FHW Button

Pronoia: the beneficiaries

he original nature of the institution of pronoia was mainly related to the military organisation of the state. To deal with the problem of the lack of government funds and with the need to meet military expenses in some way, the state would grant soldiers a pronoia to provide them with a means of subsistance, while they, in return, would offer military service. In the late Byzantine period, however, this institution assumed a far greater importance and the system was very widely used. It was particularly common in the Empire of Nicaea, as well as in the Despotate of Epiros. During the time of John Vatatzes (1222-1254) mainly the Empire of Nicaea was split up and distributed among military, political and Church officials as well as monasteries. Women, too, are recorded as beneficiaries. Personalities such as Sygrares and George Petritzes, or monasteries such as that of the Lembiotissa are examples of holders of large areas of land. Members of the imperial family were also favoured by the institution of pronoia, to such a degree that in certain cases they were in possession of whole areas of land with their revenues. Thus, for instance, according to the historian George Pachymeres, Michael VIII Palaiologos gave his brother John the entire islands of Rhodes and Lesbos, as well as vast expanses in continental Greece.

The question of the social status of the pronoiars has been extensively discussed. These beneficiaries might belong either to the higher or to the lower nobility, depending on their financial situation. It is probably worth noting that the holders of large military pronoiai did not serve as simple soldiers but as officers.

See also: Soldiers
George Pachymeres