This article examines some of the exiled claimants to Byzantine imperial descent and to lands that had been lost to the Ottoman conquest. Rather than dismiss them as eccentrics or frauds, it argues that their titles and claims were, first, a way to gain sympathy and support from the host population while reminding them of the losses that the Christian Balkan population had suffered. Secondly, they were a way of signaling a claim to leadership among the Balkan diaspora. It briefly examines the first generation that fled to Italy in the later fifteenth century, then the second generation that inherited and continued to exploit those claims, notably Constantine Komnenos Arianites (1457–1530), who called himself Prince of Macedonia, Duke of Achaia, and despot of the Morea. Although men like Arianites had little success in vindicating their claims, they aspired to be the voice of irredentist sentiment among a dispossessed people.
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