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ing to escape from. There is greater certainty, on the other hand, that
freedom from tax payments was an essential concern that stimulated the
landowners of the Morea in their opposition to the Despot. The evidence
for this again comes from the funeral oration where the Emperor praises
74 E. L. Vranoussi, “ ï Enav ˆn”kdotov ˆrgur»boullov ¾rism¼v to“ Dhmhtr©ou Palaiol»gou kaª
t‡ problžmata tou,” Buzantin† 10 (1980), 347“59; E. L. Vranoussi, “Notes sur quelques
´
institutions du P´loponn`se byzantin,” Etudes Balkaniques 14/4 (1978), 81, 86, 87“8. Cf. PLP,
e e
no. 30078.
75 After the fall of Constantinople, however, a change seems to have occurred in the family™s political
position. The Phrankopouloi ¬gured among the archontes of the Morea who submitted to and
received immunities from Mehmed II in 1454: MM, vol. iii, p. 290; see below, ch. 10, p. 283.
76 Loenertz, “Res gestae,” 207, v. 9. 77 Manuel II, Fun. Or., pp. 125“7.
254 The Despotate of the Morea
Theodore I for having restrained the insolence of his ill-willed subjects
(toÆv dusmene±v qrasunom”nouv).78 Among other things, writes Manuel
II, his brother forced them to pay their taxes. This was a remarkable and
unexpected achievement which, as the Emperor puts it, would have caused
these unruly aristocrats to leap from their beds, had they dreamt of it in
their sleep.79 More than half a century later, according to the testimony
of Chalkokondyles, the evasion of taxes by the inhabitants of the Morea
played a critical role in the ¬nal Ottoman conquest of the peninsula. As the
Despots Thomas and Demetrios, incapable of collecting taxes from their
subjects, failed to deliver the annual tribute due to the Ottomans, Sultan
Mehmed II decided to launch a campaign against the Peloponnese which
ended with the subjugation of the Despotate in 1460.80
It appears, thus, that the landowning aristocracy of the Morea wanted to
maintain its possessions without being liable to the government at Mistra
for any responsibilities or obligations. Within this scheme the persistence
of external con¬‚icts furnished members of the aristocracy with a better
chance of success in their resistance to central authority. Hence, when they
sided with the Navarrese or invited Ottoman armies into the Morea, they
did not necessarily act in response to a particular political preference for
these foreign powers, but rather in order to prevent the establishment of
external peace. Manuel II reveals this attitude shared by the landowners
of the Morea in a passage of his funeral oration where he describes how
they changed their stance once the tide started turning against themselves,
probably referring to the events of circa 1388“9. According to this passage,
following several victories which established Theodore I™s authority over
the landed magnates, the Despot sent them a written offer of peace, which
they accepted with unprecedented joy. Manuel II immediately points out,
however, that they did not cherish this peace offer for its own sake. Their
acceptance of it was a direct result of the recent blows they had received
from Theodore, which led them to abandon their former belief that the
absence of peace in the Despotate was of advantage to their prosperity and

78 Ibid., pp. 95“7, 123. For an inscription where the word dusmene±v, rather than simply meaning
“enemies,” is used in a technical sense to designate the people who rebelled against the rule of
Manuel Kantakouzenos, see Millet, “Inscriptions byzantines de Mistra,” 145; Zakythinos, Despotat,
vol. ii, p. 221, n. 2.
79 Manuel II, Fun. Or., p. 123.
80 Chalkok.“Dark´ , vol. ii, pp. 176, 202, 227. Kritoboulos, however, writes that the Despots did receive
o
from their subjects taxes for the tribute but were unable to pay the Ottomans, for they squandered the
money on their personal expenditures: Kritob.“Reinsch, III.1,2, p. 120. For aristocratic opposition
to special taxes demanded for the reconstruction of the Hexamilion in 1415 and its maintenance
later on, see ch. 10 below.
255
The Morea (1382“1407)
well-being.81 Manuel II once again underlines the connection between the
interests of the landed magnates and the persistence of external instability
when he observes that the Peloponnesians who appealed to Bayezid I in
1393“4 were able to threaten the possessions of the Despotate by relying on
the hostility of the Ottomans and the Navarrese of Achaia.82 In the midst
of the confusion created by the persistent attacks of the Navarrese since the
early 1380s and the large-scale raids of the Ottomans as of 1395, these people
expected to detach themselves from central control more freely, while at
the same time being able to maintain their estates and acquire new ones.
Consequently, as has been shown above, one of Theodore I™s ¬rst measures
was to con¬scate their property when he temporarily gained the upper
hand in his con¬‚icts with them following his submission to Murad I.
In addition to Peloponnesian aristocrats who supported the Despotate™s
enemies only in order to disrupt peace, there emerged a new group of peo-
ple during the reign of Bayezid I who seem to have joined the Ottomans,
genuinely believing in the security and prosperity they might ¬nd in the
Sultan™s service. Those who, as Manuel II acknowledges in the funeral ora-
tion, deserted to the “in¬dels” at this time were probably responding to
the military and political situation in the Despotate, which had become
extremely unstable by the year 1395 as a result of joint attacks by the
Ottomans and the Navarrese. In the opinion of the Emperor, these Chris-
tians were seekers of wealth, glory, or high posts among the Ottomans
and, having chosen to live according to “barbarian” custom, they had
“damaged their souls rather than their bodies.”83 Although the reference
to “damaged/de¬led souls” might immediately bring to mind conversion
to Islam, it is clear from the context that Manuel II is not talking here
about Greeks who denied their religion, but about those who submitted
to the Ottomans instead of ¬ghting against them. Indeed, the Emperor
was very concerned about the mounting number of Peloponnesians who
opted for a peaceful coexistence with the Ottomans under the in¬‚uence of
their conciliatory religious policy towards Christians who recognized their
authority. He, therefore, warned his audience that even if the Ottomans
did not require conversion to Islam, it would be impossible for Christians
who accepted their rule to preserve their religion inviolate, “for those who
wish to live with the followers of Muhammad and side with the enemies
of the faith against us are ¬ghting against Christ, the source of our faith,
and openly waging war against Him.”84 In order to further discourage the
81 Manuel II, Fun. Or., p. 95. See also Kydones“Loenertz, no. 251 (1382“3; to Theodore I), p. 156.
82 Manuel II, Fun. Or., p. 129. 83 Ibid., pp. 128“31.
84 Ibid., p. 131; trans. by Chrysostomides (p. 130).
256 The Despotate of the Morea
Moreotes who might be thinking of joining the enemy, the Emperor also
elaborated on the strong distrust which the Ottomans felt towards the
Greeks who went over to their side.85 These details suggest, therefore, that
a pro-Ottoman group still existed among the inhabitants of the Despotate
at the time of the composition of the funeral oration upon Theodore I™s
death in 1407. For these people the security they expected to ¬nd under
the Ottoman administrative system, which appeared stronger and more
stable than that of the Despotate, along with the religious freedom that
the Ottomans guaranteed, seems to have mattered more than the desire
for independence from central authority or relief from tax payments which
induced so many aristocrats to rebellion against Theodore I.
In order to gain a better insight into the unstable and insecure situation
that prevailed in the Despotate during and after the last decade of the
fourteenth century, we must turn now to the end of the Serres meeting
and examine the problems which thence occupied Theodore I. Following
the dissolution of the gathering at Serres, Bayezid I detained Theodore,
who was forced to accompany the Sultan on a campaign through Mace-
donia and Thessaly. In return for the Despot™s release, Bayezid demanded
the fortress of Monemvasia together with its surrounding countryside,
no doubt inspired by the controversy Mamonas had created over this
place. Monemvasia was then ceded to the Ottomans “as vain ransom,”
in the words of Manuel II, because immediately thereafter the Sultan
requested other important cities, including Argos, “as if they were some
inheritances.”86 Since Theodore I had gone to the Ottoman court and
paid allegiance to Murad I circa 1388, it seems clear that the latter™s son
and successor, Bayezid I, regarded the territories ruled by the vassal Despot
as his own heritage. Bayezid™s claims on Argos, in particular, must have
been based on the fact that it was after recognizing the overlordship of
Murad I and presumably aided by Ottoman troops that in December 1388
or January 1389 Theodore had occupied the city, which the Venetians had
recently bought from Marie d™Enghien.87 At any rate, Theodore soon man-
aged to leave Bayezid™s camp with his entire retinue, and he returned to
the Morea in time to prevent the cession of Argos to the Sultan. Although
shortly afterwards Monemvasia and its environs were to be recovered from
Bayezid as well, these events nevertheless demonstrate the extent to which

85 Ibid., p. 131.
86 Ibid., pp. 141“5. Cf. Loenertz, “Pour l™histoire,” 176“7, 181“3; Barker, Manuel II, pp. 118“19.
87 For Theodore™s occupation of Argos, see p. 239 and note 19 above. See also Loenertz, “Pour l™histoire,”
169“70; Zakythinos, Despotat, vol. i, p. 133; Schreiner, Kleinchroniken, vol. i, Chr. 32/27; vol. ii,
p. 337. Cf. A. Luttrell, “The Latins of Argos and Nauplia: 1311“1394,” Papers of the British School at
Rome, n.s. 21 (1966), 34“55.
257
The Morea (1382“1407)
the Ottomans were able to manipulate and pro¬t from the disputes between
the Despot and the archontic families of the Morea.88
Theodore I™s ¬rst measure upon the termination of his good relations
with the Ottomans that lasted from 1387/8 to 1393/4 was to seek the
friendship and support of the Venetians, with whom he had been on bad
terms since his occupation of Argos.89 Following the conclusion of a peace
treaty on May 27, 1394, the Venetian Senate agreed during the month of
July to provide naval help to the Despot for the recapture of Monemvasia
from Bayezid I. However, the price that Theodore had to pay for this
new alliance with Venice was the cession to the Republic of Kiverion and
Thermesion, as well as the much-disputed city and countryside of Argos,
which he had only recently saved from falling into Ottoman hands.90
Another case that illustrates the weak and insecure position of Theodore I
during this period is the sale ¬rst of Corinth and later of the entire Despotate
to the Hospitallers of Rhodes. Theodore had come into the possession of
Corinth sometime between September/October 1395 and January 1396,
when he bought the city from Carlo Tocco after a period of armed con¬‚ict.
However, ¬nding himself unable to rebuild the forti¬cations across the
Corinthian Isthmus and defend the region properly, he decided to sell
the city even though hardly a year had elapsed since his purchase. Upon the
refusal of the Venetians, who were dissuaded from assuming the protection
of the area because of the recent failure of the Crusade of Nikopolis,
Corinth was bought in 1397 by the Knights of St. John in Rhodes.91
According to Emperor Manuel II, who, in conjunction with the Empress-
mother Helena, gave his consent and approval to his brother™s deed, the sale
of Corinth was inevitable in view of the contemporary political situation:

We are not so wretched, spineless or stupid as to prefer those strangers to ourselves.
But it was inevitable that either the city would be conquered by the besiegers, that
is the Turks, or that it must be given to those who were able to save it from

88 Manuel II, Fun. Or., pp. 145“59.
89 For Theodore™s strained relations with Venice over the question of Argos throughout 1389“94, see
in particular MP, nos. 47, 49, 51, 54, 58, 62, 78, 79, 84, 86, 92, 97, 103, 110, 112, 114, 130.
90 Treaty of May 27, 1394 published in MP, no. 141, pp. 269“75; the terms concerning the cession of
Argos and other places on pp. 272ff. For Venetian help in the recapture of Monemvasia (“omnia
loca illius Mamone, domini Malvasie, que in partibus illis erant in manibus Turchorum”), see ibid.,
no. 145 (July 24, 1394), p. 283. A few months before the treaty, the inhabitants of Monemvasia had
offered to cede their town to Venice so as to prevent Bayezid I™s takeover to which Theodore I had
agreed, but this proposal had been rejected by the Venetian Senate: see ibid., no. 135 (March 5,
1394), p. 259.
91 J. Chrysostomides, “Corinth 1394“1397: some new facts,” Buzantin† 7 (1975), 83“110; C. A.
Maltezou, “O¬ ¬storik•v perip”teiev t¦v Kor©nqou st‡ t”lh to“ ID© a«Ûna,” S…mmeikta 3
(1979), 29“51; Loenertz, “Pour l™histoire,” 186“9. For relevant Venetian documents, see MP, index
(Corinth).
258 The Despotate of the Morea
impending peril. Since we were unable to save it ourselves, it appeared to us that
of available possibilities the Hospitallers were best.92
At this time Theodore I™s problems with the insubordination of his subjects
still continued to trouble him. In their report to the Doge of Venice dated
April 1, 1397, the castellani of Coron and Modon observed that the Despot
was despised by all his subjects, and particularly by his “barons.”93 There
were, moreover, strong suspicions concerning the surrender of the Pelo-
ponnese to the Ottomans by inhabitants who “prefer to enslave themselves
rather than be destroyed as a result of the war.”94 Things ¬nally reached
a sharp climax when Theodore I, pressured by a new wave of Ottoman
attacks during 1399“1400 and lacking suf¬cient resources, decided to sell
the entire Despotate to the Hospitallers. On that occasion, the population
of Mistra revealed its resentment towards the domination of the Latin
knights by rising up in open rebellion against them and insisting on their
expulsion from the capital and the rest of the Despotate.95 In his funeral
oration Manuel II argues that from the beginning his brother had not
intended the cession of the Morea to the Hospitallers to be permanent,
skillfully scheming to make the Peloponnesians realize through its threat
the meaning of subjugation to a foreign power and, thus, stir up in their
hearts the zeal they lacked against the Turks.96 Yet this apologetic argu-
ment, further colored by hindsight, cannot be taken seriously. It was owing
to the emergence of Timur and the eventual defeat of Bayezid I in the
battle of Ankara that the Despotate was spared for the time being from
falling into the hands of either the Ottomans or the Latins. By the summer
of 1404 Theodore I had redeemed his territories from the Hospitallers,97
but social problems continued to plague the internal affairs of the Morea
until his death in 1407 and well beyond it.
92 Manuel II, Fun. Or., p. 167; trans. by Chrysostomides (p. 166). See also ibid., pp. 193, 195“7,
199“201.
93 MP, no. 193, p. 387; cf. Maltezou, “O¬ ¬storik•v perip”teiev,” 47“8.
94 Manuel II, Fun. Or., p. 173, lines 9“28; trans. by Chrysostomides (p. 172). See also ibid., p. 191.
95 MP, no. 213 (Feb. 21, 1400), pp. 415“16; Manuel II, Fun. Or., pp. 175“211; Chalkok.“Dark´ , vol. i,
o
pp. 91“2. According to Chalkokondyles, the inhabitants of Mistra were stirred up by their archbishop
in their opposition to the Hospitallers. Cf. Loenertz, “Pour l™histoire,” 189“96. It should be noted
that shortly before and during the negotiations for the Despotate™s sale to the Hospitallers, Theodore
also considered for a while abandoning the Morea and taking refuge in Venice, together with his
family and retinue, because of the severity of the Ottoman danger: see MP, nos. 211 (Dec. 30, 1399)
and 214 (Feb. 27, 1400), pp. 411, 417“18.
96 Manuel II, Fun. Or., p. 203.
97 On the retrocession of the Despotate, see ibid., pp. 23, 208 (n. 130), 210“11 (n. 131); MP, nos. 223,
224, 257, 259, 269“79, 289; Schreiner, Kleinchroniken, vol. i, 32/23; vol. ii, pp. 384“5.
chapter 10

The ¬nal years of the Byzantine Morea
(1407“1460)



When Theodore I died, he was succeeded by his nephew, Theodore II
Palaiologos (r. 1407“43), the minor son of the Emperor Manuel II. This
was undoubtedly welcomed as an opportune moment by the landown-
ing aristocrats of the Byzantine Morea, who had endured obstacles, lim-
ited and only partially successful to be sure, but nevertheless threatening
enough, to their quest for freedom and autonomy under the government of
Theodore I. In a letter written probably from the Morea in the summer“fall
of 1408, Manuel II highlights the unstable situation in the province, draw-
ing attention to the traditional social disorders that were all too pervasive
in the course of the young Despot™s ¬rst year in power:

It seems that of old the land of Pelops was destined to look on its inhabitants™
¬ghting with one another as preferable to peace. And nobody is so simple that in
the absence of an occasion provided by his neighbor he cannot fabricate or invent
one by himself. Everyone wishes to indulge his nature by making use of arms. If
only those people had made use of them where they should, things would have
been much better for them.1

It may be inferred from this passage that the power-vacuum that ensued
upon Theodore I™s death provided an occasion for the aristocratic fam-
ilies of the Morea to apply their energies against each other with even
greater vigor than before. Manuel II was fully aware of the dangerous con-
sequences of this ¬ghting between the inhabitants of the region, whom
he would rather have seen using their weapons against the real enemy, the
Ottomans.
For the protection of the Despotate against Ottoman attacks, in 1415
Manuel II undertook the restoration of the wall across the Isthmus of
Corinth, known as the Hexamilion, traveling to the Peloponnese in order
to oversee the project himself. This was the Emperor™s second visit to the
1 Dennis, Letters of Manuel II, no. 51, pp. 146“7.

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