Byzantine civil war of 1341–1347

Byzantine civil war of 1341–1347

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The Byzantine civil war of 1341–1347 was a conflict between supporters of designated regent
Regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

 John VI Kantakouzenos
John VI Kantakouzenos
John VI Kantakouzenos or Cantacuzenus was the Byzantine emperor from 1347 to 1354.-Early life:Born in Constantinople, John Kantakouzenos was the son of a Michael Kantakouzenos, governor of the Morea. Through his mother Theodora Palaiologina Angelina, he was a descendant of the reigning house of...

 and guardians acting for John V Palaiologos
John V Palaiologos
John V Palaiologos was a Byzantine emperor, who succeeded his father in 1341, at age nine.-Biography:...

, Emperor Andronikos III
Andronikos III
Andronikos III may refer to:* Andronikos III Palaiologos , Byzantine emperor 1328–1341* Andronikos III of Trebizond , Emperor of Trebizond from 1330 to 1332...

's nine-year-old son, in the persons of the Empress-dowager Anna of Savoy
Anna of Savoy
Anna of Savoy, born Giovanna, was a Byzantine Empress consort, as the second wife of Andronikos III Palaiologos.-Family:She was a daughter of Amadeus V, Count of Savoy and his second wife Maria of Brabant. Her maternal grandparents were John I, Duke of Brabant and Margaret of Flanders...

, the Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome – ranking as primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church....

 John XIV Kalekas, and the megas doux
Megas Doux
The megas doux was one of the highest positions in the hierarchy of the later Byzantine Empire, denoting the commander-in-chief of the Byzantine navy. It is sometimes also given by the half-Latinizations megaduke or megadux...

 Alexios Apokaukos
Alexios Apokaukos
Alexios Apokaukos was a leading Byzantine statesman and high-ranking military officer during the reigns of emperors Andronikos III Palaiologos and John V Palaiologos...

. The war polarized Byzantine society along class lines, with the aristocracy backing John VI and the lower and middle classes supporting the regency. To a lesser extent, the conflict acquired religious overtones, as adherence to the mystical
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

 doctrine of Hesychasm
Hesychasm
Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised by the Hesychast Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches,...

 was often equated with support for Kantakouzenos.

As chief aide and closest friend of Emperor Andronikos III, Kantakouzenos became regent for his the underage John V upon the Emperor's death in June 1341. While Kantakouzenos was absent from Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 in September the same year, a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 led by Alexios Apokaukos and the Patriarch John XIV, secured the support of Empress Anna and established a new regency. In response, Kantakouzenos' army and supporters proclaimed him co-emperor in October, cementing the rift between himself and the new regency. The split immediately escalated into armed conflict.

During the first years of the war, forces of the new regency prevailed. In the wake of several anti-aristocratic uprisings, most notably that of the Zealots in Thessalonica, a majority of the cities in Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 and Macedonia
Macedonia (region)
Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe. Its boundaries have changed considerably over time, but nowadays the region is considered to include parts of five Balkan countries: Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, as...

 came under regency control. With assistance from Stephen Dushan of Serbia and Umur Beg of Aydin, Kantakouzenos successfully reversed these gains. By 1345, despite Dushan's defection to the opposition and the withdrawal of Umur, Kantakouzenos retained the upper hand through the assistance of Orhan
Orhan
Orhan is a Turkish given name for males. People named Orhan include:* Orhan I, Turkish Ottoman sultan* Orhan Ademi, Swiss footballer* Asım Orhan Barut, Turkish-American theoretical physicist* Orhan Boran, Turkish radio and TV host...

, ruler of the Ottoman emirate. The June 1345 murder of megas doux Apokaukos, the regency's chief administrator, dealt the regency a severe blow. Formally crowned Emperor in Adrianople in 1346, Kantakouzenos entered Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 on 3 February 1347. By agreement, he was to rule for ten years as the senior emperor and regent for John V, until the boy came of age and ruled alongside him. Despite this apparent victory, subsequent resurgence of the civil war forced John VI Kantakouzenos to abdicate and retire to become a monk in 1354.

The consequences of the prolonged conflict proved disastrous for the Empire, which had regained a measure of stability under Andronikos III. Seven years of warfare, the presence of marauding armies, social turmoil, and the advent of the Black Death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

 devastated Byzantium. The conflict also allowed Dushan to conquer Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

, Epirus
Epirus
The name Epirus, from the Greek "Ήπειρος" meaning continent may refer to:-Geographical:* Epirus - a historical and geographical region of the southwestern Balkans, straddling modern Greece and Albania...

 and most of Macedonia, where he established the Serbian Empire
Serbian Empire
The Serbian Empire was a short-lived medieval empire in the Balkans that emerged from the Serbian Kingdom. Stephen Uroš IV Dušan was crowned Emperor of Serbs and Greeks on 16 April, 1346, a title signifying a successorship to the Eastern Roman Empire...

. The Bulgarian Empire
Second Bulgarian Empire
The Second Bulgarian Empire was a medieval Bulgarian state which existed between 1185 and 1396 . A successor of the First Bulgarian Empire, it reached the peak of its power under Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II before gradually being conquered by the Ottomans in the late 14th-early 15th century...

 also acquired territory north of the Evros river
Maritsa
The Maritsa or Evros , ) is, with a length of 480 km, the longest river that runs solely in the interior of the Balkans. It has its origin in the Rila Mountains in Western Bulgaria, flowing southeast between the Balkan and Rhodope Mountains, past Plovdiv and Parvomay to Edirne, Turkey...

.

Background: Byzantium in the early 14th century



In 1341, the once-mighty Byzantine Empire was in a state of flux. Despite the restoration of the Empire's capital to Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 and the recovery of a measure of its former power by Michael VIII Palaiologos
Michael VIII Palaiologos
Michael VIII Palaiologos or Palaeologus reigned as Byzantine Emperor 1259–1282. Michael VIII was the founder of the Palaiologan dynasty that would rule the Byzantine Empire until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453...

 (r. 1259–1282), the policies implemented during his reign had exhausted the state's resources, and the Empire's strength waned under his successor, Andronikos II Palaiologos
Andronikos II Palaiologos
Andronikos II Palaiologos , Latinized as Andronicus II Palaeologus, was Byzantine emperor from 1282 to 1328. He was the eldest surviving son of Michael VIII Palaiologos and Theodora Doukaina Vatatzina, grandniece of John III Doukas Vatatzes...

 (r. 1282–1328). During Andronikos II's long reign, the remaining Byzantine possessions in Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 slowly fell to the advancing Turks, most notably the newly established Ottoman emirate. This caused a flood of refugees into Byzantium's European provinces while at the same time, the Catalan Company
Catalan Company
The Catalan Company of the East , officially the Magnas Societas Catalanorum, sometimes called the Grand Company and widely known as the Catalan Company, was a free company of mercenaries founded by Roger de Flor in the early 14th-century...

 wrought havoc in the imperial domains. Taxes also rose dramatically to finance tributes to the Empire's enemies. A combination of these failures and personal ambition, moved the Emperor's grandson and heir, the young Andronikos III Palaiologos
Andronikos III Palaiologos
Andronikos III Palaiologos, Latinized as Andronicus III Palaeologus was Byzantine emperor from 1328 to 1341, after being rival emperor since 1321. Andronikos III was the son of Michael IX Palaiologos and Rita of Armenia...

, to revolt. Supported by a group of young aristocrats led by John Kantakouzenos
John VI Kantakouzenos
John VI Kantakouzenos or Cantacuzenus was the Byzantine emperor from 1347 to 1354.-Early life:Born in Constantinople, John Kantakouzenos was the son of a Michael Kantakouzenos, governor of the Morea. Through his mother Theodora Palaiologina Angelina, he was a descendant of the reigning house of...

 and Syrgiannes Palaiologos, Andronikos III deposed his grandfather after a series of conflicts
Byzantine civil war of 1321–1328
The Byzantine civil war of 1321–1328 was a series of conflicts fought in the 1320s between the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos and his grandson Andronikos III Palaiologos over control of the Byzantine Empire.-Prelude to the civil war:...

 during the 1320s. Although successful in removing the old Emperor from power, the war did not auger well for the future, as the Empire's neighbours — the Serbs, Bulgarians, Turks, Genoese and Venetians — took advantage of Byzantine infighting to gain territory or expand their influence within the Empire.
During the reign of Andronikos III (1328–1341), John Kantakouzenos acted as his chief minister, holding the office of megas domestikos, commander-in-chief of the Byzantine army. The relationship between the two remained close and in 1330, when the heirless Andronikos III (John V was born in 1332) fell, ill he insisted that Kantakouzenos be proclaimed Emperor or regent after his death. Their ties were further strengthened in the spring of 1341, when the latter's eldest son, Matthew Kantakouzenos
Matthew Kantakouzenos
Matthew Kantakouzenos or Cantacuzenus was Byzantine Emperor from 1353 to 1357.-Life:...

, wed Irene Palaiologina, a cousin of the Emperor.

Unlike Andronikos II, who had disbanded the Byzantine army and navy, and who favoured monks and intellectuals, Andronikos III was an energetic ruler who personally led his forces in military campaigns. In 1329, his first campaign against the Ottomans resulted in a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Pelekanos, after which the Byzantine position in Bithynia
Bithynia
Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosporus and the Euxine .-Description:...

 rapidly collapsed. Subsequent sorties into the Balkans were nevertheless successful in shoring up Andronikos' tottering realm. Thessaly
Thessaly
Thessaly is a traditional geographical region and an administrative region of Greece, comprising most of the ancient region of the same name. Before the Greek Dark Ages, Thessaly was known as Aeolia, and appears thus in Homer's Odyssey....

 and the Despotate of Epirus
Despotate of Epirus
The Despotate or Principality of Epirus was one of the Byzantine Greek successor states of the Byzantine Empire that emerged in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. It claimed to be the legitimate successor of the Byzantine Empire, along with the Empire of Nicaea, and the Empire of Trebizond...

, two territories separated from the Empire after the Fourth Crusade
Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was originally intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem by means of an invasion through Egypt. Instead, in April 1204, the Crusaders of Western Europe invaded and conquered the Christian city of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire...

, were restored to imperial rule, almost without bloodshed in 1328 and 1337 respectively. In 1335 the Empire recovered the island of Lesbos from the Genoese
Republic of Genoa
The Most Serene Republic of Genoa |Ligurian]]: Repúbrica de Zêna) was an independent state from 1005 to 1797 in Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast, as well as Corsica from 1347 to 1768, and numerous other territories throughout the Mediterranean....

 with aid from Umur Beg of Aydin. During this campaign Kantakouzenos and Umur established a long-lasting friendship and alliance.

A war with Serbia in 1331–1334 proved less successful for the Emperor when several towns in Macedonia were captured by the Serbs, led by the renegade Syrgiannes Palaiologos. These gains were only curtailed when the assassination of Syrgiannes and the threat of a Hungarian
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...

 invasion forced them to seek a negotiated settlement. The subsequent peace treaty concluded between Andronikos III and the Serbian ruler Stephen Dushan was important for the future of Byzantine-Serbian relations. For the first time, the Byzantines recognized the extensive gains the Serbs had made in former Byzantine territory in the central Balkans during Andronikos II's reign. In the aftermath of the pact, Dushan also moved his seat, and with it his realm's center of gravity, south to Prilep
Prilep
Prilep is the fourth largest city in the Republic of Macedonia. It has a population of 66,246 citizens. Prilep is known as "the city under Marko's Towers" because of its proximity to the towers of Prince Marko.-Name:...

.

Although the loss of Asia Minor proved irreversible, successes in Epirus and Thessaly led to a consolidation of the Empire in the Greek-speaking lands of the southern Balkans. Andronikos III and Kantakouzenos planned further campaigns to recover the Latin principalities of southern Greece, aiming to establish, in the words of Donald Nicol
Donald Nicol
Donald MacGillivray Nicol FBA, MRIA was a British Byzantinist.- Life :Nicol was born to a Church of Scotland minister, and received a classical education at King Edward VII School in Sheffield and St Paul's School in London...

, "a small, but [...] compact and manageable administrative unit extending from Cape Matapan
Cape Matapan
Cape Tainaron , also known as Cape Matapan , is situated at the end of the Mani, Laconia, Greece. Cape Matapan is the southernmost point of mainland Greece. It separates the Messenian Gulf in the west from the Laconian Gulf in the east.-History:...

 to Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

".

Kantakouzenos' regency: June–September 1341


Following a short illness, on the night of 14–15 June 1341, Andronikos III died relatively early at the age of 45. Nine-year-old John V was the obvious successor, but he had not been officially proclaimed or crowned as co-emperor. This left a legal vacuum, and raised the question of who would lead the Empire's government.

According to Byzantine custom, any regency was automatically headed by the empress-dowager. Nevertheless, despite the lack of any formal appointment, Kantakouzenos assumed the regency and governance of the state and moved into the imperial palace by virtue of his close association with the deceased emperor and his de facto control of state affairs. At the same time, opposition to Kantakouzenos coalesced around the key aristocrats Patriarch John XIV Kalekas, a forceful man determined to have a voice in the governance of the Empire, the Empress-dowager Anna of Savoy
Anna of Savoy
Anna of Savoy, born Giovanna, was a Byzantine Empress consort, as the second wife of Andronikos III Palaiologos.-Family:She was a daughter of Amadeus V, Count of Savoy and his second wife Maria of Brabant. Her maternal grandparents were John I, Duke of Brabant and Margaret of Flanders...

, who, whilst initially accepting Kantakouzenos as regent, feared that he would dispossess her son, and last but not least Alexios Apokaukos
Alexios Apokaukos
Alexios Apokaukos was a leading Byzantine statesman and high-ranking military officer during the reigns of emperors Andronikos III Palaiologos and John V Palaiologos...

, the ambitious megas doux (commander-in-chief of the navy
Byzantine navy
The Byzantine navy was the naval force of the East Roman or Byzantine Empire. Like the empire it served, it was a direct continuation from its imperial Roman predecessor, but played a far greater role in the defense and survival of the state then its earlier iterations...

) and head of the bureaucracy. Promoted to high office as Kantakouzenos' protégé, Apokaukos sought further advancement by trying to convince Kantakouzenos to declare himself emperor. When Kantakouzenos refused, Apokaukos secretly switched his allegiance to the Empress and the Patriarch.

In Donald Nicol's opinion, had Kantakouzenos remained at Constantinople, his authority might have remained secure. As the megas domestikos and regent however, it was his duty to deal with the Empire's various enemies, who sought to take advantage of Andronikos' death. Dushan had invaded Macedonia, the Emir of Saruhan
Saruhan
The Sarukhanids or Sarukhanid dynasty , also known as the Principality of Saruhan and Beylik of Saruhan , was one of the Anatolian beyliks, centered in Manisa.It was one of the frontier principalities established by Oghuz Turkish clans after the decline of the Anatolian Seljuk...

 raided the coasts of Thrace, and Tsar Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria
Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria
Ivan Alexander , also known as John Alexander, ruled as Emperor of Bulgaria from 1331 to 1371, during the Second Bulgarian Empire. The date of his birth is unknown. He died on February 17, 1371. The long reign of Ivan Alexander is considered a transitional period in Bulgarian medieval history...

 threatened war. In July, Kantakouzenos left the capital at the head of the army leaving control of the government to Apokaukos, whom he still believed loyal to him. Kantakouzenos' campaign proved successful. He persuaded Dushan to withdraw and repulsed the Turkish raiders, while Ivan Alexander, threatened by a fleet from the Emirate of Aydin, renewed his peace treaty with Byzantium. To crown this success, Kantakouzenos received an embassy of the Latin barons of the Principality of Achaea
Principality of Achaea
The Principality of Achaea or of the Morea was one of the three vassal states of the Latin Empire which replaced the Byzantine Empire after the capture of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. It became a vassal of the Kingdom of Thessalonica, along with the Duchy of Athens, until Thessalonica...

 in the Morea
Morea
The Morea was the name of the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece during the Middle Ages and the early modern period. It also referred to a Byzantine province in the region, known as the Despotate of Morea.-Origins of the name:...

. They were prepared to surrender the country in exchange for a guarantee of their property and rights. It was a unique opportunity, as Kantakouzenos himself recognized in his memoirs, since if successful, the Catalan-controlled Duchy of Athens
Duchy of Athens
The Duchy of Athens was one of the Crusader States set up in Greece after the conquest of the Byzantine Empire during the Fourth Crusade, encompassing the regions of Attica and Boeotia, and surviving until its conquest by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century....

 was bound to follow, consolidating Byzantine control over Greece.

At this point, Kantakouzenos received grave news from Constantinople. In late August, Apokaukos staged an attempted coup, when he tried to kidnap John V and hold him hostage. Having failed, he fled to his fortified house at Epibatai, where he was blockaded by troops. Kantakouzenos returned to Constantinople in early September, where he stayed for a few weeks consulting with the Empress. On his way back to Thrace to prepare for a campaign into the Morea, he went to Epibatai where he pardoned Apokaukos and restored him to his former offices.

Outbreak of the war: Autumn 1341


Back in the capital, Apokaukos wasted no time in resuming his scheming. He allied himself with the Patriarch and a number of nobles and convinced the Empress that Kantakouzenos planned to overthrow both her and her son. Backed by the authority of the Empress, John Kalekas was proclaimed regent and Apokaukos named Eparch of Constantinople. Kantakouzenos' relatives and supporters were imprisoned or forced to flee the city, and their properties confiscated. Although Kantakouzenos' wife and children were safe in his headquarters at Demotika (Didymoteicho
Didymoteicho
Didymóteicho is a town located in the eastern part of the Evros peripheral unit of Thrace, Greece. It is the seat of the municipality of the same name. The town sits on a plain and located south east of Svilengrad, south of Edirne, Turkey and Orestiada, west of Uzunköprü, about 20 km north...

), the regency placed his mother, Theodora, under house arrest, which was to cause her eventual death as a result of the privations she suffered.


As the first groups of his partisans fleeing the capital arrived at Demotika, Kantakouzenos, by his own account, tried to negotiate with the new regency but his approach was rebuffed. Finally forced to take decisive action, on 26 October 1341, the army and his supporters proclaimed Kantakouzenos Emperor. Although he still presented himself officially as a junior colleague to John V who was only acting in the boy's name, having staked his claim to the throne, he had effectively started a civil war. Kantakouzenos still hoped that negotiation might resolve the situation, but all his envoys were imprisoned and his supporters excommunicated by Patriarch John XIV. On 19 November 1341, the regency responded to Kantakouzenos' proclamation as Emperor with the formal coronation of the young John V.

Reaction to Kantakouzenos' proclamation caused a rift in Byzantine society with the rich and powerful land-holding magnates (traditionally called the dynatoi, the "powerful ones") who dominated the countryside quickly rallying to support him, while the ordinary population, often living in abject conditions and suffering oppressive taxation, supported the Empress-dowager and the Patriarch. Apokaukos was especially quick to capitalize upon this. He fomented popular dislike for the aristocracy by widely publicizing the immense wealth confiscated from Kantakouzenos' and his supporters' houses and estates.

Thus the battle lines of the civil war were drawn up between urban and rural factions. The cities, dominated by the middle-class civil bureaucracy and merchant class (the "people of the market"), favoured a more mercantile economy and close relations with the Italian maritime republics, while the countryside remained under the control of the conservative aristocracy, which derived its wealth from its estates and traditionally shunned commercial and entrepreneurial activities as unworthy of its status. The lower social strata tended to support the respective dominant faction, the middle classes in the cities and the landholding magnates in the countryside.

Polarization of this nature was not new in the Byzantine Empire. Evidence of competition between the landed aristocracy and the city-based middle classes in the political, economic and social spheres has been attested since the 11th century, but the scale of the conflict that erupted in 1341 was unprecedented. This class conflict was mirrored in the Byzantine Empire of Trebizond
Empire of Trebizond
The Empire of Trebizond, founded in April 1204, was one of three Byzantine successor states of the Byzantine Empire. However, the creation of the Empire of Trebizond was not directly related to the capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, rather it had broken away from the Byzantine Empire...

 as well, where a pro-imperial and pro-Constantinopolitan urban faction confronted the provincial landholding aristocracy between 1340 and 1349. The more conservative and anti-Western tendencies of the aristocrats, and their links to the staunchly Orthodox and anti-Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 monasteries, also explain their increased attachment to the mystical
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

 Hesychasm
Hesychasm
Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised by the Hesychast Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches,...

 movement advocated by Gregory Palamas
Gregory Palamas
Gregory Palamas was a monk of Mount Athos in Greece and later the Archbishop of Thessaloniki known as a preeminent theologian of Hesychasm. The teachings embodied in his writings defending Hesychasm against the attack of Barlaam are sometimes referred to as Palamism, his followers as Palamites...

, whose views were mostly opposed in the cities. Although several significant exceptions leave the issue open to question, in the popular mind (and according to traditional historiography), the supporters of "Palamism" and of "Kantakouzenism" were usually equated.

The first manifestation of this social division appeared in Adrianople where, on 27 October, the populace expelled the city's aristocrats, securing it for the regency. This event was imitated over the next weeks in town after town throughout Thrace and Macedonia, as the people declared their support for the regency and against the despised forces of "Kantakouzenism". In Demotika alone the popular uprising was quelled, and the town remained Kantakouzenos' main stronghold in Thrace throughout the war.

Kantakouzenos seeks Dushan's aid: 1342


When heavy snowfall rendered campaigning impossible during the ensuing winter, Kantakouzenos instead sent envoys, including an embassy of monks from Mount Athos
Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. A World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. Spiritually, Mount Athos comes under the direct jurisdiction of the...

 to Constantinople, but they too were dismissed by the Patriarch. By then, almost all of the Byzantine provinces and their governors had declared themselves for the regency. Only Theodore Synadenos, an old associate of Kantakouzenos who was the governor of the Empire's second city, Thessalonica, indicated his support. Synadenos had kept his allegiance to Kantakouzenos secret from the city's populace, and intended to surrender Thessalonica in collusion with the local aristocracy. Furthermore, Hrelja
Hrelja
Hrelja , also known as Stefan Dragovol or Hrelja Ohmućević was a 14th-century semi-independent feudal lord in the region of northeastern Macedonia and the Rila mountains who served medieval Serbian kings Stefan Milutin, Stefan Dečanski and Stefan Dušan...

, the Serbian magnate and virtually independent ruler of Strumica
Strumica
Strumica is the largest city in eastern Macedonia, near the Novo Selo-Petrich border crossing with Bulgaria. About 100,000 people live in the region surrounding the city. The city is named after the Strumica River which runs through it...

 and the Strymon River valley, seemed to lean towards Kantakouzenos. Consequently, as soon as the weather improved, on 2 March 1342, Kantakouzenos left his wife Irene Asanina
Irene Asanina
Irene Asanina was the Empress consort of John VI Kantakouzenos of the Byzantine Empire.-Family:Asanina was a daughter of Andronikos Asen and his wife Tarchanaiotissa.Her paternal grandparents were Ivan Asen III of Bulgaria and Irene Palaiologina...

, his brother-in-law Manuel Asen and his daughters to hold Demotika and marched west with his army toward Thessalonica. On the way, he first attacked Peritheorion but was repelled and continued westward. Kantakouzenos was however able to take fortress Melnik
Melnik
-Places:Bulgaria* Melnik, Bulgaria, a town in Bulgaria* Shiroka Melnishka Losa, a Bulgarian wine grape also known as MelnikCzech Republic* Mělník, a townUnited States* Melnik, Wisconsin, an unincorporated community...

, whereafter he met with Hrelja to conclude an alliance. Their two armies marched toward Thessalonica, but arrived too late to take control. As they approached the city, they were met by Synadenos and other aristocrats who had fled after an uprising led by a radical popular party, the Zealots. Soon afterwards a fleet of 70 ships led by Apokaukos reinforced the city, whereupon his son John was appointed governor, although effective power rested with the Zealots, who for the next seven years led an autonomous regime unparalleled in Byzantine history.


At the same time, the regency's army campaigned in Thrace, formally taking possession of towns secured by popular revolt. With Thessalonica barred against him, his supply lines to Thrace cut, and desertions having reduced his army to 2,000 men, Kantakouzenos was forced to withdraw north to Serbia, where he hoped to secure the aid of Stephen Dushan. Hrelja also deserted Kantakouzenos and joined the regency, hoping to gain control of Melnik for himself. In July 1342, Kantakouzenos met Dushan near Pristina
Pristina
Pristina, also spelled Prishtina and Priština is the capital and largest city of Kosovo. It is the administrative centre of the homonymous municipality and district....

. The Serbian ruler appeared initially reluctant to form an alliance. Nevertheless, under pressure from his nobles, especially the powerful Jovan Oliver
Jovan Oliver
Jovan Oliver Grčinić, known as Despot Jovan Oliver was a magnate of the Serbian Emperor Dušan the Mighty , holding the titles of sebastokrator and despotes, and the great voivode-military rank, showing his prominence and status as one of the most important nobles of Dušan...

, he could not afford to miss this unique opportunity to expand south. Desperately in need of Serbian aid, Kantakouzenos apparently agreed that the Serbs could keep any town they took, despite his own later contradictory account. According to the Byzantine historian Nikephoros Gregoras, the Serbs claimed all of Macedonia west of Christopolis (Kavala
Kavala
Kavala , is the second largest city in northern Greece, the principal seaport of eastern Macedonia and the capital of Kavala peripheral unit. It is situated on the Bay of Kavala, across from the island of Thasos...

), except for Thessalonica and its environs. The only concession Kantakouzenos secured was that an exception be made for those towns that surrendered to him in person. To seal the pact, Kantakouzenos' younger son, Manuel
Manuel Kantakouzenos
Manuel Kantakouzenos , . Despotēs in the Despotate of Morea or the Peloponnese from October 25, 1349 to his death and a contender to the Principality of Achaia.Kantakouzenos was the second son of Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos and Irene Asanina...

, was to be wed to the daughter of Jovan Oliver, although after Dushan's later volte-face the marriage did not take place. Hrelja too acceded to the pact, in exchange for the surrender of Melnik by Kantakouzenos' garrison. Following Hrelja's death later that year, Melnik was seized by Dushan.

In late summer 1342, Kantakouzenos, accompanied by several Serbian magnates, marched into Macedonia at the head of a Greek-Serbian force that hoped to break through to his wife who still held out at Demotika. His advance was stopped almost immediately before Serres
Serres
Serres is a city in Greece, seat of the Serres prefecture.Serres may also refer to:Places:* Serres, Germany, a part of Wiernsheim in Baden-WürttembergIn France:* Serres, Aude in the Aude département...

, when the city refused to surrender and the subsequent siege had to be abandoned after an epidemic killed about 1,500 of his men, forcing him to retreat into Serbia with a rump of barely 500 soldiers. Dushan led a more successful parallel campaign, capturing Vodena (Edessa
Edessa, Greece
Edessa , is a city in northern Greece and the capital of the Pella regional unit, in the Central Macedonia region of Greece. It was also the capital of the defunct province of the same name.-Name:...

). Serbian forces captured Florina
Florina
Florina is a town and municipality in mountainous northwestern Macedonia, Greece. Its motto is, 'Where Greece begins'. It is also the Metropolitan seat for the region. It lies in the central part of Florina peripheral unit, of which it is the capital. Florina belongs to the periphery of West...

 and Kastoria
Kastoria
Kastoria is a city in northern Greece in the periphery of West Macedonia. It is the capital of Kastoria peripheral unit. It is situated on a promontory on the western shore of Lake Orestiada, in a valley surrounded by limestone mountains...

 shortly afterwards, thereby extending their hold over western Macedonia. The Serbs also expanded their control over Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

, so that by the summer of 1343, with the exception of Angevin
Capetian House of Anjou
The Capetian House of Anjou, also known as the House of Anjou-Sicily and House of Anjou-Naples, was a royal house and cadet branch of the direct House of Capet. Founded by Charles I of Sicily, a son of Louis VIII of France, the Capetian king first ruled the Kingdom of Sicily during the 13th century...

-controlled Dyrrhachium, all of the region appears to have fallen under Serbian rule.

In late fall, Empress Anna twice sent embassies to Dushan trying to convince him to surrender Kantakouzenos, Dushan, seeking to extract more profit from their alliance, refused. Kantakouzenos' fortunes began to improve when a delegation of the nobles of Thessaly reached him and offered to accept his authority. Kantakouzenos appointed his relative John Angelos
John Angelos (sebastokrator)
John Angelos was a Byzantine aristocrat, general and and governor. He first distinguished himself in the suppression of a revolt in Epirus in 1339–1340, where he was subsequently appointed as governor...

 as the province's governor. Although in effect a semi-independent ruler, Angelos was both loyal and effective. He soon brought Epirus — which he had governed in 1340 — into the Kantakouzenist camp, and even made gains in Thessaly at the expense of the Catalans of Athens. Soon after however, another expedition against Serres failed, and morale among Kantakouzenos' followers fell dramatically. Rumours circulated in Constantinople that a dejected Kantakouzenos planned to retire to Mount Athos as a monk.

Kantakouzenos resurgent: 1343–1345


At this point, Kantakouzenos' position was greatly strengthened by the intervention of his old friend, Umur Bey, who in late 1342 or early 1343, sailed up the Evros river with a fleet of 300 ships and 29,000 (according to Kantakouzenos) or 15,000 (according to Turkish sources) men-in-arms and relieved Demotika, which had been under siege of a Bulgarian army under Ivan Alexander. After pillaging Thrace for a few months, Umur was forced to retreat to Asia, as the Turks were unaccustomed to the cold winter. This turn of events displeased Dushan, for Kantakouzenos now had an independent power base and was less reliant on the Serbian ruler's goodwill. The final rift between Kantakouzenos and Dushan occurred in April 1343, when Kantakouzenos persuaded the town of Berroia
Veria
Veria is a city built at the foot of Vermion Mountains in Greece. It is a commercial center of Macedonia, the capital of the prefecture of Imathia, the province of Imathia and the seat of a bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church...

, besieged by the Serbs, to surrender to him instead of Dushan. This was followed by the surrender of several other forts in the area to Kantakouzenos, including Servia and Platamon
Platamon
Platamon , also spelled as Platamonas, is a town and sea-side resort in south Pieria prefecture, Central Macedonia, Greece. Platamon has a population of about 2,200 permanent inhabitants....

. These moves strengthened Kantakouzenos' position and independence from Dushan, thereby thwarting the latter's plans for expansion. Realizing that he had little to gain by continuing to support Kantakouzenos, Dushan opened negotiations with the regency and concluded a formal alliance with them in the summer of 1343.

Meanwhile, Kantakouzenos and his army camped outside Thessalonica, hoping to take the city through treachery. Apokaukos arrived at the head of the Byzantine fleet to aid the Zealots, pinning Kantakouzenos down in Macedonia between Thessalonica and Dushan's possessions. Once again Umur of Aydin came to the rescue with a fleet carrying some 6,000 men, whereupon Apokaukos and his ships fled from the superior Turkish navy. Nevertheless, a reinforced Thessalonica was able to hold out against a siege by Kantakouzenos and Umur. Although he had failed to take Thessalonica, the presence of his Turkish allies allowed Kantakouzenos to turn his attention towards Thrace. In late 1343 he left his son Manuel as governor of Berroia and western Macedonia and marched towards Demotika, relieving the city and seeing his wife for the first time in more than a year. On his way to Demotika, Kantakouzenos had seized a number of fortresses in Thrace, although another siege of Peritheorion failed. He followed up with a successful campaign that took Komotini
Komotini
Komotini is a city in Thrace, northeastern Greece. It is the capital of the region of East Macedonia and Thrace and of the Rhodope regional unit. It is also the administrative center of the Rhodope-Evros super-prefecture. The city is home to the Democritus University of Thrace, founded in 1973...

 and other fortresses in the Rhodope
Rhodope
Rhodope may mean:* Queen Rhodope, a figure of Greek mythology* Rhodope Mountains, in Bulgaria and Greece* Rhodope Prefecture, of Greece* Rhodope * 166 Rhodope, an asteroid...

 area. Over the next couple of years, the towns and forts of Thrace came over to Kantakouzenos' camp one by one at great cost, as his mainly Turkish troops repeatedly plundered the countryside. The shifting tide of the war did not go unnoticed in the opposing camp. In late 1344, several prominent personalities defected to Kantakouzenos, including John Vatatzes, a general and close relative of both the Patriarch and Apokaukos, the Patriarch of Jerusalem
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem is the head bishop of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, ranking fourth of nine Patriarchs in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Since 2005, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem has been Theophilos III...

 Lazaros, and, most importantly, Manuel Apokaukos, son of the megas doux and governor of Adrianople.
Meanwhile, the regency's alliance with Dushan was paying dividends for him alone as he had free rein to plunder and occupy all of Macedonia and Epirus. By the end of 1345, only Thessalonica, held by the Zealots, Serres
Serres
Serres is a city in Greece, seat of the Serres prefecture.Serres may also refer to:Places:* Serres, Germany, a part of Wiernsheim in Baden-WürttembergIn France:* Serres, Aude in the Aude département...

 and the surrounding region, which remained loyal to the regency, along with Berroia, which still held out under the leadership of Manuel Kantakouzenos
Manuel Kantakouzenos
Manuel Kantakouzenos , . Despotēs in the Despotate of Morea or the Peloponnese from October 25, 1349 to his death and a contender to the Principality of Achaia.Kantakouzenos was the second son of Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos and Irene Asanina...

, remained outside Serbian control.

These developments placed the regency in considerable difficulties. In spite of Apokaukos' adroit management of tax revenue from the fisc
Fisc
Under the Merovingians and Carolingians, the fisc applied to the royal demesne which paid taxes, entirely in kind, from which the royal household was meant to be supported, though it rarely was...

, the devastation caused by the prolonged wars had emptied the treasury. In August 1343, Empress Anna was forced to pawn the crown jewels to the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

 for 30,000 ducat
Ducat
The ducat is a gold coin that was used as a trade coin throughout Europe before World War I. Its weight is 3.4909 grams of .986 gold, which is 0.1107 troy ounce, actual gold weight...

s. In addition, Turkish ravages in Thrace meant there was scarcity of food in Constantinople. Hoping for Western aid, Anna appealed to the Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 and began persecuting the pro-Kantakouzenists and anti-Western Palamists.
In 1344, the regency concluded a further alliance with Bulgaria
Second Bulgarian Empire
The Second Bulgarian Empire was a medieval Bulgarian state which existed between 1185 and 1396 . A successor of the First Bulgarian Empire, it reached the peak of its power under Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II before gradually being conquered by the Ottomans in the late 14th-early 15th century...

, which required surrender of Philippopolis (Plovdiv
Plovdiv
Plovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia with a population of 338,153 inhabitants according to Census 2011. Plovdiv's history spans some 6,000 years, with traces of a Neolithic settlement dating to roughly 4000 BC; it is one of the oldest cities in Europe...

) and nine other towns in northern Thrace along the river Evros. Nevertheless, after their occupation, Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Alexander refrained from direct action against Kantakouzenos' forces operating in southern and eastern Thrace. At the same time, Momchil
Momchil
Momchil was a 14th-century Bulgarian brigand and local ruler. Initially a member of a bandit gang in the borderlands of Bulgaria, Byzantium and Serbia, Momchil was recruited by the Byzantines as a mercenary...

, a former brigand whom Kantakouzenos had entrusted with control over the region of Merope in the Rhodope mountains, switched over to the regency. In early 1344, Kantakouzenos was deprived of Umur and the bulk of his army, who had sailed home to repel a Latin attack
Smyrniote crusades
The Smyrniote crusades were two Crusades sent by Pope Clement VI against the Emirate of Aydin under Umur Beg which had as their principal target the coastal city of Smyrna in Asia Minor.The first Smyrniote crusade was the brainchild of Clement VI...

 on his main harbour, Smyrna
Smyrna
Smyrna was an ancient city located at a central and strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia. Thanks to its advantageous port conditions, its ease of defence and its good inland connections, Smyrna rose to prominence. The ancient city is located at two sites within modern İzmir, Turkey...

. On their way, the Turkish force was attacked by the Serbs under Gregory Preljub, but prevailed at the Battle of Stephaniana
Battle of Stephaniana
The Battle of Stephaniana was a small-scale battle between the forces of the Serbian Empire and the Emirate of Aydin, allies of Byzantine emperor John VI Kantakouzenos...

. Nevertheless, Kantakouzenos was able to ward off joint attacks by Dushan and Apokaukos until Umur returned to his aid the next spring at the head of an army of reportedly 20,000 men.

Kantakouzenos and Umur raided Bulgaria, and then turned against Momchil, who had exploited the power vacuum in the Rhodope, an effective no man's land
No man's land
No man's land is a term for land that is unoccupied or is under dispute between parties that leave it unoccupied due to fear or uncertainty. The term was originally used to define a contested territory or a dumping ground for refuse between fiefdoms...

 between the Serbs, Bulgarians and Byzantines, to set himself up as a quasi-independent prince, supported by a substantial force of around 5,000 men. On 7 July 1345, the two armies clashed at Peritheorion. Momchil's army was crushed, and he himself fell in the field. Soon afterwards, Dushan arrived before Serres and laid siege to the city. Rejecting demands by Kantakouzenos to withdraw, a clash appeared inevitable until the murder of Alexios Apokaukos, main instigator of the civil war, in Constantinople on 11 July 1345, forced Kantakouzenos to direct his attention there.

Last years of the war: 1345–1347


In early 1345, Kantakouzenos sent Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 monks to the regency to make an offer of conciliation but it was rejected. Despite this show of confidence, the regency's position remained insecure. The defections of the previous winter had weakened their control of the capital, and in response Apokaukos launched a series of proscriptions. He also ordered the construction of a new prison to house political prisoners. In 11 June 1345, while undertaking an inspection of the prison unaccompanied by his bodyguard, Apokaukos was lynched by the prisoners.


When Kantakouzenos heard the news he marched towards Constantinople, urged by his supporters who expected that the death of Apokaukos would result in the collapse of the regency. Kantakouzenos was more skeptical, and indeed the Patriarch and Empress Anna quickly brought the situatiuon under control. At the same time, Kantakouzenos suffered a series of reverses. These began when John Apokaukos, the nominal governor of Thessalonica, openly announced his allegiance to Kantakouzenos and his plans to surrender the city. He was immediately thwarted by the Zealots who rose up again and killed Apokaukos and the other Kantakouzenist sympathizers in the city. Then John Vatatzes, who had recently defected to Kantakouzenos, once more switched sides, taking a few Thracian cities with him, only to be murdered soon afterwards. Finally, Kantakouzenos lost the support of his most crucial ally, Umur of Aydin, who left with his army in expectation of an attack on his domain by the emir of Saruhan
Saruhan
The Sarukhanids or Sarukhanid dynasty , also known as the Principality of Saruhan and Beylik of Saruhan , was one of the Anatolian beyliks, centered in Manisa.It was one of the frontier principalities established by Oghuz Turkish clans after the decline of the Anatolian Seljuk...

. Umur was soon replaced through an alliance with another Turkish ruler, Orhan I
Orhan I
Orhan I or Orhan Bey was the second bey of the nascent Ottoman Empire from 1326 to 1359...

 of the rising Ottoman emirate in Bithynia.

In September 1345, after a long siege, Serres fell to Dushan. The Serbian ruler, who by now controlled about half of the pre-1341 Byzantine realm, was spurred to lay his own claim to the Byzantine throne. Consequently, on Easter Sunday, 16 April 1346, he was crowned "Emperor of the Serbs and the Romans" in Skopje
Skopje
Skopje is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Macedonia with about a third of the total population. It is the country's political, cultural, economic, and academic centre...

, thereby founding the Serbian Empire
Serbian Empire
The Serbian Empire was a short-lived medieval empire in the Balkans that emerged from the Serbian Kingdom. Stephen Uroš IV Dušan was crowned Emperor of Serbs and Greeks on 16 April, 1346, a title signifying a successorship to the Eastern Roman Empire...

. This development prompted Kantakouzenos, who had only been acclaimed emperor in 1341, to have himself formally crowned in a ceremony held at Adrianople on 21 May, presided over by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Lazaros. Lazaros then convened a synod of bishops to excommunicate the Patriarch of Constantinople, John Kalekas. Not long afterwards, Kantakouzenos' ties with his new ally Orhan were cemented through the marriage of his daughter Theodora Kantakouzene to the Ottoman emir at an elaborate ceremony in Selymbria.

For the regency, the situation had become desperate. Empress Anna's requests for aid from foreign powers proved unsuccessful, as both Orhan and the beylik of Karasi rebuffed her overtures for assistance. Only Balik, the ruler
Principality of Karvuna
The Principality of Karvuna or Despotate of Dobruja was a 14th-century quasi-independent state in the region of modern Dobruja. It emerged as a polity under the influence of the Byzantine Empire, and probably had a population composed of Bulgarians, Gagauz, Greeks, Tatars, and Vlachs.The...

 of Dobruja
Dobruja
Dobruja is a historical region shared by Bulgaria and Romania, located between the lower Danube river and the Black Sea, including the Danube Delta, Romanian coast and the northernmost part of the Bulgarian coast...

, sent a force of 1,000 "picked" men under his brothers Theodore and Dobrotitsa
Dobrotitsa
Dobrotitsa was a Bulgarian noble, ruler of the de facto independent Principality of Karvuna and the Kaliakra fortress from 1354 to 1379–1386....

, only to see them routed by Kantakouzenos' protostrator
Protostrator
Prōtostratōr was a Byzantine court office, originating as the imperial stable master, which in the last centuries of the Empire evolved into one of the senior military offices...

 George Phakrases. The emirate of Saruhan
Saruhan
The Sarukhanids or Sarukhanid dynasty , also known as the Principality of Saruhan and Beylik of Saruhan , was one of the Anatolian beyliks, centered in Manisa.It was one of the frontier principalities established by Oghuz Turkish clans after the decline of the Anatolian Seljuk...

 offered a more substantial force of 6,000 men in the summer of 1346, but instead of fighting, they plundered Thrace and then defected to join Kantakouzenos' army. Revenue remained scarce for the regency, the Genoese seized the imperial possessions of Chios
Chios
Chios is the fifth largest of the Greek islands, situated in the Aegean Sea, seven kilometres off the Asia Minor coast. The island is separated from Turkey by the Chios Strait. The island is noted for its strong merchant shipping community, its unique mastic gum and its medieval villages...

 and Phocaea
Phocaea
Phocaea, or Phokaia, was an ancient Ionian Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia. Greek colonists from Phocaea founded the colony of Massalia in 600 BC, Emporion in 575 BC and Elea in 540 BC.-Geography:Phocaea was the northernmost...

, and on 19 May 1346, a part of the Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey...

 cathedral collapsed, a terrible omen in the eyes of the capital's inhabitants.

By the summer of 1346, Kantakouzenos stood on the verge of victory. He left Thrace under the control of his son Matthew Kantakouzenos
Matthew Kantakouzenos
Matthew Kantakouzenos or Cantacuzenus was Byzantine Emperor from 1353 to 1357.-Life:...

 and moved on to Selymbria, close to Constantinople. He did not attack the capital, but waited for almost a year for the city to surrender. In his memoirs, he explains that he did not want to turn his Turks on the capital, although contemporaries such as Gregoras accused him of indecision and of needlessly prolonging the war. As the months passed, the pro-Kantakouzenos faction in the capital grew, while the Empress and the Patriarch John Kalekas bickered over the conduct of the war. Conspirators in the city initiated plans to allow Kantakouzenos entrance and on the night of 2 February 1347, he marched in with 1,000 men through the disused Golden Gate, which had been opened for him by his supporters inside. Meeting no resistance, his troops surrounded the Palace of Blachernae
Palace of Blachernae
The Palace of Blachernae was an imperial Byzantine residence in the suburb of Blachernae, located in the northwestern section of Constantinople...

 the next morning. The Empress, still fearful of the fate that awaited her, refused to surrender for several days, until Kantakouzenos' men grew impatient and stormed part of the palace complex. At that point, the young John V persuaded his mother to accept a settlement.

Peace settlement and Kantakouzenos' reign


On 8 February 1347, the war formally ended with an agreement signed making Kantakouzenos senior emperor for ten years, after which he and John V would reign as equals. Kantakouzenos also promised to pardon anyone who had fought against him. To seal the pact, John V married Kantakouzenos' daughter Helena
Helena Kantakouzene
Helena Kantakouzene was the Empress consort of John V Palaiologos in the Byzantine Empire.-Family:She was a daughter of John VI Kantakouzenos and Irene Asanina.She was a sister of Matthew Kantakouzenos and Manuel Kantakouzenos...

, and in May, Kantakouzenos was crowned again in the Church of St Mary of Blachernae
Blachernae
Blachernae was a suburb in the northwestern section of Constantinople, the capital city of the Byzantine Empire. It was the site of a spring and a number of prominent churches were built there, most notably the great Church of St. Mary of Blachernae , built by Empress Pulcheria in circa 450,...

. In the end, as Donald Nicol commented, the long conflict had been meaningless, with terms that "could have been agreed five years before and saved the Empire so much bitterness, hatred and destruction."

Despite the moderation and clemency shown by Kantakouzenos in this settlement, it did not gain universal acceptance. Supporters of the Palaiologoi
Palaiologos
Palaiologos , often latinized as Palaeologus, was a Byzantine Greek noble family, which produced the last ruling dynasty of the Byzantine Empire. After the Fourth Crusade, members of the family fled to the neighboring Empire of Nicaea, where Michael VIII Palaiologos became co-emperor in 1259,...

 still distrusted him, while his own partisans would have preferred to depose the Palaiologoi outright and install the Kantakouzenoi
Kantakouzenos
The House of Kantakouzenos , latinized as Cantacuzenus and anglicized as Cantacuzene, was one of the most prominent noble families of the Byzantine Empire in the last centuries of its existence. The family was one of the Empire's wealthiest and provided several prominent governors and generals, as...

 as the reigning dynasty. Kantakouzenos' eldest son, Matthew, also resented being passed over in favour of John V, and had to be placated with the creation of a semi-autonomous appanage
Appanage
An apanage or appanage or is the grant of an estate, titles, offices, or other things of value to the younger male children of a sovereign, who would otherwise have no inheritance under the system of primogeniture...

 covering much of western Thrace, which doubled as a march against Dushan's Serbia. Of the remaining Byzantine territories, only the Zealots in Thessalonica, now an isolated exclave surrounded by the Serbs, refused to acknowledge the new arrangement, instead leading a de facto independent existence until Kantakouzenos conquered them in 1350.

After 1347, John VI Kantakouzenos tried to revive the Empire, but met with limited success. Aided by the depopulation brought by about by the Black Death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

, Dushan and his general Preljub took Kantakouzenos' Macedonian strongholds as well as Epirus and Thessaly in 1347–1348, thereby completing their conquest of the remaining Byzantine lands in mainland Greece. An attempt to break Byzantium's dependence for food and maritime commerce on the Genoese merchants of Galata
Galata
Galata or Galatae is a neighbourhood in the Beyoğlu district on the European side of Istanbul, the largest city of Turkey. Galata is located at the northern shore of the Golden Horn, the inlet which separates it from the historic peninsula of old Constantinople. The Golden Horn is crossed by...

 led to the Byzantine–Genoese War
Byzantine–Genoese War (1348–1349)
The Byzantine–Genoese War of 1348–1349 was fought over control over custom dues through the Bosphorus. The Byzantines attempted to break Byzantium's dependence for food and maritime commerce on the Genoese merchants of Galata, and also to rebuild their own naval power...

, which ended in 1352 with a compromise peace. In 1350, Kantakouzenos took advantage of Dushan's preoccupation with a war against Bosnia
Kingdom of Bosnia
The Kingdom of Bosnia or the Bosnian Kingdom was one of the medieval kingdoms of the Balkans, existing between 1377 and 1463.- Establishment :...

 to recover Thessalonica from the Zealots as well as Berroia, Vodena and other Macedonian cities from the Serbs, but the Serbian emperor quickly reversed the Byzantine gains, except in Thessalonica.

Steadily deteriorating relations between Matthew Kantakouzenos, who now ruled eastern Thrace, and John V Palaiologos, who resided in western Thrace, sowed the seeds of yet another internal conflict. Open warfare broke out in 1352, when John V, supported by Venetian
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

 and Turkish troops, launched an attack on Matthew Kantakouzenos. John Kantakouzenos came to his son's aid with 10,000 Ottoman troops who retook the cities of Thrace, liberally plundering them in the process. In October 1352, at Demotika, the Ottoman force met and defeated 4,000 Serbs provided to John V by Stephen Dushan. This was the Ottomans' first victory in Europe and an ominous portent. Two years later their capture of Gallipoli
Gallipoli
The Gallipoli peninsula is located in Turkish Thrace , the European part of Turkey, with the Aegean Sea to the west and the Dardanelles straits to the east. Gallipoli derives its name from the Greek "Καλλίπολις" , meaning "Beautiful City"...

 marked the beginning of the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, culminating a century later in the Fall of Constantinople
Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

. Meanwhile, John V fled to the island of Tenedos
Tenedos
Tenedos or Bozcaada or Bozdja-Ada is a small island in the Aegean Sea, part of the Bozcaada district of Çanakkale province in Turkey. , Tenedos has a population of about 2,354. The main industries are tourism, wine production and fishing...

, from where he made an unsuccessful attempt to seize Constantinople in March 1353. John VI Kantakouzenos responded by having Matthew crowned as co-emperor, but John V Palaiologos, enlisting Genoese support and relying on the declining popularity of Kantakouzenos, succeeded in entering the capital in November 1354. John VI abdicated and retired to a monastery. Matthew held out in Thrace until he too abdicated in 1357, leaving John V Palaiologos as the sole master of a rump state
Rump state
A rump state is the remnant of a once-larger government, left with limited powers or authority after a disaster, invasion, military occupation, secession or partial overthrowing of a government. In the last case, a government stops short of going in exile because it still controls part of its...

.

Consequences of the civil war



The civil war proved a critical turning point in the history of the Byzantine Empire and accelerated its decline. To quote the Byzantinist Angeliki Laiou
Angeliki Laiou
- Life :Laiou was born in Athens on 6 April 1941 to a Pontic family, refugees from the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey. She studied at the Athens College and continued her studies in the Philosophy School of the University of Athens , where she studied under the Greek Byzantinist Dionysios...

, "after the end of the second civil war, Byzantium was an empire in name only." Aside from huge territorial losses, the prolonged conflict had exhausted the state's resources. Thrace, the largest contiguous territory remaining in the Empire, suffered such devastation that, along with Constantinople, it became dependent on grain imported from Bulgaria and the Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

. Trade had stopped, and the treasury contained, in the words of Gregoras, "nothing but the atom
Atom
The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The atomic nucleus contains a mix of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons...

s of Epicurus
Epicurus
Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher and the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism.Only a few fragments and letters remain of Epicurus's 300 written works...

." In addition, the arrival in 1347 of the Black Death further reduced the Empire's tax and recruitment base, curtailing its ability to reverse the Serbian territorial gains. The war also led to the collapse of the centralized imperial administration in the provinces, causing control of the Thracian countryside to shift to a manorial
Manorialism
Manorialism, an essential element of feudal society, was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire, was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe, and was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market...

 system run by the local magnates. Despite their considerable wealth, the magnates, through exemptions or outright evasion, managed to avoid paying taxes to the imperial government.

Along with the renewal of the civil war in 1352, these factors, with the plague foremost, destroyed any chance of even a modest recovery similar to that experienced under Andronikos III. Thereafter, Byzantium remained under the menacing threat of stronger neighbours, unable to pursue an independent foreign policy, handicapped by a shortage of resources and riven by internal strife. Nevertheless, through a combination of fortuitous external circumstances and adroit diplomacy, it survived for another century, until finally conquered by the Ottomans in 1453. Only the Byzantine exclave in the Morea remained prosperous, having been spared the ravages of the civil war due to its relative isolation. The appointment of Manuel Kantakouzenos as its despotes
Despotes
Despot , was a senior Byzantine court title that was bestowed on the sons or sons-in-law of reigning emperors, and initially denoted the heir-apparent...

 in 1349 heralded the creation of the semi-independent Despotate of the Morea, which experienced the last economic and cultural flowering of the Byzantine world before it too fell to the Ottomans in 1460.