30 July 2014

The Cretan bowman

Archer. Detail from Mantegna, St. Sebastian. Louvre. ca. 1475.

From Cyriaco of Ancona, 5 July 1445, Cydonia, Crete.

To Niccolò Zancarolo, son of A., the outstanding Cydonian archer and excellent victor over bowmen. Today, the fifth of July, the favorable, fair and celebrated day of quiver-bearing Delian Diana, he defeated, by his vogorous courage and worth, not only the outstanding Parthian, Scythian and Hyrcanian archers as well as others from foreign parts, but also proved superior to the expert Cydonian bowmen in an athletic contest held on the sand before the city walls, here in Cydonia, once the noblest of the Cretan coastal cities, now the illustrious Venetian colony of Khania . . . under the gaze of the distinguished citizens and colonists.  A unique prize was proposed for the contestant who would be victorious with the flying arrow.  Bending the mighty bow with his arms set apart, propelling the arrow through the pierced air from the string drawn to his ear, he aimed at the center of the target, which was the long distance of a stade* away, and struck it.  To him Cyriac of Ancona, lover of antiquity, gave a silver coin engraved with the image of the sacred head of Pythian Apollo, the quiver-and-bow-bearing god [one one side] and the Rhodian prince Anthaeus [on the other]. He did this to commemorate and honor him.

[Cyriaco gives quotations from Isidore, Pindar, Lucan, Vergil, Ovid, Apuleius on Cretan archers.]

Cyriac of Ancona, lover of Hermes, chose all these brilliant and famous sayings of the ancinet writers and poets to record here as a proof of the ancient worth of all the Cydonian and Cretan archers.  Done this day, the seventh of July, the glorious and venerable day of my protecting deity, Mercury, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Pope Eugene, one thousand and twenty-four years after the foundation of Venice.

From Edward W. Bodnar, Cyriac of Ancona: Later Travels, Letter 23. (2003).

* Stade = 184+ metres, or 605 ft.
Archery distances, Wikipedia.
For a 1440 round, known until 2014 as 'FITA Round', standard indoor distances are 18m and 25m. Outdoor distances range from 30m to 90m for senior Gentlemen archers, and 30m to 70m for Ladies. The juniors have shorter targets to shoot at. In Olympic archery, 70m is the standard range.

23 July 2014

Pavane for a Dead Princess: Part Ten

Text of the 1433 poem to Cleofe, in Marciana Gr Z 533 (coll. 778) f. 48b,
a collection of personal documents put together by Bessarion.  Photo, John Burke.

I have written about this poem in the past, and for a few this entry may be repetitive, but it is an important poem to me and, I think, important historically. When Cleofe Malatesta Palaiologina died in childbirth "the shattering of a precious crystal," said Cheilas, on Good Friday of 1433, her husband Theodoros was devastated. Testimony from his friends -- Gemistos, Bessarion, Pepagomenos -- gives a portrait of a man completely incapacitated by grief. But at some time in that first month of her absence, he constructed a love poem to her, bringing together passion and loss in a structure informed by his own scholarship, and by the new world she had opened to him.

Although, my dearest, we were once united,
being one flesh, the word of God claims
that it is better now to be together in the spirit,
you, living in thought, looking down from Heaven
upon my life, my words, my ways, and thought,
seeing all clearly as it is your right,
I, alas, torn apart, living in pain,
calling out for you with scalding tears,
for me, one thing is left, one good thing, song.

And so, portraying you in this image,
I have put myself beside you in every sense
wishing to be united in a third form of union.
so as to quench the terrible fire of longing
and to empty out the agony from my soul.

But, you who have died but live with God, deservedly,
when in the same tomb necessity brings
my bones together with yours in the fourth way
then, showing me what lies beyond the five senses
unite with me in the fifth and greater way
to share in delight and in the sight of God
my courage lies with you, who possess and indeed
give me, as my fellow-poet, this song.

Cleofe, his fellow-poet, made it possible for him to write. Before he was able to work, he was driven back in his grief to a poem she had showed him, one her father had written when her own mother died in childbirth.  It is written in the tradition of the family friend Petrarch:

The holy lady is dead, who used to hold
my spirit with hers, quiet and content;
Now she lives in heaven, and I in torment
am left, another man from what I was:

     not man, but brute, so that I should have
followed her body, life extinguished,
never to leave the side of her tomb
but burned myself where her heart lies.

     Then perhaps my soul might follow her
in celestial triumph, where all live
eternally by divine power.

    Yet if I with all my force were to be kept
from following her, at least
my body would be buried with her sacred bones

The fifth line -- "non huom ma bruto" -- and its verse described his condition to himself. Pepagomenos may have given him opium to calm him, and the ideas of "brute" and "drug" may have driven his tangles of thought to the Theocritean idyll about the brute, Cyclops, grieving for the loss of a lady:

There is no other drug for love . . . nor salve, nor poultice,
except the Muses, and this is something sweet and gentle
for men, yet it is not easy to discover it.

And this was then the crystal about which his poem grew.   Several things are happening in his poem.  The first, perhaps the least important is that there are two bits of information about imperial lives in Mistra.  For one, he expected to be buried in the same tomb with her at the palace chapel of Ag. Sophia.  For another, he had arranged for a double portrait to be painted over the tomb.

Theodoros may originally have set out to structure the poem on the five senses, a reasonable Byzantine and Renaissance approach, paralleling the senses to five ways in which he and Cleofe might achieve union.  He managed Touch, Sight, and Hearing, before he wisely gave up on Taste and Smell, and realized that he had to go beyond the senses, yet, if this what what he had planned, there is no sense of incompleteness of intent.

He enumerates forms of union, beginning with the union of one flesh, a union of which he had been frighted for the first six years of legal marriage, and a union which had clearly brought him joy.  He tests the idea that God's will for a spiritual union might be better, a second form of union, but the great distance between Cleofe in Heaven and him on earth reduces him to scalding tears -- tears only too familiar to those of us who have survived the loss of a partner.  But the idea of song, of poetry, remains.

He now has a portrait of her, of the two of them together, a third form of union which has not brought the comfort he expected, and he does anticipate an eventual burial with her, a forth form which he knows is beyond their senses.

There is a fifth way to find union, the ultimate union in a shared delight in the presence of God, a Dantean expression of the beatific vision, to which Cleofe must have introduced him in their shared examination of poetry.  It is a rare poet who can bring the Cyclops into the Paradisio, but Theodoros concludes with Cleofe as sharer and Muse -- 
ξυνεργὸς -- in this work of song -- μέλος

The original languages of these poems will be found here.  The translations from the Greek are by Pierre A. MacKay.

16 July 2014

Bessarion on the imperial hangers-on

In Bessarion's letter about arrangements for  Zoe, Andreas, and Manuel Palaiologos, he said that the Pope was providing 300 ducats a month. Two hundred of that was for their servants, food, horses, clothing, and other expenses. The remaining 100 was for the household.

The household was what would have been their court somewhere else -- a few useful people, a few whom they knew and actually liked, and hangers-on to whom there was some familial obligation.  Bessarion was quite stern about this. Their father Thomas had had 300 ducats a month for his household from the Pope, and another 200 from Bessarion and the cardinals, but Bessarion and the Pope had still been quite shocked to learn how large a group Thomas had been supporting out of that. (They had also been amazed at the size of John's household when he came to Italy twenty-plus years earlier on the trip that the Pope was also paying for. ) When Thomas first visited Rome it had been noted that he was accompanied by a suite of 70 people, all on borrowed horses, except for the three that he owned. John, too, had been noted for his lavish household. 

It was not going to be this way for the children.  There was no way Bessarion and his colleagues could come up with the contributions they needed for the authentopoula -- that is the term in the letters for the children -- if people saw the household as a Greek immigrant fraternal welfare association.  Bessarion wanted the administrator to select a few reliable people who could provide the authentopoula with good support, good service, and honor.

He wrote the household administrator in Ancona about financial arrangements on 6 August. That's 305 kilometers on modern roads, 3 hours driving now at best.  Then it was two days in one direction for a fast messenger. The household administrator was to settle the financial arrangements for the people who were to be the authentopoula's court.  It is obvious that a great many people who had planned on sinecures were sorely disappointed. Various people in Ancona sent a stack of letters in reply. On 16 August Bessarion wrote letters in response to these.  Two of these letters survive, very irritated letters.  He says, "The grace of God be with you," four times in two letters but you can hear that he says it between clenched teeth.

The first is to a group of three men, apparently the core of the court, and probably people Bessarion knew.  They had sent along a list of the other members of the court, and how much money each was to have. They reported that there were many complaints. Bessarion approved this list and said that the others  had  to understand that there is no more money.  Period.  They had written him saying they were sure he would fix things. He would write them a general letter and tell them that there was nothing he could fix.  He wanted this clearly understood and he wanted them to quit burdening him.

Bessarion had been physically unwell for several years.  He was burdened with trying to find support for the Pope's crusade in the Morea that was going very badly:  most of the Italian troops and the Venetian commanders had died of plague, they were inadequately supplied, they had lost the control of the country they had a year before, and the Turks had pushed the crusade troops down into a small pocket in the south.  He had been personally supporting a large number of refugees from Constantinople and the Morea and finding jobs for them.  He had no energy left over for whiners who claimed entitlements.

He wrote them that they had accepted the amounts offered, that they had agreed to serve the authentopoula, and that they needed to stop making words about the matter.  The Holy Father was not sending any more money.  God knows he personally would like to be able to help, but -- we have said this many times -- it cannot happen.  He repeats all of this several times. Frustration runs off the page like sweat.

We have no real indication of who some of the members of that household might have been, with the exception of a Demetrios Rallis Kavakes who went with Zoe to her Moscow marriage seven years later. There were certainly other Rallades, first and second cousins, who had accompanied the family when they left the Morea in 1460. For generations the lives of these household hangers-on had been financed by their relationship to the imperial family.  Bessarion knew clearly what they were afraid to admit: the Empire is over.

09 July 2014

Crow summer: 2014

Washcrow and Her, courting, early March.

It's been a very satisfactory year for crows, beginning in March when we were able to follow a courtship. Most crows remain single, and those who do not are usually in their 3rd year when courtship happens. I have no idea how crows are selected for courtship. Pairing is normally for life.

The photograph above was the only one I was able to get, and you have to take my word that they are courting. Courting usually happened in the mornings, on a power line where the sun would shine into the camera.  Washcrow would move close beside Her and nibble on the back of Her's neck -- properly called "grooming" -- the one part of Her she could not reach for herself.   She never groomed him.  This reminds me of the saying: In every love affair there is one who kisses the cheek, and one who extends the cheek to be kissed.

Grooming continued for several days, and then we would see Her settle down low on the power line, tilt her head sideways, spread out her tail & wiggle her bottom.  The Betty-Boop-gender-stereotyping was almost shocking.  

Why we call him Washcrow.
He has taught several other 
crows to wash food for the young.

We saw them inspect an unused nest, and then saw the occasional stick being transported to the upper reaches of a cedar two houses away.  Then Her disappeared.  The male crow feeds his nesting partner.  When the young hatch, the male and some of their relatives feed her and the infants. About three days after we realized there were young to feed, we first saw Washcrow first visit Ann's peacock-designed birdbath, and carefully soak food before he took it home.  

On 4 June, a Wednesday, we were having coffee in the yard with Aislinn, when there was a thud on the roof of the car and a homely little tailless crow said, "Wow!" He said "Wow!" several times, we said "Wow!" in response, and for the last month he has normally appeared when one of us calls "Wow" Wow is the grandson (granddaughter?) of Korax whom I introduced here last year.

 Wow on his first day out of the nest.

On 5 June, Tak appeared, tagging after Wow.  Tak spoke less frequently, with a lower voice. 

Tak and Wow, 5 June.

Then on 9 June, Sunday, Futhark appeared.  Four-plus weeks later, Futhark is still smaller than the others.  Wow is the most outgoing, Tak the shyest.  Futhark will look at us, cock his/her head, and then make quiet rattling noises, sometimes a sort of cuckoo-sound.  When the others are screaming to be fed, nothing distracts them.  Futhark can be distracted into conversation.  

Futhark, 1 July.  All three still have the distinctive red mouths.

At the time of writing, the three have not yet started taking the initiative in finding food, though they will follow their parents to the feeder, then sit there alternately gobbling mouthfuls of food, and screaming to be fed while their mouths are still full of food.  The parents are admirably dispassionate.  When the young beg for food, they assume the same submissive posture of the female in courtship.

Wow, Tak, and Futhark have made us exceptionally aware of   crow mortality in our neighborhood.  In the past week we have twice found masses of small feathers.  A month ago we found feathers that appeared to have exploded from a central location, their points driven into the ground.  A very young crow had encountered a mesh of power lines and transformers.  The two feathers on the left show the results of electrocution -- the blackening inside and the melted tips.  The two on the right show the results of having been chewed. 

The cooked and the raw.  

Hork, who was with us the past two years, has not been seen since February but Korax shows up several times a day with two young crows of his own. We have fewer crows at the feeder than we did last summer, but they are putting away huge amounts of food, more than on any day in the winter when we would have as many as 15 and 20 crows.  They get primarily cat food and corn meal, with occasional treats of suet, walnuts, bread.  Last year they stole all the blackberries, but this year it has only been the cherries.  Every year they get the cherries.  They seem to know which day we have scheduled to pick, and they get to the tree before we are out of bed.

But about the food-washing.  Because of the food-washing, I have been putting clean water in the birdbath twice a day.  Today -- the day of writing this -- I put clean water in for the first time in three days.  Abruptly, the young have to deal with adult food. It is still sometimes brought to them, but it is no longer softened.  

Futhark, even though he is conspicuously smaller than the other two, can definitely deal with adult food.  In fact, he is showing signs of delinquency.  We have, several times now, seen him fly up to a parent and jerk the food out of the parent's bill, without even pausing to beg.

Wow, Futhark, & Tak, or possibly Tak, Futhark, & Wow. 6 July.
Beaks open on a hot day.

 I thought I had finished writing this entry to post tomorrow, but while we were having our late-afternoon ouzo, Washcrow came as he usually does to keep us company.  This time Her landed beside him and leaned Her head against him.  Washcrow caressed the back of her neck and stroked under her chin.  Then they sat quietly side by side.

02 July 2014

Bessarion on educating the imperial children

Early in 1465, Thomas Palaiologos directed that his children be sent from Corfù to Italy. He had gone to Italy in the winter of 1460. Their mother had died in August 1462. We know nothing of their circumstances in Corfù without either parent. The only individual in Corfù of whose presence we can be sure was Giorgios Sphrantzes, loyal Palaiologan courtier, but he had declined to be part of Thomas’ court in exile.

Thomas died in March of 1465. A sense of impending death may have made him send for his children. The children -- Zoe, age 17; Andreas, 12; Manuel, 7 -- arrived in Ancona in the summer. There appears to have been considerable and frantic correspondence between individuals in Ancona with some responsibility for the children, and Cardinal Bessarion in Rome whom Thomas had left as their guardian.

Bessarion wrote, or dictated, a letter to an unnamed individual in Ancona who was to be head of these young remnants of an imperial household. This person, and Dr. Kritopoulos, were to work out the details of the household and education, and send them to Bessarion. Meanwhile, the Pope, Paul II, would give 300 ducats a month for various expenses. Of this, 200 ducats were to go directly to the children’s household, for 6 or 7 servants each, for food, for 3 or 4 horses and their food, and for a little extra each month, depending on what was needed.

Bessarion, after reading the correspondence, had decided that a Greek teacher was essential. He was concerned about their understanding of Greek, concerned enough that he was not writing them directly but wanted his letter, in demotic Greek, read to them several times until they could understand it. They were to have a Latin teacher, who would certainly have taught Italian. They were to have Dr. Kritopoulos, and a translator or interpreter. This raises the question of what language they had been raised to speak in Greece, which they had left five years earlier, and what language they had been speaking in Corfù, but it is clear from Bessarion that their conversational demotic Greek was considered deficient.

Bessarion says nothing about Greek or Italian literature, mathematics, philosophy, history, swordplay, riding, hunting, or anything normally included under education. He does mention writing, but writing would be part of the language education. The rest of his instructions concern manners, behavior, how these young imperials were to present themselves to the world. The instructions give a chilling view of the world these children had entered, but Bessarion had observed Thomas for four and a half years, and he was keenly aware of what was necessary for these children without parents, without a country, and without income of their own.

They would be, he wrote, living on strangers’ money and strangers’ expectations. They could not vaunt their imperial descent. They were orphans, foreigners, beggars. Any advantages they had would come because they were pleasing. So they were to dress and live completely in the Italian style. Their diet was to be restrained, and their table manners excellent, as well as their manners toward the members of their household. They were not to be rude, but well-behaved, humble, and serene.

They were to learn to bow appropriately to each rank, to touch their hats, lift them slightly, or remove them according to the social standing of the person they encountered. They were to walk with dignity in public, speak in low voices, keep their eyes down, and not gape or giggle. When people came to pay calls, they were to learn how to make appropriate conversation and high-minded without laughing or chattering too much. They were to learn how to evaluate the Greeks who would come to their household, and the appropriate courtesies for each, particularly towards those in a difficult situation.

If they met a cardinal or the Pope, they were to kneel and not rise until told to. It would not shame them -- this was something kings and great rulers did. They should not sit in the presence of individuals of high rank -- Thomas told Bessarion he had often told them that. They were to be completely obedient and deferential to their administrator and doctor and teachers.

The household was to have one or two priests of the Latin rite who would be constantly saying the liturgy so they could become letter-perfect in it. They were to observe the Latin rite meticulously, and learn the kneelings and crossings and gestures, copying the Italians. They were not to smile at anything in the service, and not to whisper to each other. It had been reported to him that on the trip over, the children had walked out of the church some of the members of their suite had walked out of the church at the liturgical commemoration of the Pope:  this could not happen again, because if they did it it were to happen again, they the children would have to leave Italy, and then they would be beyond Bessarion's protection.

They were to come to Rome -- for this they should learn by heart little addresses they could make to the Pope -- but not until October at least, because there was plague in the city. The household should remove itself from Ancona, an old city liable to be unhealthy, and go up to the mountains to Cingoli where the Bishop of Osimo -- one of Bessarion's people -- had a house he wanted to offer them. Actually, the archons in Rome thought it might be a good idea for the children to stay there all the time.

They did go to Rome. Sphrantzes, one of those in a difficult situation, came to see them the next year and stayed for five weeks, but beyond this, we know nothing about their lives as children.

When she was 24, Zoe was finally married, to Ivan III of Moscow. Her sister and cousin had been married when they were 14. Her formal education must have been of some use. Bessarion died shortly after Zoe's marriage and so her brothers lost his protection. The boys were over-educated for what life in Italy had to offer them.   Andreas tried to auction off his title to the throne of Constantinople. Manuel left to visit the important courts, looking for a job or an allowance, but no one offered him enough to maintain the household he thought he should have. Andreas’ complicated life has been excellently described by Jonathan Harris. In 1476 Manuel went to Turkey where he was welcomed by Mehmed II and given a generous income. His own son converted to Islam.  

[More next week.]

24 June 2014

From Mack to Martha with love

Whenever my parents were separated, starting with when they became engaged to be married, my father would sometimes decorate the envelopes of his letters to her. Here, to honor the anniversary of their marriage in 1939, is a selection of envelopes. 

The first are from when she was in medical school at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. 

They became engaged with the understanding that they wanted to be missionaries.  They were hoping to go to China.  They had not learned that the mission had a strict social stratification for its selections for China.  

Mother said that once when she went to the post office, she saw "her" postman passing an envelope around, saying, "Now, I get to deliver these!"  

 In 1942-3, they taught at Judson College in Marion, Alabama.  The last weeks before I was born, my mother went up to Birmingham to stay with her mother. 

When I was five months old, my father left for war. Here is the last photo, with my aunt Janet Jordan Tate who idolized him, my grandmother, Anne Whitehurst Jordan, my mother, Martha Jordan Gilliland, and me.

My father got to China, by way of the US Army Air Corps.  He was stationed with the 14th Air Corps, the "Flying Tigers," in Kunming, China, and at a small base to the north. My mother took me and went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for two years.

 Notice the date on this next envelope: a month after the atomic bombs, he had learned that he was to be demobilized.   It was another six months, including three months on a troop ship, before he reached the United States,

18 June 2014

The Wolf of the Argolid

Six months ago I offered a chapter from my unfinished Villehardouin novel. Here is the first chapter of that effort. It is 3-4 times the length of the usual entry, and quite violent.

Acro-Corinth, by Harriet Livathinos


The Archon stood on the wall of High Corinth looking out over the precipice. Fists on hips, he glared down at the city of Corinth.

``The Archbishop will submit.''

Wind swept across the snows of Mount Parnassos, whipped waves in the Gulf of Corinth, rushed up the escarpment of High Corinth, flattened his grizzled hair. A cloak lined with wolf fur flailed about his mailed tunic and leggings. A thousand feet below lay the vineyards and mulberry trees of the plains, the city of Corinth, the Isthmus narrow as a grape stem, the glittering ice-blue gulfs that washed the Isthmus on either side. This was the Wolf of the Argolid, Leon Sgouros, the most powerful man in Greece. Leon Sgouros, Archon of Nauplion after his father Theodoros. Lord of Argos, of the Holy Mountain of Agionori, of Nemea, of Agios Basilios. Lord of Athens. Lord of Corinth. The Wolf was in a rage. His face appeared impassive but the grey eyes glistened and the muscles in his face tightened like ropes. As his anger increased, his voice became lower. Only the person nearest him heard.

``True, Archon''.

Nikos Kamateros waved a manicured hand in agreement. He was careful always to be nearest to Sgouros. Kamateros was ambitious but cautious. Behind them, the others moved closer to hear. Here at the beginning of the thirteenth century, the Byzantine Empire was rotting. Disasters at sea and on the borders had combined with degeneration in the imperial government until it was clear to everyone, powerful and poor alike, that Constantinople was impotent. In the provinces, archons and landowners competed for local control. Those who found themselves losing joined another archon who was winning. So Kamateros had joined Sgouros after his brother had taken hold of Sparta. Kamateros was accustomed neither to courts nor to wealth, but he had quickly learned the leisurely assured manner of a man born to the best. He dressed in expensive simplicity; his soft leather shoes were lines with silk; his beared was combed, oiled, discretely perfumed; his hair was held in place by a plain gold fillet. His mastery of formal Greek with its grammatical shadings and convolutions was perfect. Sgouros used Kamateros for his polish and patience, as one uses a knife for its sharp edge.

Kamateros spoke in an off-hand manner. ``The city has submitted. The Archbishop will have to follow.''

He shrugged deprecatingly.

``But he simply has no support. He is of no significance.''

The others murmured their agreement.

``He matters.'' Sgouros spit an olive seed out into the wind. ``The boy. Get him.'' He poked a finger into his fistful of olives, then held his hand out.

``Boy, Archon?'' Kamateros carefully took an olive from the pile in Sgouros's gloved hand.

``In the Archbishop's household. You saw him. In the little robe just like the Archbishop.'' Sgouros looked over the olives and picked up a small gleaming one. He turned to Kamateros, a smile glazing his face.

``Bring me the catamite.''

Sgouros started walking along the top of the wall. Kamateros kept up with him, walking alongside. The ground sloped down. Kamateros observed that his face was directly level with Sgouros's boots. He moved as if to pick one of the early spring flowers.

``With respect, Archon, he is not a catamite. The child Michael is his nephew's son. Unfortunately. No one can say that or anything else against the Archbishop. God knows, we have tried to find something.'' Kamateros appeared distressed. ``There is nothing we can get him on. His life is absolutely pure he gives away everything. It is true that he has nearly depleted the treasure of the Cathedral, and we have tried to charge him with embezzlement, but everyone knows he has spent it on the poor. If the monastery did not own his clothes, he would have given them away, too. He has nothing. Only the boy, whom he adores.''

``The nephew's son? That nephew?''

``That nephew.''

Sgouros spit. ``So bring me the boy.''

He jumped down from the wall into the courtyard and walked toward a cistern, oblivious to the scrawny chickens pecking around, the hunting dogs which yawned and scratched and nipped at each other. Several unwashed children sat outside the kitchen door with their morning bread. A dozen men in leather cuirasses scaled with metal and armed with short broad swords, lounged nearby. More armed men sat by the gate with their saddled horses. Two women tended the fire under a large pot.

``Tell the Archbishop,'' said Sgouros, reaching for the rope at the cistern, ``tell the Archbishop I have decided to honor him by making the boy my page.'' He pulled the bucket over the rim of the well, took a mouthful of water, spit itout, splattering the nearest shoes.

``Archon, the Archbishop would give his life for that boy.'' Kamateros raised a hand in warning.

Sgouros slammed down the water bucket. ``Tell him'' he said very quietly, ``that I have no interest in boys. Or girls. None of his flock will lose their virtue, should they have any. Tell him that the Despot of the Morea will be honored to have the boy as the chief ornament of his court. And that I will have him.''

``Despot of the Morea.'' Kamateros raised his eyebrows at the new title. ``Today, Despot, as you desire.'' He bowed.

``Not today,'' said Sgouros. ``Now!''

Four armed men at the gate dashed to the horses, tugged them through the narrow turns of the gate. Kamateros heard the hooves striking on the stones outside.

Sgouros ignored them. He sauntered across the court to the stairs which led to his rooms. He still had the handful of olives. Halfway up the stairs, he noticed the olives, extended his hand and let them drop into the dust. The chickens left off scratching at the kitchen midden and scrabbled pecking for them.

He went on up the stairs to a broad porch supported on stone arches, and went through an arched doorway into a room whose tiled floor was piled with bundles. Two arched windows looked down to the courtyard; opposite them, more windows looked out on the meadow of High Corinth where Pegasus once pastured. At each end of the room were arched fireplaces with hearths large enough to roast a sheep. Sgouros unfastened his cloak, let it fall. Except for the bundles, the long room was sparsely furnished. To one side, a sleeping couch was piled with furs and pillows. A trestle table, chair, several stools stood before one of the fireplaces. Another table spread with pieces of glassware stood under a window. The morning sun shown through the glass, staining the table with deep reds and purples, pale blues and greens. Sgouros carried the glass with him wherever he travelled: it was the only thing for which he had been known to show liking. He stalked across the room, the nails in his boots signaling each step. He picked up a red bowl and looked at it intently, turning it against the sun.

Kamateros picked up the cloak.``Despot of the Morea? Or of the Morea and Athens?'' He spoke casually but the information was of no little importance to him.

``And Athens. Find a title. Make it good.''

Sgouros turned, smashed the bowl against the side of the fireplace. Ruby fragments splintered into the sunlight. Kamateros winced.

``There was a crack.'' Sgouros turned, his voice now reasonable.

``I want a palace to suit the Despot. The Archons of Corinth can make contributions. And the merchants. And the Jews. They will want to be proud of the Despot's house. And the Archbishop. Go to the Glassmaker's Guild.''

``With pleasure, Despot.'' Kamateros bowed, slipped out.

Thus the Archon began his day. During the morning, he accepted the submissions of eight nearby communities. The village gerontes, shabbily dressed, were exhausted after the long trudge up the mountain to High Corinth. When Sgouros had begun his rise to power, the gerontes of the first villages met him shabbily dressed to impress him with their poverty. But after his men ransacked one village, burned another, and left the priest of a third village impaled on his staff, subsequent gerontes dressed shabbily in order to give him the best they had. These brought wine, two wolf skins, antique robes and embroidery, dried fruit, cheeses, several sheep and goats. It was not abundant, but such tribute came daily and presaged regular contributions.

Sgouros went out to the meadow to look at his horses, small Arabians acquired with their groom when his hired pirates intercepted a ship sailing for Sicily. His entourage followed him, furred and muffled, carrying jeweled handwarmers, apeing the court of Constantinople. As close as High Corinth was to the sun, it was no match for the winds of Parnassos.

Ioannis Doukas, an aggressive eager younger son from a too-large family in the north, followed Sgouros holding a second fur-lined cloak selected from that day's tribute. ``Not a bad place, Corinth. Clean. Not a lot of cash about these days, but very few really poor because of the Archbishop.''

Sgouros looked up frowning. Doukas did not notice his expression. ``Of course, the regular tolls from the Isthmus. And the import-export tariffs. The Venetians, of course, pay no tariffs that really should be reconsidered. Then the whorehouses. And the silk. We really must look into the silk industry thoroughly, Archon.''

``We should indeed. You have a new robe,'' said Sgouros abruptly, reaching out to finger the fabric. ``Expensive.''

Doukas stroked the quilted sleeve of his blue and green brocade. ``A gift from the Silkweavers' Guild, Excellency.''

``Yes,'' said Sgouros turning. ``Yes, of course. You could be Port Authority and Inspector of Silks, too.''

He walked on. ``How much?''

Doukas slipped up beside him, too close, too anxious. ``From the tolls on the Isthmus alone, Archon, four hundred gold hyperpers a year.''

Sgouros nodded his head thoughtfully. ``You have all the figures?''


The young man laughed and shrugged good-naturedly. Unnoticed by him, Sgouros made a gesture. As the guards closed around Doukas, the other members of the entourage backed away.

``Whip him!'' said Sgouros. He walked off.

Doukas yelled, ``Wait, Archon!''

A scaled glove smashed his mouth. As he grabbed for his bleeding face, two slaves jerked at his clothes, ripping the brocades open, half-strangling him. They threw him face-down on the ground. Doukas struggled to get up. Slaves stepped on either wrist, two others held his ankles, tugged. One of the guards took a whip from his belt, multi-thonged, each thong ending in a piece of metal. He grasped the handle, opening and closing his fingers to get his grip, raised his arms above his head, and then bought the whip whistling down.

Doukas screamed. The nearest horses, disturbed by the sudden movements, bolted toward the far wall rimming the precipice. The guard continued to beat. He was still beating when Doukas stopped screaming. The slaves released their grip, stepped away. When the guard tired, another stepped forward.

Sgouros had his midday meal, drank, slept. In the afternoon he went out to the horses. They were huddled against the far wall of the pasture, pacing back and forth, still nervous at the smell of blood and urine. The wind kept the flies away. Sgouros hardly noticed as he walked by.

* * * * *

The Wolf's father, Archon Theodoros Sgouros of Nauplion, was a rough burly man, hard-drinking, hard-riding, hard-wenching. He had a taste for intrigue, enthusiasm for physical action, and a justified reputation for brutality. Through thoughtfully-placed bribes, given and received, forced loans, torture, disappearances, and a few assassinations, Theodoros extended his control of Nauplion to most of the adjacent villages and coasts: Aria, Asine, Drepanon, Iria, Candia, Myloi, Kiveri. When fate sent a plague of pirates, he wrote the Emperor for aid. The Emperor, needing the tax revenues for which Theodoros was responsible, sent him first a pirate with thirty ships who worked on contract for the government, and then the Grand Admiral, Nauarchos Michael Stryphnos, brother-in-law of the Empress.

The pot-bellied Nauarchos and the stocky Archon found themselves to be men of close sympathies. They scoured out the pirate lairs along the coast of the Argolid and on the islands toward Athens: Salamis, Aegina, Makronesi---dividing between themselves what they took from the pirates. With a certain practicality, they came to terms with two of the larger operators. For half the takings, the pirates were allowed to continue undisturbed, though naturally Nauplion and the coast were off-limits. Then, after reconsideration, Stryphnos and Theodoros took their pirate allies prisoners at a drinking party, blinded them, and abandoned them somewhere on a barren beach on the southern coast of the Peloponnesos. Then they took up where the pirates had left off, and soon made up for their absence. Theodoros build a chapel on a small island in the harbor at Nauplion, dedicated it to his patron saints, the Agioi Theodoroi, warriors both, and stored his gold and plunder there.

Behind the island, the city of Nauplion stood on the cliffs of a short peninsula surrounded by sea and marsh. Its ancient walls of enormous stones had been built by the Titans, the teachers said
"who else could move such stones?''

Successive rulers had added more and higher walls. The city was impregnable. Limited by vertical cliffs, Nauplion's stone houses took up nearly all the space ins de the walls, and where there was no more room to spread out, the houses stretched up and arched over the streets, so that the streets below became tunnels with barely enough room for a donkey with bundles on either side to pass.

His mishandled birth left Leon with a twisted foot. He was late in learning to speak, and when he did, he stuttered. The brawling, hard-drinking Theodoros was irritated by the defects of his one legitimate heir, and when drunk or angry, which was most of the time, he berated the boy for his weaknesses.

``Look at him!'' he would say, slamming his goblet onto the table, the wine sloshing out. He waved a hand crowded with pirated rings toward the stone-faced boy. ``Philip of Macedon had a god for a son and I have a cripple!''

Leon Sgouros grew up in the archondiko which overlooked the small square before the city gate. From its front windows, a watcher could observe nearly everyone who entered or left the city. The archondiko was crowded with his father's henchmen and their newest women; no one particularly cared that the solitary boy spent much of his time crouched by a window, one hand on his crippled foot, watching the gate, watching who went in and out, who went or returned from market, and what they bought or sold, and how often, and with whom each spoke.

In the course of events, Nauarchos Stryphnos was appointed Governor of Athens, a shabby town of mud and stone huts propped up against the marble columns and walls of a happier time. Stryphnos had nothing but contempt for Athens which had offered him only bad wine and worse antipathies, and preferred to live in Thebes where there was a wealthy community of silk merchants, a few foreign traders, poets who couldn't find patrons in Constantinople, and government officials. Thebes was inland, so Stryphnos had no need for ships, unless he was going to the islands for the summer or Constantinople for Easter. He selected what he wanted from the navy food stores, and sold off the rest---the tar and ropes, planks and oars, even whole ships---to pirates, and when they returned to plundering the coasts, Stryphnos plundered the provinces to produce donations he claimed were ``for the ships.''

Nauplion alone resisted him.

Then Theodoros died unexpectedly in his own house in the course of an evening of eating and drinking. The girl who was darting her tongue in and about his ear gasped in horror to feel his neck suddenly rigid, see his florid face abruptly dark, his jaw jut open. Theodoros slumped, thudded against the table, and collapsed on the floor beside the overturned chair, a gobbet of meat in his throat, brocaded robes soaked in wine. The gold fillet on his head fell off. It rattled against the tiles and rolled a few feet away. The drinkers paused with their cups in mid-air, the talkers stopped in mid-word, the flute girls and dancers screeched and clustered at the far end of the room. In the silence, Leon strode through the door with the deliberate hard stalk that concealed his limp.

He did not break the rhythm of his step when he reached over and picked up the coronet and placed it on his own coarse curly hair. Without a glance at his father's sodden body, Leon stood the archon's chair erect and sat on it.

``I am Archon,'' he said to the henchmen, and to the slaves, ``Clean this away.''

By next morning, few of Theodoros's followers were to be seen. Some had taken flight; an equal number had been garroted or blinded. Theodoros' bastards were strangled, their bodies thrown from the walls. The women were sold or drowned. The once-noisy and crowded archondiko was silent and nearly empty. The loudest noise in Nauplion came from the gulls and hooded crows that clustered above the rocks at the water's edge.

Nauarchos Stryphnos had his spies. His wife wrote to her sister, the Empress Euphrosyne, that Leon Sgouros was dangerous. The Empress pushed the Emperor, Alexios III, to take action. Alexios, in turn, ordered Stryphnos to take the imperial fleet against Nauplion. But Stryphnos had no zeal for fighting, the imperial fleet had few ships and those few had rotten saild and worm-eaten planks. The sailors shanghaied in the taverns of Piraeus to man the ships know something of sailing but nothing of fighting when sober. When the tiny make-shift imperial fleet approached Nauplion, Sgouros sent fireships out into its midst, and stationed archers on the rocks beneath the walls to pick off anyone who tried to come ashore. After the first ship burned, the sailors on the other ships mutinied and sailed back for Piraeus. Most of the other ships were taken by pirates. The gulls and crows gathered again. And everyone---Sgouros, peasants, sailors---saw that this was the best the Emperor could do to protect his Empire.

After this. Sgouros quickly obtained the submissions of the next villages: Agios Adrianos, Midea, Chonika, Berbati---and appointed new archons for them. There was little objections. He accepted anyone who offered him allegiance, paid well, and listened to all suggestions and plots. He multiplied the fortune Theodoros had left, and spent only to reward tale-bearers. There were no more flute girls, no more drinking parties. If he took any amusement, it was sometimes after dinner, if he could goad others to fight. His one affection was for glass---clear, hard, gleaming glass: cold amethyst, ruby, sea-green, gold-trimmed, blue-edged glass from Syria or Corinth or Egypt---and those who brought him tribute were careful to bring him another piece or two.

Then Sgouros considered nearby Argos whose two hills he could see from the archondiko: high-pointed Larissa crested with ancient walls and monasteries, and low, shield-shaped Aspis with schools and a hospital. Between the two hills, the walled city spilled onto the plain. Argos controlled the routes across the northern mountains to Corinth, and across the western mountains into the Morea. And control of those routes meant mastery of half the Morea. After that, there were a few other archons to consider---Kamateros in Sparta, Kantakuzenos in Methone, Branas in Kalamata, Voutsarades in Arkadia---but there were only those four and none offered any cause for concern. He considered that he could, in fact, take Methone from the sea---it had no walls---and then go on to Kalamata. Sparta would be easy, and he could starve Voutsarades out. Something would have to be done about Nikos Kamateros once he had Sparta. An accident.

So he set Kamateros to Argos with a well-financed embassy, and on the following day, posted a band of men at the western springs where the Argos aqueducts began. Other armed bands appeared before each of the city gates. Sgouros rode up to the eastern gate. It stood wide open. The Archons of Argos were there with gifts. The two who had earlier sent private gifts he elaborately and publically rewarded, the other two he took as hostages. The next towns and small fortresses---Nemea, Agios Vasilios, Agionori, Angelokastro, Arachneon---sent their archons and gerontes to him within the week.

With Argos secure, Sgouros took his forces up through the mountain passes to the ancient trading city of Corinth. Corinth controlled the Isthmus, by land and by sea. At the Isthmus, ships were docked on one side, unloaded, and dragged on rollers across the six miles of Isthmus. Their cargo was carried across in ox-drawn wagons, and the ships were then relaunched and reloaded on the other side. It was a tedious process for which captains and shippers paid dearly, but for most shippers it took less time and was considerably safer than going the long way around the end of the Peloponnesus and chancing the open waters, the rocks and storms of Cape Malea. Genoese pirates worked out of Methone, Genoese and Arabs sheltered in ports on Crete, there were Greek pirates in Mani and on Cythera. Corinth was cheaper than pirates.

Once Mediterranean ships ported sails and armories stocked tents woven in Corinth; lords and ladies from Constantinople to Champagne wore Corinthian silk and linen and wool; scholars at the Universities of Paris and Toledo used Corinthian paper for their final drafts, and Corinthian glass was prized in courts from the lands of the Hibernians to the lands of the Persians.

But one dawn two generations ago, in 1147, the watchers in High Corinth sighted red sails in the gulf, rimming the horizon as far as they could see. By noon, the dragon-prowed ships were beached and the great, blond Normans were leaping ashore. The Normans came on with clear purpose. The went directly to the workshops of the glassmakers, the embroiderers, the weavers, bound them together in coffles, and drove them onto ships bound for their cities in Sicily. Then the Normans raided the city treasury, the banks, and the churches for the gold and silver plate on their altars.

The Normans brought through the aqueducts, smashed carved fountainheads, stuffed rubble and bodies into wells. They battered holes in wine butts with their spears and topple jugs of olive oil. They looted the graceful small houses, started fires with broken furniture piled around the columns, trampled the gardens, defecated in the pools of water lilies and ornamental fish. They smashed out the stained glass rondels and alabaster panels which illuminated the small Corinthian churches, ripped silver glass lamps down from their chains, snatched golden vessels from the altars. Then they returned to the dragon ships and sailed away.

Corinth rebuilt its import and export businesses, reestablished its weavers and glassblowers and potters. Marble buildings from the Roman conquest, dingy and much repaired and overbuilt, were repaired once again to use for public affairs. But the fashionable had left for Thebes and Salonika, and the city was crowded with refugees who looked to its walls for protection from pirates and bandits.

Over-busy Corinth had as its Archbishop a man whom nearly all admitted to be a saint and, if his example was not much followed, he was deeply respected, particularly by the refugees he fed, the fatherless boys he educated at the Monastery of Ag. Ioannis, the poor girls whose dowries he provided, the sick who were received in his hospitals.

For all of these, he drew from the cathedral treasury and sold off pieces of church property. When his elders and deacons remonstrated with him, he explained patiently, ``Don't you remember what the holy Apostle wrote to us here in Corinth: `So that now your abundance may supply their need, that there may be equality, so that the one who had gathered much had nothing over and the one who had gathered little had no lack.' ''

``Yes, yes, Papa Nikolaos, but don't you think you might have taken that out f context?''

``Not at all,'' smiling guilelessly. ``It is we Corinthians who have lost our context.''

``But Papa Nikolaos,'' they would continue, ``what will happen when you have sold all the land.''

``Then our beloved church will truly be in the image of our Lord.'' He smoothed the front of his much-patched robe.``But, of course you do recall that the Apostle promised He would always make us rich enough to be generous?''

He sold his episcopal ring of gold and amethyst to pay for more medicines and doctors for the poor. And the elders and archons would shake their heads and sigh to one another that Papa Nikolaos just did not understand the realities of the situation.

While the Corinthians waited for Sgouros, Archbishop Nikolaos tried to rally them to resistance. He preached in the public markets, visited the archons and leading merchants individually. ``Think of who we are,'' he pled. ``How can you do nothing? We were not given the spirit of slavery. This city was home to the blessed Apostle! You cannot give it to be plunder for a murderer and a coward---you cannot give our children to be the prey of wolves!''

But most of those who understood the realities of the situation had already made discrete arrangements with Sgouros, as they had earlier understood the realities of the situation with Theodoros and Stryphnos, and with various pirates before them.

``We appreciate your concern, Archbishop,'' they said, ``and Lord knows there's no one whose views we respect more than you, but don't you think you are being over-emotional about this?''

A few did resist. A band of older students from the monastery school and their teachers, led by the Archbishop's nephew, attacked Sgouros' troops deep in the narrow mountain passes they called the Dervenakia. But the students were few and unaccustomed to weapons. Those who were not killed were taken as prisoners back to Corinth, tortured for the names of their accomplices, and given a hasty trial on charges of treason. The next morning the Corinthians found the heads of their young men piled in a pyramid in the marketplace.

The Archbishop adopted his nephew's child, the boy Michael. Entranced to have become the father of this treasure, and at such an age, he prepared the child's food himself, told him tales of the blessed Apostle and Bellerophon, of young Joseph and Alexander, sat beside him singing melodies his own mother had sung to him, took him for walks beside the sea, began teaching him how to write. The boy was slowly brought out of his grief by the old man's tenderness, and followed him devotedly to visit another sick man, take a gift of cloth to a woman with a new baby, persuade a baker to give bread to a needy family, negotiate another land sale with the bankers.

When Sgouros established himself in the fortress of the High City of Corinth, Corinthians eager to prove their good will told him about the Archbishop's preaching, about the nephew. Sgouros listened without reaction, remembered without comment, rewarded them with the gifts Kamateros carefully selected. He bowed to the Archbishop in the street and did nothing.

After Corinth, Sgouros took his army down the narrow bandit-infested coast road to Athens. Megara surrendered after a token demonstration of force. Elefsina and Daphni sent out delegates to welcome him. Then Sgouros met his first setback.

Athens, too, had a notable Archbishop: scholarly, querulous Michael Choniates who had come to Athens thirty years earlier, who loved perhaps the glory of her ancient name even more than he loved his Lord, and who had spent the years grieving over the loss of that glory. In the name of that ancient glory, imbued with the ringing syllables of Perikles, Choniates walked the shabby streets and alleys of the old town speaking to small groups where he found them, cried out in the market places of the outlying villages, tramped across fields whenever he saw a plowman or herdsman, urging each of them to fight.

``Athenians of old showed themselves valiant in action,'' he cried, ``and they by their courage and their virtues have handed Athens to us a free city. Our children know that what has always made her great has been men who know their duty, men who have made up their minds that she should not find them lacking, men who give her the best contribution that they can. Athens comes to her great testing time and we who cannot bear the thought of losing her must nobly fight and, if needs be, must nobly die. We of Athens know the meaning of what is sweet in life and of what is terrible and we go out undeterred to meet what is to come. Ah, my brothers! Fix your heart and mind and eyes on the greatness of this our Athens, and love her, and future ages will wonder at us!''

They listened to him, the farmer and olive growers, the herdsmen and shoemakers, the basketweavers and soapmakers. When Sgouros's army entered the defile after Daphni, the farmers showered down stones and clods of earth on the invaders, flung nets attached to hooks, attacked with rakes and pitchforks, swung pruning hooks and vine root wrenched from the ground. Sgouros broke through, but a number of his men were wounded and he was unnerved by the intensity of the opposition.

Inside the walls of Athens, the same thing happened. Men and women fought together. They hurled tiles, stones, broken pots from the rooftops, flung out dippers of watered lye, built barricades of stones in the streets, and hamstrung his horses, yet they were no real match for the soldiers and had to retreat. Archbishop Choniates brought as many as he could collect up inside the walls of the High City. They had only stones for weapons, but the High City was impregnable.

Sgouros was enraged. He ordered the city burned, and all the farms within a day's ride. His horsemen collected bundles of giant reeds, stuffed into them live coals, and galloped the lanes and paths of Athens and her farms, hurling the smoking bundles into dry grain or thatched roofs. All that night, the exhausted Athenians hiding in caves beneath the High City, on the slopes of Lycabettos, in cisterns, in the rubble of ancient buildings, listened to the clatter of the horses' hooves, watched the glint of fire on armor, the bursts of flame as bundles of reeds were hurled into their homes.

The horsemen road out in every direction. The defenders in the High City watched the ruin spread west to the sea and to the horizon all around, saw the burning ships in the Piraeus, the explosions as stores of grain ignited, the billowing black clouds from the burning oil in the warehouses, the fires streaking the slopes of Hymettos and Pentelikos. And whenever the smoke lifted or the wind changed, the exhausted, begrimed Athenians saw the columns of the High City, gleaming pale golden in the morning sun, unconquered and untouched.

News traveled as fast as the smoke, and farther. In Thebes, Nauarchos Stryphnos, now Dux of Hellas, decided it was time to leave. Constantinople had fallen to French and German and Italian-speaking crusaders from the West; his sister, no longer Empress, was useless. Foreseeing the probable course of events, he left Thebes quietly and went with his immediate suite to the coast where he took a boat for the islands. After reconsideration, he continued to Nicea and then to Trebizond

* * * * *

Sgouros found the boy when he entered his apartment at dusk: a small scrubbed child of about eight in an immaculate white robe, embroidered in blue at the neck and wrist and hem. His eyes and nose were red, and he sniffed a little. Sgouros looked at him and laughed. Catching the cue from him, his retinue began to laugh. The child looked back and forth at them, bewildered.

``Your name, boy?''

``M-M-M-M-Michael, Excellency.''

He bobbed his head.

``Ha. Michael. And why are you here, Michelaki?''

The boy nodded, gulped, rubbed his white sleeve across his face. He took a deep breath and said,
``I am here to s-s-s-s-serve your Excellency.'' He said it quickly.

``Not bad.'' Sgouros looked around. ``Now, Michelaki. What did the Archbishop tell you?''

The boy thought hard. ``Do you m-m-m-mean my uncle, sir?''

``Your uncle.'' Sgouros lowered his voice a little, which made the child feel better. He screwed p his face, trying to remember exactly.

``My uncle told me that I was to---I was to,'' he remembered, ``to love God and s-serve my ruler and n-n-n-never forget what kind of family I come from.''

Sgouros spoke quietly. ``I will see that you never forget what kind of family you come from.''

he boy almost smiled. ``Thank you, s-s-s-sir.''

Sgouros looked hard at him. ``In honor of your family, you will be my page. You will bring me what I want. Quickly. I do not repeat myself. Do you understand?''

The child nodded quickly. ``Yes, s-sir. I un-d-d-d-derstand, s-s-s-sir.''

Sgouros waved at one of his henchmen. ``Michaelis, take the boy. Show him.'' Michaelis guarded Sgouros's back, slept beside his bed. He carried his knife in plain sight, and used it where brass knuckles or bare hands would not serve. The child recoiled instinctively, then tried to stand tall.

Michael learned to serve the Despot of the Morea. Sgouros had not previously had a page and no one of his retinue but Kamateros had any preconceptions about what the position entailed. He was mostly ignored. Sometimes, when Sgouros remembered, he ordered the boy to fetch him wine or find his gloves, bring one of the dogs, or a towel, or more hot water for the bath. The work, in fact, was not difficult. Standing for hours waiting on the Despot's mood was. So were the small deliberate humiliations: the coarse remarks in the latrine when he was too tense to urinate in public, the imitations of his stuttering, the ridicule when he was discovered crying in bed, when he wet the bed.

Every day someone from the city below came to the gate of High Corinth with a clean robe for Michael and a whispered message from the Archbishop. A serving woman handed out the previous day's robe, brought in the new one and slipped it into Michael's pallet where he could find the familiar scent when he was finally allowed to go to bed. The child cried himself silently to sleep, he slept badly and ate little, his stuttering increased. Then one evening when Sgouros was sitting before the fire, Michael spilled some wine.

``Come here, boy,'' said Sgouros in a low voice.

The child went to him. Sgouros bent low toward him and spoke almost inaudibly, ``Where is my wine?''

``O-o-o-o-over --,'' he struggled. He was choking. Someone laughed. He tried to point to the table.

``Bring it,'' said Sgouros, his mouth tight.

The child went back to the table, took up the drinking bowl and set it on a hammered brass tray. It spilled again.

``Now!'' said Sgouros sharply, striking the table. Michael picked up the tray. His hands were shaking. He turned toward the Despot.

He took a step, another step, and dropped the tray. The great drinking bowl of sea-green glass shattered on the tiles. Pale green fragments flecked with gold flashed out across the floor toward the fire. Wine spattered the Despot's shoes, splashed darkly on Michael's white robe. Firelight reflected in small dark pools.

Sgouros lashed out with his fist, striking the child against the side of his head and he fell, blood pouring from beside his eye. He scrambled, trying to stand up. Sgouros kicked out at him. The child fell again, gulping, then Sgouros was over him, kicking methodically, again and again, his face without expression. The men in the room stood still, hands frozen in mid-air. The only sounds came from the olive wood snapping in the fire on the hearth, from the dull thud of Sgouros's books striking again and again.

Sgouros strode out, ordered his bed made up in another room. Someone directed the slave to clean up, but even before the flagstones were scrubbed of their stains, the news had reached the city below. Some few friends slipped through the unlighted streets to the Archbishop's monastery, told him what had happened, sat with him.

A few days later, armed guards hammered on the monastery door: Despot Sgouros commanded the presence of Archbishop Nikolaos at dinner. A sedan chair waited to take the Archbishop up the mountain. To the anxious monks who followed him to the door, the Archbishop said, ``Why are you worried? They may call us dead men, but we will live.''

He reached out to touch the hands of the nearest monks, waved to the rest, and then the curtains of the sedan chair fell down and hid him from their sight.

Sgouros met the Archbishop at the first gate of the High City. He knelt and kissed the Archbishop's ringless hand, then he walked alongside the sedan chair up to the second gate where he helped the old man out and let him up to the small palace newly furnished for the Despot. The Archbishop sat, a servant washed his feet with warm, scented water from a silver bowl, and dried them with an embroidered towel. Other servants presented each of them with a basin of scented water in which to dip their hands, then with more embroidered towels.

The two men dined alone. Neither spoke, neither touched his wine. Most of the dishes were sent away untasted. Finally, Sgouros sat up straight, put both hands on the edge of the table, pushed his seat back.

``So,'' he said. ``Constantinople has fallen. Salonika has surrendered.''

The Archbishop shook his head. ``The shame of it. The City fell to a blind man---Salonika to a man with white hair. Has the Empire no young men with courage?''

They both remembered his nephew; they thought of Athens.

``The real question is,'' Sgouros ignored him,``what to do when the Franks come here? They will.''

``Corinth is a holy city,'' the Archbishop said. It must not happen here, what those godless men did to the Queen of Cities. I have wept for Constantinople---Constantinople, eye of cities---she has drunk to the dregs the cup of trembling. I cannot bear to think of my beloved Corinth in such torment.''

His eyes filled with tears.

``I was a child when the Normans came, but I still remember.''

He bowed his head and put a hand to his eyes.

``How can I protect my people?''

``Your people,'' said Sgouros quietly. ``Yes.'' His mouth tightened.

They sat in silence. Slaves removed plates, set out trays of sweets and fruits for desert. Neither moved. Then Sgouros snapped his fingers toward the door. Two guards stepped in, saluted. Sgouros jabbed his thumb toward the Archbishop. The Archbishop sighed, as if weary from long waiting, wiped his mouth with his napkin, and stood. With his thumb he made the sign of the Cross three times over the table and the slaves and Sgouros. Sgouros had to signal again, and one guard put a hand on the old man's sleeve and turned him toward the door.

It was still daylight outside. Most of the henchmen and servants were clustered near a cookfire in the courtyard talking excitedly. Some jumped up and bowed when they recognized the Archbishop. He raised his hands to greet them, but from behind men seized his arms. He heard somewhere in the distance the sound of a great tumult and then terrible screaming. Two other men, springing from each side, prised apart his eyelids, and he saw Michaelis grinning seize two glowing sticks from the fire, one in each hand, and then the brilliance seared into his eyes.

They took their hands away from him. The distant screaming continued, then stopped abruptly. After the first terrible pain came shock. His eyes, or what used to be his eyes, were impacted with images, white with pain. He swayed, then caught himself and stood quite still. The background noises became louder, moved closer. In the urgency of the voices around him, he heard that of Sgouros, slow and dry. Sgouros stumped around him with deliberation, then turned away.

``Obviously, Archbishop, as a blind man, you are unfit for holy office.''

He waved a hand toward his supported and called out, though his voice broke in mid-word, ``Anaxios!''

Unworthy. He spoke loudly in parody of the service of ordination, when the priest is presented to the people and they cry Axios! to affirm his worthiness.

``Anaxios'' the men around them called, raising their voices a little and forcing the cry. ``Anaxios!''

The Archbishop bowed his head. ``Yes, Archon.'' He spoke with dignity, but his voice trembled from pain.

`Despot'' Kamateros stepped close. ``Not Archon.''

Then turning to Sgouros he said casually, ``He is indeed unfit to be Archbishop, Despot, but perhaps he could be Doge.''

Sgouros began to laugh, a great deep laugh that flooded up from his belly and spilled out, staining everyone in earshot. As if at a signal, the group of men moved toward the Archbishop. He sensed their nearness, drew away from them, hitting the wall.

Kamateros had reminded them of their fears, of the terror of the Franks. Last year when the Franks attacked Constantinople the first time, the men of the City were nearly successful in repelling them. But the golden-prowed galley of the old Doge of Venice---blinded in a City prison, or in a street fight, rumor said, or perhaps it was merely the cataracts of old age---forced its way between the attacking ships to the harbor wall. He stood erect at the prow shouting them on, feet planted far apart, brandishing aloft in both hands the banner of the gold lion of St. Mark. The galley nudged the wall, he shouted again, two sailors swung him up onto the wall of the City where he stood bellowing like a bull, waving the banner, rallying on the attack. Though it was said by the Greeks that he, a blind old man, had leaped alone. And they were ashamed to be afraid of an old man and a blind one at that.

Someone quite hear the Archbishop shouted, ``Make him leap onto the wall.''

More shouts: ``The wall! The wall!''

He was shoved again, fell, and putting out his hand recognized a flight of stairs. He tried to stand up, stumbled and fell again. Rough hands jerked him to his feet, turned him around.``Up, up!''

He lurched, nauseated. The pain hit his eyes with full force. Instinctively, he put his hands up, then jerked them away from the more terrible pain. Two or three were goading him with their javelins. He staggered up step by step.

``Jump, old man. Jump up.''

He tried to jump, fell, felt himself hoisted up, took another step, stumbled, and knew from the rush of wind that we was on the wall, that between him and the precipice there was only wind. He stood up carefully, took some deep breaths, and turned a little, sensing his direction.

The men below him fell quiet. They looked at him, looked to Sgouros who had a half-grin on his face. The Archbishop seemed to gaze intently down at them. Then he turned around. They thought he was saying something, but all they could catch was a phrase, a murmur like, `` . . . nor height nor depth nor any other creature . . .,'' and he was gone. Two of them reached the place where he had stood just in time to see him strike the rocks below. They looked back to Sgouros but he was walking away.