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 Emmanouel ±: ±.

Meanwhile, a long way from Constantinople . . .
Lee Coulson has more recently re-evaluated the church at Merbaka near
Argos, arguing for Italian workmanship in the original thirteenth-century
decorative programme. Thus, though the evidence is still rather scat-
tered and sparse, it can be seen that, as might be expected, there was a
cross-fertilisation of artistic ideas arising from the western conquests and
occupation.

It is important to remember that the Romans and the Franks were not
the only ethnic identities in the Peloponnese at this date. The story in
the Chronicle of the settlement and enfeoffment of Turkish mercenaries in
the Morea during the reign of Prince William con¬rms a lack of ethnic
exclusivity in the Frankish state (Greek Chronicle µ·“; French Chronicle
·). By the end of the fourteenth century there had also been considerable
settlement by Albanians, who were welcomed at least by Mistra as a useful
source of manpower. This had begun in Greece especially as a response to
the depopulation of the Black Death in the ±°s, and by the Ottoman
census of ±°, Albanians exceeded ethnic Romans in some areas by µ per
cent. Another group which always stood out were the Slavs, who lived
a semi-nomadic life in the Taygetos range to the south of Mistra. In the
growing political polarisation on ethnic grounds towards the end of the
thirteenth century, the Slavs occupied a curious middle ground. When
the ˜Esclavons of Janisse™ seized the castle of Kalamata during the reign
of Prince Florent, neither side knew quite what to do (French Chronicle
“·µ). The Franks believed that the Slavs were operating on the insti-
gation of the Romans of Mistra, but the ˜captain of the emperor™ at Mistra
denied all involvement, saying that the Slavs were ˜wilful and hold lordship
for themselves in rebellion against correct rule™. Later on, according to
the Chronicle, the Slavs worked for Prince Florent against the Byzantine
Romans of Mistra in his efforts to regain the castle of St George. Identi¬-
ably of a different ethnic group, then, the Slavs stood outside the central
ethnic divide in the Peloponnese.
The examples of the Turks and Slavs suggest that there was little sense
of ethnic exclusivity on the part of the Franks. Similarly, in the story of
the taking of the castle of St George, Corcondille, Anino and Boniface
are all equally and strongly characterised as traitors in the pro-Frankish
Chronicle; and this suggests that Franks and Romans were equally accepted
as subjects of the principality. In the incidents involving both Corcondille

 Mouriki ±±; Coulson °°.
 Palaiologos, Funeral Oration ±±; see Topping ±·: ; Cooper °°: µ·.
° Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
and Photios, however, the offended Romans go on to involve the Byzantine
Romans of Mistra; thus at a higher level ethnic identity was enshrined in
political institutions and the possibility of availing oneself of such powerful
assistance increased ethnic polarisation in the region. Thus, some local
Romans asked for and received privileges from the emperor in return
for professions of loyalty, and this was encouraged by some as a means
of recovering imperial territory in the Peloponnese.µ In this way the re-
establishment of the Byzantine Romans at Mistra wrecked the balance of
the Villehardouin compromise.
The polemical passages added to the Greek Chronicle of the Morea at
some point in the fourteenth century provide further evidence of a change
in the climate of ethnic relations in the Morea during this period. As the
remarks of a western churchman, the longest such passage (·µ·“) bears
witness in particular to increased tension between the western and eastern
churches in the fourteenth century. However, this tension was not evident
at all levels “ as noted in the context of intermarriage, which necessarily
implied some weakening of the lines of demarcation. Indeed, it was perhaps
just such weakening that promoted the wrath of churchmen. It should be
noted that the traf¬c went both ways: Latins were attending Orthodox
services and the Orthodox were attending Catholic services “ thus, in ±,
Pope John XXII excoriated those Latins of the principality who, ˜living as
they do with schismatics and other unfaithful, sometimes themselves (and
their families too) ignorantly accept the said schismatics™ rite to the peril
of their souls™; moreover, ˜the Latins do not fear to admit schismatics to
their masses and other divine of¬ces which are celebrated according to the
rite of the sacrosanct Roman church™. Similar papal comments followed
in relation to other parts of Romania throughout the century, with the
emphasis here mostly on Latins going over to Orthodoxy. There is also
an epitaph in Greek which dates from ±µ and employs western dating
conventions; this perhaps indicates a Roman in the Catholic church, but is
as likely to indicate a Catholic Peloponnesian whose family was originally
western but whose ¬rst language was now Greek. Again, the supposedly
¬rm border markers “ language, religion “ were in fact ¬‚uid and permeable
in the Peloponnese.·
There was never complete ethnic polarisation in the Peloponnese, as we
have noted in examples of both Franks and Romans exchanging or sharing
loyalties, religious af¬liation and language. However, two elements may

µ Angelov °°·: ±µ°“±.  Raynaldus ±·: ±·“, translation from Setton ±·: ±µ.
· Setton ±·: ±µ; Vacalopoulos ±·°: ; Jacoby ±·: .
±
Meanwhile, a long way from Constantinople . . .
have led to an increase in polarisation in some circles at least. Firstly, the fact
of transgression of assumed ethnic boundaries “ like ethnic Franks starting
to go to Orthodox churches, for example “ is a precondition for increased
ethnic awareness and consequent polarisation. So the very success of the
Villehardouin compromise held out the possibility of stirring up ethnic
hatred if people, for whatever reason, ceased to be on balance content
with the situation. Secondly, the Byzantine Roman presence at Mistra and
the failure of the Angevin administration of the principality created the
conditions for growing dissatisfaction.
Returning to the fourteenth-century polemical diatribes, the tone of
these is intensely personal: ˜Never trust a Roman, however much he swears
to you, for whenever he wants and desires to betray you, then he makes you
a godparent, or his adopted brother, or else an in-law, just so that he can
destroy you™ (“). The intensity of this feeling of betrayal, which can
also be noted at ±µ“µ, could only have arisen after a period of preceding
amity: the scribe has erstwhile friends and relatives in mind. Moreover, these
diatribes are slotted in as comment on the actions of Byzantine Romans
from outside the Morea in the thirteenth century “ the Constantinopolitans
of ±°, the Epirots of ±µ “ but gain their intensity from their tone of
current, local frustrations. In particular, the scribe may know of cases where
the Byzantine Romans have retaken land and have reinstituted Orthodox
worship and norms, including the disdainful attitude to Catholic worship
that extended to cleansing churches which had been used by Latins (cf.
Chronicle ··“). As discussed already, these polemical outbursts should be
understood as being interpolations added to the Chronicle sometime after
its origination. Their value is that as the additions of a mid fourteenth-
century scribe they are illustrative of the discontents of that century, the
arguments and switching loyalties in communities that had once been more
friendly but were becoming more polarised under the pressure of a ¬‚agging
Frankish state and the more successful Byzantine Roman alternative at
Mistra.

being roman in frankish morea
It is clear that, in the liminal Peloponnese, one of many front lines in
the encounter between the western rulers and the Romans ruled, a very
different dynamic applied than that which is apparent in the writings of
the educated Byzantine Roman elite.
Much in the way of detail is similar. The traditional ideology of the
empire manifested in the political Roman sense is still apparent in the
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
Greek Chronicle™s treatment of the Byzantine Roman administrations based
at Constantinople, Nikaia or Mistra. Moreover, the new emphases on
cultural criteria of Roman-ness detectable in the historians of the fourteenth
century “ speci¬cally legal systems and the Orthodox religion “ also have
an important part to play in the Peloponnese. Language, historically of
huge signi¬cance in the self-de¬nition of the Byzantine Romans, is also
present as an ethnic marker in the Peloponnese, and there are hints of the
usual prejudices about others, with Franks characterised in the traditional
Byzantine Roman model as warlike and arrogant.
However, the differences are far more signi¬cant, re¬‚ecting and revealing
the kind of pragmatism that typi¬ed frontier zones in the pre-modern era.
Firstly, the ideology of Roman superiority is nowhere near as dominant: the
Peloponnesian Romans looked on the Franks qua foreigners with far less
automatic disparagement. Secondly, the ideology of imperial rule is dramat-
ically weaker, in that political allegiance to the emperor of the Romans was,
for the Peloponnesian Romans, entirely absent as a necessary component
in their conception of what it was to be Roman. Thirdly, the ethnic crite-
ria mentioned are dramatically more negotiable in the Peloponnese, with
a pattern rather of transgression of boundaries than of defensive mainte-
nance. Franks spoke Greek well, and Romans spoke French. Franks went to
Orthodox churches and Romans attended Catholic services. Romans were
happy to become feudatories of the Frankish principality, while Franks
became loyal subjects of the Byzantine Roman despotate. Romans and
Franks both enjoyed a story of Frankish triumphs. Franks and Romans
married and had children who could choose to which group they would
adhere. Orthodox churches portrayed the military saints in western style.
Romans fought alongside Franks against Byzantine Romans, and Byzan-
tine Romans joined in civil wars among the Franks. Such trends may well
re¬‚ect the actuality as opposed to the rhetoric of inter-ethnic interaction
throughout the Roman world and into Constantinople itself, one which
is only barely manifested in the works of the elite, which are driven by
the imperative to maintain the imperial world view. Above all, Franks
and Romans in the Peloponnese felt a localised identity which expressed
itself equally against Angevin governors and incoming Constantinopolitan
rulers. This trend towards regional separatism, which predated the Frankish
conquest, is at the root of the near-absence of the political Roman identity
among the Peloponnesian Romans.


 Cf. Liebeschuetz ±: ±“·; Mazano Moreno ±: “µ.
chapter 7

The long defeat




This chapter completes the survey of Roman identity during the period
before the Ottoman conquests with a look into the ¬fteenth century. By
the early years of this century, Frankish power and in¬‚uence had shrunk to
the Venetian and Genoese islands and mainland harbours (like Modon and
Coron in the Peloponnese), Florentine Athens and the shrunken princi-
pality of Achaia clinging to the west of the Peloponnese. Byzantine Roman
rule was similarly much reduced to Constantinople and its hinterland,
Thessaloniki and the despotate of Mistra in the Peloponnese. Byzantine
Roman life and hopes were now dominated by the Ottoman threat. Along
with all other states in the Balkans, by the last decade of the fourteenth
century, the empire of the Romans had become a vassal state of the ever-
growing Ottoman empire. This subordinate status was underlined in ±
when the Ottoman sultan Bayezid I summoned all his vassals, including
the new emperor of the Romans, Manuel II Palaiologos, to a council at
Serres in Macedonia.± From this point on it was abundantly clear that
the Ottomans had set their hearts on Constantinople, and over the next
eight years the Byzantine Romans struggled to survive and to ¬nd some
support against this potent threat. The Ottomans established a blockade
of Constantinople in ±· and by ± their encirclement of the City was
complete. The Byzantine Romans looked to their fellow Christians in the
west, and in ± Manuel II set out on a tour of western Europe to enlist
aid against the Turks. However, the empire was saved in the end by east
not west, when the invading Mongols defeated and killed the Ottoman
sultan Bayezid at the battle of Ankara in ±°.
Fifty-one years were yet to pass, but the political fate of the City and the
empire had been ¬xed. Constantinople fell to Mehmet the Conqueror in
±µ, while in the Peloponnese the Byzantine Roman despotate of Mistra
hung on only for a further seven years. The last remnant of Byzantium

± Barker ±: ±±“; Funeral Oration ± for Manuel™s own account.


 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
was the empire of Trebizond on the coast of the Black Sea, and this fell
to the Ottomans in ±±. Of the Latin lands of Frankish Greece, the last
remnant of the principality of Achaia was ¬nally absorbed by the despotate
of Mistra in ±°. Only the territories of the Italian republics survived as
long as Roman Constantinople and, unsurprisingly, they proved the most
resilient. The last Venetian outposts on the Greek mainland were lost in
±µ° and Genoese Chios fell to the Ottomans in ±µ, while Venetian Crete
endured until ±.
The consideration of this period will focus once more on the Pelopon-
nese, and there are several reasons for this choice. Firstly, with regard to
formal historical works, very little emerges from the Constantinopolitan
elite in the ¬fteenth century until the ¬‚urry of works dealing with the fall of
Constantinople “ notably, the histories by Doukas, Phrantzes, Kritoboulos
and Chalkokondyles. The ¬nal fall of the City constituted a further and
vast change in Byzantine Roman circumstances, a sea change that marks
these later works out from their predecessors before the ultimate disas-
ter and removes them from consideration here. Secondly, a focus on the
Peloponnese offers a variety of sources to be set against each other. Two
early ¬fteenth-century works which can be taken to re¬‚ect something of
an elite viewpoint do in fact originate in and closely deal with the Pelopon-
nese, so an emperor™s perspective can be set against the point of view of a
middle-ranking and independently minded civil servant, while use can also
be made of the later Greek versions of the Chronicle of the Morea. Finally,
keeping the spotlight on the Peloponnese allows for some continuity from
the last chapter.
This brief look into the ¬fteenth century will show that, prior to the
Ottoman conquest, the various Byzantine Roman identities continued to
evolve and develop along the lines already suggested by the examination
of the sources of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In particular,
although the Roman political identity remained the same as ever when it
was expressed, it was nevertheless more rarely made explicit. In the face of
circumstances and the decline of the imperial state, the Roman political
identity had inevitably lost much of its power, and there was therefore
some searching for alternative identities.
Thus, at Mistra in the Peloponnese in the early ¬fteenth century,
the philosopher Gemistos Plethon attempted to resurrect ˜Hellene™ as an
ethnonym for the subjects of the empire. Plethon looked to the classical


 Woodhouse ±: ±°·“.
µ
The long defeat
past to provide a unifying identity for the subjects of the empire, picking
up on the minority strand of Hellenic self-identi¬cation shown rhetorically
by Choniates and more explicitly by John III Vatatzes and Theodore II
Laskaris at Nikaia. For Plethon living at Mistra, Sparta was an obvious ref-
erence point in preference to Athens, which had not been part of the empire
for over two centuries; moreover, for a Byzantine Roman, the monarchy of
Sparta was a more suitable model than Athenian democracy. Plethon made
the ancient past the foundation for a contemporary identity by claiming
unbroken racial descent, asserting that the descendants of these Hellenes “
and no one else “ had inhabited the Peloponnese since classical times.
It was a patently false claim but, in its justi¬cation of proposed change
by an appeal to the ancient past, one that placed Plethon in the spirit of
the European renaissance. Plethon™s proposals had no practical in¬‚uence
on the rulers of Mistra, but are representative of a search for alternative
identities as the empire struggled to survive.
Thanks to the continuing in¬‚uence of the political identity and its
accompanying imperial ideology, ¬‚uctuating border loyalties continued to
make Rhomaios a problematic group name at times for the elite writers, and
this may well also have aided the continuing af¬rmation of regional iden-
tities. It should be borne in mind, however, that Rhomaios continued as an
ethnonym expressive of ethnic identity right through the Ottoman period,

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