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the twelfth century, and what was their sense of themselves as Romans?
Secondly, it seeks to explore the importance and justify the choice of the
key content items to be analysed in the sources. What was the history
of words like <Rwma±ov/<Rwma·k»v (Rhomaios/Rhoma¨kos, Roman, noun
±
and adjective), í Ellhn (Hellen, Hellene), b†rbarov (barbaros, barbarian)
or ›{nov (ethnos, group), what might they have been expected to convey
to the Byzantine Romans? This must be the underpinning for a detailed
consideration of the writers of the Frankish period.

byzantium before the fourth crusade 1
When Constantinople fell to the crusaders in ±°, it was a huge shock
to the self-image of the Byzantine Romans. Nevertheless, it might also
have seemed to be the logical outcome of a period of crisis and decline.
The preceding century and a half had been a time of signi¬cant changes.
Firstly, the empire had lost a great deal of territory in the east, fundamen-
tally altering the make-up and operation of the state. The relationship of
Byzantium with its neighbours had, in effect if not in imperial theory,
changed from that of superior superpower to peer. The western crusades
of the ±°°s, ±±°s and ±±°s had brought the empire into an entirely new
relationship with the west, such that by the end of the twelfth century
the threat of western conquest was an accepted reality, even if the elite
of the empire would have scarcely countenanced it becoming an actuality.

± Invaluable for this period: Magdalino ±b; Brand ±; Angold ±a; also Ahrweiler ±·µ; Kazhdan
and Epstein ±µ; Bryer ±· and ±±.

·
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
Alongside external threats, there had been periods of civil war, and the insti-
tutions of the empire and the role of the emperor had been brought into
doubt.
This is not to say that the story of Byzantium from the eleventh and
through the twelfth century was wholly gloomy. For much of this period,
the empire was ruled by the Komnenoi dynasty, and Alexios I Komnenos,
John II Komnenos and Manuel I Komnenos, who successively ruled from
±°± to ±±°, were each of them talented, energetic and charismatic rulers
who made great effort to address the problems facing the empire. Yet for all
that the twelfth century ended in the kind of chaos that made the crusaders™
aggression and conquest all too easy. Moreover, many of the problems that
racked the empire by this time had their roots either in the problems faced
by the Komnenoi or in the solutions they attempted to apply.
In fact, the Komnenoi dynasty had come to power out of a similar, if
not so extreme, period of disorder after the ¬zzling out of the Macedonian
dynasty that ruled from · to ±°µ. The Macedonians had achieved
enormous success in the defence and extension of the empire; since the
death of the great Basil II in ±°µ, however, there had been something
of a power vacuum. After the death of Basil™s brother Constantine VIII
in ±° there were no male heirs and so the throne, for the most part,
went to successive husbands of Constantine™s daughter Zoe, who were
none of them particularly able, but were representatives of the powerful
civilian aristocracy dominant in Constantinople. Meanwhile, the military
aristocracy of Asia Minor began to grow impatient with what they saw
as Constantinopolitan excess, corruption and ineffectiveness. Signi¬cant
reform of the military also meant that there was now little in the way of
reserves to meet threats on the frontier.
The empress Theodora, the second daughter of Constantine VIII, even-
tually succeeded in ±°µµ but ruled for just a year. She had nominated her
successor, Michael VI Stratiotikos, but a military revolt brought Isaak I
Komnenos to the throne in ±°µ·; however, he was forced to abdicate in
±°µ, and Constantine X Doukas was proclaimed emperor in his place.
Constantine died in ±°·, leaving no adult heir but a regency under his
widow Eudokia. The throne was shortly after assumed by Romanos IV
Diogenes, who married Eudokia; like Isaak Komnenos, Romanos was a
military magnate from Asia Minor, and it was military strength that was
thought necessary now, as the Seljuk Turks were beginning to sweep into
Anatolia.
So, in the thirteen years from the accession of Theodora in ±°µµ to the
accession of Romanos in ±°, the empire had seen six rulers: Theodora,

Byzantine identities
Michael VI, Isaak I Komnenos, Constantine X, Eudokia and Romanos IV.
Clearly, this was a period of considerable instability. The principle of dynas-
tic rule had become established under the Macedonians, but this period
saw no dynasty rise in its turn. Instead, the throne was contended between
nominees of the civilian aristocracy on the one hand and representatives
of the military aristocracy of Asia Minor on the other. Meanwhile, defence
was neglected.
In ±°, the Hungarians took Belgrade and in the same year the Uzes
invaded the Balkans. The following year, the Seljuk Turks invaded Byzan-
tine Armenia, taking Ani; in ±°· they swept into Cappadocia and seized
Caesarea. This was the homeland of Romanos Diogenes and the context
for his selection as emperor, and he marched against the Seljuks in ±°.
Initially he had some success, but the campaign came to a catastrophic
end in ±°·± at the battle of Manzikert, when Romanos was captured, the
¬rst such capture of a reigning emperor since Nikephoros I over µ° years
before.
This defeat exacerbated the existing tensions within the empire, bringing
it to civil war. Romanos was released, but meanwhile the Constantinopo-
litans had proclaimed Michael VII Doukas emperor; Michael then seized
and blinded Romanos to eliminate his claim. Military revolts contin-
ued through Michael™s reign, with Nikephoros III Botaneiates eventually
successful in ±°·. However, other military magnates continued to plot.
Among them was Alexios Komnenos, who built up a strong alliance among
several powerful families in Asia Minor; in ±°± he was able to take Con-
stantinople and force the abdication of Nikephoros and take the throne.
Although no one could have expected it, this typical military coup resulted
in a stable and effective rule that Alexios was able to pass on to his successor.
This is even more surprising given the problems that faced Alexios on his
accession.
The failure at Manzikert and the ensuing period of civil war had aggra-
vated the problems on the frontiers. In the west, the Bulgarians and Croats
were in revolt. In the very year of Manzikert, the Norman Robert Guiscard
took Bari, the last Byzantine outpost in Italy; it was clear that Guiscard
had ambitions on the Balkans if not for the empire itself, and the chaos
of the ±°·°s can only have encouraged his hopes. In ±°± Guiscard crossed
the Adriatic and besieged and took Dyrrhachium (Durazzo), the fortress at
the western end of the Via Egnatia leading over the Balkans to Constantino-
ple. Meanwhile in the east the Seljuks had taken most of Asia Minor and
were establishing a more permanent presence with the sultanate of Rhum
based on their capital at Ikonion (Konya).
° Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
To confront these threats, Alexios needed to raise troops. The old sys-
tem of militias raised in the various districts (known as themes) had died
out under the Macedonians and the growth of the independently minded
military aristocracy. Alexios thus needed to raise money to pay for mer-
cenaries and he did this by con¬scating the treasures of the churches in
Constantinople. Alexios also bought himself the best navy available by
concluding a highly generous trade treaty with the republic of Venice.
With Venetian help by sea, the new mercenary army was able to repel the
Normans from the Balkans. However, the empire was only really up to
dealing with one external threat at a time, and the Slavic kingdoms in the
Balkans were meanwhile able to continue their moves towards indepen-
dence. The Seljuk threat also had to wait, and from ±°· to ±° Alexios
had in addition to deal with Pecheneg and Cuman invasions from the
north.
Internally, Alexios also had clear problems “ the state had been racked for
decades by the rivalry between the civilian aristocracy, seen as corrupt and
ineffective, and the military aristocracy, who had shown themselves willing
to endanger the state for their own gain. Alexios™ answer was to establish
a whole new hierarchy at the heart of the empire. Old established of¬ces
were devalued or suppressed and a new set of titles was instituted. Just as
importantly, civilian of¬ces and military commands were distributed on
a whole new basis of kinship with the emperor. In this way, Alexios was
able to reward those close to him, who had helped him to power, and
to limit the inclination to rebel. Alexios worked hard to replace the old
devalued aristocracy of Constantinople with his own new aristocracy from
the provincial elites that had brought him to the throne, and the result
was a whole new nobility at the head of the imperial hierarchy. Alexios™
comprehensive restructuring was a remarkable success, with his family and
its closest connections ruling in different parts of the empire for the next
three and a half centuries through to the conquest by the Ottomans.
Alexios™ reign is marked by the First Crusade, the great collision between
the Byzantine Christian east and the papal Christian west, and in part this
was a result of Alexios™ strategy for dealing with the Seljuk threat. As
well as invading and settling Asia Minor, the Seljuk Turks had overrun
Palestine and their presence had disrupted the well-established route for
pilgrims coming from the west; western clerics had therefore begun to call
for an expedition to liberate the holy places. At the same time, Alexios had


 Angold ±b: ±“µ; Neville °°: ±“; Magdalino ±b: ±°“°±; Mango °°: °µ.
±
Byzantine identities
appealed to the west for help against the Seljuks in Asia Minor. In making
this appeal, Alexios was seeking a fresh in¬‚ux of mercenaries for a major
campaign: he did not do this in the expectation of receiving an army of
holy pilgrims from the west, which would have been a concept well-nigh
unimaginable for a Byzantine Roman. Arguably, the crusader army was
as much of a shock to the papacy.
In a sermon delivered at Clermont in southern France in late ±°µ, Pope
Urban II appealed for men to go to help the Christians of the east who
had been overrun by the in¬del and, according to most accounts, laid
before his audience the possibility that they might regain Jerusalem for
Christianity. This turned the proposed journey into a pilgrimage with the
promise of remission of sin; it also made Jerusalem the focus, and not
Constantinople and its empire. Nevertheless, Urban cannot have dreamt
of the mass response to his proposal, which was repeated across France
in early ±° and backed up with written appeals. Volunteers ¬‚ocked
to the call. Warriors of high and low rank were attracted to a cam-
paign that would allow them to use their special skills “ for once, not
against their fellow Christians “ and also earn forgiveness for their often
grisly pasts. A collection of armies gathered and made their way east in
±°.µ
When these armies from the west arrived in Constantinople, the result
was a major clash of expectations and cultures. Alexios saw crusaders
as mercenaries who would help him to reassert his legitimate power in
Anatolia, whereas the crusaders themselves saw the campaign as a religious
duty that would also win them independent principalities. The Byzantine
Roman empire was very centralised in contrast to the feudal polyarchy of
the crusaders, and the Byzantine Romans saw the crusaders as disorgan-
ised; they were also shocked to see the western clerics bearing arms, in
contravention of Orthodox canon law. Such perceptions only con¬rmed
the built-in superiority complex of the Romans of Constantinople; this
arrogance very easily offended the crusaders, who were themselves proud
and ambitious “ and astounded by the wealth of the empire.
Alexios rightly tried to regularise the position of the crusaders as agents
of the empire, by making the leaders take an oath of allegiance to himself,
although he found it necessary to bribe most of them. This was famil-
iar diplomatic practice for the Byzantine Romans.· It did not help that
Bohemond of Sicily was one of the leaders “ the son of Robert Guiscard,

 Harris °°: ·“.  Haldon ±: “·. µ Harris °°: µ°“.
 Browning ±°: ±±; Lilie ±: ±“·. · Harris °°: µ·“; Magdalino ±b: ±“.
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
Bohemond had inherited all his father™s antipathy towards the empire. Nev-
ertheless, things began well with the Byzantine Romans able to reoccupy
areas in western Asia Minor in the wake of the crusading army. However,
with the seizure of Antioch in ±° and then Jerusalem the following year,
the crusaders departed from the imperial script, with the establishment
of independent crusader states on historically Byzantine imperial territory.
Antioch in particular had been part of the empire as recently as ±°, and
had historically been the third city in importance after Constantinople and
Rome.
The results of the First Crusade for Alexios were on balance negative: the
empire now faced vigorous and aggressive westerners in the east as well as the
west; moreover, the close encounter between the subjects of the empire and
the crusaders had con¬rmed and exacerbated much negative stereotyping
on both sides. Most importantly from the perspective of Alexios and his
government, very little had been achieved in Asia Minor, and this remained
the case for the rest of Alexios™ reign. The result was that Asia Minor was
effectively lost to Byzantine Christian rule, with Seljuk dominance asserted
over two generations.
When Alexios died in ±±± he left the empire far stronger than he had
found it. However, various factors did not bode well for the future. The loss
of most of Asia Minor meant a signi¬cant reduction in peasant numbers
and resources, and the assets of the empire, including its peasantry, had
been signi¬cantly privatised through the growth of large estates in a process
that had begun under the Macedonian emperors. The trading agreements
with Venice, and also Pisa, had handed enormous commercial advantage
to the Italians, who could now undercut Byzantine Roman merchants;
the treaties had been made so that the empire could make use of Italian
naval strength, but this was something that could equally well be turned
against the empire. Above all, it was “ or should have been “ impossible not
to recognise that the empire was no longer a unique, superior power, but
rather one large state among many. The old model of the Roman enemy had
been the disorganised barbarian horde; the Romans needed to recognise
that they were typically now dealing with states who were organisationally
their equals.±° However, although Alexios himself may have perceived this
to some extent, this recognition was largely beyond the Byzantine Romans.
Alexios™ son John II Komnenos ruled from ±±± to ±±, and in turn John™s
son Manuel I Komnenos reigned to ±±°. Both emperors made considerable


  ±°
Harris °°: ·µ“·; Lilie ±: “µ±. Angold ±a: µ“·, µ“. Haldon ±: µ.

Byzantine identities
efforts to regain lost territory in Asia Minor. Although the Seljuks controlled
most of the region, enough had been retaken under Alexios and had
remained Roman for his successors to plan further reconquest. In the
±±°s, John defeated the Seljuk emirate of Danishmend and went on to
take Cilician Armenia and compel crusader Antioch to swear allegiance to
the empire. The gains did not prove secure “ there was in fact signi¬cant
local opposition to Constantinopolitan rule on these fringes of the empire “
and John was campaigning again in Cilicia when he died in ±±.±± Manuel
I returned to the area in ±±µ and once again brought it under Byzantine
Roman control. In ±±· Sultan Kilij Arslan invaded the empire and Manuel
gathered a huge army to throw him out; this army was destroyed at the
battle of Myriokephalon and Manuel had to come to terms with the
Turks. So the record of the Komnenoi in Asia Minor was patchy, with
intermittent, impressive, military successes marked by a huge amount of
pomp, but ending in a major defeat. Moreover, they were battling all the
time with the fact that the Turkish, Islamic, presence was now dominant
in much of the region; many Christians had converted and some ethnic
Romans actively resisted reintegration into the empire.±
The battle on the western front also continued much unchanged. John
II had early successes against the Serbs, but this worsened relations with
Hungary; war broke out in ±± and John was able to force the Hungarians
back over the Danube. Manuel I was again successful against Hungary in
the ±±°s in a campaign which permitted him to restore Croatia, Bosnia
and Dalmatia to imperial rule. However, Serbia was now a prime threat
under the vigorous leadership of Stefan Nemanja, who had taken advantage
of the Byzantine Roman focus on Hungary to unite his kingdom and now
fought to keep this independence. Although the Serbian ruler was forced to
recognise Byzantine Roman suzerainty in ±±·, Serbia remained effectively
independent and Nemanja was ready and waiting to pro¬t from the death
of Manuel in ±±°.
The Normans likewise remained a threat throughout this period. To
counter this threat, John relied above all on diplomacy: in ±±°, when

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