Tuesday, December 30, 2008
VERSES BY THE MOST WISE METROPOLITAN OF ATHENS MICHAEL CHONIATES
On its, that is the city of Athens, archetypal narration.
Eros wrote of legendary Athens of old
singing of the shadows and relieving himself
of his burning desire. “Alas! I was not still there
as to look upon this, that famous city, which
Time innumerable and long lasting concealed
beneath the depths of oblivion, while I feel
fully the ailment of lovers, who in want of
the real appearances of their desired look on
pictures of them aiming to sooth the flame of their loves.
How misfortunate am I, a new Ixion, who
is in love with Athens as he was with Hera,
mistakenly coupling with a false image. Fi!
What it is that I do feel, do say, and do write.
Living at Athens, I see Athens not Athens,
I see only here sorry ash and empty bliss.
Where now are your revered features, wretched city?
All of it is gone and confined to but stories,
the suits, the judges, the benches, the votes, the laws,
the full compelling addresses of its speakers,
the counsels, the celebrations and victories
of the infantry together with the navy,
the various Muse, the might of words
The entire glory of Athens has been lost;
one would see not even a trace at all slight of them.
Let me be forgiven if unable to see
the famous city of the Athenians,
I set down this written image of it."
This poem is a good example of the medieval theme of cities now past in their glory such as other medieval examples of Rome. I find it rather bizarre Choniates chose Eros to pine after Athens. Anyone have an idea why?
Sunday, December 7, 2008
All too frequently we always hear the Byzantine side of the story of the Latin Empire of Constantinople. Here we have translated from Old French an extract of a history by Baldwin of Avesnes on the Latin emperors as found in La Conquête de Constantinople pgs. 423-7 (which you can find online by clicking here).
Now that we have spoken to you a little about the emperor Frederick and the land beyond the sea [Outremer], we shall tell you about the empire of Greece.
You have heard above how the emperor Henry went to the kingdom of Salonika and of the war that he waged against the Lombards who wanted to hold the land in opposition to him. When he had vanquished them, he made peace with Johennis the king of Vlachia [Kalojan, the king of Bulgaria 1197-1207] and Toldre l'Acres [Theodore Lascaris, emperor of Nicaea 1204/5-1221/2]. He took as his wife the daughter of Kalojan and gave him in marriage his niece, while he gave another one to Theodore Lascaris, and a third one to King Andrew of Hungary [Andrew II 1205-1235]. These three ladies were the daughters of Count Pieron d'Auchoirre [Peter of Courtenay] and the Countess Yolent [Yolanda], the emperor's sister. By means of these marriages, he obtained peace and aid, though he did not live much long afterwards and died without any direct heirs, which was a real shame since he had been very vigorous and great-minded. The barons in Constantinople immediately then sent messengers to Peter of Courtenay, whose wife was the sister of the emperor. They were the German cousins of King Phillip of France. He had two sons by his wife. The eldest was named Phillip to whom he had given the county of Namur which had come to him by way of his wife when Phillip of Namur [Phillip I the Noble 1195-1212] died without any direct heirs. The other was named Robert. He had more daughters than the three we have told you about who were married off. When the messengers came to Count Peter and he heard of the death of the emperor Henry and how the barons were asking him to become emperor, he set his affairs in order and set out with his wife. Along with them went the Count of Sansuerre and a large company of knights and sergeants. When they came to Rome, the Pope crowned them. From there, they went to Brandis [Brindisi] and took to the sea. The Emperor Peter then came to Duras [Durres], which was one of the chief cities in Greece across from Sezille [Sicily], while the empress his wife went ahead to Constantinople because she was pregnant. She had not been there long before she gave birth to a son named Baldwin.
The Emperor Peter, meanwhile, who had gone to Durres, was received there with great honor by its lord, who was named Toldres li Communies [Theodore Comnenus Angelos, despot of Epirus 1215-1224, emperor of Thessalonica 1224-1230]. Yet, he had hardly been there long before he was seized hold by him along with the count of Sansuerre and held there in prison until they died. The Empress Yolanda did not live much long after either before she died at Constantinople. And so the barons of the land sent an entreaty to Count Phillip of Namur asking him to come become emperor as it had so fallen to him. When Lascaris learned that the emperor Peter had died as well as the empress Yolanda, his wife, he tried to conquer the empire and commenced hostilities. And so, the barons in Constantinople sent a large party of their people against him. The commanders of them were Sir Gerard la Truie and Gryu who reconquered a large part of the land that the emperor Henry had gained before them. Meanwhile, the messengers that came to Count Phillip of Namur told him that the barons were asking him to be emperor. He had no desire to go, so he sent Robert, his brother. He traveled by way of Hungary where he was received with great honor by his sister and was the queen of that land, and by King Andrew. He passed the winter there in Hungary because the way forward was uncertain. He had with him a sergeant who was born in Lille in Flanders. No one would say he was the uncle of Robert who was going to become emperor. Yet, he had a beautiful lady as his daughter, so Robert of Courtenay dressed her up richly and said that she was his cousin opening discussions of marriage between her and the king of Serbia [Stefan II 1217-1228]. The king, who desired the lady he saw, agreed to the marriage and their marriage was celebrated with great ceremony. Through this marriage and the aid of the Vlachs, Robert of Courtenay arrived safely in Constantinople, where he was received with much joy. However, he did not bring the father of the lady with him so that the affair should not be known, but gave him money and sent him back to Flanders. When Gerard la Truie and his men learned that Robert had reached Constantinople, they went to him and crowned him at Saint Sophia. After this, they undertook to bring about peace between the emperor Robert and Lascaris, who was married to his sister. The lady herself made a great deal over it bringing an end to hostilities and finally Lascaris agreed to give the emperor his daughter [Eudocia] who he had by his first marriage as a wife and lots of land to go with her.
This was agreed to by both parties and all of the prisoners was released. However, to be brief, when Lascaris died, Robert no longer wanted to go through with the marriage. The barons of the land felt great contempt for the marriage too, so they recommenced hostilities. The Cumans were fighting on the opposing side and laid siege to a castle on a mountain. The emperor Robert sent his best men there to defend it, but they were defeated and were for the most part killed off. This proved a great loss for the emperor because little remained of the folk with which he might do great things. At length, talks were reopened and a marriage between him and the daughter of Lascaris. A great number of prisoners were released too who were in le Gryu’s custody. For a time, the emperor Robert kept the peace. Yet there was a woman in Constantinople who was the daughter of knight from Artois named Baldwin of Nueville. The emperor Robert was in love with her so much that he abandoned the marriage between Lascaris' daughter and himself. Instead, he married this lady shamelessly and had her join him in the his palace along with lady's mother too.
When the French people in Constantinople found out about it, they were distressed and distraught because the emperor was not doing what he was his duty. On this account, they made a joint resolution and went to the emperor's chamber. They took the lady's mother and sent her on board a boat to be drowned, while they cut off the girl's nose and her lips and went away. When they emperor saw what his people had done, he could not stand to remain there and so he boarded a galley and went to Rome where he complained to the Pope about the disgraceful acts that his people had done to him. The Pope comforted him and soothed him, and then asked him to go back to Constantinople. As he was going back, he stopped in the land of Joifroi de Vile Harduin [Geoffrey of Villehardouin], who received him with much honor, but there he took ill and died from it. When those in Constantinople found this out, they held a counsel over what should be done. Several of them were for leaving the city, but another part of them said that it would shameful to leave such a noble city just like that.
At length, in general agreement, they sent messengers to the Pope informing him about the condition of the realm and asking him to advise them what should be done. In addition, they asked him to speak to King John of Acre and get him to defend the empire because they could not bear in the least to ask for aid from others. The Pope, who took pity on the realm, sent a message to King John asking him to fulfill this need. King John responded that he would do so in no manner because there was still one son left of the emperor Peter, who was outside of the realm, and that he had no desire to put himself in such grave danger to make safe another realm. The Pope told him if he would go there, he would provide with people and aid. At length, he said that he would go if it was agreed that the heir to the throne marry one of his daughters and swear an oath that as long as the king was alive, he would not demand power for himself in the empire, that the peers of the realm pay him homage, and that all the land that he would conquer that had belonged to the child's ancestors, would continue to belong to the child. If he conquered any other land, it would belong to his descendants who would hold it as a fief from the emperor. The Pope agreed to this and informed the messengers from Constantinople of it who returned to Constantinople and reported to the knights all that they had heard. They held a counsel and because they saw that the child was still young and held little land outside Constantinople, it seemed that they had little to guarantee, so they gave their approval to the agreement.
And so, they responded to the Pope that they accepted the agreement as it had been set forth. When King John came to the Pope, he gave him a lot of aid and swore to him that he would help aid with men. Then the king went to Venice and took to the sea for Constantinople. The knights went to meet him and received with great honor. In short, not long after, Baldwin would become emperor, was married to the daughter of King John and swore an oath to keep the agreement that had been reached and all of the people paid him homage. Now that we have spoken a little of the empire of Greece, we shall speak of King Louis of France.
Friday, December 5, 2008
For anyone who has been to Trebizond on the Black Sea and visited the countryside, one of the must-stop's is the Monastery of Soumela located roughly thirty miles from the city of Trebizond. Perched high up on a mountain, the land about the monastery is ideal and intriguing which is why we have translated below the chrysobull of the emperor Alexios III the Grand Komnenos (1349-1390) for the monastery, a work of interest not only for the monastery, but also the empire of Trebizond itself in an admittedly dark age for which our only light on the history of the empire is documents such as these and the chronicle of Michael Panaretos, an official of Alexios III, who preserves for us the following information that helps to explain why and how Alexios III realized the monastery needed this chrysobull:
56. In that same month and year (1357) on Monday the thirteenth, Chatzymyris [haçi emir], Baryam's son entered into Matzouka with a great army due to our neglect in guarding it and seized both livestock and property from Palaiomatzkouka until Dikaisimon.
62. On Wednesday May 5, indiction 14, 6869 (1361), at five there was a solar eclipse in which the stars in the sky appeared, something that had not happened in our generation. It lasted an hour and a half. The emperor lord Alexios, his mother the lady Irene, and some of the archontes, I was among them, at that time were at the Soumela monastery in Matzouka making many supplications and prayers.
The monastery was in the late 1350's and early 1360's threatened by the inroads of the Turkomans as we have seen, but also internally as we shall see:
Translated from Muller. Acta et Diplomata graeca medii aevi V pgs. 276-280.
-|- In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Amen.
-|-Alexios in Christ our God faithful emperor and imperator of All the East, Iberians, and Perateia, the Grand Komnenos
-|-For all is set here our pious seal.
-|-What it would be if those defending themselves against the assaults of their enemies could an unassailable wall, if they could dig a trench to repel their opponents from there, if some could clad themselves with weapons of war for their protection, if they could assault suffering with all-curing medicines, and if someone could gain the aid of earthly spirits, but it is not so with our Imperial Majesty. It has none of this. Rather it reckons all of this a waste of time as they are only perishable and temporal and instead of a mighty defense, weapons of war, medicines, and all other mortal aid calls upon the much lauded Mother of God who bore the Word unspeakably beyond words, elevated our earthly flesh, and made God a placable judge for us as she acts as a impregnable fortress, a unbesiegable trench and city, a weapon to strike the enemy, a cure for illnesses, and deliverance from all kinds of sufferings, calamities, perils, and hard times. The most wonderful thing of all is that in the mortal life she offers resurrection, aid, the succession of the pious to the more lasting and to come, and intercession, whose gifts and ample rewards my Imperial Majesty has been enriched by not ceasing to praise and thank her glory and delivering name. Were we to try to give in equal measure what she has measured out to us in campaign by land and sea, good turns, critical moments, and other changes in fate since we sailed from the Queen of Cities and received this imperial office of our father before us, what could one say, what could one give in return, and try to write in history to contain of this that has been unfolded to us. Therefore, my Imperial Majesty unable to see beyond the unrepresentable sea of her miracles or to such a heavenly, field in the stars, has decided to honor with silence rather than enumerate her great powers. Yet it desires to give a little something back for all that she has given to us and enriched us with, knowing that it is not by the value of what is give that God esteems it but by the disposition and desires of the person giving it. Such is my Imperial Majesty’s heart felt desire for the much-lauded Mother of God, revered in both this world and world beyond, exalted especially on Mount Mela, where having climbed it fervently many times to pay homage to and kiss her soul-saving icon and walked about the monastery’s grounds desiring ardently for that place to be conducive for the spirit and worthy of sight, it decided to a small, fitting gift in return on its own free will affirming what had already been donated to it and in addition driving off and repulsing those coming and abusing the paroikoi (1) in its possession concerning which its most honored abbot there vested with authority today, the hieromonk kyr Galakton, along with the hieromonks and monks with him has many times made the request. Hence, because of its high, imperial status with the Virgin, as well as the persistent askance of such religious and pious men, my Imperial Majesty presents this present chrysobull to it like a stout fortification and a unassailable wall by whose strength and enaction this monastery shall stay free and remain unenslaved, its own master not subordinated to any imperial service or be anyone’s slave, but shall be protected and provided for by my Imperial Majesty in all of its design for continuity; furthermore, so that its authority and holdings should be free from obstruction and transfer for all of the ancestral property donated to it and paroikoi by those illustrious and blessed emperors, the parents and ancestors of my Imperial Majesty, the Grand Komnenoi, in the bandon of Gemora and in the staseis of Kosmas of Alexantoi and elsewhere as well as the ancestral property bought and given to it for pious reason by my illustrious father, kyr Basil the Grand Komnenos. In the stasis of Mochantloi, there is Tzachianesia, Pitzelesia, and Kondesia as well as that in Pyrgothesia in Diokaine, Aletzesia and Bouexikesia both bestowed by my father the emperor. Further, there is the stasis of Mochlatoi the ancestral land of Sokanos along with that of his nephew the priest George, which my Imperial Majesty has dedicated to it as a gift. In the chorion of Chara there is the ancestral property which the monastery possessed before and held by imperial decrees of my illustrious great-grandfather the emperor kyr John the Grand Komnenos and of my illustrious great-grandmother the empress kyria Eudokia Palaiologina the porphyrogennete, as well as the imperial customs there. In the chorion of Kintzikera, there is the bought ancestral property of the grand dux John the eunuch, which my Imperial Majesty conferred on the monastery for the sake of its spiritual salvation. In the bandon of Gemora, there is Chaldogeorgios Binges, Basil Karouches, his brother, and his cousin who were bestowed [by my Imperial Majesty] and from the kapalion (2) of Doubera two hundred aspers as well as another three hundred aspers from the same kapalion for the garrisoning of the walls. My Imperial Majesty also commands by way of its present chrysobull that the ancestral property that came to the monastery as well as water-driven mills, immovable places, abodes, houses, and other such establishments by other imperial chrysobulls and decrees, along with the gifts of Christ-loving men, what is willed to it, and what its has bought and acquired, and indeed what are recorded in its records as are in the banda, choria, and staseis that even though they were not explicitly stated in my Imperial Majesty’s present chrysobull should still be in the monastery’s holding as its own ancestral property completely unhindered and unimpeded upon according to the contents of the papers, diplomas, and sealed documents in its possession. In addition, the chorion of Doubera along with the paroikoi and ancestral land holders here as well as those found in the chorion of Kouspidion as were placed in the paroikia and holding of the monastery of Sumela by the ever-to-be-remembered emperor, my grandfather kyr Alexios the Grand Komnenos, were to be not open to requisitions and free by the homage chrysobull of his Majesty. From then until now as time has passed, those charged with the collection of taxes for the land of the Matzoukans and other public requisitions have set no store in the contents of the chrysobull and come as though wild beasts some ruining them and abusing them with judging, untimely angaria (3), and arbitrary disputations, while others divided them from their paroikia giving them to officials, powerful men, and other such men, something my Imperial Majesty does not believe good or praiseworthy. On this account wanting to restore those who were seized to it again and additionally give it deliverance and freedom from the constant abuse and disturbances, which they were exhausted with before and restore those seized, those previously dedicated, and those indeed whom my Imperial Majesty bestowed, its Serene Majesty now orders and commands explicitly that the chorion of Doubera, Kouspidionm Korous, and Saint Constantine along with the paroikoi about to be recorded, both of allelengyon and rights of pronoia, were previously in the holding, authority, and lordship of the monastery of Soumela are to free from extortion and disturbance so that the seized shall return to it without needing to be reclaimed and so that nor shall anyone venture again to seize anyone on any pretext whatsoever and nor will the agents, dux’s, primmiceri, and remaining tax gatherers and katepans of my lands in future times performing its policies dare impede upon its rights or on the paroikoi of the monastery by means of judging, demand, action, or disputation, but they must be judged, demanded, removed on the part of the monastery by the law of my Imperial Majesty. These are the paroikoi:
- John Tzouses
- the Zeulantai
- the priest Paul
- the priest Mapas
- Theodorinos Chazoures
- Constantine Chazoures
- John Maistor
- the priest Auphouxenes Zeulinas
- George Chalamanos
- the priest Constantine Kondos
- Domnos along with Symenos
- Sabbas Makros
- John Psomas
- Constantine Maskouthes
- Constantine Theopemptos from Koutala
- likewise in Kommera of the house in Koutalon of the priest Chatzes, Chrysanthos
These men shall be exempt from all forcoming imperial levies there and demands now and to be enacted later whether big or small as well as from the decisions of the dux’s and agents including from the abuses and monetary demands of its tax gatherers and katepans and all such extortion in accordance with the statute on exemptions except that they are to pay to the vestiary of my Imperial Majesty two times a year installments for as much as would be taken in payment by its officials and overseers and no more. Should some of the said paroikoi living at a distance come unbeknownst to the imperial register and settle on the site of the monastery, they will be exempted in the same manner are to be recorded within the designated kapalion. Furthermore, my Imperial Majesty that should any of the enumerated paroikoi of the monastery recorded in imperial records or any living upon their own ancestral property die without descendants, in this case their ancestral property shall revert to the monastery without any excuses whatsoever. As the walls of holy mountain and Mela Cave need a considerable garrisoning due to the hostility of the Hagarenes for us, my Imperial Majesty orders that the abbot at the time and his practicing monks shall select from the said serfs those whom they have who are stronger and experienced as to make for the best and most cautious garrisoning and protection of the walls. Such are my Imperial Majesty’s orders which are to be kept soundly and untouched by its children, descendants, and successors and by its officials, governors, and agents as well. Whosoever wills interfere so much as an inch or set aside a part or whole of what is herein recorded, whosoever he may be, shall have the Mother of God against him on Judgment Day and shall receive the curse and indignation of the Holy Fathers, illustrious emperors as well as being reckoned unfaithful to my Imperial Majesty and shall take heed to the enaction of my Imperial Majesty’s chrysobull, to which its pious and God-appointed Majesty has appended our signature below as is customarily usual in December of the 3rd indiction in the year 6973 (1364) -|-.
-|- Alexios in Christ our God faithful emperor and imperator of All the East, Iberians, and Perateia, the Grand Komnenos -|-.
- The status of paroikoi in Trebizond are a bit of a mystery. Paroikoi were tenant farmers on imperial land whose revenue from the time of Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118) were increasingly given to the monasteries to sustain them. Some have likened them to serfs, but that is still open to debate. In one publication, paroikoi are explained as, "Those from divers places who are affixed by the emperors to the monastery."
- A kapalion as we shall see later on in the chrysobull is a tax district or zone in which people were registered derived from the word kapelos which means a peddler, or a person who goes door to door.
- The word angaria according to the Etymologicum magnum published by T. Gainford in 1848 on Oxford University Press is of Persian origin meaning to provide something of use to the emperor.
The Emperors of Trebizond and Jerusalem? It may seem strange, but there is preserved a testament by one Gerasimos for the monastery of Saint Euthymios in three codices, which has been published by Athanasios Papadopoulos-Kerameus in Ανάλεκτα Ιεροσολυμιτικής Σταχυλογίας II. pp. 255-7 with his explanation for the correction of the document's date from 6653 (1144) to 6853 (1344) in I p. 245 n. 1., which references the late empress Anna of Trebizond as its owner. This document has also been translated into English through Dumbarton Oaks to which I refer my English readers here pp. 3-5.
According to Bryer in The Byzantine Monuments of the Pontos p. 127 n. 24, the will raises too many problems to be genuine. (1) its shifty date. (2) the refounder is of the monastery Anna Anachoulou Empress of Trebizond (1341-2 A.D.) is referred to as porphyrogennete, a epithet never used by the Grand Komnenoi of Trebizond. (3) Anna's deeds are unlikely to have been approved of by an agent, the apokrisarios John Doukas Trichas, of her uncle the Emperor Michael (1344-1349), who she kicked off the throne after a day long reign (for this event see the Chronicle of Michael Panaretos ed. Lampsides p. 65 and also my translation sections 25-6). (4) The bishops such as the Patriarch of Jerusalem Arsenios, Elias bishop of Bethlehem, and Germanos bishop of Basan are otherwise unknown and the bishop of Bethlehem appears half a century before it was known to have existed. (5)No monastery of St, Euthymios has been attested to in Jerusalem except for the famous monastery at Khan el Ahmar, 13 km west of Jerusalem last mentioned in 1177.
Bryer's argument naturally has some holes in it. George Dennis in the Dumbarton Oaks translation in Institutional History points out some of these flaws (he does, however, mix up the volumes putting AIS I as where the document is and AIS II as where the note of Papadopoulos-Kerameus is). First of all, Dennis argues that the monastery is in no way connected with the famous monastery of Saint Euthymios destroyed in 1177. Second, that John Trichas, an agent of Michael Komnenos would witness it should not seem strange because he is witnessing, not approving "Anna's deeds." Furthermore, he states the list of witnesses unknown is troubling, but that our knowledge of the bishops at this time is very incomplete, so the bishops listed could very well be real.
Both writers by my own observations have committed some serious errors and made some assumptions that should not have been made. To start with, it must be noted that this monastery is referred to in the document as a monydrion, a small monastic foundation. Such a foundation was surely made of wood meaning that it would only last a generation or two and that such a small foundation would escape notice of most people. Gerasimos himself attests to its small size when he tells us he came to Jerusalem with two friends, Pambo and Sophronios of Trebizond, with whom he lived until they died. The monastery surely only housed these men along with his four spiritual sons Blasios, Cyril, Gennadios, and Theodoulos after the deaths of the previous two.
A point in favor of its genuineness is that Sophronios left behind, as Gerasimos records, two hundred aspers, the coinage of the Empire of Trebizond, which effectively knocks out the date of 1144, with which Gerasimos managed to rebuild the foundation to its present state at the time of the will.
However, the biggest error of Bryer's, which Denis follows, is assuming that the testament was witnessed by John Doukas Trichias, an agent of the emperor of Trebizond. Trichias and George Kourtikas both sign, "The servant of our mighty and holy lord and emperor...", then their name. This sort of signature is typical of the emperors of Byzantium's agents and, not, those of the emperors of Trebizond. In the Vazelon Acts and other documents, imperial agents sign "The servant of our holy lord and emperor, the Grand Komnenos,..." as it can be noted throughout the Vazelon documents reproduced by Papadopoulos-Kerameus in Μαυρογορδάτειος Βιβλιοθήκη II pp. 75-85 online here. It was therefore probably the agents of the emperor of Byzantium who were witnesses and not those of the empire of Trebizond.
As to the bishops presented by the document, Bryer is probably right, but it is interesting that Papadopoulos-Kerameus in AIS I p. 245 n. 1 notes another book where a metropolitan Elias is mentioned in funerary inscription of 1345 in Arabic in Του προσκυνηταρίου της αγίας γης τεύχος β' by Benjamin Joannides, which we managed to track down through Anemi and find the original inscription in Arabic here. We refrain, however, from casting a judgment because we have no Arabic.
It seems very likely to us that this document is genuine. The epithet of the empress Anna of porphyrogennete can be explained by the fact that Gerasimos was not from Trebizond, hence the designation of Sophronios as coming from Trebizond. He may simply have used what he knew of Byzantine usage and the agents of the emperor of Byzantium not known the lack of the title at the Trapezuntine court or not paid that much attention. The document is one of a simple man who made mistakes trying to ensure that his wishes were carried out upon his death. He was not amongst scholars, who as we have seen can themselves too make mistakes.