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Manuel II PALAIOLOGOS (1391-1425 A.D.)

Wilhelm Baum
Univeristät Graz, Austria

Manuel II(1391-1425) was the second-to-last emperor of the East-Roman (Byzantine) Empire. He was a member of the house of the Palaiologoi, whose founder Michael VIII in 1261 had driven the Crusaders from the imperial capital, which they had conquered in 1204. In the course of the fourteenth century the Ottoman Turkish empire had become the major rival of the empire, which, now shrunken to a minor state, had been almost completely expelled from Asia Minor. Manuel's father, Emperor John V (1341-1391), had to deal with the crossing of the Hellespont by the Turks, who first conquered Thrace and Macedonia and in 1389 at the battle of Kossovo destroyed and conquered the Serbian Empire. In 1365/6 he undertook a voyage to Hungary to seek support there; his son Manuel accompanied him on it. In 1369 the emperor traveled to Europe, to seek support there; Manuel ransomed him in 1371 under humiliating circumstances from a debtor's prison in Venice. The rapid decline of the empire showed itself also in the deterioration of art and coinage; Byzantine gold solidi for centuries had been the leading currency of the eastern Mediterranean. Now the gold currency of the Venetians took its place. Emperor Manuel II had only silver and bronze coins struck.

John V was a weak and unsuccessful ruler. He was twice deposed, the first time by his son Andronicus IV and then by his grandson John VII. The decline of the empire was hastened by the civil wars; in 1346 the influential John Cantacuzenus had himself crowned emperor John VI, but had to abdicate in 1354. He lived almost thirty more years as a monk, and composed a series of historically important works. Helena Cantacuzena, the daughter of this short-reigned emperor, became the spouse of John V and mother of Manuel II, who was born in 1350 and who, following his elder brother's rebellion, in 1373 was raised by his father to the rank of co-emperor. Manuel's teacher was the learned Demetrius Cydones, to whom he addressed twenty letters which have been preserved. In collaboration with Sultan Murad I (1362-89) John's son Andronicus IV staged a second coup in 1376 against his father and brother, who were incarcerated in the prison of the Anemas tower of the Blachernai palace, where Andronicus himself had previously been imprisoned. In 1379 father and son succeeded in fleeing to Murad, to whom they promised higher tribute than hitherto and military help, if they were restored. Thus Byzantium had become a client state of the Turks, and was obligated to pay tribute and to enter into military alliance. The decline manifested itself also in the fact that after the Turks' great military successes Manuel found himself compelled to confiscate half of the property of the monasteries for the benefit of the soldiers. He hoped to be able to reverse this if times improved. But subsequently he imposed high taxes on the lands remaining to the monks.

After the establishment of the Turks in Macedonia and the decline of the Serbian Empire, the Byzantine Empire appeared definitely headed for destruction. The population of the imperial capital had shrunk to between forty and fifty thousand. The only gain in power which John V achieved was to regain the Despotate of the Morea in the Peloponnesus, which had been administered for decades (from 1349 to 1382) by the Cantacuzeni. He appointed his third son Theodore to govern it. From 1382 to 1387, Manuel operated as independent emperor in Thessaloniki, the second city of the empire in size, but already encircled by the Turks; it had been besieged by the Turks since 1383. On the occasion of the Turks' ultimatum at the start of the siege, the crown prince, as viceroy, delivered a speech to the city's inhabitants, summoning them to resist. Manuel left Thessaloniki shortly before it was conquered in April 1387, and fled to Lesbos. From 1387 to 1389 he was in Lemnos, one of the few Aegean islands to remain in the emperor's hands. In 1386 even Mount Athos came under the rule of the Turks. For Sultan Bayazid I (1389-1402) the conquest of Constantinople was the logical conclusion of a process which his father had initiated. He skilfully played the pretenders to the Byzantine throne off against each other, and backed John VII's (Andronicus IV' s son) seizure of power in April 1390. Thereupon Manuel returned from Lemnos to Constantinople, forced his way into the city on September 17, 1390, expelled his nephew John VII, and reestablished his father as emperor. While his father was able to rule for a last time, Manuel had to reside at the sultan's court and as an obedient vassal accept any humiliation. There he met again with his nephew John VII, who had fled to the same place, and now both of them had to support the Turks, who raised the tribute. When John V wanted to strengthen the walls of Constantinople, the sultan threatened to blind Manuel, and forced him to put an end to the fortification works. When John V died in February 1391, after a reign of a half century, the possessions of the Byzantine Empire consisted only of the capital, some cities on the Sea of Marmara, some Aegean islands, and the Morea, which made up less than half of the Peloponnesus. "Byzantium survived only thanks to its walls and because the sultan at the moment had other aims of conquest before his eyes."

After his father's death, Manuel fled from the sultan's camp and hastened to Constantinople, in order to forestall his nephew's plans. After his return, he married (on the tenth of February, 1392) Helena Dragash, the daughter of the Serbian prince Constantine of Serres. In the national museum in Sofia is preserved an icon which empress Helena had brought along for her father who fell in battle against the Turks in 1395. Both Manuel and Helena were crowned by the patriarch Antony IV. The archimandrite Ignatius of Smolensk has left us a description of the coronation. The pompous ceremony was supposed to strengthen the people's morale and demonstrate self-confidence.

Around the same time the patriarch prevailed upon the Metropolitan of Russia, Cyprian, that in the liturgy the Byzantine emperor should be mentioned first. This incurred the wrath of the Grand Prince of Moscow, Vasili I. The Grand Prince coined the sentence: "Church have we one, but emperor have we none."[[1]] Byzantium, however, held to the bitter end onto the dogma that its ruler was the only legitimate emperor and hence was the head of the civilized world. Nonetheless Antony stressed in 1393 in his missive to the Grand Prince that precisely because of the Turks' stranglehold the exceptional position of the emperor in the Christian world had to be emphasized. "The emperor occupies in the church that place which no other secular ruler can occupy. Many other emperors in the course of history have advanced religion, summoned ecumenical councils, confirmed the canons, fought against heresies, set up primacies (i.e., rankings of patriarchal seats) as well as provinces and dioceses. All this justifies their value and their place in the church.... patriarchs, metropolitans, and bishops therefore everywhere respect the name of the emperor... For Christians there is no church without emperor. Emperor and Church are closely connected. The Christians battle against the heretics and the most orthodox emperor is at the same time defender of the church." The emperor and the patriarch each sent an "apokrisarios" (envoy) to Russia, who should both present the same position, so that it might be clear to the Grand Prince that emperor and church constituted a unity.

Bayazit was beside himself with rage when faced with the new emperor's pretensions. He pointed out to him that he had no power outside the "city" and began systematically to cut the empire off from the Balkans. Manuel had to consent to a treaty in which it was specified that a quarter for Turkish merchants should be set up in Constantinople with its own Kadi (a Moslem learned man and magistrate.) At first Manuel succeeded in taking advantage of the sultan's involvements to reestablish control over Thessaloniki and parts of Macedonia. The sultan knew that help could come only from Hungary and in 1393 conquered Thessaly and Bulgaria; the next year he began the siege of Constantinople, the longest in the city's history, which was to last from 1394 to 1402. In the city hunger and despair prevailed. In 1395 the sultan built the fortress of Anadolu Hisar on the Asiatic side of the Bosporus. Bulgaria became the first Ottoman Turkish province in Europe. The sultan wished to show his dominance, and in the winter of 1393/94 summoned Manuel, his nephew John VII, and Theodore, Despot of the Morea, as well as Prince Stefan Lazarevic of Serbia to Serres, where he at first wanted to kill them all. Some Byzantine officers were blinded. Finally they were able to return home; only Theodore was to take part in the conquest of Europe. He succeeded in escaping, however, and hastened to Mistras, in order to organize the defense of the Morea. The events in Serres confirmed Manuel's opinion that the Turks were not amenable to any kind of reasoning. Later demands by the sultan to appear before him were declined by the emperor.

Now Manuel sought military aid against the Turks, first from Pope Boniface IX and King Sigismund of Hungary. Sphrantzes, the historian in the emperor's service, reports that the initiative originated with King Sigismund.[[2]]   Doukas on the other hand mentions that the emperor wrote to the Pope and the kings of Hungary and France in this matter.[[3]]Relief from the West was the only hope for Byzantium. At the end of 1395 Manuel sent his envoy Manuel Philanthropenus to King Sigismund; at the beginning of 1396 he concluded a treaty with him in which he obligated himself to equip ten ships at his own expense and three at the king's expense for the crusade. The crusade of the Hungarian king Sigismund of Luxemburg ended on September 25, 1396 in the battle of Nicopolis in a complete fiasco. According to the panegyric of Isidore of Monemvasia the Hungarian king fled on imperial galleys across the Black Sea to Constantinople, where he met with Manuel and then returned to Hungary. Manuel sent a message to the Venetian council, putting Byzantium in the hands of the Venetian government. But Venice, which already in the fourteenth century viewed Byzantium as a "lost outpost," abandoned the empire to its fate. It was ready "to use Byzantium as a pawn, to surrender it as a concession to the Turks," if it could thereby be assured of controlling the southern Aegean. This first test of strength between the Ottomans and western Europe hardly brought Byzantium any respite. In vain Manuel sent appeals for help to the Pope, the Doge of Venice, and the kings of France, England, and Aragon, as well as the Grand Prince of Moscow. A rumor circulated that John VII had made an offer to the French king to sell him his claim to the Byzantine throne. Before the end of 1399 Manuel turned even to the Mongolian ruler Tamerlane (Timur-lenk) for help against the Ottomans. The French marshal Boucicaut, who had taken part in the battle of Nicopolis, in 1399 broke through the Turkish blockade of the Dardanelles with 1200 soldiers and arrived in Constantinople to the rejoicing of the populace. He persuaded the emperor to accompany him on his return trip to Europe.

The emperor's trip to Europe, to the centers of political power, caused considerable excitement. On December 10, 1399 the emperor embarked on a voyage to Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Pavia, Paris and London to get help. John VII, regent of Selymbria, had lost the sultan's favor, because he had not betrayed the capital into Turkish hands. Presumably Boucicaut arranged his reconciliation with Manuel, who appointed his nephew co-regent. The emperor did not fully trust his nephew, however, since he left his family behind with his brother in Mistras. Patriarch Matthew I supported John VII as regent of the empire, primarily during the siege of Constantinople in 1401. The emperor's first stop was in Italy. Pope Boniface XII on May 27, 1400 ordered the payment of a "crusade-tithe" for emperor Manuel against the "perfidious Bayazit." For him this was a means of strengthening his prestige vis-a-vis the pope of Avignon. Charles VI of France received the emperor with great pomp in Paris in June 1400 as did Henry IV in December 1400 in London. The emperor employed Constantinopolitan relics and holy objects to win over the princes of Europe. He included even Spain in his plans of union. In the Aragonese archives there are still some few letters preserved in which military support is to be purchased with relics. In Milan he made the acquaintance of Peter Philagris, a Greek, who later became pope as Alexander V. Manuel's travels brought him just as little success as the previous ones which his father had undertaken. The highly educated emperor gained much sympathy in Europe. Unlike his father he offered neither a personal "conversion" nor a union with the Papacy. In 1400 he received the news that the Mongols had invaded Asia Minor. For Byzantium they were welcome allies against the Turks. While the emperor was still in Paris, news arrived of Bayazit's overwhelming defeat in the battle of Ankara (1402), which afforded Byzantium a chance to catch its breath. Tamerlane, the ruler of Samarkand, had defeated the rising Ottoman Empire and held it in check until his death in 1405. The emperor did not return home from Europe until 1403, having failed to secure either financial or political help.

The first result of the battle of Ankara was that the siege of Constantinople was lifted. Demetrius Chrysoloras, John Kananos, and Joseph Bryennios saw in the good outcome of the siege new proofs of the protection of the city by the mother of God. On this occasion Manuel composed a dramatic piece, an imaginative construct of what Timur (=Tamerlane) might say to a person in so humiliating a situation as the sultan now found himself in. This sultan who, so long as things went well for him, "uttered big, proud words and was intolerable with his threats," actually now was trundled around in a cage. The emperor remained entirely within the limits of rhetorical norms with this piece of literature which was popular in Byzantium. His viceroy sent presents to the victorious Timur, who reacted with the demand that the tribute which had hitherto been paid to the Ottomans be paid henceforth to him.

The Anatolian possessions of the Turks were now under the control of Tamerlane. Bayazit's eldest son, Suleiman, met with John VII in August, 1402. In February 1403 he concluded a peace treaty on the Gallipoli peninsula in which he gave back Thessaloniki, the Chalkidiki with Athos, and the islands Skiathos, Skopelos, and Skyros as well as a strip of the Black Sea coast. The European possessions of the Turks in "Rumeli" with their capital at Adrianople were in turn recognized by Byzantium. Byzantium no longer owed tribute to the Turks, and Suleiman swore to become a vassal of the emperor. This was the Byzantine empire's last political success. Manuel found out about it only in the following month in Venice. It appears that during a stop-over in Gallipoli in June 1403 he confirmed John VII's treaty with the Turks, but with one stipulation: John VII had to transfer his base to Thessaloniki, where he remained until his death in 1408.

The treaty of Gallipoli was, as we have said, the last significant political success of the Byzantine empire. Paying tribute was a thing of the past: between 1379 and 1402 Byzantium had paid 690,000 hyperpyra (or 345,000 ducats) to the Ottomans. The treaty of Gallipoli provided Byzantium with an additional short chance to catch its breath. At first Manuel held on to the idea of winning over the Christian states of Europe to a crusade, but nevertheless accepted the treaty. In accordance with Byzantine custom Suleiman is specifically addressed as "son" in a letter from Manuel in 1404. He refrained from any aggressive moves against Byzantium. Among the Ottomans, disagreements flared up among Bayazit' s sons. When Musa put pressure on Byzantium, Manuel II called upon Musa's brother Mehmet for help. He used the opportunity to bring the Ottoman empire together under single control. Musa is said even to have offered the emperor the Turkish provinces in Europe. The final winner,with Manuel' support, was Mehmet I (reigned 1413-21), who maintained peace with Byzantium, even after the collapse of Tamerlane's empire. In 1412/13 Manuel supported him in the war against his brother Musa. In 1413 Mehmet confirmed the peace treaty of Gallipoli with Byzantium, which regained further territories on the Black Sea. In 1408 Manuel's son Andronicus became Despot of Thessaloniki.

The relaxation of the situation could be seen in the fact that Manuel for the first time could leave the capital and travel to Thessaloniki (in 1407) and to the Peloponnesus (1414/16), where he supported his son Theodore II as Despot of the Morea. The Byzantine panegyrist John Chortasmenos ("the Replete") composed an encomium on the emperor when he returned. The situation of the surrounded empire was for the moment consolidated -- without any help from the West. In 142l Manuel formally crowned his son John as Autokrator. (He had actually been co-emperor since 1408.)

Manuel knew that Byzantium was lost without the West. Therefore he sought political support in Europe. The "Autokrator" of Byzantium could not get very far with the conciliar movement, which wanted to limit the Pope's position in the West. For the Byzantines a general council on the model proposed by the "conciliarists" of the early fifteenth century was not the correct means for reform and for reunification in the faith.On Christmas 1409 Manuel congratulated Alexander V (chosen pope by the council of Pisa) on his election and reminded him how they had met in 1400 in Milan. He expressed hope for a union of churches and sent the diplomat John Chrysoloras to him. (He had already sent his uncle Manuel Chrysoloras to France to collect money appropriated for the crusade.) At the beginning of the year 1410 Manuel proposed to the Venetians that they join together in separating the Turks in Europe from those in Asia. The most serene republic, however, rejected the idea, since the sultan's power was already too great.

The emperor of the West had very little contact with the emperor of the East in the late middle ages. Manuel remained in touch by letter with Sigismund of Luxemburg (reigned 1410-37) who had in the meantime been elected to the Holy Roman throne. In 1411 an embassy led by Manuel Chrysoloras met with Sigismund to discuss a projected union with him. Now Sigismund proposed a crusade to the emperor. The Holy Roman and Byzantine empires, he said, were a single state; after the fashion of the ancient emperors one could seek helpers in both parts of it and share responsibilities. He wanted to break through from Hungary to the Peloponnesus -- a utopian plan, which Sigismund never could have brought to pass. He also requested his imperial brother to propose a time and place for a council.

In 1412, in his second letter, Sigismund informed the emperor of the resumption of the war with Venice and reminded him of how much sorrow the republic of St. Mark had inflicted on Byzantium since 1204. Byzantium should let trade with Venice become paralyzed -- an illusory plan in view of the military situation of the empire. But there was no longer any talk of a Crusade. In June 1414 there were negotiations at Trino between Sigismund and the pope, in which the participation of Byzantium in the council was considered. For that reason Manuel had sent John Chrysoloras to Sigismund as an envoy. In the summer of 1414 the king answered Manuel's epistle in a third preserved letter, and made known his intention of helping Byzantium after the end of the Council of Konstanz. He reported about the summoning of the council, to which the emperor should send Manuel Chrysoloras.

At the Council of Konstanz, which took place with Sigismund's authoritative participation and was supposed to end the strife among the three popes, the Byzantine ambassadors Nicholas Eudaimonoioannes, his son Andronicus, and Joseph Bladynteros, who had arrived in Konstanz on March 3, 1415, presented a plan for union and sought support against the Turks. They called for an ecumenical council in Constantinople at the Pope's expense. Manuel Chrysoloras had come to Konstanz with the envoys, perhaps without official mandate. He died, however, in mid-April 1415 in Konstanz. The envoys exceeded theirmandate, however, with the result that the agreement which they brought with them to Constantinople found no acceptance there. In February 1416 the "bringing back of the Greeks" was dropped from the agenda of the council. Manuel was more interested in political progress."The emperor viewed the union, or better the threat of a union, as a way of putting political pressure on the Turks, but did not promise himself success from any council, since he realized that at such a synod, the fighting would be with open vizors, and two very different church systems would collide : the old 'Constantinian' and the western papal; a failed union council however would have the fatal consequence of depriving the emperor of one of the effective threats against the Ottomans." He was no longer concerned with the union of churches. In March 1416 Manuel sent a new embassy to Konstanz, to advise on the subjects of church union and measures of aid, but as a result of Sigismund's absence the negotiations were postponed until after his return from Spain. The envoys finally presented the -- unfortunately now lost -- thirty-six articles of the emperor and the patriarch. However they rejected negotiations so long as the Latin church was without a pope. A pope was always an easier partner for the emperor than a "democratic" council. After the election of Pope Martin V new negotiations were started between emperor and pope which had as a result the initiation of dynastic connections between the emperor's sons and Italian princely houses. Before February 1419 Manuel sent his envoy John Bladynteros to Pope Martin V, whom he informed that the council would have to meet in Constantinople. The Council of Konstanz shows that the conciliar idea found little response in the eastern church.

The treaty of November 1419 between Venice and the Turks freed the Turks' hands to proceed against Byzantium and Hungary. They now besieged the Hungarian Black Sea harbor Kilia. When Mehmet I in 1421 requested permission to travel from Europe to Asia via Constantinople, Manuel rejected the plan of murdering him and personally accompanied him. Up to his death in 142l he kept the peace with Byzantium. The war party in Byzantium, to which John VIII belonged, rebuked Manuel for not having murdered Mehmet at a favorable opportunity, and injected itself into the quarrel for the succession among the Turks. In the summer of 1421 there was a new treaty between the pretender Mustafa and Byzantium, which received some territories in the Chalkidiki and on the Black Sea and promised military aid to the sultan. The new sultan Murat II, Bayazit's grandson, wanted to renew the peace treaty with Byzantium and even hand over Kallipolis (Gallipoli), according to the historian Chalkokondyles.[[4]]

But things turned out otherwise; Byzantium again bet on the wrong pretender. In Constantinople there was now generational conflict. Manuel wanted to maintain the peace; but his son John bet on the war party, supported Mustafa, and lost. "Do what you please. For I, my son, am old and close to death. The empire, however, and all that pertains to it, have I relinquished to you," Sphrantzes reports Manuel as saying. Chalkokondyles mentions the conflict, as John tossed his father's warning to the winds. Mustafa crossed the Bosporus on Genoese ships, but was beaten by his brother Murat at the beginning of the year 1422.

After the death of Mehmet I, his son Murat II (reigned 1421-51) resumed the aggressive policy of Bayazit. The collusion of John VIII with the Turkish pretender Mustafa provided the sultan with the pretext to impose a complete blockade on Constantinople. At the same time John VIII, though his marriage with Sophia of Montferrat and the espousal of his brother Theodore II to Cleopa Malatesta, tried in 1421 to win new allies in Italy. From June to September 1422 Constantinople was besieged for the second time by the Turks. The fortifications of the city nonetheless held up to the Turkish pressure. The historian John Kananos reports how the elderly and seriously ill emperor, who could no longer mount his horse, was represented by his son on campaign. At the end of September the defeated Mustafa, whose guardian Manuel II had been, came to Constantinople and confirmed the treaty of Gallipoli. In 1421 Manuel withdrew on account of the plague into the cloister of Peribleptos as a monk, under the name of Matthew. On October 1, 1422, Manuel II suffered a stroke that resulted in paralysis. He handed the government over to his son John VIII. Andronicus, Manuel's youngest son, went to Genoese-controlled Pera, and from there he betook himself to the Ottoman encampment, as pretender to the throne, on the model of John VII. Another son, Demetrius, left the capital and went to Hungary. In 1423 Thessaloniki was lost once more, irretrievably; the despot Andronicus sold it to the Venetians. In 1430 the Turks conquered the important harbor city for good. In 1424 Murat concluded a new treaty with Byzantium, which again became tribute-paying, at the rate of 100,000 hyperpyra a year. In 1423 John traveled by way of Venice and Milan to Ofen (Budapest), in order to negotiate with Sigismund of Luxemburg about support for Byzantium. This put Sigismund into an awkward situation, as he was at the same time negotiating an armistice in regard to his quarrel with the Hussites. So no help could be expected from him, either.

The old emperor admonished his son not to give up any fundamental Byzantine positions in negotiating union with the papacy. He dissuaded him from stirring the western powers up for a new crusade, as this would lead to a new confrontation with the Turks. When Pope Martin V sent the Franciscan Antonio di Masa to Constantinople, the emperor was already seriously ill and his son busy with defensive measures. The patriarch answered the pope's questions and articulated the old Byzantine concepts and reservations vis a vis the papacy. The emperor informed the pope in November 1422 that the council absolutely had to take place in Constantinople. The important matter was speedy help against the Turks; then one could worry about union. On his deathbed Manuel recommended to his son that he should on the one hand keep the Latins hoping for the prospect of union, so as to obtain military help, but that he should at the same time demand a council, so as to drag things out and not to run the risk of a church union without popular support. It was clear to him that two quite different church systems stood facing each other. Only in the west was there a lively debate between conciliarism and the pope's primacy; for the orthodox church this was a closed question. Likewise the historian George Sphrantzes emphasizes this skepticism on the part of the emperor, who was concerned only with a purely political solution to the conflict and wanted to set aside pope and council. The aged emperor was worried about his son's ambition, and warned him against irritating the sultan. According to Sphrantzes one day when John left his father's bedside with a grim expression, he is supposed to have said that in another age his son would perhaps have been a great ruler. But now that the empire needed a good administrator in view of the external situation, John would possibly deliver the fatal blow to the empire. Sultan Murat feared nothing so much as the Byzantine dalliance with Rome about church union, in which he saw the prerequisite for western military aid to Byzantium. On July 21 1425, the old emperor died in Constantinople, after dictating his will to Sphrantzes. He was buried in the monastic church of the Pantokrator. Bessarion of Trebizond, later to be famous, pronounced the eulogy. Manuel's grave was later destroyed by the Turks, just like all the other graves of the house of the Palaiologoi.

Manuel's writings have been preserved for posterity in spite of the conquest and destruction of Constantinople. Of particular interest is his attitude toward Islam. After his enthronement in March 1391 Manuel II still had to perform military service for the sultan in Asia Minor from June 1391 to January 1392 as a vassal of the Turks. As part of it he not only had had (in late 1390) to support the sultan against various Turkish emirates, but as an especial humiliation he had to aid his mortal enemy with the conquest of Philadelphia, the last Byzantine hold-out in Asia Minor, but now in May 1391 he was summoned again to Anatolia and took part in a campaign on the Black Sea coast until Mid-January1392. The emperor, who on the coins still bore the title King and Autokrator, was as a vassal of course subject to the sultan's orders on campaign -- the sultan who amused himself at banquets, while the emperor discussed Islam with the Kadi. From October to December of 1391 the emperor enjoyed the hospitality of the Muderris (=Kadi) at Ankara. A Muslim born to Christian parents acted as interpreter between the emperor and the Kadi. The result of these conversations was the "Twenty-six Dialogues with a Persian," dedicated to his brother Theodore I. By 1399 the work had received its final editing. Presumably the emperor took notes at the time of the conversations. Apart from the emperor's writings there is no independent proof that the conversations ever took place. They must represent a mixture of fact and fiction. At the end the Kadi declared himelf ready to come to Constantinople and continue the conversation with Manuel. With this work, which must have been composed between the end of the campaign and the break with Bayazit (1392-94), Manuel made an important contribution to the knowledge of Islam on the part of the Christians.

The emperor relied for his sources on the Apology of Christianity against Islam by his maternal grandfather, John VI Cantacuzenus. That in turn rested on the "Confutatio Alchorani" by the Dominican friar Ricoldo of Montecroce (died 1320), which Demetrius Kydones had translated into Greek. Grandfather and grandson thus remained entirely within the framework of traditional Byzantine anti-Islamic polemics. It is noteworthy that the emperor does not use the concept of Sarakenoi (Saracens), customary in Byzantine terminology.

Even as emperor Manuel remained a man of letters. Sometimes he complained that his political obligations kept him from developing his artistic and intellectual inclinations. After the death of his brother Theodore I of Mistras in 1407, the emperor composed a funeral oration on him, which was directed to the humanist Manuel Chrysoloras. The Paris manuscript Cod. Gr.3041 was in Manuel's possession and contains corrections in his own hand to his tractate on education, as well as a large number of letters. The first part of the manuscript consists of a corpus of sixty-three letters, among them twenty to his teacher Demetrius Kydones, eight to Demetrius Chrysoloras and five to his brother, Manuel Chrysoloras, who came to Florence in 1396 in order to teach Greek there and in 1415 represented the Byzantine Empire at the council of Konstanz and made particularly significant contributions to the early humanistic efforts in Italy. Chrysoloras, acting in 1408 on Manuel's behalf, presented to the monastery of St. Denis a manuscript with works attributed to Dionysius (=Denis) the Areopagite, containing pictures of Manuel and his family, as well as of Chrysoloras (Musée du  Louvre, Ivoires A53, fol. 1.) [[5]] One letter is addressed to the Italian humanist Guarino. Further the manuscript contains a series of tractates, such as a discourse on a tapestry in the Louvre, which he had been able to study when he visited Paris, a psalm on the death of Bayazit, a tractate on marriage, and a discourse on the siege of Thessaloniki.

Seven "Orationes ethico-politicae," addressed to John VIII, belong to the category of "Mirrors for Princes," (i.e., a sort of instruction book for medieval crown princes). In a separate work, the so-called Praecepta educationis regiae, the author employs all the old worn cliches and commonplaces. Even Isocrates is cited, a rare event in Byzantine literature. Compared with earlier "Mirrors for Princes" the heavy use of theological pronouncements is striking. In total contrast to his own practical action, the emperor stresses the fact that one should not oppose oneself to the church's teachings. He likewise emphasizes that even a ruler owes obedience to the church. God accepts gifts through the hands of the poor. Manuel stresses free will and treats original sin and grace through baptism. Men are slaves to sin. Manuel advises his son frequently to examine his conscience. Man's goal lies in the hereafter. To the four cardinal virtues he adds love (agape) and moderation (metriotes) and encourages ascetic temperance. In the relation of state and church he emphasizes the church's eternity, and warns against any confrontation with it. He compares life to a sea voyage. As lawgiver and judge the emperor should emulate the Judge of All, who should be for the emperor model, guideline, and law. Just as in the sixty-eight preserved letters between 1383 and 1417 few specific, day-to-day news items are to be found, so also in his theoretical writings the emperor distances himself from every-day reality. These "mirrors for princes" are preserved in Vienna manuscript phil. gr. 89, from the estate of Cardinal Bessarion of Trebizond, which also contains a selection of other writings by the emperor. The emperor's writings permit an excellent glimpse into the mental world of the later Palaiologan period in the last decades before the conquest of the empire by the Turks.


Andreeva M.A.: "Zur Reise Manuels II. Palaiologos nach Westeuropa," in: Byzantinische Zeitschrift 34, 1934, 37-47

Atiya Aziz Suryal: The crusade of Nicopolis, London 1934, repr. London (ca. 1978)

Bakalopulos A.: "Les limites de l' empire byzantin jusqu' à sa chute (1453),"  in: Byzantinische Zeitschrift 55, 1962, 56-65

Baum Wilhelm: Kaiser Sigismund. Konstanz, Hus und Türkenkriege, Graz-Wien-Köln 1993

________. " Europapolitik im Vorfeld der Frühen Neuzeit: König und Kaiser Sigismund vom Hause Luxemburg, Ungarn, Byzanz und der Orient,"  in: Europa in der frühen Neuzeit, Festschrift Günter Mühlpfordt, Vol. 1, ed. Erich Donnert, Weimar-Köln-Wien 1997, 13-43

Barker John W.: "On the Chronology of the Activities of Manuel II Palaeologus in Morea in 1415,"  in: Byzantinische Zeitschrift 55, 1962, 39-55

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[[1]]Ostrogorski: Geschichte des byzantinischen Staates (1963),482

[[2]]Georgios Sphrantzes: Memorie 1401-1477, ed. V. Grecu, Bucharest 1966, 200

[[3]]Ducas: Istoria turco-byzantina (1341-1462), ed. V. Grecu, Bucharest 1958, 79 (Book XIII, ch. 8)

[[4]]Laonici Chalcocondylae historiarum demonstrationes, ed. E. Darkò, 2 vol., Budapest 1923/27, II 2,7-18 and II, 3, 2-6; Laonic Chalcocondil, Expuneri istorice, ed. Vasile Grecu, Bucharest 1958, 139f

[[5]]Peter Schreiner: Chronikalische Untersuchungen zur Familie Kaiser Manuels II., in: Byzantinische Zeitschrift 63, 1970, 285-299

Copyright (C) 2002, Whilhelm Baum. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents, including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

English Translation Copyright (C) 2002, Eugene N. Lane. Many thanks to Alice-Mary Talbot for her generous help in revising the
original article.This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents, including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

Comments to: Wilhelm Baum.

Updated: 4 June 2002

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