14 January 2013

The Two-Eyed Mill

A series of chrysobulls from Andronikos II in 1314-20 -- painted on the walls of the Brontocheion at Mistra, when the Byzantines held perhaps a third of their final territory -- itemize the monastery's properties that extended from Mouchli to Mistra (Μυζηθρἀ), and from Elos to Androusa. These were to be under the control of the protosynkellos1 of the Peloponnesos, a Kyr Pachomios. These properties were a jumble of monastic estates, small parcels of land, wells, trees, and villages, often identified by the name of a local church or monastery, or as being between two rivers, or at the place called the "Two-Eyed Mill." 

The descriptions give a sense of what you would see if you were traveling through the Byzantine countryside. There is a zevgolatio2 at the river Brysioto; 150 modia of land in various places near with vineyards, olive trees, other fruit trees; paroikoi3 near Mistra at the Two-Eyed Mill; an uncultivated parcel near Philito; four paroikoi at Delvina; the well of Ag. Demetrios; the metochion4 of the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian with its paroikoi, vineyard, fields, olive and fruit trees, and mills; another metochion, of the Theotokos, with its paroikoi and fields and the right of justice, with the irrigation channel from the river with the bridge; uncultivated land at Mitatova; the metochion of Ag. Basil at Elos with its paroikoi and fields, and mills; the metochion of the Ai Theodori at Mouchli with its paroikoi, fields, and mills. The list goes on and on, leaving the impression of an intricate mosaic of villages and fields and paroikoi being handed about to different owners like chess pieces.

The monasteries acquired their territories in bits and pieces, as when Leon Kladas gave the Brontocheion a vineyard at near-by Trype, and several Akrokondyloi gave their fields at Terkova. Sometimes it was a large piece, as when Manuel II gave the church of Monemvasia the lands of Helikovouno to finance perpetual weekly masses for his dead children

Speaking of Monemvasia.  In 1293 and 1301, the generous Andronikos II confirmed a broad jurisdiction to the church of Monemvasia which was to extend in a belt across the Morea, into Mani, and far as Pylos (which is also called Avarino). That this territory was primarily under Venetian and Frankish control was of little concern: some day it would be Byzantine.  Monemvasia was to have possession and rights of justice over the villages of Nomia, Taireia, Mountousa, Sios, Kampos, Episkopeia, Philodendron, Kamara, Ripiai, Kalamios, Dikasteria with their fields, trees, vineyards, and paroikoi, and also several villages in Elos with four watermills and vineyards, and Nodun on the shore with a tower and palaiokastro.  The church was also given possession of the monasteries of Ag. Georgios and Prinikos with a whole share of the oak-trees, not just half as before, and churches at Soraka, Koulendian, Koumaraia, Voulkani, and Dodaia. It was also to receive the value of 25 hyperpera (at the time a coin of 12 carats of gold) from the village of Polli Ksenoi.

In the early 15th-century, George Gemistos Plethon noted that the church had possession of more than one-third of the land in the Morea.  This is one-third of the land and its inhabitants removed from a centralized legal and judicial system -- however weak it may have been -- and at least one-third of the tax revenues diverted from any possibility of public spending into a closed system. No one did more than Andronikos to guarantee the failure of centralized Byzantine authority in the Morea.

1 Protosynkellos = primary administrative assistant for a bishop.
2 Zevgolatio = area of land large enough to require two oxen for plowing; under the Turks, a ҫiftlik.
3 Paroikoi = Greek "serfs" tied to the land.
4 Metochion = monastic property.

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