he Kantakouzenoi, whose aristocratic lineage goes back to the end of the 11th century, were one of the greatest land-owning families in the realm. The name Kantakouzenos is a compound one and probably comes from the words "kata-kouzenan" or "kata-kouzenon". Since Kouzenas was the name of a place near Smyrna, one may assume that the family had come from Asia Minor, where its original property lay. Towards the middle of the 14th century, the lands owned by the Kantakouzenoi extended around the town of Serres, in all of Thessaly as well as in Constantinople.
Members of the family had already been active in the army since 1258, and many had earned titles and governed areas such as Epiros and the Peloponnese. Their important role in the political administration is proven by the active participation of
Although the Kantakouzenoi adhered to the principle of endogamy, it is worth mentioning that, for diplomatic reasons, members of the family were occasionally forced to marry outside the aristocratic circles of the capital. Such was the case, in 1346, when the daughter of John VI married the Ottoman prince
Many Kantakouzenoi also became prominent patrons of the arts and letters. In 1365, for instance, the despotes