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mouzourion of wheat cost 100 aspers, but this information is problematic because of the uncertain
nature of the units in which the price and volume are expressed: see Schreiner, Kleinchroniken,
vol. i, Chr. 22/26, p. 184.
20 In 1366 lower prices of 4 and 4.5 hyperpyra per modios are attested too, though for rotten and for
inferior quality wheat, respectively. For all the pre- and post-siege ¬gures cited here, see Morrisson
and Cheynet, “Prices and wages,” pp. 826“8 (Table 5).
21 MM, vol. ii, no. 528 (Oct. 1399), p. 304. 22 Ibid., no. 678 (Nov. 1401), p. 558.
23 See Morrisson and Cheynet, “Prices and wages,” pp. 819“20 (Table 4). For the land in Christoupolis,
see Cheynet, Malamut, and Morrisson, “Prix et salaires,” p. 346 (Table 4).
24 MM, vol. ii, nos. 550 (Nov. 1397), 569 (April 1400), 678 (Nov. 1401), pp. 349, 383“4, 558.
154 Constantinople
of the siege.25 Thus, it may be concluded that productive land inside the
besieged city, including vineyards, became more expensive, which in turn
must have further contributed to the increase already observed in food
prices on the basis of available data on wheat.
Faced with this critical situation, the Byzantine government seems to
have taken some measures in order to supply the capital with cheaper grain.
A prostagma of Manuel II for the monastery of Lavra reveals that until 1405
the Athonite monastery was required to deliver annually a certain amount
of wheat to Constantinople from its holdings on the island of Lemnos at
the low price of 4 hyperpyra per modios. On May 25, 1405, the Emperor
exempted the monastery from this obligation with the condition that, if
a famine were to occur in Constantinople, the “customary” delivery of
wheat at the aforementioned price would be resumed. The document does
not specify since when this “customary” obligation had been in effect,
but it may well have been an emergency measure dating from the time of
Bayezid™s blockade to guarantee the ¬‚ow of some grain into Constantinople
at prices substantially lower than the current market price, probably for
distribution to needy citizens.26
Yet, apart from a measure such as this one, the Byzantine government was
not in a state to provide much help to the poor citizens of Constantinople,
given its depleted treasury and severe ¬nancial troubles, which prompted
the Emperor at some point during the siege to order the removal of two
out of the ¬ve golden disks that decorated the church of Hagia Sophia, no
doubt to be melted down and struck as coins.27 There is also evidence that
Manuel II tried to raise a loan from Venice at the end of 1395, offering the
tunic of Christ and other highly venerated relics as securities.28 However,
the Emperor™s offer was turned down by the Venetian authorities, who
feared that the exchange of these sacred objects might give rise to a popular
agitation in the Byzantine capital.29 Whether this was a real concern or
25 See Morrisson and Cheynet, “Prices and wages,” pp. 832“3 (Table 7); Cheynet, Malamut, and
Morrisson, “Prix et salaires,” p. 348 (Table 5). Even the price of 25 hyperpyra per modios attested in
Thessalonike in 1396, at a time when the city was under Ottoman rule, is lower than the prices in
Constantinople.
26 Lavra, vol. iii, no. 157, p. 142. The quantity due was 2 modioi of wheat for every doulikon zeugarion of
land Lavra possessed on Lemnos. Since conditions in Constantinople would not have immediately
returned to normal once the siege was over, Lavra™s obligation must have been maintained for nearly
three more years, thus coming to be regarded as a customary tax in kind. The conditional exemption
indicates that as late as May 25, 1405 a famine was still anticipated.
27 Bondage and Travels of Schiltberger, p. 80. Depending on the date of this event, the unidenti¬ed
Emperor could be either Manuel II or John VII.
28 Thiriet, R´gestes, vol. i, no. 892 (Dec. 9, 1395).
e
29 Ibid., no. 896 (Feb. 17, 1396); N. Iorga, “Venetia in Mare Neagr˜,” Analele Academiei Romˆ ne, a
¸ a
Memoriile sectiunii istorice, ser. 2, 36 (1913“14), 1115“16; G. T. Dennis, “Of¬cial documents of
¸
Manuel II Palaeologus,” B 41 (1971), 46“7.
155
Bayezid I™s siege of Constantinople (1394“1402)
just a pretext on the part of Venice, the crucial point is that the Emperor
never received the loan he asked for. Also indicative of the Byzantine
government™s ¬nancial dif¬culties is a deliberation of the Senate of Venice
on June 30, 1396 regarding the lending of 150 hyperpyra to Manuel II for
the repairs to the Venetian vice-bailo™s residence in Constantinople.30 The
Emperor evidently chose to borrow this sum as he must have had more
pressing needs than the maintenance of the Venetian vice-bailo™s house to
which to allocate his limited government funds within the besieged capital.
Indeed, imperial agents tried every means during this period to boost up
the state™s ¬nancial resources. Thus, at some time between 1397 and 1398
Manuel Kalekas complained to Manuel II on behalf of a friend who was
deprived of his legal inheritance by the ¬sc. When a distant relative of this
man died, the ¬sc appropriated all the property of the deceased on the
grounds that he had no surviving close relatives. Yet, the ¬sc was legally
entitled in such cases to only one-third of the dead man™s property, while
his distant relatives had the right to one-third as well, the ¬nal third being
reserved for donation to pious foundations.31 The ¬sc™s appropriation of all
the possessions of this man in violation of the law can be seen as a sign of
the ¬nancial straits that the Byzantine government was in at this time. The
situation was so serious that even the Patriarch Matthew lent his aid to the
government™s search for extra funds, writing to the metropolitan of Kiev in
1400 that “giving for the sake of guarding the holy city [Constantinople] is
better than works of charity and alms to the poor and ransoming captives;
and that he who is doing this will ¬nd a better reward before God than
him who has raised up a church and a monastery or than him who has
dedicated offerings to them.”32
The circumstances were equally distressing for some small to middle-
sized business owners within the food sector of the economy, among them
bakers, who were hit very hard not only by the short supply and high cost
of grain, but also by the growing scarcity of wood in the city.33 In October
1400 the baker Manuel Chrysoberges, ¬nding himself reduced to extreme
poverty and heavily indebted “because of the constraint and force of the
war,” decided to sell a house which he had bought for 14 hyperpyra three
30 Thiriet, R´gestes, vol. i, no. 911.
e
31 Kalekas“Loenertz, no. 34, pp. 213“16. See Jus graecoromanum, ed. I. Zepos and P. Zepos, vol. i
(Athens, 1931), p. 534.
32 MM, vol. ii, no. 556, p. 361; trans. by Barker, Manuel II, p. 203. In the translation I have rendered
the word leitourg©av not as “liturgies” but as “works of charity,” following D. Obolensky, “A
Byzantine grand embassy to Russia in 1400,” BMGS 4 (1978), 131, n. 36. Darrouz`s has dated this
e
letter to March 1400: Reg., pp. 360“1.
33 On the lack of wood for cooking as well as for heating purposes, see Doukas“Grecu, XIII.7, p. 79;
MM, vol. ii, nos. 571 (May 1400) and 613 (Nov. 1400). Cf. Bernicolas-Hatzopoulos, “First siege,”
49“50.
156 Constantinople
years earlier. He had spent all his dowry goods on the house, and was now
left without any means to pay off his outstanding debts or to meet his
personal needs.34 The gradual impoverishment of this baker, who in the
course of Bayezid™s siege used up all his resources and accumulated debts
beyond his means, was undoubtedly related to the state of the grain market
and other subsidiary markets that affected his business. Two partners who
ran a bakery and decided to dissolve their partnership during the siege
must have experienced similar hardships. While one of these partners who
had provided the bakery shop and a pack animal managed to retain his
possessions, the other who had contributed a sum of 30 hyperpyra lost his
money.35
Wine was another commodity of everyday consumption that was dif-
¬cult to ¬nd in the besieged capital.36 Consequently, some people who
were involved in the wine business encountered ¬nancial problems too.
Towards the end of 1400 the tavernkeeper Stylianos Chalkeopoulos was
summoned before the patriarchal court when two of his creditors ¬led suit
against him. At the very beginning of the siege Stylianos had borrowed
from them 300 hyperpyra, promising to repay the sum within three years.
Yet twice this length of time had gone by, and he still had not paid back
his creditors. Although at the end of 1400 he made another promise to
repay them within six months, and despite the fact that he owned shops
in the Kynegoi quarter with an overall value exceeding 400 hyperpyra, this
tavernkeeper clearly suffered from a shortage of cash, which may be a sign
of the problems that hit the wine business due to the extended blockade.37
Besides these small shopkeepers who worked with relatively moderate
amounts of capital, some wealthier tradespeople as well, both within and
outside the food sector, although they certainly did much better at this
time, suffered certain losses or misfortunes. When, for instance, the cloth
merchant Koumouses died in about 1397, he left his wife and six surviv-
ing sons an inheritance worth 7,030 hyperpyra. Yet an inventory of all the
movable and immovable property he bequeathed revealed that the fabrics
in his shop, appraised at 700 hyperpyra, had been either lost or stolen; his

34 MM, vol. ii, no. 609, pp. 441“2. For the date, see Darrouz`s, Reg., pp. 401“2. Although the document
e
refers to the purchase and sale ( g»rase, pwl¦sai) of the house by the baker, strictly speaking the
transactions in question involved a lease and its transfer.
35 MM, vol. ii, nos. 631 and 635. These acts have been dated to March“April 1401 by Darrouz`s: Reg.,
e
pp. 413“14, 419, 422“3. See also MM, vol. ii, no. 554 (February“March 1400), for the sale of a bakery
for 50 hyperpyra.
36 Doukas“Grecu, XIII.7, XIV.4, pp. 79, 85.
37 MM, vol. ii, no. 617. Darrouz`s has dated this act to December 20, 1400: Reg., p. 408. The two
e
creditors were kyr Nicholas Makrodoukas, oikeios of the Emperor, and kyr Loukas Linardos.
157
Bayezid I™s siege of Constantinople (1394“1402)
vineyard, worth 900 hyperpyra, had been destroyed and lay unproductive;
he owed the banker Sophianos 100 hyperpyra; and a business trip which
his eldest son Alexios had taken brought no pro¬t to the family but rather
resulted in a further loss of 300 hyperpyra. Nonetheless, after adjustments
were made that took account of these losses and de¬cits, Koumouses™
inheritors still received the fairly large sum of 5,030 hyperpyra, which they
divided between themselves.38 Two other shop owners, Theodore Barzanes
and Michael Monembasiotes, also managed to survive despite relatively
minor constraints due to the siege. While Barzanes complained in 1397
that the common poverty and misery that prevailed in the city had affected
his circumstances negatively, nonetheless his recently deceased wife (the
daughter of a certain Kaloeidas) left behind an inheritance of 2,250 hyper-
pyra, which was largely made up of immovables within Constantinople,
including a garden, a vineyard, several houses (one of which is described
as “newly built”), various workshops worth 200 hyperpyra, and a bakery
with a value of 110 hyperpyra. Entitled to one-third of this inheritance,
Barzanes could not have been truly desperate in economic terms.39 As for
Michael Monembasiotes, he was able to keep both a tavern and a soap-
manufacturing shop in operation during the siege even though the tavern
had undergone a 35 percent depreciation in value by the year 1400.40
While the Ottomans were primarily responsible for the shortage of
provisions and other economic problems that af¬‚icted the inhabitants
of Constantinople in varying degrees, a small group of Byzantines who
engaged in pro¬teering activities further aggravated the conditions inside
the capital. Taking advantage of the adverse circumstances, these people
pushed prices to levels which only the wealthiest among the citizens could
afford to pay. For instance, John Goudeles, a member of one of the cap-
ital™s prominent aristocratic families, made huge pro¬ts by selling wheat
at the in¬‚ated price of 31 hyperpyra per modios. In order to acquire this
wheat, Goudeles had taken a trip to the island of Chios on his own ship.41
The risks involved in such a venture are indicated by the contemporary
experiences of another Byzantine merchant, Constantine Angelos, who
fell captive to the Turks during a business trip from Constantinople to
38 MM, vol. ii, no. 566 (April 1400), pp. 377“9. Cf. K.-P. Matschke, “Chonoxio “ Cumicissi “
Coumouses “ Chomusi “ Commussi “ Chomus,” Antiˇnaja drevnost™i srednie veka 10 (Sverdlovsk,
c
1973), 181“3.
39 MM, vol. ii, nos. 549 and 550 (Oct.“Nov. 1397), pp. 347“52.
40 Ibid., no. 608 (Oct. 1400), p. 440. The tavern in question had depreciated from 200 hyperpyra, its
value “in times of plenty,” to 130 hyperpyra in 1400.
41 Laiou-Thomadakis, “Byzantine economy,” 221; Balard, Romanie g´noise, vol. ii, p. 758; Matschke,
e
Ankara, p. 131.
158 Constantinople
the same island on board an armed ship.42 Constantine Pegonites, on the
other hand, who was desperately in need of money and sailed to Symbolon
(Cembalo) in the Crimea intending to make some pro¬t with a sum of 36
hyperpyra he borrowed from his mother, returned to Constantinople after
having lost all the money and began to demolish the houses he had inher-
ited from his father as a last means of sustaining himself.43 As mentioned
earlier, the trading venture of Alexios Koumouses, who was the son of a
Constantinopolitan cloth merchant, likewise came to an end with the loss
of 300 hyperpyra.44 Moreover, a certain Petriotes found that he could not
bring his merchandise into the capital because of the enemy forces that
surrounded the city and disrupted commercial activity.45 The brother of a
man called John Magistros, who was held back outside Constantinople at
the outset of 1402 on account of the blockade, may well have been another
unfortunate merchant; among objects he offered as security against a loan
he had taken before his departure were various fabrics (kamouc†v, blat-
t©a) known to be important commodities in Mediterranean trade.46
Merchants were not the only people whose movements in or out of
Constantinople were restricted as a result of the Ottoman blockade. A nun
called Theodoule Tzouroulene, who had left the capital for an unstated
reason presumably before the launching of the siege, claimed that the
siege hindered her re-entry into the city for several years. She managed to
come back before June 1400, but found that in her absence Kaballarios
Kontostephanos, who owned a vineyard next to a church that belonged
to her, had overstepped into the boundaries of her property.47 The heir
of a certain Spyridon was even less fortunate than her since he could not
come back to the city at all to reclaim his inheritance.48 Similarly, witnesses
from abroad who were needed for the resolution of a court case could
not be brought into Constantinople because of the siege.49 For the same
reason, bishops from other cities under the jurisdiction of the Byzantine
Church were not able to attend an important synod that was held at the
capital during the ¬rst half of 1402 to discuss the deposition of Patriarch
Matthew.50

42 MM, vol. ii, no. 680 (Dec. 1401). 43 Ibid., no. 571 (May 1400).
44 See p. 157 and note 38 above.
45 H. Hunger, “Zu den restlichen Inedita des Konstantinopler Patriarchatsregisters im Cod. Vindob.
Hist. Gr. 48.,” REB 24 (1966), no. 3, pp. 61“2. Cf. Darrouz`s, Reg., no. 3252 (Jan. 1402), p. 471.
e
46 Hunger, “Inedita,” no. 2, pp. 59“61. Cf. Darrouz`s, Reg., no. 3251 (Jan. 1402), p. 470.
e
47 MM, vol. ii, no. 579 (June 1400). 48 Ibid., no. 650 (May 1401).
49 Ibid., no. 564 (March“April 1400).
50 G. T. Dennis, “The deposition and restoration of Patriarch Matthew I, 1402“1403,” BF 2 (1967),
102, n. 7.
159
Bayezid I™s siege of Constantinople (1394“1402)
By contrast, John Goudeles safely returned from Chios with a certain
amount of wheat, which he managed to smuggle into Constantinople
through the nearby Genoese port of Pera, after bribing some Italian of¬-
cials there.51 None of the risks and costs that Goudeles endured, though,
can suf¬ciently account for the exorbitant price he charged for his grain
if it is to be recalled that 31 hyperpyra is the maximum recorded wheat
price surviving from the period of Bayezid™s blockade. Goudeles, who also
imported wine,52 did nonetheless ¬nd buyers for his merchandise. More-
over, a number of aristocrats from Constantinople invested their money
in his commercial enterprises, hoping to pro¬t from his successes. Among
these was a woman, Theodora Palaiologina, who pawned the jewels that
formed part of her daughter™s dowry in order to invest the money (300
hyperpyra) with Goudeles, who was preparing to sail to the Aegean on
another business venture.53 Thus, while many Constantinopolitan mer-
chants experienced considerable losses, as did many small tradesmen such
as bakers and tavernkeepers, some of whom were forced to close down their
businesses, an aristocratic entrepreneur like John Goudeles, who engaged
in overseas trade and had contacts in Italian colonies such as Chios and
Pera, could make lots of money from the sale of wheat and, probably, of
wine. Indeed, Goudeles™ cooperation with the Genoese was not restricted
to the occasion in which he is said to have bribed the treasurers of Pera. He
had a Genoese partner who came from the famous de Draperiis family of
Pera, and several high of¬cials of the colony were directly involved in his
grain trade.54

51 Laiou-Thomadakis, “Byzantine economy,” 221. See MM, vol. ii, no. 675 (Oct. 1401) for another

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