penalty for apostasy from Islam was death. A favourite motif of the Orthodox hagiography of the Tourkokratia was that of the Christian convert to Islam, who, repenting of his action and returning to his faith, suffers martyrdom at the hands of the Muslims. This was an old theme, which can be traced back to the early centuries of the Arab conquest, that is, when conversion was becoming a menace to the Orthodox Churches in the east. The vita of the Christian Arab Abd al-Masih, who suffered martyrdom in 860 in Ramla of Palestine, is one very early example. Born a Christian, he had joined the Arab army and fought against the Byzantines; but later he regretted what he had done, confessed his sins to a priest, and took refuge first in the monastery of St Sabas outside Jerusalem and later in St Catherine's monastery on Mount Sinai, where he became abbot. His reversion to Christianity was eventually discovered and he was tortured and executed.47 This pattern reappeared under Turkish rule, when once again there were increased numbers of conversions to Islam. The persons, the time and the place changed but the plot remained the same. One finds it in the vita of St Michael the Younger, composed in the early fourteenth century by the Byzantine aristocrat and scholar Theodore Metochites. Michael was captured as a young boy and taken to Egypt where he converted and joined the Mamluk army, only to return in a fit of remorse to Christianity, which led to martyrdom. The story of St Theodore the Younger is very similar, but reflects conditions during the Ottoman conquest of the southern Balkans, when the Turks were rounding up young Christian boys for military service. Still a child, Theodore was captured in Thrace by the Turks and taken to Asia Minor, where, like so many other young Greeks, he converted to Islam. He later realised his mistake and was burnt as a martyr in Melagina. But such martyrdoms continued long after the Ottoman conquest was complete. There is the seventeenth-century example of the Cretan St Mark the Younger: a convert to Islam who apostasised and was burnt as a martyr in Izmir in May 1643.48 The Orthodox Church used these martyrdoms to warn believers of the dangers of conversion to Islam. It was an act that inevitably brought feelings of remorse, which could only be assuaged through martyrdom.
47 M. N. Swanson, 'The martyrdom of Abd al-Masih, superior of Mount Sinai (Qays al-Ghassani)', in Syrian Christians under Islam: the first thousand years, ed. D. R. Thomas (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 106-29.
48 E. A. Zachariadou, 'The neomartyr's message', Bulletin of the Centrefor AsiaMinor Studies 8 (1990-91), 55-61; Zachariadou, 'Bioi veoTEpwv ayiwv: ^ E^aypu^v^a^ yia to •rcoiijvio', in The heroes of the Orthodox Church: the new saints, 8th—16th c., ed. E. Kountoura-Galake [International Symposium 15] (Athens: Institute for Byzantine Research, 2004), 215-25.
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