following the defeat in 1371 by the Turks of the Serbian leaders John Ugljesa, the founder of Simonopetra, and his brother VukaSin at the battle of the Maritsa.

During the years 1420-22, when the Italian humanist Cristoforo Buondel-monti visited the Holy Mountain, its monastic life was very well organised, to judge from the warm praises he lavished on it. The Florentine clergyman noted the sheer numbers of monks settled in the various Athonite monasteries and admired their way of life. Some followed the communal life in peace and tranquillity, while others pursued the eremitical life in complete solitude, praying day and night.24 Shortly afterwards in 1423 Mount Athos passed officially under Ottoman lordship. The occasion was the cession of Thessalonike and its region by the Despot Andronikos Palaiologos to the Venetians; the Athonite monks refused to accept Latin masters and preferred to place themselves under the rule of Sultan Murad II (1421-51).25 But this change of rulers did nothing to disturb the prosperity of the Holy Mountain, if we are to believe the antiquarian Ciriaco of Ancona, who paid it a short visit in November 1444. He was immensely impressed by the magnificence of the churches and monastic buildings at Vatopedi, the Lavra and Iveron and amazed by the rich holdings of the monastic libraries, which excited his collector's cupidity. He congratulated himself on the way he managed to acquire a copy of Plutarch's Moralia from a worthy monk of Iveron, while the abbot was away, incidentally on a mission to the Ottoman court.26

Even after 1453 the monasteries of Mount Athos provided members of the Byzantine aristocracy with a good place to finish their days.27 But not all those who joined the Athonite monks were looking for the aura of sanctity. There were those who saw it as a means of salting away their money. Their activities sometimes came to the attention of the Ottoman tribunals. A notorious example is provided by Radic, the great celnik or general-in-chief of the Serbian Despot Stefan Lazarevic and, after the latter's death in 1427, of his son-in-law and successor George Brankovic.28 Radic did not remain in the latter's service for long. Shortly after 1433, he decided to retreat to Mount Athos, where the pax ottomanica guaranteed order and stability, at a time when Serbia was

24 A. Pertusi, 'Monasteri e monaci italiani all'Athos nell'alto medioevo', Le Millénaire du Mont Athos, 963 -1963, études etmélanges (Chevetogne: Editions de Chevetogne, 1963), i, 243-50.

25 P. Schreiner, Die byzantinischen Kleinchroniken (Vienna: Verlag OAW, 1975), i, 473.

26 Cyriac of Ancona, Later travels, ed. E. W Bodnar [The I Tatti Renaissance Library] (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 121-35.

27 E.g. Dionysios Iagaris, see PLP, no. 92053.

28 On this personage see E. A. Zachariadou, 'The worrisome wealth of the Celnik Radic', in Studies in Ottoman history in honour of Professor V. L. Ménage, ed. C. Heywood and C. Imber (Istanbul: Isis Press, 1994), 383-97.

0 0

Post a comment