Manuel II Palaeologus, Byzantine Emperor
MANUEL II PALAEOLOGUS, BYZANTINE EMPEROR
Theologian; b. Constantinople, June 27, 1350; d. Constantinople, July 21, 1425. The second son of Emperor John V, he was named successively despot (c. 1355) and governor of Thessalonica in 1369. The following year he sailed to Venice to help his father in his financial difficulties. After the rebellion of his older brother, Andronicus IV, Manuel was given the title of emperor, Sept. 25, 1373. But from 1376 to 1379 he was imprisoned by Andronicus, who had usurped the throne. His escape in 1379 began a civil war that ended with a compromise in May 1381, by which Andronicus was again named heir to John V.
In the fall of 1382 Manuel sailed secretly to Thessalonica where he ruled as an all-but-independent emperor. After a four-year siege by the Turks (1383–87) the city surrendered and Manuel was forced into exile to Lemnos; but as Andronicus had died in 1386, Manuel was again recognized as heir to the throne. In 1390 he prevented John VII, Andronicus's son, from assuming control of the capital; but he was compelled to lead a Byzantine force in the service of the Ottoman Emir Bajezid in Asia Minor. On the death of John V on Feb. 16, 1391, Manuel became sole emperor. At first he followed a conciliatory policy, but c. 1394, events made him take a strong anti-Turkish position.
In hope of obtaining Western aid, he visited northern Italy, Paris, and London between December 1399 and June 1403. Although received with great honor, he returned with little more than promises. The defeat of the Turks at Ankara by Tamerlane in 1402 provided a respite, and Manuel used the time to strengthen Byzantine military positions, particularly in the Peloponnesus. In 1421 he suffered a stroke and retired from active government.
Along with his diplomatic and military activities, Manuel was genuinely interested in theology and literature and composed an impressive array of theological tracts including an Apology for Christianity in the form of 26 dialogues with an Islamic disputant (written 1392–96, probably while on a military campaign near Ankara). The first series controverted Islamic theology, and the second justified Christian faith and moral teaching. Manuel also wrote 156 chapters against the Syllogism of a Latin monk of Saint-Denis, Paris, and a dissertation on the Palamite Teaching addressed to Alexius Iagupes. He strongly encouraged the work of the Byzantine humanists, who played an important role in the beginnings of the Italian renaissance.
Bibliography: g. t. dennis, The Reign of Manuel II Palaeologus in Thessalonica, 1382–1387 (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 159; 1960). g. ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State (New Brunswick, NJ 1957) 481–498. j. barker, Manuel II Palaeologus (1391–1425) (New Brunswick, N.J. 1965). h. g. beck, Kirche und theologische Literatur im byzantinische Reich (Munich 1959) 747–749.
[g. t. dennis]