determined that the case should be investigated on the spot by 'neighbouring metropolitans', in this case of Alania, Vicina and Zichia-Matracha.48 'Neighbouring' was no misnomer, seeing how easy-thanks to the Genoese-journeys along the north coast of the Black Sea and between the Crimea and Constantinople had become. The problem in the fore-mentioned case bespeaks rivalries ratherthan simply uncertainty over diocesanboundaries or insecurity: the issue turned on revenues from newly built churches in the Sougdaian see, and the measures taken by officials acting on behalf of the patriarchate there.

The metropolitan of Alania had a counterpart west of the Black Sea, at Vicina, in the region of the Danube delta. This see was raised to metropolitan status at the behest of Michael VIII Palaiologos, probably during the 1260s. The town soon became an important entrepot of the Genoese. There are ample signs of trade and Byzantine material culture in the Danube delta of the Palaiologan period.49 Besides illustrating the adaptability of the imperial-ecclesiastical complex to altered circumstances, the creation of a metropolitan see at Vicina reflected an awareness of its commercial potential, which worked to the benefit of its incumbents, such as Bishop Luke who lent out his church funds for 800 gold pieces annually.50 The metropolitan's means probably stemmed directly or indirectly from the Genoese merchants' lucrative dealings at Vicina. The metropolitan used his funds to attend to the needs of his spiritual flocks on the fringes of the steppes, as well as carrying out other services for the emperor. Thus in 1301 the metropolitan acted as the intermediary between Andronikos II and several thousand Alan cavalrymen, who were seeking asylum with their families.51 The patriarchate also maintained a presence at this time in the vicinity of the Danube delta through the possession of a series of strongholds.52 These initiatives could not, however, ensure lasting security for Vicina. Devastated around 1340 by a Tatar band, the town lost its role as an important emporium for Genoese merchants. Soon afterwards its metropolitans ceased to reside there.53

This setback did not, however, put paid to an organised Orthodox presence in the region of the Lower Danube. Alexander was a forceful warlord (voevoda)

49 On the problem of the precise location of Vicina and on Genoese trading activities there, see P. §. Nasturel, 'Mais ou donc localiser Vicina?', BF 12 (1987); ODB, 111 (sub Vicina). See also V Francois, 'Elaborate incised ware: une preuve du rayonnement de la culture byzantine al'époque paléologue', Bsl 61 (2003), 161.

50 Athanasios, Correspondence, ed. Talbot, 56-7; Reg. no. 1613.

51 George Pachymeres, Relations historiques, iv, x.16; 336-9.

52 These are listed in a deed of c.1321: RPK i,no. 64, 400-1; 2101.

53 RPKii, nos. 115, 117, 118; 130-3,136-45; Reg. no. 2184.

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