History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


II. The last foci of Greek resistance (1383-1387) and the establishment of Turkish domination (1391)


1. The siege of Thessalonica (1383-1387)



As already mentioned, during the hostilities in Macedonia between 1383 and 1387, Manuel II offered an obstinate resistance to the Turks while he was shut up in Thessalonica; on the other hand, his father, John V, who was now their vassal, maintained peaceful relations with them. Manuel's teacher, Demetrius Cydones, waxes enthusiastic over the prince's courageous stand. He congratulates Manuel in letters full of fine ideas on liberty and opposition to the enemy. "Liberty", he writes, "is such a grand thing—as also a refusal to kow-tow to one's inferiors—that people are moved to think out every means of obtaining Liberty when they do not possess it, or safeguarding it when they have it" [1]. In addition, his correspondence tells us of the oppressive atmosphere obtaining within Constantinople itself. The Turkish shadow had fallen upon the city and freedom could not really said to exist for its inhabit-ants any longer [2].


With Manuel as her protagonist, Thessalonica became a centre of vigorous resistance and the focus of efforts to promote an alliaıxce against the Turks. The account of Manuel's futile attempts to make some fruitful contact with various notable figures of the day—with his brother,



1. Loenertz, Cydonès. Correspondance, 2, p. 220. See also pp. 226-227.


2. See also Loenertz, ibid., 2, p. 227: «...τὸ μὲν γὰρ δεσπόζειν τῶν πολεμίων, τὸ δὲ δουλεύειν ἡμῶν· πλειόνων δὲ τυγχάνουσι παρ᾽ ἡμῶν ἢ ἐπιτάττουσιν, ἐπιτάττουσι δὲ τὰ βλαβερώτατα μὲν ἡμῖν, ἑαυτοῖς δὲ ὠϕέλιμα. οὕτω δὲ ἡμῖν ἤδη τὸ ὑπακούειν ἐν ἔθει, ὥσθ᾽ ἡ μὲν ἐλευθερία γέλως...». As regards the disarray in the capital and Cydones' comments, see also the bottom of the same page.





Theodore; with the ruler of Corinth, Nerio Acciajuoli; with the Greco-Serb despot of Yánnina, Thomas Preljubović — constitute one more dark page in the history of this period. In his search for allies and reinforcements Manuel left no stone unturned [1]. His entreaties for help addressed to Venice met with various excuses [2], until finally in April 1385 arms were dispatched to him with just two officers! [3] He also made an appeal to Pope Urban VI, and in 1386 succeeded in securing the presence of a papal representative within besieged Thessalonica. Manuel seems at this point to have inclined towards a union of the churches in order to obtain, in return, the help he was waiting for, but which never arrived [4]. His attitude towards Rome produced great irritation amongst the Hesychasts, who did not hesitate to upbraid him [5]. Their archbishop, Isidore Glavas, from distant Constantinople, actively essayed to sow the seeds of unrest and defeatism, although he took good care not to find himself in their company during these hours of crisis. Basing himself on religious texts (e.g. "Whoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God", Romans, XIII, 1 et seqq.), he preached submission and criticised any who resisted the invaders. This same devastating doctrine was openly preached during the siege by other notable Thessalonians—apparently belonging to clerical circles—who maintained that an attempt to liberate their country from Turkish hands was tantamount to making war against God [6].


The morale of the inhabitants, who had hitherto held their heads high and fought with great courage, began little by little to sag. They were worn out by the long duration of hostilities, by hardships and by hunger. They could see no end to their sufferings, and began to lose hope. Despondency brought with it defeatism and inertia. Such a negative attitude on the part of the inhabitants seemed unbearable and even outrageous to one of their younger fellow-citizens, Radinos, himself a



1. Loenertz, Cydonès. Correspondance, 2, p. 220.


2. See in connection with this Dennis, Manuel II, pp. 123-126, 163-164.


3. See F. Thiriet, La Romanie vénitienne au Moyen Age, Paris 1959, p. 357.


4. See for details Dennis, ibid., pp. 136-150. For a different view see G. E. Ferrari, Episodi e fonti di interesse veneziano dal quinquennio di Manuele II Paleologo (1382-1387), «Bolletino dell'Istituto di Storia della Società e dello Stato» 4 (1962) 371-384.


5. Loenertz, ibid., 2, p. 258.


6. Loenertz, ibid., 2, p. 254. See also p. 249, where similar ideas are current within Constantinople also.





beloved pupil of Cydones. The young man was consumed by his ideals and his longing for better things [1].


Manuel too was alarmed by this inertia, but yielded not an inch in his exhortations to resist to the end. He exclaims: "... before we close our ranks against the enemy, let us first close them against despondency; and let us try to bear what is unavoidable, in the knowledge that grief will not remove a single one of our present evils, whilst on the contrary it will prevent us from exploiting one single advantage, if indeed we have any" [2]. Immersed, as he had been, in the baptismal waters of Hellenic learning, he tried to put heart into the inhabitants by quoting examples from their national history. To be sure, no individual of the Paleologi family worked so hard as Manuel to uphold the ancient spirit and to re-awaken the historic and national consciousness of the Greeks. Speaking in this vein, he reminded the besieged that they were Romans, but that their fatherland was that of Philip and Alexander, and that they were in consequence Hellenes. "To the heirs of these two nations", he said, "there has been granted, as it were, an everlasting heritage to be overwhelmingly victorious against all enemies they might be fated to meet; nor would their enemies be able to withstand them any more than dust can withstand the puissance of a violent wind or wax that of a flame of fire" [3].


It must be appreciated that for the inhabitants of Thessalonica — as it was for all Greeks and for the Macedonians in particular — Philip and Alexander were not just unknown historical personages. Besides history itself, their fame was perpetuated by the well-known legend of Alexander. Moreover, there were many ruins of Macedonian cities and various monuments to keep alive that history. We might mention, for instance, the square Roman sepulchral pillar of G. Vibius Quartus (see fig. 15) outside Philippi (this monument was later taken to be the remains of Alexander the Great's stables). Such monuments helped to preserve the ancient traditions and acted as a stimulus for the creation of new ones [4].



1. G. Cammeli, Demetrius Cydonès. Correspondance, vol. 1, Paris 1930, p. 90: "τῆς περὶ τὰ βελτίω σπουδῆς μεμνημένος". As regards the attitude of the Thessalonians, see Dennis, Manuel II, pp. 85-88.


2. Loenertz, Cydonès. Correspondance, 2, p. 217.


3. A. Vacalopoulos, Ἡ ἱστορικὴ συνείδηση καὶ τὸ ἀγωνιστικὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ νέου Ἑλληνισμοῦ, Thessalonica 1957, where the relevant bibliography is to be found.


4. See the bibliography of travellers who saw the monument in P. Collart, Philippes, ville de Macédoine depuis ses origines jusqu'à la fin de l'époque romaine, Paris 1937, pp. 326-327.





Later on in the 17th century, the Turks came to admire the figure of Alexander the Great so much that it became the ambition of the Sultans to have a successor who had been born on Macedonian soil [1].



Fig. 15. The monument of G. Vibius Quartus

Fig. 15. The monument of G. Vibius Quartus.



However, the situation in Thessalonica continued to deteriorate. Defeatist elements steadily gained adherents and began to form conspiracies. Manuel II, seeing that there was fear of his being handed over to the Turkish commander-in-chief, Hayreddin Pasha, was obliged to abandon the city by boat. He was in the process of making his way to his father when the latter, fearing further complication, forestalled his arrival in Constantinople and instructed hitn to seek some other refuge. Deprived of all hope in this quarter, Manuel fled to his brother-in-law, Francesco II Gattilusio, dynast of Lesbos, who not without raising a good many difficulties for him, reluctantly gave him permission to remain outside the walls of his capital. Subsequently Manuel decided on an act of dramatic boldness. He made his way to Brusa, the capital of the Ottoman state, where he presented himself before Murad



1. Brown, Relation, p. 68.





I and asked to be forgiven. The Sultan treated him with magnanimity, and after admonishing him forgave him [1].


Cydones, for his part, continued to adopt an intransigent attitude in the face of the 'barbarians'. When he learnt, therefore, that his pupil, Radinos, was on the point of following Manuel to the Sultan's headquarters at Brusa, Cydones wrote to him: "How can you face those who have thrown your country into confusion, who have enslaved your kinsmen and your beloved friends, who have deprived you yourself of homeland and caused you to be a wanderer from place to place? ... Have nothing to do with those who, from necessity or an evil disposition, do not scruple to have associations with the enemy. For our part, let us continue steadfast in the way that we have traced, and not involve ourselves in the affairs of those who are accustomed to be slaves" [2].


In the meanwhile the Thessalonians surrendered the city unconditionally to Hayreddin Pasha, as is recorded in the 'short chronicle' of that period [3], and left it to the magnanimity of Murad to define their status. Fresh light is shed upon the state of mind of the Thessalonians by a letter from Manuel himself, in which he bitterly denounces them. This was written from Lesbos to a citizen of Thessalonica, perhaps Kavasilas, who had remained in Constantinople. "In your own country", he says, "I fought continually against the enemies of our faith. Yet those very people for whose sakes I preferred to risk death fighting day and night,



1. Chalcocondyles, Bonn edit., pp. 46-47, 52: Darkò, vol. 1, pp. 42-43, 48; Phrantzes, Bonn edit., pp. 47-49. I am of the opinion that Cydones makes a covert reference to Manuel's departure in a letter to a friend in Thessalonica: "ἀλλα νῦν ὁ κολοϕὼν ἐπετέθη, ὃ τὴν πόλιν ὡς ἤδη κειμένην ἀναγκάζει θρηνεῖν. τοῦτο γάρ, ὁ τοῦ βασιλέως ἔκπλους, πάντας πείθει πιστεύειν. Οὐ γὰρ δὴ τὸ πρεσβείαν ὑπὲρ τῆς πόλεως ἢ πρὸς τὸν βάρβαρον ἱκετείαν ὑπὲρ τοῦ κουϕοτέραν αὐτῇ τὴν πολιορκίαν ποιῆσαι ἢ τι τοιοῦτον ἄλλο τοῦτον καλεῖν τὸ περὶ τῇ πόλει δέος τῆς ψυχῆς τῶν ἀκουόντων ἐκβάλλει, ἀλλὰ παντελῶς ἀπογνόντα τὰ πράγματα τὸν βασιλέα ϕασὶν εὐπρεπῶς ἀναχωρεῖν τῶν κινδύνων, ἤ τι καὶ αὐτῷ πράττοντα παρὰ τόν δοῦναι δυνάμενον ἀπιέναι, τὰ παρὰ τοῖς ἐχθροῖς προσδοκώμενα κουϕότερα νομίζοντα τῶν ἐν τῇ πόλει συμβησομένων αὐτῷ". (R. Loenertz, Les recueils des lettres de Dém. Cydonès, Città del Vaticano 1947, pp. 98-99). If my supposition is correct, then this letter of Cydones must have been written not between 1385 and 1386, as Loenertz writes, but at the time when Thessalonica was about to be surrendered, i.e. in April 1387. This letter contains elements related to letter no. 5, which was written after the surrender of Thessalonica. See also Vacalopoulos, Οἱ ὁμιλίες τοῦ Ἰσιδώρου, «Μακεδονικὰ» 4 (1955-1960)27-28.


2. Loenertz, Cydonès. Correspondance, 2, p. 298.


3. P. Charanis, Les βραχέα χρονικὰ comme source historique, «Byzantion» 13 (1938) 359.





and who ought to have repaid me in the same fashion — that is, should have been grateful for the risks that I ran on their behalf, and should have had similar feelings and a similar disposition—on the contrary these very men have been guiding the enemy against us. Not only did they lack within themselves all generous and healthy impulses and not acted as they ought, but they even set for us, their rulers, manifold, skilfully-contrived traps. They were wont to speak continually against us, alleging that they could not permit us to betray their liberty in a shameful manner" [1].


At the same time as Thessalonica surrendered, so did Chrysopolis and Christopolis. The latter city (the site of modern Kavála), which was part of Manuel's independent dominion, appears to have put up some resistance against the Turkish onslaught; a fact which tends to confirm the view that the military operations of the Turks were not unconnected one with another, but were all part of a general plan designed to 'clean up' centres of Greek resistance [2].


It is very likely that the surrender of Christopolis was subsequent to the occupation of Thessalonica, and it would appear that the fate of the latter exerted some influence on the people of Christopolis, who expected to receive the same treatment at the hands of the Turks.


The repeated reverses suffered by the Greeks failed to instill prudence into members of the royal household. The quarrels between John V and members of his family (especially with his son, Andronicus IV) continued, with occasional intermissions, right up to the closing decade of the 14th century. The worst of it was that they often invited the Sultan to act as mediator, thus virtually appointing him their arbitrator. Νο less unfortunate were the machinations and rivalries of the powerful palace officials in their struggle for the highest posts [3].



1. R. Loenertz, Manuel Paléologue. Epître à Cabasilas, «Μακεδονικὰ» 4 (1960) 38-39.


2. See Lemerle, Philippes, p. 218.


3. See Vacalopoulos, History, vol. 1, pp. 122-123.


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