THE LATER COMNENI. JOHN (1118-1143). MANUEL (1143-1180). ALEXIUS II (1180-1183). ANDRONICUS (1183-1185)



JOHN COMNENUS was one of the best Emperors that ever reigned at Constantinople. Of a lofty and generous temper, severe but not cruel, and prompt to forget injuries, the son of Alexius succeeded in gaining the respect of his adversaries. Even the Latins, ill-inclined as they generally were to the Emperors, were forced to bear testimony to his virtues. Upright and austere, John presents a strong contrast to his son and successor Manuel.

Our knowledge of his reign is very scanty, for the two Greek chroniclers who have related the history of Constantinople in the twelfth century, Cinnamus and Nicetas Acominatus, are tantalizingly brief in their notices of him, nor can the gaps in their narratives be at all satisfactorily filled by the help of Oriental or Latin records. Thus we know almost nothing of all that concerns the domestic policy of the reign.

The boldness and decision shown by the son of Alexius during his father’s last hours baffled the conspiracy to bring about the succession of the Caesar Nicephorus Bryennius, the husband of Anna Comnena, and for some time peace appeared to reign at Constantinople. The new Emperor, however, suspected his adversaries of meditating fresh attempts, and, fearing that even his life was in danger, lived for some time in retirement in his palace. His fears gradually died away, and yet, before a year had passed, events fully justified all his apprehensions. Anna Comnena wove a new conspiracy, and, in order to realize her dream of wearing the imperial crown, resolved to procure her brother's assassination. The unwillingness of the Caesar Nicephorus to take the course urged upon him by his wife led to the failure and discovery of the plot. The chief conspirators were arrested. John contented himself with confiscating their property, and before long even pardoned his sister Anna, who having failed to realize her ambitious projects went into retirement for the rest of her life, and endeavored in recording her father's exploits to console herself for her ill-success and for the oblivion into which she had fallen.

The moderation which John showed towards those who had attempted to deprive him of his crown was due to the inspiration of his friend Axuch, the companion of his childhood. Of Mussulman origin, this man had been made prisoner at the capture of Nicaea by the crusaders and handed over to Alexius. Having been brought up with John Comnenus, Axuch succeeded in gaining his friendship and confidence; he received the office of Grand Domestic and to the end retained the favor of his master. Together with him should also be mentioned, as having had a large share in the government of the Empire, Gregory Taronites, and the Logothete Gregory Camaterus. During the early part of John's reign, his brother Isaac the Sebastocrator also enjoyed immense favor, of which, as we shall see, he was later to prove himself unworthy.

The reign of John Comnenus bore in a marked degree a military stamp. The army was the chief care of the Emperor, who throughout his life paid special attention to the training and discipline of his troops. His efforts were rewarded with success, and he was able to organize his army on a strong and sound basis; but the obligation of serving in it was a heavy burden to that part of the population on which it fell, and at times produced among them considerable discontent. Apparently the Emperor’s reign was not marked by any considerable building operations; but he completed and richly endowed the monastery of the Pantokrator, founded by his wife.

As regards foreign policy, John was in no respect an innovator. All the great European or Asiatic questions which concerned the Empire had already taken definite shape during the reign of his father. Alexius had given to Byzantine policy the direction which he judged likely to lead to the most advantageous results, and so sagacious had been his judgment that it may be said that his son and grandson had merely to carry on his work. This continuity of policy on the part of the various sovereigns who succeeded one another during a century is extremely remarkable and much to their credit.

Two great questions of foreign policy predominated throughout the reign of John, that of the kingdom of Sicily and that of the principality of Antioch. If, owing to events which took place in the Norman states of Southern Italy, the former question slumbered for the first few years of the reign, it was not so with the latter, which claimed the constant attention of John Comnenus. With unwearied persistence, the Emperor, in his dealings with the principality of Antioch, pressed for the execution, not of the treaty concluded with the leaders of the First Crusade at the time of their passing through Constantinople, but of the convention which in 1108 had put an end to the war with Bohemond. By this agreement the former duchy of Antioch had been restored to Alexius, who had thereupon granted it in fief to the son of Guiscard. It took eighteen years for John to bring the Princes of Antioch to submit to his claims, the validity of which candid Latins could not but acknowledge. These eighteen years were largely taken up with the preliminary campaigns which the Emperor's designs upon the principality of Antioch necessitated. In fact, it is worthy of remark that the wars of John Comnenus against Europeans were purely defensive. The Emperor took the offensive only against the Mussulmans in Asia, and these wars themselves were a necessary prelude to any expedition into Syria. It was impossible for John to contemplate so distant an undertaking until he had put a stop to the advance of his Muslim neighbors, the boldest of whom were thrusting their outposts westward almost as far as the coast, or were even attacking the Byzantine possessions in Cilicia.

Expedition against the Turk

The maintenance of order along the frontier in Asia Minor was, in fact, one of the chief tasks laid upon John Comnenus. After the last campaign of Alexius against the Mussulmans, changes had taken place in the political situation of the states along the Byzantine frontier. Shahinshah, Sultan of Iconium, son of Qilij Arslan, had been over­thrown by his brother Masud, with the help of the Emir Ghazi, the Danishmandite prince, who some years before had succeeded in subduing a large number of independent emirs. Indeed, for several years Asia Minor was divided between Masud, the Emir Ghazi, and another son of Qilij Arslan, Tughril Arslan, Emir of Melitene. While the last-named was attacking the Byzantine possessions in Cilicia, Masud was pushing his way down the valley of the Maeander, and the Emir Ghazi was attempting to capture the towns held by the Emperor on the coast of the Black Sea.

Of these various enemies the Mussulmans of Iconium were the most formidable. Their unceasing attacks are to be attributed to the nomad tribes dependent on the Sultan of Iconium, who were under the necessity of securing pasture for their flocks. The Maeander valley and the district about Dorylaeum were the two regions the fertility of which gave them a special attraction for the nomads. Their continual advance towards the west and north, apart from the material damage involved, brought with it another danger. The Emperor, if he left the way open to the invaders, risked the cutting of his communications with his possessions on the Black Sea coast, as well as with Pamphylia and Cilicia. Of the three main roads which led to Cilicia two were already in the power of the Turks, and the Byzantine troops could only control the route through Attalla. What has been already said as to the designs of Greek policy upon Antioch is sufficient to explain the stress laid by the Emperor upon maintaining free communication between the various Byzantine possessions in Asia.

The first expedition of John Comnenus to Asia Minor in 1119 seems to have taken the form of a double attack. In the north the Duke of Trebizond, Gabras, attempted to take advantage of the divisions among the Mussulman princes, and relied on the support of Ibn Mangu, son-in-law of the Emir Ghazi. He was, however, defeated and taken prisoner. John Comnenus, with better fortune, succeeded first in clearing the valleys of the Hermus and the Maeander, and then a little later occupied Sozopolis, and retook a whole series of places in the district round Attalia. He thus secured for a time freedom of communication with Pamphylia.

Events in Europe were the cause of an interruption in the war in Asia. For nearly a year (1121-1122)1 John was occupied with an invasion by certain Patzinak tribes which had escaped the disaster of 1091. The barbarians had succeeded in forcing the passes of the Haemus, and had overflowed into Macedonia and devastated it. After long negotiations the Emperor succeeded in gaining over the chiefs of certain of the tribes; he then marched against such of the barbarian bands as had refused to treat. Preceded by a picture of the Blessed Virgin, the Byzantine troops attacked in the neighbourhood of Eski-Sagra, and inflicted a defeat upon the barbarians, who sought in vain to take refuge behind the wagons which formed their laager. After this defeat the Patzinaks negotiated with the Emperor, to whom they agreed to furnish troops.

The Venetians

About the same time (1122) an attack was made on the Empire by the Venetians. In order to secure the support of the Venetian fleet against the Normans of Italy, Alexius had granted the republic a large number of commercial privileges. On his death, the Doge Domenico Michiel requested John to renew the treaties. But at that moment the Empire had less to dread from the Normans, as they were weakened by the internal dissensions which followed the death of Robert Guiscard in 1085 and broke forth with increased violence on the death of Duke Roger in 1118. John therefore considered that he was paying too dearly for services of which he no longer stood in need, and refused the request of the Venetians for a renewal of the treaties. The doge in revenge attempted in 1122 at the head of a numerous fleet to obtain possession of Corfu. He was unsuccessful. Being urgently entreated to come to the help of the Latins in Palestine, the Venetians broke off hostilities, only to renew them on the return of their fleet from the Holy Land. On this occasion they pillaged Rhodes, occupied Chios, and ravaged Samos, Lesbos, Andros, and Modon (1125). Next year they occupied Cephalonia. Confronted with these attacks, John decided to negotiate, and in 1126 he restored to the Venetians the privileges granted them by his father.

About the same time negotiations were begun with the Papacy. The offers formerly made by Alexius to Paschal II had been by no means forgotten at Rome, and Pope Calixtus II, during his struggle with Henry V, sought to obtain the help of John Comnenus. The question of the reunion of the Churches was again brought up, and letters were exchanged. On the death of Calixtus, negotiations were continued with Honorius II; in 1126 John wrote to the Pope, but while agreeing to reopen the question staunchly maintained the imperial claims. The discussion does not appear to have been carried further at this time. Later on the claims of John Comnenus upon Antioch were to excite displeasure at Rome, and by a bull of 28 March 1138 Innocent II ordered all Latins serving in the Byzantine army to leave the Emperor's service should he attack the principality of Antioch.

The Hungarians

Two years after the conclusion of peace with Venice, the Greek Empire had to repel an attack by the Hungarians. Hungarian affairs had never ceased to arouse interest at Constantinople; on the extension of his territories by Koloman, Alexius I, being anxious in case of need to have the means of intervening in the affairs of his powerful neighbors, had married his son to a Hungarian princess named Piriska, who on taking possession of the women's apartments in the imperial palace had assumed the name of Irene. Since that time the Empire had not had occasion to take any part in the affairs of Hungary, but when its King, Stephen II (1114-1131), put out the eyes of his brother Almos, the blinded prince took refuge at Constantinople, where he was well received. Doubtless the ties of relationship and the pity inspired by the hapless victim sufficiently explain the hospitable reception of Almos, but to these reasons must be added the Emperor’s desire to have within reach a candidate to oppose in case of need to the ruler of Hungary. Stephen II showed great displeasure at the hospitality extended to the victim of his brutality, and demanded that the Emperor should expel his guest from the imperial territory. John Comnenus refused to comply with this demand, and Stephen, irritated by his refusal, seized upon the first pretext that offered to declare war against the Greek Empire. The desired excuse was found in the ill-treatment of some Hungarian traders near Branichevo, and hostilities began. Apparently the Hungarians surprised the garrisons of the frontier posts, and succeeded in taking Branichevo and reaching the neighbourhood of Sofia (1128). They then fell back without being molested. To punish them John Comnenus carried the war into Hungary and won a victory near Haram (Uj Palanka), not far from the junction of the Nera with the Danube. But on the withdrawal of the Byzantine troops the Hungarians re-took Branichevo, and the Emperor in order to drive them off returned to the Danube. During the winter, having learned that the enemy was again advancing in force, he succeeded in avoiding an action and withdrawing his troops safely. Such at least is the account given in the Byzantine records; according to the Hungarian, the troops of Stephen II were defeated, and in consequence of this check the king was compelled to treat. Probably the death of Almos, which took place soon after the outbreak of the war, removed an obstacle to peace.

Towards the end of the reign of Stephen II, John Comnenus, faithful to the policy which had so far been followed, entertained another possible claimant to the Hungarian throne, Boris, the son of Koloman and of Euphemia, daughter of Vladimir Monomachus. Euphemia, accused of adultery, had been banished, and her son had been born in exile. Returning to Hungary, Boris, a little before the death of Stephen, had attempted to usurp the throne. He failed, and took refuge in Constantinople, where John gave him a wife from the imperial house. Later on, in the time of Manuel Comnenus, Boris was to prove a useful instrument of Byzantine policy.

The Serbs

About the time of the war with Hungary, perhaps indeed while hostilities were still going on, the Serbian vassals of the Empire rose in rebellion and destroyed the castle of Novibazar. In considering what were at this time the relations between the Serbs and Constantinople, we touch upon one of the most obscure questions of Byzantine history in the twelfth century. After the death of the prince Constantine Bodin, who for the moment had made the unity of Serbia a reality, the descendants of Radoslav, whom he had dethroned, disputed for power with his heirs. Serbia then passed through a time of inconceivable anarchy. For several years the various rivals succeeded one another with bewildering rapidity. The Zupan of Rascia, Bolkan, taking advantage of the confusion to extend his power, succeeded momentarily in imposing his candidate upon the coast districts of Serbia. This claimant however died. The widow of Bodin, Jaquinta, daughter of Argyrus of Bari, now contrived to secure the throne for her son George. It was probably at this juncture that John intervened and set Grubessa on the throne (1129?). When Grubessa died, George succeeded in regaining power, which brought about an intervention of the Greeks, George being taken prisoner and sent to Constantinople. As his successor they set up Gradicna.

Two points stand out in this confused narrative. In the first place, it is plain that the influence of Constantinople in Serbia is small; the Empire contents itself with having a pretender at hand to put forward in case the reigning prince should give cause for displeasure. In the second place, the Zupans of Rascia come to play a more and more important part. After Bolkan we find Uros Zupan of this region. One of his daughters married Bela II the Blind, a future King of Hungary. The other, Mary, became the wife of the Moravian prince Conrad, while a son, Bela, took up his abode at the Hungarian court, where later he was to become prominent, and married his daughter to the Russian Prince, Vladimir Mstilavich. These alliances were to prove extremely useful to the sons of Urog when, under Manuel, they were to attempt to cast off the suzerainty of Constantinople.

John Comnenus in Asia Minor 

About 1130 John Comnenus was again able to turn his arms against the Musulmans of Asia Minor. The fruits of the previous campaigns had not been lost. As far as Iconium was concerned, the position had remained satisfactory. Masud, being dethroned by his brother, Arab, had even come to Constantinople to ask help of the Emperor, who had supplied him with subsidies to oppose the usurper. These disputes among the Mussulman rulers had lessened their strength, and for a time the principality of Iconium was less formidable to the Empire. Far different was the position of the Emir Ghazi. In 1124 he had seized upon the principality of Melitene, and then conquered Ancyra and Comana, and occupied some of the Byzantine strongholds on the coast of the Black Sea. In 1129, on the death of the Armenian prince Thoros, he had turned towards Cilicia, and there was every sign that he was about to contend with his co-religionist, the Atabeg of Mosul, for his share of the spoils of the Latin princes of Syria. Thus a new enemy threatened Antioch, and from this time we may discern the reasons which urged John Comnenus to attempt the overthrow of the Danishmandite ruler.

The first expedition of John Comnenus proved abortive; the Emperor had hardly crossed into Asia when he learned that a conspiracy against him had been hatched by his brother Isaac. On receiving this news he resolved to return to Constantinople. Isaac the Sebastocrator succeeded in avoiding punishment and escaped into Asia, where he attempted to draw into the struggle against his brother not only the Mussulman princes, but also the Armenian Thoros and Gabras, Duke of Trebizond, who had shortly before secured his independence. Isaac met with but partial success, and only the Emir Ghazi lent him support. Even at a distance the Sebastocrator continued his intrigues; he maintained communications with various personages at the Court of Constantinople; and when in 113 John entered upon a campaign against the Emir Ghazi, he was soon forced to return to his capital, where a fresh plot, the result of Isaac's intrigues, had been discovered. As soon as order was restored the Emperor renewed the campaign, and during the winter of 1132-1133 he took from the Emir Ghazi the important fortress of Castamona, which, however, was soon afterwards recovered by the Muslims.

On the death of Ghazi, which took place next year (1134), the Emperor decided to profit by the quarrels which immediately arose among the Mohammedan princes to try his fortune in the field. An expedition was set on foot against Mahomet, son and heir of Ghazi, to which Masud sent a contingent of troops in the hope of having his share in the dismemberment of the Danishmandite state. No advantage accrued to the Empire from this alliance; the Muslim troops played false during the siege of Gangra, and John was forced to fall back. Next year, how­ever, he was more fortunate, and Gangra and Castamona fell into his hands (1135).

Italian affairs

This success at last enabled the Emperor to attempt the realization of his designs upon Antioch. A series of negotiations with the Western Emperor and with Pisa prepared the ground for this new campaign. It was apparently not before 1135 that John Comnenus entered into diplomatic relations with the Emperor Lothar who, while he was staying at Merseburg, gave audience to a Byzantine embassy bearing instructions from the Greek Emperor to request help against Roger II, King of Sicily. During the last few years the position of the Norman states in Italy had sensibly altered. Not only had the Count of Sicily, Roger II, added the duchy of Apulia to his dominions, but he had raised his possessions to the rank of a kingdom, and since 1130 had, to the great indignation of the Byzantines, assumed the title of King. The new king, intensely ambitious and more powerful than any of his predecessors, did not confine himself to attacking the coasts of the Greek Empire, but set up claims to the Latin states of the Holy Land, and in particular to Antioch. Accordingly John Comnenus found it necessary, before his departure for Syria to try his fortune in arms, to secure himself against a fresh invasion of his dominions by the Normans of Italy during his absence. It was with this object in view that he had recourse to the Emperor Lothar, whom he urged to make a descent upon Italy in order to oppose the new king, and to whom for the furtherance of this design he promised considerable subsidies. Lothar responded to the Byzantine embassy by sending Anselm of Havelberg to Constantinople. An agreement was arrived at, and Lothar pledged himself to undertake an expedition into Italy. He proved as good as his word, and we know that in 1137, while still in Southern Italy, he received a Greek embassy bringing him gifts from the Emperor. The negotiations of John Comnenus with the Pisans were in the same way dictated by a wish to detach them from the Norman alliance, and ended in 1136 in a renewal of treaty engagements.

Having thus secured his dominions against a possible attack by the Normans, John Comnenus could at last undertake the long-meditated expedition to restore Antioch and its surrounding territory to the Empire (1137). But before invading the principality the Byzantine army had another task to accomplish. The territory of the Empire no longer actually extended as far as the frontier of Antioch,; from which it was now separated by the dominions of the Armenian Leo. This prince (a descendant of Rupen, one of those Armenian rulers who, fleeing before the advance of the Muslims, had established themselves in the Taurus and in the neighbourhood of the Euphrates) had in 1129 succeeded his brother Thoros. After an open breach with the Empire, he had made himself master of the chief towns of Cilicia—Tarsus, Adana, and Mamistra. His possessions thus barred the path of John's army, and the conquest of Cilicia was the necessary prelude to the siege of Antioch.

In the early part of the campaign the Emperor met with unbroken success. Tarsus, Adana, and Mamistra were quickly captured, and then came the turn of Anazarbus and the surrounding district. Leo, with his two sons, Rupen and Thoros, was obliged to seek safety in the mountains. Without stopping to pursue them, John at once took the road to Antioch, for at that moment circumstances were eminently favorable to the Greeks.

John in Syria and Cilicia 

When John appeared before the city (end of August 1137) Raymond of Poitiers, who, by his marriage with Constance daughter of Bohemond II, had become Prince of Antioch, was absent from his capital. Although aware of the impending attack by the Byzantines, Raymond had not hesitated to go to the help of the King of Jerusalem, who had just suffered a serious defeat at the hands of the Atdbeg of Mosul, Imad-ad-Din Zangi, at Harim. When Raymond returned, the siege of Antioch had already begun. The besieged, owing to the disaster which had just befallen the Latins in their struggle with the Mohammedans, despaired of receiving succor, and from the first a considerable party of them had contemplated negotiations with the Emperor. Certain of the records make it appear probable that the King of Jerusalem, on being consulted, had admitted the validity of the Greek Emperor’s claims, and had recommended negotiation. Whatever may be the truth about these pourparlers, it is plain that Raymond, threatened with the loss of his dominions, preferred treating with John Comnenus. At the moment the Emperor was bent above all on obtaining a formal recognition of his claims, while for Raymond the main desideratum was the withdrawal of the Byzantines. Once this point had been gained, other matters might be arranged as circumstances should dictate. After some negotiation the Prince of Antioch consented to take the oath of fealty to John Comnenus, and, as a sign of his submission, to hoist the imperial banners on the walls of the city. The Emperor in exchange bound himself to help the Latins the next year in their struggle with the Muslims, but it was stipulated that if by the help of the Basileus Raymond should recover Aleppo, Shaizar, Emesa, and Hamah, he should restore Antioch to the Greek Empire.

This agreement being concluded John returned to Cilicia. It seems probable that it was on this occasion that he succeeded in capturing the Armenian prince, Leo, who with his two sons was sent prisoner to Constantinople, where not long afterwards he died.

Faithful to his engagements, John opened the campaign in the spring of 1138. The Byzantine army, swelled by the Latin contingents, took in succession Balat (between Antioch and Aleppo) and Bizaa. The allies, however, failed to surprise Aleppo, and turned to besiege Shaizar on the Orontes on 29 April 1138. Before long serious dissensions broke out between the Latin princes and the Emperor. John, indignant at the suspicious behavior of the Prince of Antioch and of Joscelin, Count of Edessa, seized upon the first pretext he could find to raise the siege and grant the defenders conditions which they had never hoped for.

Returning northwards by the valley of the Orontes, the army fell back upon Antioch, John making a solemn entry into the city. During his stay there, the Emperor, in virtue of the feudal rule obliging a vassal to hand over his castle to his suzerain whenever he was required by him to do so, demanded possession of the citadel. The Latin rulers, not daring a direct refusal, got out of the difficulty by stirring up a riot in the city. In the face of the menacing attitude of the populace, John for the time being ceased to urge his claims and quitted Antioch. The Emperor once gone, the Latins again offered to treat. The result was a hollow reconciliation.

John and the Western Empire

The Greek army then set out on its return. While, on its march towards Constantinople, it was securing the safety of the frontier by police operations against brigands, Isaac Comnenus came to make submission to his brother and received his pardon. The sole result of the campaign was the recognition of the imperial rights over Antioch, whereby the prestige of the Emperor was strikingly increased, not only in the eyes of his subjects but also in those of the Mussulmans and Latins. No practical advantage, however, was obtained.

In 1139 the war against the Mussulmans was resumed. The Danishmandite prince Mahomet had taken several places in Cilicia from the Byzantines, and then proceeded to ravage the country as far as the Sangarius. John drove of these invading bands, and during the winter of 1139-1140 laid siege to Neo-Caesarea. In this campaign John, son of Isaac Comnenus, deserted to the enemy. On his return to Constantinople (15 January 1141) the Emperor planned a new campaign, the object of which was Antioch.

A series of diplomatic operations was again undertaken in order to hold the King of Sicily in check during the Emperor’s absence. Lothar had died on returning from his Italian campaign, and had been succeeded by Conrad III. In 1140 John asked Conrad to renew the alliance made with his predecessor, and in order to set a seal upon the friendship requested the hand of a princess of the imperial house for his youngest son Manuel. Conrad in reply offered his sister-in-law Bertha, daughter of the Count of Sulzbach. In 1142 another Byzantine embassy was dispatched with instructions to treat of the question of a descent upon Italy. Conrad in return sent his chaplain Albert and Robert, Prince of Capua, to Constantinople. A Greek embassy carried John’s reply, and brought back the future Empress. These negotiations were disquieting to the King of Sicily, who, in order to break up the league between his enemies, sent an embassy at the beginning of 1143 to propose an alliance with John.

John and the Principality of Antioch 

While the negotiations with Conrad were going on, the Emperor again set out for Antioch. The whole of the early part of the campaign was devoted to police work in the neighbourhood of Sozopolis. The army then marched to Attalia, and here a double blow fell upon the Emperor. Within a short interval he lost, first his son Alexius, whom he had associated in the government, and then another son Andronicus. This twofold bereavement did not turn the Emperor from his purpose, and on leaving Attalia the army took the road to Syria.

Since 1138 the position of the Latin states harassed by the Muslims had only altered for the worse. During the last few years they had repeatedly begged help from the Byzantines. Having learned by past experience, John Comnenus did not trust to the promises which had been made to him, and above all he resolved to make himself secure of the fidelity of the Latin rulers by exacting hostages from them. He took pains to conceal the object of his expedition by giving out that he intended only to put into a state of defence the towns in Cilicia which he had taken from Leo. Thanks to these precautions the Emperor was enabled to descend upon the Latin territory in a totally unexpected manner. John had not forgotten the behavior of Joscelin during the last campaign; so the first attack was made on him, the Emperor appearing suddenly in front of Turbessel. The Count of Edessa, taken by surprise, was obliged to give up his daughter as a hostage, and from Turbessel the Emperor marched to the castle of Gastin (1142). There he demanded of Raymond the fulfillment of his promise to surrender Antioch. Raymond thus driven into a corner took up a pitiful attitude, sheltering himself behind the wishes of his vassals. An important part in the matter was played by the Latin clergy, to whom it was a source of annoyance that the progress of the Greek clergy proceeded pari passe with that of the Byzantine armies. The demands of the Basileus were rejected in the name of the Pope and of the Western Emperor.

John Comnenus had certainly foreseen this refusal and had determined to take Antioch by force. This siege was in his eyes only a prelude to the campaign which he intended to wage against the Mussulmans—a campaign which, if his views were realized, would be crowned by the entrance into Jerusalem of the Byzantine troops. But having been delayed, doubtless by the death of his sons, the Emperor reached Antioch too late in the season to begin a siege which could not fail to be a long one. He resolved therefore to postpone the renewal of hostilities, and led his troops into Cilicia where he intended to winter. It was there that an accidental wound from a poisoned arrow, received during a hunting party, carried him off on 8 April 1143, at the moment when he was looking forward to the attainment of the object which had been the goal of his entire policy. On his deathbed John named as his successor Manuel, the youngest of his sons, and procured his recognition by the army.

Accession of Manuel Comnenus

Manuel when he ascended the throne was about twenty years old. For the first few years of his reign he continued the confidence which his father had placed in Axuch and John Puzes, and it was only little by little that the young Emperor's personality developed and made its mark by the direction that he gave to his policy. Manuel's disposition showed a singular mixture of qualities in the most marked contrast to one another. While on the one hand he has some of the most characteristic traits of the Byzantine type, other sides of his nature seem to mark him out as a product of Western civilization. He is the typical knight-king, and in courage might compare with Richard Coeur-de­Lion. Even on the first campaign in which he accompanied his father, Manuel showed himself a bold and courageous warrior, ever a lover of the brilliant bouts and thrusts of single combat. It may be that in his campaigns he proved himself rather a valiant knight than a great general, that he sought too eagerly after those successes, rather showy than permanent, which evoke the plaudits of women and the encomiums of court poets. He constantly sought opportunity to display his skill in riding and fencing, hunting and tournaments, and evidently looked upon it as his vocation to repeat the exploits of the paladins. Hence it is that Manuel is open to the reproach of having cared less for realities than for show, of having attempted to carry out simultaneously projects on a gigantic scale, any single one of which would have taxed the resources of the Empire. This is the weak side of his policy. Manuel attempted to get others to carry out the tasks which he could not himself accomplish; hence arose the failures he met with. It would appear further that Manuel was fitted only for success, and was incapable of bearing misfortune. At his only defeat, the disaster of Myriocephalum, when he saw that he was beaten and in danger of being slain by the enemy with the poor remains of his army, his one idea was to take to flight without giving a thought to his soldiers. Only the opposition of his captains prevented him from carrying out this disgraceful intention.

Manuel’s devotion to the ideals of chivalry and his two marriages with Western princesses fostered in him a strong preference for the Latins. Men of Western race, whether Germans, French, Normans, Italians, or English, were sure of his eager welcome, and of finding posts about his court or in his army. Though ignorant of the Greek language, these foreigners who “spat better than they spoke” contrived, nevertheless, to fill considerable administrative offices, to the great disgust of the Emperor's subjects. Nor were they any better pleased to see the Venetians, Pisans, and Genoese settle down at Constantinople. This policy on the part of Manuel led to the accumulation of the national hatred against the Latins which was to burst forth in the reign of Andronicus.

Turkish attacks

On the death of John Comnenus the Latins of Antioch had again taken the offensive, and even while Manuel was still in the East had begun hostilities and occupied several places in Cilicia. This provocation had been keenly resented by Manuel, who made it his first care to send troops to Cilicia to deal with the Latins. The Greek arms were victorious, and in 1145 Raymond of Poitiers had to submit to the humiliation of coming to Constantinople to ask mercy of Manuel; he was compelled to visit the church of the Pantokrator and make the amende at the dead Emperor’s tomb.

While the Byzantine army was on its way back from Cilicia, the troops of the Sultan of Iconium had carried of several persons of importance at court; further invasions had then taken place, the Muslim bands advancing as far as Pithecas near Nicaea; the whole of the Byzantine possessions in Asia Minor were devastated, ruins were heaped up on every side, and the luckless populations were forced to leave their villages and seek refuge in the towns along the coast. Thus one of the first tasks with which Manuel was faced was to secure his frontier in Asia by the erection of a series of fortified posts, intended to check the invaders. This was his main work, and he pursued it to the end of his reign. At the same time he attempted to strike at the heart of the Mussulman power, more than once endeavoring to reduce Iconium. At the opening of his reign he was aided in his struggle against Masud by the divisions among the Muslim leaders which had followed upon the death of the Danishmandite prince Mahomet (1141). His lands were divided between his son, Dhul-Nun, who obtained Caesarea, and his brothers, Yaqub Arslan and Ain-ad-Daulah, whose shares respectively were Siwas and Melitene. Threatened by Masud, Yaqub Arslan, the most powerful of the heirs of Mahomet, treated with Manuel who helped him with subsidies. During the years 1146-4147 the Greeks fought with no great measure of success; Manuel got as far as Iconium, but failed to take it. At the moment when the crusaders appeared before Constantinople, Manuel had just concluded a truce with Masud.



The Second Crusade

During this period the policy of Manuel in the West had yielded no striking results. For a short time the Emperor seemed to be meditating a league with the King of Sicily, but he soon returned to the idea of a German alliance, and in January 1146 took to wife Bertha of Sulzbach, sister-in-law of Conrad. But at the very time when this marriage seemed to have set a seal upon his friendship with Germany, all that had been gained by it was lost by the opening of the Second Crusade, the Greek Empire being left to confront the Norman power in a state of complete isolation.

Learning of the new Crusade by letters from Louis VII and the Pope, Eugenius III, Manuel immediately set himself to obtain guarantees against all eventualities by demanding of the Pope that the crusaders should bind themselves to him by engagements similar to those taken by the leaders of the First Crusade to Alexius. In return he promised that on payment being forthcoming provisions should be supplied. At the assembly of Etampes (February 1147) Manuel’s envoys met those of Roger II, who had been instructed to bring about the diversion of the Crusade to their master's profit by promising large advantages. The influence of Conrad, who had only joined in the project for a Crusade at the end of 1146, was certainly not without its weight in the decision to go by Constantinople. The fact that not only the King of France but also the King of Germany was to take part in the expedition made the position of Manuel with regard to the crusaders all the more perilous. He was haunted by the fear that, if the Western troops collected outside his capital, they might be tempted to an assault upon Constantinople. He made every effort to avoid this danger, his task being rendered easier by the ill-feeling of Conrad towards the French.

The measures taken with regard to the crusaders were of the same kind as those employed by Alexius in the case of the First Crusade. The Byzantine troops were disposed so as to confine the streams of pilgrims in a single channel and to prevent the pillaging bands from wandering too far from the prescribed route. The elements of which the crusading army was composed made these precautions necessary. Not only were there warriors on the march; the bulk of the army consisted of pilgrims and of a rout of adventurers ready for any mischief.

The Germans were first to pass through the imperial territory. Their relations with the Greeks were as bad as possible, outrages being committed on both sides which generated violent excitement. Hadrianople was especially the scene of bloodshed. Manuel made a last effort to divert the crusaders from the route through Constantinople and to persuade them to pass through Sestos, but his suggestions were listened to with suspicion and were rejected. Many disasters would have been avoided if his advice had been taken, and it was the route recommended by him which Louis VII took after the destruction of the German army.

Conrad III and Louis VII

Little is known of the relations between Manuel and Conrad during the time that the crusading army remained before Constantinople. It is probable that the two Emperors did not meet; at the same time they appear to have come to an agreement. The news of the arrival of Louis VII decided Conrad upon crossing over into Asia Minor—a step which all the urgency of Manuel had not availed to secure. The march of the German army upon Iconium ended in disaster. The crusaders, although aware of the length of the journey, had not brought a sufficient quantity of provisions; famine soon made its appearance, whereupon the Greek guides were alarmed by accusations of treachery, which caused them to abandon the army and take to flight. The crusaders were forced to fall back upon Nicomedia, harassed as they marched by the Turks who slew them in thousands; as many perished by famine. At Nicomedia the remnants of Conrad's army found the French.

The journey of the French across the Greek territories was equally accompanied by acts of violence; but a Latin eye-witness admits that up to their arrival before Constantinople the Franks did as much injury to the Greeks as they received from them, and that the wrongs were on both sides. Manuel welcomed Louis VII, but made every effort to induce him to cross at once to the coast of Asia Minor. The apprehension which the Greek Emperor showed is justified by the known fact that there was a regular party in the King of France’s council urgent for the taking of Constantinople.

The French once across the Bosphorus, new difficulties arose. Manuel demanded that the barons should do homage and swear fealty to him, and after long parleying Louis ended by yielding. Having joined the wrecks of the German army, the French gave up the idea of marching upon Iconium and took the road for Attalia. At Ephesus Conrad fell ill, and abandoned the Crusade. The march of the crusaders through the Asiatic provinces of the Byzantine Empire was marked by similar acts of violence to those committed in Europe; this explains the fighting which took place between the Greeks and the Latins. The chief accusation brought against the Greeks is that they did not supply provisions and that they charged too dear for such as they did supply. The vast numbers of the crusaders made provisioning a matter of great difficulty, and the presence of unnumbered multitudes in one place is a sufficient explanation of the dearness of commodities.

The army of Louis VII, thus ill-provided, suffered greatly on the march from Laodicea to Attalia. The Musulman bands had appeared, and their unceasing attacks added to the difficulties of the mountain route. The army reached Attalia in a deplorable state. Here provisions were still lacking. Louis VII and the chief lords hired ships of the Greeks and departed, forsaking the mass of the pilgrims. The leaders left in charge abandoned them in their turn. The wretched people fell a prey to the Turks, and to the Greeks who were exasperated at the acts of pillage which the famished multitude had committed.

Manuel and Roger II

Manuel has been held responsible for the failure of the Second Crusade. Such accusations are now to a large extent discredited by historians. The ill-success of the Crusade was due to defective organisation, to the want of discipline among the crusaders, and to their obstinate persistence, in spite of the Emperor's advice, it following the road taken by Godfrey of Bouillon and his companions. Conrad, who had been left behind sick at Ephesus, was received by Manuel, who brought him to Constantinople and loaded him with attentions. The fact was that Manuel was just then threatened by a danger which made the prospect of help from the German King of great value to him. Profiting by the difficulties into which the Basileus was thrown by the coming of the crusaders, Roger II of Sicily had in the autumn of 1147 directed a naval attack upon the coast of the Empire. Corfu had fallen into his hands; Negropont and Cerigo had been ravaged. The Normans then sailed up the Gulf of Corinth and took Thebes and Corinth (centres of the silk-trade and two of the most important commercial towns in the Empire), their rich warehouses being given up to pillage. In order to resist this aggression, Manuel, while the crusaders were still on the Asiatic shore of the Bosphorus, had in vain begged for help from Conrad and Louis. He was obliged to meet the Normans with his own forces, for which however he had secured the support of the Venetian fleet.

Being detained by an invasion of the Cumans (1148), Manuel sent the Grand Domestic Axuch and the Grand Duke Alexius Contostephanus to occupy the places taken by the Normans and to besiege Corfu. It was during the winter of 1148-4149 that Manuel received Conrad, who was returning from the Holy Land, and concluded a treaty with him, by which the German king bound himself to make a descent upon Italy in order to attack Roger II (1149).

Corfu having been retaken (summer of 1149), Manuel resolved to organize an expedition to punish Roger II. A revolt among the Serbs, supported by the King of Sicily, prevented him from carrying out his plan. Roger II, threatened by the Germano-Byzantine alliance, created difficulties for them both which hindered them from carrying out their project of an invasion of Italy. While Welf, thanks to supplies furnished by Roger, fomented an agitation which detained Conrad in Germany, the Sicilian king was launching the Serbs and Hungarians against the Greek Empire. Hungary and Constantinople were at that time on very bad terms owing to their pursuing a diametrically opposite policy in Russia. While Geza, King of Hungary, maintained the claims of his brother-in-law Izyaslav to the throne of Kiev, Manuel gave his support to George Dolgoruki, son of Vladimir Monomachus, who was also favored by Vladimirko, Prince of Halicz. At the instigation of the King of Sicily, Geza encouraged the Zupan of Rascia, Pervoslav Uros, to revolt, and the disturbance which broke out in Serbia in the autumn of 1149 kept Manuel occupied until 1150. The Serbs having been subdued, Manuel, eager to punish their Hungarian supporters, took advantage in 1151 of the absence of Geza, who was maintaining Izyaslav’s cause in Russia against Vladimirko, to take Semlin and ravage the country between the Save and the Danube. Peace was signed the same year, but in 1152 hostilities broke out again, and Geza formed a connection with Manuel's cousin, Andronicus Comnenus, the future Emperor. This treason was discovered and Andronicus was arrested. The struggle lasted until 1155, when peace was signed. The only appreciable result of the campaigns seems to have been the conquest of Semlin.

Roger II had not been satisfied with stirring up the Serbs and Hungarians against Manuel; he had at the same time made use of the failure of the Crusade to attempt the organization of a European coalition against him. Louis VII sympathized with these projects, but Conrad's fidelity to the Byzantine alliance, and the rupture which took place in 1150 between Pope Eugenius III and Roger, prevented the latter's designs from taking effect. Finally in 1152 the death of Conrad delivered the Norman King from the peril of a Germano-Byzantine alliance.

With Conrad’s successor, Frederick Barbarossa, Manuel was never able to come to an understanding. From the beginning of his reign Barbarossa refused to countenance any territorial advantage which might be gained by the Basileus in Italy—a concession which Conrad had made. From 1152 to 1158 numerous embassies came and went between the two Emperors, but it was found impossible to arrange an alliance. Wishing to take advantage of the death of Roger II in 1154, Frederick Barbarossa made a descent upon Italy. Manuel, fearing that this expedition having been made without reference to him might prove to have been made against him, decided to try his fortune single-handed and to make his profit out of the unsettled conditions which had followed on the death of Roger II. He dispatched to Italy Michael Palaeologus, who in the course of 1155, thanks to the support of Robert of Loritello, a revolted vassal of the Norman King William I, and his fellow-rebels, achieved unlooked-for success. In a few months the Greek Emperor's authority was recognized from Ancona to Taranto. This success turned Manuel's head, and was chiefly instrumental in giving a new direction to his policy. At the very time when in 1155 the German Emperor, forced to own himself unable to maintain order in Italy and to play the part he had assumed of protector of the Papacy, abandoned the idea of invading the Norman Kingdom, the Basileus was enforcing the recognition of his own imperial authority in all that part of Italy which had formerly been in the possession of the Greek Emperors. Hence arose in Manuel the desire to restore the Eastern Empire to what it had been in the time of Justinian, and to obtain from the Pope the reestablishment of imperial unity in exchange for the reunion of the Greek Church with the Church of Rome. The first negotiations with this object were begun with Hadrian IV, and the rupture which took place at this time between the Papacy and the Western Emperor seemed to Manuel likely to further the accomplishment of his dream.

Manuel and Alexander III

The counter-strokes of William I, which in a short time demolished the frail edifice of Byzantine conquest, did not avail to dissuade Manuel from his project. Southern Italian questions became of secondary importance to him in comparison with the schemes he was caressing, and he made no difficulty in 1158 in complying with the suggestions of the Papacy, which, leaning as it did on the support of the kingdom of Sicily and of the Greek Empire, desired to see peace restored between its two allies.

From 1157 onwards Byzantine policy is governed wholly by the idea of restoring the unity of the Empire. For the sake of clearness we will consider in order the relations of Manuel with Italy and Frederick Barbarossa, with the Hungarians and Serbs, and finally with the Muslims and the Latins of the East.

It was natural that Manuel should show himself favorable to the Pope, Alexander III. During the years from 1161 to 1163 long negotiations went on between the Emperor, Alexander III, and Louis VII concerning a coalition to be formed against the Western Emperor. Three years later Manuel judged that the Pope was sufficiently in need of his help to make it safe to acquaint him completely with his desire to reestablish the unity of the Empire under his scepter. Negotiations about this project went on for several years, Manuel remaining the ally of Alexander until the preliminaries of the Peace of Venice (1177). Although his name does not appear as one of the signatories of the peace, the connection between the Papacy and Constantinople lasted as long as Manuel reigned.

If the understanding between the Pope and the Greek Emperor led to nothing, one of the chief causes of this was the opposition maintained by the King of Sicily to the Byzantine policy. It will readily be understood that neither William I nor William II looked with favor on the attempts of Manuel to gain a footing in Italy, but that both on the contrary offered a vigorous resistance. Manuel tried every means of overcoming their opposition; he had recourse to Louis VII, and on two occasions he endeavored to arrange for the marriage of his daughter Mary with William II. But just as matters seemed to be finally settled, the match was broken off, Barbarossa having made overtures to Manuel which seemed to him to promise a more brilliant future to his daughter than alliance with William of Sicily could offer.

Manuel’s attitude towards the Italian cities was a natural result of his policy with regard to Alexander III. He endeavored by every possible means to attach to his interest a group of dependent Italian towns, or at least to be able to rely on the support of a party in the more important cities. Milan was encouraged by him in her struggle with Barbarossa, and Byzantine gold helped to rebuild her streets. Cremona and Pavia had their share of the Greek subsidies. Once already Ancona had given itself up to Palaeologus, and later on, about 1166, its population embraced the Greek cause, won over by the gold of Manuel's emissaries. In 1167 Barbarossa was only able to win a partial advantage over them.

With Pisa Manuel in 1161 entered into negotiations which lasted until 1172. Dragged in different directions by their Ghibelline sympathies and their desire to take advantage of the commercial privileges offered by the Basileus, the Pisans pursued an indecisive policy. The Genoese in the same way treated with the Greek Emperor in 1155, but also with Barbarossa in 1162. Though intercourse between them and Constantinople was broken off in 1162, it was resumed in 1164, and went on until 1170. Manuel was never able to bring the Genoese to the point of breaking with Barbarossa.

The Greek occupation of Ancona and the recapture of the Dalmatian towns gave some anxiety to the Venetians, who had very nearly come to a breach with Manuel at the time of the siege of Corfu, as the result of an unpleasant incident which occurred between the troops of the two nations. Things reached such a point that in 1167 relations between the two countries were completely broken off. The doge even recalled all those of his nation who had settled upon Greek territory. Diplomatic intercourse, resumed at the request of Manuel who drew the Venetians into a veritable snare, was again definitively broken off on 12 March 1171. On this date Manuel ordered the arrest of all Venetians settled in his dominions and the confiscation of their goods. Enormous damage was thus inflicted upon Venice. In revenge the republic during the winter of 1171-2 pillaged the coasts of the Empire and ravaged Negropont, Chios, and Lesbos. In the course of the campaign negotiations were initiated in which the Venetians were duped. These were continued without result up to 1175. At this date Venice made an alliance with William II, King of Sicily. Thus directly threatened, Manuel decided upon concessions. He set at liberty the prisoners arrested in 1171, restored their goods to them, and granted to Venice the privileges enjoyed under former treaties of commerce. In the interval, in 1173, Venice had given help to the Germans in their attempt to take Ancona from the Greeks.

The policy which Manuel pursued in Italy naturally reacted upon the relations between the Greek Empire and the Germans. The attitude which he took up there would naturally have as its first consequence a complete rupture with Barbarossa. This, however, was postponed for some time owing to the secrecy with which the Greek Emperor contrived to cover up his intrigues. It was only when the occupation of Ancona took place in 1166 that Manuel's hostility to Barbarossa showed itself clearly. From 1159 to 1165 several embassies were exchanged between the two Emperors, and in 1166 Henry, Duke of Austria, made a useless journey to Manuel’s court to attempt to bring about an understanding. Just at that time Manuel's occupation of Ancona had opened Barbarossa’s eyes, and he was determined to avenge himself on the earliest opportunity. However, the progress made by Manuel in Italy, marked by the treaties with Genoa in 1169 and with Pisa in 1170, decided Barbarossa on attempting a reconciliation. From 1170 to 1172 proposals were discussed for the marriage of Manuel's daughter with Barbarossa's son. They led to nothing, and in 1173 Barbarossa was engaged in the siege of Ancona (which had given itself up to the Greeks), and was also trying to negotiate an alliance with William II, evidently directed against Manuel. At the same time the Western Emperor was attempting in his turn to create difficulties for his adversary, and was treating with the Sultan of Iconium. Manuel took no share in the Treaty of Venice (1177) and, as we shall see, continued the struggle with the Western Emperor up to the last day of his life.

Manuel and Hungary

His Italian policy, being based wholly on diplomacy, always left the greater part of the military forces of the Empire free, a circumstance which enabled the Emperor at the same time to pursue a more active and warlike course in two other quarters, Hungary and Asia. Since the peace signed with Geza, Manuel had played a waiting game in Hungary, content with giving a refuge at Constantinople to two of the king’s brothers, the future Stephen IV and Ladislas. At the death of Geza (1161), Manuel had made use of the pretenders whom he had at hand in order to interfere in the concerns of the Hungarian succession, calculating thus to secure some advantage for the Empire. The laws of succession were not yet fully fixed in Hungary, and Stephen IV could plead in his favor the ancient usage by which the brother of a dead king was to be preferred to the son, in order to put forward a claim to the throne to the prejudice of his nephew Stephen III. Manuel supported the claims of his protégé by Byzantine troops. A strong party grew up in Hungary hostile to the claims of Geza’s son, but refusing to admit those of Stephen IV, who was looked upon as too much the vassal of Constantinople. The Hungarians feared that by giving the crown to Stephen IV their country might become a mere satellite of Constantinople, and to avoid this danger made choice of Ladislas, brother of Stephen IV, whom they regarded as less submissive to the influence of the Byzantine court. Ladislas was barely seated on the throne when he died (1162). The struggle between the two Stephens then recommenced, Manuel still giving support to his candidate. To bring the contest to an end, the counselors of the young King Stephen III offered to hand over to Manuel another son of Geza’s named Bela, who was recognized as the future heir to the crown of Hungary and granted a considerable appanage which included Dalmatia. As the appanage of Bela, who would be brought up in Constantinople, Dalmatia practically fell back into the hands of the Byzantines, and the result of Manuel's Hungarian policy was an important territorial acquisition. To make his success the surer, Manuel, who as yet had no son, decided to betroth his daughter Mary to the Hungarian prince, whom he destined for his successor. By this means Hungary would have been united to the Greek Empire.

It was not without difficulty that the Greeks entered into possession of Dalmatia. As the position of Stephen III grew stronger, the Hungarians came to regret the sacrifice they had agreed to, and for several years the war was renewed. Manuel, having become master of Dalmatia in 1166, remained in the end the victor. The birth of a son to him in 1169 caused him to alter his arrangements. Bela ceased to be heir presumptive and, his betrothal to Mary having been set aside, he was married to the Emperor’s sister-in-law, a daughter of Constance of Antioch. On the death of Stephen III, Bela with the aid of Byzantine troops mounted the throne of Hungary. As the price of his support Manuel kept his hold on Bela’s appanage. Bela always remained devoted to him, although it was only after his patron’s death that he recovered Dalmatia.

Manuel and Serbia 

The continual wars which were waged during this period on the Danube frontier kept up a state of unrest among the Serbs, who were vassals of the Empire. Manuel was repeatedly obliged to intervene. He deposed Pervoslav Uros, replacing him by his brother Bela (1161?). Then, Bela having retired from power, Manuel set up as his successor Dessa, another son of Bela Uros (c. 1162). Dessa, who a few years later took the name of Stephen Nemanja, attempted to throw off the Byzantine suzerainty. More than once Manuel was forced to interfere to restore order; finally he seized Stephen Nemanja, whom he kept prisoner for some time in Constantinople. It is not known exactly at what date Stephen regained his liberty. He took advantage of the disorder which followed the death of Manuel to secure the independence of his country.

It was not until about 1150 that the affairs of the East called for the intervention of Manuel. At that time the situation of the Byzantine possessions had become critical. Thoros, son of the Armenian prince Leo, had escaped from captivity, and had succeeded in taking from the Greeks a large part of Cilicia. At the same time the Muslim conquest had made a great step in advance by the capture of Edessa, and the position of the Latin states in Palestine was rendered even more precarious by the entrance into the contest of the Mussulmans of Iconium, who with Qilij Arslan, son of Masud, wished to have their share in the dismembering of the Latin principalities. In the extreme peril in which they stood the Latins asked for help from the West, but the danger was so threatening that they had recourse to the Emperor of Constantinople. Manuel ordered his troops in the East to support the Latins. About the same time he bought from the wife of Joscelin II, Count of Edessa, all that remained in her hands of the possessions of her husband. Constance, Princess of Antioch, having become a widow, also turned to the Emperor for protection. The position of things thus favored Greek intervention. Manuel charged his cousin, Andronicus Comnenus, with the task of reducing Thoros, and sent also his brother-in-law the Caesar John-Roger whom he proposed to Constance as a husband. This projected marriage never took place, and Andronicus only succeeded in getting himself defeated before Mamistra.

Manuel then changed his policy and attempted to secure the submission of Thoros by means of Masud. The latter accepted Manuel's offers all the more willingly as he had himself subjects of complaint against Thoros. The Armenian prince had pillaged Cappadocia, taking advantage of the struggle between Masud and the Danishmandite rulers, Yaqub Arslan and Dhul-Qarnain, son and heir of Ain-ad-Daulah. The result of this experiment did not correspond to Manuel’s hopes. On a first occasion Masud treated with Thoros but at Manuel's expense; on a second the Mussulman troops were thoroughly beaten. Profiting by the inaction of Manuel, who was detained by affairs in Italy, Thoros approached Reginald of Châtillon who had become Prince of Antioch through his marriage with Constance, and the two set on foot an expedition against the island of Cyprus, where immense booty was obtained (1155 or 1156).

This aggression against the Byzantines greatly displeased the King of Jerusalem, Baldwin, for, confronted by the growing success of the Ataheg Nar-ad-Din, the master of Damascus, he was meditating a rapprochement with Manuel, to whom he had applied for the hand of a princess of the imperial family. The request of Baldwin came just as the imperial idea was beginning to take shape in Manuel's mind. The Emperor, whose Oriental policy, like that of his predecessors, was dominated by the wish to regain Antioch for the Empire, eagerly welcomed the proposal of Baldwin, which would give him an opportunity of posing as the protector of the Holy Places. He gave the King of Jerusalem the hand of his niece Theodora, daughter of his brother Isaac, and as soon as peace had been concluded with the King of Sicily (1157) he organized a great expedition for the East.

By about the month of September 1158 Manuel had arrived in Cilicia at the head of a very considerable force. None of his adversaries dared to stand against him, and in succession Reginald of Châtillon and Thoros were obliged to come in penitential garments and submit themselves to his mercy. The Emperor consented to pardon them. Reginald was obliged to acknowledge himself the vassal of the Empire, engaging to supply a strong contingent of troops whenever required to do so by the Emperor. Ambassadors from most of the Oriental princes were to be found hastening to the imperial camp before Mamistra. The Latins themselves, the King of Jerusalem first among them, sought help of Manuel in whom they now placed all their hopes; Baldwin himself entered into a treaty, he also being obliged to furnish troops to the Greek Empire.

In April 1159 Manuel left Cilicia to make his solemn entry into Antioch, escorted by the Latin princes on foot and unarmed, and followed by the King of Jerusalem on horseback but without weapons. Passing through streets adorned with carpets and hangings, to the sound of drums and trumpets and to the singing of triumphal hymns, the Emperor was brought in procession to the cathedral by the Patriarch in his pontifical robes, while the imperial banners were hoisted on the city walls.

His stay at Antioch marks the highest pitch of glory to which Manuel attained throughout his reign. He took pleasure in the pomp with which he surrounded himself, and in the largess which he distributed to dazzle the Latins and Orientals. For a week feasts and shows followed each other rapidly, and on one day the Emperor might be seen descending into the lists to measure himself against Reginald of Châtillon, while the officers of the imperial army contended with the Frankish knights.

Manuel’s marriage with Mary of Antioch 

Towards the end of May the Emperor left Antioch with all the materials for a siege, taking the road to Edessa, but after a few days' march the army halted, for the negotiations with Nar-ad-Din had just reached a conclusion. Manuel procured the liberation of all the captives held in the Atabeg’s prison, the number of whom reached six thousand. The abandonment of the campaign which had been begun caused the deepest disappointment to the Christians of the East. To justify the retreat of the Greeks, a rumor was circulated that a conspiracy had been discovered at Constantinople. There is perhaps no need to lay stress on the explanations put forward at the time. May it not be supposed that Manuel entered into the treaty because he had no kind of interest in the destruction of the power of Nar-ad-Din? It was to the struggle of the Atabegs and the Christians that the Empire owed the advantages which had been won in the East. Had he subjugated Nar-ad-Din, Manuel would have delivered the Latins from their dread of the Mussulman peril, and they as soon as the danger was removed would, as they had done before, make haste to forget their engagements to the Empire. In order that the suzerainty of Constantinople might be recognized by the Latins, it was necessary that the Mussulman peril should continue to exist. This appears to give the most reasonable explanation of Manuel's conduct.

On his return to Constantinople Manuel, who had been left a widower, meditated drawing closer the bonds between himself and the Latins of Palestine by marrying a Latin princess. He requested the King of Jerusalem to grant him the hand of Millicent, sister of Raymond III, Count of Tripolis. But, the marriage being once agreed upon, the negotiations were drawn out for more than a year, until at last Manuel suddenly broke them of and transferred his choice to Mary, daughter of Constance, Princess of Antioch. The chief result of the marriage was to bring Antioch more decidedly within the sphere of Byzantine influence, which was now exerted energetically on the side of the Latins against the Turks. At the battle of the Bukaia (1163) and at Harim (1164) the Greeks fought side by side with the Latin lords. After the defeat at Harim the Emperor sent reinforcements to Cilicia, but he made the mistake of committing the province to his cousin Andronicus as governor. Andronicus ruined the imperial policy by procuring the murder of Stephane, the brother of Thoros, who was thus alienated from the Empire. Then, having fallen in love with Philippa, Manuel’s sister-in-law, Andronicus deserted his post as governor in order to fly with the object of his passion. In spite of these incidents Constantinople and Antioch remained on excellent terms. Manuel came to the help of his brother-in-law Bohemond III with financial support, and obtained from him permission for the Greek Patriarch to return to Antioch. While Amaury, the Latin Patriarch, departed hurling anathemas against the city, the Greek, Athanasius, took possession of the see. This supplies a fresh proof of the influence exercised over Antioch by the Greek element. There was then in this quarter substantial progress on the part of the Byzantines.

Amaury of Jerusalem

Such was not the case in Cilicia. Thoros having died (c. 1167), his son Ruben II succeeded him, but after a short time was robbed of his crown by his uncle Mleh, who in order to seize power had allied himself with Nur-ad-Din. With the latter’s help Mleh succeeded in maintaining his position until the death of his patron, when he was overthrown and, Ruben II being dead, was replaced by Ruben III, son of Stephane, the victim of Andronicus. Throughout these struggles Constantinople seems to have played a very secondary part in Cilicia. It is only the attempt by Manuel to bring about the union of the Greek and Armenian Churches which shows that Constantinople had not yet lost interest in Armenian affairs. It is quite probable that the object aimed at by the Emperor was at least as much political as religious, and that the opposition offered by the Armenian clergy, which caused the failure of the negotiations, was also political in character.

Baldwin's successor on the throne of Jerusalem, Amaury, after having at the opening of his reign sought in vain for help from the West, turned decidedly from 1165 onwards towards Constantinople. He asked for the hand of a princess of the imperial family, and on 29 August 1167 his marriage took place at Tyre with the daughter of the Protosebastos John Comnenus, a nephew of the Emperor, the son of his brother Andronicus. Through this new connection the ties between Constantinople and the kingdom of Jerusalem became closer, and Manuel agreed to lend his help to King Amaury, who, in order to prevent Nur-ad-Din from occupying Egypt, where the Caliphate had fallen into utter decadence, wished to annex the country himself. Several attempts by the King of Jerusalem had failed; it was now decided that in 1169 the Greeks and Latins should try to effect a joint conquest of Egypt. Delays on the part of Amaury caused the expedition to fail, for the provisions of the Greeks, calculated to last for three months, had been already largely consumed when their fleet quitted Acre.

The Greek fleet under the command of the Grand Duke Alexius Contostephanus had a strength of 150 biremes and 60 transport ships. It left the port of Coda near Sestos in July. But the expedition, instead of setting out in August as had been agreed, only left Syria to besiege Damietta in October. The siege lasted for two months, at the end of which the town made terms with Amaury. The campaign had failed, and the Greeks, who were suffering greatly from want of provisions, were in haste to depart. Their return journey was disastrous, a large number of their vessels being lost at sea, and the Empire derived no advantage whatever from the expedition.

Manuel, however, was not discouraged by this want of success, and in 1171 he gave a favorable reception to Amaury, who had come to Constantinople to ask for his support. A treaty was signed by which Manuel pledged himself to assist the King of Jerusalem in a renewed attempt upon Egypt. According to a Greek chronicler, Amaury at this time acknowledged himself the vassal of the Emperor, but as the statement cannot be verified it is impossible to speak decidedly on the point. As to the proposed expedition, we know that Manuel urged Amaury’s successor, Baldwin IV, to march upon Egypt (1177). The opposition of Philip, Count of Flanders and Vermandois, who was then in Palestine, was fatal to the plan which had been agreed on, its execution being deferred to some unspecified date.

Wars with the Turks 

It remains for us to consider the relations of Manuel with the Sultan of Iconium. Masud had died (c. 1155) and had been succeeded at Iconium by Qilij Arslan, and at Gangra and Ancyra by another of his sons, Shahinshah. On its return from Antioch in 1159 the Greek army was attacked near Cotyaeum by Musulman bands, and next year Manuel undertook a campaign in order to chastise Qilij Arslan. In this struggle he relied on the support of other Mohammedan princes, Yaqub Arslan, Dhal-Nan, Mahomet, son of Dhal-Qarnain, and also on Sharhinshal, brother of Qilij Arslan. In 1160 Yaqub Arslan was attacking Qilij Arslan, while on all sides the Greeks were falling upon such Turkish tribes as were to be found in the neighbourhood of the frontier. In consequence of this general onslaught Qilij Arslan treated for peace during the winter of 1161. The negotiations fell through, and war was resumed at the beginning of spring. Manuel, by way of Philadelphia, invaded the dominions of the Sultan, who retorted by attacks upon Phileta and Laodicea.

In 1162 Manuel called upon all his vassals to strike a decisive blow. Finding himself seriously menaced, Qilij Arslan made friends with Yaqub Arslan and Shahinshah, and then negotiated with Manuel, with whom he finally concluded a treaty of alliance. Soon after, Qilij Arslan appeared at Constantinople, where he remained for more than three months. He departed loaded with presents, having made the Emperor the fairest of promises for the future. He had pledged himself to restore to the Empire a number of towns which had been taken by the Mussulmans. Not one of these promises was ever carried out.

The years from 1162 to 1174 were occupied by perpetual strife among the Mussulmans of Asia Minor, the Greeks being thus allowed some respite. In the end Qilij Arslan was left victor over his chief adversaries. His brother Shahinshdl and Dhul-Nun then sought refuge at Constantinople.

In order to be able to pursue his European policy undisturbed, Manuel had since his treaty with Qilij Arslan supplied the latter with heavy subsidies as the price of peace. In proportion as his power increased, the Sultan of Iconium, urged on perhaps by Frederick Barbarossa, assumed a more independent attitude towards the Empire, while the incursions of the nomad tribes of Turks were renewed with greater frequency than ever. To secure his frontier, Manuel repaired the fortifications of a certain number of strongholds, notably Pergamus and Chliara. He then fortified the two lines of defence supplied by the rivers Maeander and Hermus.

Battle of Myriocephalum

It was not till 1175 that a definitive rupture took place between Manuel and the Sultan of Iconium. The former insisted that Qilij Arslan should fulfill his promise to restore to the Empire certain towns which he had taken from it. Supported by Frederick Barbarossa, Qilij Arslan refused to comply with the Emperor’s demands, and Manuel decided upon war, counting upon the support of all the remaining partisans of Shahinshah and Dhul-Nun among the Mussulmans. While a detachment of Greek troops was sent under Gabras and Shalinshah to occupy Amasia, which was still in the hands of the latter's supporters, Manuel carried out the fortification of a whole series of towns, Dorylaeum, an important strategic point on the road to Iconium, Lampe, and Sublaeum (1175). Next year the Emperor resolved to attack Iconium. With this object he preached a regular crusade, calling upon all his vassals for help. While Andronicus Vatatzes went to attack Neo-Caesarea, Manuel himself took command of the army which was to march upon Iconium. The fate of both expeditions was equally disastrous. Vatatzes failed before Neo­Caesarea and was killed, his army being routed. Manuel himself became entangled with his whole army in the mountainous region to the east of Sublaeum (Homa). He had neglected to explore the countryside with scouts during his march, and was caught by the Muslims in the narrow defiles at Myriocephalum. The Greeks met with a complete disaster, in which the finest of the imperial troops were slaughtered by the Mussulmans. Manuel himself compared his defeat to that of Romanus Diogenes at Manzikert. For reasons unknown to us Qilij Arslan used his victory with moderation, and offered peace on honorable terms, stipulating only for the destruction of the fortifications at Dorylaeum and Sublaeum. Manuel agreed to the conditions proposed, and led the wreck of his army back to Constantinople.

With the disaster of Myriocephalum all enterprises on a large scale in the East came to an end. Though broken by his defeat, the Emperor did indeed renew the war during the latter part of his reign; but the Greek generals had to confine themselves to the defence of the frontier, and all idea of an advance upon Iconium, to attack the central seat of the Musulman power, was abandoned. In fact, the battle of Myriocephalum sealed the fate of the Comnenian dynasty, if not of the Byzantine Empire.

As a result of his defeat Manuel met with a mortification from Frederick Barbarossa which he must have felt keenly. The Western Emperor wrote to the Basileus, and remembering old scores himself spoke of the unity of the Empire. In his letter he clearly asserts the superiority of the Emperor of the West, sole heir of the Roman Emperors, over all other sovereigns, in particular, over the King of the Greeks.

Manuel, who feared that the Westerns might profit by his defeat to attack his Empire, strove by all the means which he had before found successful to paralyze Barbarossa’s forces. He supported William, Marquess of Montferrat, when he raised a revolt in Italy, and, in order to set a seal on the alliance, married his daughter Mary to Renier, one of William's sons. Again it was Byzantine gold that helped to equip the troops that defeated Frederick's Arch-Chancellor, Christian of Mayence, near Camerino. Manuel was trying to arrange for the purchase of Christian, whom Conrad of Montferrat had made prisoner, when his own death put a stop to the negotiations. Thus after lasting twenty years the struggle between the two Empires came to an end—a struggle in which diplomacy counted for more than armies. Manuel's policy with regard to Barbarossa was very burdensome to the imperial treasury, for money was the weapon with which he chiefly carried on the contest. If his policy seems to have yielded no very striking results, it must be remembered that Manuel was successful in keeping the forces of his enemy in a state of inaction, and was thus able to pursue his policy of conquest in Hungary and the East unhindered. 

The only success which sweetened the bitterness of Manuel's last years was the marriage of his son Alexius with Agnes, the daughter of Louis VII of France. This match had been arranged at the Emperor's request by Philip, Count of Flanders, who on his return from an expedition to the Holy Land had passed through Constantinople in 1178. The little princess, who reached Constantinople in a Genoese vessel, was married to the heir of the Empire on 2 March 1180. On 24 September in the same year the Emperor died after a long illness, during which, confident in the predictions of astrologers, he never ceased to nurse illusions as to his prospect of recovery. This conviction that he would recover prevented him from making any arrangements for the organization of the government during the minority of his son.

Alexius II

Alexius II, son and successor of Manuel Comnenus, was twelve years old at the time of his father's death. Naturally therefore he had no share in state affairs, the regency being in the hands of his mother Mary of Antioch, whose charm and beauty the chroniclers vie in celebrating. Every man about the court, convinced that the Empress could be wooed and won, endeavored to attract her attention. For some time the court was the scene of all manner of intrigues, and, in order to gain favor with the Empress, young and old rivaled one another in the elegance and splendor of their attire and in their jewels and perfumes, each hoping to be the lucky man on whom her choice would fall, Mary made the double mistake, first, of allowing herself to make a choice among the crowd of gallants who surrounded her, and, secondly, of distinguishing with her favor the vainglorious and incapable Protosebastos Alexius Comnenus, son of Manuel's elder brother Andronicus. All power was soon exercised by the favorite, who by his childish pride, his contemptuous treatment of the chief officials, and the pretensions which he ostentatiously put forward, excited a general hatred in which the Regent was naturally included. The favor which she showed to the Latins who filled the chief posts in the army and the administration, and on whose support she came naturally to rely, completed the exasperation of the public mind, which was besides excited by the courtiers. Before long the "foreign woman" as the Empress was called was detested in Constantinople, and a plot was set on foot against the all-powerful favorite. In order to kindle the indignation of the populace, it was given out that Alexius Comnenus intended to marry the Empress and to arrange for the disappearance of the young Emperor in order to seize the throne himself.

The leading spirit in the plot was Mary daughter of Manuel, with her husband the Caesar Renier. Having been for a short time heiress to the throne, Mary was inconsolable for the loss of her prospects, and she heartily detested her step-mother. A great many of the members of the imperial family gathered round her—Alexius Comnenus, illegitimate son of Manuel, John and Manuel Comnenus, the sons of Andronicus the future Emperor; and to these were added some of the chief officials, notably John Camaterus, prefect of the city. The assassination of the favorite was resolved on, but the stroke miscarried and the plot was discovered. Mary and her fellow-conspirators at once took refuge in St Sophia, which they turned into a fortress. Although the people showed themselves clearly in favor of the conspirators, who also had the support of the Patriarch Theodotus and the higher clergy, the Protosebastos did not scruple to order an assault upon the church, thereby causing immense scandal (May 1182). This profanation, which finally alienated the public mind from him, in no way benefited Alexius Comnenus, whose troops were unable to take St Sophia. The Empress-Regent, reduced to treat with the besieged, was compelled to pardon them and to promise the leaders their lives and dignities. Nor was it long before the favorite met with a further rebuff. He attempted to depose the Patriarch and to constrain him to retire into a monastery. But Theodosius was brought back in triumph by the populace. The Regent, feeling herself in danger from the general hostility that surrounded her, sought help from outside, and petitioned her brother-in-law Bela III, King of Hungary, to come to her aid.


Meanwhile events at Constantinople were being watched from a distance with passionate interest by a man whose supporters were constantly stirring up the hostility of the populace against the Regent and her favorite. His name began to pass from mouth to mouth; he was the only person capable of saving the situation; the people of the capital and the malcontents of the Court rested all their hopes on Andronicus Comnenus.

This son of Isaac Comnenus was a strange being. His father was a brother of the Emperor John, and in the son the populace of Constantinople saw its future deliverer. Learned, eloquent, and witty, he had for a long time been the arbiter of fashion and taste in the capital, and the magnificence of his dwelling had become famous. The exquisiteness of his dress showed off his handsome features—handsome enough to befit a throne, says a chronicler. A man of personal courage, Andronicus, like Manuel, had distinguished himself in single combat, but his cool and ready audacity delighted above all things in political intrigue. Full of ambition, he meditated unceasingly on the means of reaching the throne; of debauched life, the court rang with stories of his various scandalous amours. His vices were paraded with astonishing cynicism. While the lover of his cousin Eudocia, Andronicus had been appointed Duke of Cilicia, and on his defeat by Thoros II had hastened back to his mistress. He had then entered into a conspiracy with Geza, King of Hungary, and when arrested in 1153 was plotting the assassination of Manuel. He made several unavailing attempts to escape, but in the end after many changes of fortune succeeded in gaining a refuge at the court of Yaroslav, Prince of Halicz (1164). Manuel, uneasy that so restless a brain should be intriguing among the Russians, had pardoned his cousin and had then reappointed him Duke of Cilicia. While residing in his province Andronicus conceived a passion for the Emperor’s sister-in-law Philippa, daughter of the Princess of Antioch, who yielded to his solicitations. Quickly forsaking her, Andronicus set out for the Holy Land, where he carried off his cousin Queen Theodora, widow of Baldwin of Jerusalem. The couple for several years led a wandering life, going from court to court in the Muslim East, and finally establishing themselves near Colonea in a citadel presented to them by a Mussulman emir. Andronicus made use of his position, which was close to the frontier of the Empire, to keep up incessant warfare against his cousin. Excommunicated by the Patriarch for his relations with Theodora, he nevertheless continued to live with her. It was, however, on her account that he was at last reduced to sue for pardon. In order to get the better of his cousin, Manuel had his mistress carried off by the Duke of Trebizond. Andronicus, incapable of dispensing with her society, resolved upon making his submission. After a solemn reconciliation with Manuel, in which he proved his talents as an actor, he retired into private life at Oenaeum on the shores of the Black Sea.

Coup d'état of Andronicus

It was from this retreat that for more than a year he followed the course of events at Constantinople. Increasing age had taught prudence, and he fully realised that if he did not succeed in reaching the throne this time all his hopes would be at an end. Affecting complete indifference to all the rivalries which surged round Alexius II, Andronicus was meanwhile setting in motion partisans who kept him informed of the state of opinion. The moment came when his daughter Mary gave him the signal for action. He marched without hesitation upon Constantinople at the head of his tenants and of some of the troops in Paphlagonia whom he had seduced from their allegiance, declaring his object to be the liberation of the Emperor. His march across Asia Minor was a triumph; not only did he defeat the loyal troops, but their general, Andronicus Angelus, declared for him. His victorious army encamped upon the Asiatic shore of the Bosphorus, and before long the very sailors of the fleet, on whom lay the duty of barring his passage, came to make their submission to him. The population of the capital rushed to greet its darling, who took up the role of champion of the Greeks against the foreigners.

The Empress-Regent and her favorite no longer received any support except from the Latins, who alone staved off the entry of Andronicus into the capital. To overcome this obstacle a formidable outbreak was engineered in Constantinople; the populace, goaded on to attack the Latin quarters, indulged in the most shameless excesses and even massacred the sick in the hospitals. Many Latins perished; at the same time a large number succeeded in getting on board some fifty vessels, and by the ravages they committed in the islands of the Propontis and along the coast exacted a heavy penalty from the Greeks for the treacherous onslaught which they had made.

Once her Latin supporters had been massacred, all was over with the Regent. Giving himself out as the liberator of Alexius II, Andronicus entered Constantinople. He began by banishing the Empress from the palace, and then arranged for the disappearance of such members of the imperial family as were likely to oppose any obstacle to his plans. Mary and the Caesar Renier died in a manner unknown; the Empress-mother was condemned to death, and her son forced to sign her sentence himself. In the face of these atrocities the Patriarch Theodotus withdrew. In September 1183 Andronicus became joint Emperor with Alexius II, whom he murdered in November of the same year, and thereupon married Agnes, who had been his victim’s wife.

The reign of Andronicus presents a series of unparalleled contrasts. So far as the administration of the provinces is concerned, Andronicus showed great and statesmanlike qualities; on the other hand his government at Constantinople was that of the most hateful of tyrants.

The provincial population had much to bear both from the imperial functionaries and from the great feudal lords. Andronicus exacted from the latter class an unfailing respect for the property and rights of the peasants, and treated with extreme severity such as were reported to him as having abused their power. As to the officials, he made a point of choosing them carefully and paying them liberally, so that they should have no need to oppress the peasants in order to recoup themselves for the price paid for their appointments. To all he guaranteed rigid justice. Such as were convicted of peculation were severely punished. “You have the choice”, the Emperor used to say, “between ceasing to cheat and ceasing to live”. Short as was the reign of Andronicus, these measures had their effect; order and prosperity returned to the provinces, and some of them which had been deserted by their inhabitants again became populated. Finally, one of the happiest measures introduced by the Emperor was the abolition of the rights of wreck and stray.

Andronicus was a lover of literature and of the arts. He surrounded himself with jurists, and took pleasure in beautifying Constantinople. The repairing of aqueducts and the restoration of the church of the Forty Martyrs were the two chief works which he carried out. In one of the additions made to the church of the Forty Martyrs he had a series of mosaics executed representing his adventures and his hunting exploits.

But this bright side of Andronicus’ reign is defaced by the ferocious cruelty with which he treated his opponents. The aristocracy opposed him violently. At Philadelphia, at Nicaea, at Prusa, at Lopadium, and in Cyprus, risings took place organized by the representatives of the greatest families among the nobility. At this juncture the Empire was being attacked on all sides: the Sultan of Iconium had retaken Sozopolis and was besieging Attalia, Bela III had crossed the Danube, and finally in 1185 the King of Sicily, William II, was invading Byzantine territory. In face of all these dangers Andronicus, fearing to lose the power so long coveted, determined to maintain himself by terror. The noblest Byzantine families saw their most illustrious members put to death or horribly mutilated. At Constantinople as in Asia Minor the work of repression was terrible; even the Emperor's own family was not spared. In the capital, terror had bowed the necks of all, and Andronicus seemed to have nothing left to fear when the Norman invasion came and brought about his fall.

Death of Andronicus. The Angeli

During the summer of 1185 the Normans, having taken Thessalonica, advanced upon Constantinople. At their approach a panic fell upon the city; the population, in terror of their lives, complained that Andronicus was making no preparations for resisting the enemy. The Emperor’s popularity, already impaired by his cruelties, crumbled away under the fear of invasion. Sullen disaffection was muttering in the capital, and Andronicus again had recourse to violence; large numbers were arrested on the pretext of punishing those secretly in league with the Normans, and the Emperor contemplated a general massacre of the prisoners. The arrest of a man of no great importance, Isaac Angelus, was the last drop that made the cup run over. Escaping from the soldiers sent to arrest him, Isaac took refuge in St Sophia; the people at his summons gathered in crowds, and before long rebellion thundered around him and burst out with terrific force. Isaac Angelus was proclaimed Emperor. Andronicus in vain attempted to resist; he was beaten and took to flight, but was stopped, and soon after given up to the fury of the people. The rabble tore out his beard, broke his teeth, cut off one of his hands, put out one of his eyes, and then threw him into a dungeon. On the morrow his tortures began afresh. He was led through the city on a mangy camel, while stones and boiling water were thrown at him. Finally, he was brought to the Hippodrome, where the soldiers, having hung him up by the feet, amused themselves by cutting him in pieces. Throughout these hideous tortures Andronicus showed superhuman courage. Raising his mutilated arm to his lips he constantly repeated Kyrie eleison! wherefore wilt thou break a bruised reed?

Such in September 1185 was the end of the last Emperor of the house of the Comneni, who for more than a century had arrested the ruin of their country. With his great qualities of statesmanship, the last of the dynasty might have helped to regenerate the Empire. Unfortunately the evil elements in his character had the mastery, and contributed to hasten the hour of that decadence which no member of the house of the Angeli was to prove capable of retarding.

The reign of Isaac II (1185-1195) was indeed a succession of misfortunes, converted by incapacity into disasters. Cyprus remained in revolt under an Isaac Comnenus until it was conquered by Richard Coeur-de-lion in 1191; and the great nobles of the Empire were so much out of hand as to be almost independent. The Bulgarians rose; the Serbs had thrown off (1180) their vassalage. If the Byzantines were able to throw back the invasion of William II of Sicily, Isaac II’s alliance with Saladin, and his resistance to Frederick Barbarossa's transit through the Balkans on the Third Crusade confirmed the growing enmity of the West. Frederick forced his way to the Bosphorus, ravaging the country and sacking Hadrianople. He compelled the transport of his troops to Asia from Gallipoli, and the delivery of provisions, but not before he had mooted the proposal of a crusade being preached against the Greeks. When in 1195 Alexius III took advantage of the general discontent to blind and depose his brother, no improvement came about. Rather, the anarchy became worse, while the government's incompetence and oppression remained glaring. The thirteenth century was to show that there were sound elements and great men still in the Empire, but before they could gain control there fell upon it the shattering disaster of the Fourth Crusade.