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Mixed Marriages in Byzantium in the Thirteenth Century

  • D. M. Nicol (a1)


The Church always demanded that the two partners to a marriage should be not only of the Christian faith but also of the same creed and dogma. Marriage with infidels and Jews was declared illegal; but so also was marriage with heretics and, in Byzantine law, with ‘gentiles,’ or those not within the orbit of the Byzantine Church and Empire. The fourteenth canon of the Council of Chalcedon forbade an Orthodox Christian to contract ‘a marriage with a heretic woman’; the seventy-second canon of the Council in Trullo repeated this prohibition, adding that such a marriage, if contracted, should be dissolved; and in the twelfth century the Byzantine canonist Theodore Balsamon ruled that the female partners in such marriages should be excommunicated. These warnings were solemnly reiterated in the imperial legislation of Byzantium from the time of Justinian onwards.



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Page 160 of note 1 Much literature has been devoted to the various canonical impediments to marriage in Byzantine law, but less to the subject of intermarriage between Byzantines and foreigners. Cf. however Koukoules, Ph., Βνζαντινών Βίος και Πολιτισμός, in Collection deľlnstitut Français d’Athènes, IV, (1951), 93-6,124-6; Guilland, R., ‘Les noces plurales à Byzance,’ Byzantinoslavica, IX, (1947), 930 (reprinted in Etudes Byzantines, Paris 1959, 233-61); Zhishman, J., Das Eherecht der orientalischen Kirche, Vienna 1864 ; Dauvillier, J. and de Clerq, C., Le Mariage en Droit canonique oriental, Paris 1936, 164-7.

Page 160 of note 2 Rhalles, G. A. and Potles, M., Σύνταγμα τὢν θείων καἱ ἰερὢν καὁνων, 6 vols., Athens 1852-59, 11, 251-4; 111, 173, 186, 198-9, 364, give the relevant canons of the councils, with the scholia of the twelfth-century Byzantine canonists John Zonaras and Theodore Balsamen.

Page 161 of note 1 Cf. Guilland, art. cit. 237-47; Ostrogorsky, G., History of the Byzantine State, Oxford 1956, 260-1.

Page 161 of note 2 Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Administrando Imperio, edd. Moravcsik, Gy. and Jenkins, R. J. H., Budapest 1949, 70-6; c.13, ll.104 ff. and Commentary, ed. Jenkins, R. J. H., London 1962, 67-9.

Page 163 of note 1 Letters of Innocent III, viii, 134 (1205); PL, CCXV, 714. Cf. R. L. Wolff, ‘The organisation of the Latin Patriarchate of Constantinople, 1204-1261. Social and administrative consequences of the Latin Conquest,’ Traditio, VI, (1948), 37-40.

Page 163 of note 2 Letters of Innocent III, XI, 152 (1208); PL, CCXV, 1467. Demetrios, Chomatianos, ed. by Pitra, J. B. in Analecta Sacra Spicilegio Solesmensi Parata, Rome 1891, VII (VI), 447-62, n. 106; Wolff, art. cit.

Page 163 of note 3 Robert of Clari, La Conquête de Constantinople, ed. Lauer, P., Paris 1924, 52-4, 81-90; Geoffrey of Villehardouin, La Conquête de Constantinople, ed Faral, E., Paris 1938, 1, 186-96; Longnon, J., L’Empire latin de Constantinople, Paris 1949, 41 ; Diehl, C., Impératrices de Byzance, Paris 1959, 243-4.

Page 164 of note 1 Koukoules, op. cit. 76; Beck, H.-G., Kirche und Theologische Literatur im Byzantinischen Reich, Munich 1959, 88 .

Page 164 of note 2 Nikephoros, Gregoras, Byzantina Historia, ed. Schopen, L., Bonn 1829-55, 1, 203, 287-8; George, Pachymeres, De Michaele et Andronico Palaeologis, ed. Bekker, I., Bonn 1835, 11, 278 ff.; Koukoules, op. cit., 128-9.

Page 165 of note 1 George, Akropolites, Historia, ed. Heisenberg, A., Leipzig 1903, 1, 104 ; Pachymeres, op. cit. 1,181; Matthew, Paris, Chronica Majora, (RS) 1877, IV, (1240-7), 299, 357, 453; Dölger, F., Regesten der Kaiserurkunden des Oströmischen Reiches, Munich-Berlin 1932, 111, nos. 1779-81; Schlumberger, G., ‘Le tombeau d’une impératrice byzantine à Valence en Espagne,’ Byzance et Croisades, Paris 1927, 5786 ; Diehl, Impératrices de Byzance, 249-264; Geanakoplos, D. J., Emperor Michael Palaeologus and the West, Cambridge, Mass. 1959, 144-5.

Page 165 of note 2 Akropolites, ed. Heisenberg, pp. 27, 31. Laskaris’s second wife was an Armenian princess, but the marriage ended in divorce after only one year.

Page 165 of note 3 Maria Laskarine married the son of King Andrew II of Hungary, the later Béla IV (1235-1270); Eudokia married the French baron of Constantinople, Anseau of Cahieu. Akropolites, ed. cit. 26,41, 85; Pachymeres, op. cit. 1, 317-18.

Page 165 of note 4 Akropolites, ed. cit. 31; Skutariotes, Additamenta, ibid. 280.

Page 165 of note 5 As, for example, in the case of Michael (Demetrios) Angelos, son of Michael II, despot of Epiros, who fled to Constantinople in 1278 and married Anna, second daughter of the Emperor Michael VIII. A sixth degree of affinity existed between the partners to this marriage, but a synod decided that the political advantages to be gained outweighed the canonical objections and granted a dispensation. Pachymeres, op. cit. 1, 440-1; dispensation of November 1278 in Papadopoulos-Kerameus, A., ‘Іϵρο-σολυμιτικὴ Βιβλιοθήκη, St Petersburg 1891-1915, IV, 382 .

Page 166 of note 1 Cf. the ps.-Photian Nomocanon, t. xii, c. xiii: ‘If one of the partners to the marriage be Orthodox, the other heretic, their children must become Orthodox’; Nomocanon Photii Patriarchae Constantinopolitani, ed. Christophorus, Iustellus, Paris 1615, 133-4, 194-6 (Latin trans.); Rhalles and Potles, op. cit. 1, 270-2. The scholiast on this passage marvels at the spectacle of perfectly Orthodox Spaniards marrying their daughters to Saracens, and wonders why their bishops, who are well aware of the law, do not forbid such unions.

Page 166 of note 2 Pachymeres, op. cit. 1, 188; Gregoras, op. cit. 1, 98. Cf. Du Cange, Glossarium ad scriptures mediae et infimae Graecitatis, s.v. Bασμολοι; and literature cited by Geanakoplos, op. cit. 127. Gregoras, op. cit. 111, 555, speaks rather scathingly of the ‘children with Latin heads and Persian bodies’ to be seen in Constantinople in the fourteenth century—advertisements for the torn and disjointed body of the Empire and its sick and suffering soul diseased by strange dogmas.

Page 166 of note 3 John, Cantacuzene, Historiarum Libri, ed. Schopen, L., 1, Bonn 1828, 195-6.

Page 167 of note 1 Pachymeres, op. cit. 11, 202. See Miller, W., The Latins in the Levant, London 1908, 182-3; Longnon, L’Empire latin, 272-3.

Page 167 of note 2 At least forty of his barons were cited as co-respondents, the chief among them being the count of Caserta; Ptolemy of Lucca, Historia ecclesiastica, in Muratori, L. A., Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, Bologna 1903, XI, 1232 . Cf.Rodd, R., The Princes of Achata and the Chronicles of Morea, London 1907, 11, 60-1.

Page 167 of note 3 Miller, op. cit., 179-82;Longnon, op. cit., 269.

Page 167 of note 4 Gregoras, op. cit. 111, 249, 557; Cantacuzene, op. cit. 1, 503; 11, Bonn 1831, 195. For John Uroš, the monk Joasaph, see, most recently, Lascaris, M., ‘Deux Chartes de Jean Uroš, dernier Némanide,’ Byzantion, XXV-XXVII (1955-7), 277323 , and Nicol, D.M., Meteora. The Rock Monasteries of Thessaly, London 1963, 64-5, 101-12.

Page 168 of note 1 Demetrios Chomatianos, ed. Pitra, 713.

Page 168 of note 2 See Grumel, V., ‘En Orient après le Ile Concile de Lyon,’ Echos d’Orient, XXIV (1925), 321-4.

Page 168 of note 3 Gregoras, op. cit. 1, 114; Pachymeres, op. cit. 1, 328; Marino, Sanudo Istoria del Regno di Romania, ed. Hopf, C., Chroniques gréco-romanes, Berlin 1873, 136 ; Livre de la Conqueste de la Princée de l’Amorée, Chronique de Morée, ed. Longnon, Paris 1911, 4c8, 413.

Page 168 of note 4 A daughter of Michael I of Epiros married Eustace of Flanders, brother of the Latin Emperor Henry; Michael’s sister Anna married Maio Orsini of Cephalonia; of the two daughters of Michael II of Epiros, Anna married William of Villehardouin, prince of Achaia, and Helena married Manfred of Sicily (see Nicol, D.M., The Despotate of Epiros, Oxford 1957, 29, 107, 172-3, 177-8). Michael II’s sister-in-law, Maria Sphrantzaina, married Manfred’s admiral Philip Chinardo (Pachymeres, op.cit. 1, 508; Alexander, P. J., ‘A chrysobull of the Emperor Andronicus II in favor of the See of Kanina in Albania,’ Byzantion, XV (1940-1), 197201 ). Of the daughters of Nikephoros I of Epiros, Maria married John Orsini of Cephalonia, and Thamar married Philip of Taranto (see above), while Helena, daughter of John Doukas of Thessaly, married William de la Roche, duke of Athens and Thebes.

Page 169 of note 1 Pachymeres, op. cit. 1, 180-1; Gregoras, op. cit. 1, 92-3. Cf.Laurent, V., ‘Les grandes crises religieuses à Byzance. La fin du schisme arsénite,’ Académie Roumaine: Bulletin de la section historique, XXVI (1945), 230-1.

Page 169 of note 2 Pachymeres, op. cit. ni, 520-1.

Page 170 of note 1 Pachymeres, op. cit. 11, 153-4, 202-6; Gregoras, op. cit. 1, 193; Dölger, F., Regesten, IV, Munich-Berlin 1960, nos. 2156a2157b ; Marinescu, C., ‘Tentatives de mariage de deux fils d’Andronic II Paléologue avec des princesses latines,’ Revue historique du sud-est européen, 1 (1924), 139-43.

Page 170 of note 2 Pachymeres, op. cit. 1, 317-8; Gregoras, op. cit. 1, 109.

Page 171 of note 1 Pachymeres, op. cit. 11, 87-8; Gregoras, op. cit. 1, 167-8 (and Du Cange’s note thereon, in the Bonn ed., 11, 1186); Dölger, , Regesten, IV, no. 2098 .

Page 171 of note 2 Michael Palaiologos was denounced in the following terms: ‘tanquam eorumdem Graecorum antiquorum schismaticorum, et in antiquo schismate constitutorum, et per hoc haereticorum; necnon et haeresis ipsorum ac schismatis antiqui fautorem . . . .’ (O. Raynaldus, Annales Ecclesiastici, ed. A. Theiner, Bar-le-Duc, 1870, XXII, 490:s.a. 1281, § 25.) The excommunication was pronounced three times. Cf. Raynaldus, ed. cit. 495-6: s.a. 1282, §§ 8-10; Geanakoplos, op. cit. 342.

Page 172 of note 1 Pachymeres, op. cit. 1, 376. Bekkos subsequently modified his views sufficiently to become the chief supporter of Michael VIII’s unionist policy and was made patriarch of Constantinople (1275-82).

Page 172 of note 2 Demetrios Chomatianos, in Rhalles and Potles, op. cit. V, 434-6, commenting on Balsamon, ibid, IV, 460. Balsamon divides heretics into two classes: those who accept the ‘mystery’ or sacrament of the Church and yet are in error on certain matters, and those who reject the sacrament and are infidels, ‘namely Jews and Hellenes.’ But he was inclined to feel that Latins wishing to marry Greek wives came into the second category. Rhalles and Potles, 11, 253, on the fourteenth canon of the Council of Chalcedon.

Mixed Marriages in Byzantium in the Thirteenth Century

  • D. M. Nicol (a1)


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