The Byzantine Empire or Byzantium–was able to survive for centuries after the fall of Rome (to read more about the creation and fall of the Rome follow this link: http://josetaboadaberenguer.blogspot.ae/2017/02/all-you-need-to-know-about-roman-history.html) . The citizens of Constantinople and the rest of the Eastern Roman Empire identified strongly as Romans and Christians, though many of them spoke Greek and not Latin.
Though Byzantium was ruled by Roman law and Roman political institutions, and its official language was Latin, Greek was also widely spoken, and students received education in Greek history, literature and culture. In terms of religion, the Council of Chalcedon in 451 officially established the division of the Christian world into five patriarchates, each ruled by a patriarch: Rome (where the patriarch would later call himself pope), Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. The Byzantine emperor was the patriarch of Constantinople, and the head of both church and state. (After the Islamic empire absorbed Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem in the seventh century, the Byzantine emperor would become the spiritual leader of most eastern Christians.). The Church in Egypt (Patriarchate of Alexandria) split into two groups following the Council of Chalcedon (451), over a dispute about the relation between the divine and human natures of Jesus. Eventually this led to each group anathematizing the other. Those who disagreed with the findings of the Council of Chalcedon are today known as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. In terms of Christology, the Oriental Orthodox (Non-Chalcedonians) understanding is that Christ is "One Nature—the Logos Incarnate," of the full humanity and full divinity. The Chalcedonians' understanding is that Christ is in two natures, full humanity and full divinity. Just as humans are of their mothers and fathers and not in their mothers and fathers, so too is the nature of Christ according to Oriental Orthodoxy. If Christ is in full humanity and in full divinity, then He is separate in two persons as the Nestorians teach. This is the doctrinal perception that makes the apparent difference which separated the Oriental Orthodox from the Eastern Orthodox.
Justinian I, who took power in 527 and would rule until his death in 565, was the first great ruler of the Byzantine Empire. During the years of his reign, the empire included most of the land surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, as Justinian’s armies conquered part of the former Western Roman Empire, including North Africa. Many great monuments of the empire would be built under Justinian, including the domed Church of Holy Wisdom, or Hagia Sophia . Justinian also reformed and recodified the Roman law, establishing a Byzantine legal code called " the Corpus Juris Civilis or Justinian's Code, that would endure for centuries and help shape the modern concept of the state. The idea of Justinian was to compile all existing Roman law into one body, which would serve to convey the historical tradition, culture, and language of Roman law throughout the empire. How far the Corpus Iuris Civilis or any of its parts was effective, whether in the east or (with reconquest) in the west, is unknown. Roman law experienced a revival that began at the University of Bologna, Italy, in the eleventh century and spread throughout Europe. Surviving manuscript copies of Justinian's compilation were rediscovered and systematically studied and reproduced. These new editions of the compilation, which were given the name Corpus iuris civilis ("body of civil law"), became the foundational source for Roman law in the Western tradition. All later systems of law in the West borrowed heavily from it, including the civil law systems of Western continental Europe, Latin America, and parts of Africa and to a lesser but still notable extent the English common law system, from which American law is principally derived.
Because of his restoration activities, Justinian has sometimes been called the "last Roman" in modern historiography.This ambition was expressed by the partial recovery of the territories of the defunct western Roman empire.
Around 525, he married his mistress, Theodora, in Constantinople. She was by profession a courtesan and some twenty years his junior. In marrying her Justinian defied convention and generated a certain degree of scandal because she had formerly been an actress and worked as a prostitute. In earlier times, Justinian could not have married her because of her class, but his uncle, Emperor Justin I, had passed a law allowing intermarriage between social classes. Theodora would become very influential in the politics of the Empire, and later emperors would follow Justinian's precedent in marrying outside the aristocratic class. The marriage caused a scandal, but Theodora would prove to be shrewd judge of character and Justinian's greatest supporter. When Justinian became Emperor Theodora took an active and powerful role beside her husband who clearly valued her abilities and intelligence. He would often turnto her for advice and support throughout his reign.
Theodora proved herself a worthy and able leader during the Nika riots. There were two rival political factions in the Empire, the Blues and the Greens, who started a riot in January 532 during a chariot race in the hippodrome. The riots stemmed from many grievances, some from Justinian's and Theodora's own actions. The rioters set many public buildings on fire, and proclaimed a new emperor, Hypatius, the nephew of former emperor Anastasius I. Unable to control the mob, Justinian and his officials prepared to flee. At a meeting of the government council, Theodora spoke out against leaving the palace and underlined the significance of someone who died as a ruler instead of living as an exile or in hiding, reportedly saying, "royal purple is the noblest shroud".
Her determined speech convinced them all, including Justinian himself, who had been preparing to run. As a result, Justinian ordered his loyal troops led by two reliable officers, Belisarius and Mundus, to attack the demonstrators in the hippodrome. His generals attacked the hippodrome, killing (according to Procopius) over 30,000 rebels. Despite his claims that he was unwillingly named emperor by the mob, Hypatius was also put to death, apparently at Theodora's insistence. Historians agree that it was Theodora's courage and decisiveness that saved Justinian's reign. Justinian never forgot that it was Theodora who had saved his throne.
Theodora died of what Victor of Tonnena described as "cancer" on 28 June 548 at the age of 48. Later accounts frequently attribute the death to breast cancer, although it was not identified as such in the original report where the use of the term "cancer" probably referred to "a suppurating ulcer or malignant tumor". Justinian wept bitterly at her funeral. Her body was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles, in Constantinople. Both Theodora and Justinian are represented in mosaics that exist to this day in the Basilica of San Vitale of Ravenna, Italy, which was completed a year before her death.
|Empress Theodora and attendants (mosaic from Basilica of San Vitale, 6th century).|
The plague weakened the Byzantine Empire at a critical point, when Justinian's armies had nearly retaken all of Italy and the western Mediterranean coast; this evolving conquest would have reunited the core of the Western Roman Empire with the Eastern Roman Empire. Although the conquest occurred in 554, the reunification did not last long. In 568, the Lombards invaded northern Italy, defeated the small Byzantine army that had been left behind, and established the Kingdom of the Lombards. This began the fragmentation of Italy, which lasted until the Risorgimento of the 19th century. The plague may have also contributed to the success of the Arabs a few generations later in the Byzantine-Arab Wars.
The Emperor continued to rule until his death in 565 AD and was succeeded by his nephew Justin. The reign of Justin II saw the Avars ,a Caucasian native ethnic group, invade Thrace and successfully resist the army the Emperor sent against them. Justin was forced to pay a tribute to them to ensure peace. When Justin died in 578 AD, he was succeeded by Tiberius who had failed to defeat the Avar forces. His reign was brief, ending with his death in 582 AD, but, before he died, he appointed a general called Maurice as his successor. Perhaps the major achievements of Maurice’s reign were the creation of the Exarchates of Carthage and Ravenna in an attempt to retain Byzantine territories. Both were ruled by an Exarch, or provincial governor, who had ultimate power over all matters within the imperial domains. Continuing conflict with the Avars and dissatisfaction with his reign led the army to revolt against him in 602 AD. A centurion called Phokas was elected from the ranks to replace him. Made Emperor with the help of the Greens, Phokas ordered the execution of Maurice and his family.
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641. He was responsible for introducing Greek as the Eastern Empire's official language in 620. Heraclius's reign was marked by several military campaigns. The year Heraclius came to power, the empire was threatened on multiple frontiers. Heraclius immediately took charge of the ongoing war against the Sassanids. The first battles of the campaign ended in defeat for the Byzantines; the Persian army fought their way to the Bosphorus; however, because Constantinople was protected by impenetrable walls and a strong navy, Heraclius was able to avoid total defeat. Soon after, he initiated reforms to rebuild and strengthen the military. Heraclius drove the Persians out of Asia Minor and pushed deep into their territory, defeating them decisively in 627 at the Battle of Nineveh. The Persian king Khosrau II was overthrown and executed soon by his son Kavadh II who soon sued for a peace treaty agreeing to withdraw from all occupied territory. This way peaceful relations were restored to the two deeply strained empires. Heraclius was long remembered favourably in the Western church for his reputed feat in recovering the True Cross, which had been captured by the Persians.
Legend of the True Cross by by Piero della Francesca shows The Battle of Heraclius and Khosrau; defeat and decapitation of the latter
The Battle of Yarmouk was a major battle between the army of the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim Arab forces of the Rashidun Caliphate. The battle consisted of a series of engagements that lasted for six days in August 636, near the Yarmouk River, along what today are the borders of Syria-Jordan and Syria-Israel, east of the Sea of Galilee. The result of the battle was a complete Muslim victory which ended Byzantine rule in Syria. The Battle of Yarmouk is regarded as one of the most decisive battles in military history, and it marked the first great wave of Islamic conquests after the death of Muhammad, heralding the rapid advance of Islam into the then Christian Levant. George F. Nafziger, in his book Islam at war, describes the battle as:
“ Although Yarmouk is little known today, it is one of the most decisive battles in human history...... Had Heraclius' forces prevailed, the modern world would be so changed as to be unrecognizable".
When news of the disaster reached the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius at Antioch, he was devastated and enraged. He blamed his wrongdoings for the loss, primarily referring to his incestuous marriage to his niece Martina. He summoned a meeting of his advisers at the cathedral and scrutinized the situation. He was told almost unanimously, and accepted the fact, that the defeat was God's decision and a result of the sins of the people of the land, including him. Heraclius took to the sea on a ship to Constantinople in the night. It is said that as his ship set sail, he bade a last farewell to Syria, saying:
"Farewell, a long farewell to Syria, my fair province. Thou art an infidel's (enemy's) now. Peace be with you, O Syria – what a beautiful land you will be for the enemy"
Heraclius abandoned Syria with the holy relic of the True Cross which was, along with other relics held at Jerusalem, secretly boarded on ship by Parthia of Jerusalem, just to protect it from the invading Arabs.
Following the success over the Byzantines in Syria, commander Amr ibn al-'As crossed the Sinai Peninsula with 3,500-4,000 men. After some skirmishes south of the area, Amr marched north towards Heliopolis, with 12,000 men reinforcements who had arrived on 6 June 640 reaching him from Syria, against the Byzantine forces in Egypt, under general Theodorus. The resulting Muslim victory at the Battle of Heliopolis brought about the fall of much of the country. The Byzantine capital of Alexandria, which had been the capital of Egypt for a thousand years, surrendered a few months after that. By the time of Heraclius' death in Constantinople, on February 11, 641, most of Egypt had fallen as well. A peace treaty was signed in late 641, in the ruins of a palace in Memphis.
|Map detailing the route of the Muslims' invasion of Egypt.|
An excellent example of how the Byzantines were able to innovate in order to overcome crises is their development and use of a devastatingly effective chemical weapon known as ‘Greek fire’. Its importance was such that its formula was a state secret guarded by the Emperor and it is now lost to us. Contemporary accounts describe a flammable, sticky incendiary liquid that burned with incredible intensity and that water could not extinguish. In fact, contact with water often served only to spread the liquid.
|Greek fire was first used by the Byzantine Navy during the Byzantine-Arab Wars (from the Madrid Skylitzes)|
In 649 AD they attacked the Byzantine island of Cyprus and caused considerable damage to the capital and its port although they did not capture the whole island.
In the 670s the Bulgars were pushed south of the Danube by the arrival of the Khazars, and in 680 Byzantine forces which had been sent to disperse these new settlements were defeated. In the next year Constantine IV signed a treaty with the Bulgar khan Asparukh, and the new Bulgarian state assumed sovereignty over a number of Slavic tribes which had previously, at least in name, recognized Byzantine rule.
The 7th century was a period of radical transformation. The empire which had once stretched from Spain to Jerusalem was now reduced to Anatolia, Chersonesos, and some fragments of Italy and the Balkans. The territorial losses were accompanied by a cultural shift; urban civilization was massively disrupted, classical literary genres were abandoned in favor of theological treatises, and a new "radically abstract" style emerged in the visual arts. That the empire survived this period at all is somewhat surprising, especially given the total collapse of the Sassanid Empire in the face of the Arab expansion, but a remarkably coherent military reorganization helped to withstand the exterior pressures and laid the groundwork for the gains of the following dynasty.
The Arabian forces besieged the Constantinople from 717 AD to 718 AD but were beaten back.
|The Byzantine Empire at the accession of Leo III,|
In 732, Emperor Leo III the Isaurian, in revenge for the opposition of Pope Gregory III to the emperor's iconoclast policies, transferred Sicily, Calabria and Illyria from the patriarchate of Rome (whose jurisdiction until then extended as far east as Thessalonica) to that of Constantinople.
The 8th and 9th centuries were also dominated by controversy and religious division over Iconoclasm. Icons were banned by Leo and Constantine V, leading to revolts by iconodules (supporters of icons) throughout the empire. After the efforts of Empress Irene, the Second Council of Nicaea met in 787, and affirmed that icons could be venerated but not worshiped.
In the West, Charles, the son of Pepin the Short, was crowned ‘Emperor of the Romans’ by Pope Leo III in 800 AD. The decision to name Charles Emperor caused consternation among the people of Constantinople who considered their own Emperors to be the direct successors to the Roman Empire. Charles, better known to history as Charlemagne, made an offer of marriage to Irene but she was deposed before she had time to accept. Nicephorus I refused to recognise Charlemagne's position and merely ignored these claims by Charlemagne. This inflexible policy by Nicephorus I had resulted in a naval war with Franks which indirectly led to the official separation of the city of Venice from the Byzantine Empire.
During the reign of Michael III, the public veneration of icons resumed. In private, it had probably never really ended. The threat posed by the Bulgars under their King Krum which had become very evident in the crisis of 811 AD forced Michael I to reverse the policy of non-recognition of Charlemagne.
The Bulgar threat required Michael I to reverse Nicephorus' policy and recognise Charlemagne and open peace negotiations with him in order to avoid war with both the Franks under Charlemagne and with the Bulgars at the same time. This reversal of policy and the agreement reached with Charlemagne had long range implications. Under the terms of the treaty between Charlemagne and the Byzantine Empire, Charlemagne received recognition of his imperial title to the lands he held in the west and, in exchange, Charlemagne dropped all his claims to the throne or any part of the Byzantine Empire.
His failure to achieve success against the Bulgar would cause a revolt against him which would end his reign in 813 AD. The military would rise up against Michael I. The leader of this revolt was the Armenian commander of the army who would take the throne under the name of Leo V.
Leo V the Armenian (813-820 AD) restored the policy of iconoclasm. This started the period of history called the "Second Iconclasm" which would last from 813 until 842 AD. Only in 843, would Empress Theodora restore the veneration of the icons with the help of Patriarch Methodios.
In 863 the King of Moravia asked the Emperor Michael III for a teacher who could preach the Christian faith to his subjects in their own language. A Byzantine monk named Cyril and his brother Methodius evolved a Slavic alphabet and set out to convert the Moravians. Although his attempts with them failed, his followers succeeded among the Bulgarians. By the 10th Century other countries, including Russia, had joined the Orthodox fold, and Cyril's written language eventually became, in modified forms, the basis for the culture of the entire Slavic world.
In 865 AD, Michael III succeeded in forcing the Bulgar Khan Boris and his people to adopt Orthodox Christianity. The Khan was baptised in 865 AD in Constantinople. During this period theological controversy raged between the churches of Rome and Constantinople over what was termed the Filioque dispute. In the Eastern Church the Holy Ghost was said to proceed from the Father but, in the West, an insertion had been added to the Nicene Creed. The addition was the word Filioque meaning ‘and the Son’ and had now become accepted in the Western Church. For the Eastern Church, this was heresy and a challenge to its authority. Once again Rome and Constantinople were vying with one another for religious supremacy. In 867, Photius was Patriarch of Constantinople and issued an Encyclical to the Eastern Patriarchs, and called a council in Constantinople in which he charged the Western Church with heresy and schism because of differences in practices, in particular for the Filioque and the authority of the Papacy. This moved the issue from jurisdiction and custom to one of dogma. This council declared Pope Nicholas anathema, excommunicated and deposed. In fact Rome didnt include that term in the Creed, it was Charlemagne, who in 800 had been crowned in Rome as Emperor, who requested Pope Leo III the inclusion of the Filioque in the Latin Creed used in Rome in order to find grounds for accusations of heresy against the East. Pope Leo approved the Filioque doctrine, but opposed adding the Filioque to the Creed, and had two heavy silver shields made and displayed in St Peter's, containing the original text of the Creed of 381 in both Greek and Latin, adding: "I, Leo, have placed these for love and protection of the orthodox faith". The Orthodox believe that the absence of an explicit mention of the double procession of the Holy Spirit in the Scripture is a strong indication that the filioque is a theologically erroneous doctrine. However in John 16:13-15 Jesus says of the Holy Spirit "he will take what is mine and declare it to you", and it is argued that in the relations between the Persons of the Trinity one Person cannot "take" or "receive" anything from either of the others except by way of procession. In any case The Eastern church believes by the Western church inserting the Filioque unilaterally (without consulting or holding council with the East) into the Creed that the Western church broke communion with the East.
In 866 AD, Michael III took the fateful step of raising a personal friend, known as Basil the Macedonian, to the level of co-Emperor. Basil I inaugurated a new age in the history of the Byzantine Empire, associated with the dynasty which he founded, the so-called "Macedonian dynasty". This dynasty oversaw a period of territorial expansion, during which Byzantium was the strongest power in Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. It is remarkable that Basil I became an effective and respected monarch, ruling for 19 years, despite being a man with no formal education and no military or administrative experience. Moreover, he had been the boon companion of a debauched monarch and had achieved power through a series of calculated murders, included the assesination of Michael III. On the night of September 24, 867, Michael was insensibly drunk following a banquet at the palace of Anthimos when Basil, with a small group of companions (including his father Bardas, brother Marinos, and cousin Ayleon), gained entry. The locks to the chamber doors had been tampered with and the chamberlain had not posted guards; Michael was then put to the sword.
In the early years of Basil I's reign, Arab raids on the coasts of Dalmatia were successfully repelled, and the region once again came under secure Byzantine control. This enabled Byzantine missionaries to penetrate to the interior and convert the Serbs and the principalities of modern-day Herzegovina and Montenegro to Orthodox Christianity. The attempt to retake Malta ended disastrously, however, when the local population sided with the Arabs and massacred the Byzantine garrison.
Under Leo VI the Wise, the gains in the east against the now weak Abbasid Caliphate continued. However, Sicily was lost to the Arabs in 902, and in 904 Thessaloniki, the Empire's second city, was sacked by an Arab fleet.
Under the rule of the Macedonian dynasty, the Byzantine Empire enjoyed a golden age. Though it stretched over less territory, Byzantium had more control over trade, more wealth and more international prestige than under Justinian. The strong imperial government patronized the arts, restored churches, palaces and other cultural institutions and promoted the study of ancient Greek history and literature. Greek became the official language of the state, and a flourishing culture of monasticism centered on Mount Athos in northeastern Greece. Monks administered many institutions (orphanages, schools, hospitals) in everyday life, and Byzantine missionaries won many converts to Christianity among the Slavic peoples of the central and eastern Balkans (including Bulgaria and Serbia) and Russia.
The death of the Bulgarian tsar Simeon I in 927 severely weakened the Bulgarians, allowing the Byzantines to concentrate on the eastern front. The situation on the border with the Arab territories remained fluid, with the Byzantines alternatively on the offensive or defensive.
The early years of the Basil II reign were dominated by civil war against powerful generals from the Anatolian aristocracy. Following their submission, Basil oversaw the stabilization and expansion of the eastern frontier of the Byzantine Empire, and above all, the final and complete subjugation of Bulgaria, the Empire's foremost European foe, after a prolonged struggle. For this he was nicknamed by later authors as "the Bulgar-slayer".
Basil II faced his first major crisis as ruler when Tsar Samuel of Bulgaria invaded the Byzantine province of Thessaly and captured Larissa, its main city.The capture of the city and the subsequent treatment of its citizens was said to have been particularly cruel and brutal and Basil II was determined to punish the Tsar and his forces. It was to be the first major campaign in which Basil led the army personally but, unfortunately, it was also to be his most disastrous. He made the tactical error of leading the army through a mountain pass known as Trajan’s Gate to the city of Sardica but calling a halt in order to let his rearguard catch up.This gave the Tsar an opportunity to deploy troops into the mountains. The siege of Sardica was unsuccessful and Basil led his army back through the pass of Trajan’s Gate and straight into an ambush. The army was routed although Basil and a small remainder of the troops survived. The humiliation of his defeat was to create a terrible hatred in Basil of the Bulgarian Empire and a desire for future revenge.
Basil formed an alliance with Prince Vladimir I of Kiev ruler of Kievan Rus, which was a loose federation of East Slavic tribes stretching from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea. In 988 Vladimir had captured Chersonesos, the main Imperial base in the Crimea. Vladimir offered to evacuate Chersonesos and to supply 6,000 of his soldiers as reinforcements to Basil. In exchange he demanded to be married to Basil's younger sister Anna (963–1011). At first, Basil hesitated. The Byzantines viewed all the nations of Northern Europe, be they Franks or Slavs, as barbarians. Anna herself objected to marrying a barbarian ruler, as such a marriage would have no precedence in imperial annals. Vladimir had conducted long-running research into different religions, including sending delegates to various countries. Marriage was not his primary reason for choosing the Orthodox religion. When Vladimir promised to baptize himself and to convert his people to Christianity, Basil finally agreed. Vladimir and Anna were married in the Crimea in 989. The Rus' recruitments were instrumental in ending the rebellion, and they were later organized into the Varangian Guard. This marriage had important long-term implications, marking the beginning of the process by which the Grand Duchy of Moscow many centuries later would proclaim itself "The Third Rome" and claim the political and cultural heritage of the Byzantine Empire. After Christianizing Rus Vladimir the Great employed many architects and artists to work on numerous cathedrals and churches around Rus, expanding the Byzantine influence even further. Byzantine-style writing became also a standard for the Cyrillic alphabet.
|Baptism of Saint Prince Vladimir, by Viktor Vasnetsov.|
In 1014 Basil was ready to launch a campaign aimed at destroying Bulgarian resistance. On 29 July 1014, Basil II and his general Nikephoros Xiphias outmanoeuvred the Bulgarian army, which was defending one of the fortified passes, in the Battle of Kleidion. Samuel avoided capture only through the valour of his son Gabriel. Having crushed the Bulgarians, Basil exerted his vengeance by cruelty - he was said to have captured 15,000 prisoners and blinded 99 of every 100 men, leaving one one-eyed man in each cohort to lead the rest back to their ruler. Samuel was physically struck down by the dreadful apparition of his blinded army and died two days later, on 6 October 1014, after suffering a stroke. Although the mistreatment of the Bulgarian prisoners may have been exaggerated, this incident helped give rise to Basil's Greek epithet of Boulgaroktonos, meaning "the Bulgar-slayer", in later tradition.
Following the death of Basil II an attempt was made to recapture the Sicily (the conques of the island by the Muslim Arabs was completed in 965) but proved unsuccessful and foundered in 1041 AD.
Zoe Porphyrogenita was also enthroned as the Empress Consort to a series of co-rulers beginning with Romanos III in 1028 until her death in 1050 while married to Constantine IX. Zoe lived a life of virtual obscurity in the imperial gynaeceum until circumstances (her uncle Basil II dying childless and her dying father not siring any sons) forced her into the centre of imperial politics.When she was 50 years old she married Romanos III Argyros, the urban prefect of Constantinople. Almost immediately upon marrying Romanos, the fifty-year-old Zoe tried desperately to fall pregnant. She tried using magic charms, amulets, and potions, all without effect.This failure to conceive helped alienate the couple, and soon Romanos refused to share the bed with her. Romanos incurred his wife's animosity by paying little attention to her and limiting her spending, while he tolerated her various affairs.
Spending years in the same restrictive quarters with her sister, Zoe came to loathe Theodora. She had never forgiven Theodora for being their father’s first choice to marry Romanos, so Zoe convinced Romanos to appoint one of his own men as the chief of Theodora’s household, with orders to spy on her. Shortly afterwards, Theodora was accused of plotting to usurp the throne, first with Presian of Bulgaria, followed by Constantine Diogenes, the Archon of Sirmium, in 1031. Zoe accused her of being part of the conspiracy, and Theodora was forcibly confined in the monastery of Petrion. Zoe later visited her sister and forced her to take religious vows.
In 1033, Zoe became enamoured of her courtier Michael, flaunted her lover openly, and spoke about making him emperor. Hearing the rumours, Romanos was concerned and confronted Michael, but he denied the accusations. On April 11, 1034, Romanos III was found dead in his bath, and there was speculation that Zoe and Michael had conspired to have him poisoned, then strangled or drowned. Zoe married Michael later the same day, and he reigned as Michael IV until his death in 1041. Although Zoe believed Michael would prove to be a more devoted husband than Romanos, she was sadly mistaken. Michael IV was concerned about Zoe turning on him the way she had turned on Romanos, so he excluded Zoe from politics by placing all power in the hands of Michael's brother John the Eunuch. Zoe was confined again to the palace gynaeceum, and kept under strict surveillance, while Michael’s visits grew more and more infrequent.
On 10 December 1041, Michael IV died, refusing to the last to see his wife who begged that she be allowed to see him one more time before he died, and Michael V was crowned emperor. Although he promised to respect Zoe, he promptly banished her to a monastery on Principus (one of the Princes' Islands) on charges of attempted regicide. This treatment of the legitimate heir to the Macedonian Dynasty caused a popular uprising in Constantinople, and on April 19, 1042, the people dethroned Michael V in support of not only Zoe, but Theodora as well. Michael V, desperate to keep his throne, initially brought Zoe back from Princes’ Island and displayed her to the people, but his insistence that he continue to rule alongside her was rejected. Key members of the court decided that Zoe needed a co-ruler, and that it should be her sister Theodora. A delegation headed by the Patrician Constantine Cabasilas went to the monastery at Petrion to convince Theodora to become co-empress alongside her sister. At an assembly at Hagia Sophia, the people escorted a furious Theodora from Petrion and proclaimed her empress along with Zoe. After crowning Theodora, the mob stormed the palace, forcing Michael V to escape to a monastery.
Both sisters then proceeded to administer the empire, focusing on curbing the sale of public offices and on the administration of justice. Zoe, weak and easily manipulated, wanted to pardon and free Michael, but Theodora was clear and adamant. She initially guaranteed Michael’s safety before ordering him to be blinded and to spend the rest of his life as a monk. Zoe decided to search for a new husband—her third, the last she was permitted according to the rules of the Orthodox Church. Zoe then remembered the handsome and urbane Constantine Monomachos, another former lover. The pair were married on June 11, 1042, without the participation of Patriarch Alexius I of Constantinople, who refused to officiate over a third marriage (for both spouses). On the following day Constantine was formally proclaimed emperor together with Zoe and her sister Theodora.
|Empress Zoe as depicted in a mosaic from the Hagia Sophia|
In 1053, the first step was taken in the process which led to formal schism. Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius ordered the closure of all Latin churches in Constantinople, in response to the Greek churches in southern Italy having been forced to either close or conform to Latin practices.
In constant fear of attack from the Normans in the south of Italy, the Byzantines turned in desperation to the Normans own spiritual chief, Pope Leo IX and, according to William of Apulia, begged him "to liberate Italy that now lacks its freedom and to force that wicked people, who are pressing Apulia under their yoke, to leave." After a fourth Easter synod in 1053, Leo IX set out against the Normans in the south with an army of Italians and Swabian mercenaries. "As fervent Christians the Normans were reluctant to fight their spiritual leader and tried to sue for peace but the Swabians mocked them – battle was inevitable." Leo IX led the army himself but his forces suffered total defeat at the Battle of Civitate on 15 June 1053. Nonetheless, on going out from the city to meet the victorious enemy he was received with every token of submission, pleas for forgiveness and oaths of fidelity and homage. From June 1053 to March 1054 the Pope was nevertheless held hostage at Benevento, in honourable captivity, until he acknowledged the Normans conquests in Calabria and Apulia. He did not long survive his return to Rome, where he died on 19 April 1054.
Leo IX sent a letter to Michael Cærularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, in 1054, that cited a large portion of the Donation of Constantine, believing it genuine. The Donation of Constantine (Latin: Donatio Constantini) is a forged Roman imperial decree by which the emperor Constantine the Great supposedly transferred authority over Rome and the western part of the Roman Empire to the Pope. Composed probably in the 8th century, it has been suggested that an early draft of the Donation of Constantine was made shortly after the middle of the 8th century, in order to assist Pope Stephen II in his negotiations with Pepin the Short, the Frankish Mayor of the Palace (In 754, Pope Stephen II crossed the Alps to anoint Pepin king, thereby enabling the Carolingian family to supplant the old Merovingian royal line. In return for Stephen's support, Pepin gave the Pope the lands in Italy which the Lombards had taken from the Byzantine Empire.These lands would become the Papal States and would be the basis of the Papacy's temporal power for the next eleven centuries). Leo IX didnt know that this was forgery and assured the Patriarch that the donation was completely genuine, not a fable, so only the apostolic successor to Peter possessed that primacy and was the rightful head of all the Church. Before his death, Leo IX had sent a legatine mission under Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida to Constantinople to negotiate with Patriarch Michael I Cerularius in response to his actions concerning the church in Constantinople. The church in Constantinople stated that the 28th Canon of the Council of Chalcedon explicitly proclaimed the equality of the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople and that it established the highest court of ecclesiastical appeal in Constantinople. Humbert quickly disposed of negotiations by delivering a bull excommunicating the Patriarch. This act, though legally invalid due to the Pope's death at the time, was answered by the Patriarch's own bull of excommunication against Humbert and his associates and is popularly considered the official split between the Eastern and Western Churches. The Patriarch rejected the claims of papal primacy, and subsequently the One Church was split in two in the Great East–West Schism of 1054. During the Middle Ages, the Donation was widely accepted as authentic. It was not until the mid-15th century, with the revival of Classical scholarship and textual criticism, that humanists, and eventually the papal bureaucracy, began to realize that the Donation of Constantine could not possibly be genuine.
In 1064 the Seljuk Turks conquered Ani, the Armenian capital. In 1067 Armenia was finally taken by the Seljuks, followed by Caesarea.
In 1068, Romanus IV took power, and after a few speedy military reforms he entrusted Manuel Komnenos (nephew of the late Isaac I Komnenos) to lead an expedition against the Seljuks, allowing him to capture the city of Hierapolis Bambyce in Syria. A Turkish attack against Iconium was thwarted when a Byzantine counter-attack from Syria ended in victory. Despite the failure of the campaign, the Sultan had been quick to seek a peace treaty with the Byzantines; he regarded the Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt as his main enemy and had no desire to engage with the Byzantines in unnecessary hostilities.
In 1071 the Seljuqs crushed an imperial army at the Battle of Manzikert (in eastern Asia Minor). Romanus led a large army into Armenia in order to recover the lost fortresses before the Seljuks had time to respond. The strength of the Seljuk troops was greater than the Emperor had anticipated. His general Bryennius was captured and many of those with him were killed. Romanus IV was brought before Alp Arslan and it seems that the Turkish leader treated his prisoner with great courtesy and respect. He even offered a truce between the two sides and, although he asked for the surrender of several cities, his demands were said to have been surprisingly moderate.The Emperor had little choice but to accep.
The fallout from Manzikert was certainly disastrous for the Byzantines, resulting in civil conflicts and an economic crisis that severely weakened the Byzantine Empire's ability to adequately defend its borders. The result of this disastrous defeat was, in simplest terms, the loss of the Eastern Roman Empire's Anatolian heartland.Byzantine historians would often look back and lament the "disaster" of that day, pinpointing it as the moment the decline of the Empire began.
|Byzantium by 1080|
By the mid-1090s, the Byzantine Empire was largely confined to Balkan Europe and the northwestern fringe of Anatolia, and faced Norman enemies in the west as well as Turks in the east. In response to the defeat at Manzikert and subsequent Byzantine losses in Anatolia in 1074, Pope Gregory VII had called for the milites Christi ("soldiers of Christ") to go to Byzantium's aid. This call, was largely ignored and even opposed. The reason for this was that while the defeat at Manzikert was shocking, it had limited significance and did not lead to major difficulties for the Byzantine empire, at least in the short term.
The First Crusade (1096–1099) was the first of a number of crusades that attempted to capture the Holy Lands, called by Pope Urban II in 1095. It started as a widespread pilgrimage in western christendom and ended as a military expedition by Roman Catholic Europe to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquests of the Levant. It was launched on 27 November 1095 by Pope Urban II at the Council of Piacenza, with the primary goal of responding to an appeal from Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, who requested that western volunteers come to his aid and help to repel the invading Seljuq Turks from Anatolia. An additional goal soon became the principal objective—the Christian reconquest of the sacred city of Jerusalem and the Holy Land and the freeing of the Eastern Christians from Muslim rule.
In the early summer of 1096, the first large unruly group arrived on the outskirts of Constantinople. This wave was reported to be undisciplined and ill equipped as an army. This first group is often called the Peasants’ or People’s Crusade. It was led by Peter the Hermit and Walter Sans Avoir and had no knowledge of or respect for the wishes of Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Comnenus. The vast majority of the pilgrims were slaughtered by the swords and arrows of the Turks, or were enslaved. Left in Constantinople with the small number of surviving followers, during the winter of 1096–1097, with little hope of securing Byzantine support, the People's Crusade awaited the coming of the armed crusaders as their sole source of protection to complete the pilgrimage.
The second wave was led by Hugh I, Count of Vermandois. He was also the brother of King Philip I of France. Among the second wave was Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse and the army of Provinçals. Prior to his arrival, Hugh allegedly sent an arrogant, insulting letter to Eastern Roman Emperor Alexius I Comnenus. According to the Emperor's biography written by his daughter Anna Comnena (the Alexiad), he demanded that Alexius meet with him:
"Know, O King, that I am King of Kings, and superior to all, who are under the sky. You are now permitted to greet me, on my arrival, and to receive me with magnificence, as befits my nobility."
The crusader armies crossed over into Asia Minor during the first half of 1097, where they were joined by Peter the Hermit and the remainder of his little army. The city of Nicae was subjected to a lengthy siege, and when Arslan had word of it he rushed back to Nicaea and attacked the crusader army on 16 May. He was driven back by the unexpectedly large crusader force, with heavy losses being suffered on both sides in the ensuing battle. The city was handed over to the Byzantine troops, which has often been depicted as a source of conflict between the Empire and the crusaders; Byzantine standards flew from the walls while the crusaders were forbidden from looting the city or even entering it except in small escorted bands. However, this policy was in accordance with the previous oaths made to Alexios, and the emperor ensured that the crusaders were well-paid for their efforts.
In June 1098 AD Antioch was taken and the crusaders remained in the area for the rest of the year. The campaign continued southward and on 7 June 1099, the crusaders reached Jerusalem, which had been recaptured from the Seljuqs by the Fatimids only the year before. Many Crusaders wept upon seeing the city they had journeyed so long to reach. As with Antioch the crusaders put the city to a siege, in which the crusaders themselves probably suffered more than the citizens of the city, due to the lack of food and water around Jerusalem. The city was well-prepared for the siege, and the Fatimid governor Iftikhar ad-Daula had expelled most of the Christians. Of the estimated 5,000 knights who took part in the Princes' Crusade, only about 1,500 remained, along with another 12,000 healthy foot-soldiers.
On the night of July 14, the crusaders launched a two-pronged assault on the walls. One tower was to the south, the other to the northwest. The Muslims knew that if one siege tower breached the walls, Jerusalem would fall. ccording to the Gesta two Flemish knights from Tournai named Lethalde and Engelbert were the first to cross into the city, followed by Godfrey, his brother Eustace, Tancred, and their men. Raymond's tower was at first stopped by a ditch, but as the other crusaders had already entered, the Muslim guarding the gate retreated. Although the Crusaders killed many of the Muslim and Jewish residents, eyewitness accounts (Gesta Francorum, Raymond of Aguilers, and the Cairo Geniza documents) demonstrate that some Muslim and Jewish residents were allowed to live, as long as they left Jerusalem.
Following the battle, Godfrey of Bouillon was made Advocatus Sancti Sepulchri ("advocate" or "defender of the Holy Sepulchre") on July 22, refusing to be named king in the city where Christ had died, saying that he refused to wear a crown of gold in the city where Christ wore a crown of thorns. Raymond had refused any title at all, and Godfrey convinced him to give up the Tower of David as well. Raymond then went on a pilgrimage, and in his absence Arnulf of Chocques, whom Raymond had opposed due to his own support for Peter Bartholomew, was elected the first Latin Patriarch on August 1 (the claims of the Greek Patriarch were ignored). On August 5, Arnulf, after consulting the surviving inhabitants of the city, discovered the relic of the True Cross.
After the First Crusade and the minor Crusade of 1101 there were three crusader states established in the east: the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Principality of Antioch, and the County of Edessa.
John II Komnenos was Byzantine Emperor from 1118 to 1143. Also known as "John the Beautiful" or "John the Good" (Kaloïoannes), he was the eldest son of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and Irene Doukaina and the second emperor to rule during the Komnenian restoration of the Byzantine Empire. John was a pious and dedicated monarch who was determined to undo the damage his empire had suffered following the battle of Manzikert, half a century earlier. Famed for his piety and his remarkably mild and just reign, John was an exceptional example of a moral ruler, at a time when cruelty was the norm. For this reason, he has been called the Byzantine Marcus Aurelius. In the course of his twenty-five year reign, John made alliances with the Holy Roman Empire in the west, decisively defeated the Pechenegs at the Battle of Beroia, and personally led numerous campaigns against the Turks in Asia Minor. In an effort to demonstrate the Byzantine emperor's role as the leader of the Christian world, John marched into the Holy Land at the head of the combined forces of Byzantium and the Crusader states; yet despite the great vigour with which he pressed the campaign, John's hopes were disappointed by the treachery of his Crusader allies.
John II Komnenos left the empire a great deal better off than he had found it. By the time of his death substantial territories had been recovered, and the goals of the recovery of control over central Anatolia and the re-establishment of a frontier on the Euphrates seemed achievable. However, the Greeks of the interior of Anatolia were becoming increasingly accustomed to Turkish rule and often found it preferable to that of Byzantium.
The County of Edessa fell in 1144. Pilgrims from the east had brought news of the fall of Edessa to Europe throughout 1145, and embassies from the Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the Kingdom of Armenia soon arrived directly at the papal court at Viterbo. Pope Eugenius III issued a papal bull calling for a Second Crusade. It was the first papal bull issued with a crusade as its subject. The bull was addressed directly to Louis VII of France and his subjects, and promised the remission of sins for all those who took the cross, as well as ecclesiastical protection for their families and possessions. This crusade was the first of the crusades to be led by European kings, namely Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany, with help from a number of other European nobles. The armies of the two kings marched separately across Europe. After crossing Byzantine territory into Anatolia, both armies were separately defeated by the Seljuq Turks. The main Western Christian source, Odo of Deuil, and Syriac Christian sources claim that the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Komnenos secretly hindered the crusaders' progress, particularly in Anatolia where he is alleged to have deliberately ordered Turks to attack them. Louis and Conrad and the remnants of their armies reached Jerusalem and, in 1148, participated in an ill-advised attack on Damascus. The crusade in the east was a failure for the crusaders and a great victory for the Muslims. It would ultimately have a key influence on the fall of Jerusalem and give rise to the Third Crusade at the end of the 12th century.
John's chosen heir was his fourth son, Manuel I Komnenos, who campaigned aggressively against his neighbours both in the west and in the east. Manuel reinforced his position as overlord of the Crusader states, with his hegemony over Antioch and Jerusalem secured by agreement with Raynald, Prince of Antioch, and Amalric, King of Jerusalem respectively. In an effort to restore Byzantine control over the ports of southern Italy, he sent an expedition to Italy in 1155, but disputes within the coalition led to the eventual failure of the campaign. Despite this military setback, Manuel's armies successfully invaded the Kingdom of Hungary in 1167, defeating the Hungarians at the Battle of Sirmium. By 1168 nearly the whole of the eastern Adriatic coast lay in Manuel's hands. Manuel made several alliances with the Pope and Western Christian kingdoms, and successfully handled the passage of the Second Crusade through his empire.Manuel's role as protector of the Orthodox Christians and Christian holy places in general is also evident in his successful attempts to secure rights over the Holy Land. Manuel participated in the building and decorating of many of the basilicas and Greek monasteries in the Holy Land, including the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where thanks to his efforts the Byzantine clergy were allowed to perform the Greek liturgy each day.
The death of Manuel I Comnenus in 1180 precipitated a dark and troubled episode in the history of Byzantium. Manuel had been fascinated by the culture and customs of Western Europe and had married a Latin, Mary of Antioch. Although his son, Alexius II Comnenus, was named as his successor, he was still a child and his mother ruled as Regent in his stead. This created great resentment in Constantinople where many were appalled that a foreign barbarian should hold so much power and feared an increase in Western influence on the Empire. The first cousin of the young Emperor,Andronicus Comnenus, capitalised on the unpopularity of Mary of Antioch and staged a coup, supported by the people of Constantinople. It was to be a bloody and vicious insurrection that would set the tone for his subsequent reign and earn him the epithet of Andronicus the Terrible. The young Emperor and his mother were imprisoned and then killed and a terrible massacre of the Latin population of Constantinople followed. The ensuing massacre was indiscriminate: neither women nor children were spared, and Latin patients lying in hospital beds were murdered. Houses, churches, and charities were looted.Latin clergymen received special attention, and Cardinal John, the papal legate, was beheaded and his head was dragged through the streets at the tail of a dog. Although precise numbers are unavailable, the bulk of the Latin community, estimated at 60,000 at the time by Eustathius of Thessalonica, was wiped out or forced to flee. The massacre further worsened the image of the Byzantines in the West, and although regular trade agreements were soon resumed between Byzantium and Latin states, the underlying hostility would remain, leading to a spiraling chain of hostilities. Andronicus became Emperor in 1183 but he soon faced a major invasion by Norman Sicilian forces who captured the strategically important harbour of Durazzo in 1185. Within the Empire, Andronicus began a sadistic campaign of violence against what he saw as corruption within the state that would change his popular status from saviour to tyrant. The Sicilian army then marched on Thessalonica, which Andronicus had ordered to be prepared for the oncoming assault, but, through the incompetence of its Governor, it fell to the invaders. The sack of Thessalonica, with the slaughter of its citizens and the profanation of its Holy Places, was particularly shocking. As many as 8,000 people are claimed to have been killed by the Normans before order was restored.The Norman army then marched on Constantinople. In the face of this catastrophe the people of Constantinople rebelled against Andronicus and his cousin Isaac Angelus was crowned Emperor. Andronicus failed to oppose the coup effectively and was subsequently handed to the people who killed him. Isaac mobilised all the troops at his disposal and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Normans. When the news of the defeat of the main Norman army reached Thessalonica, the people of the city overwhelmed the garrison and the remaining Norman survivors. Isaac had succeeded in averting disaster at a time of crisis – a triumph that in many ways typifies the spirit and character of the Byzantine Empire – but, as always, new threats would emerge in the near future.
Catholic historian Warren Carroll notes that "Historians who wax eloquent and indignant—with considerable reason—about the sack of Constantinople ... rarely if ever mention the massacre of the Westerners in ... 1182."
In 1187 the city of Jerusalem fell against Saladim, the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. The new pope, Gregory VIII, proclaimed that the capture of Jerusalem was punishment for the sins of Christians across Europe. The cry went up for a new crusade to the Holy Land. Henry II of England and Philip II of France ended their war with each other, and both imposed a "Saladin tax" on their citizens to finance the venture. In Britain, Baldwin of Exeter, the archbishop of Canterbury, made a tour through Wales, convincing 3,000 men-at-arms to take up the cross, recorded in the Itinerary of Giraldus Cambrensis. King Henry II of England died on July 6, 1189 after a surprise attack by his son Richard the Lionheart and King Philip II. Richard inherited the crown and immediately began raising funds for the crusade. All military attempts and battles made by Richard the Lionheart to retake Jerusalem were defeated and failed. Richard only had 2,000 fit soldiers and 50 fit knights to use in battle. With such a small force, he could not expect or hope to take Jerusalem although he got near enough to see the Holy City. Saladin's relationship with Richard was complicated despite their military rivalry. At Arsuf, when Richard lost his horse, Saladin sent him two replacements. Richard proposed that his sister, Joan of England, Queen of Sicily, should marry Saladin's brother and that Jerusalem could be their wedding gift. However, the two men never met face to face and communication was either written or by messenger. As leaders of their respective factions, the two men came to an agreement in the Treaty of Ramla in 1192, whereby Jerusalem would remain in Muslim hands but would be open to Christian pilgrimages. The treaty reduced the Latin Kingdom to a strip along the coast from Tyre to Jaffa. Although the Ayyubid dynasty that he founded would only outlive him by 57 years, the legacy of Saladin within the Arab World continues to this day. Saladin's recapture of Palestine from the European Crusaders is considered an inspiration for modern-day Arabs' opposition to Zionism. Moreover, the glory and comparative unity of the Arab World under Saladin was seen as the perfect symbol for the new unity sought by Arab nationalists.
The young Alexios was imprisoned in 1195 when his uncle Alexios III overthrew his father Isaac II in a coup.In 1201, two Pisan merchants were employed to smuggle Alexius out of Constantinople to the Holy Roman Empire, where he took refuge with his brother-in-law Philip of Swabia, King of Germany.
According to the contemporary account of Robert of Clari it was while Alexius was at Swabia's court that he met with Marquis Boniface of Montferrat, Philip's cousin, who had been chosen to lead the Fourth Crusade, but had temporarily left the Crusade during the siege of Zara to visit Philip. A new crusade was ready to march and conquer Egypt, now the centre of Muslim power in the Levant. Boniface and Alexios allegedly discussed diverting the Crusade to Constantinople so that Alexios could be restored to his father's throne. Additionally, he promised to bring the Greek Orthodox Church under the authority of the pope. In 1202 the Crusader fleet arrived at Constantinople. Alexios was paraded outside the walls, but the citizens were apathetic, as Alexios III, though a usurper and illegitimate in the eyes of the westerners, was an acceptable emperor for the Byzantine citizens.
On July 18, 1203 the Crusaders launched an assault on the city, and Alexios III immediately fled into Thrace. The next morning the Crusaders were surprised to find that the citizens had released Isaac II from prison and proclaimed him emperor, despite the fact that he had been blinded to make him ineligible to rule. The Crusaders could not accept this, and forced Isaac II to proclaim his son Alexios IV co-emperor on August 1. In December 1203 violence exploded between the citizens of Constantinople and the Crusaders. Enraged mobs seized and brutally murdered any foreigner they could lay hands upon, and the Crusaders felt that Alexios had not fulfilled his promises to them, like 200,000 silver marks.
Alexios IV was murdered on 8 February 1204, the crusaders and Venetians decided on the outright conquest of Constantinople. In April 1204, they captured and brutally sacked the city. The crusaders inflicted a savage sacking on Constantinople for three days, during which many ancient Greco-Roman and medieval Byzantine works of art were either stolen or destroyed. The magnificent Library of Constantinople was destroyed. Many of the civilians of the city were slaughtered, raped and looted. Despite their oaths and the threat of excommunication, the crusaders ruthlessly and systematically violated the city's churches and monasteries, destroying, defiling, or stealing all they could lay hands on; nothing was spared. Alexios V was condemned to death for treason against Alexios IV, and was thrown from the top of the Column of Theodosius. He was the last Byzantine Emperor to reign in Constantinople before the establishment of the Latin Empire, which controlled the city for the next 57 years, until it was recovered by the Nicaean Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos. When Pope Innocent III heard of the conduct of his pilgrims he was filled with shame and rage, he strongly rebuked them and he excommunicated the entire crusader army.
The Latin Empire was intended to supplant the Byzantine Roman Empire as titular successor to the Roman Empire in the east, with a Western Roman Catholic emperor enthroned in place of the Eastern Orthodox Roman emperors. The Orthodox clergy retained its rites and customs, including its right to marriage, but was demoted to a subordinate position, subject to the local Latin bishops. Baldwin IX, Count of Flanders, was crowned the first Latin emperor as Baldwin I on 16 May 1204.
The Latin Empire was organized on feudal principles; the emperor was feudal superior of the princes who received portions of the conquered territory. His own special portion consisted of the city of Constantinople, the adjacent regions both on the European and the Asiatic side, along with some outlying districts, and several islands including Lemnos, Lesbos, Chios and Tenos. The territories still had to be conquered; first of all it was necessary to break the resistance of the Greeks in Thrace and secure Thessalonica.
|The Latin Empire and the Partition of the Byzantine Empire after the 4th crusade, c. 1204; borders are approximate.|
Baldwin II of Courtenay was the last emperor of the Latin Empire of Constantinople.Since the death of Baldwin's uncle, Emperor Henry of Flanders in 1216, the Latin Empire had declined and the Byzantine (Nicene) power advanced; and the hopes that John of Brienne might restore it were disappointed. The Holy Crown of Jesus Christ was bought by Louis IX from Baldwin II. It is preserved today in a 19th-century reliquary, in Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris.
The realm Baldwin governed was little more than the city of Constantinople. His financial situation was desperate, and his life was chiefly occupied in begging at European courts. He went to the West in 1236, visited Rome, France and Flanders, trying to raise money and men to recover the lost territory of his realm. On the night of 24 July 1261, a group of soldiers under Alexios Strategopoulos managed to enter Constantinople through a secret passageway and captured the city. Baldwin was asleep in the Blachernae Palace when the noise of the fighting awoke him; upon seeing the Byzantine troops advance upon him, he fled in such haste that he left his crown and sceptre behind him. Baldwin made his way to the harbor where he boarded a Venetian galley to Negropont. From there he proceeded to Athens, thence to Apulia, finally to France. During the next year Baldwin and his son Philip lived on pensions from Charles. In October 1273 Philip married Beatrice, daughter of Charles, at Foggia. A few days later Baldwin died in Naples. Under Baldwin II, Constantinople's population had fallen to a mere 35,000 people.
Michael VIII was the founder of the Palaiologan dynasty that would rule the Byzantine Empire until the Fall of Constantinople. Once in control of Constantinople, Michael abolished all Latin customs and reinstated most Byzantine ceremonies and institutions as they had existed before the Fourth Crusade. He repopulated the capital, building its population from 35,000 when he took power to 70,000 by the end of his reign, and restored damaged churches, monasteries, and public buildings. In December John IV, who had been emperor at Nicaea, was blinded and relegated to a monastery. After rendering him ineligible for the throne, Michael VIII quickly married off John's sisters to two Italians and a Bulgarian noble, so their descendants could not threaten his own children's claim to the imperial succession. Although Michael tried to keep the blinding of John a secret, the news eventually leaked out and Patriarch Arsenios excommunicated Michael VIII. This ban was not lifted until six years later (1268) on the appointment of patriarch Joseph.
Rather than holding on to his possessions in Asia Minor, Michael chose to expand the Empire, gaining only short-term success. To avoid another sacking of the capital by the Latins, he forced the Church to submit to Rome, again a temporary solution for which the peasantry hated Michael and Constantinople. The efforts of Andronikos II and later his grandson Andronikos III marked Byzantium's last genuine attempts in restoring the glory of the empire. However, the use of mercenaries by Andronikos II would often backfire, with the Catalan Company ravaging the countryside and increasing resentment towards Constantinople.
The Catalan Company was a free company of mercenaries (Almogavars) founded by Roger de Flor in the early 14th century. De Flor recruited soldiers left unemployed with the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302 by the Crown of Aragon who opposed the French dynasty of Anjou. Roger de Flor campaigned with his Company in Anatolia, defeating the Turks but also engaging in widespread violence and looting of the Byzantine inhabitants. By this point, the Catalans, who had recruited nearly 3000 Turkic horse into their ranks, were considered by the Byzantines to be little better than brigands and freebooters.
This put him at odds with the Byzantine Emperor, and the indiscipline of the Almogavars marked the end of Roger de Flor. On 30 April 1305, he was slain along with 300 cavalry and 1,000 infantry by the Alans, another group of mercenaries at the service of the Emperor. The emperor later attacked Gallipoli attempting to conquer the city from the remnants of the Company under the command of Berenguer d'Entença who had arrived with 9 Catalan galleys. The attack was unsuccessful, but it largely decimated the Company.
The Company proceeded to the cries of "Aragon, Aragon", "Sant Jordi" and " Ferro Desperta "to devastate the regions of Thrace and Macedonia for the next two years, including an attack on Thessalonica by land and sea, and raids against the monasteries on Mount Athos. The memory of these actions under the figure of Katalan still persists today, a warrior-giant bloodthirsty used to frighten children in some countries Balkan . Besides the word "Katalan" in coarse (language of Albania ) means monster and still, if a Greek want to curse someone, chides him: "So you reach the vengeance of the Catalans". It is important to note that at that time in history, the Catalan term was applicable to any native citizen of the Kingdom of Aragon. In the region of Thrace comes the proverb that revenge Catalans fall on you. In Bulgaria the terms "Catalan" and "Catalan Son" mean "evil man, soulless torturer". In Thessaly the expression "You're a Catalan!" it was proffered as an insult to the late twentieth century. The Catalan rule was to last until 1390 when they were defeated by the Navarrese Company under Pedro de San Superano, Juan de Urtubia, and allied with the Florentines under Nerio I Acciaioli of Corinth. His descendants controlled them until 1456 when they were conquered by the Ottoman Empire. By that time, like many military enterprises, the Great Company had faded out of history.
Societal infighting weakened the military power of the Byzantine Empire in the 14th century, including two major civil wars beginning in 1321 and 1341. The civil war of 1321–28 was led by a grandson of the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II and supported by Byzantine magnates who often clashed with the centralized authority. The war was inconclusive and ended with Andronikos III being made co-emperor with his grandfather. However, the civil war allowed the Ottoman Turks to make notable gains in Anatolia and to set up their capital in Bursa, a hundred kilometers from Constantinople.
The wars led to the exploitation of the Byzantine Empire by the emerging Serbian Empire. The Serbian king Stefan Uroš IV Dušan made significant territorial gains in Byzantine Macedonia in 1345 and conquered large swaths of Thessaly and Epirus in 1348.
Things went worse for Byzantium, when, during the civil war, an earthquake at Gallipoli in 1354 devastated the fort, allowing the Turks the very next day to cross into Europe. By the time the Byzantine civil war had ended, the Ottomans had defeated the Serbians and subjugated them as vassals. Following the Battle of Kosovo, much of the Balkans became dominated by the Ottomans.
|Map of the Balkans and Asia Minor c. 1355. Byzantium had lost its Asian territory while Ottoman power was rising.|
The Emperors appealed to the west for help, but the Pope would only consider sending aid in return for a reunion of the Eastern Orthodox Church with the See of Rome. Church unity was considered, and occasionally accomplished by imperial decree, but the Orthodox citizenry and clergy intensely resented Roman authority and the Latin Rite. Some western troops arrived to bolster the Christian defence of Constantinople, but most Western rulers, distracted by their own affairs, did nothing as the Ottomans picked apart the remaining Byzantine territories.
Sultan Bayezid I besieged Constantinople from 1394 to 1402. After some five years of siege, Manuel II entrusted the city to his nephew and embarked (along with a suite of 40 people) on a long trip abroad to seek assistance against the Ottoman Empire from the courts of western Europe, including those of Henry IV of England (making him the only Byzantine emperor ever to visit England – he was welcomed from December 1400 to January 1401 at Eltham Palace, and a joust took place in his honour), Charles VI of France, the Holy Roman Empire, Queen Margaret I of Denmark and from Aragon. In 1399, French King Charles VI sent Marshal Jean Le Maingre with 6 ships carrying 1,200 men from Aigues-Mortes to Constantinople, later 300 men under Seigneur Jean de Chateaumorand remained to defend the city against Bayezid. Meanwhile an anti-Ottoman crusade led by the Hungarian King Sigismund of Luxemburg failed at the Battle of Nicopolis on 25 September 1396, but the Ottomans were themselves crushingly defeated by Timur at the Battle of Ankara in 1402. Manuel II had sent 10 ships to help the Crusade of Nicopolis.
Manuel II was the author of numerous works of varied character, including letters, poems, a Saint's Life, treatises on theology and rhetoric, and an epitaph for his brother Theodore I Palaiologos and a mirror of prince for his son and heir Ioannes. This mirror of prince has special value, because it is the last sample of this literary genre bequeathed to us by Byzantines.
In a lecture delivered on 12 September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI quoted from a dialogue believed to have occurred in 1391 between Manuel II and a Persian scholar and recorded in a book by Manuel II (Dialogue 7 of Twenty-six Dialogues with a Persian) in which the Emperor stated: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only bad and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The Pope was actually citing a quotation from Manuel II's writings, not expressing his views but some Muslims were offended by this comment protested against it.In his book, Manuel II then continues, claiming that, "God is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death..."
In June 1422, John VIII Palaiologos supervised the defense of Constantinople during a siege by Murad II, but had to accept the loss of Thessalonica which his brother Andronikos had given to Venice in 1423. To secure protection against the Ottomans, he visited Pope Eugene IV and consented to the union of the Greek and Roman churches. The Union was ratified at the Council of Florence in 1439 which John attended with 700 followers including Patriarch Joseph II of Constantinople and George Gemistos Plethon, a Neoplatonist philosopher influential among the academics of Italy. The Union failed due to opposition in Constantinople, but through his prudent conduct towards the Ottoman Empire he succeeded in holding possession of the city.
As a secular scholar, George Gemistos Plethon was often not needed at the council. Instead, at the invitation of some Florentine humanists he set up a temporary school to lecture on the difference between Plato and Aristotle. Few of Plato's writings were studied in the Latin West at that time, and he essentially reintroduced much of Plato to the Western world, shaking the domination which Aristotle had come to exercise over Western European thought in the high and later middle ages. Cosimo de' Medici attended these lectures and was inspired to found the Accademia Platonica in Florence, where Italian students of Plethon continued to teach after the conclusion of the council. Because of this, Plethon is considered one of the most important influences on the Italian Renaissance.
John VIII was famously depicted by several painters on the occasion of his visit to Italy. Perhaps the most famous of his portraits is the one by Benozzo Gozzoli, on the southern wall of the Magi Chapel, at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, in Florence.
|John VIII Palaiologos by Benozzo Gozzoli|
Sultan Murad died in 1451, succeeded by his 19-year-old son Mehmed II. Mehmed II was obsessed with the conquest of Constantinople. Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos responded to this by threatening to release Prince Orhan, who was a pretender to the Ottoman throne, unless Mehmed met some of his demands. Because of this, Mehmed considered Constantine to have broken the truce and the following winter of 1451–52, Mehmed built Rumelihisari, a hill fortress on the European side of the Bosporus, just north of the city cutting the communication with the Black Sea to the east.
Constantine managed to raise funds to stockpile food for the upcoming siege and to repair the old Theodosian walls, but the poor state of the Byzantine economy did not allow him to raise the necessary army to defend the city against the massive Ottoman army. Desperate for any type of military assistance, Constantine XI appealed to the West reaffirming the union of Eastern and Roman Churches which had been signed at the Council of Florence, a condition the Catholic Church imposed before any help could be provided. The union had been overwhelmingly criticized by the strong anti-union ("anthenotikoi") part of his subjects; his megas doux Loukas Notaras, his chief minister and military commander, is alleged to have said, "Better to see the turban of the Turks reigning in the center of the City than the Latin mitre. Finally, although some troops did arrive from the mercantile city states in the north of Italy, the Western contribution was negligible compared to the needs, given the Ottoman strength. The siege of the city began in the winter of 1452. Constantine faced the siege defending his city of 60,000 people with an army only numbering 7,000 men.
Before the beginning of the siege, Mehmed II made an offer to Constantine XI. In exchange for the surrender of Constantinople, the emperor's life would be spared and he would continue to rule in Mistra; to which, as preserved by G. Sphrantzes, Constantine replied:
To surrender the city to you is beyond my authority or anyone else's who lives in it, for all of us, after taking the mutual decision, shall die out of free will without sparing our lives.
He led the defence of the city and took an active part in the fighting alongside his troops in the land walls. At the same time, he used his diplomatic skills to maintain the necessary unity between the Genoese, Venetian and the Greek troops. He died the day the city fell, 29 May 1453. His last recorded words were: "The city is fallen and I am still alive." Then he tore off his imperial ornaments so as to let nothing distinguish him from any other soldier and led his remaining soldiers into a last charge where he was killed.
There were no known surviving eyewitnesses to the death of the Emperor and none of his entourage survived to offer any credible account of his death. A legend tells that when the Ottomans entered the city, an angel rescued the emperor, turned him into marble and placed him in a cave under the earth near the Golden Gate, where he waits to be brought to life again to conquer the city back for Christians. Constantine XI's legacy was used as a rallying cry for Greeks during their war for Independence with the Ottoman Empire. Today the Emperor is considered a national hero in Greece.
The nephew of the last Emperor, Constantine XI, Andreas Palaeologos inherited the title of Roman Emperor. He lived in the Morea (Peloponnese) until its fall in 1460, then escaped to Rome where he lived under the protection of the Papal States for the remainder of his life. He styled himself Imperator Constantinopolitanus ("Emperor of Constantinople"), and sold his succession rights to both Charles VIII of France and the Catholic Monarchs. However, no one ever invoked the title after Andreas's death, thus he is considered to be the last titular Roman Emperor. At his death, the role of the emperor as a patron of Eastern Orthodoxy was claimed by Ivan III, Grand Duke of Muscovy. He had married Andreas' sister, Sophia Paleologue, whose grandson, Ivan IV, would become the first Tsar of Russia (tsar, or czar, meaning caesar, is a term traditionally applied by Slavs to the Byzantine Emperors). Their successors supported the idea that Moscow was the proper heir to Rome and Constantinople. The idea of the Russian Empire as the new, Third Rome was kept alive until its demise with the Russian Revolution of 1917.
As it had been for the first Rome, for Constantinople to fall was the unthinkable disaster: it would both imperil the whole empire and signal that God’s favour had been withdrawn. Versions of this sentiment were to grow even stronger in later centuries, when other great cities such as Antioch and Alexandria had fallen to Islam but Byzantium had Christianised its Bulgar and Slav neighbours in the Orthodox faith. To Kievan Russia, though never a province of the empire, Constantinople would always represent the undisputed gravitational source of wealth, power, legitimate authority and above all, Orthodox holiness and all that flowed from it.
The collapse of the Byzantine Empire is considered to have contributed greatly to the Renaissance. Many scholars had to flee Constantinople to the West, carrying unique knowledge and material with them. Constantinople had also served as an important city linking East and West on the Silk Road and its loss sparked attempts to open up new trade routes.
In history there is a strange kind of gap or hiatus between the decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of Renaissance Italy. The civilized world is supposed to have suffered an eclipse. Not even the glories of Charlemagne's court and the brilliance of medieval scholarship are of any consequence. It is assumed that from 400 to 1400 A.D. the progress of the arts and sciences, and indeed all cultural life, came to a halt. This version of history is more than an oversimplification: it is a misrepresentation. For between the old Roman Empire and the Renaissance lay the great age of Byzantium. It endured for some eleven centuries, and formed a strategic bridge between antiquity and the modern world. It not only preserved the two unifying elements of the Roman Empire—Roman law and state organization, and the inherited tradition of Hellenic culture—it added a third and even more powerful organizing force: Christianity.
Most striking among Byzantium's unique contributions to Eastern Europe and Western Asia are its brilliant mosaics, and the architectural forms and engineering skills evident in its churches glittering, many-faceted structures being built on the same principles in these same areas today. Wherever on the twisted ridges of Yugoslavia, in the open valleys of Romania, or on the Syrian deserts one sees the many majestic vaults and domes of a stone church, there one must also acknowledge a debt to the genius of the Byzantine builders who first developed such a hierarchy of forms.
|Mosaic of the Deesis, 13th century, Hagia Sophia|
The Alexandrian synthesis of Greek and Oriental political traditions in the East had created large multinational empires ruled by powerful, absolute kings who were automatically accorded divine honours. Ptolemy I, for example, became the successor of the Pharaohs, who not merely ruled but mystically embodied the state. By the time Rome began absorbing these regions, they were already longestablished states of a culture and sophistication equal or superior to their conquerors’. It was entirely natural that Pompey, Caesar and then Antony should be honoured as gods in the East, and they would have been unwise to refuse these honours if they wanted to retain their authority.
The emperor was undoubtedly divinely elected. In his Tricennial oration to Constantine, he skilfully adapted the old pagan vota ceremony—anniversary prayers to the gods to protect the emperor— into a Christian one. He also adapted Diocletian’s late pagan theology of the earthly emperors mirroring the Olympians, Jove and Hercules in the harmony and justice of their rule—but far more tellingly.Constantine has been chosen by God, he declares, and his earthly rule is an image of God’s rule in heaven. The evolving world view of East Rome might be caricatured as medieval, on a strong but inert classical base. For centuries there were painstaking commentaries on Aristotle, for example, but no new ideas, no development of philosophical thought; the intellectual atmosphere for such activity had been slowly stifled.
Though indebtedness to Byzantium may be obvious in Eastern Europe, it is more subtle and more grudgingly recognized in the countries of the West. The revival of Greek ideas during the Renaissance would have been largely impossible had not Byzantine scholars studied and preserved the ancient literature. Certain cathedrals from the reign of Charlemagne, like the one still standing at Aachen in Germany, use Byzantine decorative motifs, floor plans and construction techniques; but these are generally counted as features of Carolingian art.
And it is a forgotten bit of cultural history that the fork—that most characteristic implement of Western table service—was first introduced to Venetian society by a Byzantine princess.
|Portrait of Alexios III Komnenos (1153–1211) eating with fork|