Info

common in the last centuries of Byzantium and continued to be popular under the Ottomans.

Holy mountains were a characteristic feature of Byzantine monasticism. The great majority were situated in Asia Minor. One thinks of Mount Olympos (Ulus Dag) in Bithynia, Mount Latros in the region of ancient Miletus, and Mount Galesion near Ephesos. However, these monastic centres went into terminal decline in the wake ofthe Turkish advance into Asia Minor following the victory of the Seljuq Sultan Alp Arslan over the Byzantines at the battle of Mantzikert in 1071. The Turkish nomads were recently and only superficially islamicised. Ignoring laws and rules, they marched into the country with their families and their flocks, plundering and destroying as they went. They created havoc, which lasted for at least thirty years. The monasteries stood little chance of survival. Their treasures attracted the rapacity of the nomads, who pillaged them and either enslaved or expelled the monks. Christodoulos, later to found the monastery of St John the Theologian on the island of Patmos, has left a vivid description of the barbarity of the Turkish occupation, which forced him to abandon his monastery of Stylos on Mount Latros.1 The decline of the monasteries of Asia Minor worked to the advantage of Mount Athos. Its monasteries were to emerge from the period of Latin rule after 1204 with an enhanced reputation for a pious way of life.2 They have preserved their unique character ever since. It served them well during the Ottoman conquest of Macedonia in the late fourteenth century, for the early Ottoman rulers were impressed by their spiritual authority and were anxious to fulfil the responsibilities expected of pious Muslim rulers. They began to apply the koranic principle of religious tolerance, which presupposes respect for the institutions of the Christians and the Jews. According to an old Islamic tradition (hadith) the Prophet Muhammad himselfgranted protection to the monastery of Sinai, while it was understood that during the holy war (jihad) monks were to be left unmolested and, once hostilities ended, were to enjoy temporary freedom from taxation.3 The early Ottoman rulers applied these principles and, more to the point, exploited them to win over to their side the Greek Orthodox populations, who at that time considered their real enemies to be the Latins.4 The monasteries ofthe region ofTrebizond, which was conquered

1 N. Oikonomides, 'The monastery of Patmos in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and its economic functions', in N. Oikonomides, Social and economic life in Byzantium (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), vii, 4-7.

2 N. Oikonomides, 'Mount Athos: levels of literacy', DOP 42 (1988), 174.

3 F. L0kkegaard, 'The concepts of war and peace in Islam', in War and peace in the middle ages, ed. B. P. Maguire (Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzels Forlag, 1987), 270, 273.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment