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few days later.
94 Schreiner, Kleinchroniken, vol. i, Chr. 22/43. Cf. Syropoulos, “M´moires,” III.30, pp. 190“1, n. 5.
e
95 Sphrantzes“Grecu, XXV.1,3, p. 64; Chalkok.“Dark´ , vol. ii, p. 80; Schreiner, Kleinchroniken, vol. i,
o
Chr. 29/11, 62/10; vol. ii, p. 461. Cf. Scholarios, ’uvres, vol. iii, p. 118 [ = PP, vol. ii, p. 53]; Thiriet,
R´gestes, vol. iii, nos. 2583, 2584. For further examples of Demetrios™ cooperation with the Ottomans
e
after he became Despot of the Morea in 1449, see below, ch. 10, pp. 278f.
96 Sphrantzes“Grecu, XXV.6, p. 66.
97 Kydones“Loenertz, vol. ii, no. 309, lines 83“7; trans. by Dennis, Reign of Manuel II, p. 111.
142 Constantinople
particularly as the practice of calling upon the Turks for assistance was
transformed into an almost routine custom by claimants to the throne.98
Having observed the cooperation of various members of the Byzantine
imperial family with the Ottomans in the course of the dynastic struggles
of the late fourteenth and early ¬fteenth centuries, we may now turn to an
examination of the comparable conduct of certain palace of¬cials in Con-
stantinople who had recourse to the Ottomans in their own power struggles
during the same period. In 1391 Kydones described this phenomenon as
follows:
And within the City the citizens, not only the ordinary, but indeed also those who
pass as the most in¬‚uential in the imperial palace, revolt, quarrel with each other
and strive to occupy the highest of¬ces. Each one is eager to devour all by himself,
and if he does not succeed, threatens to desert to the enemy and with him besiege
his country and his friends.99

Kydones wrote these lines in connection with the con¬‚ict which broke
out that year between Manuel II and John VII, with speci¬c reference to
the manipulative behavior of their respective supporters at the imperial
court. However, the phenomenon he reports was not restricted to this
particular event and persisted in later years, as suggested by the example
of Theologos Korax, an of¬cial in the service of Manuel II, whose career
closely corresponds to Kydones™ description above. Because of his knowl-
edge of Turkish, Theologos Korax frequently participated in embassies to
the Ottomans as translator. This gave him the opportunity to acquaint
himself with high-ranking of¬cials in the Ottoman court, where he devel-
oped particularly close ties with Mehmed I™s grand vizier Bayezid Pasa, ¸
a former Christian of Albanian origin. Theologos also won the trust of
Mehmed I and was often admitted to the Sultan™s dinner table. No one
in the Byzantine court objected to Theologos™ intimate relations with the
Ottomans since he thereby transmitted information about what was taking
place at the court of the Sultan. Indeed, as a result of his successful spy-
ing on behalf of the Byzantine Empire, Theologos was promoted from his
original post as simple translator to that of imperial ambassador. Gradually,
however, rumors began to be heard that Theologos was a traitor and that
he had been double-dealing with the Ottomans. Finally, during Murad II™s
98 For a contemporary observation of the chronic nature of Byzantine civil wars, see Kydones“Loenertz,
vol. ii, no. 308, lines 17“18, where civil strife is likened to “a periodic attack of illness.”
99 Ibid., no. 442, lines 51“6; trans. by Charanis, “Strife,” 309. For a similar statement by Manuel II
concerning people from the Morea who entered the service of the Ottomans in search of wealth,
glory, high posts, and material bene¬ts, see below, ch. 9, p. 243 and note 37. For parallels from
Thessalonike, see above, ch. 5, pp. 87f.
143
The Byzantine court and the Ottomans
siege of Constantinople in 1422, Theologos, whom Manuel II sent to the
Sultan to negotiate peace terms, was accused of having instead bargained
for the governorship of the city, promising in return to guarantee its sur-
render to the Ottomans. When Theologos was consequently blinded and
put into prison, where he survived only three days, Murad II is said to
have become very upset. Upon ¬nding out that one of Theologos™ inform-
ers was a secretary of Byzantine origin at his own court called Michael
Pylles, the Sultan had the latter immediately punished. As Michael Pylles
had retained his Christian faith while serving the Sultan, the punishment
that was deemed appropriate for him was to force him to choose between
conversion to Islam or death. “Then,” writes Doukas, “he who, according
to his deeds, was a Turk before his apostasy, renounced his faith.”100
Already during the very ¬rst years of the ¬fteenth century, while Timur
was invading Asia Minor, Theologos Korax had given an initial sign of
his accommodationist and conciliatory attitude towards the external en-
emies of Byzantium. At that time, Theologos, who was a local magistrate
(–k t¤n ˆrc»ntwn) in his native city Philadelphia, had proposed to his
wealthy colleagues (plo…sioi Ëp†rcontev) that they should pay the trib-
ute demanded by Timur in order to save their city. When the money was
not found, many Christians died at the hands of Timur™s forces, but The-
ologos seems to have suffered no harm, possibly because of an agreement
he had made with the invaders.101 As a result of this incident Theolo-
gos Korax may have developed a bad reputation among the Byzantine
aristocracy, which, combined with the jealousies aroused by Manuel II™s
favorable treatment of him, might account for the rumors and suspicions
concerning his later activities in Constantinople. Signi¬cantly, however,
those who most vehemently opposed him in 1422 were not the aristocrats
of the capital, but the Cretan guards defending the city against Murad
II™s forces.102 Hence, Theologos™ pact with the Sultan may be accepted as
a reliable piece of information and need not be viewed as a story based
merely on rumors and suspicions. Further evidence is provided, moreover,
100 Doukas“Grecu, XXII.7, XXVIII.1“5, pp. 161“3, 229“35. For the translated statement, see Magoulias,
Decline and Fall, p. 164. Cf. Balivet, Romanie byzantine, pp. 105“8; PLP, nos. 92415 and 23895.
101 Doukas“Grecu, XXII.7, p. 161.
102 Ibid., XXVIII.4, pp. 233“5. Contrasting the Cretans with Theologos Korax, Doukas describes the
former as “the most faithful subjects of the empire, distinguished by their sacred zeal for the holy
churches and their relics, and for the City™s imperial prestige” (trans. by Magoulias, Decline and
Fall, p. 162). Note the contrary impressions of Manuel Kalekas concerning the inhabitants of
Crete, where he ¬‚ed during Bayezid™s siege of Constantinople: Kalekas“Loenertz, nos. 69 and 70
(1400). For the role of Cretans in the defense of Constantinople in 1453, see M. Manoussakas,
“Les derniers d´fenseurs cr´tois de Constantinople d™apr`s les documents v´nitiens,” Akten des XI.
e e e e
internationalen Byzantinistenkongresses, M¨ nchen 1958 (Munich, 1960), pp. 331“40.
u
144 Constantinople
by a Venetian source which mentions the punishment accorded to a rich
and powerful Byzantine called Theologos, who was blinded and deprived
of his wealth in the hands of Greeks from Crete and Negroponte, follow-
ing a deal he had made with the Sultan.103 In 1418, on the other hand, a
complaint was sent from Venice to Manuel II concerning the insults, ill-
treatment, and physical harm in¬‚icted upon Venetians in Constantinople
by a certain Theologos, who may well have been Theologos Korax, and his
son.104 During the same year, in a distant region of the Byzantine Empire,
a Greek by the name of “Coracha” (Korax?) attracted the attention of the
Venetians for his leadership of Albanian troops, with whom he attacked
the possessions of Venice in the Morea.105 If the identi¬cations proposed
above are correct, then these last two references suggest that Theologos
Korax and some members of his family steered a political course that was
openly anti-Latin, in addition to the conciliatory politics they favored with
regard to the Ottomans.
The passage by Kydones quoted above and the stories of Theologos
Korax and Michael Pylles all illustrate the relative frequency and ease with
which Byzantine of¬cials went over to the Ottomans and made their ser-
vices available to them during the fourteenth and ¬fteenth centuries. One
explanation for the recurrence of this phenomenon lies in the ¬‚exibility and
openness of the Ottoman administrative structure into which Byzantines
and subjects from other neighboring Christian states were freely admitted.
These Christians were not required to give up their religion as long as they
were content with smaller posts, as, for instance, Michael Pylles™ secre-
tarial job. Rising up to higher positions, however, required conversion to
Islam,106 as in the case of Bayezid Pasa, formerly a Christian from Albania.
¸
The latter, who had reached the highest post of grand vizier among the
Ottomans, had a brother called Hamza, who also served the Ottomans.
Bayezid Pasa and Hamza established, moreover, marriage ties with the
¸

103 Dol¬n, III, fol. 859, quoted in Iorga, Notes, vol. i, p. 324, n. 1: “ . . . uno dicto Theologo, suo baron
greco, de mazor del suo Conseio, pi` ricco; e de prexente, dado in le man di Greci de Candia e de
u
Nigroponte, i fexe cavar gli occhi e tutto el suo haver, el qual, scasiado de fuora, fosse appresentado al
signor Turco in suo confusion, per caxon cum lui haveva fatto el trattado.” Doukas relates that after the
blinding and imprisonment of Theologos, his house, ¬lled with many treasures, was con¬scated
and burnt down: Doukas“Grecu, XXVIII.4, p. 235. The two accounts thus agree on all details
except Theologos™ death.
104 Iorga, Notes, vol. i, p. 276; Thiriet, R´gestes, vol. ii, no. 1688 (March 11, 1418). According to this
e
document, Theologos owned a Turkish slave; see Necipo˜ lu, “Byzantines and Italians in ¬fteenth-
g
century Constantinople,” 133.
105 Sathas, Documents, vol. iii, pp. 175“6. Cf. Thiriet, R´gestes, vol. ii, no. 1697 (June 11, 1418).
e
106 On this, see H. J. Kissling, “Das Renegatentum in der Glanzzeit des Osmanischen Reiches,”
Scientia 96 (1961), 18“26.
145
The Byzantine court and the Ottomans
family of another Christian convert of Byzantine origin ( « Rwma±on t¤‚
g”nei). This was Halil, the commander of Murad II™s eastern forces, who
became the brother-in-law of Bayezid and Hamza.107 On Murad II™s acces-
sion Bayezid Pasa is said to have given the following speech to a group of
¸
high-ranking military and civilian of¬cials in the Ottoman court:
It is not necessary to remind you, men, or to lecture you on how we have been
raised from our former humble station to a great destiny with God™s sanction
through the intercession of the Prophet [Muhammad] . . . Despite the power and
dignity of their dominion, the Ottoman rulers wisely and prudently selected the
most wretched and rural elements from the nations who do not worship the
one God proclaimed by the Prophet and made them God-fearing and victorious
of¬cers and illustrious governors. I myself am one of those and so are most of you
listening to my words . . . 108
Although it is questionable that Bayezid Pasa actually uttered these words,
¸
the passage is of value because it re¬‚ects the upward social mobility that
attracted many Byzantine subjects to the service of the Ottomans. But
it was not only the “most wretched and rural elements” who were thus
motivated; for example, neither Michael Pylles nor Theologos Korax can
be considered individuals of low social standing. The former came from
one of the “noble” families of Ephesus, while the latter was an archon in
Philadelphia before he moved to Constantinople and entered the palace.109
As Kydones indicated in 1391, many high-ranking of¬cials employed in the
Byzantine imperial palace turned to the Ottomans because they wished
to attain even higher positions.110 Their further advance in the Byzantine
court was often impeded by their fall from favor as a result of palace
intrigues and rivalries. The corruption and intrigues of certain imperial
of¬cials were the subject of another letter Kydones wrote in 1386 on behalf
of his friend Theodore Kaukadenos, who would “not allow anyone to steal
or embezzle public funds, as so many have been doing,” yet who had lost
his government post through the negative in¬‚uence of “insolent people
who seek to increase their own position at the expense of the empire.”111
107 Doukas“Grecu, XXVIII.12“13, pp. 239“41.
108 Ibid., XXIII.2, pp. 169“71; trans. by Magoulias, Decline and Fall, pp. 130“1. See also Doukas™
description of the janissary organization, through which the Ottomans raised Christian “shep-
herds, goatherds, cowherds, swineherds, farmers™ children, and horsekeepers” to unthinkable glory:
Doukas“Grecu, XXIII.9, p. 179.
109 Ibid., XXVIII.5, XXII.7, pp. 235, 161. Likewise, some Thessalonians who sought political of¬ce
in Ottoman service at the beginning of the ¬fteenth century were described as “prominent men”
(o¬ doko“ntev) by Symeon of Thessalonike: see above, ch. 5, pp. 87“8 and note 15.
110 See p. 142 and note 99 above.
111 Kydones“Loenertz, vol. ii, no. 357, pp. 300“1. Cf. Dennis, Letters of Manuel II, pp. xlvii“xlviii;
PLP, no. 11561.
146 Constantinople
The political ¬‚uctuations that accompanied the recurrent civil wars of
the fourteenth and ¬fteenth centuries no doubt contributed to this prob-
lem. In the course of the civil war between John V and Andronikos IV,
for instance, Theodore Potamios observed that a number of people won
undeserved honors and wealth in Constantinople, while the majority of
quali¬ed citizens were displaced and had to endure hardships.112 To certain
displaced individuals such as these, a career in the Ottoman court may have
appeared as an appealing alternative.
The incessant quarrels within the Byzantine court, both among mem-
bers of the Palaiologos family and among government of¬cials, coupled
by the threatening military activities of the Ottomans in the vicinity of
Constantinople, had a profound impact on the inhabitants of the imperial
capital. In their discontent with the conduct of their rulers, some citizens
of Constantinople appear to have considered an accord with the Ottomans
as a remedy that might alleviate the extreme instability reigning within the
Byzantine capital. During the 1380s Kydones observed that many people
in Constantinople openly declared their preference for Ottoman rule and
made fun of their compatriots who wished to live freely under Byzantine
rule rather than submit to slavery under the Turks.113 In contrast, those who
preferred the Ottomans perceived submitting to the enemy as freedom.114
What the latter meant by “freedom” can be interpreted, ¬rst, within the
context of the Ottoman-Islamic law of conquest, as freedom from captiv-
ity in return for surrender. This was a freedom of which they would be
deprived if Constantinople were to be taken by force, since they would
all then be enslaved. In addition, however, their notion of freedom seems
to have encompassed the desire for liberation from civil strife and mal-
administration, as revealed by another letter of Kydones written in 1391.
Kydones points out that at this time “slavery” “ that is, submission to the
Ottomans “ was regarded in Constantinople as “the only means capable of
removing the internal ills.”115 Part of the city™s population, judging that the
realization of peace with the Ottomans could lead to the re-establishment of
internal peace, spoke out in favor of surrendering to them. This act would

112 G. T. Dennis (ed.), “The Letters of Theodore Potamios,” in Dennis, Byzantium and the Franks,
Study XII, pp. 17“18 (Letter 12, to Kydones, text), 32“3 (translation), 39 (commentary).
113 Kydones“Loenertz, vol. ii, no. 320, lines 10“14 (1383“4). See also no. 332, lines 29“31, for some com-
mon people of Thessalonike who wished to submit to the Ottomans in 1386“7, “Ëp¼ desp»taiv
Šnwqen Àntev kaª t¦€ talaipwr©a‚ suneiqism”noi.” It is possible to detect beneath this statement an
indirect reference to the discontent of these Thessalonians with their Byzantine rulers. Cf. Balivet,
“Personnage du ˜turcophile™,” 115“18.
114 Kydones“Loenertz, vol. ii, no. 360, lines 32“3 (1386, fall?).
115 Ibid., no. 442, lines 39“40.
147
The Byzantine court and the Ottomans
relieve them of the negative consequences of the presence of Ottoman
forces outside the walls of Constantinople. These included the destruction
and loss of the lands in the surrounding countryside, the disruption of
agricultural production on the ¬elds outside the city walls, heavy tribute
obligation, and the spread of poverty, which were all factors conducive to
intensifying the social tensions within the Byzantine capital.116
A patriarchal court register reports that before July 1391 a man called
Nicholas Boulgaris went over to the Turks and converted to Islam. He later
confessed that he had done this out of grief and distress (ˆp¼ l…phv). He
returned to Constantinople in 1391 and, renouncing his newly acquired
Muslim faith, reconverted to the Orthodox religion. He also promised to
deliver his children to Constantinople so that they would be exposed to
Christianity and raised as Christians.117 Nicholas™ wife is not mentioned
in the patriarchal act; she may have been dead at this time, or a plausible
alternative may be that Nicholas had married a Turkish woman whom he
renounced as well when he abjured his Muslim faith. It would have been
interesting to know whether his children, whose exposure to Christianity
seriously concerned the members of the patriarchal court in Constantino-
ple, were born of a Turkish mother. If, on the other hand, these children
had been born in Constantinople before Nicholas ¬‚ed to the Turks, this,
too, would constitute an interesting case, indicating that he took his off-
spring along with him, or else had them transported shortly after his own
¬‚ight to Turkish territory. Even though Nicholas afterwards regretted his
action and returned to his country, what is of interest for present purposes
is the reason underlying his decision to go over to the Turks in the ¬rst
place. It will be recalled that in September 1390 the revolt of John VII in
Constantinople had ended with the restoration of John V, and, following
the latter™s death in February 1391, Manuel II had ascended the throne.
Con¬‚icts soon picked up between Manuel II and John VII, but for a while
it seemed as if the civil wars of the previous two decades were over and that

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