THE capture of Constantinople by the Latins did not for long leave the Greeks without a centre round which to rally. At Trebizond on the shores of the Black Sea, and at Nicaea, the city of the Nicene creed, two Greek Empires rose out of the fragments of that which had fallen, while a third Hellenic principality was founded in Epirus, which in its turn became for a brief period the Empire of Salonica. It was reserved for the second of these creations to reconquer Constantinople and thus to become merged in the restored Byzantine Empire, while the first survived by a little the Turkish conquest of Byzantium.

Theodore Lascaris, the founder of the Empire of Nicaea, was about thirty years of age at the time of the sack of Constantinople.

The scion of a distinguished Byzantine family, he had been considered worthy of the hand of the fair Anna, second daughter of the Emperor Alexius III; he had given proof of his courage during the operations against the Bulgarian traitor, Ivanko, in the mountains of Rhodope, and during the siege of the capital; and, despite his rather insignificant personal appearance, these qualities had led to his election in the great church of the Divine Wisdom to the imperial throne, vacant by the flight of Moúrtzouphlos. Without waiting to assume the imperial symbols, he made a last effort to rally the defenders of the city, and then, seeing that all was lost, fled with his wife and his three daughters across the Sea of Marmora and called upon the people of Nicaea to receive him as their lawful sovereign.


The spot which was to be the refuge of fallen Hellenism was well chosen. Nicaea was not then the feverish village which six centuries of Turkish rule have made it, but a great and prosperous city. Situated on the lake of Askania, neither too far from the sea for commerce nor too near it for corsairs, it "lacked," in the phrase of a native writer, "neither safety, nor grace."

The fertile plains of Bithynia provided it with corn and wine; the lake abounded in fish, and the city in excellent water, while cypresses and other trees rendered it a pleasant residence. No wonder, then, that the Byzantine Emperors had chosen it as the chief town of the Opsician province, that the Selj aq Sultans had made it their capital. The natural defence afforded by the lake, which the crusaders had found such a serious obstacle a century before this time, had been further strengthened by art, and its defenders boasted that it was impregnable. Splendid walls with projecting towers, still surviving in their picturesque decay, then protected the circular city, whose fine houses and richly decorated churches attested the wealth and piety of the inhabitants. Two of these churches, that of the Divine Wisdom and that of the Falling Asleep of the Virgin, still remain, and the mosaics of the latter shew that the praises of the local panegyrist were not exaggerated. Well-organised hospitals sheltered the leper, and it was the boast of the citizens that their philanthropic foundations excelled those of other towns. Such was Nicaea in the thirteenth century.

The inhabitants at first declined to receive Lascaris within their walls, and it was only with difficulty that he persuaded them to give shelter to his wife. Doubtless in their eyes his father-in-law, Alexius III, was still the lawful Emperor, and their loyalty may have been stimulated by the remembrance of the siege which they had endured at the hands of Andronicus I twenty years before, when they had committed the mistake of taking the wrong side in a civil war. For a time he wandered about Bithynia, trying in vain to obtain recognition, till the aid of Theodore Angelus, brother and successor of the first Despot of Epirus, and an alliance with the Seljuq Sultan, Kai-Khusru I, enabled him to become master of Brusa and the neighbouring country. He was greeted as Despot by his new subjects, a title which policy and the absence of the Patriarch suggested as wiser for the moment than the dignity of Emperor.

The founder of this new Greek state had, indeed, many rivals to propitiate or subdue. Asia Minor in 1204 was divided between ten rulers of four different nationalities. While the greater part belonged to the Seljuq Sultans of Iconium, the Cilician kingdom of Armenia occupied the south, and a large colony of Armenians was settled in the Troad. At Trebizond, in the same month in which Constantinople fell, young Alexius, grandson of Andronicus I, established himself with the aid of a Georgian contingent, provided by the care of his paternal aunt Thamar. The family of Comnenus was popular on the Black Sea coast, whence it had originally come, and where men still remembered the residence of the grandfather of Alexius among them, for a tyrant in the capital may often be the idol of the provinces. Accordingly, in the pompous style of that age, he called himself Grand­Comnenus and Emperor, and his successors preserved both the adjective and the imperial title for 250 years. While Oenaeum and Sinope, as well as Trebizond, declared for the new Emperor, his brother David pushed the fortunes of the family farther to the west; a body of Georgians and native mercenaries helped him to subdue Paphlagonia, the cradle of his race, and he was soon able to proclaim Alexius at Heraclea and to extend the Trapezuntine Empire to the banks of the Sangarius. But the two brothers were not the only Greek competitors of Lascaris. In the middle of the Black Sea coast their conquests were interrupted by the petty sovereignty of Sabbas at Samsun; the old rebel Mankaphas, nicknamed "Mad Theodore," who had assumed the imperial title in the time of Isaac II, had once more made himself master of Philadelphia; while Mayrozómes had secured a strong position on the Maeander by giving his daughter's hand to the Seljuq Sultan. The Latin element was already represented by two Venetian colonies at Lampsacus and at Pegae on the Hellespont, the former a fief of the Quirini; and by a Levantine branch of the great Pisan family of Aldobrandini at Attalia.


Partition of Asia Minor


The partition treaty had assigned large portions of Asia Minor to the Latin Emperor; among them "the provinces of Nicomedia, Tarsia, Paphlagonia, Oenaeum and Sinope, Laodicea and the Maeander with the appurtenances of Samsun"—in other words practically the whole of the territory occupied by Lascaris and the Grand-Comnenus. In pursuance of this arrangement, Baldwin I granted large territories beyond the Sea of Marmora as fiefs to his faithful followers: Nicaea with the title of Duke, then considered to be one of the greatest dignities of the East, to Count Louis of Blois, a rich and redoubtable noble, who was nephew of the King of England and had held the banner at the coronation of the first Latin Emperor; Philadelphia, likewise coupled with a ducal coronet, to Stephen of Perche. Of the two great religious orders, the Knights of St John received a quarter of the so-called "Duchy of Neokastra"—the "new forts" of Adramyttium, Pergamus, and Chliara; the Templars Aldobrandino's city of Attalia. It was clear from the outset that Lascaris would have to fight for his new dominions against the Latin invader as well as the native enemy.


The Franks in Asia Minor


On 1 November 1204 the French Duke of Nicaea sent two trusty henchmen, Pierre de Bracheuil and Payen d'Orleans, with a force of 120 knights to take possession of his Asiatic fief. Landing at the Latin colony of Pegae, where they were sure of a welcome, they occupied the now important town of Panderma, and on 6 December met the army of Lascaris beneath the walls of Poimanenón, a strong castle to the south­east. Despite the inequality of numbers, the superior prowess of the armoured Frankish knights decided the fate of the battle; the Greeks fled, and the neighbouring city of Lopadium, now the village of Ulubad, but then one of the fairest towns in the country and the bulwark of Prusa, opened its gates to the clemency of the victors. Prusa, however, protected by its strong natural position and its high walls, resisted their attack, and the abandonment of the siege encouraged the native population to revolt against their rule, which, though admittedly humane, was still that of a foreign race and an alien creed. A second detachment of Franks, under the Latin Emperor's brother, Henry, now accepted the invitation of the Armenians who dwelt in the Troad, and who probably belonged to the Latin faith, to renew the exploits of the Trojan war, one of the few classical memories known to the crusaders. Crossing the Dardanelles to Abydos, Henry traversed the passes of Ida, and established his headquarters at Adramyttium. Thither a second Greek army, under the command of Theodore's brother Constantine, marched to attack him. But this second pitched battle, fought on 19 March 1205, was even more disastrous to the Greeks than the first; they lost many men and much booty, and the people of the country began to pay tribute to the invaders. A third attempt, this time by the "mad" tyrant of Philadelphia, was defeated by the personal courage of Henry and the irresistible rush of the French cavalry. This success was completed by the occupation of Nicomedia by a third detachment of Franks under Macaire de Ste. Menehould, the Lord High Steward. Five brief months had sufficed for the conquest of the entire rich province of Opsiciuin and more beside; the whole of north-west Asia Minor from Adramyttium to Nicomedia recognised the Latin Empire; Nicaea and Prusa alone held out for Lascaris.

At this moment, however, the Greeks of Asia were saved by the nation which they are wont to consider as their greatest enemy in Europe. Their fellow-countrymen in Thrace had summoned Kalojan, the Bulgarian Tsar, against the Franks, and Baldwin felt compelled to recall his brother and the other French leaders from Asia Minor to his aid against this new foe. Henry and the other two detachments hastened to obey his command; of all their conquests they retained only Pegae, as a military and naval base on the Hellespont; and with them the Armenian colony of the Troad crossed over into Europe, for fear of reprisals from the Greeks. Thus abruptly ended the first attempt of the Franks to conquer Asia Minor. The first and last French Duke of Nicaea fell in a Bulgarian ambuscade before Philippopolis, without ever having set foot in his Asiatic duchy.


Theodore I proclaimed Emperor


Lascaris availed himself of the departure of the Franks to occupy the places which they had evacuated, and his perseverance seemed to warrant the assumption of the imperial title. It was necessary, however, first to elect a Patriarch; for the Ecumenical throne was vacant. But Nicaea had by this time become the home of all that was most learned in the ecclesiastical world of Greece, so that the election of a Patriarch caused no difficulty. The newly-elected Patriarch hastened to crown Theodore Emperor, and the historian Nicetas composed an address which the monarch was to deliver on this occasion, enforcing the obedience of his subjects and setting forth the reunion of all the Greeks under his sceptre and the recapture of Constantinople as the objects of his reign. Thus, in the spring of 1206, two years after his flight from the fallen city, Theodore Lascaris was crowned at Nicaea.

No sooner was he invested with the imperial dignity, than he began to carry out the programme which Nicetas had traced for him. A politic truce with Henry, now Latin Emperor and fully occupied in Europe, set him free to turn his undivided attention to his Greek rivals. "Mad Theodore," Sabbas, and Mayrozómes were driven from their respective possessions; the two former vanished from history; the third, as the father-in-law of so influential a potentate as Kai-khusru, with whom Lascaris wished to remain at peace, received back a strip of territory, including Chonae, the birthplace of Nicetas himself. The next blow was dealt at the Empire of Trebizond. Alexius had offended the Seljuk Sultan, who besieged his capitals; David, taking advantage of the evacuation of Nicomedia by the French, had sent his young general, Synademis, to occupy that city. But this inexperienced strategist was surprised by the abler Lascaris, who led his troops through a difficult mountain pass and even wielded the axe himself to remove the trees from his path. Such energy was bound to be successful; Synadencis was taken prisoner; David was forced to restrict the Trapezuntine frontier to Heraclea, and even from there the Emperor of Nicaea threatened to drive him farther eastward. At this, in self-preservation, David called in the Franks to his aid.

The Franks had been ready to ally themselves with the sole remaining Greek rival of Lascaris, for they complained that he had broken his truce with them, and they were anxious to prevent the growth of a Greek naval power, of which he had laid the foundations under the guidance of a Calabrian corsairs. Accordingly, towards the end of 1206, Henry sent Pierre de Bracheuil and Payen d'Orleans for the second time to Asia Minor, with the promise that Bracheuil should have Pegae and Cyzicus with the island of Marmora as a fief, while Thierri de Loos, the Seneschal of the Latin Empire, was invested with Nicomedia. This second Frankish invasion repeated on a smaller scale the achievements of the first. From Pegae as a base Bracheuil occupied and refortified the peninsula of Cyzicus, and the Seneschal, sailing direct from Constantinople to Nicomedia, speedily converted its beautiful minster of the Divine Wisdom into his castle. Two other French nobles, Macaire de Ste. Menehould and Guillaume de Sains, established themselves at Hereke to the north of the Gulf of Izmid and at Gemlik, or Civitot, as the crusaders called it, the port of Nicaea and Prusa, thus cutting off both those cities from the sea. Thus hemmed in by the Franks, Lascaris sent envoys to the Bulgarian Tsar, urging him to attack Constantinople. Once again Kaloj an created a welcome diversion in Thrace, and once again it was necessary to recall the French to Europe. Only small garrisons were left to hold the Frankish quadrilateral.

Theodore at once proceeded to attack these isolated fortresses. So fierce was the fighting at Civitot, that only five of its brave defenders remained unwounded when Henry arrived in haste from Constantinople to its relief, and such was its condition that he decided to withdraw the garrison and abandon it. Cyzicus was so closely invested by land and sea that a second expedition was required to raise the siege; Thierri de Loos was captured outside the walls of Nicomedia, and its fortified minster would have been taken, had not Henry returned to save it. Then a truce for two years was concluded; the Greeks released their prisoners, the French evacuated Cyzicus and Nicomedia, and their fortifications were destroyed. Pegae seems already to have fallen; only Hereke remained Frankish.

The truce, though equally beneficial to both parties, was soon broken. David, ever on the watch for an opportunity of attacking the rival Emperor of the East, wrote to Constantinople, begging that he might be included among the subjects, and that his land might be considered a part, of the Latin Empire. Thus sure of Henry's support, he crossed the Sangarius, invaded the dominions of Lascaris with a body of Frankish auxiliaries, and at first carried all before him. But Theodore's general, Andronicus Gidos, suddenly fell upon the Franks at a moment when they were isolated in the "Rough Passes" of Nicomedia; scarcely a man survived to tell the tale. Assistance sent by Henry merely postponed the fall of Heraclea, which was annexed with Amastris to the Empire of Nicaea. The only important Frankish success was the recovery of Pegae by its feudal lord, Pierre de Bracheuil. No wonder that Lascaris complained to the Pope of such breaches of the truce, begged his Holiness to induce the Franks to conclude a permanent peace with him, making the sea the boundary between him and them, and threatened, if these terms were refused, to join the Bulgarians against them. Innocent III replied bidding him render homage to the Emperor Henry and obedience to the Holy Father, whose legate might then intervene on his behalf at Constantinople. Theodore's response was an attempt to recapture the imperial city, an enterprise in which he was aided by the French lord of Pegae, turned traitor to his lawful sovereign. Thus early were the Latins divided against themselves, and even men of good family entered the service of the Greeks.


Defeat and death of Kai-Khusru I


A new enemy, and one of his own household, now arose to disturb the career of Lascaris and the peace of Asia Minor. The fugitive Emperor Alexius III, after wandering about Europe, arrived at the court of Kai-Khusru, whom, years before, he had sheltered, baptised, and adopted at Constantinople. The dethroned monarch begged the Sultan to obtain for him, as the rightful Emperor of the Greeks, the crown which his son-in-law had usurped. Thinking that his guest might prove a serviceable instrument of his own designs, the ambitious Sultan, who had not forgotten that his predecessors had once ruled at Nicaea, sent an ultimatum to Theodore, offering him the alternative of instant abdication or war. Theodore's reply was to march against him to Antioch on the Maeander, whither he had advanced with Alexius. The battle was at first unfavourable to Lascaris; 800 Latin mercenaries, who, despite the Papal excommunication, accompanied him, were annihilated, and the Sultan struck him a tremendous blow on the head, which caused him to fall from his horse. For a moment the Emperor seemed at the mercy of his opponent; but with great presence of mind he drew his sword, and severed the hind legs of the mare which the Sultan rode. Kai-Khusru fell; in an instant his head was cut off, and stuck on a spear in full sight of his army. Deprived of their leader, the Seljuqs were glad to make peace; the victor took Alexius with him to Nicaea, blinded him (according to one account), and placed him in the monastery of Hyakinthos, where he died. So dramatic a triumph inspired the imagination, or rather the rhetoric, of the two chief living men of letters. Nicetas composed a panegyric of the victor who had routed the hitherto invincible Turks, and his brother, the ex-Metropolitan of Athens, sent a letter of congratulation from his exile in Ceos, in which he compared Lascaris to Hercules and Basil "the Bulgar-slayer." Lascaris himself issued a manifesto to the Greek world, promising that, if all his countrymen would but help him, he would "soon free the land from the Latin dogs"; and they offered their aid if he would attack Constantinople.


Third Frankish Invasion


The news had, however, a very different effect upon the Latin Emperor. His comment on the victory was that "the victor had been vanquished," for he reckoned the loss of the Latin mercenaries as more than counterbalancing the defeat of the Turks. He knew, however, that the Greeks were flushed with their success and meditated an assault upon the imperial city, so he resolved to wait no longer, but attack them first. Accordingly he crossed to Pegae, now the sole possession of the Franks in Asia Minor, and held since Bracheuil's treachery by Henri de Grangerin, whereupon Lascaris took to the mountains. The murmurs of his own subjects, whose property was thus exposed to the raids of the Frankish cavalry, forced the Greek Emperor, however, to give battle. The two armies met at the river Rhyndakos on 15 October 1211, and although the Greek host was greatly superior in numbers and was aided by a fresh band of Latin renegades, the victory rested with Henry, who, according to the account which he has left us of this campaign, did not lose a single man. At this the Greeks right up to the Seljuq frontier submitted to the victor, whose kindness to the vanquished was proverbial. A few castles alone held out for Theodore, and Henry announced from Pergamus to all his friends his triumph over the four enemies of his empire, of whom Lascaris was the first and foremost. Ere long his standards had reached as far south as Nymphaeum near Smyrna, as far east as Poimanendn and Lentiana near Prusa. But it was easier to overrun Asia Minor than to hold it, for the Franks were but a handful of men, and Henry appealed in vain for military colonists from the west. He therefore came to terms with his adversary: he was to retain the Troad and north-west Asia Minor as far as Lopadium; to the east of that, and from Adramyttium southward to Smyrna, lay the dominions of Lascaris; a neutral uninhabited zone was left between the two Empires and a strong frontier guard prevented emigration from one to the other. Even this restricted Frankish territory was perforce entrusted to the charge of a Greek garrison under a Greek commander.

Theodore had made what proved to be a durable peace with the Franks, broken only by a raid of the Duke of Naxos which he avenged by the capture of his enemy; but the new Seljuq Sultan, Kai-Kaus I, had not forgotten the death of his father. In 1214 or 1215, a fortunate raid delivered the Greek Emperor into his hand; his first impulse was to kill his prisoner, but he contented himself with a ransom and the cession of several castles and towns. Such sudden reverses of fortune were characteristic of this period of Greek history. Kai-Kaus continued his career of conquest, took Sinope from the Empire of Trebizond, slew David, who commanded there, and compelled the Emperor Alexius to pay tribute and to render him military service.


Theodore's death. His character


For several years Theodore remained at peace with the Latin Emperor, while the hand of his own sister secured him the friendship of the Duke of Naxos. He had meanwhile been left a widower; and, after an unfortunate alliance with an Armenian princess, he married the daughter of the Latin Empress Yolande, Maria de Courtenay, a politic match which might give him a claim to her brother's throne. In fact, during the interregnum which elapsed before the arrival of the Emperor Robert at Constantinople in 1221, he planned a second attack upon that city. His plan was frustrated by a counter-attack; he made peace with his brother-in-law, and was only prevented by death from strengthening their relationship and therewith his own claims by giving the hand of his daughter Eudocia to Robert. He died in 1222, and was laid beside his first wife and her father Alexius III in the monastery of Hyakinthos at Nicaea. He had living one son by his Armenian consort, but as this child was only eight years old, he bequeathed his empire to the second husband of his eldest daughter—John Ducas Vatatzes.

The Greeks, as their historians acknowledged, owed a great debt to Theodore Lascaris as the re-founder of the fallen empire. In the face of great difficulties he obtained recognition as the leader of Hellenism in Asia, and even the Franks admired his courage and his military skill. He was generous to his friends, and if he once, as was said, flayed an enemy alive, the man was a double-dyed traitor and a disgrace to French chivalry. As a diplomatist, he showed the audacity which the times demanded, and availed himself of those opportunities for playing off one race against another which the Eastern question has always afforded; while he displayed the talent of a constructive statesman in making his new capital the centre of all that was best in the Greek world. From Euboea and Thrace, as well as from Byzantium, the local aristocracy flocked to his court; he and his family were addressed by the begging-letter writers of the Bosphorus; he sheltered the historian Nicetas, who repaid him by three panegyrics, and he tried to attract the historian's brother from his lonely island. Under his auspices, Nicaea became a learned city, where rhetoric and poetry could be studied, while at Smyrna Demetrius Karykes, called "the chief of philosophers," gave lectures on logic. But the patriotism and common-sense of the sovereign made him discourage those nice theological discussions which were the delight of Byzantine divines, and which might have been expected to find a congenial atmosphere in the city which had witnessed two great Councils of the Church. Theodore was, however, fully alive to the value of the hierarchy as a national and political force. He had established the Patriarchate in his capital, and he supported the efforts of the Patriarch for the Union of the Churches at a synod to be held there. But this scheme failed; both the Greeks of Epirus and the Greeks of Trebizond declined to acknowledge the authority of the Patriarch of Nicaea, whose actual jurisdiction was further restricted by the creation of an autocephalous Serbian Church and of two Latin bishoprics, one at Nicomedia, the other at Troy.

During the later and more peaceful years of his reign, Theodore encouraged trade with the Venetians, to whom he granted freedom from customs' dues throughout his empire, and for this a proper system of coinage was required. Five issues of gold coins bear his image and superscription, while inscriptions on towers at Prusa, at Nicaea, and at Bender-Eregli still preserve his name and serve as an example of the many buildings which he erected.

In the same year as Theodore, died his rival, the first Emperor of Trebizond. Cut off by the Turkish occupation of Sinope from all hope of expansion to the west, he seems to have turned his attention to the northern coast of the Black Sea, and to have made the Crimea tributary to Trebizond. His Asiatic Empire now extended no farther westward than Oenaeum and the river Therm odon, while Savastopoli 18 hours beyond Trebizond was its eastern boundary. But his capital was deemed impregnable, alike by nature and art. Its mild climate, its vineyards and oliveyards, its excellent water, and its abundant supply of wood combined to make it, in the phrase of an enthusiastic panegyrist, "the apple of the eye of all Asia." It had long been under the special protection of St Eugenius, whose monastery, and that of "the Golden-headed Virgin," were already features of the city.


John III Vatatzes succeeds


John III Vatatzes, the second Emperor of Nicaea, was not long allowed to occupy the throne unopposed. Two of Theodore's brothers could not brook the succession of this Thracian nobleman, who, if he belonged to a good family and had held high office at Court, was only connected by marriage with the founder of the Empire. By money and promises they raised a Frankish force at Constantinople, and returned at its head to Asia Minor. Vatatzes met them near Poimanendn, the scene of the battle twenty years before, and by his personal courage won a decisive victory. Four neighbouring Frankish fortresses fell into his hands, and in 1225 the Latin Emperor was glad to obtain peace by the cession of Pegae. The Franks, in the words of one of their own chroniclers, lost "nearly all the land which had been won beyond the Hellespont"; they abandoned the Troad, and retained nothing but the territory near Constantinople and Nicomedia. Well might the enthusiastic Patriarch bid them begone to their own country. Even beyond the coasts of Asia Minor the long arm of the Greek Emperor smote them. His fleet not only watched the Dardanelles from the former factory of the Quirini at Lampsacus and intercepted vessels coming from the west to Constantinople, but captured the four islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, and Icaria, which had been assigned to the Latin Empire by the partition treaty. An expedition in 1233 against Leo Gabalas, the "Lord of Rhodes and the Cyclades," who bore the proud title of "Caesar," and asserted his independence of the Greek Emperor, failed, however, to take his famous fortress. Another naval undertaking in aid of the Cretans, who had risen against Venice, was equally unsuccessful. The Emperor's troops did, indeed, capture several Cretan fortresses, and a detachment of them held out for some years in the island. But the expedition cost him nearly the whole of his fleet, shipwrecked in a storm off the island of Cerigo.


  Conspiracies against Vatatzes


Vatatzes had defeated the Franks; but he still had enemies to fear within his own court. The capture of the late sovereign's brothers at the battle of Poimanemin, and the loss of their eyesight as the penalty of their treason, had rendered them harmless; but a fresh conspiracy, organised by his first cousin Nestóngos and several other magnates, was discovered at the very moment when he was fighting against his country's foes. The Emperor's clemency towards the principal conspirator, who was merely imprisoned and then allowed to escape, surprised his contemporaries. But from that moment he surrounded himself with guards, and listened to the prayers of his wife that he would be careful of a life so valuable to his country. It was probably about this time that he moved the capital to Nymphaeum, his favourite winter residence, which thenceforth continued to be the seat of government till the recapture of Constantinople, while the fertile plain near Clazomenae was chosen as the imperial villeggiatura in spring. Nicaea remained, however, the seat of the Patriarch, and it was there that the Emperors were crowned.

The election of the old warrior John of Brienne as Latin Emperor inspired the Franks with the hope of recovering the territory which they had lost in Asia Minor by the last peace. One of the conditions of his election was that he should have "the Duchy of Nicomedia," and that "the Kingdom of Nicaea with all its appurtenances and all the land that the Latins ever possessed beyond the Hellespont, comprising the Duchy of Neokastra," should become the domain of Baldwin II. John waited patiently till he had made adequate preparations for the reconquest of these hypothetical "kingdoms" and "duchies" and till a favourable moment for attack should arrive. The exhaustion of the Greek forces after their unsuccessful expedition against Rhodes in 1233 seemed to be a suitable opportunity, and the Latin Emperor landed at Lampsacus. But Vatatzes, though his forces were diminished in numbers, proved himself so clever a strategist that he compelled his adversaries to hug the shore where their fleet was constantly at hand. One important success, the recapture of Pegae, was the sole result of this long-planned campaign. John returned to Constantinople, nor did the Franks re-attempt the invasion of Asia Minor. Henceforth it was not they but the rejuvenated Greek Empire which could take the offensive, and it became the object of Vatatzes to carry out the aspirations of his predecessor and drive them from their diminished dominions alike in Europe and in Asia.


Greco-Bulgarian Alliance


With this policy in view, he sought an alliance with the hereditary enemy of his race, the Bulgarian Tsar, John Asen II, whose signal victory over the victorious Greeks of Epirus on the field of Klokotinitza had made him the dominant factor in Balkan politics. The engagement of their children, both still in the schoolroom, seemed to guarantee their co-operation against the Franks, and Vatatzes celebrated the capture of the Venetian colony of Gallipoli and the betrothal of his son Theodore in rapid succession. Thrace was soon almost entirely freed from the Latins, and the Empire of Nicaea for the first time extended into Europe, where the river Maritza became the frontier between the Greek and the Slavonic states. The allies even laid siege to Constantinople "with infinite thousands of armed men," till the approaching winter of 1235 compelled them to return to their homes. In the following year they renewed the siege by land and sea, but this time the united forces of the Latins repulsed their attack. Had they been successful, the Greeks and the Bulgarians would have quarrelled over the possession of the city which both coveted. As it was, the unnatural alliance grew weaker as one ally realised what he had had to sacrifice and the other what he had assisted to restore. The Greek Emperor could not but regret that the price which he had to pay for the Bulgarian's aid was the recognition of the independence of the Church of Trnovo and its separation from the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch. The Bulgarian Tsar could not fail to perceive that he had exchanged a weak and tottering neighbour for a vigorous and powerful prince, and that on the ruins of the alien Latin Empire he was reinstating a national dynasty which would bar the way to Byzantium and the Aegean. Personal and theological influences further combined to break up the alliance. Asen's consort, a Hungarian princess, was connected with the reigning family of Constantinople; while Pope Gregory IX, who had hopes of converting the Bulgarian Tsar to the Roman faith, denounced Vatatzes as "the enemy of God and the Church," and received from him a haughty letter, in which the Greek ruler claimed to be the real Emperor as the heir of Constantine, and plainly told the Pontiff that, if he had yielded to superior force, he had not relinquished his rights, but would never desist from besieging Constantinople.


  Triple League against Vatatzes


Asen accordingly resolved to abandon his ally; he obtained possession of his daughter on the pretext of a father's natural longing to see her, and then demonstrated his paternal affection by chastising the damsel when she lamented her enforced separation from her youthful husband and his kind parents. The appearance of a new factor in Balkan politics at this moment facilitated the formation of a triple alliance against the Greek Emperor. The Cumans, a horde of savages from the Caspian, driven from their home by the Mongol invasion, had crossed the Danube and penetrated as far south as Thrace. With them and with the Bulgarians the Franks of Constantinople formed a league against Vatatzes, for all three races had a common interest in driving him from his newly-won possessions on Thracian soil. Their first effort was the siege of Tzurulum, the modern Chorlu, between the present railway and the Sea of Marmora, then an important fortress and the key of the Greek position in Europe. The place was defended by one of those generals who are better known for their good luck than for their good strategy. On the present occasion the commander's reputation was once more verified; in the midst of the siege the news reached Asen that his wife, one of his children, and the newly-created Patriarch were dead. This triple calamity dissolved the triple alliance; the pious Bulgarian saw in his affliction the judgment of Heaven for his breach of faith; he sent his daughter back to the court of Vatatzes, and made peace with the Greeks. The Franks and the Cumans, however, only waited for reinforcements to renew the attack; at this second attempt Chorlu fell, and its commander, a better but a less fortunate soldier than his predecessor, was taken a prisoner to Constantinople. So important did the capture of this fortress seem to the Latin Emperor that he wrote a letter to King Henry III of England, setting forth the political results of its submission. It was some compensation for this loss that Vatatzes captured two of the fortresses (Gebseh and Tusla, now stations on the Anatolian railway) which the Franks still possessed between Nicomedia and Constantinople. The Greek frontier was thus little more than twenty miles from the imperial city. But the defeat of the Greek navy, manned by raw sailors and commanded by an inexperienced Armenian, prevented a further advance.

Before renewing his attack upon the Latin Empire, Vatatzes resolved to realise the dream of his predecessor and reunite all the Greeks under one sceptre. The Emperors of Nicaea had viewed with suspicion the growth of an independent Greek principality in Epirus under the despots of the house of Angelus; and, when the despotat of Epirus became the Empire of Salonica, this assumption of the imperial title bitterly offended the only true "Emperor of the Romans" at Nicaea. Theological controversies between the ecclesiastical authorities of the two rival Greek states further envenomed their relations, and the resentment of the Nicene divines was doubtless all the deeper because the logic and the learning of the Epirote party were superior to their own. Accordingly, the Asiatic Greeks had viewed with equanimity the capture of the Emperor of Salonica by the Bulgarians at the battle of Klokotinitza. But although Theodore Angelus was a prisoner and blinded, his brother Manuel continued to rule at Salonica, with the permission of the Bulgarian Tsar, till the latter, smitten with the charms of his blind captive's daughter, made her his wife and set her father free to plot against Manuel. The plot succeeded; incapacitated by the loss of his sight from reigning himself, Theodore placed his son John on the imperial throne of Salonica, while Manuel sought an asylum at the court of Vatatzes, thus providing his diplomatic host with an excuse for intervention in the affairs of the sister-state. He had no difficulty in pleading his cause, for Vatatzes had long had a casus belli against the Empire of Salonica. In 1225 Theodore had cheated him out of the good city of Hadrianople, which he had sent his officers, at the invitation of the inhabitants, to occupy in his name. He now avenged himself by furnishing Theodore's exiled brother with the means of taking a large part of Thessaly. But Manuel had no sooner achieved this object than he threw over his benefactor and made his peace with Theodore. Thus the first move failed; Salonica had outwitted Nicaea. Vatatzes, however, could afford to wait.


In 1241 the favourable moment seemed to have arrived. The great Bulgarian Tsar had died, leaving a child as his successor; Manuel had died also; while the Emperor John of Salonica, whom nature had intended for a monk rather than a sovereign, relied upon the advice of his old blind father. A truce with the Latin Empire left Vatatzes at liberty to devote his whole energies to his long-cherished design. He first enticed old Theodore to his court, and flattered the childish vanity of that experienced ruler by calling him "uncle" and giving him a seat at his own table. When all was ready, in the spring of 1242, he crossed over into Europe and began the first fratiicidal war between the two Greek Empires of Nicaea and Salonica. Aided by a body of Curran mercenaries whom he had attracted to his service, he marched along the coast so as not to violate Bulgarian territory, and met with no resistance till he arrived within about eight stades of his rival's capital. The size and strength of Salonica rendered difficult the use of siege-engines; and, while Vatatzes was still ravaging the neighbourhood, the news arrived that the dreaded Mongols had defeated the Seljuqs of Iconium and were threatening his Asiatic dominions. Keeping the fatal secret to himself, he made the best terms he could with the Emperor John through the medium of old Theodore. His vanity was perforce contented with the degradation of his rival to the rank of a Despot, who no longer outraged the Byzantine protocol by wearing the imperial emblems.


Reconquest of Macedonia from the Bulgarians


The Mongol peril and internal affairs kept Vatatzes occupied in Asia during the next few years, for he had pledged himself to aid the new Seljuq Sultan, Kai-Khusru II, against this common enemy of both. But, as soon as the Mongols abandoned their attack on Iconium for other enterprises, he bethought himself once more of his European possessions. John of Salonica was now dead, and his brother, the Despot Demetrius, who had received his title from the Emperor of Nicaea, was a man of loose and vicious habits, which rendered him unpopular. It was therefore obvious that his position was insecure and that Vatatzes only needed a plausible excuse for the annexation of Salonica. His western frontier had now advanced from the Maritza to a place called Zichna near Seres, and only a small strip of Bulgarian territory served as a buffer-state between the two Greek Empires. A coincidence enabled him in the same year to conquer this Slavonic outpost of Salonica and Salonica itself.

In the autumn of 1246 he was returning from a tour of inspection in his European dominions. On the banks of the Maritza he received the news that the young Bulgarian Tsar Kaliman was dead, and that his still younger brother, Michael Asen, had succeeded him. The temptation to attack the Bulgarians at such a moment was great, for Greek rulers have ever been haunted by the vision of Basil "the Bulgar-slayer." Accordingly Vatatzes returned at once to Philippi, and there on the historic battle-field summoned a council of war to consider the question. Some argued against the proposal, on the ground that the army was weak and that the citadel of Seres, the first Bulgarian fortress, was a strong natural position; but Andronicus Palaeologus, father of the future Emperor, whose advice was all the weightier because he held the post of commander-in-chief, urged a forward policy. The governor of Seres speedily capitulated; the citizens of Melnik responded to an appeal to their Greek origin, while the Bulgarian party was reminded that a Bulgarian princess was the wife of the future Greek Emperor. Other places followed their example; the conquests which John Asen II had made at the expense of the Empire of Salonica sixteen years before were restored to the Empire of Nicaea; a treaty of peace was signed with Bulgaria which made the Maritza the northern, as it had once been the western, boundary of Vatatzes; while Kostendil in the modern kingdom of Bulgaria and Skoplje in Serbian Macedonia owned his sway. The days of Basil "the Bulgar­slayer" seemed to have returned. A patriotic historian could truly boast that " the western frontier of Nicaea marched with that of Serbia."


Annexation of Salonica


At this moment the discontent at Salonica had reached a climax. The frivolous despot had trampled on the ancient customs and privileges of that city, and a body of leading citizens sent one of their number to Vatatzes' camp at Melnik, praying for a renewal of their charter. The Emperor gladly consented, and resolved to see for himself how matters stood. He ordered Demetrius to present himself before his lawfulsuzerain and render the homage due. The foolish youth was persuaded by the conspirators to refuse. A second refusal sealed his fate. The troops of Vatatzes, aided by treachery, entered the city, and thus in December 1246 the last shadow of the short-lived Empire of Salonica ceased to exist. Its last ruler was imprisoned in an Asiatic dungeon; his dominions were annexed to those of his conqueror. Still, however, Vatatzes had not united all the free Greeks beneath his sceptre. Michael II, a bold scion of the house of Angelus, had established himself in Corfu and Epirus and extended his sway as far east as Monastir, while old blind Theodore still exercised his ruling passion for power by the waters of Vodena and on the lake of Ostrovo. For the present, however, the Emperor deemed it wiser to content himself with the organisation of his new and vast possessions. Each of the captured cities received an imperial message; the future Emperor, Michael Palaeologus, was appointed governor of Seres and Melnik, and his father governor-general of the European provinces of the Nicene Empire with residence at Salonica.

Elated with these bloodless triumphs over Bulgarians and Greeks, Vatatzes returned to Europe in the following spring for the purpose of recovering the fortress of Chorlu from the Franks, an undertaking which the growing weakness of the Latin Empire seemed to facilitate. The governor was Anseau de Cayeux, ex-Regent of the Empire, whose wife was sister-in-law of the Greek sovereign. Thinking that the latter would never besiege a place which contained his wife's sister, Anseau left the castle almost undefended. But Vatatzes was not the man to allow his private relationships to interfere with his public policy; he prosecuted the siege, recaptured Chorlu, and cut off the communications of Constantinople with the west by land. But this exploit nearly cost him his life; he rashly approached the walls to parley with the garrison, and was only saved as by a miracle from the well-aimed bolt of a Frankish cross-bowman. He did not press further the advantages which he had gained. Probably the fear of the Mongols restrained him from continuing his campaign against Constantinople, for in 1248 we find two Mongol envoys at the Papal court. Innocent IV received them cordially, and did not scruple to suggest that their master should attack the schismatic Vatatzes. But the Mongol emissaries rejoined, with delicate irony, that they could not advise this policy, because they disliked to encourage "the mutual hatred of Christians." Having given the Holy Father this lesson in Christianity, the infidels returned to their own savage country. The reluctance of the Mongols to invade his dominions seems to have reassured Vatatzes, for in 1249 he was once more preparing for an attempt upon Constantinople, with the assistance of his vassal, John Gabalas, the new ruler of Rhodes, when a sudden revolution in the fortunes of that island caused the postponement of his plans for the annexation of what little still remained of the Latin Empire.


Recovery of Rhodes. Defeat of Michael II


We saw how Vatatzes had failed, sixteen years before, in his expedition against Leo Gabalas, the independent "Lord of Rhodes and the Cyclades." Gabalas had, however, thought it prudent, after that invasion, to become "the man of Venice," the most powerful maritime state of that day, and had promised to assist the Venetian authorities in Crete against Vatatzes during the Cretan insurrection. Soon, however, he seems to have recognised the suzerainty of Nicaea, retaining the title of "Caesar" but adding that of "servant of the Emperor" on his coins, and perhaps receiving as his reward the post of Lord High Admirals. His brother and successor dropped the Caesarean style and described himself as simple "Lord of Rhodes," who, if he were bound to help his suzerain, looked to him for protection. While the two were at Nicomedia, the news arrived that the Genoese, who coveted Rhodes as a commercial centre, had surprised the citadel by a night attack. Vatatzes at once sent one of his best officers to recover the place. But the Genoese received valuable assistance from a body of the famous Frankish cavalry of the Morea, left by Prince William of Achaia on his way through the island. Reinforcements were necessary before the French knights could be annihilated, the Genoese garrison reduced to surrender, and the imperial suzerainty restored.

The last campaign of Vatatzes was directed against his still existing Greek rivals in Europe. Michael II, the crafty Despot of Epirus, had thought it prudent to remain on good terms with the conqueror of Salonica, who was since 1246 his neighbour in Macedonia. He made a treaty with him and even affianced his eldest son and heir, Nicephorus, to the Emperor's grand-daughter Maria. But, before the wedding had taken place, the restless despot, instigated by his uncle, the old intriguer Theodore, invaded the Nicene territory in Europe and thus forced Vatatzes to take up arms for the preservation of his recent conquests. The despot had shown little diplomatic skill in his choice of opportunity, for his rival had nothing to fear from either the Musulmans in Asia or the Bulgarians in Europe. Vatatzes carried all before him. Old Theodore fled from his possessions at Vodena and Ostrovo; one distinguished personage after another deserted the despot's standard, and the latter was compelled to send the Metropolitan of Lepanto to sue for peace. The Nicene envoys, of whom the historian Acropolita was one, met Michael II at Larissa, the ancient Thessalian city, then an important political, ecclesiastical, and even learned' centre. There peace was signed; Michael ceded the three Macedonian lakes of Castoria, Prespa, and Ochrida, as well as the historic fortress of Kroja in Albania, to the victor; and the historian returned to his master with the despot's eldest son and the aged schemer Theodore as his prisoners.


Second marriage of Vatatzes 


Theodore vanishes from history in the dungeons of Vatatzes. For half a century he had disturbed the peace of the Balkan peninsula; he had experienced every change of fortune; he had made and lost an empire; he had been the victor and the captive of an Emperor. Now at last he was at rest.

Meanwhile, the domestic life of the Emperor had been less fortunate than his campaigns against Franks, Bulgarians, and Epirote Greeks. On the death of his first wife, Irene, for whose loss the courtly Acropolita, turned poet for the occasion, had expressed the fear that he would never be comforted, Vatatzes had married in 1244 Constance of Hohenstaufen, daughter of the Emperor Frederick II and sister of the luckless Manfred. The union, despite the great discrepancy of age between the two parties, promised considerable political advantages. Both the Emperors hated the Papacy, and while Greek troops were sent to aid Frederick in his struggle against Rome, Frederick asserted the rights of "the most Orthodox Greeks" to Constantinople. Vatatzes, as we learn from his own son was dazzled by the brilliance of a match which made him the son-in-law of the most famous and versatile monarch of the thirteenth century, while the scholars and theologians of Nicaea would not have been Greeks if they had not admired the abilities of a ruler who, if a Frank by birth, yet wrote letters in their beautiful language in praise of their historic Church. The wedding was celebrated at Prusa with all the pomp of a military Empire, a court poet composed a nuptial ode, and Constance took the Greek name of Anna, the more closely to identify herself with her husband's people. On the other hand, the Pope was furious at the marriage, and one of the counts of the indictment drawn up against Frederick II at the Council of Lyons was that he had given his daughter to the excommunicated heretic Vatatzes.


Career of Constance of Hohenstaufen


Unfortunately, the young Empress had brought with her from the West a dangerous rival to her own charms in the person of an attractive young Italian marchioness, who was one of her maids of honour. The languishing eyes and the graceful manners of the lady-in-waiting captivated the heart of the susceptible sovereign, and his infatuation for his mistress reached such a pitch that he allowed her to wear the purple buskins of an Empress and gave her a more numerous suite than that of his lawful consort. The ceremonious court of Nymphaeum was scandalised at this double breach of morals and etiquette. Its indignation found vent in the bitter lampoons of Nicephorus Blemmydes, the Abbot of St Gregory near Ephesus, whose autobiography is one of the most vivid pieces of Byzantine literature. Blemmydes hated the favourite for her abandoned life and her Italian nationality, for women and foreigners were his pet aversions. Resolved to brave the patriotic moralist, she forced her way into his church, in all the pomp of the imperial emblems, at the moment of the consecration. The abbot instantly ordered the service to cease and bade the shameless hussy quit the holy place which she defiled by her presence. Stunned by his rebuke, she burst into tears, while one of her escort attempted to draw his sword to slay the bold monk at the altar. But the weapon stuck in the scabbard; the accident was, of course, ascribed to the black arts of the abbot; and Blemmydes was accused of lèse-majesté and magic by the infuriated woman and her baffled cavalier. The accused defended himself in a violent encyclical; and the Emperor, from qualms of conscience or motives of policy, refused to punish so just a man, who had only spoken the truth, and whose influence was so great with the Puritans and the Chauvinists of the Empire. From this moment the marchioness disappears from the chronicles of the Nicene court; possibly she married an Italian and returned to Italy and respectability. For a time the legitimate Empress gained influence over her husband; she doubtless read with pleasure the rhetorical funeral oration which her stepson, the future Emperor Theodore, composed on the death of her father in 1250; she welcomed her uncle Galvano Lancia and her other relatives, when they were exiled by Frederick's successor; and a special mission under the direction of Berthold of Hohenburg was required to procure their removal from a court at which they had so powerful a protectress. The death of Vatatzes and the accession of her step-son deprived her of her power; but she was still young and attractive, and when Michael Palaeologus usurped the throne, he sought her first as his mistress, then, when she scorned the liaison with one who had been her subject, as his wife, although he was already married. Defeated in this object, he sent the ex-Empress back to her brother Manfred; but the latter's fall at Benevento placed her at the mercy of Charles of Anjou. The Angevin conqueror allowed her to seek an asylum at the court of Aragon, where her nephew Peter III granted her and her daughter an annuity. At last, entering a convent, she renounced her claims to the Greek Empire to James II, and died at a great age in the city of Valencia. There, in the little church of St John-of-the-Hospital a wooden coffin still bears the simple epitaph: "Here lies the lady Constance, august Empress of Greece." Even in the strange romance of medieval Greek history there are few stranger pages than the varied career of this unhappy exile, a sacrifice to politics and the sport of chance.


Futile attempts at Union with Rome 


The connexion between Vatatzes and the great enemy of the Papacy in Western Europe did not prevent the astute Emperor from endeavouring to secure the support of Rome, when it suited his policy, by holding out hopes of a reunion of the Churches. In 1232 the presence of five Minorites at Nicaea suggested to the Patriarch the despatch of letters to Pope Gregory IX and the Sacred College, advocating an enquiry into the differences between the East and the West. The Pope replied, urging the Greeks to return to the bosom of the Church, and sent four learned theologians to discuss the doctrinal points at issue. The nice points raised by the Latins in support of the filioque clause proved too much for the distinguished philosopher whom the Greeks had put forward as their champion. Blemmydes had to be called in to their aid, and, in the presence of the Emperor, refuted their arguments to his own complete satisfaction. Vatatzes acted throughout like a statesman, seeking to make one of those compromises which are the essence of politics but which are rare in theology. His wise policy failed to appease the celestial minds of the controversialists, and for some time at Nymphaeum it rained treatises on the Procession of the Holy Ghost, till at last the Patriarch excommunicated the Pope. Still, whenever he thought that he could hasten the fall of the Latin Empire, Vatatzes renewed his diplomatic overtures to the Holy See, thus calling down upon his head the reproaches of his father-in-law, who plainly told him that the papal emissaries really aimed, not at uniting the Churches, but at sowing tares between the two affectionate sovereigns of the East and the West. To the very last the Greek Emperor maintained this policy of compromise. Constantinople, he thought, was worth the promise of a mass.

Vatatzes was no more successful in healing the schism which had arisen with the foundation of the despotat of Epirus between the Greek Churches in Europe and Asia. The despots did not go so far as to elect a rival Patriarch; but the bishops in their dominions were consecrated by the local metropolitans instead of going to Nicaea. At first the Metropolitan of Lepanto acted as the head of the Epirote Church; when the political centre of gravity was transferred to Salonica, Demetrius Chornatiands, the learned theologian who held the ancient see of Ochrida, became its primate, and crowned the Emperor Theodore, an act which caused the greatest indignation at Nicaea, as a usurpation of the Patriarch's prerogative. The dispute between the rival ecclesiastical authorities reached its height when the Emperor of Salonica refused to allow the see of Durazzo to be filled by a nominee of the Nicene Patriarch. The schism continued until 1232, when the Emperor Theodore had fallen and his brother Manuel, anxious to secure the favour of Vatatzes, made his submission to the Patriarch, who sent an ecclesiastic from Asia to represent him in Europe. But, even after the annexation of the Empire of Salonica and throughout the rest of this period, the Greek Church in the independent despotat of Epirus remained autocephalous. The only European bishops who took part in the synods of Nicaea were those from the European provinces of the Empire. As both the Serbian and Bulgarian Churches had obtained the recognition of their independence, owing to the political exigencies of the Nicene Emperors, the Ecumenical Patriarch had a very restricted jurisdiction. Even in Asia Minor, Trebizond continued to dispute his authority, while the Manichaean heresy, which has played so important a part in the history of Bosnia and Bulgaria, now crept into the Nicene Empire. It was some compensation, however, that after 1231 no Roman Catholic bishopric survived there.

Like a wise statesman, Vatatzes took pains to cultivate the favour of so powerful a national and political force as the Greek Church, while he was careful to see that the Patriarch should not be too independent. One of his biographers tells us that he was especially good to monks, and that "he spoke to an archbishop almost as if he were in the presence of God." He issued strict orders that the civil authorities should not seize Church property either in the lifetime or on the demise of a bishop, but that an ecclesiastical administrator should take charge of the estate until the vacancy had been filled. He founded or restored the famous monastery of Sosandra near Magnesia—that "wonder of the world" which inspired Blemmydes to write verses, and which was the mausoleum of the Emperor and his son; he rebuilt and endowed the monastery on Mt Lembos near Smyrna, and erected the church of St Anthony the Great at Nicaea, while his first wife founded that of St John Baptist at Prusa and a convent of Our Lady. But, with a view to the extension of his political influence, he did not confine his munificence to his own dominions. He redeemed many churches in Constantinople from destruction by the Franks, and even in the French seigneurie of Athens the Greek monasteries received benefits from his hand.

In the intervals of his campaigns Vatatzes devoted himself with conspicuous success to the economic development of his Empire. Under his patriarchal government the land enjoyed great material prosperity. He was so excellent a manager that the produce of the crown lands not only sufficed for the maintenance of his table, but left him a surplus for the foundation of hospitals, workhouses, and asylums for the aged, so that after his time Nicaea was said to have better philanthropic institutions than any other city. He devoted much attention to stock-breeding, after the fashion of modern monarchs, and endeavoured to induce the aristocracy to subsist on their landed estates by practical farming. The Seljuq Empire afforded a ready market for their cattle and corn, owing to the devastations committed there by the Mongols, and so great was the demand that the Greek farmers could command fancy prices for their produce. Out of the money obtained from the sale of eggs from the imperial hen-roosts the Emperor was able in a short time to buy his consort a magnificent coronet of pearls. The natural result of this general prosperity was the increase of luxury, and the nobles spent their money in silken garments from Italy and the East. TheEmperor resolved to restrain the extravagance of his subjects and at the same time to encourage national industries at the expense of the foreigner, who had profited by the free-trade policy of his predecessor. He therefore forbade them to wear foreign stuffs or to consume foreign products, under pain of losing their position in society. A Greek nobleman should wear, he thought, a Greek costume, a doctrine no longer esteemed by his countrymen. He showed his sincerity by making his own family conform to the law, and sternly rebuked his son for going out hunting in a rich garment of silk, reminding him that such luxuries were wrung from the life-blood of the Greeks, and should only be displayed when it was necessary to impress foreign ambassadors with the wealth of the nation. Instead of wasting its resources upon court pageants, he devoted what was thus saved to the strengthening of the national defences against the Mongols, forming a central depot at Magnesia, and accumulating large quantities of corn, which was stored in sealed granaries for use in case of invasion. In short, all his financial arrangements were of the most business-like character; every effort was made to prevent the Oriental vice of peculation on the part of the "dukes" who governed the provinces, and the dilatoriness of an official of the treasury was punished by so severe a flogging that he died.




Although he was a practical man of affairs, Vatatzes showed the usual Greek desire for the encouragement of learning. The historian Acropolita acted as his secretary and envoy; the austere Blemmydes and the historian were successively tutors of his son; another historian, George Pachymeres, was born at Nicaea during his reign; one of his Patriarchs, Germanus II, has left behind him some literary remains. Rhetoric and philosophy were cultivated under his auspices ; he founded libraries of technical and scientific books in various cities, sent Blemmydes to collect valuable manuscripts in Thessaly and Macedonia, and expressed the opinion that the king and the philosopher are alone really famous. His first wife, a woman of masculine abilities, shared his literary tastes, and once tried to pose the young Acropolita by asking him the cause of an eclipse, while the Margrave of Hohenburg's mission was made the occasion for a learned competition between the Latins and their Greek hosts, in which the latter were victorious.


Death and Canonisation of Vatatzes


Vatatzes did not long survive his campaign against the Epirote Greeks. On his return to Nicaea he was suddenly seized with an attack of apoplexy, which rendered him speechless for thirty-six hours. As soon as he had recovered sufficiently to travel, he ordered his attendants to convey him to his beloved Nymphaeum. The change of climate availed nothing, however, against the return of his malady. He was affected with frequent fainting-fits; his flesh wasted away; and he in vain made a pilgrimage to the miraculous image of Our Lord at Smyrna in the hope of obtaining relief. At length, after his malady had lasted for more than a year, he died at Nymphaeum on 30 October 1254, aged 62 years, nearly 33 of which he had passed on the throne. The faithful Acropolita delivered his funeral oration; a eulogy of his exploits was composed by his son, and future generations looked back upon him as "the father of the Greeks." In the fourteenth century he even attained to the honours of a saint. When the Turks threatened the Sdsandra monastery about 1304, his remains were removed for safety to Magnesia. The watchman of the castle, while going his rounds, was struck by the appearance of a strange lamp, which moved about the ramparts as if on a tour of inspection. When the phenomenon was thrice repeated, he reported it to his superiors, and a search was made. For some time the phantom light eluded the investigators, until at last the watchman's deaf brother declared that he had seen a man dressed in imperial robes and had heard him say that he had charge of the watch. The ghostly guardian of Magnesia was at once recognised as none other than that of the dead Emperor John "the Merciful," who had risen from his grave to defend the city. The capture of Magnesia confirmed, instead of diminishing, the fame of his supernatural power; for when the Turks threw his bones over the cliffs, they worked miracles on the faithful, who collected them with pious care and built a shrine above them. Thenceforth St John Vatatzes the Merciful was worshipped as a saint at Magnesia, at Nymphaeum, and in Tenedos; November was celebrated as his festival; and an encomium and a choral service were composed in his honor.

Vatatzes had not followed the usual Byzantine custom of proclaiming his successor during his own lifetime, for he was afraid of spoiling the character of the heir-apparent and of offending the susceptibilities of the people. But there was no doubt that his only son Theodore, who bore the name of Lascaris to show his direct descent from the founder of the dynasty, would be chosen. As soon as his father's funeral was over, he was lifted on a shield and proclaimed Emperor at Nymphaeum. The ceremony was not, however, complete until he had been consecrated by the Patriarch, whose office had just fallen vacant. Theodore accordingly hastened on the election of that official; and, for the sake of form, offered the post to his old tutor Blemmydes, in the hope that the wilful ecclesiastic would refuse. Blemmydes knew his former pupil, and did not disappoint him. He declined the honour so insincerely tendered; Theodore at once ordered the election of a monk of little culture who in the brief space of a single week was consecrated successively deacon, priest, and Patriarch. Without further delay, on Christmas Day, Theodore II Lascaris was crowned Emperor at Nicaea.


Theodore II Lascaris : his education and writings


The new Emperor had not completed his thirty-third year when he ascended the throne. Few sovereigns have been more carefully prepared for their duties than the heir of Vatatzes. All that education, in the Byzantine sense of the word, could do, had been done for the future monarch. He had enjoyed the best instruction that his father's Empire could provide; he had studied literature, mathematics, and, above all, philosophy, and he professed the eminently Greek opinion that knowledge was synonymous with virtue. Save for an occasional hunting-party, he had devoted his ample leisure before his accession exclusively to his books, and he early aspired to a place in the gallery of royal authors. He has accordingly left us a voluminous literary legacy, mostly the work of these earlier years. Theology and satire, a prayer to the Virgin and a eulogy of Nicaea, a funeral oration on Frederick II, and no less than 218 letters, are among the varied products of his instructed mind. But as a writer he was too academically educated to be original; his ideas are overwhelmed in a jungle of rhetoric; and his style, on which he prided himself and eagerly sought the judgment of the critics, strikes us, even in his private letters, as frigid and jejune. His correspondence, to which we naturally look for interesting sidelights on his temperament and times, abounds in commonplaces, but, with the exception of the letters written after his accession, is singularly barren of historical facts. Upon his character his studies had made no real imprint; like Frederick the Great, he affected philosophy as a Crown Prince, only to discard it as mere theory when he was brought face to face with the realities of government. Feeble in health and fond of solitude, he had abnormally developed one side of his nature. He was, in a word, a mass of nerves, an "interesting case" for a modern mental specialist. His short reign not only falsified the maxim of Plato that all would be well if kings were philosophers or philosophers kings, but afforded one more instance of the truism that the intellectual type of monarch is not the most successful, even for a nation which, in its darkest hours, by the waters of Nicaea or in the Turkish captivity, has never ceased to cherish the love of learning.


Theodore Lascaris' Bulgarian campaigns


The new Emperor had good reasons for hastening on his coronation. No sooner had the news of Vatatzes' death reached the Bulgarian capital than the Tsar Michael Asen seized this opportunity of recovering his lost provinces, which the Greek Government had not had time to consolidate with the rest of the Empire. The Bulgarian inhabitants welcomed, and the Greek garrisons were not strong enough to resist, the invaders. Rhodope at once rose in rebellion; it was feared that the whole Greek Empire in Europe might become Bulgarian. So pressing was the danger that Theodore crossed the Dardanelles in January 1255, and began, though in the depth of winter, his first Bulgarian campaign. Success crowned his arms; Stara Zagora fell; but the impregnable fortress of Chepina in the hollow between the ranges of Rila and Rhodope, the key of both Sofia and Philippopolis, baffled all his efforts. When ordered to attack it, his generals, one of them Alexius Strategopulus the future conqueror of Constantinople, first fled at the sound of the enemy's approach, and then refused to renew the attempt. Theodore's energy might have shamed these cowardly or treacherous soldiers. Hearing that Melnik was being besieged by the governor to whom it had been entrusted, he marched with extraordinary rapidity from Hadrianople to Seres, forced the narrow defile through which the Struma flows, and saved the threatened citadel, whose garrison hailed him as "the swift eagle." Thence he hastened as far west as Prilep, recovering one place after another from his Bulgarian brother-in-law, till at last Chepina alone remained unconquered. But the season was now far advanced for a Balkan campaign, and Theodore's plucky march against that mountain-girt fortress had to be abandoned. Leaving his forces at Demotika in the charge of two incompetent generals (for, like most speculative statesmen, he was a bad judge of character) the Emperor re-crossed into Asia.

In the following spring he began a second Bulgarian campaign. During his absence, the position had changed for the worse; the Bulgarian Tsar had attracted a force of Cumans to his standards, and the Greek generals, in direct disobedience of their master's orders, had risked an engagement with those formidable auxiliaries, in which one was taken prisoner and the other only escaped thanks to the swiftness of his horse. Theodore's energy and large army speedily restored the prestige of the Greek name. Michael Asen accordingly begged his father-in-law, the Russian prince Rostislav of Chernigov, to mediate between him and his enemy. The Russian prince accepted the office of peace-maker, met the Greek Emperor, and had no difficulty in making a treaty with him on terms which both parties considered favourable. Bulgarians and Greeks received back their ancient frontiers, but the virgin fortress of Chepina was ceded to Theodore. Such was his joy that he loaded the Russian prince with presents, and despatched a dithyrambic proclamation to his Asiatic subjects announcing the signature of peace, and extolling the importance of the cession of Chepina. His nervous system was so much affected by this excitement that the mere suggestion of fraud on the part of the Russian negotiator made him fall upon the luckless Acropolita, who had drafted the treaty, call that rather solemn personage an "ass" and a "fool," and order a sound beating to be given him for his pains. The assassination of Michael Asen and the marriage of the new Tsar with one of Theodore's daughters confirmed the validity of the peace.


Early career of Michael Palaeologus  


The close of the Bulgarian war made the Despot Michael II of Epirus anxious to conciliate a rival who might now turn his undivided attention to the invasion of that independent Greek state, always an eye-sore of the Nicene Emperors. The long engagement of their children had not yet ripened into marriage; so the saintly consort of the despot was sent with her son Nicephorus to meet the victorious monarch. Theodore on this occasion showed a lack of chivalry which proved how much his character had materialised since his accession. He took advantage of his visitor's sex and defenceless position to extort from her the two cities of Servia and Durazzo, respectively the keys of the east and the west, as the price of this alliance. Thereupon the marriage ceremony was solemnly performed at Salonica, but the contract which he had been forced to sign rankled in the mind of Michael, and a breach of the peace between Epirus and Nicaea was only a question of time.

Theodore had scarcely celebrated the wedding of his daughter when the arrival of an alarming despatch from his deputies in Bithynia hastened his return to Asia. The news was that Michael Palaeologus, the most ambitious of his officials, had fled to the Seljuq Turks. We have already seen this crafty intriguer, who was destined to play so great a part in Byzantine history, receiving the post of governor of Seres and Melnik from Vatatzes. The family of Palaeologus, according to a legend still preserved on the walls of the Palazzo Municipale at Viterbo, traced its origin to a certain Remigius Lellius of Vetulonia. Historically, however, it is first mentioned towards the end of the eleventh century, and a hundred years later had risen to such eminence that one of its members married the eldest daughter of Alexius III, and was intended by that emperor to be his successor. The daughter of this marriage married another Palaeologus, who held high office at the Nicene court, and the offspring of the latter union was the future Emperor, who was thus "doubly a Palaeologus," alike on his father's and on his mother's side. His direct descent from the Emperor Alexius, combined with his ambitious disposition, made him an object of suspicion and envy. While governor of Melnik he had been accused of high treason, and had only saved himself by the witty offer to submit his innocence to the ordeal of red-hot iron if the holy Metropolitan of Philadelphia would hand him the glowing metal. The embarrassment of the divine, suddenly invited to test in his own person his theory that pure hands would be unscathed by the fiery ordeal, greatly delighted the court; the accused was acquitted, but the suspicions of Vatatzes were only allayed when he had bound his intriguing subject by a fresh oath of loyalty and by a matrimonial alliance with his great-niece still closer to his throne. The rank of Great Constable and the command in Bithynia might seem sufficient to satisfy even the vaulting ambition of this dangerous noble. But Theodore II, whose policy it was to diminish the influence of the aristocracy and to surround the throne with men of humble origin who owed everything to himself, still nourished suspicions of Palaeologus, and publicly threatened to put out his eyes. This tactless conduct was the immediate cause of the Great Constable's flight to the court of Iconium. The Emperors of Nicaea were always nervous of Selj tiq invasions, and Theodore therefore returned to his eastern dominions, leaving Acropolita, once more restored to favour, as his governor-general in the west.

Fortunately the Sultan Kai-Kaus II was at this moment himself threatened with a Mongol attack. Instead of returning at the head of a Seljuq force to usurp the Greek throne, the fugitive, with profuse expressions of loyalty to the Christian Emperor and of devotion to the Christian religion, assisted the Turks to defeat the Mongol hordes. But the advance of the Mongols soon forced the Sultan to implore the aid of Theodore himself against the common enemy, ceding him as the price of his support the cities of Laodicea and Chonae, the latter of which had been abandoned by the first Emperor of Nicaea. The Mongols, however, succeeded in making the Sultan their tributary, and Palaeologus, finding his protector thus reduced, was glad to return to the service of his former master. Theodore again exacted from him the most solemn oaths of fidelity to himself and his son, and restored him to his former office, nor was it long before the state of the European provinces gave him a fresh opportunity of displaying his energies. The appointment of his brother John as governor of Rhodes. was doubtless a further part of the imperial policy of giving this dangerous family honourable employment at a distance from the court.


War in Epirus


The Despot of Epirus had not forgiven the treachery of Theodore in extorting Durazzo, his chief city on the Adriatic and at that time the port of transit between Macedonia and Italy, from a defenceless woman. The absence of the Emperor in the east and the treachery of one of the imperial governors gave him the opportunity which he sought. The Serbs and Albanians joined his standard against the Greeks of Nicaea, whose conquests in Europe had made them neighbours of those peoples; Acropolita, was besieged in the castle of Prilep. Alarmed at this dangerous coalition, the Emperor despatched Palaeologus as commander-in-chief to the west; but his suspicions caused him to cripple the efficiency of his general by giving him an army small in number and poor in quality. Thus handicapped, Palaeologus failed to prevent the capitulation of Prilep, and the unfortunate historian, dragged about in chains from place to place, had at last ample leisure in the prison at Arta for meditating on the practical defects in his old pupil's education. The fall of Prilep was followed by the loss of all Macedonia except Salonica; one imperial commander after another deserted to Michael II; and the Emperor, having failed to subdue his rival by force, resorted to theological weapons. At his instigation, the Patriarch excommunicated his fellow-Greeks of Epirus. But the intervention of Blemmydes, who was a personal friend and correspondent of the despot, prevented the publication of the anathema, and Theodore, who had patiently endured to be lectured by his old tutor on the duties of kingship, meekly tore up the document and returned it to the Patriarch. But the loss of his cities and the defection of his generals made the Emperor more than ever suspicious of Palaeologus. He ordered the arrest of the Great Constable, on the pretext that the terrible malady, from which he had now begun to suffer acutely, was due to the incantations of the man in whom he already saw the future usurper of his son's throne.


The Union of the Churches. Domestic policy 


His theological studies on the Procession of the Holy Ghost did not prevent him from renewing the futile attempts of his father for the Union of the Churches. Two letters are extant, in which Theodore writes to Pope Alexander IV that he desires peace and begs the Most Holy Father with many adjectives to send inspired men to compose the differences between Nicaea and Rome. His wish was heard, and in 1256 envoys from the Pope arrived in Macedonia on their way to his capital. But meanwhile the Emperor had changed his mind. His victorious campaigns had made the support of the Papacy less valuable to him; like his father, he desired union with Rome merely as a step to Constantinople. After a barren interview with the Papal plenipotentiaries, he told Acropolita to get rid of them as best he could.

It was not only in theology that his brief taste of power had made Theodore an opportunist. He noticed, like all his friends, the deterioration of his own character. Before his accession he had prized knowledge before riches; now he wrote that he only cared for gold and jewels. His excuse was that he needed money for the defence of the Empire against its many enemies, and for the expenses of representation, so necessary for impressing the Eastern peoples whom he had to fear. It was with this object that he received the Mongol ambassadors in theatrical style, seated on a lofty throne sword in hand; while he held the sound principle, not always remembered by his successors, that the Greek Empire should look for its safety neither to foreign alliances nor to foreign mercenaries, but to a strong Greek army. Accordingly, he left to his successor a well-filled treasury, for he realised that sound finance is the first requirement of a state. But, though his military and financial occupations gave him no time for his old studies after his accession, he did not neglect the patronage of learning in others. He founded libraries of the arts and sciences in various cities of his dominions, where the intellectual gymnastics of Byzantium continued to be practised. He established and endowed schools of grammar and rhetoric in the precincts of the church of St Tryphon, the martyr and patron of Nicaea, which he erected there, provided six scholarships for the students of the institution out of his privy purse, and conducted the examinations in person. It appears, however, that the results did not come up to the founder's expectation, for the pupils were sent back by the imperial examiner to complete their education. A year or two later, George of Cyprus found that Nicaea was not exactly the Christian Athens that the glowing rhetoric of Theodore had depicted it. No one could instruct him in Aristotle's logic; grammar and poetry were alone taught and those only superficially, and the academic curriculum had not got beyond the legend of Oedipus and the Trojan war. Still there was no lack of literary society at Theodore's court. Acropolita and his anonymous epitomiser were both companions of the monarch on his journeys; the Patriarch Arsenius strove to imitate the measures of Anacreon in a Paschal hymn; Theodore Metochites vied with his imperial namesake in a panegyric of their native city of Nicaea.


Illness and death of Theodore


The hereditary malady from which he suffered, aggravated by over­work, now began to tell upon the Emperor's brain. His suspicion of everyone of eminence led him to commit acts of tyranny against the aristocracy, in which he was obsequiously supported by the time-serving Patriarch and by his bosom-friend and old playmate, George Muzalon, a man of humble origin, whom he had raised to the highest offices of state and married to a princess of the imperial house, and who was his most trusted adviser. Soon Theodore's body as well as his brain was affected, he felt that his end was at hand, and he craved from his old tutor Blemmydes the remission of his sins. The stern monk, who had courageously opposed the Emperor's despotic policy, refused to forgive the dying and repentant sovereign. Theodore then turned to the Metropolitan of Mitylene, fell at his feet in a flood of tears, and implored his pardon and that of the Patriarch. He then exchanged his imperial robes for those of a monk, and soon afterwards, in August 1258, breathed his last, aged 36. His brief reign of less than four years did not enable him to make a great mark upon the history of his time; while his voluminous writings are mainly interesting as a proof of that morbid self-consciousness which was the key of his character and was doubtless the result of disease.


Regency and murder of Muzalon


Theodore's only son, John, was not quite eight years old at the death of his father, who in his will had accordingly appointed George Muzalon regent during the minority. Such an appointment was certain to arouse the indignation of the nobles, who had been proscribed by the low-born favourite and were resolved never to accept his dictatorship. Conscious of the opposition to himself, the regent in vain endeavoured to secure the succession by extracting the most solemn oaths of allegiance to his young charge from the prelates, the senate, the army, and the people, and by removing the child-Emperor to a strong fortress, while he offered to resign his own post to anyone whom the nobles might select. For the moment the conspirators dissimulated, and Michael Palaeologus, the most prominent of them, begged the regent in their name to retain his office. When they had thus succeeded in allaying his suspicions, they made their preparations for his overthrow. The commemoration of the late Emperor in the mausoleum at Sosandra was chosen for the attack; the Frankish mercenaries, who were commanded by Palaeologus, and had been deprived of their pay and privileges during the late reign at the instigation of the all-powerful minister, were ready to assassinate their enemy at a hint from their leader. When the fatal day arrived, the conspirators and the mercenaries took up their places at the church of the monastery. As soon as Muzalon and his two brothers arrived, the soldiers demanded that the young Emperor should be produced. His appearance only increased the uproar; a movement of his hand, in token that the tumult should cease, was taken as a signal for attack; the mercenaries rushed into the church, where the service had already begun, and hacked Muzalon and his brothers to pieces as they crouched at the altar. Even the still fresh tomb of the Emperor was not safe from insult.


Michael VIII Palaeologus crowned Emperor


It was necessary to appoint a new regent without delay, for the Mongols in the east, the Despot of Epirus in the west, and the lingering Latin Empire in the north were all enemies whom a child could not combat. Of the numerous nobles who had been the victims of Theodore's tyranny, Michael Palaeologus was the ablest and the most prominent. He had been the brains of the late conspiracy; he was affable, generous, and jovial; he was a distinguished officer; he was a direct descendant of the Angeli and connected by marriage with the reigning dynasty; his future greatness had been foretold—and the Nicene Court was very superstitious. All classes of the population, all three races in the army—Greeks, Franks, and Cumans—welcomed his selection; he was appointed guardian, the dignity of Grand-Duke was conferred upon him, and the clergy, obsequious as ever, soothed any qualms of conscience that he might feign and told him that what he had done would be a crown of righteousness at the Day of Judgment. Ere long a mortal crown, that of Despot, was placed by the Patriarch on his head. But nothing short of the imperial title would satisfy his ambition. Possible rivals were driven into exile; promises and a liberal use of the public money, now at his disposal, secured him the support of the Church for his further designs; and the Patriarch, who still felt some scruples at the abandonment of the boy-Emperor's cause, was compelled to perform the coronation ceremony. Oaths were cheap at Nicaea, and the hypocritical Palaeologus found no difficulty in praying that he might be handed over to the devil if he should plan any harm against the lawful heir and successor of the Empire. With equal readiness all ranks of the nation swore, under pain of excommunication, that, if one of the two Emperors were found scheming against the other, they would slay the schemer, and that if the plot were successful, they would kill the usurper and raise some senator to the throne. This done, Michael Palaeologus was, on 1 January 1259, proclaimed Emperor, and a little later crowned at Nicaea. It had been intended by the partisans of the lawful dynasty that the coronation of the two Emperors should take place on the same day, and that John IV should first receive the crown. But, at the last moment, the friends of Palaeologus secured the postponement of the boy's coronation, while the usurper blandly promised to hold the imperial dignity merely as a trust during the minority of the lawful Emperor. His innocent rival, caring for none of these things and heedless of his approaching fate, was sent back to his childish games at Magnesia, and Michael VIII, having secured his position at home, devoted himself to the foreign policy of the Empire, then in need of a firm hand.

His first thought was for the safety of his European provinces. His namesake, Michael II of Epirus, had advanced his eastern frontier to the Vardar, and threatened to become a formidable competitor for the reversion of Constantinople. Even before his coronation, Palaeologus had sent his brother John to attack the despot, while he gave him the option of peace on favourable terms. Strengthened meanwhile by two matrimonial alliances with Manfred of Sicily and William de Villehardouin, Prince of Achaia, the despot replied with insolence to the proposals of the Emperor, who, after futile negotiations at the Sicilian and Achaian courts, ordered his brother to resume his attack. The decisive battle of Pelagonia placed the Prince of Achaia at the mercy of the Emperor, who was thus ultimately able to obtain a permanent footing in the Peloponnese, and the imperial troops entered the Epirote capital of Arta, where the luckless Acropolita was still languishing in prison. The Nicene forces penetrated as far south as Thebes; but these latter successes had little real value, for even the Greek population regarded their compatriots from Nicaea as interlopers. Fresh reinforcements arrived from Italy to aid the native dynasty, and a year after the battle of Pelagonia the despot's son Nicephorus defeated and captured Alexius Strategopulus, the imperial commander and the future captor of Constantinople.

It was against that city that the efforts of Michael VIII were now directed. The Emperor Baldwin II, with naïve ignorance of the relative strength of their respective Empires, had demanded from him the cession of all his European dominions from Salonica eastward, and, when he sarcastically refused this ridiculous demand, professed willingness to be content with an extension of territory to the mouth of the Maritza. Michael VIII at this told the Latin envoys, who had already had some experience of his quality as a soldier during his governorship of Bithynia, that he would remain at peace with their master on condition that he received half the customs' dues and the same proportion of the profits from the mint. His forces were not yet sufficient for the siege of so great a city; but in the spring of 1260 they captured Selymbria, and occupied all the country up to the walls of Constantinople, except the strong fort of Aphameia outside the Golden Gate, a district inhabited by Greek farmers, known as "the Independents" because neither party could depend upon them. The Emperor had been prevented from taking part in these operations by the resignation of his enemy, the Patriarch Arsenius, who regarded himself as the representative of the legitimate Emperor, and whose gran ruto, as rare in the Eastern as in the Western Church, produced a schism dangerous to the usurper. The election of a new Patriarch favourable to himself demanded his presence at Lampsacus, and it was only after this question had been settled that he felt it safe to join his troops before Constantinople. His hopes of taking the city were based upon the treacherous overtures of one of the garrison. Among the prisoners captured at the battle of Pelagonia was a noble Frank, Ancelin de Toucyl, who was a cousin of the Greek Emperor. His relationship had procured him his release, and he was at this time living in a house on the wall and had command of certain of the gates. Michael accordingly thought that this man, a kinsman whom he had loaded with presents, might be trusted to betray the city. He therefore amused the Franks by an attack upon the castle of Galata, while he was really all the time awaiting the fulfilment of his correspondent's promises. But time went on, the famous archers of Nicaea continued to display their skill, and yet the gates remained closed. At last, an evasive message came from Ancelin, to the effect that the governor of the city had taken away the keys. The Emperor then withdrew, and accepted the offer of a year's truce with his Latin foes. The only result of this futile attack was the discovery of the remains of Basil "the Bulgar-slayer" in the ruined monastery of St John the Evangelist in the Hebdomon quarter. Michael VIII received the skeleton of his great predecessor with the highest honor, and ordered it to be laid to rest in the monastery of the Saviour in his newly-won city of Selymbria.


Diplomatic manoeuvres of Palaeologus


Like a cautious diplomatist, the Emperor used the breathing-space that he had obtained by his truce with the Latins to create a political situation favourable to his great design. He sent the serviceable Acropolita on a secret mission to the Bulgarian Tsar, Constantine Asen, doubtless with the object of securing the neutrality of that monarch, whose wife, the sister of John IV, was naturally indignant at her brother's exclusion from his rights by the usurper and was urging her husband to assist him. The Greek envoy was only partially successful; but on the side of his Asiatic neighbours, the Seljuq Turks, Michael was able to feel perfectly secure. With their Sultan he was already on terms of friendship, dating from the time when he had fled to the court of Iconium, and now, by a sudden reverse of fortune, Kai-Kaus II and his brother were glad to find a refuge from the advancing Mongols in the Greek Empire, and Michael to use the Seljuqs as a buffer against those formidable hordes. The wives and children of the Sultan were carefully guarded at Nicaea, while the Sultan accompanied his host on his compaigns as a further hostage for the good behaviour of his people.

Having thus courted the neutrality of the Bulgarians and gained the security of his Asiatic dominions, Michael sought the alliance of some Latin state which might aid him in his designs against the Latin Empire. Of all the Western governments Genoa was most clearly indicated as his ally. The Genoese were a maritime power; they were the rivals of Venice, whose participation in the Latin conquest of Greece had given her an enormous preponderance in the Levantine trade, and whose recent victory in the long-drawn struggle for the church and commerce of Acre rankled in their minds. On the other hand, if they had fought against the Nicene Empire in defence of Constantinople in 1236 and had surprised the vassal island of Rhodes in 1249, and if Vatatzes had once tried to restrict their commercial privileges, he also had endeavoured to make them his allies in 1239, and his successor was now only carrying out his policy. To the shrewd statesmen of Genoa the only obstacle to the suggested alliance was the certainty of incurring the anger of the Pope, the special protector of the Latin Empire. But the prospects of larger profits prevailed over the fear of spiritual punishments.


Treaty of Nympitaeum


Two Genoese envoys proceeded to Nymphaeum, and there, on 13 March 1261, was signed the memorable treaty2 which transferred to the Genoese the commercial supremacy in the Levant so long enjoyed by their hated competitor. The concessions granted them by Michael were of two kinds : those within his own Empire, which it was in his power to bestow at once, and those in his prospective dominions, at present occupied by the Franks. In the former category were included the absolute possession of Smyrna, already a flourishing port; and the right to an establishment with churches and consuls not only there but at Anaia and Adramyttium, in the islands of Lesbos and Chios, and at Cassandria in the parts of Salonica; in the latter were comprised similar grants at Constantinople and in the islands of Crete and Euboea, together with the confirmation of their old privileges in the imperial city, and the church of St Mary and the site of the Venetian castle there in the event of their sending a naval force to aid in the siege. Free-trade throughout the present and future provinces of the Greek Empire, and the closing of the Black Sea to all foreign ships except those of Genoa and Pisa; an annual present of money and three golden pallia to the commune and archbishop of Genoa, in revival of the ancient custom; and war against Venice till such time as both the high contracting parties should decide upon peace: such were the further advantages gained by the Genoese. On their side they promised to grant free-trade to the Emperor's subjects, to allow no hostile force to be equipped against him in their ports, and to arm a squadron of 50 or fewer galleys, if the Emperor demanded it, for his service but at his expense, provided that they were not employed against the Pope, or the friends of the republic in the West or East, among the latter the Prince of Achaia and his successors, the King of Cyprus, and the Knights of St John. On 10 July this treaty was ratified by the republic; fifteen days later, before the Genoese flotilla had had time to arrive, Constantinople fell.


Capture of Constantinople


In the early part of 1261 Michael VIII had sent his experienced general, Alexius Strategopulus, now released from his Epirote prison, to Thrace at the head of a small force of Greeks and Cumans, with orders to keep that region quiet and the Bulgarians in check. At the same time he was told to make a demonstration before Constantinople, not with any hope of taking the city—for his army was not considered sufficient for such an enterprise—but in order to frighten the Latin garrison. Strategopulus, on reaching the modern village of Kuchuk Chekmejeh, received from the "Independents," who were constantly going to and fro between the city and their farms in the country, information which led him to risk an attempt at capturing the capital of the Latin Empire. He knew that Baldwin II was in desperate straits; his informants told him that the new Venetian podesta, Marco Gradenigo, had gone with almost the whole of the garrison to attack the island of Daphnusia, which lies off the south coast of the Black Sea, and then formed part of the Nicene Empire; while his nephew Alexius and an "Independent" called Koutritzakes reminded him of a prophecy that three persons of their names should one day take Constantinople. He therefore moved to Balukli, opposite the Selymbria gate, where his confederates showed him an old aqueduct, through which a body of soldiers one by one could enter the city, underneath the walls. A dark night was chosen for the venture; the band of subterranean invaders emerged safely inside the fortifications, silently scaled the ramparts, hurled the somnolent Latins to destruction below, burst open the gate, and proclaimed the Emperor Michael from the walls, as a signal to their friends to enter. Strategopulus and his troops, not more than 1000 in number, thus obtained possession of Constantinople without striking a blow, in the early morning of 25 July 1261. The cautious general did not advance into the heart of the city till broad daylight enabled him to ascertain the real numbers of the remaining garrison. Indeed, at one moment he had almost given the signal for retreat at the appearance of an armed body of Franks. But the "Independents," who knew that their lives depended on his success, rallied to his aid; panic seized the Latins, who fled to the monasteries for safety; while their Emperor took refuge in the Great Palace above the Golden Horn and then, leaving in his haste the emblems of sovereignty behind him, embarked on a vessel for Greece and the West.

Meanwhile the expedition against Daphnusia, having failed to capture that island, was on its way back when the news reached it that the Greeks were masters of Constantinople. The podesta was not the man to abandon the city without a struggle for its recovery; but his followers had left hostages behind them in the persons of their wives and children; and when the Greeks set fire to their homes and they saw their families fleeing in despair across the burning squares which lined the water's edge, they thought only of saving them. They conveyed all whom they could on board their vessels, and followed their fugitive Emperor, leaving Constantinople in the possession of the victorious Greek general, whom an extraordinary accident had enabled unaided to accomplish in a night the dream of fifty-seven years.

Michael VIII was at Meteorion in the Hermus valley, when his sister aroused him from his sleep with the news that Constantinople was his. At first he refused to believe that so small a force could have taken so great a city; indeed, the people would not credit the story until they saw the regalia of the Latin Emperor. But, as soon as the report was confirmed, he set out in haste for his new capital, taking with him his wife and his little son Andronicus, but leaving behind him at Magnesia the legitimate occupant of the throne, whom he was now more than ever anxious to displace. On 14 August he arrived before Constantinople, and, after passing the night in the monastery of Kosmidion, the modern Eyyab, entered the city on the morrow through the Golden Gate. His entry, by his own special desire, partook of a religious rather than a political character. Special prayers for the occasion were composed by the historian Acropolita, in the absence of Blennydes, and recited from one of the towers of the gate by the Metropolitan of Cyzicus—for the widowed Church had no Patriarch. The famous image of the Path-finding Virgin guided the Emperor, as, after many genuflexions, he passed on foot through the Golden Portal to the neighbouring monastery of Studion; and a thanksgiving service in the church of the Divine Wisdom completed the ceremonial. But Michael did not consider the recovery of the ancient seat of Empire duly ratified till he had been crowned Emperor in the imperial city of Constantine. His enemy Arsenius was induced to resume his functions as Patriarch, and to perform this second coronation in Santa Sophia. No mention was made of the legitimate sovereign in the coronation oath, but Strategopulus, the real conqueror of Constantinople, received the honour of a triumph, and his name was ordered to be mentioned for the space of a year in the public prayers throughout the Empire. John IV was blinded and imprisoned in a fortress, where many years later the conscience-stricken successor of the usurper visited him.

Thus, after the lapse of fifty-seven years, the Empire of Nicaea merged in the greater glories of Byzantium, and the centre of gravity of Hellenism was removed from Bithynia to the Bosphorus. Amidst the universal rejoicing, we are told that one voice was raised in lament at the return to Constantinople, that of the Emperor's private secretary, who may have foreseen with the eye of a statesman that the coming Turkish peril needed a strong bulwark in Asia Minor, or who may have realised that the past can never be recalled and that the newly-conquered Byzantium would not be the old. But with a patriotism similar to that of the Piedmontese and Florentines in our own day, the people of Nicaea and Nymphaeum acquiesced in an act which, while it redounded to the glory of the Greek name, reduced their cities to the dull level of provincial towns. We are told, indeed, that, though Nicaea "like a mother aided her daughter with all that she had," yet even after this sacrifice she still excelled all other cities, some by her situation, some by her fertile soil, others by her great circumference, others by her beautiful buildings, others again by her philanthropic establishments. But, when every year the great festival of St Typhon was celebrated in the church which Theodore II had built, the thoughts of the older men may have gone back with regret to the time when the Patriarch resided in their midst, when letters flourished by the waters of the Askanian mere, when the heralds announced the arrival of the Emperor in the holy city from his autumn pleasaunce of Nymphaeum.

The Empire of Nicaea, the chief of the three mainstays of Hellenism after the Frankish Conquest, has left but few tangible memorials behind it. A picturesque ruin, however, called by the peasants the "Castle of the Genoese," still marks the site of the imperial palace at Nymphaeum, the scene of the famous treaty. If we have no seals of any of the five Nicene Emperors, there are, at any rate, coins of all of them, except the unhappy John IV, while the elder Sanudo tells us that the latter was portrayed in the gold hyperperi, of Michael VIII as a child in the arms of his treacherous protector. One extant coin of Michael was undoubtedly minted at Nicaea, for it bears the figure of St Tryphon, the patron of that city. The brief and uncertain tenure of the Franks in Asia Minor accounts for the absence of all Frankish coins, which were doubtless replaced by the money of Venice, the chief Latin mercantile power in the Greek dominions. Irene, Theodore ifs daughter, is still portrayed in the church of Boyana near Sofia; portraits of all five Nicene Emperors are to be found in manuscripts; and to the Nicene Empire is ascribed the first modern use of the double-headed eagle as a symbol.


History of Trebizond: defeat of Malik


But, although Nicaea was now only an appendage of Constantinople, the rival Greek Empire of Trebizond continued its separate existence. From the moment when the Seljuqs occupied Sinope, a wedge was driven between the two Hellenic states, which thenceforth did not come into collision, while Trebizond during the latter years of Alexius I and the reigns of his three immediate successors alternated between an occasional interval of independence and vassalage to the Seljuqs or the Mongols. On the death of the founder of the Empire in 1222, his eldest son John was set aside in favour of his son-in-law Andronicus Gidos, who was perhaps identical with the general of Lascaris—a theory which would account for the selection of an experienced commander in preference to a raw youth as ruler of a young and struggling community. Andronicus I soon justified his appointment. A ship bearing the tribute of the Crimean province of Trebizond, together with the archon who collected the annual taxes, was driven by a storm into Sinope. The governor, a subordinate of Malik, the son of the Seljuq Sultan Kai-Qubadl I, not only seized the vessel and all its cargo but also sent his ships to plunder the Crimea, in defiance of the treaty recently made by his master with the new Emperor. Andronicus, on receipt of the news, ordered his fleet to retaliate by attacking Sinope; and his sailors not only plundered the district right up to the walls of the "mart," but captured the crews of the ships lying in the harbour, who were exchanged for the captive archon and his taxes. Malik now marched upon Trebizond, which was even then strongly fortified, a fact which the astute Emperor contrived to make known to the enemy by pretending to sue for peace and inviting him to send envoys to negotiate it inside the city. The governor of Sinope fell during the siege; Malik was deluded into making another attack by the appearance of a man in his camp, who purported to be the leading citizen and pretended to invite him to enter in the name of his fellows. But a sudden thunderstorm scattered the attacking army, and Trapezuntine piety ascribed the deliverance of the city to the intervention of St Eugenius, who had personated their chief magistrate in order to lure to destruction the infidel who had ordered the destruction of his monastery. Thus baffled, Malik fled, only to fall into the hands of the mountain-folk, who dragged him before Andronicus. The Emperor wisely received him with honour, and released him on condition that the tie of vassalage which had bound Trebizond to Iconium should cease.

But Trebizond did not long remain independent. A new and formidable rival of the Seljuqs appeared in the person of Jalal-ad-Din, the Shah of Khwarazm, who called himself "King of the Globe," and it would appear that Andronicus assisted him against Kai-Qubad at the disastrous battle of Khilat in 1230 and sheltered his flying troops at Trebizond after their crushing defeat. The natural result of this unsuccessful policy was that the Greek Empire on the Euxine, weakened and isolated, once more became a vassal of the Seljuq Sultan, to whom, in 1240, it was bound to furnish 200 lances, or 1000 men. About this time, too, it would seem that the Georgians, who had assisted the formation and had acknowledged the supremacy of the Empire, severed their connexion with it, although long afterwards they continued to be included in the imperial title.

When in 1235 Andronicus I was laid to rest in the church of the "Golden-headed Virgin," which he richly endowed and which in its present form is perhaps a memorial of his reign, the eldest son of Alexius I was old enough to assume his heritage. But John I, or Axouchos, as he was called, after a brief reign of three years, was killed while playing polo. His son Joannicius was then put into a monastery and his second brother Manuel ascended the throne. Manuel I obtained the names of "the greatest captain " and "the most fortunate" ; but his reign of 25 years witnessed the exchange of the Seljuq for the Mongol suzerainty. His lances doubtless served in the Seljuq ranks on the fatal day of Kuza-Dagh, when the Mongols overthrew the forces of Kai-Khusru II, and accordingly the friar Rubruquis, who visited the victors in 1253, found him "obedient to the Tartars." In that same year he sent envoys to Louis IX of France at Sidon, begging him to give him a French princess as his wife. The King of France had no princesses with him, but he recommended Manuel to make a matrimonial alliance with the Latin Court of Constantinople, to which the aid of "so great and rich a man" would be useful against Vatatzes. If we may assume that the monastery of the Divine Wisdom, from which his portrait has now disappeared, was his work, his riches merited the praise of the saintly French sovereign. Nor can we be surprised that Trebizond was a wealthy state, for at this period it was an important depot of the trade between Russia and the Seljuq Empire. For the purposes of this traffic a special currency was required, of which specimens have perhaps survived in bronze coins of Alexius I, and in both bronze and silver coins of John I and Manuel I. But no seals of any of these early Trapezuntine Emperors are known to exist.

Nicaea and Trebizond have, however, apart from aught else, a permanent lesson for the historian and the politician; they teach us the extraordinary vitality of the Hellenic race even in its darkest hour.



Theodore I Lascaris. Despot 1204-6; Emperor 1206 Count Louis of Blois and Chartres 1204-5. Alexius I Grand-Comnenus 1204.
John III Ducas Vatatzes 1222.
Andronicus I Gidos 1222.
Theodore II Lascaris 1254. Count Stephen of Perche 1204-5. John I Axolichos 1235.
John IV Lascaris 1258. Manuel I 1238-63
Michael VIII Palaeologus 1259.