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Byzantine territory c. 1350


Map 2 Byzantium and its neighbors, c. 1350
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Byzantine territory c. 1402
c. 1403


Map 3 Byzantium and its neighbors after 1402
part i

Introduction and political setting
chapter 1

The topic and the sources




This book is a study of the political attitudes that emerged among different
segments of Byzantine society in response to the Ottoman expansion. Its
principal aims are, ¬rst, to categorize these attitudes with regard to speci¬c
groupings among the urban and rural populations of the Byzantine Empire
(e.g. the aristocracy, merchants, lower classes, ecclesiastical and monastic
circles) and, secondly, to explore the underlying social and economic fac-
tors, besides the more apparent political and religious ones, that played a
role in the formation of political attitudes. In an atmosphere of extreme
political and military instability marked by a number of civil wars and for-
eign invasions during the fourteenth and ¬fteenth centuries, people from
different segments of Byzantine society in different regions of the empire
sought by various means to secure their best interests in the face of the
rapidly expanding Ottoman Empire. How they reacted to the Ottoman
advance, the kinds of solutions they sought, the preferences they developed
with respect to foreign alliances, and the local factors that played a role in
regional variations are complex issues that merit careful investigation. In
themselves, the options that were available as far as foreign political orienta-
tions are concerned were perhaps limited, consisting of either a cooperation
with the Latin West against the Ottomans, or an accommodation with the
Ottomans, or, in rejection of both, the maintenance of an opposition to
the Ottomans by means of the empire™s own resources and capacities.1
What is, however, more complex and of greater interest for the purposes of
1 During the ¬rst half of the fourteenth century, a cooperation with the Orthodox Balkan states against
the Ottomans was another option that some Byzantines had tried, but it was no longer operative
in the period covered by the present work. See D. A. Zakythinos, “D´m´trius Cydon`s et l™entente
ee e
balkanique au XIVe si`cle,” in Zakythinos, La Gr`ce et les Balkans (Athens, 1947), pp. 44“56; J. W.
e
e
Barker, “The question of ethnic antagonisms among Balkan states of the fourteenth century,” in
Peace and War in Byzantium. Essays in Honor of George T. Dennis, S.J., ed. T. S. Miller and J. Nesbitt
(Washington, DC, 1995), pp. 165“77; E. Malamut, “Les discours de D´m´trius Cydon`s comme
ee e
t´moignage de l™id´ologie byzantine vis-`-vis des peuples de l™Europe orientale dans les ann´es 1360“
e e a e
1372,” in Byzantium and East Central Europe, ed. G. Prinzing and M. Salamon (= Byzantina et Slavica
Cracoviensia, vol. iii) (Cracow, 2001), pp. 203“19.

3
4 Introduction and political setting
this study is the links that can be established between speci¬c individuals
or groups, their political dispositions, and their socioeconomic interests.
Through a multilayered comparison of the views embraced by different
groups within a given urban or rural environment and those embraced by
members of the same group across different regions of the empire, the aim
is to present political attitudes in all their complexity and ambivalence.
From what has been said above, it ought to be clear that this is not a
study of late Byzantine politics as such. It has not been my intention to
investigate the institutions and structures through which political choices
were negotiated and implemented in the late Byzantine world. My main
objective is to explore Byzantine attitudes towards the Ottomans and west-
ern Europeans, focusing on the political and religious views of individuals,
families, and social groups, which previously have not been investigated
adequately. Thus the reader should not be surprised to ¬nd that certain
aspects of the political history of late Byzantium which seemed to have little
relevance for an analysis of political attitudes have been overlooked in this
book. It might have been worthwhile, for instance, to concentrate on the
political process itself, which would have required an in-depth analysis of
the role of the emperor, the imperial family, the aristocracy, the populace,
and the clergy and monks in the politics of the late Byzantine Empire,
as well as a discussion of the structure of the aristocratic family and how
it affected Palaiologan imperial politics. But such themes would take us
well beyond the parameters of the present study and constitute the subject
matter of an entirely different book.
For the sake of convenience the attitudes corresponding to the three
options enumerated above could be labeled as pro-Latin/anti-Ottoman,
pro-Ottoman/anti-Latin, and anti-Latin/anti-Ottoman. But such labels,
when used without quali¬cation, conceal the nuances and variations
involved in the formation of political attitudes. In the present work, the
terms “pro-Ottoman,” “pro-Latin,” “anti-Ottoman,” and “anti-Latin” are
used most of the time to designate people who actively supported or
opposed the Ottomans or the Latins. An effort is made to avoid these
terms as much as possible in cases when the Byzantines showed an incli-
nation to favor one or the other foreign group out of other considerations,
such as in order to put an end to a siege or war, or so as to overcome
hunger, famine, and/or poverty. It is preferable to speak in these cases of
conciliatory attitudes or of attitudes of accommodation, and to try to out-
line the speci¬c circumstances that led people to adopt particular political
positions. Another term whose meaning and use require some explanation
in advance is the word “Latin.” In Byzantine texts the word appears both as
5
The topic and the sources
a collective designation for adherents to the Roman Catholic faith, and as
a term describing people from speci¬c political entities in the West, such as
the Venetians, the Genoese, or the Navarrese. In this study the term is used
in the latter sense primarily “ that is, in reference to western European
powers, and especially, but not exclusively, in reference to Italians, with
whom many Byzantines had close economic and political contacts in the
Palaiologan period. Following Byzantine practice, however, it is sometimes
used in a predominantly religious sense as a synonym for “Catholic” as
well. In either case, the context in which the term “Latin” appears reveals
the sense in which it is being used if its speci¬c meaning has not been
pointed out.
Reduced politically, administratively, and economically, the Byzantine
Empire in the late Palaiologan period had neither suf¬cient strength nor
the means to resist the Ottomans on its own and consequently needed
the assistance of foreign allies. In addition to the military pressure of the
Ottomans, the weak and decentralized empire of the Palaiologoi faced the
economic pressure of the Italian maritime states, which controlled much
of its trade at this time. Furthermore, the appeals of the Byzantine state
to the West for a joint military venture against the Ottomans were by
necessity often addressed to the pope, who alone had suf¬cient in¬‚uence
and authority to unite and mobilize the diverse powers of Christian Europe
towards such an enterprise. Yet on each occasion the Byzantines appealed to
the papacy, they encountered the recurring response that the centuries-old
schism that separated the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches
had to be healed ¬rst, through the return of the latter to the former™s fold.
Such, then, was the dual challenge that Byzantium faced from the Ottoman
and Latin worlds during the late Palaiologan period.
In terms of chronology, this study covers the pivotal period from the
early 1370s, when Byzantium became a tributary vassal of the Ottomans,
to 1460, the year in which Mistra and the so-called Despotate of the Morea
fell to the forces of Mehmed the Conqueror. Geographically, it focuses
on three major areas of the Byzantine Empire: Thessalonike, Constantino-
ple, and the Morea.2 Some general problems are addressed throughout
the book with the purpose of establishing links between political attitudes
and socioeconomic factors. These include, ¬rst, the impact of Byzantine“
Ottoman military con¬‚icts on economic and social life in the two cities
mentioned above, and their in¬‚uence on the political orientation of dif-
ferent segments of the urban population. Secondly, within the context of

2 For the reasons underlying the exclusion of Trebizond from this work, see below, ch. 2, note 55.
6 Introduction and political setting
rural areas encompassing the environs of Thessalonike and the province
of Morea in the Peloponnese, the social and economic consequences of
the loss of major productive Byzantine territories to the Ottomans are
considered, with special emphasis on the political behavior of the landed
aristocracy. The position of the members of ecclesiastical and monastic cir-
cles with regard to the Ottomans and the Latins constitutes another theme
that is embedded in each individual treatment of the geographic regions
named above.
These broad issues provide the framework for the speci¬c questions
which are explored in particular chapters. Chapter 2 is intended to set the
historical background through a discussion of major political developments
of the Palaiologan era, including some of the long-term consequences of the
Fourth Crusade, the expansion of the Ottomans in Byzantine territories and
their methods of conquest, as well as the of¬cial Byzantine policy towards
the Ottomans, the western powers, and the papacy. In Part II, which is
devoted to Thessalonike and its surrounding countryside, chapter 3 begins
by presenting a general outline of the city™s social structure, historical
events, and the political attitudes of its inhabitants from 1382 to 1430.
Chapters 4 and 5 supplement this overview with individual analyses of the
social and economic conditions during three different administrations “
Byzantine, Ottoman, and Venetian “ under which the Thessalonians lived
in the course of this period. With Part III we turn to Constantinople, the
imperial capital. Chapter 6 examines the dissensions and rivalries within

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