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example of Byzantine merchants from Constantinople unloading their merchandise in Pera during
the siege. Note that one of the two trading partners involved in this venture was George Goudeles,
John™s father.
52 Laiou-Thomadakis, “Byzantine economy,” 221.
53 MM, vol. ii, nos. 656 (July 1401), 676 (Nov. 1401); see also no. 580 (June 1400). Theodora could
use these jewels because, both her daughter and son-in-law being minors, she was vested with
authority to administer the young couple™s dowry and to provide for their support. She shared this
responsibility on an annual basis with her son-in-law™s mother, Theodora Trychadaina. The latter
was the mother-in-law of John Goudeles.
54 Laiou-Thomadakis, “Byzantine economy,” 221. Goudeles™ Genoese partner was Lodisio de Draperiis.
On the latter™s family, see M. Balard, “La soci´t´ p´rote aux XIVe“XVe si`cles: autour des Demerode
ee e e
et des Draperio,” in Byzantine Constantinople: Monuments, Topography and Everyday Life, ed.
N. Necipo˜ lu (Leiden, Boston, and Cologne, 2001), pp. 299“311, esp. 304ff.; Th. Ganchou,
g
“Autonomie locale et relations avec les Latins a Byzance au XIVe si`cle: Iˆ ann`s Limpidar-
e oe
`
´
ios/Libadarios, Ainos et les Draperio de P´ra,” in Chemins d™outre-mer. Etudes d™histoire sur la
e
M´diterran´e m´di´vale offertes a Michel Balard, vol. i (Paris, 2004), pp. 353“74. It may be added
`
e e ee
that John™s father, George Goudeles, had formed a business partnership with Manuel Koreses,
who belonged to a family that originated from Chios; they, too, used Pera to unload and store
merchandise during Bayezid™s siege: see note 51 above.
160 Constantinople
It is also noteworthy that whereas authorities in Constantinople did not,
or could not, take any measures against the illegal pro¬teering activities
of Byzantine subjects, Genoese authorities in Pera vigorously tried to dis-
suade their own subjects from participating in these activities.55 In 1402
legal action was taken in Pera against the Genoese of¬cials who had been
associated with John Goudeles™ grain sale and had received bribes or made
pro¬ts from it. Another Byzantine whose name was brought up in con-
nection with the bribing of of¬cials from Pera was a certain Leondarios,
described as the agent of the Byzantine emperor. This emperor is to be iden-
ti¬ed, almost without doubt, as John VII, who took over the government
of Byzantium during Manuel II™s trip to the West (1399“1403), and whose
earlier commercial enterprises in Genoa have been discussed in chapter
6.56 The imperial agent Leondarios, on the other hand, may have been
either Bryennios Leontares, governor of Selymbria and oikeios of John VII,
or Demetrios Laskaris Leontares, agent and associate of Manuel II who
served as John VII™s advisor in Thessalonike after 1403.57 Like John Goude-
les, Leondarios was involved in trade and had dealings with the Genoese
of Pera. Rather than acting alone, however, he functioned as John VII™s
intermediary. In this capacity he cooperated with two Genoese of¬cials
who had bought cheaper grain in Pera with the intention of reselling it in
Constantinople at prices probably approximating Goudeles™ earnings. The
emperor, Leondarios, and two Italians are reported to have gained 11,000
hyperpyra on one occasion which reveals the scope of their undertakings.58
Thus, in Constantinople, not only were no measures taken against the
pro¬teering activities of Byzantine merchants during the siege years, but
even the emperor himself engaged in such activities in collaboration with
Greeks and Italians.
It may be recalled that one of John VII™s commercial agents in Genoa
in the late 1380s and early 1390s was George Goudeles, who was the father
of John Goudeles.59 George, mesazon, oikeios of the Emperor, and member
of the Senate, was not only an in¬‚uential statesman and businessman: he
was related to the imperial family through his sister Anna Asanina, who
55 On what follows, see Balard, Romanie g´noise, vol. ii, p. 758; Laiou-Thomadakis, “Byzantine econ-
e
omy,” 220“1.
56 See above, ch. 6, pp. 131, 134“5.
57 Cf. Matschke, Ankara, pp. 130“1; PLP, nos. 92519 and 14676.
58 Iorga, Notes, vol. i, p. 66. The two Italians involved in this affair were the massarii of Pera, Hector
Fieschi and Ottobone Giustiniano. On other occasions, the two men are reported to have received
from the Byzantine Emperor 8 vegetes of wine, 7 modioi of grain, and 7,000 or 10,000 hyperpyra:
ibid., pp. 66“7.
59 See above, ch. 6, p. 134 and note 65. On George and John Goudeles, see also PLP, nos. 91696 and
91697.
161
Bayezid I™s siege of Constantinople (1394“1402)
had married a Palaiologos and is described as the Emperor™s aunt (qe©a) in
a document dated March 1400, though at this time relations between the
brother and sister were strained because of a property dispute.60 The same
document contains a reference to a close family friend of the Goudelai, one
Astras,61 who also belongs to a family that had strong personal and political
ties with John VII. It will be recalled that an oikeios Astras, again with an
unknown ¬rst name, was the son-in-law of yet another qe©a of the Emperor
called Anna Palaiologina and of Komnenos Branas, who were both devoted
partisans of John VII.62 These two men bearing the last name Astras are
very likely to have been the same person, who may in turn be identi¬ed
with Michael (Synadenos) Astras, described as oikeios and “son-in-law” of
the Emperor in a patriarchal act dated June 1400.63 We know, moreover,
that through his niece Michael Astras was related in a very roundabout and
distant fashion to John Goudeles as well. The brother of John Goudeles™
wife was married to the daughter of Theodora Palaiologina, who happened
to be the sister-in-law of Astras™ niece.64 No matter how distant such family
connections may have been, they did every so often lead to the formation of
economic ties between various relatives of married parties. Thus Theodora
Palaiologina, as noted earlier, invested part of her daughter™s dowry in one
of John Goudeles™ business ventures abroad.65
It is quite obvious that we are dealing here with a small network of aris-
tocratic families who all shared an af¬liation with John VII and who were
further connected by marriage ties and common economic interests. It was
the ¬nancial and economic backing they had acquired through investments
in foreign commercial markets by virtue of their contacts with the Genoese
that gave members of this group the opportunity during Bayezid™s siege to
engage in pro¬teering activities at home and expand their fortunes, while
most others in Constantinople suffered material losses. Thus, just as in
Thessalonike during the period when it was exposed to constant Ottoman
60 MM, vol. ii, no. 557 (March 1400), pp. 361“6. For George Goudeles™ titles and membership in the
Senate, see ibid., nos. 650 (May 1401), 675 (Oct. 1401); Kydones“Loenertz, vol. ii, no. 357 (1386?);
V. Laurent, “Le tris´piscopat du Patriarche Matthieu Ier (1397“1410),” REB 30 (1972), 134.
e
61 MM, vol. ii, no. 557, p. 362.
62 Ibid., nos. 537 (Jan. 1400) and 595 (Aug. 1400), pp. 329“33, 422“3. See above, ch. 6, pp. 133“4.
63 MM, vol. ii, no. 580 (June 1400), pp. 399“400; see also note 61 in ch. 6 above. For other sources
on Michael Astras, son of the megas stratopedarches George Synadenos Astras, see Vatop´di, vol. ii,
e
no. 125 (1366); Kravari, “Philoth´ou,” no. 6 (1376); Zographou, no. 47 (1378); Chilandar (P), no. 157
e
(1378); Kydones“Loenertz, vol. ii, no. 422; MM, vol. ii, no. 533 (Nov. 1399). For a contrary opinion
on the identi¬cations proposed here, see Kravari, “Philoth´ou,” 318“19.
e
64 MM, vol. ii, nos. 580 (June 1400), 656 (July 1401), 676 (Nov. 1401). Astras™ niece, too, bears the
name Anna Palaiologina. She had a brother called Alexios Aspietes, and her husband was Petros
Palaiologos. She was already deceased in June 1400.
65 See p. 159 and note 53 above.
162 Constantinople
attacks, the small fraction of the capital™s population that maintained an
economically favorable position in the course of Bayezid™s siege consisted
primarily of aristocratic merchants with Italian connections. One addi-
tional advantage that the Constantinopolitans had over the Thessalonians
was the existence of the nearby Genoese colony of Pera, which had no
counterpart in Thessalonike and served part of the capital™s population as
a place for trade connections and commercial opportunities as well as a
place of refuge during political and military crises.
We have seen thus far that the limitations imposed by Bayezid™s mili-
tary operations, particularly the lack of food and other necessities, almost
immediately hurt everyone in Constantinople with the exception of a small
network of people belonging to the highest ranks of the aristocracy. Nev-
ertheless, the siege does not appear to have seriously threatened the overall
economic situation of the upper classes until several years later. Despite
minor dif¬culties, most aristocratic families possessed means by which they
could provide for themselves and survive during the initial phases of the
siege. Yet their resources were depleted gradually in the course of the eight
years they endured under blockade. It is, therefore, not by mere coinci-
dence that the acts of the patriarchal tribunal of Constantinople which
reveal the ¬nancial dif¬culties of the capital™s aristocracy all date from the
last three or four years of the siege. Most of these acts explicitly attribute the
economic problems of the aristocracy to the Ottoman siege, alluding to it
by some variant of the more or less conventionalized phrase “the precarious
circumstances, need, and poverty of the present time.”66
In 1400 the three sons of s…r Perios Lampadenos who were all oikeioi of
the Emperor “ Michael Rhaoul, Gabriel Palaiologos, and John Palaiologos “
decided to sell their inherited property, which included a house, a bakery,
and a triklinon. This property, estimated to have a total value of 330
hyperpyra, was on the verge of collapse, and the brothers had outstanding
debts. The money from the sale would, therefore, help them pay their
debts, while they intended to keep the rest for their subsistence.67
66 MM, vol. ii, no. 549 (1397), p. 347: “Ëp¼ t¦v to“ kairo“ ˆnwmal©av”; no. 565 (1400), p. 376:
“t¦€ to“ kairo“ ˆnwmal©aƒ te kaª –nde©aƒ”; no. 646 (1401), p. 492: “t¦€ –nde©aƒ kaª t¦€ to“ kairo“
ˆn†gkh”; no. 648 (1402), p. 496: “t¦€ to“ kairo“ ˆnwmal©aƒ”; no. 609 (1400), p. 442: “di‡ tŸn –k
t¦v m†chv ˆn†gkhn kaª b©an”; no. 610 (1400), p. 443: “Ëp¼ t¦v to“ kairo“ –nde©av piez»menoi”;
no. 554 (1400), p. 356: “Ëp¼ to“ kairo“ kaª t¤n pragm†twn stenocwro…menoi”; no. 560 (1400),
p. 370: “di‡ tŸn ›ndeian kaª st”rhsin t¤n pragm†twn”; no. 658 (1401), p. 514: “di‡ tŸn –nta“qa
›ndeian”; etc.
67 Ibid., no. 554. S. Fassoulakis, The Byzantine Family of Raoul-Ral(l)es (Athens, 1973), no. 50, p. 64,
suggests that Gabriel and John Palaiologos may have been half-brothers of Michael Rhaoul, from
two separate marriages of their father Lampadenos. In that case the sons probably adopted their last
names from their mothers, which was a common practice in Byzantium.
163
Bayezid I™s siege of Constantinople (1394“1402)
In November 1401 another member of the Palaiologos family named
Michael was constrained to sell a vineyard in the quarter of Saint Romanos
in order to pay his debts and to protect his wife and child from the famine
that had overtaken Constantinople at this time.68 During the same month,
Michael, in need of more money, decided to sell farmland as well. On this
latter occasion his brother Gabriel intervened, probably fearing the gradual
loss of the family™s entire landed property through continued sales. In order
to keep the farmland in the possession of the family, Gabriel proposed to
buy part of it himself. Yet having no ready cash to pay his brother, he
asked the patriarch for permission to pawn his wife™s jewels against a loan
of 150 hyperpyra. Since the jewels formed part of his wife™s dowry, their
economic exploitation for such a purpose was subject to legal restrictions.
Nonetheless, the patriarch granted him permission on the grounds that
the ownership of a revenue-producing immovable was preferable to the
possession of jewels, which Gabriel might anyhow be able to redeem in the
future.69 One can detect in the patriarch™s decision a conscious economic
concern with putting all available resources in the city to productive use
so as to prevent them from lying idle in the midst of the destitution and
scarcity brought about by the Ottoman siege.
Another court case, which involved Manuel Bouzenos, oikeios of the
Emperor, and his wife, Theodora Bouzene Philanthropene, has many ele-
ments in common with the two cases discussed above.70 By the seventh
year of the siege, Manuel, who had already sold or mortgaged all his pos-
sessions because of war-time constraints, was reduced to extreme need. He
had incurred large debts; the famine had brought him, his wife, and his
children to the verge of starvation; and he no longer had any means of his
own left with which he could sustain his family. Consequently he appealed
to the patriarch for permission to sell some houses which constituted part
of his wife™s dowry. Manuel had already made an agreement with a cer-
tain Argyropoulos, who had recently come to Constantinople from abroad
and was willing to buy the houses for 270 hyperpyra. This Argyropoulos,
a member of the wealthy aristocratic family whose Thessalonian branch


68 MM, vol. ii, no. 678.
69 Ibid., no. 679, p. 559. Michael and Gabriel Palaiologos are both identi¬ed as oikeioi of the Emperor
in this act. On the more ¬‚exible use of dowries during the Palaiologan period despite their protected
¨
nature in Byzantine law, see A. E. Laiou, “The role of women in Byzantine society,” JOB 31 (1981),
237“41. See also R. Macrides, “Dowry and inheritance in the late period: some cases from the
Patriarchal Register,” in Eherecht und Familiengut in Antike und Mittelalter, ed. D. Simon (Munich,
1992), pp. 89“98.
70 MM, vol. ii, no. 646. This act has been dated to May 1401 by Darrouz`s: Reg., pp. 430“1.
e
164 Constantinople
we encountered earlier, may perhaps be identi¬ed with Andreas Argy-
ropoulos, who was involved in long-distance trade with Wallachia not long
before 1400.71 Although there is no direct indication that Andreas™ business
involvement had taken him on a journey abroad, the early ¬fteenth-century
Greek satirist Mazaris mentions a Polos Argyros who had returned from
Wallachia with great riches.72 Thus, it seems very likely that all three men
in question were one and the same, and the Argyropoulos who wanted to
buy Manuel Bouzenos™ houses may have been intending to reinvest part of
his pro¬ts from a recent trading venture in the real-estate market of Con-
stantinople. The patriarch, after hearing Bouzenos™ request and making
certain that he had no other resources apart from his wife™s dowry, agreed
to the sale as the survival of the children and the wife herself depended
on it.73 Yet ¬nding the price of 270 hyperpyra too low, he demanded that
a higher bidder be sought through an eight-day-long auction. No higher
bidders appeared, however, during the prescribed time; meanwhile, Argy-
ropoulos decided not to purchase the houses. In the end, when a civil
archon called Thomas Kallokyres showed interest in buying them for the
same price, the patriarch gave his consent. Bouzenos was authorized to pay
his debts with part of the money from the sale and to reserve the rest for
the sustenance of his family.
Less than a year earlier, in November 1400, the patriarch granted a certain
Nicholas, the minor son of the late Exotrochos, permission to sell a house
complex comprising an unidenti¬ed number of buildings. The complex,
which Nicholas inherited from his father, was all the property he owned.
For this reason the patriarch objected to its sale at ¬rst but gave in when
he saw how the child, who had no means of subsistence, suffered from
the famine and cold weather which hit the capital that year. An of¬cial
appraised the houses at 250 hyperpyra, factoring into his calculation the
current insecurity and uncertainty of affairs. Despite this low price set on
the houses, no one wanted to buy them with the exception of Nicholas™
cousin, kyra Theodora Baropolitissa, who offered to pay only 240 hyperpyra.

71 See MM, vol. ii, no. 564, pp. 374“5; Darrouz`s has dated this act to March“April 1400: Reg.,
e
p. 367.
72 Mazaris™ Journey to Hades, or Interviews with Dead Men about Certain Of¬cials of the Imperial Court,
ed. and trans. by J. N. Barry, M. J. Share, A. Smithies, and L. G. Westerink (Buffalo, NY, 1975),
pp. 38, 50“2. Polos Argyros has indeed been identi¬ed with Andreas Argyropoulos: Laiou-
Thomadakis, “Byzantine economy,” 201“2; PLP, no. 1255.
73 For Byzantine law permitting the alienation of the dowry under exceptional circumstances when a
family™s, especially the children™s, survival depended on its sale, see C. Harmenopoulos, Manuale
Legum sive Hexabiblos, ed. G. E. Heimbach (Leipzig, 1851), IV, 11.1; cf. Laiou, “Role of women,”
237.
165
Bayezid I™s siege of Constantinople (1394“1402)
She bought the property at this price, and the money was entrusted to an
elder relative of Nicholas.74
The dif¬culty with which both Nicholas and Manuel Bouzenos found
buyers for their clearly underpriced houses demonstrates well the scarcity
of individuals who were capable of, or interested in, purchasing property
of this sort in Constantinople during the latter stages of the siege. The
growing frequency with which owners tried to liquidate their property
in the midst of grave ¬nancial problems and the concurrent shortage of
buyers who came forth were related phenomena, both directly resulting
from Bayezid™s extended blockade. Meanwhile, as house prices continued
to drop, the few people who did make investments in the city™s housing
market took advantage of the exceptionally low prices. The extent to which
the situation was open to abuse, with prices falling far below actual values,
is illustrated by a dispute concerning an estate, including a courtyard with
several buildings and a vineyard, which Jacob Tarchaneiotes had sold for 100

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