three pairs of lovers with space

THE DECLINE AND FALL OF BYZANTIUM BY DOUKAS

 

Doukas was a Constantinopolitan who wrote a history of the Byzantine Empire and its fall, covering the years 1341 to 1462.  Considered generally trustworthy, it is most vivid and interesting in its later part recounting the deeds of the Ottoman sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, whom Doukas himself knew.

 

Here follow all the extracts concerned with pederasty, taken from Decline and Fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks by Doukas. An Annotated Translation of “Historia Turco-Byzantina” by Harry Magoulias (Detroit, 1975).

 

IX 1

Orhan (ca. 1281-1362), Ottoman bey

In 1346, Iohannes Kantakouzenos, regent of the Byzantine Empire, offered Orhan, the bey of the Ottoman emirate, his daughter in marriage, in return for an alliance.

When Orchan heard the ambassadors proposing this unexpected marriage contract and making promises of infinite treasures, he was like a bull which had been parched by the burning heat of summer, and was with mouth agape drinking at a hole filled with the coldest water but unable to get his fill; thus was he transformed as he listened because of barbarian incontinence. This nation is intemperate and lustful as no other people, incontinent beyond all races and insatiate in licentiousness. It is so inflamed by passion that it never ceases unscrupulously and dissolutely from having intercourse by both natural and unnatural means with females, males, and dumb animals.

 

XV 2

Doukas had just described events in 1399, when he said the following about the Ottoman sultan Bayazid I, whose capital was Prusa:

Bayazid I (1354-1403), Ottoman sultan

In Prusa Bayazid enjoyed the many fruits of good fortune and reveled in the daily homage of many nations. He lacked nothing that was beautiful from the coffers of the nations, either in animals or in metals or anything of pleasing aspect, given by God to the world; all were to be found in his treasuries. Boys and girls, selected for their unblemished bodies and beauty of countenance, were there-young and tender youths, and girls who outshone the sun. From where did they come? Romans, Serbs, Vlachs, Albanians, Hungarians, Saxons, Bulgarians, and Latins, each speaking his own language and all there against their will. And Bayazid, living idly and wantonly, never ceased from lascivious sexual acts, indulging in licentious behavior with boys and girls.

 

XXV 2

In 1421, Mustafa, a younger son of the foregoing sultan Bayazid I, trying to contest power with his nephew the sultan Murad II, returned to Adrianople, then the Ottoman capital:

Entering the palace apartments of his deceased brother Mehmed, he discovered countless treasures and valuables of every conceivable kind-garments, gems and precious pearls, beautiful women, youths and boys extraordinarily handsome, and all kinds of spoils from Vlachia; there he sat, getting drunk daily and debauching.

 

XXV 9

Speaking of the same Mustafa in the following year, 1422:

Although Phokaia was constantly on his lips as he reflected about its destruction, this in no way restrained him from indulging his wanton, licentious, and alcoholic appetites, or behaving ferociously like a prancing and snorting horse, or committing lewd acts with both males and females.

 

XL 4-8

On 29 May 1453, Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine empire for over a thousand years, fell to the army of the 21-year-old Ottoman sultan Mehmed II.  All its people not slaughtered were taken as captives. The most eminent of these was the grand duke Loukas Notaras, who was brought before the sultan.

Mehmed the Conqueror with his army

The ruler commanded the grand duke to be seated, and after consoling him, ordered a search made at the fosse and on the ships for his children and wife, who were immediately brought forward. Mehmed paid their captors one thousand silver coins per head, and then sent the grand duke and his family home. But first, in an effort to lift his spirits and comfort him, Mehmed informed him, "I plan to entrust this City and her welfare to you, and I will raise you to greater glory than you ever enjoyed under the emperor. Do not, therefore, be despondent." When Mehmed learned from him the identity of the noblemen who had been distinguished palace officials, he recorded all their names. He then collected them from the ships and tents and redeemed them, paying the Turks one thousand silver coins per person.[1]

The morning following the black day on which the utter destruction of our nation took place, the tyrant entered the City and went to the home of the grand duke. The latter came out to greet him and after he had made obeisance, Mehmed went inside. The grand duke's wife was sick in bed. Approaching her bed, the wolf in sheep's clothing addressed her, "Greetings, Mother. Grieve not over the events which have taken place. The Lord's will be done. I will restore to you more than you have lost. Only get well." The grand duke's sons came forward and made obeisance, and when they had expressed their gratitude, Mehmed left to tour the City. The entire City was desolate. Within, neither man nor beast nor fowl was heard to cry out or utter a sound. Only they were left who were too weak to pillage. Many were killed as one dragged away the spoils of another. He who was able seized, and he who was unable to resist, received a mortal blow and succumbed. On the second day, the thirtieth of May, the Turkish troops entered and collected whatever had been abandoned.

Loukas Notaras and his three sons

After the tyrant had traversed most of the City, he celebrated by holding a banquet on the palace grounds. Full of wine and in a drunken stupor, he summoned his chief eunuch and commanded him, "Go to the home of the grand duke and tell him, `The ruler orders you to send your younger son to the banquet."' The youth was handsome and fourteen years old.[2] When the boy's father heard this, his face turned ashen as though he had been struck dead. He protested to the chief eunuch, "It is not our custom to hand over my own child to be despoiled by him. It would be far better for me if the executioner were sent to take my head." The chief eunuch advised him to surrender his child for otherwise the tyrant would be wrathful. But the grand duke was unconvinced, and said, "If you want him you will have to seize him. I could never willingly surrender him to you." The chief eunuch reported to the ruler all that had been said by the grand duke and that he refused to hand over the child. In a rage, the tyrant commanded the chief eunuch, "Take the executioner with you, and bring me back the boy. Let the executioner bring the duke and his sons."[3]

When they had arrived and the duke learned of the command he embraced his wife and children and set out with the executioner, his son, and son-in-law, Kantakouzenos. The chief eunuch took the boy with him. He entered the palace to show the boy to the ruler and to inform him that the others were standing at the palace gate. Mehmed ordered the executioner to cut off their heads with the sword. The executioner took them a little way below the palace and told them the decision. When the duke's son heard they were to be slaughtered, he wept. His courageous father gave strength and support to the youths by saying to them, "Children, yesterday in a fleeting moment of time, you witnessed the undoing of all our works. Our inexhaustible wealth, the wondrous glory we enjoyed in this great city, a glory envied by all Christendom, all were lost. Now, in this hour, nothing is left us but this present life. This life will not continue forever. We must die sometime.

Mehmed the Conqueror & the Patriarch of Constantinople. A Byzantine mosaic

And how will we die? Deprived of our goods, robbed of glory, honor, and authority, despised by all, scorned and harassed until Death comes to us, taking from the survivors those stripped of all honor. Where is our emperor? Was he not slain yesterday? Where is my sympentheros[4] and your father, the grand domestic? Where is the Marshal Palaiologos with his two sons? Were they not slain yesterday in battle? Would that we had died with them. However, this hour is sufficient unto us. Let us sin no more. Who knows the weapons of the devil, and if we remained here, we would not be wounded by his poisonous shafts? The stadium is now ready. In the name of Him Who was crucified for us, died and arose, let us also die so that together with Him we may enjoy His blessings." The courage of the youths was bolstered with these sentiments, and they were ready to die. To the Executioner he said, "Carry out your instructions, beginning with the youths." Complying with the request, the executioner beheaded the youths while the grand duke stood by and murmured, "I thank Thee Lord," and, "Thou art just, Lord." He then spoke to the Executioner, "Brother, grant me a little time to go inside and pray." There was a small chapel in that place. Permission being granted him, he went inside and prayed. Afterward, as he exited through the chapel gate-the bodies of his sons were still twitching there and offered up, once more, a doxology to God, his head was cut off. The executioner picked up the heads and returned to the banquet, presenting them to the bloodthirsty beast. He had abandoned the bodies where they lay naked and uninterred.

Mehmed sent the chief nobles and palace officials whom he had redeemed to the Executioner, and they also were slaughtered. From among their wives and children, he selected the beautiful maidens and handsome boys, and entrusted them to the watchful care of the chief eunuch.[5]

 

[1] Mehmed had to pay to redeem the captives because he had already promised his soldiers the inhabitants and goods of Constantinople as their booty, claiming for himself only the city and its buildings.

Mehmed and Iakobos Notaras

[2] He was only twelve according to Laonikos Chalkokondyles, another of the contemporary Greek historians, in his The Histories VIII 28.

[3] Both this account and that of Chalkokondyles are unclear as to the number and identity of the executed sons of Notaras, leaving it open to misunderstanding that the boy desired by the sultan was amongst them. Fortunately, several contemporary sources make it clear that it was two elder sons of Notaras who were beheaded, whilst the youngest was kept by the sultan for sex. Of these sources, one, the anonymously authored Ekthesis Chronike 36 (published with an English translation by M. Philippides in his Emperors, Patriarchs and Sultans of Constantinople, 1373-1513: An Anonymous Greek Chronicle of the Sixteenth Century, Brookline, 1990) also reveals what later happened:

He slaughtered the two sons of the grand duke in his presence and then he slaughtered him. The grand duke's youngest son, Isaakios, he sent to the seraglio. Shortly thereafter, he escaped from the seraglio in Adrianople and vanished. Later he came to his sister in Rome, who had been sent there with a countless fortune by her father before the siege.

This is the only of the sources to give the boy’s name and it gets it wrong. His real name was Iakobos, as revealed by an Italian letter of introduction, dated 6 January 1468/9 and published by C. Desimoni in his introduction to di Montaldo's "Delta Conquista di Costantinopoli per Maometto II," in Atti delta Society Ligure di Storia Patria 10 (1874), pp. 299-300, n. 1.

[4] Sympentheros is the term used in Greek to designate the father-in-law or mother-in-law of one's child. In extension it designates any relative through marriage. {Translator’s note]

[5] They were soon joined by two godchildren of the last emperor, the 14-year-old son and 12-year old daughter of the Byzantine courtier Georgios Sphrantzes, as he recounted in his memoir (XXXV 12), translated by Marios Philippides as The Fall of the Byzantine Empire (Amherst, Massachusetts 1980). Though Sphrantzes says they were bought by the sultan on his learning of “their beauty and proper upbringing”, he does not say what he knew or guessed about how they served him. The following December, “the most impious and pitiless sultan, with his own hand, took the life of my dearest son, John, on the grounds that the child had conspired to murder him” (XXXVII 3), while the daughter died of an illness in the sultan’s seraglio in September 1455 (XXXVII 9).