<<

. 42
( 54 .)



>>

At the opening of the thirteenth century, the Franks had found it fairly
easy to establish themselves in the Peloponnese. Like many parts of the
µ
The long defeat
empire, the Peloponnese had to some extent fallen out of love with the
empire, and this had been helpful to Leon Sgouros in establishing his own
local power base just as others were doing in Asia Minor and the Pontos. Yet
this was not simply insularity at work: the peripheral subjects of the empire
had become disenchanted with an imperial rule from Constantinople that
was both distant and ineffective. Thus, alien westerners could be and were
welcomed if they offered the opportunity for effective and orderly adminis-
tration which allowed the local archontes to prosper. Leon Sgouros resisted
the Franks, but this was a continuation of his long-standing campaign
against any authority. Similarly, although many Peloponnesian archontes
¬‚ed to Epiros, many also stayed and actively cooperated with the new
Frankish regime. Thus, in the thirteenth century, the Moreots could be
characterised as inward-looking but ready to accept outside in¬‚uence if
it served their interests. There was a strong preference for an administra-
tion that was both closer at hand and more effective than had been the
case with the imperial rule from Constantinople under the Angeloi. As
the region continued to prosper under the rule of the Villehardouins,
both Franks and Romans of the principality had good cause to be
content.
The absentee rule of the Angevins was inevitably resented. Just as in the
bad old days under the Angeloi, the principality suffered from a distant and
ineffective rule. It is clear that for some time the Byzantine Roman rule
established at Mistra bene¬ted by comparison, across the ethnic divide,
just as established noble families also attracted loyalty. Over the course of
his lengthy tenure as despot in Mistra (±“°), Manuel Kantakouzenos
had been able to develop considerable local loyalty, which did not help
Theodore Palaiologos when he came to take over in ±. As the fourteenth
century wore on, there was plainly much less positivity towards Mistra, as
witness the frequent revolts against Theodore.
Manuel Palaiologos and Mazaris both show that the local Romans of
the Peloponnese did not universally appreciate rule from Mistra. In the
±°s, the revolt against Theodore Palaiologos was supported by ˜many of
the local people™ (Funeral Oration ±±·.±); in the ±°s, he was opposed by
˜men related to us by blood™ who ˜did not wish to be ruled by him™ (Funeral
Oration ±µ.“µ, ±·.). Manuel Palaiologos says of these men that they
were motivated by the desire for wealth and renown (Funeral Oration
±.±µ“±). Local rebels sided on occasion with both the Navarrese and
the Turks (Funeral Oration ±.±“°, ±µ.±). Mazaris similarly con¬rms
the Peloponnesian revolt against Manuel II Palaiologos in ±±µ (Journey to
Hades .±“.).
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
All this strongly implies that, by the end of the fourteenth century,
many in the Peloponnese did not welcome imperial rule. There are several
reasons for this development. Economically, there had been a decline in
prosperity, not aided by the disruption and depopulation caused by the
Black Death. The Navarrese Company had upset the balance of power
in the Peloponnese, and the Ottoman Turks were making steady inroads
against which Mistra did not seem able to mount effective resistance. The
despotate of Mistra was great in itself, culturally remarkable and with an
imperially high opinion of itself, but it was not so popular with many of
its subjects.
Mazaris gives a hint of a reason for this “ a contempt, perhaps a resent-
ment, for the outsiders who made up the imperial court and administration.
Bemoaning his miserable situation in the Peloponnese, he asks what will
the rebellious locals ˜do to me and those like me, who are called “easterners”
by the Peloponnesians?™ Here there is a suggestion that the court of Mistra
was seen by some locals at least as an alien imposition. It is abundantly
clear from Mazaris that many courtiers saw the locals, in an elite attitude
with a very long history, as ill-educated, poor-spoken bumpkins; that the
local subjects had an equally strong and negative perception of their rulers
should come as no surprise. This was, nevertheless, perhaps representative
of a failure on the part of the despotate to take advantage of strong local
loyalties as the Franks had earlier been able to do.
At , P nicely reinforces that insularity and resentment of outsiders
that may be seen as characteristic of the Peloponnese at the end of the
Byzantine period, an insularity which nevertheless managed to absorb and
to varying extent assimilate so many different groupings. A newly arrived
Frank is speaking, it is the young nephew of the deceased Geoffrey de Briel,
come to inherit the ¬ef unaware that his inheritance has become null and
void through his uncle™s treachery. In H, the baulked and resentful Geoffrey
speaks of ˜those wretched [džmiouv: demious] Moreots™ whom he sees as
disinheriting him. In what must be a reaction of injured pride on the part
of this or some previous scribe “ who thereby perhaps unwittingly identi¬es
himself with the baronial court of the Frankish principality “ this has in P
been incongruously amended to ˜those worthy [t©miouv: timious] Moreots™.
It is the kind of insularity and localised pride that we have seen re¬‚ected,
whether wryly or with despair, in both Mazaris and Manuel Palaiologos “
who were each themselves, be it remembered, outsiders.
chapter 8

Roman identity and the response to the Franks




questions . . .
This investigation began with a set of linked hypotheses. Centrally, it was
proposed that the Frankish conquest and occupation constituted an event
of extreme signi¬cance for the Byzantine Roman identity which brought
about developments in the way the Romans viewed themselves. In detail,
it was proposed that, in the period following ±°:
r There was no single uniform sense of ethnic identity among the Romans
(that is, the inhabitants of the territory under the rule of the emperor in
Constantinople in the period preceding the conquest of ±°).
r Ethnic identities among the Romans were not static during this period
but developed in response to major political changes.
r The phenomenon of Frankish conquest and rule was the single most
critical impetus for developments in the ethnic identities of the Romans
during this period.
The investigation began with a setting of the scene on the eve of the
Frankish conquest of ±°. Firstly, the evidence revealed that it was per-
missible to speak of Roman ethnic identity at this time. The imperial
Byzantine Roman identity was shown to be a group identity professed or
implied by the individuals of the empire; this identity consisted of three
major strands: the political, the religious and the cultural, all of which were
seen to have a long history and to gain their validation from their age-old
quality. There was a particularly strong contrast between the Roman and
the non-Roman other, the barbarian. The political aspect to Roman iden-
tity was rooted in the fact of imperial rule from Constantinople, and this
was thus a facet of identity which potentially all subjects of the Byzantine
Roman state could share. Being ruled from Constantinople was a very
signi¬cant criterion of what it was to be Roman; it constituted the roots of
the state in the trans-ethnic classical Roman empire, and was most vividly
and readily seen in operation in the continuing primacy of Rhomaioi as

·
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
the self-identifying term for the group and the individual members of the
group. However, over time, this group name could lose the resonance of
its imperial heritage, which could signal a crisis for the political aspect of
Roman identity. The political identity also had strong territorial associ-
ations, with all territory that had historically been a part of the empire
being potentially Roman. Given the dominance of Constantinople, there
was a risk that the balance between the wealthy and prestigious capital and
the less privileged provinces could be lost. With the loss of rival centres of
in¬‚uence in the east from the eleventh century “ such as Antioch, lost to
the Seljuks in ±° “ this risk would only increase.±
Turning to the religious aspect of Roman identity, the Byzantine Roman
empire “ the oikoumene “ was traditionally seen as the earthly realm of
Christians such that to be Christian was to be a subject of the empire
and vice versa. The emperor was thus an earthly ruler with a sacral
role. Although there had always been minority religious sects within the
Byzantine Roman oikoumene, the sole validity of the Orthodox rite had
become more and more strongly established and had formed a close associ-
ation with the imperial rule; this tight link was especially forged during the
iconoclast struggles of the eighth and ninth centuries when legitimacy of
rule went hand in hand with religious Orthodoxy. This political aspect of
the religious identity ran into problems as multiple Christian states devel-
oped that did not necessarily acknowledge Byzantine Roman supremacy,
either in the combined political“religious sense, or more subtly in the
recognition of Orthodox correctness. It might be that the outward mani-
festations of the Orthodox religion would become increasingly associated
with being Roman in such a way as to limit the profession of Ortho-
doxy to one group of Christians, so that eventually it might seem that
only Romans could be Orthodox, in con¬‚ict with the ideal of religious
ecumenism. Again, Orthodoxy might spread beyond the borders of the
Byzantine Roman state so that the political entity would lose its especial
and unique sacral role, and thereby a great deal of ideological buttressing.
Thirdly, the Roman identity carried and implied a great deal of cultural
baggage, which constituted further ethnic criteria, although this was the
aspect of identity that was liable to most variety over the millennial history
of the empire. Markers of ethnic identity included the Greek language and
styles of dress and appearance “ these latter, of course, underwent change
over the centuries. The Greek language was never the only language used


± Magdalino ±b: ±°.

Roman identity and the response to the Franks
in the eastern Roman empire but, from its earliest centuries, Greek was
dominant in administration and the arts, and was spoken by the majority of
subjects. With the contraction of the empire this dominance grew, although
the fact of diglossia between the educated and demotic forms of Greek was
a potentially divisive force. Also of crucial signi¬cance as cultural markers
of identity were the acceptance of the political and religious identities.
Romans could be identi¬ed by their modes of administration, law and
religious worship; Romans would furthermore have their origins at least
within the territorial sphere of Byzantine Roman political control and
would acknowledge a history of imperial rule.
It was noted that the Rhomaios stood in contrast to the non-Roman
barbaros and this constituted a very strong boundary in the ethnic sense.
Here as in so much else the Byzantine Romans owed a debt to and asserted
a link with the ancient Romans and Hellenes. The barbarians were funda-
mentally all those who lived outside the Roman oikoumene, in all senses.
They were rural and wandering as opposed to settled and urban, they had
no written traditions of law and government and were uncontrolled in
their behaviour, and they did not acknowledge the primacy of the emperor
although they were in a sense his wayward subjects. They were essen-
tially pagan as opposed to Christian, and immoral as opposed to moral;
they could not speak Greek (at least not intelligibly or well) and were
uneducated. They were inimical to the Romans, although they could be
tamed enough to serve the empire, particularly in the military arena which
was their natural forte. The Roman/barbarian dichotomy thus served to
emphasise Roman superiority, and this would prove problematic when the
Romans were clearly no longer able to claim effective superiority, although
the ¬rst reaction would be a hardening of attitudes. Moreover, as the modes
of living of various, supposedly barbaric, peoples changed, it would become
harder to class them as barbarians. Either the barbarian model would have
to change but continue in application to all non-Romans, or this universal-
ity of the model of the non-Roman barbarian would have to be abandoned
and the Romans would need to acknowledge that some people were nei-
ther Roman nor barbarian. Either way, the conviction of uniqueness and
superiority which lay at the heart of the Roman identity would be under
threat.

and answers . . .
In all discussions of Byzantine Roman identity, it is vital to bear in mind
that our evidence base is skewed in favour of the elite of Roman society.
·° Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
For example, when assessing the signi¬cance of Constantinople in the
minds of the Romans, or the signi¬cance of the Hellenic heritage, or
the fundamentality of urban living in the Roman model of identity, we
must acknowledge that all of these were naturally more likely to assume
importance for the urban and urbane Constantinopolitans who necessarily
have to remain our main resource for assessing Byzantine Roman society.
Thus, in examining the period of the Frankish conquests and occupation
from the Roman point of view, we have most of all adopted the perspective
of the elite politicians and historians of Constantinople. However, it has
been possible to set these beside the evidence of the Greek Chronicle of the
Morea to gain something of a non-Constantinopolitan angle and, taking the
lead from the Chronicle, the history of the Peloponnese has been considered
in greater depth and through a greater variety of sources in order to gain
further insights into the actual response to westerners ˜on the ground™.

Analysis of the Byzantine Roman response to the Franks serves, ¬rstly, to
illustrate the continuing strength of the political and imperial aspect of
Roman identity. Initially, as passionately recounted by Niketas Choniates,
the shock of the fall of Constantinople in ±° was huge. Writing only a
decade or so at most after the fall, more than the other Byzantine Roman
historians Choniates seems to have been unsure of the continuity of the
imperial state. As we have seen, he does not (in the History at least) credit
Theodore Laskaris with any especial imperial status, and the Latin rulers
Baldwin and Henry are more de¬nitely presented as emperors. Yet this in
itself is signi¬cant. Choniates illustrates the common and general recogni-
tion of the Latin empire and its emperors; it is as though there needs must
be an emperor in Constantinople, and the ethnicity of this emperor is of
less importance than the fact of his rule. Thus Romans who rebelled against
Baldwin were characterised by Choniates as rebels rather than patriots. We
have seen too how most areas of the erstwhile empire readily accepted
Latin rule, and the Latins of the empire encouraged continuity in the
established imperial symbology in order to encourage loyalty among their
Roman subjects. The Latin empire permitted the maintenance of the ideal
of imperial rule from Constantinople and thus of the political aspect of
Roman identity. This ideal was of such central importance as to override,
in the short term at least, the other aspects of Roman identity.
In ±°, the Latins also supplanted the then patriarch, John Kamaretos,
replacing him with the Latin Thomas Morosini. Kamaretos nevertheless
refused to sanction the Laskarid claim to the imperial position, and it was
only after his death that Theodore Laskaris was crowned emperor in ±°,
·±
Roman identity and the response to the Franks
when he was able to secure a new and more compliant patriarch who would
crown him; it is clear that Laskaris needed the religious angle to endorse
his imperial authority, especially when he laboured under the disadvantage
of not being in the imperial city Constantinople and hence was unable to
follow much of the established ritual of the assumption of imperial power.
Laskaris™ need for the sanction of the church gave explicit status to the
patriarch as a co-leader of the Romans.
Crucially, when Theodore Laskaris had himself crowned he initiated a
dual empire, just as the Latins had initiated the dual patriarchate in ±°,
and this rejection of the established Latin empire in favour of an empire
headed by a Roman must have had its roots in issues of identity. Laskaris™
association with Orthodoxy certainly played a large role, but was part of a
wider feeling of ethnic identity in contrast to the threatening Latin other.
This awareness can be seen, ¬rstly, in Choniates™ collective use of Rhomaioi
in the post-±° context, whereby the genitive quali¬er Rhomaion is never
applied to the Latin empire, and all collective uses of Rhomaioi in the
post-±° context have an ethnic application. That is, they are not based
on political allegiance or religious af¬liation but, judging by Choniates™
overall approach, on assumptions about ethnic descent made manifest in
a nexus of behaviour and visible attributes. Again, Choniates explicitly
describes certain subjects of the Latin empire as Roman, and this can only
be to distinguish them from the Latin subjects on ethnic grounds. The
net effect of Choniates™ pattern of usage is to reinforce the non-political
aspects of being Roman as certainly being of greater affective force, but
the power of the political model is shown in the acceptance of the Latin

<<

. 42
( 54 .)



>>