generous gifts oflands and tax-revenues. For example, he commended himself to the monks of the Rus house of St Panteleimon, hoping their prayers might render Christ merciful for his actions. The monastery of the Iberians - now occupied mostly by Greeks - likewise received land grants and tax-exemptions, as did the houses of Docheiariou and Esphigmenou. Stefan's moves were politic as well as spiritually salutary, but obtaining the monks' prayers came at a price. In 1345 they notified him that despite his generosity they would be praying first for 'the emperor of the Romans' and only then for his 'kingliness' (KpaAoT^s), a stipulation fraught with connotations of the basileus's superior legitimacy as well as precedence.39 The prayers or maledictions of Athonite monks were not for Stefan Dusan to decide. General acknowledgement of the basileus's age-old legitimacy was such that in 1351 Stefan even sought confirmation by John V for the charter that he himself had issued for the house of Chilandar.40 This, in turn, virtually ruled out a hostile bid by Stefan for the throne of John V an incontestably legitimate emperor of the Romans. Similar constraints weighed with Milutin, who had refrained from styling himself tsar, save on some of his seals.

The Serb rulers stood out from other Orthodox rulers in extending their dominion to Athos: they maintained their overlordship of the mountain for sixteen years after Stefan's death in 1355. But a sacred enclave on the mountain was sought by several other aspiring rulers, Greek-speaking basileis among them, perhaps goaded by Stefan's example. In 1374 the emperor of Trebizond, Alexios III, explained his support for the monastery of Dionysiou thus: 'all emperors, kings or rulers of some fame have built monasteries on the Holy Mountain for their eternal memory'. Alexios was therefore adding 'a new foundation in order to survive eternally in the memory of the people'.41 The princes of Wallachia were no less zealous patrons. The earthly respect and eternal blessings, which the monks' prayers and devotion to the mountain's shrines could earn, spoke to them all.

Such zeal may be dismissed as just another example of how Byzantium's imperial and religious symbols were used as building-materials by external figures for their own political structures. Dusan had to take account of Athonite reverence for the 'emperor of the Romans' in Constantinople, but his practical

39 Grcke povelje srpskihvladara, ed. A. Solovjev and V A. Mosin (Belgrade: Srpskakraljevska akademija, 1936; reprinted London: Variorum, 1974), 32-3.

40 Obolensky Byzantine Commonwealth, 256; D. Korac, 'Sveta Gora pod srpskom vlascu (1345-1371)', ZbornikRadovaVizantiloskoglnstituta 31 (1992), 84-6,108-11.

41 Actes de Dionysiou, ed. N. Oikonomides et al. [AA 4] (Paris: P. Lethielleux, 1968), 60 (text).

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