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status of the Byzantine state that inspired Andronikos to appeal to Murad I
as the overlord who had the authority to grant him his request. The Sultan™s
response is not known, yet judging from Andronikos™ forceful capture of
the fortress it was probably negative. The outcome of this incident was a
battle between John V and his son, in which the old Emperor won the
¬nal victory, but after severe hardship.44
As these events demonstrate, Andronikos IV was not paci¬ed despite
the considerable concessions John V offered. It should also be stressed
that not only did the settlement of 1381 fall short of bringing peace, but
the grant of a whole region to Andronikos led to the further weakening
of Byzantium through the division of its few remaining territories. The
renewal of Andronikos™ succession rights, which had been transferred to
his younger brother Manuel on September 25, 1373,45 contributed also to
the breakup of the empire™s unity. As we saw earlier (in Part II), Manuel™s
reaction to the loss of his right to the throne was to transplant himself
in Thessalonike, where he set up his independent rule and pursued a
foreign policy which contradicted the of¬cial imperial policy of peace and
reconciliation that was in effect with the Ottomans. In Constantinople,
meanwhile, John V, Andronikos IV, and the Genoese of Pera signed a
treaty on November 2, 1382, in which they agreed to help each other
against all enemies except “Murad Beg and his Turks,” thus recon¬rming
their allegiance and subservience to the Ottomans.46 In the end, the series
of civil wars between John V and Andronikos IV proved to be of utmost
advantage to the Ottomans, who successfully manipulated the quarrels
within the Byzantine imperial family.
Andronikos IV™s death in 1385 may have momentarily relieved John V
of the internal troubles that were prompted by his rebellious son for over

43 Ibid., 37, lines 1“3; Schreiner, Kleinchroniken, vol. i, Chr. 7/20; vol. ii, pp. 330“1. See Dennis, Reign
of Manuel II, pp. 109“11.
44 In addition to the sources cited in the previous note, see Kydones“Loenertz, vol. ii, nos. 308 (esp.
p. 230, lines 23“8), 309 (esp. pp. 233“4, lines 83“9).
45 Schreiner, Kleinchroniken, vol. i, Chr. 9/29; vol. ii, pp. 309“10.
46 See note 30 of ch. 2 above.
131
The Byzantine court and the Ottomans
a decade. Not long afterwards, however, Andronikos™ son John VII, who
inherited Selymbria together with neighboring territories in Thrace, turned
against the old Emperor and attempted to overthrow him.47 Following
his father™s example, John VII allied himself with the Genoese and the
Ottomans. His ties with the former did not escape the attention of John V,
who complained to the Commune of Genoa, sometime between 1387 and
1391, that since Andronikos™ death the inhabitants of Pera had been saluting
and acclaiming John VII as though he were emperor. By contrast, they had
denied John V the proper honors and customary acclamations as he sailed
by Pera, probably on his way back from Thrace, where, as recounted
above, in 1385 he had recaptured from Andronikos a fortress near the town
of Melitias.48
Documents from Genoese archives give evidence that John VII also
formed economic relations with his Italian allies. From 1389, if not ear-
lier, he appears to have actively participated in the export of wheat to
Genoa from the Thracian territories under his rule.49 The deterioration
of the Byzantine Empire through the separation and division of its lands
among contesting members of the imperial family has been pointed out
above. John VII™s commercial activities constitute a concrete example of
the economic consequences of such territorial grants, which weakened the
Byzantine state by depriving it of important resources and diminishing its
revenues. While in his appanage John VII reaped pro¬ts from the export
of Thracian wheat to Italy, inside Constantinople John V was driven to
con¬scate two Venetian ships loaded with grain in 1390. During that year
an Ottoman attack was anticipated in the capital, and the Emperor was no
doubt trying to reinforce the city™s food supplies.50
As anticipated, Constantinople suffered an attack in the spring of 1390,
but the person leading it was John VII, who succeeded in entering the city
and deposing his grandfather within just a few weeks. John VII owed his
victory to the strong support he had secured both from foreigners and from
Constantinopolitans. Shortly before laying siege to the capital, the young

47 See Th. Ganchou, “Autour de Jean VII: luttes dynastiques, interventions etrang`res et r´sistance
e e
´
ˆ
orthodoxe a Byzance (1373“1409),” in Coloniser au Moyen Age, ed. M. Balard and A. Ducellier (Paris,
`
1995), pp. 367“85, with references to earlier studies on John VII. See also Reinert, “Palaiologoi,”
pp. 311“27.
48 Loenertz, “Fragment,” 37“8, 40.
49 Laiou-Thomadakis, “Greek merchant,” 108“9; Laiou-Thomadakis, “Byzantine economy,” 220 and
n. 25.
50 Chrysostomides, “Venetian commercial privileges,” 326“7, 352 (doc. 16); Thiriet, R´gestes, vol. i,
e
no. 772. See also Ignatius of Smolensk, in Russian Travelers to Constantinople in the Fourteenth and
Fifteenth Centuries, ed. and trans. G. P. Majeska (Washington, DC, 1984), pp. 100“1; cf. 410.
132 Constantinople
pretender had traveled to Genoa in search of help for his cause.51 Yet, he
did not consider the backing of the Genoese adequate, being well aware
of the decisive role the Ottomans could play in his success. Consequently,
he approached Bayezid I, who had ascended the Ottoman throne in 1389
following the death of Murad I. If John VII had inherited certain tactics
from his father, Bayezid, it seems, had learned equally well his own father™s
diplomatic skills in sustaining the dissensions within the Byzantine imperial
family. The Sultan, therefore, agreed to help John VII and contributed to
the latter™s takeover of Constantinople by sending him troops.52
Inside Constantinople, on the other hand, a large segment of the popu-
lation favored John VII. In fact, John™s entry into the city was facilitated
by a group of common people, who opened the Charisios Gate through
which he let his forces in. Once he was inside the capital, some coercion
was used to oblige the inhabitants to recognize him as emperor, but in
the end everyone acclaimed him and submitted to his rule.53 John VII™s
reign was short-lived (April“September 1390), yet several years after his
overthrow, during the early stages of Bayezid™s siege of Constantinople “
before 1399 at any rate “ there was still a faction within the city, made
up mainly of common people, that wanted to bring him back to power.
According to Doukas, the “vulgar people” who wished to reinstate John VII
were opposed to Manuel II, the Emperor occupying the throne since 1391
as successor to John V, on the grounds that he was not concerned with
the salvation of the state and wanted to rule tyrannically.54 In their eyes,
John VII, who had been constitutionally invested with the right of succes-
sion in 1381,55 was the legitimate heir to the throne rather than Manuel II,
wherefore they viewed the latter as a usurper or a tyrant who was interested
more in his own power than in the welfare of the state. John VII himself
apparently made use of the same propaganda to win people over to his
side, “day and night, shouting to anyone he met . . . that it is he who cares


51 On this trip, see J. W. Barker, “John VII in Genoa: a problem in late Byzantine source confusion,”
OCP 28 (1962), 213“38; and the other references cited in Reinert, “Palaiologoi,” p. 336 (n. 3).
52 Schreiner, Kleinchroniken, vol. i, Chr. 7/21, p. 68; Ignatius of Smolensk, in Russian Travelers, ed.
Majeska, p. 100.
53 Ignatius of Smolensk, in Russian Travelers, ed. Majeska, pp. 100“3; cf. 409“12.
54 Doukas“Grecu, XIV.3, p. 83: “d¦mov” (line 18), “cuda±ov la»v” (line 21). Note that in his account
of the civil war between John V and John VI, Doukas uses almost the same words in reference to
John VI™s opponents in Constantinople: “o¬ to“ džmou cuda±oi” (IX.4, p. 63, line 2). For similar
accusations concerning Manuel™s tyrannical rule in Thessalonike that compelled the inhabitants of
that city to surrender to the Ottomans in 1387, see Dennis, Letters of Manuel II, no. 67, p. 187;
Chalkok.“Dark´ , vol. i, p. 42.
o
55 See p. 129 above.
133
The Byzantine court and the Ottomans
more for the empire, not you [Manuel].”56 The timing of the agitations of
John VII™s sympathizers against Manuel is also signi¬cant since they coin-
cided with the siege of Constantinople by Bayezid, who had lent aid to
John VII in 1390, posing as the defender of his legitimacy. Indeed, during
the siege the Ottoman ruler used the same pretext once more and offered
peace terms to the city that were conditional upon John VII™s restoration
to the throne.57 Manuel™s refusal to accept these terms, which prolonged
the siege and prevented the establishment of peace with the Ottomans,
was no doubt another major reason underlying the accusations of tyranny
leveled against him by the common people who complained of his lack of
concern with the salvation of the state.58
In addition to the common people, John VII™s supporters in Con-
stantinople included inhabitants of high social status. We know that shortly
before John VII™s entry into the city in April 1390 Emperor John V ordered
the arrest of approximately ¬fty unidenti¬ed people who were plotting in
favor of his grandson. Some in the group were punished by having their
noses slit, and some were blinded.59 The treatment accorded to these par-
tisans of John VII suggests that they were people presumably of high rank,
and not commoners like those who admitted him into the capital. Indeed,
when John VII™s movement failed and he was driven out of the capital,
several archontes from Constantinople who favored him followed him to
Selymbria. Komnenos Branas, who was married to the Emperor™s “aunt”
Anna Palaiologina, was one of them.60 This couple had ¬ve children “ three
56 Manuel Palaiologos, Dialogue with the Empress-Mother on Marriage, ed. and trans. A. Angelou
(Vienna, 1991), pp. 114“15.
57 Doukas“Grecu, XIV.2, p. 83.
58 It may well be that Manuel had these accusations in mind, as he incorporated into his Dialogue on
Marriage “ which he composed around this time, but extensively revised later on “ the following
passage that essentially aims to justify his resistance to Bayezid and to rectify his own image
as “emperor” against, presumably, the current charges of tyranny: “I have never offended him
[Bayezid]: it is just that I did not wish to do and did not give in to doing for him actions offensive in
the eyes of those who want to live in piety, and in my own eyes, too, having such a sense of what is
proper. An individual™s duty is, I think, to choose to die, if the need arises, together with his people
of the same race and faith; but a ruler™s and an emperor™s duty is to accept any risk in order to save
his people, and to regard dying a light burden, whenever freedom is at stake and whenever the risk
concerns . . . Faith.” Dialogue on Marriage, ed. and trans. Angelou, pp. 98“9. Although the passage
itself contains no explicit reference to Bayezid™s siege of Constantinople, the link is suggested by the
fact that it is immediately followed by an account of John VII™s cooperation with Bayezid during
the siege.
59 Ignatius of Smolensk, in Russian Travelers, ed. Majeska, pp. 100“1.
60 MM, vol. ii, nos. 537 (Jan. 1400), 595 (Aug. 1400). See PLP, nos. 3177 and 21346. The PLP entry
on Komnenos Branas mentions neither his move to Selymbria nor his af¬liation with John VII.
The entry on Anna Palaiologina, on the other hand, identi¬es the emperor whose aunt (qe©a) she
was as Manuel II. But it appears from the context of the patriarchal act of August 1400 where her
relationship to the imperial family is asserted (MM, vol. ii, no. 595) that the emperor in question is
134 Constantinople
sons who were all familiars (oikeioi) of John VII, and two daughters, one
of whom was married to an oikeios Astras, who is almost certainly to be
identi¬ed with Michael (Synadenos) Astras, the Emperor™s (John VII?)
“son-in-law.”61 The other daughter married an oikeios of the Emperor as
well, by the name of Philip Tzykandyles. The dowry of the latter couple
was in part provided by John VII and his mother, the Empress Maria.62
Komnenos Branas died in Selymbria in the service of John VII before 1399.
At the end of the same year, following the reconciliation of John VII with
Manuel II, Branas™ widow, Anna Palaiologina, returned to Constantinople
together with the archontes in the young Emperor™s retinue.63 Here, then, is
an example of an entire family of high-ranking individuals who had strong
personal and political ties with John VII and remained unremittingly loyal
to him even after he was ousted from power. Another likely partisan seems
to be Manuel Taroneites, who left the capital “because of the troubles”
(i.e. the civil war of John VII) but went back to the city shortly before the
summer of 1400, at a time which coincides with the reconciliation between
John VII and Manuel II.64
The aristocrats whom John VII used as agents in his aforementioned
commercial deals with Genoa must be cited among his upper-class sup-
porters, too, since they chose to work for John VII despite the latter™s tense
relations with the Emperor in Constantinople. Some of these people came
from the capital™s most distinguished families, as, for example, Manuel
Kabasilas, George Goudeles, and Nicholas Notaras.65 In recent decades,
historians have uncovered the close economic and political ties of these
more likely to have been John VII, who was Emperor-regent in Constantinople at this time. For an
archon Komnenos Branas, doulos of Emperor Andronikos IV in December 1376, who may perhaps
be identical with John VII™s partisan of the same name, see Kravari, “Philoth´ou,” 323 (no. 6) and
e
PLP, no. 93272.
61 On Michael (Synadenos) Astras, see MM, vol. ii, nos. 580 (June 1400), 533 (Nov. 1399). See also
ch. 7 below, p. 161; PLP, no. 1599; Darrouz`s, Reg., pp. 341, 348, 381; cf. Kravari, “Philoth´ou,”
e e
318“19. Clearly, Michael Astras™ quali¬cation as the Emperor™s gambr»v, like all such quali¬cations
denoting a relationship to the Byzantine ruler, should not be understood in a literal sense.
62 MM, vol. ii, no. 537, pp. 329“30. For the identi¬cation of the Emperor and Empress with John
VII and his mother, see Darrouz`s, Reg., pp. 347“8. It is noteworthy that Philip Tzykandyles had
e
formerly been a trusted servant of John V; he was present at Rome on the occasion of the Emperor™s
conversion to the Catholic faith in 1369, and in 1374 he acted as John V™s envoy to the pope. When
he attached himself to John VII remains uncertain, but it was he who prepared the Latin version
of the treaty signed between the Venetians and John VII in June 1390. See Ganchou, “Autour de
Jean VII,” pp. 370“1 and nn. 26, 27.
63 MM, vol. ii, no. 537, p. 330. For another reference to the archontes who returned from Selymbria to
the capital in the company of John VII and his mother following the reconciliation with Manuel
II, see ibid., no. 556, p. 360.
64 Ibid., no. 583 (June“July 1400), p. 404; cf. Darrouz`s, Reg., pp. 382“3.
e
65 Barker, “John VII in Genoa,” 236“7; Musso, Navigazione, no. 7, pp. 243“5; Balard, Romanie g´noise,
e
vol. ii, p. 758.
135
The Byzantine court and the Ottomans
three men and of their descendants with Italians.66 It is now known that
they not only engaged in business activities with Italy but also acquired
Genoese or Venetian status, and in some cases they became naturalized
citizens of both states, like Nicholas Notaras. Consequently, it has been
suggested that the old interpretation of late fourteenth-century Byzantine
civil wars “as mere internal squabbles of the imperial family, supported
and fomented by Venice and Genoa, who acted for their own purposes” is
no longer fully acceptable. On the basis of the new evidence revealing the
material advantages that some members of the imperial family and certain
aristocratic individuals derived from their association with Italians, it is
now essential to recognize the role played by the economic interests of this
group in the civil wars of the period.67
Among religious circles, too, John VII had some adherents who belonged
to both the lower and the upper classes. In May 1390 the priests Andrew
Rhadarites and Michael Sgouropoulos, who were accused of treachery
against the emperor and the state, were forgiven by the patriarchal court
of Constantinople, when they promised to be faithful to the emperor
thereafter.68 Since John VII had deposed his grandfather and established
himself on the throne in April 1390, it appears at ¬rst that the emperor
in question, unnamed in the patriarchal act of May 1390, was John VII,
and that the two priests had conspired against him. It is known, how-
ever, that about three months after his accession to power, John VII
installed a new patriarch. This was Makarios, whom Andronikos IV had
elected as patriarch back in 1377, and who was removed from this post
as soon as Andronikos fell from power.69 The restoration of Makarios
was probably John VII™s response to the opposition he faced from the
current patriarch Antonios, who was loyal to John V. It may, therefore,
be concluded that the emperor mentioned in Patriarch Antonios™ act was
indeed John V, and that the priests charged with treason were partisans of
John VII.

66 Balard, Romanie g´noise, vol. ii, p. 758; Oikonomid`s, Hommes d™affaires, pp. 20“1 and n. 4, 68, 120“2;
e e
Laiou-Thomadakis, “Byzantine economy,” 199“201, 220“2; Laiou-Thomadakis, “Greek merchant,”
108“9; K.-P. Matschke, “The Notaras family and its Italian connections,” DOP 49 (1995), 62“72;
K.-P. Matschke, “Personengeschichte, Familiengeschichte, Sozialgeschichte: Die Notaras im sp¨ten a
Byzanz,” in Oriente e Occidente tra Medioevo ed Et` Moderna. Studi in onore di Geo Pistarino a
a
cura di Laura Balletto (Genoa, 1997), vol. ii, pp. 797“812; Th. Ganchou, “Le rachat des Notaras
apr`s la chute de Constantinople ou les relations ˜´trang`res™ de l™´lite byzantine au XVe si`cle,”
e e e e e
in Migrations et diasporas m´diterran´ennes (Xe“XVIe si`cles), ed. M. Balard and A. Ducellier (Paris,

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