Byzantine civil war of 1352–1357

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Byzantine civil war of 1352–1357
Part of the Byzantine civil wars, the Byzantine–Serbian wars and the Byzantine–Turkish wars
Result John V Palaiologos becomes sole ruler, deposes the Kantakouzenoi
Byzantine Empire John V Palaiologos
Serbian Empire Serbian Empire
Republic of Venice Republic of Venice
Republic of Genoa Republic of Genoa
Byzantine Empire John VI Kantakouzenos
Byzantine Empire Matthew Kantakouzenos
Ottoman Empire Ottoman emirate

The Byzantine civil war of 1352–1357 marks the continuation and conclusion of a previous conflict that lasted from 1341 to 1347. It involved John V Palaiologos against the two Kantakouzenoi, John VI Kantakouzenos and his eldest son Matthew Kantakouzenos. John V emerged victorious as the sole emperor of the Byzantine Empire, but the resumption of civil war completed the destruction of the previous conflict, leaving the Byzantine state in ruins.


In the aftermath of the 1341–1347 conflict, John VI Kantakouzenos had established himself as senior emperor and tutor over the young John V Palaiologos.[1] This state of affairs however was not destined to last; supporters of the Palaiologoi still distrusted him, while his own partisans would have preferred to depose the Palaiologoi outright and install the Kantakouzenoi as the reigning dynasty. Kantakouzenos' eldest son, Matthew, also resented being passed over in favour of John V, and had to be placated with the creation of a semi-autonomous appanage covering much of western Thrace, which doubled as a march against the new Serbian Empire of Stephen Dushan.[2]

Steadily deteriorating relations between Matthew Kantakouzenos, who now ruled eastern Thrace, and John V Palaiologos, who resided in western Thrace, sowed the seeds for the resumption of the civil war.

The war[edit]

Open warfare broke out in 1352, when John V, supported by Venetian and Serbian troops, launched an attack on Matthew Kantakouzenos. John Kantakouzenos came to his son's aid with 10,000 Ottoman troops who retook the cities of Thrace, liberally plundering them in the process. In October 1352, at Demotika, the Ottoman force met and defeated 4,000 Serbs provided to John V by Dushan.[3] This was the Ottomans' first victory in Europe and an ominous portent. Two years later their capture of Gallipoli marked the beginning of the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, culminating a century later in the Fall of Constantinople.[4] Meanwhile, John V fled to the island of Tenedos, from where he made an unsuccessful attempt to seize Constantinople in March 1353.

John VI Kantakouzenos responded by having Matthew crowned as co-emperor, but John V Palaiologos, enlisting Genoese support and relying on the declining popularity of Kantakouzenos, succeeded in entering the capital in November 1354. John VI Kantakouzenos abdicated and retired to a monastery. Matthew held out in Thrace making war upon the Serbs in 1356. Then Matthew gathered an army of 5,000 Turks and marched on Serres the Serbian held capital of John Ugleisha. Stephen Urosh V whose mother also ruled at Serres decided to raise an army to defend his mother and in 1357 when Matthew and his Turks attacked, The Serbian army under Vojin The Count of Drama (a major fortress in that vicinity) came to the rescue and the Turks were defeated and Matthew captured and held hostage until his ransom was paid by the Emperor John V Palaiologos who was now the sole master of a rump state. Matthew was allowed to go to the Morea and reign there with his brother Manuel.[5]



  1. ^ Nicol 1993, p. 210
  2. ^ Nicol 1993, pp. 215–216; Fine 1994, pp. 308–309, 321–322
  3. ^ Fine 1994, pp. 325–326; Soulis 1984, pp. 49–51; Treadgold 1997, pp. 775–776
  4. ^ Fine 1994, p. 326
  5. ^ Fine 1994, pp. 326–327; Treadgold 1997, pp. 775–778


  • Fine, John Van Antwerp (1994), The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest, University of Michigan Press, ISBN 978-0-472-08260-5
  • Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6
  • Nicol, Donald MacGillivray (1993), The Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261–1453, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-43991-6
  • Nicol, Donald MacGillivray (1996), The Reluctant Emperor: A Biography of John Cantacuzene, Byzantine Emperor and Monk, c. 1295–1383, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-52201-4
  • Reinert, Stephen W. (2002), "Fragmentation (1204–1453)", in Mango, Cyril (ed.), The Oxford History of Byzantium, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 248–283, ISBN 978-0198140986
  • Soulis, George Christos (1984), The Serbs and Byzantium during the reign of Tsar Stephen Dušan (1331–1355) and his successors, Dumbarton Oaks, ISBN 0-88402-137-8
  • Treadgold, Warren T. (1997), A History of the Byzantine State and Society, Stanford University Press, ISBN 0-8047-2630-2