Eugenia Russell
(Royal Holloway, London)


The ‘long’ fourteenth century can be seen perhaps as Thessalonica’s heyday. Apart from its ongoing commercial prowess, the city was developing into an important centre of government, where several members of the Byzantine imperial family of the Palaiologoi ruled independently under full imperial titles, striking coinage and following an increasingly autonomous external policy. It was also developing into a formidable centre for letters, education, and artistic expression, not least due to Palaiologan patronage and an inexplicably spirited collective response to a three-fold adversity: social and religious upheavals, and military danger.

Church of St Nikolaos Orphanos, Thessalonica, 14th c.
(photo: Derek Smith)
This chapter will briefly outline the socio-political and cultural landscape between 1348 and 1418 and then go on to focus on the literary aspects of Thessalonica’s cultural history. The cosmopolitan nature of urban life in the city of Thessalonica, the polyphony of opinions it experienced and expressed, its multiple links with centres such as Adrianople, Athos, Constantinople, Lemnos, Lesvos and Ochrid (see Map), and the diversity and strength of its authorial voices make the study of the city’s cultural life a vital part of our understanding of the Eastern Mediterranean.