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The Metochites family

he name of the Metochites family comes from the word metochion (meaning a small, dependent monastery). Among the members of the family who were involved in the ecclesiastical and political administration, the one who particularly stands out is Theodore Metochites (1270-1332). He is a typical example of a man who rose to a high position in the social and political hierarchy, not because of his origins but mainly because of his personal abilities and his fine education.

Metochites grew up in Constantinople in a cultured and refined environment, but his family was later exiled to Asia Minor, since his father, George, had declared himself in favour of union with the Latin Church, which meant that, in essence, his family were oppponents of the Emperor. However, Metochites attracted the attention of Andronikos II and soon became the Emperor's close collaborator and counsellor. He earned several titles, the most important one being that of megas logothetes (1321-28), a position he attained by supplanting Nikephoros Choumnos, who from then on became his bitterest enemy. The immense wealth of Metochites came from imperial donations. He allied himself to the imperial family by marrying his daughter Irene to John Palaiologos, a nephew of the Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos. In spite of this, his career ended when Andronikos III ascended the throne. He was stripped of his wealth and sent into exile.

Metochites was a scholar, one of the most important writers of Byzantium, and a patron of the arts. He was responsible for the restoration work carried out between 1316 and 1321 on the Chora monastery, to which, moreover, he donated his library, thus making it the richest library in Constantinople. He was a prolific writer; his literary output is estimated to have reached 90,000 pages, among which outstanding are his essays on rhetoric, history, philosophy and astronomy. He died, as monk Theoleptos, at the Chora monastery in 1322.

See also : Chora monastery
Thodore Metochites