29 January 2014

The Dynatoi

The dynatoi at dinner.
Outer narthex of the Katholikon,
Vatopedi Monastery, Mt. Athos.

In Emperor or Manager: Power and Political Ideology in Byzantium before 1453, Antonia Kiousopoulou has collected a list of 80 court officials and 44 ambassadors for Constantinople in that period. Twenty-five, or 17%, of these have the name either of Palaiologos or Kantakuzenos or of both, and fifteen more, or 28%, have other imperial names. Twenty-four, 16.6%, have the names of archons on the list of Moreotes giving allegiance to Mehmed. Some of the names on Kiousopoulou's lists overlap, but that reinforces her point:  the administration of the Eastern Empire depended on comparatively few people, used over and over .

I have made attempts at a similar list for the 15th-century Morea up through 1460, though not classified by position, and have compiled a preliminary, experimental list of 172 individuals who could be considered the dynatoi of the Morea in the fifteenth century -- archons, court officials, church officials, landholders, and wives. The 39 individuals with names from the archon list (twelve individuals, thirteen names) count for 22% of the total (another indication of the representative status of the group which made an arrangement with Mehmed), while 35 individuals named Palaiologos and 20 with other imperial names (Angelos, Asan, Doukas, Kantakuzenos, Laskaris) count for 31% (Kiousopoulou has 28%). 

The largest number of non-imperial names is the 10 Rallades (some were first cousins of the Palaiologos brothers). These groups overlap, and some individuals have names from more than one category or imperial families , while one extraordinary name has five imperial and four archon components (Ioannis Doukas Angelos Palaiologos Rallis Laskaris Tornikes Philanthropenos Asan who died young, commemorated in a burial icon at Megaspilion, now destroyed). There are two imperial names out of the thirteen on the archon list. Again, this is by no means intended to be a definitive list of names, but it gives a broad indication of how power clotted within a self-reinforcing group of individuals.

I doubt that I could put together a list of even 50 names of non-dynatoi Greeks from the same period.

Writer after writer in the last 80 years of the Morea mentioned the rapaciousness and brutality of the dynatoiGemistos gave them the responsibility for the pathetic condition of the Morea. Bessarion thought there were a few good men among the dynatoi, but that their efforts were far outweighed by what the rest had done.  Michael Choniates was writing on the same topic 250 years earlier.  I will not continue on that theme now: I have written about their actions in a draft chapter for my book.

I have found a single effort toward change.  When Constantine made Sphrantzes governor of Mistra, he said:
You are to stay here and govern your command well. You are to put an end to the many instances of injustice and reduce the power of the numerous local lords. Make it clear to everybody here that you are in charge and that I am sole lord (ὡς ἐμὲ μόνον αὐθεντην).

We know nothing about what Sphrantzes did.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I will not publish Anonymous comments.