Letter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexius III Angelo Comno to the Genoese

Lettera dell'Imperatore bizantino Alessio III Angelo Comneno ai genovesi

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Technique and Dimensions:

Paper document, mm 350 x 265


Secret archive, treaties and negotiations, 2737 D, doc. E


Byzantine chancery, 1199

Object Type:

Manuscript document

The State Archives of Genoa remained the only archive in the world to preserve original Byzantine documents from the twelfth century. The second half of the century was particularly turbulent for relations between Genoa and Byzantium. Raids and looting hit on several occasions the embolus of Santa Croce, the settlement area of the Genoese in Constantinople, as well as the other Latin settlements in the city. The Genoese respond with the raids of the pirate Gafforio and other privateers against the coasts and islands of the Aegean islands. In 1199, Emperor Alexis III Angelo Comneno sent this basilikòn ("royal writing") to resume diplomatic relations. This type of letter is the main tool used by the Byzantine chancellery for the care of international relations with the West. Between the Greek text and its Latin translation, the emperor affixed with his own hand and with red ink, obtained with cinnabar and the use of which was reserved only for him, the date (menologue) which was valid as a signature. Following this gesture by the Byzantine emperor, Ambassador Nicolò Medico in 1201 obtained the allocation of a new neighbourhood for the Genoese.