History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


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


2. Christopolis and Thessalonica in a state of vassalage (1387-1391)



Murad I did not at this point incorporate Thessalonica into his empire, but confined himself to exacting the customary poll-tax or haraç. He also recognised the existing social régime and allowed it to function





unimpeded. At the most — as Tafrali observed—the Sultan demanded, apart from the payment of the usual tax, the installation of a small garrison within the city [1]. The same conditions were, it would appear, imposed in the case of Christopolis.


The peaceful and privileged conditions enjoyed by Thessalonica and Christopolis under Murad I and during the reign of Bayezid I were not destined to last long. On 16th February 1391 John V died [2], whereupon Manuel made his escape from the court of Bayezid and hurried to Constantinople to ascend the throne. The Sultan was greatly incensed at having lost the opportunity of depriving the Byzantine state of its leader, and from then onwards he made no secret of his hostile intentions. According to Ducas, the Sultan marched on Thrace by way of Bithynia, levelling the suburbs of Constantinople and evacuating their inhabitants to other parts [3]. As he advanced against Macedonia, the fortress of Christopolis held out against him, though for how long we do not know. When the Turks finally took the city by assault, as punishment for jts stubborn resistence they levelled it to its foundations, the inhabitants scattering in various directions [4].


One wonders whether Christopolis was wiped out for ever from the face of the earth — the χριστώνυμος πόλις —, as it is called in the 'short chronicle' which records the city's destruction. Personally, I think that the city suffered great destruction and was made almost desolate, but that certain of the inhabitants did return. At all events, the Turks will have installed a garrison for the defence of this important focus of communications; and as we shall presently see, they were able to defend the town against Venetians about the middle of the year 1425.


Then again, there is Chrysopolis. Its fate is equally obscure; we do not know whether it surrendered to the Turks without a fight, or whether it resisted; nor whether it suffered the same fate as Christopolis.


After this, Bayezid Ι "εἶλε καὶ Θεσσαλονίκην καὶ τὰ μετὰ τὴν Θεσ-



1. Ο. Tafrali, Thessalonique au quatorzième siècle, Paris 1913, p. 286. The stationing of a Turkish garrison at Thessalonica is also supported by a passage from the "Ἱστορικὸν Κομνηνοῦ μοναχοῦ καὶ Πρόκλου μοναχοῦ", edit. Gabriel Destounis, St. Petersbourg 1858, p. 32. Loenertz also observes the fact in his Manuel Paléologue, EO 36 (1937) 482.


2. Sp. Lampros - K. Amantos, Βραχέα Χρονικά, vol. 1, p. 89. See also Charanis, Les βραχέα χρονικά, «Byzantion» 13 (1938) 357-358.


3. Ducas, Bonn edit., pp. 48-50, Grecu edit., pp. 77-79.


4. Lemerle, Philippes, p. 219.





σαλονίκην χωρία", as Ducas writes [1]. Perhaps the citizens attempted to defend their city. Resistance on their part, were it ever so light, would explain why they expected to suffer "τὰ δεινότατα", as Isidore, archbishop of Thessalonica, has it [2].


The fact that Bayezid I captured Thessalonica by force is confirmed, in my opinion, by another passage in Ducas, where he writes that Musa, one of Bayezid's sons and claimant to the throne, addressing the dignitaries of Thrace, Macedonia and other areas, asserts that his father "τὴν Θεσσαλονίκην . . . διὰ πολλῶν ἱδρώτων ἐκληρώσατο καὶ τοὺς βωμοὺς τῶν εἰδώλων εἰς ἱερὰ τεμένη τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ προϕήτου μετέστησεν" [3]. Nevertheless, Bayezid did leave quite a number of churches and monasteries in Christian hands. This policy of his, together with the overall moderation he displayed towards the inhabitants, seems to me to explain Isidore's expression "ἐμαστίχθημεν μετρίως". Later on, after the archbishop's delegation to the Sultan's court and the granting of "καινῶν δωρεῶν" (new privileges), the Christians of Thessalonica will have regained the majority of their churches and monasteries. At all events, these would have remained unused by the Turks in the absence within Thessalonica of any coherent groups of their own race [4].


Ducas refers to "τὰ μετὰ τὴν Θεσσαλονίκην χωρία". Perhaps he means the area surrounding Thessalonica (i.e. the small inland area stretching as far as Langadá and Chortiátis) together with Cassandria or he



1. Ducas, Bonn edit., p. 48-50, Grecu edit., pp. 77-79. See also Chalcocondyles, Bonn edit., pp. 66 ff., Darkó edit., vol. 1, pp. 60 ff. See also J. von Hammer, Geschichte des osmanischen Reiches, vol. 1, Pest 1834, pp. 187 ff. J. W. Zinkeisen, Geschichte des osmanischen Reiches in Europa, Hamburg 1840, vol. 1, pp. 283 ff. Loenertz's opinion that Manuel II was in Asia Minor in 1391-1392 under the orders of Bayezid I (Loenertz, Manuel Paléologue, EO 36 (1937) 271, 281-282) is not likely. To my mind Babinger is correct in stating that Manuel II took part in Bayezid's hostilities against Philadelphia before the middle of February 1391 (Babinger, Beiträge, p. 9, section 37).


2. Vacalopoulos, Οἱ ὁμιλίες τοῦ Ἰσιδώρου, «Μακεδονικὰ» 4 (1960) 23-24.


3. Ducas, Bonn edit., p. 92, Grecu edit., p. 127. G. T. Dennis does not in the least dispute the substance of this passage. He considers that Ducas' other information about the capture of Thessalonica in 1391 is highly questionable, and consequently dismisses this testimony of Ducas to support Loenertz' opinion that there was no other capture of Thessalonica besides those which we know occured in 1387 and 1430. G. T. Dennis does not present a very strong case in his attempt to refute my own opinion; he is far from convincing, and does not offer a single positive element towards the solution of the problem.


4. Vacalopoulos, ibid., pp. 23, 33.





may be referring to other towns and large villages to the west, like Véroia, for example; the second supposition seems the more probable.


To sum up, Thessalonica and Christopolis enjoyed for four years or a little longer a condition of privileged vassalage, from April 1387 until the middle or close of 1391, when they were seizedby Bayezid and incorporated into his empire (see the spread of the Turks throughout Macedonia on map 4). This fresh period of actual occupation by the Turks lasted up to 1403, when Thessalonica was again restored to the Byzantines [1].



1. See Vacalopoulos, Οἱ ὁμιλίες τοῦ Ἰσιδώρου, pp. 33-34.


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