17 December 2014

Plethon's Cleofe

Angel, Ag. Sophia, Mistra.


I recently discussed Bessarion's monody, one of four given at the μνημόσυνον for Cleofe Malatesta Palaiologina.  The memorial would likely have been held at Ag. Sophia, where she had been buried. There was a thunderstorm that day, and crowds of people -- family members, officials, clergy, women of the court, townspeople -- had shoved their way into the little church and its burial chapels and porches. There was a newly-painted portrait of Cleofe and her husband over her tomb, and some of the speakers gestured toward it and said, "You," as they spoke.  But we don't know which chapel the tomb was in.  

I spent some time in Ag. Sophia at the end of October, standing in each chapel, trying to envision the circumstances, trying to consider how well a speaker could be heard from various positions. Most of the people present wouldn't have heard the speakers, and most would not have understood the Greek the speakers used: what was important to them was that they were there.

Hints in the monodies allow us to work out the order in which they were given. Bessarion's was the last. The first was by George Gemistos Plethon. What we have is probably not quite the speech that he gave, but his edited written text.

The magic name of Plethon has preserved this monody in twenty or so copies (one is bound with the only copies of the Bessarion and Cheilas): the other monodies survive in one copy each. Plethon's has been used, or parts of it, a number of times by a number of writers, for what it says about the soul. What has been completely overlooked is that Plethon's discussion of the soul comes from his portrayal of a very specific soul, Cleofe's soul, and then from his portrayal of her husband's.

Gemistos began quietly, speaking of Solon's idea of goodness, and how one could not be sure of human fortune until death. "For this reason," he said, "one would consider epitaphs and funeral addresses to be more reliable than any other encomia . . . for they are concerned with matters already securely established . . . The Athenians . . . thought it right to use these addresses."  Gemistos anchored the storm-blown mourners firmly in the Athenian tradition: "We, likewise, have come forward in this commemoration, not only to speak for our most holy ruler's now-departed wife who achieved a good ending to life . . . but expressing thanks for the reverence and understanding she always exhibited."

He then reminded them that Cleofe had come from Italy whose Romans had ruled the best part of the settled world, from the Danube to the Tigris to Libya to the Atlantic, and that she came from heroic ancestors.  "She came here, lovely and good, to dwell with our most holy ruler . . . bringing with her shining adornment of body and soul, for she was tall and lovely, and had matured into every sort of goodness. . . She, however, exhibited, in addition to the beauty of her body, which was radiant, an even more radiant and holy quality of soul, and showed that her body was a sort of image of the beauty of her soul."

This is an extraordinary emphasis on Cleofe's body, however beautiful, and it should be remembered that Plethon believed that physical desire was a divine gift, and that it was through the body that we become like the gods.

He went on to list the qualities of her soul and then followed them with a brief statement about each: "For she adorned it with every sort of complete goodness: judgement, discretion (illustrated by her sober prudence in putting off her leisurely Italian ways and taking up the decorous restraint of our women”) , clemency, honesty, piety (illustrated by her worship with prayers and continuous fasting according to our custom"), married affection, and nobility, and having naturally acquired each from birth, she increased each through study and practice and proved herself a glory among women. (This discussion of qualities suggests that Plethon was working on Περι αρετων, "On virtues," earlier than generally thought.) 

"Living in this manner, and with such occupations, practicing and studying, always adding more good to good things . . . and I would add that she recently took part in the most sacred of our feasts and our mysteries." He would have known as well as any of Cleofe's anguished "conversion" to the Eastern rite.  "She departed this life from an affliction beyond the powers of all medicine, so that she seems so dear to God from all these to have been taken up by God, and she left despair in her subjects . . .." 

Leaving the subject of Cleofe specifically, Plethon went on to say that there is a part of us that is mortal, and a part that is immortal, the most important part. The body is a kind of garment, and when we take off this garment, it is wrong to mourn when the important part has moved into a better life. It is the life we live here that prepares us for that life, as did Cleofe's life, while a person who takes no care for the divine in this life will have no contact with it in the next.  Almost all people believe in this continuing life.  The creator, as a good master, would not have given us the longing for eternity unless there was an eternity to long for. Non-rational animals do not because they do not understand cause or infinity. The one who knows something about God must have something in common with him, and we could not know this everlasting life without a desire for it.   

Then Plethon moves to suicide, a peculiar topic in the circumstances, unless he knew something that made this topic relevant.  Many of us who have been widowed have had the experience of being carried along at first, perhaps by shock, but with the sense that we are managing remarkably well.  Then about a month along, there is a great crash and an all-devouring depression.  It is clear, from Bessarion's monody, and particularly from Plethon's conclusion, that Theodoros had fallen deep into a depression, to the point that it had become a political as well as a personal problem.  He had earlier written a poem to Cleofe that looked forward to a radiant reunion in the presence of God.  Had he mentioned to Plethon the possibility of anticipating this?  

It is difficult to think why Plethon would have otherwise brought up the subject, particularly in such public circumstances.  He explained that non-rational animals do not commit suicide because they cannot envision their non-existence.   Nothing seeks its own destruction, so a human would not consider suicide if it would have that result.  A person who is suicidal must feel that suicide just allows it to move out of the body.  Plethon clearly allows more understanding of someone who is suffering, than did -- and does -- church teachings.

Plethon concluded with a firm statement of comfort, correction, and encouragement.   Who else at Mistra could have spoken to the ruler so critically in public?  "If the belief is established as certain within us that the soul is immortal, we shall be nobler and better, and shall bear such losses more gently. And so, most holy ruler, consoling yourself with these words, give up despair, considering again that you were born to preserve the common good in the face of troubles, but despair will stand always in the way of such action. You see how the menace has progressed and requires great concern for recovery and return to safety. This rests on you, and only if you will take care of it appropriately will all the rest follow you so that, if God wills, we shall be saved. 

"But, if you are indifferent, our danger will increase. Consider that if some mischief occurs—may that not happen—all will place the burden of it onto you, while if something happens to rescue us you will carry off the fame of it. So, understanding that you will in either of these cases have the greatest credit and, as your duty to God, who entrusted you with governance over us, stand before us, stronger and more attentive, and God will give you the diligence to be the rescuer of our community and provide you with whatever is necessary. And it has to be that, since your actions bringing us toward salvation will be great, and never trivial that, as well as by us, among all the rest of humanity you will be held in high esteem.  



My thanks to Pierre MacKay for his work on the translation.

10 December 2014

Nauplion's fiefs


15th-century remains of fief boundary wall and tower at Myloi.



It is easier to think about fief churches than fiefs, because with churches you have a definite building in a specific place. For the fiefs of the Frankish and first Venetian occupations, you have in a very few cases the name of a general area. When the Franks divided up the Argolid as of 1212 or so, it is probable that they used the general divisions already used by the Byzantines. The Aragonese version of the Chronicle of the Morea says that two Greeks who knew the whole country helped the Franks with the division of the territory. 

All we find for the Argolid is that the Foucherolle family was given three fiefs or cavallerias in Argos and Corinth, and many others were given one and two cavallarias. It is not clear how much land was involved in a cavalleria but many Greeks received them, as well as Franks. To suggest possible numbers in the Argolid, Passava and Helos each had 12 fiefs, Patras 24, Escorta 22, Arcadia 8, Damala (considered part of Corinth) 6.  A report on fiefs from 1391 gives Clarentza and Kalamata 300 fiefs each, Vostitza 200, and says the despot has 40 in Mani.

For a completely different area, in 1500, Crete was divided into 391 cavallarias. Each fief or cavallaria in Crete had 50 boine or fields. A boina was the amount of land that could be plowed in a day, and each could support two families of villani or paroikoi. There is nothing to let us know whether the Cretan system was applicable in the Morea.


The Frankish system of privatized justice and privatized military fit well with the Byzantine rule in the Morea. We have no idea what shifts might have occurred as the culture of the Franks from north-western France became the culture of Franks from southern Italy during the next 180 years or so. Venice took over the Frankish Argolid in 1394 in a treaty with Theodoros I of Mistra, guaranteeing to protect the traditional rights of the inhabitants. What those traditional rights might have been in relation to the fiefs after 180 years of foreign rule, we have no idea. The significant change Venetian rule brought was that justice and the military came under the control of the governors of Argos and Nauplion, and the fief was a means of collecting taxes which apparently became more stringent.

In the Venetian land system, all the land belonged to the state. There seem to have been several categories of land-holdings. The fiefs which were comparatively large, and were heritable. Then there were large land-holdings that were rented out for 5, 10, or 29 years. My “fief” churches may have belonged to these landholdings as much as to fiefs. There is good evidence for substantial Greek ownership of these. Another division of land came in 40-stremmata plots, plus another 5 of vineyards, which were given to the immigrants Argos needed to repopulate its empty countryside. The 40 stremmata plus 5, allowed a family to make a basic living and pay the taxes required in cash and farm produce.  

Venice tended to make land divisions relate to the productivity of the land: we don't know if the Franks followed this system  in the 13th century.  Another division of land was the territory given to stratioti who were responsible for raising their own food and horses, and we know nothing about amounts of land there. It is unclear whether an appropriate unit of territory was assigned to a particular band of stratioti, or whether land was assigned individually. Argos seems to have assigned plots of land to individual stratioti, but that may have been a special case.

Essentially, we have minimal information about the Venetian land system, but Bartolomeo Minio's letters suggest that he considered the landworkers – villani or paroikoi – hard-pressed. He does give us a little information about fiefs, and what he does say suggests fairly large divisions of land. Given the locations of the fiefs he mentions, I would wonder if the areas farthest from Nauplion were made into fiefs, and lesser divisions of land were closer.

Minio only identifies the fiefs of Kiveri, Thermissi, and Kastri. After two difficult conferences that divided the Ottoman-held territory from the Venetian, Minio writes of “the feudatories who have recovered the lands of their fiefs.” The cumulative information about fiefs gives erratic information about productivity, owners, and local morals. 

The bishop of Nauplion (who never visited his see) held the fief of Thermissi which was administered through a local agent. The bishop had half the profit from the Thermissi salt pans, Venice the other half, from which 900 kilograms of salt was exported annually. There was a fief with a castle at Kiveri (the former name for Myloi) whose primary income was from water mills. The fief's boundary line is shown above. A fief of Kastri, held by Sier Francesco Alberto, had a fortification into which people could come when under threat. Sier Francesco seems to have lived primarily in Nauplion. In Crete, landholders had to have houses in one of the main cities – Candia, Chania, Rethymnon, or Sitia. There is no information as to whether this was the case with the Venetian Morea, though the case of Giovanni Cavaza (below), combined with Sier Francesco, suggests it might have been. 

Giovanni Catello had a half-fief of vineyards. Giovanni Cunia had a fief of 200 stremmata which he was required to plant half in vines and half in grain. He apparently grew linen and was also required to have a beating yard and a machine for smashing linen stalks, for which he had permission to obtain wood and materials from Venice. Damian Agrimi seems to have had a fief (or perhaps a land allotment) near Kastri from which he shipped cheese, as did Zorzi da Londa.

Giovanni Cavaza, who seems to have been doing a little embezzling in his job as castellan of Nauplion, came into possession of one of the Foucherolle fiefs which had been in that family for six generations. At least half the fief was in vines: he also had a solid business in linen and wool. He had a house on Akro-Nauplion, and one outside the walls which he willed to his wife and then his sister. He seems to have died about 1405.

 In 1412 the governor of Nauplion gave half the fief to Manoli Murmuri, from the leading Greek family of Nauplion. After three years of suits and counter-suits, the half-fief was transferred to Giovanni Catello, from the leading Venetian family of Nauplion. This half-fief was apparently worth killing for, and this is where the story gets complicated. 

In 1416, Giovanni's brother Michali, Nicolò Murmuri, and someone's brother named Gregorio tried to kill Giovanni, who was so badly injured that he lost his right hand. Eight years later, in 1424, these conspirators bribed a villano to kill Giovanni when he was out in the vineyards . Again he survived the assault, although he received five wounds. The villano disappeared, but his brother testified against him and Michali, Gregorio, and Nicolò. Giovanni made a complaint to the Venetian Signoria against the three: we have no further information, even though the story has gone on for at least nine years.





03 December 2014

Bessarion's missing manuscript


Bessarion's index to Marciana Gr Z 533 (coll 778).

Five-thirty-three, as we call it here in this house (feeling that “Gr Z” and “coll. 778” are just plain pedantic in normal conversation), is a collection of Bessarion's writings that he put together himself and for which he wrote the index and an introduction.  His introduction to 533 says, in part, 

Of the writings included here, some were produced while I was still young and setting myself to the practice of writing for the first time, while I still had no ecclesiastical rank, since I was still tender in my years . . . Others in this collection, going on as time allowed, were published, some at the time of my ordination as I was brought into holy orders, others when I became patriarch . . . in addition a long letter to the Despot Constantine when I had already been raised to the rank of cardinal -- these letters which, even if they are not worthy of deep thought, I have an affection for as my own children, and I have put them in the book as a reminder for ourselves, rather than of value for others.

Bessarion's Introduction.

Despite the fact that Bessarion was well into his forties when he wrote the letter to Constantine in 1444, this collection in 533 is persistently called his “juvenalia,” which gives a completely incorrect expectation of its contents. Here are the contents of 533 (I am trying here to read the text above):

* Encomium
* Monody for Manuel II.
* Discourse to the emperor Alexis of Trebizond.
* Legal act in the name of the archbishop of Sophia.
* Monody for the empress Theodora of Trebizond.
* Another monody for her.
* Another monody for her.
* Epitaph to ??? (crossed out)
* Epitaph for George Amiroutzes. (crossed out)
* Canon to S. Pantaleon.
* Letter to ???
* Letter to the same.
* Another letter to Amiroutzes.
* Epitaph for the basilissa Cleofe.
* Epitaph for the basilissa Theodora.
* Verses for a tapestry for the tomb of Manuel and Helena.
* Letter to Theodoros II.
* Letter to the same
* Letter to Paul Sophianos.
* Letter to Demetrios Pepagomenos.
* Letter to Nikephoros Cheilas.
* Letter to the monk Dionisios.
* Letter to John Eugenikos.
* Letter to the monks Matthaios and Isidoros.
* Address to the synod of Constantinople in the name of the archbishop of Trebizond.
* Description of Trebizond.
* Homily
* Monody to John VIII on the death of his wife Maria of Trebizond.
* Another monody for her.
* Another monody for her.
* Speech made at the opening of the Council of Union in Ferrara.
* Discourse on Union.
* Letter to Constantine, Despot of Mistra.

Notice that the contents include 7 monodies -- 7 formal funeral laments which were sent as gifts to the family of the dead and read out at formal memorial services. One monody was for Manuel II, but the other 6 monodies are for women -- for two women, actually.

Which brings us to the missing manuscript. A monody.

His monody for Cleofe Malatesta Palaiologina is missing.  533 has a number of document from his Mistra period -- letters, and three poems for members of the imperial family, one of them Cleofe.  Why would he have omitted this monody?  Granted, it is fairly tedious and even incoherent in places, but so are the other monodies listed (except for Manuel's). It could not have been later removed from 533: all the pages are accounted for in his index.

I can speculate (with no evidence) as to why he would have decided to omit this document from 533, but the monody is missing from all the other manuscripts of his writings as well. The sole copy is to be found -- or was found ninety-some years ago -- in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and printed in volume 4 of Spyridon Lampros' 
Παλαιολόγεια καὶ Πελοπονησιακά in 1924/30, along with other monodies for Cleofe.  The monody  by Cheilas follows Bessarion's in the Paris manuscript.  The Pepagomenos monody is in the Vatican.  There are several copies of the Plethon monody -- thanks to his magic name -- in Madrid, Bucharest, Belgrade, the Escorial, Leiden, with two in Milan. 

The other three monodies for Cleofe seem unique.  The Bessarion monody is a brief rewriting of the three monodies in the list above for the empress Theodora of Trebizond who died before she could become the mother-in-law of John VIII.  Pierre MacKay has made a collation of the monodies, which shows -- among other things -- that the tedious and incoherent parts were for Theodora, while the parts written newly for Cleofe are specific to her:

This disaster  -- her death -- has touched every race.  She cared for them from her own resources.  Her work was impossible to conceal, even if she avoided incense and lighted torches. She was a city founded on a mountain, impossible to hide (a reference to Mistra).  

She flew out of her husband's hands, leaving him crying tears of blood.  He was cut in two, and we see see that the high-born suffer as do the humble. The reasons must be left in the hands of God.

Who that knew her could not mourn her?  She accepted respect from the ladies of the court, but she did not compete with them.  She knew she was beautiful, but she had no concern about it  She wanted to go beyond it and be good.  She had the intelligence to chose the good, and the ability to follow through on what she had chosen.  She was quick to select the best solution to an argument.

Who can adequately express what we have lost?  We could have lost anyone else without hurt, but she was our guardian, our benefactress, our protector, and our enjoyment of her goodness was never satisfied.  No one has been left unwounded.

Bessarion concluded Cleofe's monody with an apparent criticism of Theodoros whose inability to deal with his grief has contributed to a sense of disorder.  This reflects the opening sentence, first written for Theodora, "O, the passage of disordered time," and then Bessarion mentioned the order Cleofe had brought to them.

So I wonder why this manuscript is missing.  Was Bessarion, more than ten years later, still unable to face so tangible a reminder of the disorder, of the loss of Cleofe?





The photographs of 533 are by John Burke.

26 November 2014

Fief Churches


Church of Ag. Adrianos, near Nauplion.


I recently became interested in fief churches after I realized I had identified three in the vicinity of Nauplion. I will have more to say about fiefs later on, but fief churches are one way to identify fiefs. We have too little information on fiefs, although we have a great deal of information on landholdings in general, and I have written several entries here about that information.  For example:

A visit to the Nauplion area early this month allowed me the provisional identification of a few more.  I have not worked out a satisfactory set of criteria for identification: in most cases I find rebuilding has obliterated architectural distinctions I would have expected, and in one case I have the before-and-after photographs that would prove it.  Take Ag. Thomas at Midea about which I have written. Here you see the north end of the cross-vault in 1978, looking through to the arched south windows.  I marked on the photograph the cross made with 8 or so inserted bowls, such as are found on Ag. Triada at Merbaka. I was unable to tell if the bowls were still in position and only whitewashed.

Ag. Thomas, Midea

Now the south side with its 8 or so bowls.  The bowls are characteristic of Frankish churches, though the church would have been built by Greek labor and we see this in the arches and dentil ornamentation. This little 13th-century church is perched on a small hill that looks across the plains from Midea to Nauplion.


Ag. Thomas, Midea

Now for the improved modern version of the church.  All traces of the cross-vault have been removed, with the molding, the arches, and the plates:

Ag. Thomas, Midea

It would be unrecognizable as the same building were it not for my photographs.

Another identification as a fief chapel is the presence of Western frescos, and I have written about the two I found here.  One is at Ag. Marina at Kazarma, an endearingly clumsy chapel with a 14th-century fresco behind the iconostasis of a man in red and a woman in white.

Rear view of Ag. Marina, Kazarma.

and then at Ag. Sotira where far up to the right when you first enter is the remains of a fresco with Westerners looking up to a Franciscan-style cross.  The fief of this church has been through a number of incarnations, and I suspect perhaps a little piracy might have been involved, given its private landing beach.

Roof of Ag. Sotira, Asine.

I reported these frescos to the Archaeological Service in 08-09, but nothing has been done towards there study or preservation.  Nor has anything been done for the fortified tower at Ag. Sotira which was 4 stories high in 1978, but is now down to 3 stories.

A church need not have been built by Franks or Venetians to have become a fief church, though I suspect there was very little pre-emption of religious space in terms of fiefs.  As an example, here is the tiny church at Plataniti from about 1100, I Metamorphosis,  and then the newer clumsily-Western-built church a stone's throw away.

12th C, Plataniti.

13th C, Plataninti.

I wasn't able to stand where I could get a complete shot of the facade of I Koimisi, but I did get one of its two surviving bowls.



I think the church at the top of this entry, Ag. Adrianos, was built as a fief church, although it has been so improved and restored and rebuilt and hedged and locked against visitors, that it is difficult to say.  These are the only two pictures I was able to get because of the barricades.

Ag. Adrianos, Ag. Adrianos-Katsingri

It was, however, the church on the fief where Cyriaco went in the previous entry to find his Mycenae.  A fresco in it gives a restoration date of 1713, and it is mentioned in a Venetian document of 1696.  My interest is more in the earlier fiefs, but fiefs were assigned again when the Venetians came in 1686.

Another church documented then, and in 1500 is Ag. Paraskevi on the side of the road up Palamidi.  It, too, has been restored almost beyond recognition and given new bright frescos although I think it is distinctively Western-built.

Ag. Paraskevi, Palamidi.


Ag. Paraskevi, Palamidi.

It was, once, a Santa Veneranda, being out in the area where the Albanians were living, though I think it was built well before they arrived.  We have a 1500 reference to the Strada S. Veneranda, which was the road from Nauplion out to the side of Palamidi and over the hill to Karathona beach.

As a final church, Ag. Nikolaos at Iria, near the coast, and also in an area that became Albanian.  It has the date of 1381 carved over the western entrance.


Ag. Nikolaos, Iria.

There are certainly more churches in the Argolid to identify and I may have been reckless about some of these. I can only hope for the opportunity of another visit.  Meanwhile, I would be grateful for more information and corrections from readers.



(My thanks to Hermes Car Rental in Nauplion (down from the bus stop) for the darling little red car that was such a delight to drive to these churches.)

19 November 2014

Cyriaco's Mycenae


Cyriaco's Mycenae, at Ag. Adrianos near Nauplion, 2 November 2014.

Nearly three years ago I wrote about Cyriaco's visit to what he thought was Mycenae,  to a small, elegant fortification near Nauplion.  At the time I inquired of various discussion lists “What did Mycenae mean in the Renaissance?” That question was too general and no response was ever offered, but a couple of weeks ago in Athens, Stella Chrysochoou, a scholar of cartography, brought up the topic from another angle.

She has found, in Plethon's copy of Ptolemy, annotations of the "modern" -- fifteenth-century -- names of Greek cities. For examples, Mt. Taygetos is Pentadaktylon, Stymphalos is Zaraka, Sikyon is Vasilika, and Kleonai and Nauplia are "the same".   Mycenae, however, Plethon had identified as "Polyphengos". Had he been there or did someone offer him the identification?   Polyphengos is actually to the NW of Mycenae, near Nemea.  Cyriaco's Mycenae is in the opposite direction, SE at Ag. Adrianos.

This means that at least two different sets of Cylopean stones were identified as Mycenae, neither of them accurately, and makes one wonder what was visible at Mycenae when Cyriaco was shown Ag. Adrianos in 1448.  Why did Cyriaco care about Mycenae? He doesn't say.

Before Mycenae, Cyriaco had been in Mistra with Plethon between August 1447 and April 1448 for at least two extensive visits, as well as exploring Mani.  He had with him a newly commissioned copy of Strabo which he had had received in Constantinople on 26 January.

Mycenae is to be found in Strabo 8.6.10 and Cyriaco was visiting in the general neighborhood.  Strabo gives Mycenae a page of attention, after Argos, and after mentioning the statues of Polykleitos at the Heraion.  Cyriaco was extremely enthusiastic about his discoveries of those very statues from the Heraion in the walls of a church. But what did his Venetian friends in Nauplion,  Pietro Rangano the scribe, and Joannes Bendramon, know about Mycenae?  Did Cyriaco pique their interest with his Strabo?  Of the three places Strabo mentioned in the immediate area -- Argos, Mycenae, the Heraion -- Cyriaco did not go to Argos.  Anyone from Nauplion would have told him that there was nothing there worthy of consideration.  But if he had known Plethon's identification of Mycenae, wouldn't he have gone there?  He doesn't mention Polyphengos. He never hesitated to travel several more days if he thought he might see something interesting.

Homer himself was not much interested in Mycenae, barely mentioning it in the Iliad as one of a cluster of cities under Agamemnon in the Catalog of Ships, and in the Odyssey as a place ruled by Aigisthos after he killed Atreides. It is Argos in the Agamemnon that gets the full benefit of the spectacular deaths.  It seems that Plethon and Cyriaco were more interested in Greek geography than in Greek literature and that is probably where Mycenae took on a little importance in the early Renaissance -- as one of a list of classical place names.



13 October 2014

The Lion




Another chapter from the Villehardouin novel I mostly wrote 25+ years ago and never completely finished. This chapter is about Boniface of Montferrat. Remember, this is fiction, unimpeded by the amazing historical research of the last two decades.



* * * * * * * * * *




II. THE LION



Boniface de Montferrat was riding south.

Nowhere in his path was there anyone who had not heard of bloody Constantinople. Nor was there anyone who had not heard of Montferrat, heard of that Thursday in Constantinople when blood stood in the depressions of the cobblestones, when Montferrat on his massive destrier rode from the harbor gate to the great palace of Boukoleon: the streets were piled with bodies and the air was full of black smoke, and all the way his hands never touched the reins and his horse's hoofs never touched the ground.

Nor was there anyone who had yet to learn of the flight of the Emperor, of greedy, lazy Alexios III who eloped from the City with the crown jewels. Who stole from the City's defense whatever was left of the treasury of the Empire, and divided it among his doxies and his flute girls for easy carrying. Who left his Empress and his daughters and his City to the whims of the Frankish warlords.

And Montferrat, Frankish King of Salonika, reaped the benefit of this knowledge and the despair it brought. And wherever Montferrat held out his hand, another city fell into it as easily as a late-summer plum.

So it was that at word of his approach, town after town poured out its inhabitants and wealth to greet him. He rode at the forefront of his army: a towering man, broad-shouldered and with a mane of white hair, on a great red warhorse, the banner with the golden lion fluttering overhead. The road was lined with weeping women and excited children who scattered branches of laurel in his path and wreathed his horse with flowers and cried, "Na zeisete! Chronia polla!" May you live long and prosper!

And at each town, the elders came out to meet him -- the gerontes and the archons in their furs, the ephors and phylaxes and logothetes and protonotaries with their seals of office and their books and keys, the bishops with jewelled crowns and golden dragons on their staffs, the priests in tall black hats and brocaded robes. Holding their gold and crimson icons above their heads, bearing before them the silvered coffers of holy relics of their saints, and the revenues of their towns in wooden boxes, they greeted him and fell to their knees and cried, "Na zeisete, na vasilisete!" May you live and reign!"

Montferrat acknowledged their greetings with a wave of his white-gloved hand, and accepted their homage and their gifts, and then it was seen that his authority over his men was as absolute as over his horse: nowhere was anything touched, or any woman offended, or any church defiled. Greeks asked to ride with him, to join his army, for under Montferrat's lion rode Prince Manuel of Constantinople, the son of his bride and boy-heir to the throne of the Greeks.

Behind Montferrat, the cloud of dust stretched for two miles, stirred by five hundred knights and a thousand foot, their destriers and war horses and palfreys, squires and servants, pack mules and laundresses and wagons. They straggled along cheerfully, barelegged in the heat, their stockings hanging from their belts, their shirts tied around their heads to keep the sweat from their eyes. They sang:
We be soldiers three!
Pardonnez-moi, je vous en prie.
Lately come forth from Con-sti-no-ply,
With nary a lepta of money!

The long summer days were hot and cloudless, the wheat had been harvested, the markets were mounded with fruit. The knights and sergeants and arbalestriers and foot soldiers paid whatever price was asked of them, for they and their horses and wagons were piled with plunder from Constantinople. For three days, these knights and soldiers had been set loose on the City to work their wildest imaginings, and after those three days of untrammeled violence and unparalleled destruction, the money and gold and plate and jewels, the furs and silks and ivory, had been piled together; a dozen churches and convents had been filled, room after room mounded from floor to ceiling, and the Venetian bankers had spent more than a week counting and measuring and estimating and weighing. After the lords and barons and Bishops and Doge claimed the gold and jewels, the rest was divided into shares: one for each foot soldier; for a sergeant, two, and for a knight, four.

Most spent their wealth soon enough, got rid of the brocades and silks, the silvered basins and ewers, for a soldier on the march can do nothing with brocade but hire a woman to travel along and provide the cooking and washing and such that a man might need. And Montferrat held out to them hope of more wealth, for he gave away to his followers the lands through which they passed. And every day or two, the line of knights riding along the dusty Greek roads grew shorter, as the newest landholder took possession of his fief, and gave out farms and lands to the knights and soldiers in his companies, and sold off others to the hangers-on.

For Montferrat had need of loyal followers. Ambition controlled him as surely as he controlled his horse. At fifty, he craved to be far greater than Marquis, for though in the courts of France and Italy he had precedence in the first rank of the nobility, in his family he was the least. Only four months earlier, he was confident of triumph: the throne of the Empire of Byzantium was in his grasp, a prize far beyond anything his brothers had won -- though one was Regent of Jerusalem and King of Jerusalem, and the other had been King of Salonika, and even his sister was Queen of Cyprus. So when Constantinople fell, Montferrat rode on the Imperial Palace of Boukoleon -- so called because of its great prophetic sculpture of a bull locked in mortal combat with a lion -- assured the throne was his.

So sure that, on that same blood-drenched, smoke-blinded day, he married the young Queen Mother: Margaret of Hungary, twice Empress, sister and daughter to kings of Hungary, grand-daughter to Louis VII of France, and mother of the heir to the throne of Byzantium. That the Lady Margaret was beautiful, that she had both French wit and Hungarian cheekbones, was delightful, but Montferrat desired the throne far more than he had ever desired a woman and his desire for the throne blinded him to any other consideration. And so he did not consider the power of the blind Doge to control his fate. Now Doge Dandolo feared the Marquis whose lands in Italy adjoined those of Venice, and who as Emperor would rule alone, and so he gave the election to the man he could dominate, to dour Baudouin, the pious and anxious Count of Flanders.

Baudouin was crowned in Agia Sophia under clouds of incense, and gold mosaics glittering in the light of a thousand silver lamps. His robe was cloth-of-gold sewn with jewels, his mantle was of purple and furs, and Montferrat held out to him the gold crown of the Emperors of Byzantium. Six bishops together placed the crown on Baudouin's head and his thin face was shadowed by the heavy pendants of pearls which hung down to his shoulders. For all the previous day and night, Baldwin had fasted and kept vigil: he swayed with the weight and the heat, and the crown which was too large slipped.

Montferrat was first of the great lords to swear homage: the green lion of Montferrat dipped before the black and gold lion of Flanders. In white leather and silk, and emerald brocade mantle, he knelt before the new Emperor in the ancient ritual of fealty. He touched the uncertain crown with his right hand, and then, his broad shoulders blocking Baudouin from view, he placed his hands between Baudouin's hands, and swore the great oath:
"I, Boniface, Marquis de Montferrat, do hereby swear myself your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship and faith and truth I will bear unto the honor of my lord and his heirs against all manner of folks, so long as I shall live."
And they sealed the oath by kissing on the mouth, and Montferrat hissed, "Now keep your throne," and the spittle from his mouth spattered Baudouin's cheek and those who stood nearest saw stains on the purple.

Then was the Emperor Baudouin truly afraid, and he did refuse to invest the Marquis with his rightful lands, and the Marquis de Montferrat rebelled and took his lords and followers from the city. Already regretting the choice of Emperor, fearing civil war, and fearing for the safety of the city against Kalojan of the Bulgarians, the great overlords of the Crusade persuaded both men to agree to give the decision to Council. Then did the Council give to Montferrat the lands in northern Greece which he desired, for as the old Doge said: "Give him what he wants. He is too tall to hang." And many who had formerly supported Baudouin left him for service with Montferrat.

After humiliation and bloodless conquest, Montferrat's hunger ran thus: I am King of Salonika, but even so was my brother at seventeen. I can do more. They come to my side every day. By this time next year, all Greece can be mine. Baudouin will well have to tolerate whatever I do here because he has great need of me: without me, he is helpless against Kalojan, and he needs me against the Saracens. I can defeat Kalojan when I am ready. The Pope's lands adjoin mine: he will not risk those, and his fear for the safety of Cristendom in the East will take care of the rest. Dandolo will be difficult, but I will control the near ports, and Venice will come on her knees to me if Kalojan pushes west. With Greece behind me, I can cut through to Hungary, and when I ally with Margaret's brother, Kalojan will be surrounded. And then nothing can keep me from Constantinople . . .
* * * *
Leon Sgouros was riding north.

Late that summer, he had sent a summons throughout his lands for all men with horses or bows or swords, for anyone who wanted the rewards of victory, to join him at the Isthmus. From there, his company rode on high-walled Thebes. Expecting formidable opposition, Sgouros was taken aback when the Theban archons met him at the city gates, the gates wide open, and suspicious, when, before he could demand their surrender, they handed him a soft leather bag of gold coins and a prepared address requesting him to lead their defense against the Franks. And gave him the information that the Emperor Alexios with the Empresses, was at Larissa, a hard week's march away.

Sgouros never dismounted. He wiped his dusty face, ordered the Thebans to bring him food and water, and water and oats for the horses. Cramming the prepared address into a pouch without reading it, he began a series of brusque instructions, speaking rapidly to one assistant and then another, and never to the Thebans themselves. He demanded that the private brigades employed by the Theban merchants present themselves within half an hour, ready for service with their horses and a three-day supply of food. He assigned soldiers to accompany Chamateros to see the Theban treasurer about tribute and taxes. He assigned another aide to watch Chamateros.

When the hastily-equipped Theban guards came out, Sgouros jerked his horse's head around and started off at a gallop, followed by a small party of horsemen. He planned as he rode: How much time do I have? We have nothing to fight them with. Nothing. The Franks will come all the way down. They are unstoppable. I am the strongest man in Greece, and I won't be able stop them but I will have to fight them somewhere. We can hold them at the Isthmus for a while, do business there. The Emperor will be of little help against the Franks, he doesn't have any soldiers. As a hostage? Maybe. At the very least, I can hold him and his family for ransom. The Franks will want the Emperor, and if I have him, they will have to deal with me. The Emperor is a fool, but he has daughters. I can marry one. Then at the Emperor's death, I will be Emperor. One son-in-law already was. That other one, that Laskaris who claims to be Emperor now -- he will be the main problem. But if I have an heir who is also the heir to the Emperor. The Emperor will be no problem. He drinks. He's fat.

Sgouros arrived at Larissa after two days of hard riding, sleeping barely four hours in a night, and taking new horses in each town. He swung down from the saddle and demanded to see the Emperor. One of the servants told him that the Emperor was in bed, sick -- unable to receive guests. Sick with fear, Sgouros thought, and stalked into the Emperor's room in mid-sentence, ignoring the protests of the servants, laying out his plans. His hands made short, chopping motions. He did not bow. He ignored the presence of the girl in the bed with Alexios.

Alexios jerked his embroidered covers up around his neck. Kataramene Criste, he thought, this man is uncouth! And dangerous. And he's is all I've got. He's threatening me. He has to be controlled. He can marry Eudocia. I have no idea how a daughter of mine can have so little of what attracts a man. Takes after her mother. Thank God the others aren't like that. Too bad one of them isn't here. Eudocia is wealthy, though. Fortunate now, she's a widow. Good thing I brought her jewels along. It's going to be a bitch getting them back from the girls, but I may have to do it.

Alexios offered Eudocia, mentioning in an off-hand way what Sgouros already knew: that her private land-holdings covered much of the northern Peloponnesos; added to his, this would give him control of all the country between Thebes and Arkadia, Patras and Nauplion. Sgouros demanded the Empress Euphrosyne's lands south of Larissa for himself. Alexios agreed. He was glad to let Sgouros argue with her. Thus, in ten minutes of talking, Sgouros acquired for himself ten times the land gained by all his previous conquests: he was now ruler of a third of the lands of Greece.

The Empress was not consulted. Nor was Eudocia, in mourning, recently and brutally deprived of her husband, the towering Alexios Doukas Mourtzophlous she had adored from girlhood. In a final desperate attempt to save Constantinople, he led a rebellion to overthrow the puppet rulers of the Franks. Then the Franks attacked the Queen of Cities with fire and axe. Mourtzophlous brought Eudocia and her mother out of the flaming City by main force, butting his way through the mob, bellowing and swinging his staff to clear the panicked crowd out of his way. And when she was too tired to walk, Mourtzophlous carried her in his arms like a child.

They went to Adrianople where Mourtzophlous had land and influence. There was a month or two of quiet, and sometimes pleasure, while he brought together an army of refugees from the City and armed bands from the towns and estates of eastern Thrace. But their short javelins and unarmored Arabians could not compete with the long spears and armored destriers of the Franks, and once again, Mourtzophlous saved Eudocia and her mother, although he had to abandon the Imperial scarlet pavilion.

Mourtzophlous brought Eudocia and the Empress to their lord and father Alexios, to his small court in a villa beside a lake. They arrived in the heat of the day, exhausted, to find no one at the gate to greet them, no one at the door to guard the villa. Curtains blew in the breeze, and they heard a flute. They followed its melody through the dusty, disorderly villa to a terrace overlooking the water where Alexios reclined on pillows. The flute-player was a sparsely-dressed girl, and another not dressed at all massaged his feet. He was not best pleased at his family's arrival.

He shook his head at the Empress: "To think of what you must have gone through, my dear," he said dryly. And to Eudocia, "When will you learn how to dress?"

Thinking quickly, Alexios invited his exhausted and unwashed son-in-law into a steam bath to clean off the marks of the journey. The luxurious heat, the perfume of the bath oils, made Mourtzophlous drowsy. He stretched out for an attendant to pummel his back. Under the firm, steady hands, he drifted in and out of sleep to jerk awake shouting when rough hands seized his arms and legs. It took six men to hold him. Alexios stood by, belly hanging over the towel which he clutched with one hand, waving the steam from his face with the other and laughing loudly. He summoned Eudocia and the Empress Euphrosyne, and before their eyes the eyes of their rescuer were blinded. Which rescuer, the Emperor Mourtzophlous, was then dressed and taken to the roadway north of town where a stick was put into his hand, and he was told to start walking.

And he had started walking, and for the price of a few lepta, the beggars had pelted him with dung and stones, shouting, "Embezzler!" and "Usurper!" and sometimes, "Coward!" Mourtzophlous walked for days, asking to be directed to the next town, begging for bread, for water, sleeping against walls. Until the day when he was taken prisoner by Frankish soldiers who recognized him from Constantinople and brought him to Montferrat. "My tent is your tent," he said wryly, holding up the scarlet flap as he guided the blind Emperor to enter.

He ordered his servants to help Mourtzophlous eat and wash. Then Montferrat tried to question the blind man, but Mourtzophlous was defiant. Montferrat shrugged, "You should have treated with me long ago," and sent him on his way with a little money and food and a clean mantle. The blind giant made his way across Thrace, to the shore of the Sea of Marmara where a fisherman remembered him and helped him to cross to Asia Minor, and for a brief time, the dispossessed and those who still wanted to fight gathered around him. Such loyalty came to the attention of Thierry de Loos who held that land in fief of the Emperor Baudouin, and he ordered Mourtzouphlous arrested and taken to Constantinople.

Baudouin, tense and pious, refused to see his predecessor. He discussed heresy. He threw out problems of precedence and etiquette and entitlement to High Justice, talked about the laws of God and unrighteous kings. Talked about a man's betrayal of his Emperor and the violation of covenants. Hemmed and hawed about the possibilities of a trial for treason, about the legal definitions being unclear. Hemmed and hawed long enough for some of his captains to detect his secret wish.

On an avenue of the City stood a series of triumphal columns, one of them carved on the outside and hollow inside. Inside the column, a narrow, slippery stair curled to the top where there was a platform with a statue of an Emperor. They climbed the stairs, dragging and bumping the bound and cursing Mourtzophlous between them. At the top, they unbound him, bloody and bruised, and tried to force him to stand. He slipped and fell against the statue. They laughed, kept laughing, and one of them blew blasts on a hunting horn and shouted down to the crowd. Then they hurled the last Emperor of Byzantium off the column. And the Doge shrugged and punned, "High justice for such a tall man." He said it in Greek because it was the same word, psilos, for both high and tall, and they left the body to the dogs and pigs.

* * * * *

The Franks were less than a day away from Larissa. Sgouros in armor and Eudocia in black, on horseback and ready to leave, were hurriedly married by an old priest too senile to understand who was before him. They left Larissa within the hour, Sgouros and the Emperor first, Eudocia riding beside her mother's litter. It was sunny and dry, the imperial robes were wretchedly hot. An hour out of Larissa, Sgouros, impatient, insisted they abandon the litters which were slowing them fatally: the women could ride the sumpter mules. This meant some of the men would have to walk and carry bundles. They tried to buy more animals from the peasants who came out to look, but any animals the peasants possessed seemed inordinately expensive and unaccountably difficult to round up.

The Imperial party rode as best they could from Larissa to Farsala, and then to Domokos. Sgouros looked with little satisfaction at these rich plains and gentle hills, now his, for the officials who should have received the party, fed them, supplied armed men, and rendered homage and taxes, were inexplicably unavailable. Just after Domokos, they encountered the rest of Sgouros's army marching up from Thebes. It was a reluctant, rag-tag group, irregularly armed with the produce of random armories and piracies, contrasting poorly with the Thebans who were uniformed in scarlet tunics and scaled breastplates and marched separately. When Frankish outriders appeared on a hill, Sgouros stationed a rear guard, those men without horses, to create a delay.

The guard were quickly routed by a group of foot soldiers. The Franks bothered neither to collect prisoners nor to kill them. They resheathed their swords, picked up those of the Greeks, and set off after Sgouros and the Emperor.

Whatever his worth as Emperor, Alexios was worthless to his own party. The Brother of the Sun and Moon was left to pull himself up onto his horse, dip his own water, spread out his own sunshade. Everyone deferred to Sgouros who wore authority like a skin and ignored his bride. Eudocia was too shaken to speak, Euphrosyne too furious to keep silent. She kept up a steady diatribe against the upstart Sgouros, the incompetence and stupidity of the Emperor, the existence of the doxies, the total lack of planning for travel, and the weather. "Years ago," she whispered tight-lipped to Alexios, "years ago my brother-in-law warned you about that man. And you never listened to him, or to me, either." Alexios found himself glancing toward Sgouros for succor; Sgouros finally ordered some of the soldiers to take her to the rear of the train and keep her there.

The only chance Sgouros might have even to slow the Franks would be at the single mountain pass leading south. They halted just before the entrance to the pass, near a cluster of summer villas built on the hillside above hot sulphur springs, and the army prepared to fight. Most had short, broad-bladed swords or javelins. Some wore armor, some had chestpieces of boiled, hammered leather, or breastplates with metal scales, or even short-sleeved coats of mail. The men from Corinth carried bows and arrows, and wicker shields. The rest tried to make-do by using buckets or pots for helmets, tying quilts or rugs or even saddles around themselves for protection. Sgouros, whip in hand, wheeled his horse back and forth, demonstrating a confidence he did not possess:

"Thebans to my left. Javelins into the pass, up the hillside! Swords below. You in the pass, collect stones. Move it! Bryennios, see to them! They throw together on your command. Go for the horses! Get the horses down."

"Corinthians to the mound! Archers, past the javelins, into the rocks at the curve. Pile `em up! Block them with their own horses! Swords, below! Their foot will have to come in to get the horses out of the way. Then you swords go for them. Move! Now!"

They could hear the shouts and trumpet calls from the Frankish army, then the neighing of excited horses. The Greek horses, untrained to trumpets and sudden noise, nickered and snorted in fear, jerking against each other and entangling gear.

"Every man into the fight!" Sgouros shouted after the baggage handlers who dropped their baggage and ran after the Imperial party which was retreating into a protected stand of trees. Alexios, remembering the imperial dignity, ordered them to prepare the tents and carpets, but Sgouros galloped onto the carpets, lashing out with his whip, livid: "I said every man into the fight! Your Emperor won't need his carpets if you don't get out of this!"

He dashed back to the pass. "Archers here and here, Doukas! Now! If you can't take a man, take his horse! An arrow in the throat! Makarios, I want the javelins in the ground -- a curve from here across to here. Space them out, space them out!

"Thebans, to the left! Move to their flank, use your javelins where they're unprotected. Stay together, don't get cut off. Move it! Move it! Horsemen, watch out for the marsh on the right! Don't get forced into the pass; there's no room to maneuver, but if you can lure the Franks in, the swords can rush them."

Waving to a party to accompany him, he nudged his horse to the top of the mound among the archers. "I know what you have heard about these people," he screamed, "but they are helpless without their horses. Go for the horses! Hit the ground rolling! Go in under the lances and attack the horses. Slash the muscles in the leg or the belly. Get your man when he's coming down. Their swords are too long to fight close -- you have the advantage there. Go for the horses!"

The Frankish line was moving from the right, a long row of flashing spears pointing toward the sky. They came slowly at first, hoofs pounding in unison, and then as they picked up speed, the horses moved apart, the line lengthened and curved, the lances flashed down. They were closing fast, shouting, "A Montferrat!" The Greek horses whinnied and reared, flung their riders against each other.

At the right end of his line, near the sea, Sgouros saw his riders bolt. The first ran headlong into the marsh where they stuck, screaming; those following stumbled and turned, desperate for solid ground or a path through. The archers near Sgouros dropped their bows and started to run. He ordered retreat, wheeled his horse around, and they fled into the pass. All but the Thebans who rode toward the enemy, threw down their weapons and dismounted, hands high.

The first knights in the charge reined in their horses before the pass, suspecting an ambush. Nothing happened. It was several moments before they realized that Sgouros had disappeared and the Thebans were surrendering. The Imperial party was instantly recognized and surrounded. They were brought to where Boniface de Montferrat leaned on his high-pommelled saddle, grinning.

"Find Pallavicini!" he called as a group of men in armor rode up, pulling off their helms. One saluted.

"Montferrat!" he shouted, brandishing a fist.

"A nice ride, Guido!" Montferrat nudged his horse closer to Pallavicini.

"All dressed up and no place to go!" A loud laugh went up around them.

Montferrat pulled off one of his white leather gloves and held it out. "Your fief. This." He gestured up toward the mountains, back in the direction from which they had come. Pallavicini came closer, took the glove and brandished it. A shout went up from his company and they beat on their shields with their swords. Montferrat and Pallavicini leaned out from their saddles and clasped arms and as they released their grasp, Montferrat gave him a blow to the jaw. "Remember!"

Pallavicini nodded and made a gesture of salute and spat out blood. Then they turned their attention to the Imperial party. The Emperor, in sweat-stained vermillion silks, shook himself loose and came forward importantly.

He began, "Worthy lords, we have all met before," but the Empress Euphrosyne cut him off, demanding the courtesies due her rank. Even with the fatigue and filth of their escape, even without her hairdresser and wardrobe attendants, she showed some of the beauty and all of the arrogance for which she had been famous. She claimed friendship with Montferrat's wife, the Lady Margaret. Montferrat looked at her obliquely and sent his squire to find the young Prince Manuel.

"You know these people?" he said to the boy.

"He is my father's brother," said Manuel. Euphrosyne seized the Prince's bridle and patted his knee. She told him what a good-looking man he was growing up to be, she reminded him of how fond she had always been of him, she described what a sweet baby he had been, how advanced for his age. Montferrat looked at Manuel, amused. The boy looked steadily back at him and said, "They blinded my father and took his throne."

Said Montferrat, "Then rightly, they should be your prisoners."

Manuel was quiet. Then he took a deep breath. "With your permission, Sir?"

"No permission necessary. They are yours. What do you want to do?"

"I would like to send them as a gift to my mother."

Montferrat raised an eyebrow, grinned. "Admirable! And diplomatic!" No one looked at Alexios. Montferrat gestured and soldiers took the Imperial family away. He called to a soldier who had a woman travelling with him and told them both to look after Eudocia. His captains, meanwhile, questioned the other members of the party about Sgouros's route and intentions, but learned quickly that the cooks and bath attendants had nothing to relate. Montferrat ordered them released to follow their employers or go free, as they wished. Some enterprising Greeks in the Frankish company erected the Imperial tents, and the doxies were soon fully employed.

The party for Salonika started without waiting to spend the night. They passed a raucous group of naked soldiers splashing in the steaming sulphur water of the hot springs, gargling and spitting. More were bathing in the sea or sprawled on the sand. Some rummaged through the abandoned luggage. A leather trunk had burst open: fragments of glass glittered among the weeds. Three naked soldiers exclaimed over a great red jewel, large as an apple, hooped with gold; they tossed it back and forth among themselves. One of them saw Montferrat watching in amusement, shouted "A Montferrat!" and tossed him the jewel. He swung out from the saddle, scooped it up and in an easy continued motion tossed it to his troubadour, Raimbaut. Raimbaut pulled two apples from of his pack and began juggling them together, the jewel and the apples.

"What is the name of this place?" asked Montferrat, looking about him.

One of the Greeks volunteered, "It has always been called the 'Hot Gates'." He gestured from the hot springs to the narrow pass.

Word of the Hot Gates spread before Montferrat. There was no one who did not learn of how the army of Sgouros had fled, of how pudgy Alexios had been found hiding from the battle, his servants scattered and his women quarreling. Of how, when they came upon him, he was sitting on a rolled-up rug, trying frantically to unlace the red boots embroidered with eagles which identified him as Emperor of Byzantium.