Despots, emperors and Balkan identity in exile

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This article examines some of the numerous claimants to Byzantine imperial descent and to lands that had been lost to the Ottoman conquest who were to be found in Italy and elsewhere in western Europe. Rather than dismiss them as eccentrics or frauds, it argues that in many cases their titles and claims played two important roles among Balkan exiles. First, they provided a way of reminding the host population of the losses of land and status that the Christian Balkan population had suffered and so were a means of gaining sympathy and support. Secondly, they were a way of signalling a claim to leadership among the Balkan diaspora. It briefly examines the first generation that fled to Italy in the later fifteenth century, then the second generation that inherited and continued to exploit those claims, notably Constantine Komnenos Arianites (1457-1530), who called himself prince of Macedonia, duke of Achaia and despot of the Morea. Although men like Arianites had little success in vindicating their claims, they were nevertheless aspiring to be the voice of irredentist sentiment among a dispossessed people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-61
JournalSixteenth Century Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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