1453: Loukas Notaras, Byzantine

Add comment June 3rd, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1453, Loukas Notaras, the last megas doux of the freshly destroyed Byzantine Empire, was executed at the command of Mehmed the Conqueror.

A wealthy Greek merchant who’d been circulating on the highest plane of Byzantine statecraft, Notaras is famous for his purported quip, “I would rather see a Turkish turban in the midst of the City [Orthodox Constantinople] than the Latin mitre.” The quote is probably apocryphal, but it sticks because he got the wish when Mehmed conquered Constantinople.

His end made a canvas congenial to moralizing brushwork. The victorious sultan spared him initially only to reverse course a few days later. By hostile Christian repute this was when Notaras was commanded to deliver his youngest son for perverse usage in the harem; a hostile-to-Greeks version has the wily old courtier immediately falling into his habitual scheming.

This post drawing on the work of the French scholar Thierry Ganchou suggests a less sensational compounding of reactions that ensued upon the sultan’s demand for Notaras’s youngest son, Jacob — not as a sex slave but as a court hostage, which was a normal practice in this period to keep potentially rivalrous elites onside. Notaras reacted badly, viewing the demand as an arbitrary humiliation and fearing the boy’s potential conversion to Islam and matters spiraled from there.

In his history written a century later, the ex-bishop Makarios Melissenos also suggests that, like Hulagu Khan upon destroying the Caliphate, Mehmed found himself contemptuous of prey yet so wealthy when his own country had gone to the wall.

“Inhuman half-breed dog, skilled in flattery and deceit! You possessed all this wealth and denied it to your lord the emperor and to the City, your homeland? … Why were you unwilling to assist the emperor and your homeland with your immense wealth?” (Source)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 15th Century,Beheaded,Byzantine Empire,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Ottoman Empire,Power,Turkey

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