History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


III. The repercussions of the Battle of Ankara (1403) on affairs in Northern Greece


1. The situation in Thessalonica and its environs



The blow dealt to the Ottoman state by the dêfeat of Bayezid at Ankara in 1402 and the internal strife amongst his successors which ensued, checked for same years the Turkish advance in the Balkans. Exploiting the opportunities afforded by the troubled state of the Ottoman empire, Manuel submitted to the mightier Western states plans for the destruction of Turkish power [1], but because of the disputes which divided the Christian powers at that time, his efforts were all in vain.


At that period the boundaries of the Byzantine empire embraced, besides the capital itself, a few small towns and villages in the Propontis (Áyios Stéphanos, Selymbria, Heráclaea), and on the Black Sea coast (Médaea, Agathópolis, Sozópolis, Pyrgos, Anchíalos, Mesembría, Varna). Westwards they included the coastal district stretching from the Strymon (with Chalcidice, Thessalonica and a small portion of the hinterland as fas as Chortiátis) to the head of the Malaean Gulf (together with Lamía and its environs); also included was the despotate of the Morea. Skyros and other islands of the Northern Sporádes also belonged to Byzantium, but they were notoriously the nests of pirates and essentially ungovernable [2]. The Emperor exercised but a shadowy control over the Aenus region of Southern Thrace and the islands of the Thracian Gulf — Le-



1. See N. Iorga, Notes et extraits pour servir a l'histoire des croisades au XVe s., 1ère série, Paris 1899, vol. 1, pp. 179-180, 258-259, 300-301.


2. Bakalopoulos, Les limites de l'empire byzantin, BZ 55 (1962) 56-65, where the relevant bibliography may be found.





mnos, Imbros, Samothrace and Thasos—, which were fiefs of the Genoese dynasty of the Gattilusi [1]. The contemporary resources of the Byzantine state continued to be inappreciable, while its political, social and religious problems were immense.



Fig. 18. Manuel II Palaeologus and his family in 1402. Standing next to the queen is Andronicus, later governor of Thessalonica

Fig. 18. Manuel II Palaeologus and his family in 1402. Standing next to the queen is Andronicus, later governor of Thessalonica.

(Sp. Lampros, Λεύκωμα Βυζαντινῶν αυτοκρατόρων, Athens 1930, fig. 84)



From 1403 to 1408 Thessalonica and the free portion of Macedonia were governed by John VII Palaeologus, after his death by Demetrius Leontares (1408-1415), and finally by Andronicus Palaeologus, son of Manuel II (see fig. 18). Andronicus governed the city as an independent princeling, signing his decrees (ὁρισμοὶ) with the title ὁ δεσπότης.


Α few years after the battle of Ankara the ordeal of the Macedonian people was renewed. During the wars between the successors of



1. Chalcocondyles, Darkò edit., 1, pp. 6-7.





Bayezid I, Thessalonica was twice besieged by Turkish forces, in 1412 and 1416; [1] and Macedonia was torn apart many times by the hordes of Bayezid's ambitious sons. As was the case everywhere throughout the Greek territories, fear and despair was frequently to beset the inhabitants of Thessalonica and the free parts of Macedonia. In one of his sermons, 'εἰς τὴν προεόρτιον Κυριακὴν τοῦ μεγαλομάρτυρος Δημητρίου', Archbishop Gabriel declares: "It is not only the nobleman, arrogant in his authority, or the richman, with his vanity and pride in his property, who seek asylum within the warm comfort of the Church; but also the poorman encompassed on every side by many exigencies, and the slave himself, without fear of his master — all wish to congregate therein — even the gentle womenfolk and the aged; indeed, men of every age and station" [2].


The repercussions of those ten years of turmoil (1403-1413) upon the disposition of the region's population can only be surmised. The flow of refugees, making for whatever spot promised the safest refuge — mountains or the remotest corners of the country — must have been resumed with as much intensity as in those earlier years of Turkish conquest. How many homesteads were abandoned then and how many new ones formed elsewhere, are questions which perhaps will never be elucidated [3].


The unity of the Ottoman empire was finally re-established under Mehmed I (1413-1421) and Murad II (1421-1451), and the Turks recovered their old drive for conquest. The danger to the Byzantine state was all too clear.


Scarcely a year after the accession of Murad II, the Turks were besieging Constantinople (1422), laying waste to the surrounding districts, and enslaving or deporting the population [4]. The same fate befell the Macedonian capital, Thessalonica. Bürak Bey, the son of Evrenos, laid siege to the city in June 1422 and ravaged Kalamaria (the eastern



1. See A. Vacalopoulos, Α History of Thessaloniki, transl. by T. F. Garney, Thessaloniki 1963, p. 64.


2. See B. Laourdas, Γαβριήλ Θεσσαλονίκης Ὁμιλίαι, «Ἀθηνᾶ» 57 (1953) 169-170.


3. We find just an outline of the question, provisionally, in a recent study of Mrs. E. Antoniadi - Bibikou, Villages désertés en Grèce. Un bilan provisoire, in the volume bearing the general title «Villages désertés et histoire économique XIe-XVIIIe s.», pp. 343-417.


4. See narrative account of John Kananos, Bonn edit. See also further information in Lampros, Παλαιολόγεια, 3, pp. ιστ' ff., 215.





region of Chalcidice as far as Cassándria) [1]. There were this time a good many of the inhabitants of the capital who "ὑπό τε τῆς ἀνωμαλίας καὶ καιρικῆς στενώσεως τῶν πραγμάτων" had fallen into poverty "ἐκ πλούτου καὶ δόξης καὶ εὐημερίας" as a donatrix of landed property to the monastery of St. Dionysius on Athos says of herself in 1420 [2]. There were many, too, who were enduring hardship and famine. In consequence, about 8.000 souls abandoned their homes and left the area. To end all, in 1423 the ruler of Thessalonica, Andronicus Palaeologus, and the nobles decided that it would be preferable to hand over the city to the Venetians, and this they did on condition that the Venetians would respect the city's autonomy and the privileges enjoyed by the Archbishop and the Church [3]. Α similar arrangement had been concluded in the case of Corcyra in 1386-87 [4].



1. S. Kugeas, Notizbuch eines Beamten der Metropolis in Thessalonike aus dem Anfang des XV. Jahrhunderts, ΒΖ 23 (1914-1920) 148.


2. See G. I. Theocharides, Ἄγνωστα τοπογραϕικὰ τῆς Θεσσαλονίκης ἐξ ἀνεκδότου ἐγγραϕου τῆς ἐν Ἁγίῳ Ὄρει Μονῆς Διονυσίου, «Μακεδονικὰ» 5 (1961-1963) 4.


3. See Α. Vacalopoulos, History of Thessaloniki, pp. 62-70. See also G. Manfroni, La marina veneziana alla difesa di Salonicco (1423-1430), «Nuovo Archivo Veneto», Venice 1910, pp. 5-68.


4. See Vacalopoulos, Ἱστορία, vol. 1, p. 157.


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