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to take over its administration in 1423, the Venetians had no intention of pursuing an aggressive
policy there towards the Ottomans, hoping immediately to establish peace with Murad II: Sathas,
Documents, vol. i, no. 89 (July 27, 1423); Thiriet, R´gestes, vol. ii, no. 1898.
e
17 Thiriet, R´gestes, vol. i, no. 944 (June 13“22, 1398). Cf. E. Ashtor, Levant Trade in the Later Middle
e
Ages (Princeton, 1983), p. 120.
18 Thiriet, R´gestes, vol. ii, nos. 1419 (May 4, 1411), 1422 (June 4, 1411), 1424 (June 7, 1411); Iorga, Notes,
e
vol. i, pp. 196“9. See also Thiriet, R´gestes, vol. ii, no. 1444 (March 7, 1412).
e
19 Doukas“Grecu, XXV.8, pp. 209“11; Chalkok.“Dark´ , vol. ii, pp. 6“7; Sprantzes-Grecu, IX.4, p. 14;
o
Kug´as, “Notizbuch,” 151, § 78; Nesrˆ, Kitˆ b-± Cihan-n¨ mˆ , vol. ii, p. 565.
a ua
e ¸±
20 See Barker, “Miscellaneous Genoese documents,” 63“70. On Ottoman“Genoese commercial rela-
tions in the fourteenth and ¬rst half of the ¬fteenth centuries, see K. Fleet, European and Islamic
Trade in the Early Ottoman State. The Merchants of Genoa and Turkey (Cambridge, 1999).
21 Manuel II seems to have played a role in inciting Mustafa against Murad II so as to draw the
latter away from the Byzantine capital: Doukas“Grecu, XXVIII.6, pp. 235“7. While some sources
(Chalkok.“Dark´ , vol. ii, p. 12; Kug´as, “Notizbuch,” 154, § 88; Nesrˆ, Kitˆ b-± Cihan-n¨ mˆ , vol.
a ua
o e ¸±
ii, p. 573) place Mustafa™s uprising after the lifting of the siege and show no connection between
the two events, such a connection is con¬rmed by an Ottoman chronological list, or annals, dated
™ ¨
1444“5: O. Turan (ed.), Istanbul™un Fethinden Once Yaz±lm±s Tarihˆ Takvimler (Ankara, 1954),
¸ ±
p. 23. As in the case of Bayezid™s blockade, many Byzantines, including Joseph Bryennios and the
chroniclers Kananos and Sphrantzes, believed the deliverance of the city in 1422 to be a result of
190 Constantinople
time Ottoman forces appeared before the Byzantine capital the year was
1442, and on this occasion Murad II™s troops were sent there not for a
direct Ottoman assault, but to provide assistance to Demetrios Palaiolo-
gos, who had set his eye on the imperial throne of Byzantium.22 During
the intervening period of peace which was initiated by the Byzantine“
Ottoman treaty of February 1424, the political and military recovery that
had been in progress in Constantinople since the battle of Ankara was
gradually attended with some degree of economic recovery as well, even
though from the standpoint of international politics the peace treaty of
1424 tipped the scale in favor of the Ottomans and represented a major
reversal for the Byzantine state.23 A relatively minor event passed over in
silence by all sources except the history of Chalkokondyles may well re¬‚ect
the economic repercussions of the greater political and military stability
provided by the maintenance of peaceful relations with the Ottomans.
This was an armed con¬‚ict that broke out in 1434 between Genoa and the
Byzantine government over the trade of Pera. Chalkokondyles does not
give us the details, but it appears from his account that Emperor John VIII
took certain measures at this time to put a check on the commercial
role of the neighboring Genoese colony that for a long time had had a
ruinous effect on the economy of Constantinople and the state treasury
by attracting merchants and merchandise away from the Byzantine capi-
tal. Whatever the Emperor™s measures were, they aggravated the Genoese
and compelled them to take up arms against Constantinople. However,
primarily as a result of the capable defense mounted by the Byzantine


divine intervention on the part of either the Virgin or God: T‡ eËreq”nta, ed. Boulgares, vol. ii,
pp. 405ff., 414ff.; Cananos, L™assedio di Costantinopoli, pp. 73“5; Sphrantzes“Grecu, X.2, p. 14. See
also Pero Tafur, Travels and Adventures, pp. 144“5, for a legendary story Pero Tafur heard in 1438
from the citizens of Constantinople about the protection of the city walls by an angel during an
unsuccessful Ottoman siege which may well be that of Murad II.
22 See above, ch. 6, p. 141 and note 95. Earlier, at the end of 1437 or beginning of 1438, Murad II
contemplated attacking Constantinople, though not with the aim of conquest but in order to
forestall Emperor John VIII, who had set out for the Council of Ferrara“Florence. This attack did
not take place as the Sultan was dissuaded by his grand vizier Halil Pasa: see Sphrantzes“Grecu,
¸
XXIII.9“11, p. 60. Note also that Pero Tafur (Travels and Adventures, pp. 147“8) reports the march
of Murad II to a place in the Black Sea region via the environs of Constantinople at the time of John
VIII™s absence from the city. According to Tafur™s eyewitness account, some skirmishing took place
near the city walls on this occasion, which must be a reference to the intended attack mentioned by
Sphrantzes. I disagree with both Letts (Travels and Adventures, pp. 245“6), who sees Tafur™s story as
a reference to Murad II™s siege of 1422, and A. Vasiliev, “Pero Tafur, a Spanish traveler of the ¬fteenth
century and his visit to Constantinople, Trebizond, and Italy,” B 7 (1932), 116, who believes it to be
a reference to a meeting between Manuel II and Mehmed I that took place near Constantinople in
1421.
23 On this treaty, see above, ch. 2, pp. 35“6 and note 48.
191
Constantinople (1403“1453)
commander John Leontares,24 the Genoese were not successful in their
armed protest and submitted in the end to John VIII™s demands, which
included a tribute payment of a thousand gold coins, partly for the repair
of damages to shops and warehouses along the Mese.25 Tensions between
Pera and Constantinople were nothing new or unusual as the Genoese
colony, situated on the other side of the Golden Horn, across from the
Byzantine capital, had been from the time of its foundation in 1267 a rival
commercial center that absorbed the trade revenues of the latter. Yet what
seems outstanding in 1434 was the Byzantine Emperor™s attempt to hamper
this development that had nearly resulted in the substitution of Pera for
Constantinople as a port of commerce. It is true that former Byzantine
emperors had made efforts to draw merchants away from Pera back to
Constantinople, but the last-known attempts of this sort date back to the
late 1340s.26 Thereafter, particularly subsequent to the 1380s, the politi-
cal and economic weakness of the Byzantine state did not permit such
attempts. In 1434, on the contrary, we see that John VIII not only revived
attempts at control but was also partially successful with them, a success
which must be attributed to the political recovery noted above. Soon after
the termination of hostilities towards the end of 1434, smooth and regular
contacts between Pera and Constantinople appear to have been resumed,
as Genoese merchants and businessmen ¬gure prominently in the accounts
that Giacomo Badoer kept in Constantinople between 1436 and 1440.27
Italian merchants, who had considered the Byzantine capital too inse-
cure a port for their trading activities in the late 1390s,28 poured into the
city in continuously increasing numbers throughout the third decade of the
¬fteenth century. Bertrandon de la Broqui`re, who visited Constantino-
e
ple during 1432“3, wrote that he saw many foreign merchants there “
most notably Venetians, as well as Genoese and Catalans.29 Following the
Council of Florence in 1439, the Byzantine Emperor offered Florentine mer-
chants a quarter in Constantinople and granted them commercial privileges

24 This commander has been identi¬ed as John Laskaris Leontares (d. 1437), governor of Selymbria
and son of Demetrios Laskaris Leontares (d. 1431). See Schreiner, Kleinchroniken, vol. ii, pp. 449,
445; PLP, nos. 14679, 14676.
25 Chalkok.“Dark´ , vol. ii, pp. 59“62. See P. Schreiner, “Venezianer und Genuesen w¨hrend der ersten
o a
H¨lfte des 15. Jahrhunderts in Konstantinopel (1432“1434),” StVen 12 (1970), 364“8.
a
26 Laiou, “Observations on the results of the Fourth Crusade,” 56 and n. 37.
27 ˇ
Seventy (14.7 percent) of Badoer™s clients were Genoese: see, M. M. Sitikov, “Konstantinopolj i
Venetsianskaja torgovlja v pervoij polovine XV v. po dannym knigi sˇetov Dˇakomo Badoera,
c z
Delovye krugi Konstantinopolja,” VV 30 (1969), 53 (Table 1). Cf. Badoer: Indici, pp. 98 (“Peroti”),
127 (“Zenoexi”).
28 See p. 189 and note 17 above. 29 Voyage d™Outremer de B. de la Broqui`re, pp. 150, 164.
e
192 Constantinople
similar to, but less extensive than, those enjoyed by merchants from Venice
and Genoa.30 These grants were undoubtedly accorded to Florentine mer-
chants as a diplomatic gesture in honor of the Union of Florence. Nonethe-
less, the gesture itself is strongly indicative of the interest the Florentines
must have had in participating in the revitalized commerce of the Byzan-
tine capital at this time. The information preserved in the account book of
the Venetian merchant Giacomo Badoer further demonstrates that by the
second half of the 1430s, if not earlier, Constantinople had become once
again the bustling center of international trade it was traditionally reputed
to be. A detailed description of the city™s central marketplace, written by a
Byzantine during the third decade of the ¬fteenth century, may be seen as
a by-product of this economic reawakening which must have given rise to
a heightened interest in the commercial life of Constantinople.31
The list of transactions Badoer recorded in his account book, covering
the period of his residence in Constantinople from 1436 to about 1440,
bears testimony not only to the large number of foreign, primarily Italian,
merchants who had business affairs there, but also to the exchanges that
took place between them and their Byzantine counterparts.32 The Greek
subjects of the Byzantine Empire who appear in the account book “ alto-
gether 130 people, excluding the Greeks who are speci¬cally reported to be
from the Italian colonies “ comprise slightly over 27 percent of Badoer™s 477
business associates.33 Among the recurring Byzantine names, those belong-
ing to members of the leading aristocratic families of Constantinople are
prominent, as, for example, the Palaiologoi, the Kantakouzenoi, the Doukai
and Doukai Rhadenoi, the Notarades, the Sophianoi, the Goudelai, the
Iagareis, the Argyroi, the Laskareis, the Synadenoi, and several others.34

30 D¨ lger, Reg., vol. v, nos. 3487“90; MM, vol. iii, p. 202. In 1439 the customs duty (kommerkion)
o
required from Florentines was lowered from 4 percent to 2 percent of the value of merchandise,
whereas Venetian and Genoese merchants were paying no kommerkion at this time. Byzantine
subjects, on the other hand, paid the kommerkion at its full rate of 10 percent until the mid
fourteenth century, after which it was reduced for them to 2 percent. See Antoniadis-Bibicou,
Recherches sur les douanes, pp. 97“155; Oikonomid`s, Hommes d™affaires, pp. 43“5, 52. On the
e
Florentine quarter and other merchant colonies of the Latins in Constantinople, see R. Janin,
Constantinople byzantine: d´veloppement urbain et r´pertoire topographique, 2nd edn. (Paris, 1964),
e e
pp. 245“55; Balard, “L™organisation des colonies,” pp. 261“76.
31 “Com´die de Katablattas,” ed. Canivet and Oikonomid`s, 55“7. The marketplace, where both large-
e e
and small-scale trade took place, was situated along the Golden Horn.
32 ˇ
Cf. Sitikov, “Konstantinopolj,” 48“62; T. Bertel`, “Il giro d™affari di Giacomo Badoer: precisazioni
e
e deduzioni,” in Akten des XI. internationalen Byzantinistenkongresses, M¨ nchen 1958 (Munich,
u
1960), pp. 48“57; Oikonomid`s, Hommes d™affaires, pp. 20, 53“4, 58, 60, 68, 80“2, 120“3; Laiou-
e
Thomadakis, “Byzantine economy,” 203“4.
33 ˇ
Sitikov, “Konstantinopolj,” Table 1, p. 53.
34 See Appendix III below; cf. Badoer: Indici, pp. 79“80 (“Griexi”).
193
Constantinople (1403“1453)
The earlier contacts of some of these families (namely, the Goudelai, Nota-
rades, and Palaiologoi) with Italian merchants noted in previous chapters
indicate the ¬rm and relatively long-standing nature of their economic ties
with Italy.
The impression one gets from Badoer™s account book can be misleading,
however, if one is to assume that the good relations maintained between the
Italians and the capital™s aristocratic entrepreneurs were characteristic of or
extended to all types of merchants in the city. Thanks to a series of Venetian
documents dating from the ¬rst half of the ¬fteenth century, we know
about certain hostilities and acts of aggression that were in¬‚icted at this
time upon the Venetians in Constantinople by the city™s native inhabitants.
Without going into individual details, since this subject has already been
treated elsewhere, it should be suf¬cient for present purposes to point out
that the majority of the con¬‚icts brought to light by these documents
had economically related causes, and that the Byzantines against whom
charges of violence were leveled appear to have been small merchants and
tradesmen, as well as minor government of¬cials.35 They were, in other
words, people of modest social background who stand in stark contrast
to Badoer™s aristocratic clients. It seems that they resented the dominant
role played by the Venetians in the commercial life of Constantinople
which, as we know, was not restricted to international trading activities,
but extended to enterprises in the city™s retail market as well.36 Hence,
while a group of Byzantine aristocrats were able to reap personal pro¬ts
from their business association with Italians, the small merchants and retail
traders of Constantinople, whose economic interests were threatened by
the absorption of foreigners into the city™s local exchange market, exhibited
strong anti-Italian sentiments.
Viewed from a broader perspective, the situation outlined above, by way
of exposing the bene¬ts accruing to an af¬‚uent minority under circum-
stances that proved detrimental to the well-being of a larger segment of the
population composed of poorer people, points to the existence of a con¬‚ict
between private and public interests. Although a phenomenon commonly
attested in various societies at different times, this con¬‚ict merits empha-
sis here because its existence at this particular juncture in the history of

35 For a full analysis of the contents of these documents, see Necipo˜ lu, “Byzantines and Italians in
g
¬fteenth-century Constantinople,” 132“6.
36 The Byzantine government took certain measures in the course of the fourteenth and ¬fteenth
centuries to protect the retail activities of the city™s native merchants from the encroachment of
Italians; however, such measures were rare and in the long run ineffective: see Necipo˜ lu, “Byzantines
g
and Italians in ¬fteenth-century Constantinople,” 136“7.
194 Constantinople
Constantinople had serious consequences in terms of the city™s fate before
the Ottomans. As a matter of fact, the theme of public versus private inter-
ests lay at the core of Joseph Bryennios™ aforementioned speech concerning
the forti¬cations of Constantinople. Bryennios constantly reminded his
audience that unless they gave priority to the common good and con-
tributed to the restoration of the walls, their insistence on their personal
well-being, as exempli¬ed by the building of lavish mansions on the part
of the rich, would result in the city™s captivity.37 Another example of the
con¬‚ict between private and public interests is provided by the well-known
efforts of some ¬fteenth-century Byzantine merchants to evade the pay-
ment of customs duties (the kommerkion) to the Byzantine state, either
by trying to pass as kommerkion-exempt Venetians, or by entrusting their
merchandise to the latter for the duration of customs controls.38 In a letter
to the Senate of Venice dated May 31, 1418, Emperor Manuel II complained
about how the Byzantine treasury, deprived of its customs revenues as a
result of these practices, was left in a worse state than that to which the wars
with the Ottomans had reduced it.39 Exaggerated though the Emperor™s
statement may be, it reveals nonetheless the process whereby a group of
fraudulent Byzantine merchants steadily multiplied their wealth by what
they held back from the state™s public revenues. The result was the personal
enrichment of a few individuals without any bene¬t to the Constantino-
politan economy at large.
It is, therefore, crucial at this point to modify or rede¬ne more precisely
the meaning of what was designated in broad terms as “economic recovery”
at the outset of this discussion of economic conditions in Constantinople
during the second quarter of the ¬fteenth century.40 In view of the fore-
going observations, economic recovery can be understood to mean neither
economic recovery of the whole population, nor the recovery of the entire
economy. It denotes, on the contrary, a return to opulence and luxury for
some propertied citizens, while large sections of the population continued
to live in hardship and deprivation. In this respect, it is signi¬cant to draw
attention to the fact that the Byzantine aristocrats who did business with
Badoer purchased from him substantially more goods than they sold to
him, revealing the consumption-oriented nature of their commercial activ-
ities which, moreover, created a de¬cit economy owing to the higher total

37 T‡ eËreq”nta, ed. Boulgares, vol. ii, pp. 277“9 (= “ hmhgor©a,” ed. Tomadakes, 6“8).
38 Thiriet, R´gestes, vol. ii, nos. 1544 (July 24, 1414), 1705 (July 21, 1418); Iorga, Notes, vol. i, pp. 281“2;
e
Chrysostomides, “Venetian commercial privileges,” doc. 19, pp. 354“5.
39 Chrysostomides, “Venetian commercial privileges,” 354“5. 40 See p. 190 above.
195

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