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This is the ¬rst detailed analysis of Byzantine political attitudes
towards the Ottomans and western Europeans during the critical last
century of Byzantium. The book covers three major regions of the
Byzantine Empire “ Thessalonike, Constantinople, and the Morea “
where the political orientations of aristocrats, merchants, the urban
populace, peasants, and members of ecclesiastical and monastic cir-
cles are examined against the background of social and economic
conditions. Through its particular focus on the political and religious
dispositions of individuals, families, and social groups, the book offers
an original view of late Byzantine politics and society which is not
found in conventional narratives. Drawing on a wide range of Byzan-
tine, western, and Ottoman sources, it authoritatively illustrates how
late Byzantium was drawn into an Ottoman system in spite of the
westward-looking orientation of the majority of its ruling elite.

nevra necipo g lu is Professor of History at Bo˜ azici University,

Istanbul. She has written numerous journal articles on late Byzantine
society, economy, and politics, and edited Byzantine Constantinople:
Monuments, Topography and Everyday Life (2001).
Politics and Society in the Late Empire

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK
Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York

Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521877381
© Nevra Necipoglu 2009

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the
provision of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part
may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published in print format 2009

ISBN-13 978-0-511-51807-2 eBook (NetLibrary)

ISBN-13 978-0-521-87738-1 hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy
of urls for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication,
and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain,
accurate or appropriate.
To my parents, Ulk¨ and Hikmet Necipo˜lu,
in loving memory of Angeliki Laiou

List of maps page ix
Acknowledgements xi
Note on transliteration xiii
List of abbreviations xiv

part i introduction and political setting
1 3
The topic and the sources
2 The shrinking empire and the Byzantine dilemma between
East and West after the Fourth Crusade

part ii thessalonike
3 Social organization, historical developments, and political
attitudes in Thessalonike: an overview (1382“1430)
4 Byzantine Thessalonike (1382“1387 and 1403“1423) 56
5 Thessalonike under foreign rule 84

part iii constantinople
6 The Byzantine court and the Ottomans: con¬‚ict and
7 The ¬rst challenge: Bayezid I™s siege of Constantinople
8 From recovery to subjugation: the last ¬fty years of
Byzantine rule in Constantinople (1403“1453)

part iv the despotate of the morea
9 235
The early years of Palaiologan rule in the Morea (1382“1407)
10 259
The ¬nal years of the Byzantine Morea (1407“1460)


Appendix I: Archontes of Thessalonike (fourteenth“¬fteenth centuries)
Appendix II: “Nobles” and “small nobles” of Thessalonike (1425)
Appendix III: Constantinopolitan merchants in Badoer™s
account book (1436“1440)
Appendix IV: Members of the Senate of Constantinople cited in the
synodal tome of August 1409
Appendix V: Some Greek refugees in Italian territories after 1453

1. The Byzantine world in the fourteenth“¬fteenth centuries page xviii
2. Byzantium and its neighbors, c. 1350 xx
3. Byzantium and its neighbors after 1402 xxi


This book grew out of my doctoral dissertation submitted to the History
Department of Harvard University in 1990. In the course both of the
evolution of the dissertation and of its transformation into a book, I
bene¬ted from the guidance and support of numerous individuals and
My deepest gratitude goes to Angeliki E. Laiou “ an exemplary teacher,
thesis supervisor, colleague, and friend “ who has been an endless source
of inspiration and wisdom through all these years. Without her encourage-
ment and continued interest, this project might have taken even longer to
complete the transformation from thesis to book. The late Nicolas Oikono-
mid`s deserves particular mention for the many invaluable suggestions as
well as the enthusiastic support he provided up until his much regretted
death in May 2000. To Ihor Sevˇenko, who introduced me to the intrica-
cies and mysteries of Byzantine Greek, I extend my very special thanks for
his instruction, encouragement, and genuine interest in my work. Along
the way, I was fortunate to have stimulating discussions with and to receive
invaluable guidance, comments, references, offprints, or, during moments
of despair, much needed personal support and encouragement from a num-
ber of friends and colleagues, among whom I warmly acknowledge Michel
Balard, Ir`ne Beldiceanu-Steinherr, Faruk Birtek, the late Robert Brown-
ing, Melek Delilbas±, Marie Theres F¨ gen, Thierry Ganchou, Selahattin
¸ o
Hakman, Halil ™ Inalc±k, Mahnaz Ispahani, David Jacoby, Cemal Kafadar,
Michel Kaplan, the late Alexander Kazhdan, Klaus-Peter Matschke, C´cilee
Morrisson, G¨ lru Necipo˜ lu, Soli Ozel, Yesim Sayar, Kostis Smyrlis, Alice-
u g ¸
Mary Talbot, Bet¨ l Tanbay, and Elizabeth Zachariadou. I am also grateful
to my colleagues at the History Department of Bo˜ azici University, as well

as to my graduate students, who contributed to the completion of this
book through their moral support and enthusiasm in things Byzantine.
Furthermore, I wish to thank Elif Cak±n for her help in drawing the maps.
Finally, I would like to express my lifelong indebtedness to my parents
Ulk¨ and Hikmet Necipo˜ lu, for they were the ones who sparked both my
general interest in history and my particular curiosity for the Byzantine past
of Istanbul on the occasion of our memorable visits to the Hagia Sophia
and other historic sites of the city in my childhood days.
Material support for this work was provided by generous grants from
a number of institutions. The Department of History and the Gradu-
ate School of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University supplied grants
throughout the writing of the dissertation. A Junior Fellowship at Dum-
barton Oaks during 1986“7 afforded me the ¬rst opportunity to engage in
full-time research directed towards my topic. Much subsequent ground-
work was laid once again at the same institution, where I spent the academic
year 1993“4 as a Fellow in Byzantine Studies. I hereby would like to extend
my thanks to all the members of the Dumbarton Oaks community, in
particular to Irene Vaslef and Mark Zapatka of the Byzantine Library,
who created a warm and friendly atmosphere that was most conducive to
productive work on both occasions. Owing to the initiative and encour-
agement of Nusin Asgari, I also spent a pro¬table month at Oxford as a
Martin Harrison Memorial Fellow in the summer of 1995, which enabled
me not only to utilize the abundant resources of the Bodleian Library, but
to enjoy as well the hospitality of Mrs. Elizabeth Harrison. Further work
on the book was undertaken during leave as a visiting professor at the
University of Paris I in the spring of 2002. I am grateful to Michel Kaplan
for his kind invitation and to the staff members of the Byzantine libraries
of the Sorbonne, Coll`ge de France, and Centre National de la Recherche
Scienti¬que for their assistance.
Some of the material in this book has been discussed or has appeared
in different versions in the following publications: “Ottoman merchants
in Constantinople during the ¬rst half of the ¬fteenth century,” Byzan-
tine and Modern Greek Studies 16 (1992), 158“69; “Economic conditions in
Constantinople during the siege of Bayezid I (1394“1402),” in Constanti-
nople and its Hinterland, ed. C. Mango and G. Dagron (Aldershot, 1995),
pp. 157“67; “Constantinopolitan merchants and the question of their atti-
tudes towards Italians and Ottomans in the late Palaiologan period,” in
Polypleuros nous: Miscellanea f¨ r Peter Schreiner zu seinem 60. Geburtstag,
ed. C. Scholz and G. Makris (Munich and Leipzig, 2000), pp. 251“63; “The
aristocracy in late Byzantine Thessalonike: a case study of the city™s
archontes (late 14th and early 15th centuries),” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 57
(2003), 133“51; “Social and economic conditions in Constantinople during
Mehmed II™s siege,” in 1453. H †lwsh thv Kwnstantino…polhv
kai h met†bash ap» touv mesaiwniko…v stouv neÛterouv cr»nouv,
ed. T. Kioussopoulou (Iraklion, 2005), pp. 75“86.
Note on transliteration

In general, I have employed a Greek transliteration of Byzantine proper
names and technical terms. However, some common ¬rst names have been
rendered in their modern English form: for example, John, not Ioannes,
and Constantine, not Konstantinos. By the same principle, for well-known
place names I have generally preferred the use of conventional modern
English spelling: for example, Constantinople, Athens, and Coron. For
proper names and technical vocabulary pertaining to the Ottomans, on
the other hand, modern Turkish orthography has been used.


¬Iw†nnou ¬AnagnÛstou Dižghsiv perª t¦v
teleuta©av ‰lÛsewv t¦v Qessalon©khv, ed.
J. Tsaras (Thessalonike, 1958)
Asikpasazade“Atsiz Tevˆ rˆh-i Al-i Osmˆ n, in Osmanli Tarihleri, ed.

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