The Byzantine Empire Part I 330-1204

  By Vardhas
  Category: Byzantium


1. The Roman Empire in the III century AD and the birth of the "Byzantine" Empire
 The Roman Empire at 260 AD. The numerous problem in maintaining the empire compelled Emperor Diocletian to split it in half. The Western half will fall, while the Eastern half will survive and become the "Byzantine Empire"
What is going to be told in this chapter is the history of the Roman Empire since 324, when its capital city was first moved to Constantinople (the ancient greek colony of "Byzantium") by the emperor Constantine I, until 1204, when Constantinople itself was sacked by the crusaders, and became capital of an ill-lived "Latin Eastern Roman Empire", wich will be examined in another chapter. Of course this needs also some brief notation about what occured before and after these dates, so this story spreads its roots in the third century AD. Note that I will still use the term "byzantine empire" even if none of the living "byzantines" ever called himself a "byzantine", they always called themselves "Romaioi", that is "Romans", so the term "Romania" will also be used, with no particular reference to the modern state of Romania, of course.

After the death of the Emperor Alexander Severus (235, all dates are AD, if not specificated otherwise) the roman empire fell in a difficult period of political instability wich became soon an anarchy, while dozens of generals, in their own provinces, claimed and assumed the title of Emperor, weakening both empire's defences and prestige among other peoples, and allowing barbarian raids deep inside empire's territory. This all was finished by the emperor Diocletian, who eventually re-estabilished the imperial authority over the whole empire and rebuilt its administration, its army and its governament form, also introducing a new concept of "emperor" as a semi-divine man and as a complete autocrat, with complete power over any of its subjects, a power wich was never (officially) accorded to the emperors who preceeded him, and that will become the basis of the Byzantine concept of "emperor". Since this is a brief history I won't insist on the many reforms of Diocletian, but one of them I feel the need of writing about, since it allows to introduce one of the most important emperors of the Byzantine Empire: Constantine I

Diocletian realized that a world-spread empire could not be kept under control by one only man, so decided to divide the empire in four parts, two of them (east and west) ruled by an "August", each of whom named a "Caesar", who ruled the other two parts (respectively far east and far west). The father of Constantine, Constantius Chlorus, was one of the two Caesars, and as he died its troops claimed Constantine himself emperor (even if it wasn't legal). There is no room to examine the fight that followed within the empire, I will only say that eventually Constantine defeated his last opponents, Maxentius and then Licinius, and became sole emperor of the whole roman empire, in 323. Constantine defeated his enemies also because he could rely on the support of the christian church, wich was growing always stronger in those years, so as he became emperor allow ed the christians to freely profess their religion. The christian religion, the second basis of the byzantine empire was so set. And then the capital. The fact that Rome was not in a strong and easily defendable geographical position had always been clear, but no one seriously thought anyone could have actually ever threatened Rome, not until the crisis of the III century. After that period, safeness became always more important, and the idea of moving the capital was taken very seriously. The choice eventually fell on the greek city of Byzantium, wich had a very easily defendable position, surrounded by sea on three sides, the fourth easily closed with a strong wall. So, on March 11 330, on Monday, the "New Rome", rebaptized "Constantinople" was founded, here begins the history of the Byzantine Empire. Of course, in actual history, "Byzantine" was never used as the name of the empire, which continued to call itself Roman until its demise.

The Roman Empire at the reign of Constantine which also shows the fomer Diocesses created by Diocletian. The line in the center between Italy and Greec will eventually form the boundaries between the Western and the Eastern Roman Empire.

2. The Early Byzantine Empire, 330-602

It makes no difference if we refer to this period as "early byzantine empire" or as "late roman empire", since there is no great difference between the empire that Constantine ruled and the one that Justinian ruled two centuries later, not in the form of government, not in the internal administration, not much even in culture.

The empire faced two main problems in this period: the external threat of the Sassanid empire, and later on of the barbaric tribes wich were forced to flee inside empire's territory by the Huns, and the internal threat of religion, that eventually led to a complete separation and dismemberment of the empire.

The church in fact was quite united and harmonic in the beginning, but doctrinal disagreements, wich implied deeper cultural differences, soon broke up the original unity. The first of those "herecies" was the Arianism, predicated by Arius, a priest of Alexandria that said that Christ could only have a human nature, being created by the Father, and subordinated to him; this became the basis of most of the future clashes between christians of the east and christians of the west, the eastern being more sceptic about the trinity and the two natures (human and divine) of Christ, the wester being more likely to believe what he was told without wondering too much. Constantine already instituted an ecumenical council (the

The dome of the Hagia Sofia must have been an impressive sight to maritime merchants arriving at Constantinople.
first) in Nicea, in 325, wich banned Arius' theories, but many other herecies rose after that council (that also didn't cancel at all the Arian doctrine, wich spread among most of the barbarians): the rationalistic interpretation that was developed in Antioch by Nestorius said that the Father just chosed as his "prophet" (a theory that links Arianism with Islam) Jesus, son of Mary, making Mary just mother of Jesus, a man, not mother of God. In Egypt, where most of the population identified Mary with the ancient goddes Isis, this was not accepted at all, and the patriarch of Alexandria defeated Nestorius in the council of Ephesus (431), making his patriarchate the most powerful of the world. The patriarchs of Rome and Constantinople decided so to join against Alexandria, whose representative at the imperial court, Eutyches, substained that Christ had only the divine nature, creating so the "monophysism" (from greek "mono", one, and "physis", nature), wich was soon accepted by christians of the Middle East, and became an element of the separatist movement of those regions, mainly Egypt and Syria.

Those controversies that divided culturally the empire contributed to its political separation: the Sassanid persians were a costant threat for the emperors of the IV-VI century, and the mass migration of the germanic tribes that, under the pressure of the Huns, asked to settle on empire's lands and then, after the vexation of roman governors, invaded the western part

of the empire, led to the fall of the western roman empire in 475 and to the creation of independent kingdoms in Italy, France, Spain and North Africa. The Eastern empire, because of its larger wealth and more energic politics, (Honorius, western emperor from 395 to 423 had as his greatest interest the feeding of chickens) maneged to survive.

As Justinian I came to power in 527 he could rely on an empire that had never been stronger since the times of Constantine itself. But Justinian had the dream of restoring the old world wide roman empire, and to do that operated a codification and organisation of the roman laws, wich was very good, and tried to regain the territories that were conquered by the barbarians in the west, that was very bad. North Africa was easily conquered in 533, but to conquer Italy from the Goths took a long and difficult war, that drained the resources of the empire and took away its attention from the persian threat. Also when finally Italy was conquered in 555, it had become a poor and unfructous land, raveged by years of war, and unable to sane the imperial economic difficulties. So, after the death of Justinian in 565 the empire was unable to defend the newly conquered areas.
Justinian reconquered a portion of the fallen Western Empire. However, the western territories were too difficult to defend. By 600, the Lombards had burst into Italy.
3. The struggle for survival, 610-717

Having blond hair and a little older than thirty-five, Heraclius maybe looked like a god to his subjects, but is much more likely that most of them feared he could be the last roman emperor: the balkans were ravaged by slavic tribes and by the Avars, while in the east the Persians conquered Egypt, Syria and Asia Minor, in 614 they took Jerusalem and stole the True Cross of the crucifixion. Heraclius did not surrender: he massed and settled the troops in what had left of Asia Minor, and created the "themata", some sort of military conscriptions were soldiers had some land to cultivate, so to be self-sufficient in peacetime. The main themata created in Asia Minor were: the theme of Armenians in the northeast, the theme of Anatolians in the southern part, the theme of Thrakesians in the west and the them of Opsikion (from latin "Obsequium", i.e. the imperial guard) in the northwest.

This organisation became the basis of the byzantine administration until 1204. It was only in 622 that Heraclius could try a counter offensive: he had an agreement with the Avars, to make sure they would not attack him as he was out in campaign. After three years of war, in 625, after fightings from Cilicia to Armenia, the emperor invaded Persia from the Caucasus, and reached the Euphrates, where he defeated a persian army, but then returned to Asia Minor for the winter, and Khusraw took advantage of this: he recruited as many soldiers as he could, and sent his general Sharbaraz across Anatolia to Chalcedon, were he was to join the Avars in an imminent siege of Constantinople.

Heraclius decided not to leave the positions he gained, so he sent only a part of his army in reinforcemet of the City, and remained in Azerbaijan, and estabilishing an alliance with the nearby kingdom of the Khazars. On June 26, 626 the Avars sieged Constantinople, with a force of 80.000 men. Inside the City was defended by 12.000 knights, while the morale was kept high by the patriarch Sergius. After that thousands of barbarians were killed in attempting of taking possession of the walls, and that the persian fleet was destroyed as tried to carry the army on the orher side of the Bosphorus, the persians withdrew, while the Avar regime over the Slavs was overthrown. In the auptumn of 627, near the ruins of Niniveh, Heraclius finally defeated the persian general Razates, Khusraw II was killed by a conspiration, and Persia accepted a treaty wich restored the roman authority over Egypt, Syria and Armenia, and the True Cross was also taken back to Jerusalem.

4. The Iconoclasty, 717-867

The question was very simple: can God be represented? Leo III said no, and prohibited the representation of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the Saints, and ordered the destruction of all the holy icons. Iconoclasm in fact means "destruction of the icons". I won't discuss iconoclasty here, just tell what it caused to the Byzantine empire: until 795 almost all the emperors were iconoclasts, while the pope and western church worshipped widely the images, and this caused disagreement between the popes and the emperors, and weakened the Byzantine positions in Italy, where Ravenna was conquered by the Lombard Astolph on 751, Rome was abandoned and the pope asked the help of the Franks. By then king of the franks was Pepin the Short, who defeated the Lombards and, ignoring Byzantine claims, gave the territory of Ravenna and Latium to the Pope, creating the State of the Church.

The crowning of Charlemagne in the West as "Roman Emperor" challenged the ligitimacy of the Byzatnine Roman Emperor. Bulgarian Invasion put the Empire in further trouble.
The position of the Byzantines in Italy was so weak also because of the continuous campaigns against the Bulgarians in the east, which were quite successful. But in 795 Irene, mother of the emperor Constantine VI killed his son and took the title of "emperor" (not empress). Because of the brutal assassination, and because of the fact that in the west an "emperor" could not be a woman (by the salic law), the imperial throne was retained vacant, and pope Leo III took advantage of this when in the Christmas night of 800 he crowned Charlemagne "emperor of the Romans", assuming that, since he could crown an emperor, his power was superior to that of the emperor...

Charlemagne sent an envoy to Irene in 802, asking for her to marry him, so eastern and western empire would have joined again. But Charlemagne was seen as a barbarian by the Byzantines (and he was, by their standards), so as Irene, who was unpopular already to most of the population, seemed likely to accept, she was overthrown and exiled by Nicephorus I (802-811), a courageous and capable man, who reorganized the economy, also confiscating some lands of the clergy. He also defeated the Slavic tribes that settled in southern Greece and inside the Peloponnese, but was killed with all his army in an ambush by the Bulgarian Khan, Krum, in 811. In opposition to Nicephorus his successor, Michael I (811-813), accepted to recognize Charlemagne as emperor, in exchange of the territories he had conquered in Dalmatia and northern Italy (Istria and Venice), so in 812 the Frankish king was saluted "basileus", (emperor) by Byzantine ambassadors. At the death of Michael the iconoclasts regained power, after the iconodulism (Iconoduls were the ones who worshipped the icons) of Irene and the neutral position of the two following emperors, with Leo V the Armenian, who defeated the Bulgarians in 813, and came to terms with their Khan Omurtag, who succeeded Krum in 814.
Byzantine Icon

In opposition to Nicephorus his successor, Michael I (811-813), accepted to recognize Charlemagne as emperor, in exchange of the territories he had conquered in Dalmatia and northern Italy (Istria and Venice), so in 812 the Frankish king was saluted "basileus", (emperor) by Byzantine ambassadors. At the death of Michael the iconoclasts regained power, after the iconodulism (Iconoduls were the ones who worshipped the icons) of Irene and the neutral position of the two following emperors, with Leo V the Armenian, who defeated the Bulgarians in 813, and came to terms with their Khan Omurtag, who succeeded Krum in 814. Leo V however was much less fanatic than his predecessors, and the iconoclastic fury was not so hot any longer: under Michael II (820-829) the anti-image laws of Leo V were abolished, but his son Theophile (829-842) returned to a fanatic persecution of iconoduls. He was however a wise and good emperor, he admired Arab culture, even if he fought Arabic invaders all through his reign. Moreover, he was the last of iconoclasts: the culture had changed, the Byzantines had no more time for theological disputations, the empire was regaining power after centuries of fighting, and a new air was being breathed: a "renaissance" was about to begin.

5. The Byzantine "Renaissance" and the Golden Age of Byzantium, 843-1025

After the military conflicts against the invaders and the spiritual conflicts of iconoclasty, the Byzantine Empire eventually recovered the full balance that had been missing since the death of Justinian I. The army was strong, the administration efficient, the church united and the culture was flourishing, under the "humanism" of people like Photius. The emperor Michael III (842-867) was not particularly wise, but could rely on the best-organized state of the world, along with the best advisers of his time. Michael was only three years old when Theophile died, and the regency was assumed by his mother Theodora, who restored the worshipping of icons in March of 823, a fact still celebrated by the Orthodox Church. The logothetes (some sort of "minister") Theoctist assumed the executive power, and re-conquered for one year Crete in 843. In general, while in the previous centuries the Byzantines only defended against the Arabs, since the IX century a more offensive attitude started. Michael III got rid of Theoctist in 855, but the actual power was once more in the hands of Bardas, who took Theoctist's place. Bardas founded a new university in Constantinople, removed from charge the patriarch Ignatius and substituted him with Photius.

The pope did not accept this, since Ignatius was promoter of a pro-Rome policy, while Photius was not. In fact Photius, cultured and daring, eventually even managed to accuse the pope himself of heresy. Of course there were political reasons for this: in those years the Bulgarians were beginning to adopt Christianity, but there was a debate on who would have influenced the new Christians, either the patriarchate of Constantinople or the catholic church of Rome. But, after the bulgarians definitively converted under the aegis of Constantinople, when Photius was still carrying on his campaign against Rome, an event occurred: Michael III enjoyed most parties and feasts to political duty, as I said, so he opened high ranks in the court to his companions of revelry. One of those ones, Basil an extremely strong man, killed Michael and gained the throne.

Basil I, an uneducated ex-prisoner (of Bulgarians), proved to be one of the best emperors of the Byzantine history: however his first action as emperor was deposing Photius, to obtain the favors of western church. In fact in 871 Basil allied to the western emperor Ludwig II to re-conquer southern Italy, which fell to the Arabs few years before.

This pro-western policy however failed, because of misunderstandings between the two emperors, but since the death Ludwig in 875 the Byzantine general Nicephorus Phokas conquered most of southern Italy restoring the Byzantine power in that area. The paulicians heretics who lived in eastern provinces were defeated in this period too, and Basil promoted a new encoding of the Civic Right. Also, after the death of the restored patriarch Ignatius, Photius was made patriarch for the second time, completing the picture of the great time Byzantium was having.

Revial and Reconquest
The encoding of laws begun by Basil was ended by his son Leo VI the wise (886-912). Under his reign however he could not repulse the Arab and the Bulgarian, the first sacking Thessalonica in 902, the second moving his borders nearer to the Aegean coast. A treaty with the Russians of Kiev, who first appeared in 860) is also of that period. The brother of Leo, Alexander, who succeeded to the throne in 912 was a weak man and lasted less than one year, and the son of Leo, Constantine, was only six. The empire was threatened by the Bulgarian Khan Simeon, who wanted nothing less than the imperial crown. The incompetent regency would not have resisted the Khan if the power were not assumed by an officer of the navy, Romanus, who became emperor in 912, defeated Simeon and, after his death in 927, instituted a sort of protectorate over Bulgaria. On the eastern front the Byzantines were advancing to, Melitene was conquered in 934, and the Byzantine army appeared in Mesopotamia, but the emir of Halab Sayf aD-Dawla resisted the attack and repulsed the Byzantine general John Kourkouas. The sons of Romanus deposed him in 944, but were unpopular and were exiled: the legitimate emperor was Constantine, who became Constantine VII in 948.

Culture flourished under the reign of Constantine, but military campaigns started again only under his successor Romanus II (959-963). His general Nicephorus Phokas, who conquered Crete in 961, became emperor at his death. Nicephorus married Romanus' wife Theofano promising he would have kept safe the two princes Basil and Constantine, sons of Romanus. Nicephorus Phokas was a mixture of a monk and a soldier; it is told that he slept on the ground only with a blanket. However he was able to conquer Northern Syria and Halab, defeating Sayf aD-Dawla, but was overthrown and killed by the general John Tzimiskes, an Armenian, in 969. Always fighting on the east, Nicephorus did not consider the west, were the Bulgarians were threatening the empire again, instead he asked the strong prince of Kiev, Svijatoslav, to invade Bulgaria, stoutly inviting a strong enemy in place of a weaker one. John Tzimiskes dealt with both of them, however.

A triumphant campaign in 971 caused all eastern Bulgaria to the Danube to fall under Byzantine control, while Svijatoslav, besieged in Silistra, on the Danube, surrendered and was killed by the Patzinaks, a Turkic tribe, on the way for home. John was more that a soldier, contrary to his predecessor, and obtained a peace with the western emperor, badly treated by Nicephorus. The way for Syria was now clear, and a series of campaigns from 972 to 975 led to the conquer of Antioch and half of Syria, the subjugation of Halab and the temporary conquer of Palestine all the way south to Nazareth. In 976, while returning to Constantinople, John got sick and died. The following emperor, Basil II, (976-1025) was the most famous, the most cruel and most feared emperor after Justinian.

Basil II "The Bulgar Slayer." Ruled the Byzantine Empire at its golden age.
He conquered all Bulgaria after cruel campaigns, defeated the Arabs who were attempting to re-conquer Syria and frightened the surrounding nations so much that even if his successors were some of the worst things humankind can produce, it took more than half-a-century for an enemy to attack the empire. Basil died in 1025, without any heir, so for 56 years the empire was governed by the continuous conspiracies and intrigues of the court, i.e. was not governed at all. The thematic systems was destroyed by the rise of large land owners who, not contrasted by the government, enlarged their founds and deprived the empire of his blood, little land owners, who joined the army and paid taxes. The process was so fast that what had been built in centuries crumbled in few years: in 1071 the Normans conquered southern Italy and directly threatened the Empire, and when, in the same year, the Seljuk Turks defeated what had left of the Byzantine army at Mantzikert, no one could believe in the empire anymore

6. The failure of the last universalistic claims of Byzantium, 1081-1204

The defeat of Mantzikert was not particularly disastrous in terms of casualties, but destroyed the morale of the Byzantines, and seemed that there wasn't anyone who could save the empire anymore. And it was true. By 1081 the Turks had conquered almost all of Asia Minor, depriving the empire of his heart. But again a man came to save the empire from premature destruction: in 1081 Alexius Komnenus, a former general of the army, with the help of aristocracy took the throne. Alexius I (1081-1118) literally rebuilt the empire, and created a state that lasted far longer and better than one could expect, but it still was an heartless creature, which could not stay alive for long.

The revolt of nobles after the death of Basil destroyed the Theme system. Consequently, its military was destroyed. Soon, Southern Italy was conquered by the Normans; Asia Minor fell to the Turks, and it was after this catastrophe that compelled the Byzantines to call for help from the westerners, which turned into the crusades.
However, he reformed the Thematic system, which was not working anymore, changing to a type of feudalism: one noble who promised to serve the army obtained some land in exchange for his service. This was called "pronoia". The noble of course gave the land to peasants who would have cultivated it and also joined him in war as infantry. The peasants were called "paroikoi" "those who live near (the noble)". This system however could not afford a full supply of soldiers, and since now the Byzantine army, still one of the most efficient of the world, depended always more on not cheap neither faithful mercenaries. After consolidating the internal administration Alexius got rid of the Normans allying with Venice, which provided to defend the seas of the Empire in exchange of economical advantages.

This eventually destroyed the Byzantine economy, when Venice set the price of her services always higher. With this alliance however Alexius could stop the advance of the Norman Duke Robert, who tried to invade Greece, and moved his attention to the northern front, where the Patzinaks were invading the territory south of the Danube, and besieged Constantinople in 1090. The emperor asked the Qumans, another nomad tribe, enemy to the Patzinaks for help, and a Byzantine-Quman army completely annihilated the Patzinaks in 1091. With the Normans and the Patzinaks defeated it was possible now to try a re-conquest of Asia Minor, since the Seljuks divided in little principalities; but something unexpected occurred: the crusades.

The concept of crusade was new to Byzantines. They always fought against the Saracens, in name of their religion, for their own survival, since 636, and the hoard of Franks that crossed the empire territory in 1095 was not well seen neither by the population, who got sacked and raped by the "barbarians", nor by the Emperor, who ferried them on the coast of Asia Minor, after they swore to give him all the territories formerly under the power of Byzantium. It worked only partially. Byzantine armies with the help of the crusaders conquered the coasts and western part of Asia Minor, but as the crusaders reached Antioch and Palestine, and conquered Jerusalem in 1099, they founded their own principalities, which were a constant threat for the Empire. Alexius could however achieve another victory, against Bohemond, son of Robert and Prince of Antioch.
the First crusade. The Crusades only temporarily relieved the pressure of the Muslim armies.However, in the end, the Crusaders would bring much trouble.

When he died in 1118 the empire had his prestige and power back, and could even try a further expansion. The son of Alexius, John II (1118-1143), wise and intelligent, was not inferior at all to his father: he could not avoid the Venetian influence over empire's economy, but inflicted a serious defeat to the tribes who still threatened the empire in the Balkans, defeated the Hungarians in 1128, and finally could move to Northern Syria, to attack the principality of Antioch, which were conquered in 1138, while in Italy he allied with the western emperor and Pisa to fight the Normans, who were defeated. He even planned a campaign to restore the Byzantine supremacy over Palestine, but he died in 1143.

Of course this was not enough for him, not yet. In 1161 a war against the Hungarians begun because of throne succession, the Byzantines supporting Stephan IV, brother of the dead king Geza, the Germans Stephan III. The war ended in 1164 with great advantages for the Byzantines, who obtained Croatia, Dalmatia and Bosnia. As I said, the empire was not the same it had been before: when Manuel went too far, attacking the Turk Sultanate of Iconium in 1176, he was harshly defeated and lost all his army. His policy had drained all the resources left to the empire, the standard he kept could not last long, and this came clear soon.

Alexius II was only twelve in 1180, and the regency was assumed by his mother Mary of Antioch, hated by the population, and in 1182 Andronicus Comnenus cousin of Manuel and governor of the Pontus, gained the power, keeping however Alexius in charge with him. Andronicus I, 1182-1185, managed to act some improvement with his strong will and his cruelty, but he could not withstand the joint attack of Hungarians, Normans, and rebelling Serbians, and was killed by the people of Constantinople in 1185. Isaac II Angelos (1185-95) did nothing to stop the spreading corruption within the empire, it's said that he "sold charges and ranks just like vegetables at the market", and his brother Alexius III (1195-1203) was even worse, and the third crusade in 1189 didn't help at all, with the westerns crossing the already ravaged territory of the empire, and the Byzantines, helpless, allying with Salah ad-din.

His son Manuel (1143-1180) was another great emperor, strong, sly and ambitious, but also an admirer of western culture. He only was not much careful. He allied with the western emperor Conrad III again against the Normans, but Conrad led the Second Crusade with the King of France Luis VII. The German army, after the usual rapes and robberies in Byzantine territory, was defeated by the Turks in Asia Minor, and Luis, who joined Conrad and the remains of his army, moved across Taurus to Attalia, but Conrad got sick and returned to Europe, followed by Luis few time later, leaving his men alone. Apart from the Turks, the only one who took advantage of the crusade was the King of Normans Roger II, who sacked Thebes and Corinth, and briefly conquered Corfu in 1147. In 1150 Europe was divided in two blocks (something that seems to have remained quite popular): the Byzantines, Germany and Venice on one side, and the Normans, France, Hungary and the Papacy on the other. The Hungarians were rising always stronger, and they threatened Byzantine interests even in Russia, opposing their own candidate for the throne of Kiev.

The Byzantine diplomacy however was better (Manuel had close relationships with Henry II of England), and in 1152 the Byzantine candidate sat on the throne, while a joint war of Byzantium and Germany against the Normans was about to begin, but Conrad died in 1152, and his successor, Frederick Barbarossa, proved to be hostile to Manuel. The Byzantine Emperor did not stop his "universalistic" policy, however, and even tried to conquer southern Italy after the death of Roger II in 1154. The campaign was successful, and for some years Byzantine power was restored in all southern and part of central Italy. The dream of a true roman restoration seemed to be possible, but just as the attempt of Justinian, this one proved that time had gone, for the Roman Empire there was no room in the new world that was being created. In 1156 William I, king of the Normans, defeated the Byzantines and re-conquered his territory, and he allied with Frederick in 1158. Manuel could however achieve some victories, after this defeat: he subjugated the Armenian Kingdom of the Taurus and again the principality of Antioch, and even the king of Jerusalem Baldwin III put himself under the protection of the emperor.

7. The Fourth Crusade

 The capture of Constantinople in 1204 by the Crusaders was one of the darkest hours in history. Eventually, the Crusaders too, would suffer from this event...
When eventually a fourth crusade was planned in 1201, the Venetians felt they could take a great advantaged of the empire's weakness. They accepted to offer the ships for carrying the crusaders, in exchange of some help against the Byzantines in dalmatia, but after the conquest of Zara in 1202 the crusaders were not so sorry to discover that the Venetians were changing again the target of the crusade to the rich Constantinople. Alexius III escaped with the treasure, while the crusaders, camped outside the city walls, put Alexius IV on the throne. In 1204 a revolt took place in Constantinople, Alexius IV was killed and the throne given to Alexius V Murzuflos. The crusaders besieged Constantinople as they discovered that Alexius V had been killed, and entered the city by treachery on April 13 1204. Watching the furious sacking of the "soldiers of the cross", against other Christians, the Byzantine historian Nicetas Koniates writes: "even the Muslims are human and well-disposed, reported to those people who carries the cross of Christ on the shoulders". After the division of the loot, the crusaders proceeded to the systematic destruction of the Byzantine Empire, and created what will be known as "Latin Eastern Empire".

Even though Constantinople was captured and a "barbarian" power was put in place, all hope was not loss. Shortly after the fall of the city, the Greek (Byzantine) set up resistance states and vigorously fought back the westeners. Eventually, one of these states will triumph. Thus the story of the Byzantine Empire does not end here, but continues into the next chapter, the story of the reisitance state of Nicea.

>>Continue reading the History of Byzantium: The Empire of Nicea


324-337 Constantine I
337-340 Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans
340-361 Constantius II
361-363 Julian
363-364 Jovian
364-375 Valentian I and Valens with Valens from 367
375-378 Valens, Gratian and Valentian II
378-395 Theodosius I the Great
378-383 with Gratian and Valentian II
383-392 with Valentian II and Arcadius
392-395 with Arcadius and Honorius
395-408 Arcadius
408-450 Theodosius II
450-457 Marcian
457-474 Leo I
474 Leo II
474-491 Zeno
491-518 Anastasius
518-527 Justin
527-565 Justinian I
565-578 Justin II
578-582 Tiberius II
582-602 Maurice
602-610 Phocas
610-641 Heraclius
641-668 Constans II
668-685 Constantine IV
685-695 Justinian II (exiled)
695-698 Leontius
695-698 Leontius
698-705 Tiberius III
705-711 Justinian II (restored)
711-713 Bardanes
713-716 Anastasius II
716-717 Theodosius II
717-741 Leo III the Isaurian
741-775 Constantine V Copronymus
775-780 Leo IV

780-797 Constantine VI
797-802 Irene
802-811 Nicephorus I
811 Strauracius (Stavrakios)
811-813 Michael I Rangabe (Rangavas)
813-820 Leo V
820-829 Michael II the Amorian
829-842 Theophilus
842-867 Michael III
867-886 Basil I
886-912 Leo VI
912-13 Alexander
912-959 Constantine VII Porphygenitus
919-944 Romanus I Lecapenus
959-963 Romanus II
963-1025 Basil II Bulgaroktonos and Constantine VIII
963 Regency of Theophano (widow Romanus II)
963-969 Nicephorus II Phocas
969-976 John Tzimiskes
1025-1028 Constantine VIII
1028-1034 Romanus II Argyrus
1034-1041 Michael IV the Paphlagonian
1041-1042 Michael V Kalaphates
1042 Zoe and Theodora
1042-1055 Constantine IX Monomachos
1055-1056 Theodora alone
1056-1057 Michael VI Stratiotikos
1057-1059 Isaac I Komnenos (abdicated)
1059-1067 Constantine X Doukas
1067-1071 Romanus IV Diogenes
1071-1078 Michael VII Doukas
1078-1081 Nicephorus III Botaniates
1081-1118 Alexios I Komnenos
1118-1143 John II Komenos
1143-1180 Manuel I Komnenos
1180-1183 Alexios II
1183-1185 Andronikos I
1185-1195 Isaac II Angelos
[LATIN EMPERORS from 1204 to 1261]
[BYZANTINES RECLAIM throne in 1261]
[FALL TO TURKS in 1453]



330 AD: Constantine founds the new capital of the Roman Empire on the existing site of the ancient Greek city Byzantium. Byzantium was enamed Constaninople and it would become the capital of the Byzantine Empire.
395: The Roman Empire divides in half, with the Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople and the Western Roman Empire based in Rome/Ravena.
476: The Western Empire Falls. The Eastern Empire survives and now is labled as the Byzantine Empire.
526: Justinian's reign begins. He reconquers parts of the fallen Western Empire (Africa and Italy, Spain). He codifies the Previous Roman Laws into one document. Constantinople is the most glorious city in europe, with 500,000 inhabitants. The Hagia Sofia is constructed. Justinian is the last emperor to use the title "Caesar"
568: Lombards invade Italy, eventually taking Northern Italy from the Byzantines.
610: Heraclius becomes emperor. Temporary pocession of Mesopotamia. The theme system is installed. The Empire's language changes to Greek. Eventual Lost of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt to Muslims
693. Muslims attack Constantinople.
690. Loss of North Africa to Muslims.
717-718. A large Muslim force besiege Constantinople by land and sea. The attack is held off.
721. Regains control of Asia Minor from the Muslims
726. Emperor Leo III bans the use of Icons.
800 Charlemagne, king of the Franks, is crowned "Emperor of the Romans" by Pope Leo III in Rome. For the first time in 300 years, there is an emperor of the "East" and an emperor of the "West".
843. The use of Icons is restored.
917. Bulgars under Symeon overrun Thrace. Attacks Constantinople unsucessfully in 924
.941. Prince Igor of Kiev attacks Bithnyia and later attack Constantinople. The Byzantines destroys the Russian fleet.
976. Basil II becomes Emperor. Reconquers Syria in 995. Recoquers Greece from Bulgars in 996. Destroys the Bulgar army in 1014, earning the epithet "Bulgar Slayer."
992. Venetians granted extensive trading rights in the Byzantine Empire
1055. Loss of southern Italy to the Normans.
1071. Defeat at Manzikert to the Seljuk Turks. Permanent loss of most of Asia Minor.
1075. Loss of Syria to Muslims.
1054: The Latin Roman Church and the Greek Orthodox Church excommunicate each other.
1087. Byzantines defeated in Thrace.
1095 Alexius appeals to Urban II at Council of Piacenza for help agaisnt the Turks. The First Crusade is proclaimed at Council of Clermont.
1096 Crusaders arrive at Constantinople.The Crusaders are sucessful, but eventually withdraws from cooperation with the Byzantines.
1121. Reconquest of southwestern Asia Minor.
Byzantine Army defeated by the Suntanate of Rum at Myriokephalon. Hopes of regaining Asia Minor are lost.
1202. Fourth Crusade is assembled at Venice. Captures Constantinople in 1204. The Latin Empire of Constantinople is formed as well as many Byzantine sucessor states. The capture of Constantinople in 1204 was a blow to the Byzantines never fully recovered.
1261 The sucessor state of Nicea recaptures Constantinople and restores the Byzantine Empire.
1453: Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. End of the Byzantine Empire

>>Continue reading the History of Byzantium: The Empire of Nicea