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chapter 6

The Byzantine court and the Ottomans:
con¬‚ict and accommodation



A distinguishing feature of Constantinople in its role as the capital of
the Byzantine Empire was that it often became the scene of struggles
for the imperial throne. Since the civil war of 1341“7 between John VI
Kantakouzenos and the partisans of John V Palaiologos, it had become
almost customary for claimants to the Byzantine throne to run to the Turks
for assistance.1 But what course was a claimant to follow when the ruling
emperor himself happened to be of¬cially allied with the Ottomans? In
1373 while Emperor John V was serving on an Ottoman campaign in Asia
Minor in compliance with his recent agreement with Murad I whereby
he had become a tributary vassal of the Ottomans, his son and regent,
Andronikos IV, and the Sultan™s son Savc± Celebi prepared a joint plot to
¸
overthrow their fathers. John V and Murad I responded to this conspiracy
by likewise joining forces against their sons. Within a few months the
movement was suppressed, and the young princes were captured. After
having Savc± blinded and beheaded, Murad I ordered the Emperor to put
out the eyes of his own son. John V reluctantly obeyed, but made sure
that Andronikos did not lose his sight completely. For the time being,
the failed usurpation additionally cost Andronikos his right of succession
to the Byzantine throne, which was transferred to his younger brother
Manuel (II).2

1 On the relations of Kantakouzenos with the Turks, see P. Lemerle, L™´mirat d™Aydin, Byzance et
e
l™Occident (Paris, 1957); E. Werner, “Johannes Kantakuzenos, Umur Paˇa und Orchan,” BS 26
s
(1965), 255“76; Nicol, Family of Kantakouzenos, pp. 35“103; J. Gill, “John VI Cantacuzenus and the
Turks,” Buzantin† 13/1 (1985), 55“76; H. ™ Inalc±k, “The rise of the Turcoman maritime principalities
in Anatolia, Byzantium, and the Crusades,” BF 9 (1985), 179“217; Balivet, Romanie byzantine,
pp. 113“22. See also ch. 2 above, pp. 20“1 and note 7.
2 See R.-J. Loenertz, “La premi`re insurrection d™Andronic IV Pal´ologue (1373),” Echos d™Orient 38
e e
(1939), 334“45; P. Charanis, “The strife among the Palaeologi and the Ottoman Turks, 1370“1402,”
B 16 (1942“3), 293“5; F. D¨ lger, “Zum Aufstand des Andronikos IV. gegen seinen Vater Johannes V.
o
im Mai 1373,” REB 19 (1961), 328“32; Barker, Manuel II, pp. 18“23; Nicol, Last Centuries, pp. 277“8;
F. Babinger, “Sawdji,” EI, vol. vii, p. 192. None of the Ottoman sources that report Savc±™s rebellion

119
120 Constantinople
In a letter to John V dated to the fall of 1373, Demetrios Kydones noted
that many Byzantines went over to the Turks and collaborated with them
against the Emperor. After participating in the banquets of the Turks and
exchanging presents, they returned to the Byzantine capital without making
any effort to conceal themselves. Kydones expressed indignation that these
people were neither detained from going over to the Turks, nor indicted for
their open association with them.3 It may well be that Kydones was alluding
in his letter to Andronikos IV and his partisans. This, of course, can be
stated as no more than a hypothesis in the absence of concrete evidence.
Nonetheless, Kydones™ letter is instructive because it reveals the freedom of
movement and open contact between Byzantine and Ottoman territories
that made the coordination of a joint plot like that of Andronikos and
Savc± possible.4 In addition, the letter highlights the awkward situation of
the Byzantine government which could apparently take no strict action
against its subjects who formed ties with the Ottomans, given that the
head of the state, the Emperor himself, had declared of¬cial allegiance
to the Turkish Sultan. We have evidence, moreover, indicating that the
traf¬c between Byzantine and Ottoman lands did not necessarily ¬‚ow in
a single direction, from the former to the latter, as Kydones™ letter might
suggest. In 1375 Pope Gregory XI wrote to John V that, “those Turks,
after the truce which you have made with them, have entered the city
[Constantinople] in no small multitude and there dare to perform many
horrible deeds, and we fear that they may deceive your Majesty and occupy
the city.”5 Unless the Pope, concerned primarily with the safety of the
Byzantine capital, was referring to the presence of Ottoman soldiers rather
than ordinary civilians inside Constantinople, we may take his statement as
a further demonstration of the contacts between Byzantine and Ottoman
subjects that would have been facilitated by John V™s peace treaty with
Murad I.
In 1376 Andronikos IV escaped from Constantinople, where he was held
in con¬nement together with his wife and son, to the Genoese colony of
Pera. It was not dif¬cult for him to obtain the support of the Genoese,
whose commercial interests had recently been threatened by John V™s


mention his cooperation with the Byzantine prince. According to some sources, Andronikos™ infant
son, the future emperor John VII, was partially blinded at this time too.
3 Kydones“Loenertz, vol. i, no. 117, p. 156. Cf. Balivet, “Personnage du ˜turcophile™,” 118, 120.
4 See also Kydones, “Oratio de admittendo Latinorum subsidio,” PG 154, col. 1005, discussed below,
pp. 124“5.
5 As quoted in Dennis, Reign of Manuel II, p. 36. On Pope Gregory™s policies with regard to the
Ottomans, see A. Luttrell, “Gregory XI and the Turks: 1370“1378,” OCP 46 (1980), 391“417.
121
The Byzantine court and the Ottomans
cession of the island of Tenedos to Venice.6 The Emperor™s rebellious
son sought, in addition, the support of the Ottoman ruler Murad I. After
his failed attempt to seize the throne three years earlier, Andronikos must
have come to realize that his future efforts would be in vain as long as the
alliance between John V and Murad I remained in effect. Accordingly, he
approached the Sultan and offered him his allegiance and tribute payment
in return for the use of Ottoman cavalry forces.7 Two Venetian sources
report that Andronikos also promised his sister to Murad in marriage, one
adding that God took her life in order to prevent this “abominable sin.”8
Although the Venetian chronicler objected to Murad™s marriage with
Andronikos™ sister, it is a well-known fact that such unions had already
taken place between the Byzantine and Ottoman ruling houses. The ¬rst
and most celebrated of these marriages was the one consummated in 1346
between Orhan, Murad I™s father, and Theodora, John VI Kantakouzenos™
daughter, during the civil war between John V and John VI.9 Murad was
not born of this union, but his mother, too, was a Byzantine, though
she was a woman of lower rank.10 In the late 1350s, moreover, Orhan™s
youngest son Halil was betrothed to a daughter of John V Palaiologos and
Helena Kantakouzene called Eirene. This betrothal was the upshot of a
complex affair that began with the capture of Halil by Phokaian pirates,

6 John V had originally promised Tenedos to the Venetians in 1370, but the agreement had not been
put into effect. In 1376 John V made a new deal with the Venetians concerning the island™s cession
to them. See D¨ lger, Reg., vol. v, no. 3150; F. Thiriet, “Venise et l™occupation de T´n´dos au XIVe
o ee
si`cle,” M´langes d™arch´ologie et d™histoire 65 (1953), 219“45; Nicol, Byzantium and Venice, pp. 305“7,
e e
e
312. It seems that Andronikos played a key role in disallowing the island™s cession to Venice in 1370,
probably acting under the in¬‚uence of the Genoese: see pp. 125“6 and note 26 below.
7 Chalkok.“Dark´ , vol. i, pp. 55“6; Doukas“Grecu, XII.3, p. 73; Schreiner, Kleinchroniken, vol. i,
o
Chr. 9/31, 22/15; vol. ii, pp. 311“12. Chronologically at fault, Chalkokondyles places these events in
the reign of Bayezid I (r. 1389“1402). See also P. Charanis, “An important short chronicle of the
fourteenth century,” B 13 (1938), 335“62; Charanis, “Strife,” 295“9; Dennis, Reign of Manuel II,
pp. 28“9, 37“8; Barker, Manuel II, pp. 24“9; Nicol, Last Centuries, pp. 278“9.
8 Raffaino Caresini, Chronica AA. 1343“1388, ed. E. Pastorello, RIS, 12/2 (Bologna, 1923), p. 32;
J. Chrysostomides, “Studies on the Chronicle of Caroldo,” OCP 35 (1969), 143, 168“9.
9 A. Bryer, “Greek historians on the Turks: the case of the ¬rst Byzantine“Ottoman marriage,” in The
Writing of History in the Middle Ages; Essays Presented to Richard William Southern, ed. R. H. C.
Davis and J. M. Wallace-Hadrill (Oxford, 1981), pp. 471“93; Nicol, Reluctant Emperor, pp. 76“9;
M. Izeddin, “Notes sur les mariages princiers en Orient au moyen age,” Journal asiatique 257 (1969),
ˆ
143“5. See also G. E. Rakintzakis, “Orthodox“Muslim mixed marriages, ca. 1297“1453,” unpublished
MA thesis, University of Birmingham (1975).
10 She was the daughter of the Byzantine commander (tekvur) of Yarhisar in Anatolia, near Bursa.
This marriage took place in 1299“1300, that is, before Orhan ascended the throne. Unlike Theodora
Kantakouzene, who retained her Orthodox faith, Orhan™s former wife (i.e. Murad I™s mother)
converted to Islam and adopted the name Nil¨ fer. See As±kpasazade“Giese, p. 19 (= As±kpasazade“
u ¸ ¸ ¸ ¸
Ats±z, p. 102); Nesrˆ, Kitˆ b-± Cihan-n¨ mˆ , vol. i, p. 104. Cf. F. Babinger, “Nil¨ fer Khatun,” EI,
a ua
¸± u
vol. vi, p. 921 (reprinted in EI 2 , vol. viii, p. 43).
122 Constantinople
but ultimately it too had some connection, albeit indirect, with Byzan-
tine dynastic con¬‚icts. For it was because Leo Kalothetos, the governor
of Phokaia and a devoted partisan of John VI Kantakouzenos, delayed
Halil™s release through his refusal to obey Emperor John V™s orders to this
effect, that the latter was compelled to appease Orhan by means of a mar-
riage settlement.11 Clearly, when Andronikos IV, following the examples of
John VI and John V, offered his sister as wife to Murad I, his principal
motive must have been to rally the Sultan™s support to achieve his dynastic
ambition. In addition, Andronikos may have hoped to reinforce the sta-
tus of his own line within the Palaiologos family, by initiating a marriage
alliance that would supersede the former links of the Ottoman house with
John V™s branch and with the Kantakouzenoi.
Thus allied with the Ottomans and the Genoese, Andronikos attacked
Constantinople in the summer of 1376 and seized the throne from his
father. Shortly afterwards, John V was put in prison with his other sons,
Manuel and Theodore.12 One of Andronikos™ ¬rst acts upon assuming
power was to reward the Genoese by ceding to them the island of Tenedos.
This set the stage for the war of Chioggia (1377“81) between Venice and
Genoa, part of which was fought in Byzantine waters and in which the
Genoese obliged Andronikos to participate.13 Thus the new Emperor™s
alliance with the Genoese culminated in his costly involvement in a war
that was in essence of no direct interest to Byzantium. “In the midst of so
much misery,” wrote Kydones in a letter, “he is preparing arms, munitions,
engines of war and ships, and is forced to hire troops, a thing which for
him is more dif¬cult than ¬‚ying.”14 Andronikos also granted the Genoese
the right to extend the boundaries of their colony in Pera.15
11 A. D. Alderson, The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty (Oxford, 1956), Tables XXII, LXI,
pp. 165, 184; Nicol, Family of Kantakouzenos, pp. 134“5, n. 4; Izeddin, “Mariages princiers,” 145“6;
F. Tinnefeld, “Kaiser Ioannes V. Palaiologos und der Gouverneur von Phokaia 1356“1358: ein Beispiel
f¨ r den Verfall der byzantinischen Zentralgewalt um die Mitte des 14. Jahrhunderts,” Rivista di studi
u
bizantini e slavi 1 (1981), 259“82; H. ™
Inalc±k, “The conquest of Edirne,” Archivum Ottomanicum 3
´
(1971), 189“92; de Vries-van der Velden, Elite byzantine, pp. 143“5.
12 Chalkok.“Dark´ , vol. i, pp. 56“7; Doukas“Grecu, XII.3, p. 73; Schreiner, Kleinchroniken, vol. i,
o
Chr. 7/17, 9/32, 11/5, 12/2, 22/16“17; vol. ii, pp. 312“13, 316“17, 613 (Chron. Not. 47); Manuel II,
Fun. Or., pp. 100“7; Kydones“Loenertz, vol. ii, nos. 167, 222; Caresini, Chronica, ed. Pastorello,
p. 32; Daniele di Chinazzo, Cronica de la guerra da Veneciani a Zenovesi, ed. V. Lazzarini (Venice,
1958), p. 18.
13 C. Pagano, Delle imprese e del dominio dei Genovesi nella Grecia (Genoa, 1846), pp. 307“9; Belgrano,
“Prima serie,” no. 24, p. 131; D¨ lger, Reg., vol. v, nos. 3155, 3156. On the war of Chioggia, see
o
F. C. Lane, Venice: A Maritime Republic (Baltimore and London, 1973), pp. 189“96, 469; Nicol,
Byzantium and Venice, pp. 312“17.
14 Kydones“Loenertz, vol. ii, no. 167, p. 38; trans. by Dennis, Reign of Manuel II, p. 39. Cf. Charanis,
“Strife,” 298; Nicol, Last Centuries, pp. 279“80.
15 ˆ
W. Heyd, Histoire du commerce du Levant au Moyen Age, vol. i (Leipzig, 1885; repr. Amsterdam,
1967), pp. 518“19.
123
The Byzantine court and the Ottomans
The price that Andronikos had to pay for the assistance he received
from the Ottoman Sultan in deposing his father was even higher, especially
in view of its long-term consequences. Shortly after his accession to the
throne, the young Emperor is known to have visited Murad I™s court.16 It
was probably during this visit that Andronikos, in addition to the annual
tribute he had promised in advance, made arrangements to surrender
Gallipoli to the Sultan as a token of his subservience. Gallipoli, it will be
recalled, had been occupied by the Ottomans about two decades earlier,
and it was of great strategic importance for their expansion in the European
territories of the Byzantine Empire. In 1366, however, the Ottomans had
lost the fortress to the forces of Amadeo of Savoy, who restored it to
Byzantium. Murad™s recovery of Gallipoli, which we know he had been
striving for at least since 1371,17 was therefore a most welcome prize, made
all the more valuable since it was achieved through peaceful means simply
by manipulating the con¬‚ict between John V and Andronikos IV. The
Ottomans entered the town circa 1377, which remained in their possession
permanently thereafter, serving as their principal naval base and a stepping
stone for their future conquests in the Balkans.18 In a letter written in the
winter of 1376“7 Kydones summarized the detrimental consequences of
this situation for Byzantium:
[T]he old scourge, the Turks, roused to arrogance by the alliance which they
concluded with the new Emperor against his father, have become more oppressive
for us. Thus they received Gallipoli as compensation for this and seized many
other things belonging to us and exacted such an amount of money that nobody
could easily count it. Still, they claim that they are not suf¬ciently paid for their
aid. They command everything and we must obey or else be imprisoned. To such
a point have they risen in power and we been reduced to slavery.19
These, then, were the concessions Andronikos IV made to the Genoese
and the Ottomans with whose help he ascended the throne in 1376. But, in
addition to his foreign allies, Andronikos also appears to have had a fairly
strong following among the inhabitants of Constantinople. There are clear

16 Iacobus Zeno, Vita Caroli Zeni, ed. G. Zonta, RIS, 19/6 (Bologna, 1940), p. 14; Schreiner,
Kleinchroniken, vol. i, Chr. 9/34; vol. ii, pp. 315“18. See Barker, Manuel II, pp. 458“61.
17 In the summer of 1371 Murad I sent an envoy to Constantinople to negotiate the return of Gallipoli
to the Ottomans, whereupon Demetrios Kydones composed his “Oratio de non reddenda Callipoli
petente Amurate,” PG 154, cols. 1009“36. On the controversy over the dating of this speech (1371
vs. 1376 or 1377), see Nicol, Last Centuries, p. 273, n. 33; recently, though, Barker, “Question
of ethnic antagonisms,” p. 171, has joined those who date the oration to 1371. See also Kianka,
“Byzantine“Papal diplomacy,” 201“2; Malamut, “Les discours de D´m´trius Cydon`s,” pp. 212“15.
ee e
18 ™
Inalc±k, “Gelibolu,” pp. 983“7. See also ch. 2 above, pp. 25, 27“8.
19 Kydones“Loenertz, vol. ii, no. 167, p. 38; trans. by Dennis, Reign of Manuel II, p. 38. Cf. Charanis,
“Strife,” 297“8; Nicol, Last Centuries, pp. 280“1.
124 Constantinople
indications at any rate that during the decade preceding Andronikos™ rise to
the throne, part of the capital™s population actively opposed the pro-Latin
policy pursued by the Emperor John V until about the year 1373 and favored
instead a rapprochement with the Ottomans. Although we cannot be sure
that these people worked at that time in cooperation with Andronikos, it
may not have been by mere coincidence that their anti-Latin/pro-Ottoman
activities became manifest during John V™s absences from Constantinople
when Andronikos had been left as regent in charge of the government.
Hence, in 1366, at the time of John V™s visit to the court of the Catholic
king of Hungary, when Amadeo of Savoy, who had just recovered Gallipoli
from the Ottomans, arrived at the Byzantine capital, certain people did
not wish to admit the Count into the city. It was in order to overcome
their opposition and to urge his fellow citizens to accept the aid of the
Latins that Demetrios Kydones delivered an oration.20 Kydones™ speech
was effective and Amadeo entered the city on September 2, 1366. Yet the
speech reveals how greatly the safety and independence of Constantinople
were endangered by the undertakings of a large group of dignitaries (t¤n
politeuom”nwn pollo©) who acted in collusion with the Ottomans so as
to bring about the city™s surrender to the enemy at this particular juncture
when Andronikos happened to be ruling as regent. Kydones relates that
these people openly visited the Ottomans, among whom they stayed for
speci¬ed lengths of time and were rewarded with gifts of sheep, oxen,
horses, and money for their collaboration in the betrayal of their country.
When they returned to Constantinople, they gave public speeches by
which they tried to stir their fellow citizens to hasten to deliver the city to

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