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who, like Manuel Deblitzenos™ daughter, were hard-pressed and impov-
erished. For example, a woman called Maria Hagioreitisa, ¬nding herself
unable to look after her hereditary church (kellydrion) of Forty Martyrs
within the city, donated it to the monastery of Dionysiou in 1420. Although
the property was exempt from taxation, Maria could not keep it in good
condition since she had been reduced to poverty by the troubles and mis-
fortunes of the times. Her search for someone well-off who might be willing
to take charge of the church bore no result “in the oppressive atmosphere
of the imminent storm.” At the end, it was not an individual but the
monastery of Dionysiou that came forth with the economic backing to
ful¬ll Maria™s expectations.15
In the countryside of Thessalonike, too, property transfers to monaster-
ies often turned out to be the best solution for landowners who did not
have the ¬nancial means to maintain their lands or to restore them to a
productive state. Shortly before April 1409 the monastery of Lavra acquired
through exchange a domain in the village of Hagia Maria near Thessalonike
which had been in the possession of various members of an aristocratic
family since at least 1304. As late as 1404 the domain seems to have been
12 For the time being, a legal commission established her rights without conducting a proper assess-
ment, which was postponed until the return of peace: Docheiariou, nos. 49 and 58, esp. pp. 264
(lines 41“3), 295 (lines 14“19).
13 It seems that Docheiariou started paying Maria™s adelphata only after the surrender of Thessalonike
to the Ottomans, as suggested by the agreement concluded between the two parties in January 1389:
Docheiariou, no. 50. Maria was recognized by this agreement as the second and ¬nal bene¬ciary of
the adelphata, in accordance with the original arrangement made by her late husband.
14 Docheiariou, nos. 57 and 58. 15 Dionysiou, no. 19.
60 Thessalonike
in fairly good condition, for at that time it became the object of a dis-
pute between Kale Thalassene, who held the property as her dowry, and
her brother Demetrios Skampavles, who was scheming to take posses-
sion of half of it. But in 1409 the village of Hagia Maria is quali¬ed as a
palaiochorion, which may well be the reason behind the domain™s transfer
to Lavra.16 Shortly before January 1420 Lavra also gained possession of
an escheated landholding (–xaleimmatikŸ Ëp»stasiv) near Thessalonike
from a woman called Zerbalo.17 The recurrence of such property trans-
fers from individuals to Athonite monasteries demonstrates that, in the
midst of the instability and uncertainty created by the Ottoman expan-
sion, well-established monastic foundations managed to maintain their eco-
nomic power, unlike the Thessalonian landowning aristocracy, and, indeed,
derived economic bene¬ts from the misfortunes of many lay landowners.18
As will be discussed more fully in the next chapter, the greater strength
and reliability of Athonite monasteries as ¬nancial institutions, combined
with their conciliatory attitude towards the Ottomans, were instrumental
in saving them from the fate suffered by the majority of aristocrats.
On a political level, some members of the Thessalonian aristocracy
responded to their economic plight by adopting anti-Turkish sentiments.
It will be recalled, for instance, that Manuel Deblitzenos, whose eco-
nomic dif¬culties we observed above, lost his life ¬ghting in battle against
the Ottomans. It might also be postulated that among Manuel II™s anti-
Turkish supporters who ¬‚ocked out of Constantinople during 1382“3 some
were native Thessalonians who had lost their landholdings in the region
to the Ottomans. The news of Manuel™s initial military successes may well
have stimulated such dispossessed aristocrats with the prospects of recov-
ering their property. Unfortunately, only a few of the people who followed
Manuel to Thessalonike can be identi¬ed by name, which renders it dif-
¬cult to prove this point. Among them a certain Rhadenos, who served
Manuel II as counselor during 1382/3“7, is known to have been a native
Thessalonian even though he was residing in the capital at the time of


16 Lavra, vol. ii, no. 98 (1304); Lavra, vol. iii, Appendix XII (1341) and nos. 156 (1404), 161 (1409). The
document (no. 161) does not specify what the domain was exchanged for (e.g. a sum of money, or
adelphata, or another piece of land?).
17 Lavra, vol. iii, no. 165. See M. C. Bartusis, “Exaleimma: escheat in Byzantium,” DOP 40 (1986),
55“81.
18 One must, however, take into account the biases of documentation deriving from monastic archives
where property transactions between individuals are unlikely to be recorded. Nonetheless, in the
well-documented cases between individuals and monasteries, the preponderance of transfers from
the former to the latter is indicative.
61
Byzantine Thessalonike (1382“1387 and 1403“1423)
Manuel™s departure. He either accompanied Manuel or joined him after-
wards, but in any case he was in Thessalonike by the summer or fall of
1383, at which time he received a letter from Demetrios Kydones.19 It is
plausible, of course, that Rhadenos had chosen to return to his native city
and attach himself to Manuel II out of purely patriotic sentiments. Besides,
we know nothing about his immediate family™s landed possessions in or
around Thessalonike. His father was a wealthy merchant, and he had two
brothers, both of whom were engaged in their father™s business affairs while
Rhadenos himself went in pursuit of literary and intellectual interests, at
least for a time.20 Yet, in the early fourteenth century the Rhadenos family
of Thessalonike included military magnates who were great landowners in
Chalkidike.21 Until the ¬nal Ottoman conquest of 1430, members of this
prominent Thessalonian family took up a leading role in the city™s political
affairs and in the struggles against the Ottomans.22 Secondly, John Asanes,
who was suspected of planning to join Manuel II in Thessalonike (but did
not actually go there), has a family name also encountered in the fourteenth
century among landowners in the region, even though we have no direct
evidence concerning John™s personal connections with Thessalonike.23 The
same can be said for Theodore Kantakouzenos, the only other person
known by name who followed Manuel II to Thessalonike, leaving his wife
and children behind in Constantinople.24 Theodore™s signature appears on
a document concerning the donation of land near Serres to the monastery of
Philotheou in December 1376.25 Among people bearing his family name,
a John Kantakouzenos is attested in 1414 as one of the witnesses who
signed an act of the governor (kefalž) of Thessalonike.26 In addition,
a Theodore Palaiologos Kantakouzenos, an inhabitant of Constantinople
who had acquired the status of a Venetian, is known to have gone to

19 Kydones“Loenertz, vol. ii, nos. 248, 202. See G. T. Dennis, “Rhadenos of Thessalonica, corre-
spondent of Demetrius Cydones,” Buzantin† 13 (1985), 261“72; F. Tinnefeld, “Freundschaft und
PAIDEIA: Die Korrespondenz des Demetrios Kydones mit Rhadenos (1375“1387/8),” B 55 (1985),
210“44.
20 Kydones“Loenertz, vol. ii, nos. 177, 169. It has been argued that Rhadenos himself engaged in
trade too; however, the evidence for this is not conclusive: see Matschke and Tinnefeld, Gesellschaft,
pp. 195 (n. 183), 202“4.
21 PLP, nos. 23987 and 23992. 22 See below, pp. 79ff., and Appendices I and II.
23 PLP, no. 1497. For suspicions concerning John Asanes™ desire to go to Thessalonike, see Kydones“
Loenertz, vol. ii, no. 264, lines 79“82. For members of the Asanes family connected with Thessalonike
in the fourteenth century, see X´ropotamou, no. 26 (1349) and Esphigm´nou, no. 18 (1365). Cf. E.
e e
¨
Trapp, “Beitr¨ge zur Genealogie der Asanen in Byzanz,” JOB 25 (1976), 163“77.
a
24 Kydones“Loenertz, vol. ii, nos. 250, 254. Cf. PLP, no. 10965.
25 V. Kravari, “Nouveaux documents du monast`re de Philoth´ou,” TM 10 (1987), 323 (no. 6).
e e
26 Docheiariou, no. 54 (Feb. 1414). Cf. PLP, no. 92318.
62 Thessalonike
Thessalonike for a short visit at the beginning of the ¬fteenth century.27
So, all together, this is as much evidence as we can gather regarding the
Thessalonian connections of Manuel II™s supporters from Constantino-
ple who joined him, or wanted to join him, in his campaign against the
Ottomans.
The dif¬culties met by the landowning aristocracy of Thessalonike con-
stitute only one aspect of the desolation that in effect extended to the
entire agricultural economy of the region in the two periods with which
we are concerned. There is but one exception to this. The sole indications
of relative peace and prosperity are attested in the ¬rst decade and a half of
the ¬fteenth century, during a period which more or less coincides with the
internal problems of the Ottomans in the aftermath of the battle of Ankara.
A letter written by Manuel II between 1404 and 1408 and Symeon™s account
of the rule of John VII (1403“8) both depict Thessalonike as a ¬‚ourishing
city following its restoration to Byzantine authority.28 Venetian documents
mention cotton exports from Thessalonike to Venice throughout 1405“12,
while no evidence has come to light for comparable exports at any other
time in the two periods when the Byzantines held the city.29 In 1404 several
gardens just outside the city which belonged to the monastery of Iveron
were leased to members of the Argyropoulos family. Whereas the gardens
seem to have fallen into decay in the course of the ¬rst Ottoman domi-
nation or even earlier, the Argyropouloi managed them successfully after
1404 and raised their productivity. In 1421 the monks of Iveron, no longer
wanting all the pro¬ts to accrue to the Argyropouloi, took the gardens
back from them.30 Similarly, sometime before 1415, a man called Dadas,
who leased from the monastery of Xenophon ¬ve adjacent grocery shops
and three houses situated in the Asomatoi quarter of Thessalonike, trans-
formed them all into one large wine shop, from which he derived an annual
income of at least 30 hyperpyra against the rent of 3 hyperpyra that he had

27 Hunger, Chortasmenos, nos. 36, 38, 53, and pp. 104“7. Cf. D. M. Nicol, The Byzantine Family of
Kantakouzenos (ca. 1100“1460) (Washington, DC, 1968), pp. 165“6; D. M. Nicol, “The Byzantine
family of Kantakouzenos. Some addenda and corrigenda,” DOP 27 (1973), 312“13; PLP, no. 10966.
28 Dennis, Letters of Manuel II, no. 45, lines 168“75, 218“25; Symeon“Balfour, p. 48, lines 1“15.
29 Sathas, Documents, vol. ii, nos. 357, 364, 395, 460, 472, 520, 533, pp. 131, 135, 161, 220, 226, 257, 267;
Thiriet, R´gestes, vol. ii, nos. 1193, 1204, 1340, 1440. On Thessalonian cotton, see K.-P. Matschke,
e
“Tuchproduktion und Tuchproduzenten in Thessalonike und in anderen St¨dten und Regionen
a
des sp¨ten Byzanz,” Buzantiak† 9 (1989), 68“9. For an implicit reference to the export of silk
a
and kermes from Thessalonike to Venice in 1407, see Sathas, Documents, vol. ii, no. 410; cf. D.
Jacoby, “Foreigners and the urban economy in Thessalonike, ca. 1150“ca. 1450,” DOP 57 (2003), 108,
n. 156.
30 Iviron, vol. iv, nos. 97 and 98 (= Schatzkammer, nos. 102 and 24). On this case, see Matschke,
Ankara, pp. 159“75.
63
Byzantine Thessalonike (1382“1387 and 1403“1423)
agreed to pay to the monastery. As late as 1419 the wine shop still brought
Dadas™ family a good income, so the monastery took action to cancel the
contract.31
Yet, apart from these last two examples, which may in all likelihood
be unique cases of individual entrepreneurship,32 most of the evidence
we possess suggests that conditions in Thessalonike and its environs had
already begun to deteriorate following the resumption of hostilities with
the Ottomans around 1411. Along with reports of famine conditions in
the narrative sources, we ¬nd in the Athonite documents an increasing
number of references to abandoned villages, which must be attributed to
the incessant raids of the Ottomans in the area.33 A case that illustrates
the negative impact of Ottoman military operations on the countryside
concerns the abandoned village of Mariskin on the Kassandreia peninsula,
which John VII granted to the monastery of Dionysiou in 1408. A decade
later the village was still not restored to full-scale cultivation, despite the
¬scal exemptions it enjoyed in the meantime. The grant to the monastery
had been made with the stipulation that a tower was to be built there
for the protection of the village and its inhabitants. But the presence of
Ottoman troops in the region hindered both the construction of the tower
and the cultivation of the land. At last, it was through the ¬nancial support
of the Despot Andronikos, who took a special interest in Mariskin between
1417 and 1420, that a tower was built, new cultivators were installed, and
necessary equipment was purchased, thus providing for the return of the
village to agricultural production.34
As revealed by the foregoing discussion, one of the most pressing prob-
lems that affected the agricultural economy of the region was the dif¬culty

31 X´nophon, no. 32.
e
32 See K.-P. Matschke, “Bemerkungen zu M. J. Sjuzjumovs ˜Jungem Unternehmeradel™ in
sp¨tbyzantinischer Zeit,” Antiˇnaja drevnost™i srednie veka 26 (Barnaul “Den,” 1992), 237“50; A.
c
a
Kazhdan, “The Italian and late Byzantine city,” DOP 49 (1995), 17“20; cf. Matschke and Tinnefeld,
Gesellschaft, pp. 130, 192.
33 Symeon“Balfour, pp. 49“50, 56, 59; Dionysiou, nos. 10, 11, 13; Docheiariou, no. 53; Lavra, vol. iii,
nos. 161, 165; Saint-Pant´l´`mˆn, no. 18; etc. Besides references to abandoned villages, a comparison
e ee o
between fourteenth- and ¬fteenth-century praktika points to a general demographic decline in
Macedonia: see N. Oikonomid`s, “Ottoman in¬‚uence on late Byzantine ¬scal practice,” S¨ dostF u
e
45 (1986), 16, n. 65. On the population of Macedonia in the fourteenth“¬fteenth centuries, see
also J. Lefort, “Population et peuplement en Mac´doine orientale, IXe“XVe si`cle,” in Hommes et
e e
richesses dans l™Empire byzantin, vol. ii, ed. V. Kravari, J. Lefort, and C. Morrisson (Paris, 1991),
pp. 75“82, who, however, argues for a demographic decline in the second half of the fourteenth
century, followed by a rise from the beginning of the ¬fteenth century onwards.
34 Dionysiou, nos. 10, 13, 16, 17, 18, 20. On the economic importance of Kassandreia for the food
supplies of Thessalonike, which explains Andronikos™ special interest in reviving Mariskin, see
Mertzios, Mnhme±a, p. 48.
64 Thessalonike
of ¬nding people to work on the land. Although the insecurity and instabil-
ity directly resulting from Ottoman attacks was a major factor in creating
this problem, malpractices or arbitrary exactions by ¬scal agents of the
Byzantine government in Thessalonike must have contributed to it also.
For example, in 1418 the monastery of Docheiariou took action against
three censors who extorted undue charges from one of its domains in
Chalkidike. The new charges were cancelled when the censors admitted
that they had made a “mistake.”35 In some ways, too, the ¬scal policy
pursued by the Byzantine government in the years following the restora-
tion of Thessalonike to Byzantine rule seems to have created dif¬culties
for the rural population. In 1409 the monks of Esphigmenou complained
about the heavy burdens which ¬scal agents in¬‚icted upon the peasants
who worked on their holdings at Rentina and Kassandreia. The monks
were particularly worried that the peasants, suffering from impoverish-
ment under these burdens, might attempt to ¬‚ee the monastic domains.36
We know that in Chalkidike the taxes that peasants had to pay in money
(the telos/harac) climbed up sharply during the early ¬fteenth century,
registering an increase of ¬ve to seven times in comparison with the equiv-
alent fourteenth-century taxes. Although the other payments peasants were
liable for (i.e. taxes in kind and rent) declined simultaneously, nonetheless,
paying a much higher proportion of their taxes in money must have hurt
many peasants.37 Finally, it should be added that Musa Celebi™s demand in
¸
1411 for the resumption of the annual harac payment to the Ottomans may
have compelled the Byzantine government to institute extra taxes, thereby
causing further distress among the peasantry.38
While such conditions prevailed in the countryside during the two peri-
ods of Byzantine rule, merchants inside Thessalonike suffered from the
disruption of their commercial activities, except perhaps in the brief inter-
val after 1403 when cotton exports to Venice are attested, as noted above.39
The presence of Ottomans and the city™s isolation from its hinterland had
already rendered overland trade impossible for some time. Although the
sea continued to serve as an accessible alternate route, maritime trade was

35 Docheiariou, no. 56. For a similar case in which censors have made a “mistake,” see Grhg»riov ¾
PalamŽv 3 (1919), 335.
36 Esphigm´nou, no. 31.
e
37 See Oikonomid`s, “Ottoman in¬‚uence,” 18“24; Docheiariou, nos. 53, 56, and pp. 273“6, 288“9;
e
Dionysiou, no. 18; Lavra, vol. iii, nos. 161, 165. It may be noted in this context that Plethon objected
to the collection of most taxes in money in early ¬fteenth-century Morea and suggested that all
taxes be rendered in kind: see below, ch. 10, p. 274 and note 73.
38 Concerning Musa™s demand and its date, see Matschke, Ankara, pp. 70“5.
39 See above, p. 62 and note 29.
65
Byzantine Thessalonike (1382“1387 and 1403“1423)
not very safe either. In 1407 a proposal was brought before the Senate
of Venice concerning the protection of private Venetian ships that car-
ried merchandise from Negroponte to Thessalonike. It was reported that
merchant ships which customarily traveled unarmed frequently fell victim
to the Turks sailing in these waters, who seized the defenseless ships and

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