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Alexander D. Beihammer / Angel Nicolaou-Konnari (eds.): Crusading, Society, and Politics in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of King Peter I of Cyprus (= Mediterranean Nexus 1100-1700; Vol. 10), Turnhout: Brepols 2023, 630 S., 38 Farb-Abb., ISBN 978-2-503-59856-7, EUR 115,00
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Chrysovalantis Kyriacou
Theological School of the Church of Cyprus
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Ralf Lützelschwab
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Chrysovalantis Kyriacou: Rezension von: Alexander D. Beihammer / Angel Nicolaou-Konnari (eds.): Crusading, Society, and Politics in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of King Peter I of Cyprus, Turnhout: Brepols 2023, in: sehepunkte 23 (2023), Nr. 5 [15.05.2023], URL:

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Alexander D. Beihammer / Angel Nicolaou-Konnari (eds.): Crusading, Society, and Politics in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of King Peter I of Cyprus

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Peter I Lusignan was crowned king of Cyprus on 24 November 1359. During his reign, he fought against the Turks in Asia Minor and travelled personally in the West, promoting his plans for a crusade, which led to the brief capture and sack of Alexandria in 1365. On 16/17 January 1369, he was assassinated by a group of conspiring nobles in the royal palace of Nicosia. The volume edited by Beihammer and Nicolaou-Konnari is the first and only comprehensive examination of Peter's life and times, providing a kaleidoscopic view of the broader Eastern Mediterranean, with all its complexity, diversity, and political fragmentation. The volume is dedicated in memoriam of Professor Michalis Pieris (1952-2021), who revived on stage Peter's deeds and passions through his adaptation of Leontios Makhairas' medieval chronicle. The core of the volume's contents consists of the papers presented during a conference on Peter and his era, organised by the University of Notre Dame in Rome (14-16 October 2016).

Shifting back and forth between micro- and macro-history, the volume offers a multi-perspective, "global" presentation of Peter's reign, encompassing a variety of themes and approaches. Nicolaou-Konnari's chronological table sets the scene for the main events of Peter's life. This is followed by an Introductory Part on the sources and Peter's reception in popular culture (Nicolaou-Konnari), including a speculative psychiatric assessment of Peter's personality (Nikolaou), and a synthesis based on the main findings contained in the volume (Beihammer).

Part I concentrates on the politics of crusading in the Eastern Mediterranean (Carr, Gasparis), embracing aspects such as the visual language of dynastic claims on Jerusalem (Olympios) and environmental factors behind the social, economic and military history of the period (Preiser-Kapeller). Part II places under the microscope Peter's Alexandrian Crusade of 1365, exploring new and hitherto unpublished materials from papal registers (Edbury and Schabel), Peter's Cypriot army within the military "revolution" of the fourteenth century (France), Mamluk perspectives and reactions vis-à-vis the 1365 events (Onimus), and Peter's image in French literature and historiography (Nicolaou-Konnari).

Part III focuses on Cypriot society around Peter's time. Salzmann's chapter examines Cypriot elites in the second half of the fourteenth century, followed by Grivaud's analysis of the political dynamics developed between Peter and his royal council. Pahlitzsch then continues with his re-reading of the collective definition, legal status and representation of the "Suriani". Part IV deals with the establishment and political rise of Turkish tribes in Anatolia. Murphey discusses the "epic" poem of Sarı Saltuk Dede in the context of ghazi warfare. Thurin's chapter reconstructs the early formation of the Anatolian beyliks in the thirteenth and early fourteenth century. Baglioni's contribution brings to the fore the use of Italian vernaculars as diplomatic languages in the medieval Levant.

Part V turns to Byzantium. Beihammer argues that John VI Kantakouzenos' Turkish alliances should be interpreted non-teleologically, within a broader tradition of Byzantino-Turkish diplomatic relations. Kolditz questions the definite implications of John V's "conversion" to the Latin faith, stressing the fluid and contextual nature of imperial expressions of ecclesiastical obedience. Yost's study of Manuel Kalekas and John Kyparissiotes argues that the rejection of Palamite orthodoxy and the pursuing of unionism on the part of some Byzantine scholars needs to be interpreted as a result of spiritual anxiety, caused by the victory of the Palamite side in the Hesychast Controversy. The role of Cyprus in the controversy over hesychasm and Palamas' theology is explored by Torrance in the volume's final chapter. The volume closes with two maps, a list of figures, an index, and a list of contributors.

According to Beihammer (82), the volume's aim is "to contextualize the reign and crusading policy of King Peter I of Cyprus within the political, structural, and intellectual developments in the Latin East, Byzantium, Muslim Anatolia, and the Mamluk sultanate". The editors and contributors are praiseworthy for filling the canvas of Peter's many worlds, addressing important questions related to the king's personality, public image and crusading activities, while also observing carefully a variety of Cypriot and non-Cypriot developments that build the bigger picture. The Byzantine chapters of the volume are of particular interest to this reviewer. The authors have pointed out the multiplicity of Byzantine reactions and strategies in respect to Muslim expansion, theological controversy, civil strife, and the prospect of rapprochement with the papacy. Scholars of the late medieval Eastern Mediterranean should keep in mind that Byzantine identities, like all human forms of perception and self-perception, were non-rigid, circumstantial and contextual, especially in the face of spiritual crises, such as the one described by Yost and other scholars in the past. [1]

A few minor errors and omissions do not decrease the volume's many strengths and value. A factual error concerns Gregory of Sinai, who is mentioned to be "of Cypriot origin" (Beihammer, 103). Gregory was, in fact, born in Koukoulon, near Klazomenai in Asia Minor, but he was later initiated into the hesychast life by a monk in Cyprus. [2] Makhairas' appellation of King Peter as a "great" ruler (ρὲ Πιὲρ τοῦ μεγάλου), noted by Nicolaou-Konnari (54), not only reflects the chronicler's moral evaluation of Peter but also corresponds to a common Byzantine distinction between elder and younger rulers of the same name. [3] The degree to which Peter's image was integrated into pre-Frankish, Byzantine folk traditions circulating in Cyprus, apart from the Arodaphnoussa song pointed out by Nicolaou-Konnari (60), remains a desideratum in Peter's reception history and the history of non-elite mentalities in Orthodox Latin-ruled areas. [4] It is also a pity that Torrance's chapter on Cyprus and the Hesychast Controversy - largely a reproduction of the author's 2018 article in Analogia - has not taken into consideration the fresh findings of post-2018 research on Palamites and anti-Palamites in Cyprus, the Latinising activities of Peter Thomas, Constantinopolitan patriarchal involvement in Cypriot ecclesiastical affairs, and the coordination of Cypriot church politics with broader ecclesiastical developments in Constantinople, Syria, the Holy Land and Egypt. [5] Lastly, Kolditz's contribution would have profited from consulting patriarchal homilies during John V's unionist approach to the West. [6]

Overall, this important volume calls the attention of students and scholars to a bigger, interconnected medieval world, a world consisting of different micro-worlds, in which the martial figure of King Peter I won and lost battles, surrounded by other prominent leaders of his time and the vast, anonymous crowd of his humble contemporaries in Cyprus and elsewhere.


[1] E.g., John A. Demetracopoulos: Palamas transformed. Palamite interpretations of the distinction between God's "essence" and "energies" in Late Byzantium, in: Martin Hinterberger / Chris Schabel (eds.): Greeks, Latins, and Intellectual History, 1204-1500, Leuven 2011, 263-372; Niketas Siniossoglou: Αλλόκοτος Ελληνισμός. Δοκίμιο για την οριακή εμπειρία των ιδεών. Athens 2016.

[2] Angeliki Delikari (ed.): Άγιος Γρηγόριος ο Σιναΐτης. Η δράση και η συμβολή του στη διάδοση του Ησυχασμού στα Βαλκάνια. Η σλαβική μετάφραση του Βίου του κατά το αρχαιότερο χειρόγραφο. Thessalonike 2004, 314-315.

[3] Cf. Michalis Pieris / Angel Nicolaou-Konnari (eds.): Λεοντίου Μαχαιρά, Χρονικό της Κύπρου. Παράλληλη διπλωματική έκδοση των χειρογράφων. Nicosia 2003, 413: ἡ ἀδελφί του μικρου ρε πιὲρ (V).

[4] See, e.g., the Cypriot song of Pieris in Hedwig Lüdeke / Fritz Boehm / Vita Kalopissi-Xanthaki (eds.): Ελληνικά Δημοτικά Τραγούδια: Τα Ακριτικά. Athens 1994, 183-185 (reminding of the Digenes traditions); Guy (Michel) Saunier / Emmanuelle Moser: Ελληνικό δημοτικό τραγούδι. Μύθοι μυητικοί και παραλογές. Thessalonike 2019; Chrysovalantis Kyriacou: The Byzantine Warrior Hero. Cypriot Folk Songs as History and Myth, 965-1571. Lanham / Boulder / New York / London 2020.

[5] Chrysovalantis Kyriacou: Orthodox Cyprus under the Latins, 1191-1571. Society, Spirituality, and Identities, 1191-1571. Lanham / Boulder / New York / London 2018, partly building on Otto Kresten (ed.): Die Beziehungen zwischen den Patriarchaten von Konstantinopel und Antiocheia unter Kallistos I. und Philotheos Kokkinos im Spiegel des Patriarchatsregisters von Konstantinopel. Mainz / Stuttgart 2000; Charalambos G. Chotzakoglou: Aspects of the political and ecclesiastical policy in Constantinople during the Palaeologan era and their reflections in Cyprus and its art with special reference to the Palamite Controversy in Cyprus, in: Heide Buschhausen / Jadranka Prolović (eds.): Erforschen-Erkennen-Weitergeben. Gewidmet dem Gedenken an Helmut Buschhausen. Lohmar 2021, 345-363.

[6] Constantinos Paidas (ed.): Ψευδοπροφήτες, μάγοι και αιρετικοί στο Βυζάντιο κατά τον 14° αιώνα. Επτά ανέκδοτες ομιλίες του Πατριάρχου Κωνσταντινουπόλεως Καλλίστου Α΄. Athens 2011.

Chrysovalantis Kyriacou