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three pairs of lovers with space



Chalkokondyles was an Athenian who set out to write a history of his own times in imitation of Herodotos.  Finished about 1465, it was the first by a Greek writer to “view Islam not as a theological error, but in Herodotean terms, as a legitimate set of cultural norms.”[1]

The following extracts, all there is about Greek love, are taken from the translation by Anthony Kaldellis (2 vols., Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, London, 2014), with one word amended and  explained in a footnote.


III 69

Describing the end of the life of the great Mongol conqueror Timur, who died in February 1405 at Otrar:

He appointed the eldest son, Shahrukh, to be king after him,[2] while he himself indulged in sex and died preoccupied with that. In fact it is said that Timur was tormented by his nature more than any other person, to such a degree that he ordered young men to copulate with women in front of him in order to become aroused enough himself for the act. But when he set sex aside, he would immediately turn to war against his enemies, so that he was never at rest. It is said that he committed offenses against his nature with his sexual habits.[3]
Timur: forensic facial reconstruction from his skull by M.Gerasimov, 1941
Σαχροῦχον τὸν πρεσβύτερον παῖδα αὐτοῦ κατέλιπε βασιλέα ὰποδειξάμενος. Αὐτὸς δὲ περὶ ἔρωτας ἔχων καὶ ὲνταῦθα πολυπραγμονῶν έτελεύτησε. Λέγεται γὰρ δὴ Τεμήρης μάλιστα δὴ ἀνθρώπων ἐς τοσοῦτο ὑπὸ φύσεως ὰχθῆναι, ώστε νεανίσκους ὲναντίον αὐτοῦ γυναιξὶ κελεὐειν μἱσγεσθαι, ώστε καὶ τὴν φύσιν ὲρεθίζειν αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τοῦτο. Ώς δὲ ἀπὸ ἑρὡτων γένοιτο, ἐπὶ πολεμίους αὐτίκα δὴ τρέπεσθαι, μηδὲποτε ἡσυχίαν ἄγοντα. Καὶ ὲξυβρίσαι δὴ λέγεται τὴν φύσιν αὐτοῦ ἐς τὴν δίαιταν περὶ ἀφροδίσια γενόμενον.
Murad II (1404-51), Ottoman sultan

VII 29

Describing the campaigns of the Ottoman sultan Murad II in 1448:

The following summer the sultan marched against Skanderbeg, the son of Gjon, who, as a child, had attended the sultan’s Porte, had been the sultan’s young lover,[4] and fled back to his native land.[5] After he married the daughter of Arianiti, they [Skanderbeg and Arianiti] fought a war openly against the sultan, neither paying him tribute, nor attending in person at the Porte, nor wanting to obey his orders. For these reasons the sultan assembled the entire army of Asia and Europe and marched against the land of Gjon.[6]  Καὶ βασιλεὺς τοῦ ὲπιγιγνομένου θἑρους ἑστρατεύετο ἐπὶ Σκεντἑρην τὸν Ίβάνεω παῖδα, ὁς παῖς ῶν ἐς τὰς θύρας ἀφικόμενος τοῦ βασιλέως καὶ παιδικὰ αὐτοῦ γενόμενος ἀπέδρα ἐς τὴν πατρῷαν αὐτοῦ χώραν, καὶ ὰγόμενος γυναῖκα θυγατέρα τοῦ Ἀριανίτου ἐκ τοῦ ὲμφανοῦς ἐπολἐμουν τῷ βασιλεῖ, καὶ οϋτε φὸρον ὲπήγαγον τῷ βασιλεῖ οϋτε αὐτοὶ ἐς τὰς θύρας ἴεντο ούτε πεἱθεσθαι ῆθελον. Διὰ ταῦτα συναγείρας άπαντα τόν τε Ἀσίας καὶ Εὐρὡπης αὐτῷ στρατὸν ῆλαυνεν ἐπὶ τὴν Ίβἀνεω χὡραν· 


VIII 28-9

When Constantinople fell to the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror on 29 May 1453:

Mehmed II and his army approaching Constantinople with a giant bombard, by Fausto Zonaro

The Greeks who were not killed were conveyed over to Galatas, especially the most distinguished among them. Some were liberated in this way. But the sultan himself bought Notaras, the chief official of the king of the Greeks, along with his wife and children, and discussed with him his own plans and what he expected would happen with regard to Italy, and he generally honored him and spent time with him. The Greeks who were freed gathered again in the city of Byzantion in order to free their friends and relatives. Shortly afterward they perished at the sultan’s order. It happened in the following way. When it was announced to the sultan that Notaras’s son was a child of twelve years, he sent one of his wine pourers to request the child.[7] When he heard the wine-pourer’s request, Notaras grew angry and considered it an insult, saying, “Wine pourer, it is utterly outrageous for the sultan to remove my children when he has nothing at the present time for which to reproach us, given that he has forgiven our offenses by ransoming us himself. If that is what he intends to do with us, why does he not just order that we be delivered to a horrible death?” That is what Notaras said, and he said that, as he was himself blameless, he would never willingly surrender his son. The wine pourer rebuked him and urged him never to speak or to behave in such a way toward the sultan, because he would die instantly, but failed to persuade him.

When the wine pourer returned and announced the Greek’s response to the sultan, the latter at once ordered him to arrest and butcher Notaras, his children, and all who were present with him. When those charged with this task came to Notaras, he asked that they kill his children first, right there in front of him, and only then to execute him. His sons, thoroughly frightened of death, begged their father to hand over all the money he had in Italy in order to save them from dying. He did not grant this request, but urged them to meet their deaths bravely. So they killed the children first,[8] and then he submitted to his own execution. When the sultan had killed him and his family, he then ordered that the other Greeks who had been freed and were present in Byzantion were also to be arrested, and they butchered them too. So they perished for no good reason.[9] The sultan decided upon these murders at the instigation of a Greek who had come there from abroad and with whose daughter the sultan was sleeping, being madly infatuated with her. He cultivated her relatives, driven by his lust. And so, they say, Mehmed obeyed this man in killing the Greeks.[10]

[28] Έλλήνων μὲν οῦν ὅσοι μὴ ἀπώλοντο, τούτους ἀπαγαγὸντες ἐς τὴν Γ αλςιτίην, τοὺς ἐπιφανεῖς μάλιστα αὐτῶν. Καὶ ἄλλοι μὲν ούτως ἐλευθεροῦντο· Νοταρᾶν δὲ τὸν βασιλέως Έλλήνων πρύτανιν αὐτός τε ὁ βασιλεὺς ὲξωνησὰμενος καὶ γυναῖκα καὶ παῖδας, καὶ χρηματίσας αὐτῷ, ἀττα ὴβούλετο συνιέναι τῶν ἑαυτοῦ, καὶ τὰ τῆς ,Ιταλίας ὅσα ῆδει προσδὸκιμα, ἑτίμα τε καὶ συνεγἐνετο χρόνον τινὰ. Καὶ Έλλήνων όσοι ἡλευθέρωντο, συνελέγοντο αῦθις ἐς τὴν Βυζαντίου πόλιν, τούς τε προσἡκοντας αὐτῶν ἐλευθεροῦντες καὶ ὲπιτηδείους. Καὶ οὐ πολλῷ ῦστερον ὑπὸ βασιλέως ὰπὡλοντο. Έγένετο δὲ ῶδε. Ώς ὰνηνέχθη ἐς βασιλέα παῖδα εἶναι τοῦ Νοταρᾶ νἡπιον δωδεκαετῆ, ἔπεμψε τῶν οἰνοχόων αὐτοῦ ἔνα, αἰτούμενος τὸν παῖδα. 'Ο δὲ ὡς ἐπὐθετο τὰ παρὰ τοῦ οἰνοχὸου, χαλεπῶς τε ἔφερε καὶ ὲποιεῖτο δεινὸν, λέγων, ἰῦῶ οἰνοχόε, ταῦτα οὐκ ἀνασχετἀ ἐστι, βασιλέα ὰφαιρεῖσθαι τοὺς παῖδας ἡμῶν, οὐδὲν ἔχων, ὁ τι ᾶν ἡμῖν ἐν τῷ παρόντι ὲπιμέμψασθαι, ἑπεί τε συνέγνω ἡμῖν τὴν ὰμαρτίαν ἑξωνησἀμενος. Εἰ δὲ ταῦτα οϋτω ἡμᾶς ποιοίη, τί οὐ κελεὐει ἡμᾶς αὐτοὺς κακίστῳ ὁλέθρῳ παραδοῦναι;” Ταῦτἀ τε ἔλεγε, καὶ οὐκ ἔφη ἑκὡν εῖναί ποτε τὸὐ παῖδα ὰναίτιος ῶν ὲκδὡσειν. 'Επιπλήττοντι δὲ τῷ οἰνοχὁῳ καὶ παραινοῦντι μήτε λέγειν μήτε ποιεῖν οϋτω ἐς βασιλέα, ὡς αὐτίκα ὰπολούμενον, οὐκ ἔπειθεν.

[29] 'Επεὶ δὲ ὑποστρέφων ὰπήγγειλε τῷ βασιλεῖ τὰ παρὰ τῶν Έλλήνων, αὐτίκα ὲκἐλευσεν αὐτόν τε ᾶμα καὶ τοὺς παῖδας, καὶ όσοι αὐτῷ συμπαρῆσαν, ὰπαγαγόντα κατασφάξαι. Οἱ μὲν οὐν ὡς ὰφίκοντο ἐς αὐτὸν οἱ ἐπὶ τοῦτο ταχθέντες, ὲδεῖτο αὐτῶν τοὺς παῖδας ὲναντίον αὐτοῦ ἀνελεῖν τα πρῶτα, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα ἑαυτὸν καταχρἡσασθαι. Καὶ οἱ μὲν παῖδες αὐτοῦ καταδείσαντες τὸν θάνατον ἐδέοντο τοῦ πατρός, καὶ ὅσα ὲνῆν σφίσι χρἡ ματα έν τῇ 'Ιταλία, παραδόντας περιποιῆσαι σφᾶς, ώστε μὴ αποθανεῖν. “Ο δὲ οὐκ εἴα, ἀλλ, ὲκέλευε θαρροῦντας ἰέναι ἐπὶ τὸν θάνατον. Καὶ τούτους μὲν πρῶτα ὰνεῖλον, μετα δὲ ἑαυτὸν παρείχετο διαχρήσασθαι. Ώς δὲ τοῦτον τε καὶ τοὑς περὶ αὐτὸν ανεῖλεν ὁ βασιλεύς, αὐτίκα ὲκέλευσε καὶ τῶν Έλλήνων τοὺς άλλους, ὅσοι παρῆσαν έν Βυζαντἱῳ ὲλευθερωμένοι, απαγαγόντες καὶ τούτους ὰπέσφαξαν. Καὶ οὐτω μὲν οῦτοι ἐν οὐδενὶ λόγῳ ὰπώλοντο· βασιλεὺς δὲ ἐπὶ τοῦτον τὸν φὸνον ὲλασας, ὲναγοντος τῶν Έλλήνων τῶν ἐπιδήμων ἑνὸς, οὐ τὴν θυγατέρα βασιλεὺς συγγενόμενος ῆρα τε ἐπιμαινὁμενος τῇ γυναικί, τοὐς τε προσἡκοντας αὐτῇ ἑφιλοφρονεῖτο, ὑπὸ έρωτος ὡς μαλιστα φερόμενος. Καὶ τούτῳ φασὶ πειθόμένον διαχρἡσασθαι τοὺς ‘Έλληνας.


 VIII 71-2

In the summer of 1457, the sons of the sultan Mehmed the Conqueror were circumcised …

Mahmud Pasha Angelović

There were also other amusements at this circumcision, where Mahmud,[11] the lord of the household and, simultaneously, general of Europe, surpassed all the others with his gifts, including the kings and lords of the Porte. This Mahmud was the son of Michael, a Serb on his mother’s side and a Greek on his father’s. When he was still a child and going with his mother from Novo Brdo to Smederevo, the sultan’s cavalry raiders captured [. . .] on the road [. . .] and brought the entire group to the sultan. The sultan took the child to his bedchamber and soon appointed him to a position of great power: he soon made him his groom and after that the lord of the Porte. When he expelled Zaganos, his relative, from that position of honor, this man became everything for him. In fact, he became more powerful than any of the others who have previously been said to be powerful at the Ottoman Porte. For it is said that Hayreddin and his son Ali became powerful at the Porte of Murad, the son. But no one ever attained his power and position. Holding the first place among the lords at the sultan’s Porte, Mahmud maintained his own, most sizable private army and had attendants who wielded enormous power.

Greek children from Byzantion, whom the sultan kept beside him, also reached positions of great power. Among them were Murad, of the illustrious Greek family of the Palaiologoi, and after him Mehmed, the son of Mandromenes, who was first appointed prefect of Ankara and then of Pisidia. 

[71] 'Εγένοντο μέντοι καὶ ἄλλαι παιδιαὶ κατὰ τὴν περιτομὴν ταύτην, ἐν ῇ Μαχμοὐτης ὁ τοῦ οἴκου ἡγεμὡν καὶ άμα τῆς Εὐρώπης στρατηγὸς τοῖς δώροις ὑπερβάλλεσθαι πάντας, τούς τε βασιλεῖς άμα καὶ ἡγεμόνας τῶν θυρῶν. Οῦτος δὲ ὁ Μαχμοὐτης παῖς Μιχαήλου γενόμενος, Τριβαλλὸς μέν ἐστι τὰ μητρόθεν, ‘Έλλην δὲ τὰ πατρόθεν. Καὶ παῖδα ἔτι όντα, σὺν τῇ μητρὶ ἰὸντα ἀπὸ Νοβοπύργου ἐς Σπενδερόβην, οἱ ἱπποδρὸμοι τοῦ βασιλέως καταλαβόντες ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ [. . .] ἡγουμἑνου ἀπήγαγον πανοικὶ τούτους παρὰ βασιλέα. Λαβὡν δὲ τὸν παῖδα ἐς τὸν κοιτῶνα αὐτοῦ βασιλευς μέγαν τε ἀπἑδειξεν ὲν ὰκαρεῖ, καὶ ἱπποκὸμον ἐν βραχεῖ ποιησὰμενος μετὰ ταῦτα ἡγεμόνα τῶν θυρῶν απὲδειξεν. 'Επεί τε μὲν οῦν Ζἀγανον τὸν ἑαυτοῦ κηδεστὴν ἐξήλασεν ἐκ τῆς τιμῆς, τα πάντα ούτος ἐγένετο, ὲγεγόνει δὲ οῖος ούδείς πω πρότερον ἐς τόνδε τῶν ἐπὶ ταῖς Ότουμανίδων θύραις ἡγεμὸνων μεγάλων λεγομένων γενέσθαι. Λέγεται μὲν γὰρ καὶ Χαραϊτἡνην καὶ Ἀλίην τὸν παῖδα μεγάλους γενέσθαι ἔν τε ταῖς Ἀμουρὰτεω τοῦ Όρχανεω καὶ Παιαζἡτεω τοῦ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ θύραις· ὸιλλ' οὐδείς πω ὲς τἡνδε τὴν δύναμιν καὶ τὴν χὡραν τούτου ὸιφίκετο. Οῦτος μὲν ούν τα πρῶτα τῶν ἡγεμόνων φερόμενος ἐς τὰς βασιλέως θύρας, στρατόν τε οἰκεῖον τρἑφειν ἱκανὡτατον καὶ θερόιποντας ἔχειν ὲπὶ μέγα δυνάμεως ῆκοντας.

[72] Έλληνικοι μὲν παῖδες ἀπὸ Βυζαντίου, ούς εῖχεν παρ' ἑαυτῷ βασιλεύς, ἐς μέγα ὲχὡρησαν δυνάμεως. Τούτων δὲ Μουρἀτης τοῦ Παλαιολόγων γένους τῶν Έλλήνων περιφανοῦς, καὶ Μεχμὲτης ὁ Μανδρομηνοῦ παῖς μετά γε τοῦτον, ὁς ύπαρχος πρῶτα μὲν Άγκύρας, ἔπειτα δὲ τῆς Πισιδίας απεδείχθη. Βούλεται δὲ Μουράτης ἑπιθυμίαν.

Mehmed II by Gentile Bellini, 1480


IX 26

In 1460, Mehmed the Conqueror marched to the city of Amastris on the Black Sea:

When he arrived he besieged the city, and it surrendered to him on terms. He received the city, leaving behind one third of its people there, in the city, while leading the other two thirds back to Byzantion, to settle there. He also selected for himself some of the boys of the city and took them to his household.  Ώς δὲ ὰφικόμενος ἐπολιὸρκει τὴν πόλιν, προσεχὡρησεν ἡ πόλις αὐτῷ καθῦ ὁμολογἰαν. Παραλαβὡν δὲ τὴν πόλιν, τὸ μὲν τρίτον μέρος αὐτοῦ καταλιπὡν ἐν τῇ πόλει, τὰς δύο μοίρας ἀγαγὡν τῆς πόλεως ἐς Βυζόιντιον κατῷκισε, καί τινας τῶν παίδων αὑτοῦ τῆς πόλεως ἑξελόμενος ἑαυτῷ ἐκομίζετο ὲπ' οἴκου.


IX 82-3

Explaining how it came about that the ruler of Wallachia rebelled against Mehmed the Conqueror on being summoned in the winter of 1461-2, and also how it came to be that Mehmed had with him a loyal Wallachian prince whom he proceeded to make the new ruler:[12]

Vlad the Impaler and the Turkish Envoys by Theodore Aman, 1856

The sultan spent that winter in his palace and summoned Vlad [III], the son of [Vlad II] Dracul and ruler of Wallachia,[13] as he already had his younger brother [Radu III] at the court,[14] keeping him as his lover[4] and maintaining him. It happened that the sultan was almost killed by the boy when he had wanted to have sex with him. This was when he had first gained the throne and was preparing to campaign against Karaman.[15] He was in love with the boy and invited him for conversation, and then as a sign of his respect he invited him for drinks to his bedchamber. The boy did not expect to suffer such a thing from the sultan, and when he saw the sultan approaching him with that intention, he fought him off and refused to consent to intercourse With him. The sultan kissed the unwilling boy, who drew a dagger and struck the sultan on his thigh. He then fled in whatever direction he could find. The doctors were able to treat the sultan’s wound. The boy had climbed up a tree there and was hiding. When the sultan packed up and left, the boy came down from the tree, began his journey, and, shortly afterward, arrived at the Porte and became the sultan’s lover.[4] The sultan was used to having relations no less with those[16] who shared his own inclinations. For he was always spending his time in the close company of such people, both day and night, but he did not usually have relations with those[16] who were not of his own race, except for brief periods of time.

It was the sultan who had entrusted Vlad [III], the brother of this boy, with the rule of Wallachia. With the sultan’s assistance, Vlad, the son of Dracul, set out to claim the principality.

Mehmed the Conqueror and Radu the Beautiful

[82] Τοῦ μέντοι χειμῶνος τούτου βασιλεὺς διατρίβων ἐν τοῖς ἑαυτοῦ βασιλείοις μετεπἐμπετο Βλάδον τὸν Δρακούλεω παῖδα, Δακίας ἡγεμὸνα, ἔχων παρ, ἑαυτῷ τὸν νεώτερον αὐτοῦ ἀδελφόν, παιδικά τε αὐτοῦ γενόμενον καὶ διαιτὡμενον παρ' αὐτῷ. Ξυνηνἑχθη δὲ καὶ αὐτῷ βασιλεῖ ξυγγενἑσθαι τῷ παιδι τῷδε βουλομένῳ, ὅτε πρῶτον παριὡν ἐπὶ τὴν βασιλείαν ὲοτέλλετο ἐπὶ Ιζαραμᾶνον, ὸλίγου ὑπ' αὐτοῦ ἀποθανεῖν. Ώς γὰρ ὲρῶν τοῦ παιδὸς ὲκαλει ἐς ὁμιλίας, καὶ φιλοτιμίαν αὐτῷ προπίνων ἐκἀλει ἐπὶ τὸν κοιτῶνα. Ό μέντοι παῖς οὐδὲν τι τοιοῦτον δοκῶν πρὸς τοῦ βασιλέως πείσεσθαι, ἑώρα τὸν βασιλέα ἐπιφερόμενον αὐτῷ ἐς τοιοῦτον τε πρᾶγμα, ἀπεμαχετὁ τε καὶ οὐ συνεγινώσκετο ἐς τὴν συνουσίαν βασιλέως. Καὶ ἄκοντος ἑφίλει, σπασἀμενος ὁ παῖς μαχαιραν παίει τὸν βασιλέα κατὰ τὸν μη ρόν, καὶ οϋτω φεὐγων αὐτίκα, ὅποι προεχὡρει αὐτῷ, ῷχετο. Βασιλέως μέντοι οἱ ἰατροὶ ἰἀσαντο τὸ τραῦμα. Ό δὲ παῖς ἐπὶ δἑνδρον αὐτοῦ που ταύτη ὰναβὰς ἑκέκρυπτο. Ώς δὲ συσκευασἀμενος ὁ βασιλεὑς ἀπῇει, ἑντεῦθεν καταβὰς ὁ παῖς ἀπὸ τοῦ δένδρου καὶ διαπορευὸμενος οὐ πολλῷ ϋστερον ἀφίκετο ἐπὶ τὰς θύρας, καὶ παιδικὁι ἐγένετο βασιλέως. Χρῆσθαι δὲ νομίζει οὐχ ῆττον τοῖς ἐς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ δ ἰαιταν τετραμμἐνοις· τούτοις μὲν γὰρ αἰεί τε συγγενόμενος συνδιατρίβει νύκτωρ καὶ μεθ' ἡμέραν, τοῖς δ' ἀλλοφύλοις οὐ πἀνυ τι χρῆσθαι νομίζεται βασιλέα, ὰλλ' ἐπὶ βραχὐ.

[83] Τοὐτου δὲ τοῦ παιδὸς τῷ ὰδελφῷ Βλάδῳ ἐπὲτρεψε βασιλεὺς τὴν Δακίας ἡγεμονίαν, καὶ συμβαλλομένου βασιλέως ἑπἡλασὲ τε καὶ κατέσχε τὴν ἡγεμονίαν Βλἀδος ὁ Δρακοὐλεω παῖς.

Also Mehmed the Conqueror and Radu the Beautiful

X 14

In the autumn of 1462, Mehmed the Conqueror subdued the island of Lesbos, whose ruler, Niccolò Gattilusio,[17] negotiated a surrender.

Shortly afterward he laid charges against the ruler or Lesbos, arrested him, and kept him imprisoned. I have learned that the sultan did not think highly of this ruler and he had previously been aggrieved with him for the many offenses and unseemly deeds that he had committed against the sultan’s household. As others relate, a boy had once escaped from the sultan’s Porte and came to this ruler of Lesbos. He converted to the religion of Jesus and became his lover.[4] When Lesbos was captured and he came to Byzantion, the ruler forgot about this boy and sent him among his gifts to the sultan. But the other boys recognized him and told the sultan. He then took the boy and arrested the ruler, putting him in chains together with his nephew Luchino, the son of the tyrant of Ainos, who had assisted the ruler in the murder of his brother, when he seized the principality. Shortly afterward the following happened to them also. As both of them were at a loss, not knowing how they could find a way out of prison, they volunteered to accept the traditional customs of the Turks. The sultan himself granted them garments and turbans, and he had them circumcised. He gave them freedom for a few days, but soon after that he placed them in prison again, until he led them away to their execution. Τὸν μὲν ούν ἡγεμόνα τῆς Λέσβου οὐ πολλῷ ῦστερον αἰτιασαμενος συνέλαβέ τε καὶ καθεῖρξεν έχων ἐν φυλακῇ, ὡς μὲν ὲγὡ ἑπυθόμην, ὡς οὐκ ὲν γνώμη γεγονότα τῷ βασιλεῖ τὸν ἡγεμόνα τοῦτον, καὶ πρότερον ἀχθομένῳ αὐτῷ ἐπὶ πολλοῖς ὰεικέσι τε καὶ ἀνηκέστοις ἔργοις πρὸς τὸν βασιλέως οἶκον. Ώς δὲ ὑπ' ἄλλων λέγεται, παῖδα διαφυγόντα τὰς βασιλέως θύρας αφικέσθαι ἐπὶ τὸν Λέσβου τοῦτον ἡγεμὁνα, καὶ μεταβαλόντα ἐς τὴν θρησκείαν τοῦ Ίησοῦ γενέσθαι παιδικὁι αὐτοῦ, Ώς δὲ  Λέσβος ἑαλω καὶ ἐς Βυζαντιον ἐγένετο, ὲπελέλη στό τε τοῦ παιδὸς ὁ ἡγεμὡν, καὶ έν δώροις πἑμψας ὡς βασιλέα, ὲπέγνωκἀν τε οἱ παίδες καὶ ἐξεῖπον τῷ βασιλεῖ. Ιζαὶ τὸν μὲν παῖδα κατέσχε καὶ τὸν ῆγεμὁνα συνέλαβέ τε καὶ ἐν δεσμοῖς ἐποιἡσατο άμα τῷ ανεψιῷ Λουκίῳ, τῷ τῆς Αἴνου τυρἀννῳ παιδὶ γενομένῳ, καὶ συγκατεργασαμένῳ τῷ ἡγεμόνι τὸν τοῦ ὰδελφοῦ φόνον καὶ τὴν ἡγεμονίαν ᾶμα. Οὐ πολὺ μέντοι ϋστερον ξυνέβη καὶ τόδε αὐτοῖς. Ώς γὰρ ἐν ὰπόρῳ καθειστήκεσαν ἄμφω, οὐκ εἰδότες ὅπη ὰπαλλαγὴν εῦρωνται τῆς εἱρκτῆς, ὰνἡνεγκαν, ὡς ἐς τὰ πάτρια τὰ Τούρκων ἰέναι ἀμφότεροι προθυμοῦνται. Καὶ αὐτὸς μὲν βασιλεὺς ἑσθῆτί τε ἐδωρἡσατο καὶ τιαρα, καὶ περιτέμόμενος ὲλευθέρους ὰφῆκεν ἐπὶ ἡμέρας οὐ πολλὰς, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα αὐτίκα αῦθις ἐς εἱρκτἡν ποιησἀμενος κατἑσχεν, ές ὁ δὴ ἀπαγαγὡν κατέσφαξε. 

[1] Introduction by the translator, p. vii.

[2] Timur’s arrangements for the succession were more complicated, … [Translator’s note]

[3] It is far from clear that this refers at all to pederasty, but it is included here as Timur is known to have had the usual Central Asian fondness for boys as well as women.  See for example The Mulfuzāt Timūry or Autobiographical Memoirs of the Moghul Emperor Timūr translated by Charles Stewart (London, 1830) p. 22.

[4] The Greek word translated here as “lover” is the classical Greek παιδικὰ, denoting the boy in a pederastic love affair.

[5] Gjergi Kastrioti (1405-1468), better known as Skanderbeg, an Albanian national hero; … [Translator’s note]

[6] Skanderbeg rebelled in 1443 and reverted to Christianity. He defeated Ottoman armies, and Murad marched against him in mid-1448. [Translator’s note]

[7] This suggests that the sultan had not seen for himself that Notaras had a beautiful son, but in the much more detailed account of this episode given by Doukas, another contemporary historian, it is recounted that the sultan had met him himself visiting Notaras’s house the day before.  Doukas says the boy was fourteen, and makes clear the sultan’s sexual intent with him.

[8] Both this account and that of Doukas 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.

[9] This section and the previous one refer to the Byzantine aristocracy. [Translator’s note]

[10] The story of Mehmed’s infatuation is recorded only here. [Translator’s note]

[11] Mahmud Pasha Angelović, the grand vizier.

[12] Described in Book IX 97 & 107.

[13] This was Vlad III, known also as Dracul and “Țepeș” (the Impaler), famous as the most likely historical inspiration for the vampire “Count Dracula” created by the novelist Bram Stoker in 1897. The passage quoted here is immediately followed by this, which explains his fearsome reputation:

When he took over, he first created a corps of bodyguards for himself, who lived with him, and then he summoned separately each of the distinguished men of the realm who, it was believed, had committed treason during the transfer of power there. He killed them all by impalement, them and their sons, wives, and servants, so that this one man caused more murder than any other about whom we have been able to learn. In order to solidify his hold on power, they say that in a short time he killed twenty thousand men, women, and children. He established good soldiers and bodyguards for his own use, and he granted them the money, property, and other goods of his victims, so that he quickly effected a great change and utterly revolutionized the affairs of Wallachia He also worked widespread murder among the Hungarians, those who seemed to be involved in public affairs, sparing none of them. (IX 83)

Further atrocities by him are described in Book IX 86 & 104.

[14] Radu III the Handsome, ruler of Wallachia after Vlad III (1462-73, and on and off again from 1473 to 1475), though never named by Laonikos. [Translator’s note]

[15] The campaign against Karaman was actually when Mehmed became sultan for the second time on his father’s death in 1451, and when Radu was about thirteen and Mehmed nineteen.

[16] English uses nouns where they are thought unnecessary in Greek, so the translator has twice interpolated “men”, which carries false implications and has therefore been amended to “those”.

[17] Chalkokondyles calls him Domenico Gattilusi (X 4), but in a note to this, the translator says this was a confusion with Niccolò’s elder brother, whom he had overthrown.



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