JOHN VIII PALAIOLOGOS - TEXTS
CLAVIJO, CYRIACO, PERO TAFUR, GIOVANNI DI PIGLI


CLAVIJO - 1403.

CHAPTER III. On the following Sunday which was the 28th of October the Emperor [Manuel] sent for us the Ambassadors, and we passed over from Pero to Constantinople in a boat. On landing we found many officers awaiting us, and horses for our accommodation to carry us up to the Palace [of the Blachernae'. Here on arrival we learnt that the Emperor with his attendants had just come from hearing Mass, who forthwith received us very graciously in his private chamber. The Emperor was seted on a raised dais, carpeted with small rugs, on one of which was spread a brown lion skin and at the back was a cushion of black stuff embroidered in gold. After conversing for some considerable time with us, the Emperor at length dismissed us, and we returned to our lodgings, whither later on his Highness sent us a stag, which his huntsmen had just brought in to the palace. With the Emperor at our audience had been present the Empress his wife, with three young princes his sons, the eldest of whom [John] may have been eight years old.

G. LeStrange. 1928 Clavijo: Embassy to Tamerlane, 1403-1406. London.



CYRIACO OF ANCONA - 1444.

Letter 12. 19 July 1444. Constantinople.
On the 15th of July, the clear and cheeriest day of our most holy guardian spirit, the most serene emperor himself, John Palaiologos, and his brother, Theodore Porphyrogenitos, the renowned despot, lft Byzantium to go on a hunt, splendidly accompanied in the usual royal manner by his more high-born principal courtiers. First, they set up the king's pavilion at Aphamnia, an ancient inland Thracian city, beside a beautiful rising spring, and, round about it, the tents of the nobles. . . . The next day, Jove's lucky day, as the unclouded sun grew bright, some went falconing for colored birds among the thorn bushes, while others tried with great eagerness to catch varieties of fish in the rivers, using submerged, bated hooks. Others, the leading citizens and those superior in courage, of course, with the princes themselves, moved rapidly through pathless forests to high hills, [armed] with many hunting spears, weapons, and dogs in pursuit of straight-horned stags, foaming boars, tawny lions, or spottend panthers. Finally, we saw emerging from a wood between the valleys and slopes of the hills a large number of huge wing-footed stags; they crossed the plains, passing us by at a distance.
Moving farther on from there, we came to another ancient Thracian city that they call Myliadema, everywhere in a state of collapse because if its great age. From there one sees long traces of walls and huge remains of temples; and finally, not far from there, the hunters brought to the king's tent from their booty two bristly boars and two fawns. From these the most splendid prince made gifts . . .. And finally, the Cretan falconer Manuel held out a large, long[footed lizard that a peregrine falcon had killed before my eyes in the clear sky. Then the jovial emperor invited me to receive a portion of the prey.

E. W. Bodnar, SJ. 2003 Cyriac of Ancona: Later Travels. Cambridge, MA

 


PERO TAFUR
, 1437 - 39.

CHAPTER XIV. AFTER two days, during which time I rested myself, I went to make my reverence to the Emperor of Constantinople, and all the Castilians accompanied me. I arrayed myself as best I could, putting on the Order of the Escama, which is the device of King Juan, and I sent for one of the Emperor's interpreters, called Juan of Seville, a Castilian by birth, and they say that the Emperor chose him to be interpreter because he sang him Castilian romances to the lute. He came with me to the Palace, and went in to advise the Emperor that I was there to make my reverence, and they made me wait an hour while the Emperor sent for certain knights and prepared himself. I then entered the Palace, and came to a hall where I found him seated on a tribune, with a lion's skin spread under his feet. I made my reverence there, and told the Emperor that I had come to see his person and estate, and to take knowledge of his lands and lordships, but principally to learn the truth concerning my lineage, which I had been told had sprung from that place, and from his Imperial blood, and I commenced to tell him the manner in which this was said to have come about. He replied at once that I was very welcome, and that he was greatly pleased to see me, and as to that which I spoke of he would order the ancient records to be searched, so that the truth of everything might be ascertained. He asked me for news of the Christian lands and princes, especially concerning the King of Spain, my Master, and of his estate and his war with the Moors, and I replied to everything to the best of my knowledge, and so took leave of him and went to my lodging. The next day he sent for me to ask me to go hunting, and he sent horses for me and mine, and I went with him, and with the Empress, his consort, who was there, and that day he told me that he was now acquainted with the matters about which I enquired, and that on his return he would order me to be exactly informed concerning them, and I thanked him. When we returned, about Vesper time, after we had dismounted, he sent to summon before him those whom he had instructed to make search concerning my enquiries, and it was on this wise.. . . .

From that time onwards the Emperor treated me with great affection and as a kinsman, and he desired greatly that I should remain in his country and marry there and settle down, and I had some thoughts of doing so in view of what I have related, for the city is badly populated and there is need of good soldiers, which is no wonder since the Greeks have such power- ful nations to contend with. I found in the city many Castilians and persons of other Latin nations in the Emperor's service, and while I was there they showed me great honour and esteem. That day a knight of the household who was there invited me to dinner on the following day, and I accepted. After Mass I went to his house, where he was awaiting me, and I dined with him, and he showed me his wife and children, treating me in a very friendly manner. After dinner he sent everyone away and went to his room and put on his collar of the Order of Escama, the device of our King and Master, and he came to me and said in the Castilian tongue: " Sir knight, you are right welcome. See here is my house with all that is in it at your disposal, as if for my own brother, because I have received great honour and many benefits from your King, and from the knights of your country much hospitality, and if I have not spoken to you until now in your own tongue in public, it is because we hold it for a disgrace at any time to give up our own language and speak a strange one. Nevertheless, for the great love which I have for your nation, and for you, from henceforth when we are alone I will bear myself in all things as a Castilian, like yourself." From that hour I received much honour from this knight, and he brought one of his sisters to me, a very beautiful woman, saying that while I was there I should serve her as a friend, and he commended me to her. Indeed, I believe he desired me to marry her. From this lady I received many things, especially two pavilions which I took to Castile. The one I gave to the King, and the other I still have.

This day the Emperor sent for me to go hunting, and we killed many hares, and partridges, and francolins, and pheasants, which are very plentiful there, and when we returned to the Palace I took my leave and went to my lodging, where he had ordered that I should be provided with whatever I had need of. Without doubt, it was the Emperor's wish to show me much honour and favour, and from that day onwards, when he or the Empress, his consort, desired to hunt, he sent horses for me, and I went with them, and they said that they had great pleasure in my company. After fifteen days of my visit had passed, the Emperor had to depart m the Venetian galleys to meet the Pope, and he begged me repeatedly to accompany him, which I should have done had I not been forced to excuse myself on the plea that I was obliged first to see Greece, Turkey, and also Tartary. When the Emperor saw that he could not persuade me, he commended me to the Empress, his wife, and to Dragas, his brother, who was heir to the Imperial throne-that one whom the Turks have since killed-and he departed in great splendour. There went with him two of his brothers, and 800 men, all noblemen of high rank. On the day of his going there was a great celebration, and everyone went in procession with the members of the Religious Orders to the place of embarkation, and a great company went one day's journey out to sea with the fleet, and I went also. I then took my leave and returned to Constantinople, but the Emperor gave me licence very unwillingly, saying that if I had had my people with me he would not have let me go. So I left him, he commanding me to visit him before returning to my country, which I promised and later performed.



Tafur, contd.

CHAPTER XVII: The Emperor's Palace must have been very magnificent, but now it is in such state that both it and the city show well the evils which the people have suffered and still endure. At the entrance to the Palace, beneath certain chambers, is an open loggia of marble with stone benches round it, and stones, like tables, raised on pillars in front of them, placed end to end. Here are many books and ancient writings and histories, and on one side are gaming boards so that the Emperor's house may always be well supplied. Inside, the house is badly kept, except certain parts where the Emperor, the Empress, and attendants can live, although cramped for space. The Emperor's state is as splendid as ever, for nothing is omitted from the ancient ceremonies, but, properly regarded, he is like a Bishop without a See. When he rides abroad all the Imperial rites are strictly observed. The Empress rides astride, with two stirrups, and when she desires to mount, two lords hold up a rich cloth, raising their hands aloft and turning their backs upon her, so that when she throws her leg across the saddle no part of her person can be seen. The Greeks are great hunters with falcons, goshawks, and dogs. The country is well stocked with game both for hawking and hunting, and there are quantities of pheasants, francolins, partridges, and hares. The land is flat and good for riding. The city is sparsely populated. It is divided into districts, that by the sea-shore having the largest population. The inhabitants are not well clad, but sad and poor, showing the hardship of their lot which is, however, not so bad as they deserve, for they are a vicious people, steeped in sin. It is their custom when anyone dies not to open the door of the house for the whole of that year except in case of necessity. They go continually about the city howling as if in lamentation, and thus they long ago foreshadowed the evil which has befallen them. . . .

CHAPTER XXI [Ferrara]: Thence I came to Ferrara, where the Pope and the Emperor of Constantinople then were, with a great concourse of people who had assembled to witness the union of the Church with the Greeks. The second day, well accompanied by the Castilians, I went to see Pope Eugenius, who received me very graciously. He desired to know the particulars of my journey to Jerusalem, and about the Sultan of Egypt, and the Grand Turk, also concerning the Emperor himself, what power he had, and I gave heed and then satisfied him to the best of my knowledge, and so I departed. That day in the evening I went to wait upon the Emperor of Greece, and gave him letters from his consort and from his brother the Despot. He received me gladly, saying that I was his kinsman and a native of his country. He drew me to him and made me sit there beside him, asking me for news of his country and telling me that I must visit him each day I was there, and that it would give him much pleasure if I were to reside with him. Thus we were very familiar together. The Emperor was living in a palace belonging to the Marquis of Ferrara, on the waters of the Poatello, which they call Paradise, a very pleasant residence.

That day I took my leave and rested myself, and on the petition of the Castilians who were there I cut off my beard, which I wore very long, and clad after the manner of my country, I went again to see the Emperor. When he saw me he said that I had done wrong to cut off my beard, which is the greatest honour and dignity belonging to man. But I replied: "Lord, we hold the contrary, and except in the case of some serious injury we do not wear beards"; and we spoke upon the matter for some time. Then we returned to the affairs of Greece, and he enquired of me minutely concerning matters there, about his wife and brother, the condition of the country, and what the Grand Turk was doing, and as to my movements since I was there, and I told him everything I knew. That day the Emperor was to go to see the Pope, and I went with him. The Emperor had the gout and could not walk, and he was carried in a chair by certain men. The Pope received him very honourably, in a great hall which had been made ready. There were present with him a number of cardinals, archbishops and bishops, the Marquis of Ferrara and other lords of the country, and they were all in their seats. On the right hand was the chair of the Emperor of Germany with those of the kings and princes of Christendom, and on the left that of the Emperor of Greece, and of certain prelates. In the centre was the Pope's chair which was raised above the others. That day they remained three or four hours in council, conferring, it was said, upon certain differences of faith between the Greeks and the Latins. Afterwards we departed, and the Pope entered into his chamber, while the Emperor returned to his palace accompanied by the members of his train. For he had brought from Greece a great company of people, all of whom went about in long robes and with great beards, showing themselves to be grave and serious persons. It was, indeed, a goodly company, but one had the impression that more were in attendance than was actually the case, although they say that at least a thousand persons were there.

The Emperor entered his palace, and all departed from him, but I remained and went in with him, and he made me dine at his table and showed me many kindnesses. Eight days later was the Feast of Corpus Christi, which the Pope and the Emperor, notwithstanding their magnificent attendance, celebrated in such manner that in a village of ten inhabitants it could not have been performed with more humility, only in view of the presence of so many strangers, the customary usages were altered.


GIOVANNI DI PIGLI, 1439

On the 27th day of July 1439, I, Giovanni di Jacopo di Latino de' Pigli, finding myself, at the hour of terce or a little before, in the public square of Peretola, saw coming along the road from Prato Messer Angelo di Jacopo Acciaiuoli with some servants. He went right up to the door of the church of Peretola, and knocked several times. Seeing that it was not opened, I went up to him and asked what he was doing, and what he wanted of the prior, if he did not mind my inquiring. He answered me:
"I come from Pistoia and Prato in the suite of the Emperor of Constantinople, who wanted to go see Pistoia and the Girdle of Our Lady at Prato, and I was assigned to his suite by the Signoria. And because the hour is late for us to get to Florence to eat, and he is tired and sick as you know, I wanted to put him up in the church until this evening."
I replied to him: "Messer, I am at home alone. If our house shold be adequate to receive so great a lord, it would give the utmost pleasrue, but I must warn you that there is nothing at home except beds and the four walls of the house."
He answered me, saying: "I did have the intention of taking him either to the house of Antonio, son of Messer Ricciardo, or to your house, but considering that such burdens should not be imposed upon friends, I was going here to this priest."
He thanked me profusely, and agreed to bring him to our house, saying: "I do not want you to go to any expense beyond the use of your house. The Commune is paying his way."
He went back toward Prato where he met the Emperor on the road, and brought him straight to our house. He appeared with forty to fifty knights, in good order, and with his many barons, lords, and gentlemen. And because he had lost the use of his legs, he came right up to our hall on horseback, without anyone's seeing him dismount except his own gentlemen and servants.
I had prepared for him the bed of the chamber to the left of the entrance into the hall with the bedding which was there, a green coverlet and a pair of white sheets. But the Emperor, as I understood, did not want to go into the bedroom; instead he had a sort of couch made on two benches with a little mattress and with a carpet by the door of the of the hall, to the left of the passageway in, under the arbor, and there he slept until his people produced something for him to eat. When food was provided, he had a small table placed before his couch. I found him some white table cloths, and then he ate alone; the others, his barons and lords, [ate] under the arbor both outside and inside, like a soldiers' mess.

 

di Pigli, contd.

And the rest, the servants, after the lords had eaten, had their own dinner in the same place. And note, the first food the Emperor ate was a salad of purslain and parsley, with some onions, which he himself wished to clean. After that there were chickens and pigeons, boiled, and then chickens and pigeons quartered and fried in the frying pan with lard. As the dishes came, they were all placed before him, and he took what he wanted, and sent them along to the others. His last dish was eggs thrown on hot bricks where the other things were cooked. And then they set them before him in a plate with many spices: I cannot imagine how they were done, but such is the fact.
Messer Angelo and I with his servants, went to dine at the house of Antonio, son of Messer Ricciardo, where the latter's wife had coocked for us the chickens and pigeons which had been sent here at the expense of the aforesaid gentleman, the mace-bearer of the Signoria. Next, when we felt we had dined and rested enough, we left for my house, and we found the Emperor playing backgammon with one of his barons. Some of his people sood watching; others were going for a walk in the garden; and others were sleeping throughout the bed chambers, very much at home. Messer Angelo and Ciriaco of Ancona, a man most learned in Greek and Latin, and I stood there all day in the hall, the Emperor always playing backgammon and joking with his people.
In the evening, at eleven o'clock, or perhaps later, Messer Angelo asked me to go into the garden with the gentlemen, and had me kneel at the feet of the Emperor. He expressed thanks through his interpretor for the honor which I had done him in receiving him into my house, and having made me the offer that, if I should ever get to his country, he would do me the honor, etc., he took my name, how it was said, where he had stayed, and had note made of these things. I answered his majesty something that occurred to me, and having kissed his foot, I withdrew from his presence. The horsemen were already in the saddle, and most of the barons mounted, in the meadow, when everybody left the hall, except for a few. The Emperor's horse was led into the hall, the door was shut, he mounted his horse, and they took the road to Florence along the Arno. Afterwards in commemoration of these events, we had his arms painted over the door of the hall, as may still be seen.

Kenneth Setton. 1958 “The Emperor John VIII Slept Here . . .,” Speculum Vol. 33, 2:222-228.

 

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