identity was one, perhaps the most signi¬cant, of the markers of
their ethnic identity. Over the course of time, as we have seen, the political
and ethnic identities were slipping more and more out of joint. More and
more there were people identi¬able and identi¬ed as Romans who were not
part of the political dimension of Roman-ness. With the emergence of such
people, the other markers of Roman ethnic identity (besides the political
dimension) became more prominent. Arguably, by the fourteenth century,
the political Roman identity and the ethnic Roman identity had in fact
become divorced. This is shown in various instances covered above. Thus
some people identi¬ed as Rhomaioi have no association with the Byzantine
Roman state “ Romans in Chios or Phokaia or Cairo, for example. Here,
the writer is appealing to the ethnic identity marked by religion, customs,
dress, language and so on. On the other hand, some people who were
±·° Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
clearly ethnically Roman have their Roman identity ostensibly denied to
them because of their disloyalty to the Roman state. However, it is their
ethnic identity that is instrumental in their ascription as disloyal “ if they
were not ethnically Roman, they would not be expected to be loyal. Thus
the ethnic and political identities could come into con¬‚ict with each other.

not only roman but also . . . ?
Certain markers, then, came to be associated with the ethnic Roman
identity and, for both Gregoras and Kantakouzenos, there was at least one
other marker and associated identity within and beyond the Roman “ the
Christian.
As has been seen, Gregoras sometimes associates Rhomaios with religion:
the Skythian woman wanted to ˜go over to the Romans and receive holy
baptism™ (xi.µ.“). At other times, Gregoras speaks of religious decrees
being sent to ˜all Romans™ (xvi..); and he comments that the Calabrian
monk Barlaam, the outspoken opponent of hesychasm, treated orthodoxy
(˜the common wisdom of the Romans™) with disdain (xviii.°±.). How-
ever, for a man like Gregoras “ to whom religion was exceptionally impor-
tant “ this relative paucity of direct association between religion and the
terminology of being Roman is striking. It is, though, in line with his
predecessors Choniates, Akropolites and Pachymeres.
Gregoras occasionally speaks of Christianoi, rather than Romans, as a
group with which he identi¬es. Christians were being attacked by barbar-
ians (ix..“), John Alexander the Tsar of Bulgaria sought peace with the
Romans saying that fellow Christians should not ¬ght each other (x..“
), it was a Christian captive, clearly of Roman descent, with whom the
Skythian fell in love (xi.µ.) and John Kantakouzenos had been excom-
municated from the community of Christians (xv.·.±). These instances
show that ˜Christian™ was far from synonymous with ˜Roman™. Most of the
time, Romans could be called Christian, although the case of excommuni-
cation obviously made this very occasionally problematic. From the other
side, de¬nitely, some Christians were not Roman and a noticeable example
of this was the Bulgarians.
All in all, the terminologies of ˜Roman™ and of ˜Christian™ are rarely
combined by Gregoras. Although, as shown by the case of the Skythian
woman, the Orthodox religion was clearly an important aspect of what
it was to be Roman, religion does not present as a principal ingredient
of Roman identity for Gregoras in the way that he uses key vocabulary.
Kantakouzenos similarly does not develop any close associations between
±·±
The nightmare of the fourteenth century
the Roman and the Christian identities. Christianos and Rhomaios are
directly linked on only one occasion, and it is worth noting that this is in
the words of a non-Roman, the Catholic envoy Bartholomew (iv.±.“)
sent by Kantakouzenos to Pope Clement VI in ±· as part of an appeal
to pan-Christian unity against the Turks. Here again, the Romans were a

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