or problems to the patriarchal synod. The patriarchate's response was often politic: when invited to nominate a successor to the lately deceased patriarch of Alexandria in 1397, it first checked with the patriarch of Jerusalem whether, as would be quite understandable, the Mamluk sultan had already approved the appointment of a patriarch.75 Melkite churchmen in the Levant still looked to the patriarch for resolution of disciplinary disputes, while imperial laws remained normative for Christian communities. In the thirteenth century Palestinian scribes were still copying the Melkite Arabic translation of the Procheiros Nomos.76 The emperor's overriding authority was perhaps the more cherished for being remote. It may be to Orthodox employees of the Egyptian sultans that we owe a fairly explicit formulation of the 'Byzantine Commonwealth' in the shape of address-formulae for diplomatic letters sent by the Mamluks to the basileus. Thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century salutations of the latter as 'heir of the ancient Caesars, reviving the ways of the philosophers . . . versed in his faith's affairs, equitable in his realms' chime in with conventional imperial attributes. Geza of Hungary and earlier potentates would have recognised in him 'the only sovereign of the faith of Jesus authorised to [distribute] thrones and crowns'. But for almost a hundred years, from the mid-fourteenth century onwards, the basileus was addressed in such specific terms as 'head of the communion of the Cross... king ofBulgaria and Vlachia, ruler of the great cities of the Rus and the Alans, protector of the faith of the Georgians and Syrians'.77 While the drafters of this formula may well have found sentiments in similar vein among the diplomatic correspondence received from Constantinople, they would have needed little prompting if, as seems likely, they were themselves Christians linked with the Melkite patriarchate of Alexandria.78
To high-placed Christians in Mamluk service, as to the churchmen who formally prayed for the wellbeing of the khan and his family in fourteenth-century Rus, God had sent powers-that-be, which were tolerant of Christians and yet not oftheir own kind or choosing. Beliefin an ancient order transcending these necessary compromises, an ultimate warranty of their faith on earth, offered a certain intellectual coherence, if not solace. The sentiment was seldom articulated at length. Nor could it mobilise armies to relieve Constantinople from the Turks. But the assumption that 'the empire of the Romans' was part of
75 Miklosich and Müller, 11, 273-4; Reg. no. 3036.
76 J. Pahlitzsch, Graeci und Suriani im Palästina der Kreuzfahrerzeit [Berliner historische Studien 33] (Berlin: Duncker und Humbolt, 2001), 213 and n. 475.
77 D. A. Korobeinikov 'Diplomatic correspondence between Byzantium and the Mamluk Sultanate in the fourteenth century', Al-Masaq 16 (2004), 58, 59.
Was this article helpful?