Dedicated to the military history and civilization of the Eastern Roman Empire (330 to 1453)

"Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity."

- - - - Princess Anna Comnena (1083–1153) - Byzantine historian

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sophia Palaiologina, The Last Byzantine Princess

Maria Andreeva as Sophia Palaiologina in
the Russian TV series "Sophia" (2016)

The Grand Duchess of Moscow
Zoe (Sophia) Palaiologina, Grand Duchess of Moscow, was a niece of the last 
Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI and second wife of Ivan III of Moscow.

The fall of Constantinople in 1453 was not the total collapse of the Eastern Roman Empire. In southern Greece the Byzantine Despotate of the Morea continued on until 1460.

The title despotes should not be confused with the term of despotism. A Despot was a senior Byzantine court title. From the mid-fourteenth century on the title was given to Imperial princes to act as the local ruler of semi-autonomous provinces of the Empire.

So in 1453 we see the surviving members of the Palaiologos dynasty (Demetrios and Thomas) ruling over the Despotate of Morea. These were two brothers of the last Emperor Constantine XI.
Thomas Palaiologos
Despot of Morea

The brothers not only failed to send any troops to defend Constantinople, but their incompetence sparked a massive revolt by 30,000 Albanians and Greeks against their rule.

The situation was so bad the brothers invited the Muslim Turks in to kill their own people in order to retain power.

Morea became a vassalage of the Ottoman Empire. After falling behind in tribute, Sultan Mehmed II invaded in May, 1460. The Turks quickly breached the Hexamilion wall and put an end to this last shred of the Roman Empire.

Demetrios became a prisoner of the Ottomans. Thomas, his wife Catherine and children Zoe (Sophia), Andreas, Manuel and Helena a fled to Corfu and then Thomas went to Rome.

Thomas was already recognized as the legitimate heir to the throne by the Pope. Leaving his children behind in Corfu, in 1461 Thomas made a ceremonial entrance into Rome and the Byzantine Emperor.

Zoe and her brothers remained in Corfu until recalled to Rome by their dying father in 1465.

The Despotate of Morea in southern Greece was the last holdout
against the Turks when Constantinople fell in 1453.

Zoe (Sophia) Palaiologina

As the granddaughter of Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos, Zoe now became something of a political pawn of the Pope and the Catholic Church.

Zoe was born in 1440 or 49. So she could have been as young as 16 years old in 1465 when she came to Rome to see her father.

Upon her father's death Zoe and her brothers were adopted by the Pope Paul II. Her Greek name was changed to Sophia. Born to the Orthodox Church it is possible she was raised as a Catholic while living at the Court in Rome.

Care of the Imperial children was assigned to Cardinal Basilios Bessarion, the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople. Letters show the Pope closely followed the care and education of the children.

Using the Byzantine eagle.
Reverse of Ivan III's 
seal from 1472,
after his marriage with Sophia Paleologue
Sophia and her brothers received 3,600 crowns a year, or about 200 crowns a month, to pay for clothes, horses and servants. An addition 100 crowns was provided to maintain a modest household staffed by a doctor, a Latin teacher and a Greek teacher.

In 1466 the Venetian Republic invited King James II of Cyprus but he refused. Around 1467 Pope Paul II offered Sophia's hand to a Price Caracciolo. They were betrothed but the marriage never took place.

In 1467 the wife died of Grand Prince Ivan III of Moscow.  Pope Paul II viewed this as yet another opportunity to abolish the Orthodox Church and expand the influence of Rome.

Pope Paul proposed the marriage with Sophia in 1469. The Pope wanted to expand his power, but Ivan was no doubt looking at connecting to the status and rights of Byzantine royalty. The marriage negotiations went on for three years.

A marriage by proxy was held in Rome on June 1st, 1472. Queen Catherine of Bosnia was one of many who attended.  As a dowry Sophia brought 6,000 ducats. There is no record where that money came from. Possibly from the Pope.

The entourage with Cardinal Bessarion, traveled north through Italy to Germany where she took a ship to Russia. She landed in Tallinn (in modern Estonia).  At Pskov she was officially celebrated. It was noted that Sophia personally thanked the public for the celebration. On November 12, 1472 Sophia arrived in Moscow.
Ivan III
Grand Prince of Moscow

The Pope's plans fail.  Once Sophia reached the safety of Russia she abandoned the Catholic Church and returned to her Orthodox faith. The Papal Legate carrying the Latin cross was not even allowed into Moscow.

The formal wedding between Ivan and Sophia took place on November 12.

Ivan had special palaces and gardens built for Sophia. It appears Sophia was not required to be isolated with other women as was common in Russia at the time. She even greeted representatives from Europe as Queens in western Europe did.

In 1472 Sophia was effected by the formal tributary gesture Ivan made to Mongolian representatives. It is believed she urged Ivan to break with the Mongols in 1480.

Russian nights being very cold saw Grand Princess Sophia give birth to eleven children, five sons and six daughters. Among her children was the future Grand Prince of Moscow Vasili III.

With Sophia at his side Ivan developed a complicated court ceremony patterned on the Byzantine model. Ivan also began using the title "Tsar and Autocrat."  Both Ivan and his son Vasili started to use the term "Third Rome" when speaking of the Russian nation.

Sophia passed away April 7, 1503 and was buried in massive stone sarcophagus in the Ascension Convent in the Kremlin. Ivan passed two years later.

Ivan III. Note the Byzantine eagle on the shield.
With his marriage to Sophia Ivan began using the title 
Tsar and calling Moscow the Third Rome.

Ivan III and Sophia Palaiologina at court.

Destruction of Sophia Palaiologina's grave by the Communists in 1929.

(Thomas Palaiologos)      (Ivan III)      (Sophia Palaiologina)      (Ascension Convent)


Anonymous said...

The destruction of her church by the bezerked socialfascists are final ?
Where is she now ?

Gary said...

The remains of Sophia and other royal women were shoved in an underground chamber in the southern extension of the Cathedral of the Archangel.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks , for that information.

Anonymous said...

As times go by , understand better that Russia are really the heir of Byzantine fall by inside Empire.
No power , safe the one from the one party ruler . Duma a rubber stamp . No judicial Independence .
An as sofisticated and beautifull some faces of byzantine world , the seeds of doom , are beneath their rulers skin, on the last centuries mostly.
No democratic rule , no Senate , heavy taxation without representation , the emperor as a sole figure os power , what became more doomfall with Romanos IV Diógenes in Manzikert . How the sole source of power became a leading fighter , and became a prisioner . The fighting between families .
Those ancient times of shinning and achievement gone . Justinian as vision minded as he got , overburden goals and the treasury .
Neverdeless he made from the future Hagia Sophia ... for what ? preserve the name of him ?
The most higher achievement of a ruler is to take care of his people . And Byzantine rulers on autocratic power don`t do that .
That is mend to fall , on anothers more powerfull armies .
The way Byzantium try to survive , between east and west , with diplomic duplicity , and outmanouvering treaties , and promisses made a mark on history , as we say as a common way do behave " thats the byzantine way .
Therefor , the founders of modern democracy in England , and the founding fathers of america ... made the greec and roman years the inspiration , not the second phase of the roman empire , the eastern one .
That are really the Kiev Run , and modern russia legacy .
If Putin died on a stroke , or by a car crash what the russia entourage would do ?
Medvedev ascend to power , and exiled Putin relatives and blinded in ?
How history repeats itself .
Democracy is a hard bargain between all of us , but must be nourished daily by common sense , and Independence , accountability, free expression , and opposition rights ... and bring a constrution of independent citizens who are not bound by state handouts or "pans et circenses" on the colegia model of cesarist Rome too .
Things are going very wrong . As Hagia Sophia beautifull as it was , the legacy was not cherish and followed , and the carnac monoliths , or the egipt piramids .
Sorry to tell that so .
As they made a stand against worse forms of barbarism that will ruin europe for ever ... they cannot survive cause economics and political model been wrong all along .
Lets go mesmerize by the stones , as they are still upright , as those in Nimrud , or Bamyan are not .

Anonymous said...

Another note .
Here in Europe many are afraid of Trump surge , or populist europenas lookalike .
Thats the way of one of our last republic president. Safe as oposition lawyer ( role that we admire, foremost in a dictatorship ) we was a 0 , zero , ... as well intentioned one , doh ... and a fine gentlemen to.
Neverdeless today he made notice of that surge of populism, in a very concern way .As NOW is perceive as the fallen of globalization on those "white trash ones " that nobody notice ( because they don`t cry about that ) , our last president sound something , as the EU must bring a massive budget spend, to "bring in" those that may vote on those populist leaders as Marine Le Pen and so on .
Mindless , and running on a empty brain , the burden of that is on taxes on rich north citizens states to south citizens states spend .
Thats the all wrong fare gone conclusion that made Greece bankrupth on borrow Money beyound reason.
The sovereign debt crisis on euro is on the western heir of Byzantine Empire , Greece , induce massive social perks as early retirement for "as you like " strange hard jobs as airdressers or cab drivers ... or a jardiner for everyone tree .So that byzantine imperial animus , went to the modern rulers that allow that to happen , on a "needed modern buyout voting system" .
So is more of the same .
On a beautifull country how cannot run to do more sightseeing than work ?
As everyone else may pay the price, as those stupid germans .
Byzantium emperial rule on spend and borrowing , one of the things that made their fall made something of a damage , on modern peoples that may realize that they are rightfull onwers , for the sake of a ancient grandeur , to live on someone else expenses .And by the politicians lies on it too, as Tsipras and Varoufakis did .
Thats a fact . Now as we speak much of the burden are a massive one , on everyone suffer , and as the last few jewels of the country are beeing sold to the far east and middle east imperialism.
Thats sad , the way we all go nowadays .
Populism only go away if people can find dignity on work , as indepent of must be , without massive interventation from the state , on ruling this and that .
Throwing Money on people is not the best way to have some respect on them .
The last emperors of Byzantium lack the wisdom to gain respect and alliagence from those they rule about , cause they not made the rightfull effor to grab people admiration.
Thats not all so on all of them , as the church to as divided with Rome , made a effor to stay independent, as the empire will go falling on piece by piece .
Only on a democratic rule of law can respect and dignity grow up. On dictatorships , only fear prevail .

Anonymous said...

And so "Trojan Horse of doom" Obama is today on Greece to reward Tsipras Siryza communist movement , for open borders on ISIS last year , as a revenge for debt onwers do not allow Varoufakis debt pardon "EU show" on those standoff with wheelchair Schaubel Finance Minister of Germany , as Angela Merkel would not do any other thing on stressed by hordes of " europe social security seekers" as open germany borders on roll over islam invasion of northern europe .
Not that many are real refugees from persecution as the assyrians christians , or the yazidis ... but many came along for grabbing social free housing and money from naive loaf northern states of europe .
Many left wing low life on social handouts red parties in europe cheerish the increased of potential voters from those hordes of desesperados running away from countries rulers that dont care nothing about them ... only to plunder resources and grab vast amounts of money .They abhor dictators , but not "his dictators" even if they care shit on their peoples .Hipocrisy all over .
So Gary , Sargent York or so ... thats the way things go all the way over here as you must well know ...

Gary said...

Thanks for coming by the site.

Anonymous said...

yuppy kaei ****** ******

Anonymous said...

so why use an image of catherine cornaro?

Anonymous said...

Thx 4 the Cornaro id. Been reading about Sophia and didn’t realize wiki had so many mistakes. Like history better if it’s accurate as possible.

Gary said...

An odd error on my part. A new and better photo is now provided.

Orlonda said...

Thank you so much for the info from so many well read people.I'm jealous you can retain and write so intelligently.

Anonymous said...

hi how did she die?

Was sophia killed?