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jurisdiction over laymen.66
As Symeon makes clear in his discussion of the arguments and con¬‚icts
that preceded the city™s transfer to Venice, these issues were of interest
only to a small minority with religious concerns, whereas the pro-Venetian
66 Mertzios, Mnhme±a, pp. 76“8, 79, 84“5 (2nd Thessalonian Embassy to Venice: July 14, 1429, §§ 12, 13,
15, 29), with facsimile of the original document following p. 73. The religious infractions of the Vene-
tians have been assigned to a date between 1425 and 1429 because, while many requests formulated
during the embassy of 1429 repeat those from an earlier embassy of 1425 (see Mertzios, Mnhme±a,
pp. 46“61 and facsimile following p. 48: 1st Thessalonian Embassy to Venice, July 7, 1425), com-
plaints concerning religious issues appear, with one exception (right of asylum at St. Sophia), only
in the report of the second embassy. For some earlier efforts of the Venetians to impose their judicial
authority, see Thiriet, R´gestes, vol. ii, no. 1962 (Dec. 17, 1424); G. Fedalto, La chiesa latina in Oriente,
e
vol. iii: Documenti veneziani (Verona, 1978), no. 538 (July 17, 1425), p. 206; Mertzios, Mnhme±a,
pp. 59“60 (1st Embassy: § 20). On the restrictive practices of the Venetian regime in matters of
jurisdiction, see also Jacoby, “Thessalonique,” pp. 311“14.
105
Thessalonike under foreign rule
Thessalonians who had gained the upper hand at that time “habitually
sought their own interests and not those of Christ Jesus.”67 Following the
Venetian takeover, however, Ottoman attacks upon Thessalonike increased
considerably. Murad II viewed the city™s cession to Venice as a transgression
of the rights which he claimed to hold over it by virtue of its former
subjection to Ottoman domination. According to Doukas, the Sultan
rejected the Venetians who approached him for a peace settlement with the
following words: “This city is my paternal property (patrik»n mou kt¦ma).
My grandfather Bayezid, by the might of his hand, wrested (›laben) her
from the Romans. Had the Romans prevailed over me, they would have
cause to exclaim, ˜He is unjust!™ But as you are Latins from Italy, why have
you trespassed into these parts?”68 As the Ottoman attacks subsequently
became more frequent and threatening, even those Thessalonians who
had favored the installation of the Venetians, hoping thereby to attain
peace and prosperity, began to wonder whether they had cherished false
expectations and grew disappointed with the Venetian regime. Some ¬‚ed
to Italian territories, while others joined the Ottomans.69 Inside the city, on
the other hand, tensions emerged between the native population and the
Italian authorities as several neutral or pro-Venetian Thessalonians started
wavering in their loyalties, while others who had been opposed to the
Venetians from the beginning became even more hostile when confronted
with the ongoing Ottoman threat and their deteriorating conditions.
In spite of the assistance Thessalonike received from Venice in the form
of money, galleys, military forces, and provisions, the citizens continued
to live in great distress. Hunger and poverty progressively reached unbear-
able levels. In the spring of 1427 the city™s administrators requested from
the Venetian authorities in Crete extra supplies of wheat, explaining that
the shipments they had so far received were inadequate since lately the
Thessalonians had been reduced to living solely on bread. A particularly
dif¬cult winter had been experienced that year in Thessalonike under
conditions of extreme poverty, dearth, and destitution. Thus, in order
to prevent the recurrence of similar hardships in the forthcoming win-
ter, the Venetian administrators were trying to stock up suf¬cient wheat

67 Symeon“Balfour, pp. 58 (text), 170 (trans.).
68 Doukas“Grecu, XXIX.4, p. 249; trans. by H. J. Magoulias, Decline and Fall of Byzantium to the
Ottoman Turks by Doukas (Detroit, 1975), pp. 170“1. This passage, along with another one where
Doukas claims that Bayezid I seized (e³le) Thessalonike in the early 1390s (Doukas“Grecu, XIII.6,
pp. 77“9), is among the principal references used in support of the theory of the city™s “second
capture” in between 1387 and 1430: see above, ch. 2, note 32.
69 Anagnostes“Tsaras, p. 54; Symeon“Balfour, pp. 59“60.
106 Thessalonike
supplies.70 The severe conditions laid out in this document are echoed
in a passage by Symeon which vividly illustrates how in the course of
the Venetian domination the Thessalonians grappled with the shortage of
food. The citizens, writes Symeon, “being at their wits™ end” because of
the lack of proper vegetables and bread, were forced to feed on radishes
or other wild plants, while for their bread they used bran produced from
crushed linseed, which they mixed with a small amount of barley-¬‚our or
occasionally with some wheat-¬‚our.71
As early as December 1424 the Senate of Venice, observing the gravity
of the situation in Thessalonike, had decided to provide 2,000 measures
(staia) of wheat per month as alms for the poor.72 The decision was in
all probability not implemented properly, for during their ¬rst embassy to
Venice in the summer of 1425 the Thessalonians demanded help for their
poor fellow citizens who were on the brink of perishing from hunger and
were contemplating deserting the city. The ambassadors urged the Vene-
tians that it would be an act of much greater piety on their part to help
these destitute people than to send money to the Holy Sepulchre. There-
upon the Senate agreed once again to distribute 2,000 measures (mensurae)
of free grain each month to the poor in Thessalonike.73 However, during
their second embassy to Venice four years later, the Thessalonians com-
plained that the monthly distribution of grain had not been carried out
and, consequently, many citizens, including those guarding the walls, were
forced to ¬‚ee.74 The ¬‚ight of guards and soldiers to Turkish lands (Turchia)
because of hunger and poverty had been brought up at the time of the ¬rst
embassy, too.75 Another con¬rmation of the same phenomenon can be
found in Symeon™s description of an Ottoman attack that took place in
1425/6:

[A]s food supplies had all disappeared together, the men whom the city Archons
had appointed to guard it were gradually ¬‚eeing to the godless and telling our
enemies how matters stood with us; also many of the townsmen, impelled by
famine, had been letting themselves down by night from off the wall by means
of ropes and surrendering voluntarily to the in¬del, so that the extent of our
neediness became known to the enemy.76

70 Iorga, “Notes et extraits,” ROL 5 (1897), 353 (April 23, 1427). See ibid., 343 (Jan. 2, 1427) for another
description of famine conditions in Thessalonike earlier during the same year.
71 Symeon“Balfour, pp. 59, 63“4; cf. pp. 173, 180.
72 Iorga, “Notes et extraits,” ROL 5 (1897), 182 (Dec. 30, 1424); Thiriet, R´gestes, vol. ii, no. 1964.
e
73 Mertzios, Mnhme±a, pp. 53“4 (1st Embassy: § 6). 74 Ibid., p. 73 (2nd Embassy: § 3).
75 Ibid., p. 49 (1st Embassy: §§ 4 and 5). 76 Symeon“Balfour, pp. 60 (text), 174“5 (trans.).
107
Thessalonike under foreign rule
The guards were particularly prone to taking ¬‚ight when their rations were
not supplied because in return for their services they received from the
Venetian government not cash salaries but only wheat.77 They were so poor
that during Murad II™s ¬nal attack in 1430 most were without weapons,
having been forced to sell these in order to sustain themselves.78 Since
this situation severely endangered the city™s security, in 1429 the Greek
ambassadors recommended to the Senate that the Venetian authorities
conduct a census in Thessalonike to determine the needs of the poor
guards and other defenders, so that provisions could then be distributed to
each according to his needs.79
The poor inhabitants of the city, besides suffering from starvation, were
pressed down by debts as well as by the taxes imposed on them. One of the
requests of the Thessalonians during the embassy of 1425 was that indigent
people who could barely afford to buy bread should not be sentenced to
imprisonment for their debts until the war with the Ottomans was over.80
On the other hand, a special request was made on behalf of ten sailors
who had fallen captive to the Ottomans but had been set free afterwards
in exchange for a Turkish captive called Hac±. Because the released men
were extremely poor, the ambassadors asked in the name of the arch-
bishop and all the citizens of Thessalonike that they be held exempt from
two taxes, the pendamerea and the decato, amounting to a sum of 2,800
aspra (i.e. the equivalent of 200 hyperpyra).81 Another proposal concerned
the taxes on imported goods. The ambassadors urged that the Venetian
and Genoese merchants who transported commodities to Thessalonike
should be required to pay commercial duties, since it was unjust for the
native inhabitants who bought their merchandise to be the only ones held
accountable for sales/purchase taxes.82 In 1425 the Thessalonians also peti-
tioned the Senate, as a future measure to be applied after the opening of the
city gates, to suspend temporarily the tithe on the badly destroyed vine-
yards outside the city that were to be restored to cultivation, signaling one
more tax burden the prospects of which seriously alarmed the impoverished


77 Mertzios, Mnhme±a, p. 53 (1st Embassy: §§ 4 and 5). 78 Anagnostes“Tsaras, p. 14.
79 Mertzios, Mnhme±a, pp. 82“3 (2nd Embassy: § 24). 80 Ibid., pp. 56“7 (1st Embassy: § 14).
81 Ibid., p. 60 (1st Embassy: § 21). The boat (griparia) on which the ten crew members fell captive
to the Ottomans belonged to a Thessalonian called John Potames or Potamios (Zan Potami) and
was transporting cargo from Negroponte to Thessalonike. For the rate of conversion applied here
between aspra and hyperpyra, see Bertel`, Numismatique byzantine, pp. 88“9. On pendamerea and
e
decato, see Jacoby, “Thessalonique,” p. 316 and nn. 79, 81.
82 Mertzios, Mnhme±a, p. 55 (1st Embassy: § 10). Cf. Jacoby, “Thessalonique,” p. 316.
108 Thessalonike
citizens who engaged in agricultural production.83 Finally, drawing atten-
tion to the situation of the Jewish community of Thessalonike, which had
become impoverished and much smaller because of the departure of many
of its members, the ambassadors asked for a reduction in the communal tax
of 1,000 hyperpyra collected annually from the Jews. The Senate reduced
the amount to 800 hyperpyra at this time.84 Four years later the Jewish
community demanded the suspension of this tax altogether, revealing how
much more their situation must have deteriorated.85
People from the lower ranks of society or particular groups such as the
Jews were not the only ones af¬‚icted by ¬nancial problems during the
period of the Venetian domination. In 1425 some “nobles,” “small nobles,”
and soldiers of Thessalonike (certi gentilomeni e gentilomeni picoli e stratioti),
¸
who found that the salaries they received from Venice did not meet their
needs, demanded higher payments. At the onset of the Venetian regime
they had been satis¬ed with their salaries in the expectation that peace
would shortly be established. However, the perpetuation of the war with
the Ottomans had increased their present needs and necessitated higher
salaries.86 In 1429 the Thessalonians asked for further raises, but whereas
in 1425 the Senate granted increased salaries to ¬fty-nine “nobles and small
nobles” and to seventy soldiers, four years later it refused to do so on
the grounds that Venice had already incurred many expenses on behalf
of Thessalonike and did not have any more funds to contribute.87 The
only exception in 1429 applied to three individuals: Manuel Mazaris, the
skevophylax (“sacristano”) of the church of Saint Sophia and one of the four
ambassadors at Venice, was granted a salary of 150 aspra per month; John
Kardamis, another ambassador, 200 aspra per month; and Doukas Lathras,
a military commander who had recently come to Thessalonike after some
years of residence under Turkish domination in the region of Kastoria, 300
aspra per month. None of these three men had previously received any

83 Mertzios, Mnhme±a, p. 58 (1st Embassy: § 17). Cf. Jacoby, “Thessalonique,” p. 315, with a different
interpretation regarding the tax on vineyards.
84 Mertzios, Mnhme±a, p. 59 (1st Embassy: § 19). On the Jewish population of late Byzantine Thes-
salonike and its fate following the Ottoman conquest, see Lowry, “Portrait of a city,” 261“4; S. B.
Bowman, The Jews of Byzantium, 1204“1453 (Alabama, 1985), pp. 67“73; Jacoby, “Foreigners and the
urban economy,” 123“9.
85 Mertzios, Mnhme±a, p. 81 (2nd Embassy: § 21).
86 Ibid., pp. 49“53 (1st Embassy: §§ 4 and 5).
87 Ibid., p. 74 (2nd Embassy: § 4). According to a statement made by Andrea Suriano in the Venetian
Senate on January 3, 1430, Venice had spent on Thessalonike an average sum of more than 60,000
ducats every year; i.e. approximately 420,000 ducats during the entire Venetian regime. Other
estimates reported by Italian chroniclers for the seven-year period range from 200,000 to 740,000
ducats: see Setton, The Papacy and the Levant, vol. ii, pp. 29“30 and nn. 93“4.
109
Thessalonike under foreign rule
payment from Venice. Hence, the Senate agreed to assign salaries to them
in view of their current ¬nancial dif¬culties, and, no doubt, also because it
could make use of their services.88 A further sign that by 1429 the situation
had grown worse for nearly everyone is that the Thessalonians requested,
apart from higher cash salaries, supplementary provisions for the “nobles”
and all the defenders of Thessalonike on the payroll of Venice.89
During the embassy of 1429 another petition was made in connection
with certain impoverished Thessalonians who had left the city prior to the
Venetian takeover. The ambassadors pointed out that these people would
gladly return home provided only that they had prospects of ¬nancial
help from Venice. But the Senate™s response to this was negative, either on
account of the heavy expenses it claimed to have already undertaken, or,
possibly, because the people in question were individuals who had ¬‚ed to
the Ottomans in order to be relieved of their economic hardship.90 In the
latter case, the Venetians may have been reluctant to admit into their midst
a group of people who were not only poor but whose trustworthiness
was highly questionable, despite the fact that a larger population was
needed for the city™s defense. We have already seen that the Venetian
government, disregarding the same need, expelled from Thessalonike a
fairly large number of aristocrats who were suspected of cooperating with
the Ottomans.91
Yet, these exceptional cases aside, the standard Venetian policy was to
apply every possible measure to prevent further losses in the already dimin-
ished population of Thessalonike.92 The administration prohibited the
inhabitants from leaving the city, and in order to reduce their chances
of running away it outlawed all sales, mortgages, and transfers of prop-
erty, both movable and immovable. In 1429, when the Greek ambassadors
protested that the Thessalonians™ freedom of movement and their right

88 Mertzios, Mnhme±a, pp. 83“4, 85“6 (2nd Embassy: §§ 26, 27, 30). On Manuel Mazaris and John
Kardamis, see PLP, nos. 16121 and 11186. On Doukas Lathras, see above, ch. 4, note 110.
89 Mertzios, Mnhme±a, pp. 82“3 (2nd Embassy: § 24).
90 Ibid., pp. 81“2 (2nd Embassy: § 22). 91 See above, ch. 3, pp. 49“50 and notes 39“41.
92 In the ¬rst half of the fourteenth century Thessalonike, described by many contemporaries as a
“populous” city, is estimated to have had about 100,000 inhabitants: E. Werner, “Volkst¨ mliche
u
H¨retiker oder sozialpolitische Reformer? Probleme der revolution¨ren Volksbewegung in Thes-
a a
salonike 1342“1349,” Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Karl-Marx-Universit¨ t Leipzig 8 (1958/9), 53;
a
Charanis, “Internal strife,” 211, n. 8. By contrast, during the Venetian regime its population ranged
between 20“25,000 and 40,000 according to ¬gures reported by Italian chroniclers: Sathas, Doc-
uments, vol. iv, p. xx, n. 2; Mertzios, Mnhme±a, pp. 41“4. By 1429“30 the city™s population was
reduced perhaps to a mere 10,000 or 13,000: Vryonis, “Ottoman conquest of Thessaloniki,” p. 320.
For further references to the population of late Byzantine Thessalonike, see Bakirtzis, “Urban
continuity,” 61 and n. 202.
110 Thessalonike
to dispose of their property had been guaranteed to them at the time of
the city™s handover and demanded that these rights should continue to be
respected, they were told that this was impossible in view of the urgent
need to safeguard the city against the Ottomans.93 As a further coercive
measure to discourage the citizens from leaving, the Venetians destroyed
the houses, trees, and other properties belonging to those who had gone
away. Since it is reported that many of the people who abandoned the city
hoped to return when the war with the Ottomans would come to an end,
the destruction of the possessions they left behind was certainly aimed at
deterring others who might be contemplating ¬‚ight.94
Such measures carried out in violation of the rights and privileges guar-
anteed by the Venetians in 1423 created hard feelings on the part of the
Thessalonians.95 But what perhaps contributed most to the deteriorating
relations between the native inhabitants and the Venetian authorities was
a series of malpractices perpetrated by the latter. While the Thessalonians
protested that the salaries they received from Venice were insuf¬cient to
meet even their basic needs, the Venetian paymasters who distributed these
salaries to them frequently extracted heavy and arbitrary dues.96 In 1429
two irregular soldiers (asapi) in the service of Venice, Andreas the protostra-
tor and Theodore Olbofaci, appealed directly to the Senate to complain
about the extra charges they had been held liable for in addition to the pen-
damerea, which was the only tax they were obliged to pay.97 The Venetian
authorities also kept back part of the wages of the laborers who participated
in the rebuilding of the walls of Kassandreia.98 The mounted guards (cava-
lieri) of the duke and of the captain of Thessalonike were likewise infamous
for molesting the citizens.99 Furthermore, besides their negligence over the
distribution of wheat reserved as alms for the poor, the Venetians com-
mitted abuses with other food supplies that went on the market for sale.
Symeon relates that during the Venetian regime a Cretan ship loaded with

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