SPEAKER

ALEX BEIHAMMER (University of Notre Dame) - Byzantine-Turkish Diplomacy and the Loss of Western Asia Minor (1260-1335)


Biography

Alexander Beihammer: BA, MA, and PhD at the University of Vienna in Byzantine, Islamic, and medieval studies. 2003-2015 Assistant, Associate, and Professor at the University of Cyprus, from 2015-present The Heiden Family College Professor of Byzantine History, University of Notre Dame, USA. Works on Byzantine-Muslim relations and Pre- Ottoman Anatolia. Most recent book Byzantium and the Emergence of Muslim-Turkish Anatolia, ca. 1040-1130, Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman Studies Series (Routledge 2017).

Abstract
The deep crisis of the Seljuk sultanate of Rum, which resulted in the Turkish expansion over the Byzantine territories of western Asia Minor since the 1260s, put an abrupt end to a period of mostly peaceful coexistence. This talk discusses the gradual re-emergence of Byzantine-Turkish modes of communication and diplomatic approach in the turbulent time period up to the 1330s. The breakdown of Byzantine rule in western Asia Minor is usually explained with a set of internal and external factors. Scholarly discussions mostly concentrate on military and economic aspects that help us understand the reasons for Byzantium’s failure to fend off the Turkish westward advance. The question thus arises whether the process of mutual penetration that in previous times had generated a high degree of cross-cultural acquaintance could somehow persist in this period of fierce conflict. With respect to diplomatic contacts, negotiations, and peace- making procedures at the level of local and central authorities, we may distinguish three different stages: (1) During the reigns of Michael VIII (1259-1282) and his son Andronikos II (1282- 1328), the imperial government refrained from forging official links with Turkish leaders and nomadic confederations roaming about the borderland. Negotiations took place and treaties were achieved, but primarily at the level of local authorities or military commanders. (2) With the consolidation of independent lordships or beyliks in the Aegean coastland in the years after 1300, Constantinople began to gradually recognize their chiefs as holders of political and military power and thus to concede them some degree of legitimacy. (3) This development culminated in the face-to-face meetings and agreements of 1335: Emperor Andronikos III and his megas domestikos John Kantakouzenos achieved a new type of special relationship with the Saruhan and Aydın Turks in the Gulf of Smyrna region. Turkish leaders came now in a position to establish close personal ties with the ruling emperor and in 1346 the Ottoman chief Orhan even forged kinship relations with the imperial family by marrying Kantakouzenos’ daughter Theodora. By penetrating the Constantinopolitan power elite, the Ottoman Turks were drawn into the sphere of Byzantine imperial ideology and included Byzantine elements in their self- representation and political discourse.