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the Norman king Roger II united both Sicily and southern Italy, the
emperor was able to conclude an alliance with the Germans, who were
equally perturbed by this Norman success. It was this alliance in the west
that permitted John to turn his attention to Asia Minor, and it was a
major diplomatic success. On his accession, Manuel maintained the close


±± ±
Magdalino ±b: ·“±. See below, pp. “.
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
relationship with Germany by marrying Bertha of Sulzbach, sister-in-law of
the German emperor Conrad II. The importance of this German alliance
was revealed in ±±·. With Conrad II away on the Second Crusade, the
Norman King Roger swiftly took advantage of his absence to invade the
empire, seizing Corfu and sacking the wealthy Roman towns of Thebes
and Corinth. However, Manuel was subsequently able to draw on the
long-standing alliances with Germany and Venice, and the empire retook
Corfu in ±±.
The German alliance came crashing down on the accession of Frederick
Barbarossa in ±±µ, who was at all times hostile to the Byzantine Roman
empire, and whose hostility was con¬rmed by Manuel™s hopelessly ambi-
tious Italian campaign. On the death of Roger II in ±±µ the empire invaded
Italy and was initially very successful, bringing eastern Italy from Ancona
to Taranto under Byzantine Roman rule. The people of southern Italy had
a positive image of the empire, and Manuel™s aim of securing the coastlands
was a valid one; however, the imperial armies were defeated at Brindisi in
±±µ and thrown out of Italy. Despite the pragmatic attitude shown by both
John and Manuel in their use of the German alliance to secure their western
frontier, this Italian campaign is the best illustration of the fundamental
failure of the Byzantine Romans to accept the new political realities. The
Byzantine Roman empire could never retake Italy, and it had been a waste
of men and effort to try. Meanwhile, the Normans of Sicily were con¬rmed
in their opposition to the empire, and the Germans under Barbarossa were
further alienated.±
Alexios I Komnenos had pro¬ted from the trading alliance with Venice,
and this had again proved its worth against the Normans in ±±. How-
ever, it had also become plain that the arrangements were heavily weighted
in favour of the Venetians and to the detriment of some domestic com-
mercial interests, especially in Constantinople. On his accession in ±±±,
John II resisted ratifying the treaty for as long as possible, but in the end
Venice forced him to sign by using their all-important ¬‚eet to raid the
Byzantine Roman islands of the Aegean.± It was a graphic illustration
of Venetian power and Roman weakness. In ±± and ±±·° Manuel tried
to counter Venetian in¬‚uence by concluding similar alliances with Pisa
and Genoa, but this only served further to weaken the domestic position.
In ±±·±, the empire demonstrated its organisational capacity by institut-
ing a mass arrest of all Venetians and the con¬scation of their moveable


± ±
Magdalino ±b: µ“±. Lilie ±: ·.
µ
Byzantine identities
goods: it was an amazing administrative achievement and designed to
demonstrate the power of the empire but, once again, it was an overambi-
tious move that the empire could not back up and it inevitably alienated
Venice.
The crusade movement also continued to be a thorn in the ¬‚esh of
the empire. The crusader states were an active irritant to the Byzantine
Romans, occupying what was thought of as imperial territory, and both
John and Manuel spent energy attempting to restore Roman suzerainty
here. In both cases, when John and Manuel retook Antioch, they made
a magni¬cent ceremonial entry into the former imperial city with all the
pomp and grandeur which the Romans did so well, in a graphic “ and
outdated “ display of the Byzantine Romans™ ˜manifest destiny™ to rule
the Christian world.±µ Alongside this, Manuel in particular was remarkably
friendly to the crusader states, providing Antioch and Jerusalem with ¬nan-
cial subsidies and ransoms for prisoners that were extremely useful in the
¬ght against Nureddin and Saladin. He also married a westerner, Maria
of Antioch. Despite this, the imperial policy towards the region, which
included active diplomacy with the Turks as well as the crusader states,
irritated the west. Alongside a high level of admiration for Manuel person-
ally, the image of Roman duplicitousness and arrogance was now a ¬xture
among the west, leading in ±±· to the ¬rst western proposal to seize Con-
stantinople and widespread fear of such an outcome among the Byzantine
Romans.±
This was in the context of the Second Crusade, with which Manuel
had to deal from ±±.±· Like his grandfather Alexios, he took care to exact
oaths of allegiance from the crusade leaders along with the undertaking
to restore to the empire any formerly imperial land which they managed
to take “ although he must have been cynical about this. The crusaders
brought considerable disruption to the Byzantine Roman lands through
which they passed, and Manuel worked above all to hasten their progress
and so minimise the chances for disaster.
Manuel had a complex attitude to the west. As shown in his Italian cam-
paign and his dealing with the crusader states, he believed utterly in the
unique superiority of the Byzantine Roman empire. At the same time, he
plainly admired much about the west, and this admiration was re¬‚ected in
his friendly attitude to the crusader states, in his promotion of westerners


±µ Browning ±°: ±µ; Lilie ±: ±°“°, ±·“±; Magdalino ±b: “·.
± Harris °°: °“, “±°°; Lilie ±: ±µ“µ; Magdalino ±b: “. ±· Lilie ±: ±µ“.
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
within the empire and in his adoption of some western ways “ for exam-
ple, jousting became popular in Constantinople. Manuel also investigated
the chances for union between the western and eastern churches.± Such
admiration was not in contradiction with the faith in Byzantine Roman
superiority; it could be said that Manuel was giving a place to the west
within the empire, allotting them a role within the Byzantine Roman
world. However, Manuel™s ˜phillatinism™ was hugely unpopular with some
sections of Roman society and intensi¬ed anti-western feeling in Con-
stantinople. At the same time, his concentration on the west led him to
neglect the problems of Asia Minor. Manuel™s perceived pro-western bias
led to enormous problems after his death.
So, on the death of Manuel in ±±°, the empire still faced much the
same appalling set of problems which had confronted Alexios Komnenos a
century before. The Turks held most of Asia Minor and with the passage of
time it was only getting harder to reassert Byzantine Roman rule. The Nor-
mans in southern Italy continued to harbour designs on the empire. The
Balkan peoples continued to press on the western frontier and were in fact
now at least semi-independent; new groupings continued to move south
and pressurise the Danube frontier. The west, in the shape of the crusade
movement, remained a present threat within the theoretical bounds of the
empire. The Byzantine Romans continued to hold themselves irrevocably
superior to their neighbours, in the face of a changing reality, and this
led to increasing hostility between east and west which the closer contact
resulting from the crusade movement also exacerbated. On the other hand,
the three Komnenoi emperors had brought continuity and stability to the
empire, in contrast to the chaotic years which had followed the end of the
Macedonian dynasty. Even though there had been a failure to appreciate
the empire™s changing status in the world, the empire had at the same
time regained a much needed con¬dence and a pride that was to a degree
justi¬ed. Yet, twenty-four years after the death of Manuel, the city of Con-
stantinople and the empire of the Byzantine Romans fell to the leaders of
the Fourth Crusade. Manuel could not have expected things would go so
horribly wrong.
In many ways, it was a repeat of the post-Macedonian situation. Manuel
left a juvenile heir, Alexios II Komnenos, under the regency of his widow
Maria of Antioch, a Latin. Her ethnic status did not help her credibility, and
even members of the Komnenos family opposed her rule. It was Andronikos


± Harris °°: ±°, ±±“±; Kazhdan °°±: µ“; Magdalino ±b: “.
·
Byzantine identities
Komnenos, a fascinating character and very much the black sheep of his
distinguished family, who was able to take advantage of this situation.
He had much in common with his late uncle Manuel I, being clearly
intelligent, energetic and extremely charming. He had shown himself to be a
talented military leader, but had also repeatedly dallied with treason and had
repeatedly been pardoned by his uncle.± By the time his uncle died, when
he was serving as governor in Pontos on the Black Sea coast, Andronikos
had achieved a glamorous reputation which he was able to exploit, and
he gathered a large army as he moved westward through Asia Minor. In
May ±±, as Andronikos approached the city, the Constantinopolitans
turned on the westerners in the city and there was a horrendous massacre.
Andronikos was then welcomed into the city by acclamation. At ¬rst he just
appointed himself regent in place of Maria, but in the following year he was
made co-emperor with the young heir Alexios II, and shortly afterwards
the young emperor was executed, leaving Andronikos in sole charge. Maria
too was put to death.
This was a return to the bad old days, and the enemies of the empire
were not slow to take advantage. In ±±±, the Hungarians and Serbs overran
the western Balkans. Two years later, they combined to invade the empire
along the Balkan high road via Belgrade, Niˇ and So¬a, and the cities fell
s
before them. In ±±µ, the Normans took their turn, taking Durazzo, Corfu,
Cephalonia, Zakynthos and ¬nally Thessaloniki. This last, now the second
city of the empire, was taken with particular savagery, and the Normans
then marched on Constantinople. Although they were successfully defeated
and turned back, the approach of the Normans seems to have set the popu-
lace against Andronikos, who was butchered by the mob. This was despite
a certain vigour in Andronikos™ approach as emperor: he had instituted
several signi¬cant and timely reforms in the administration of the empire
and was a determined populist.° However, he was also violently repressive
of opposition and in the two years of his reign lost all the popular support
which had initially helped him to power.
Isaak II Angelos was proclaimed emperor on Andronikos™ death in ±±µ,
and managed to rule for ten years. He was a member of one of the aris-
tocratic families that had risen to prominence under the Komnenoi, but
he proved an ineffective ruler at home and militarily. In ±±µ, Bulgaria
had declared independence and, after unsuccessful campaigns in ±± and
±±·, Isaak recognised the new state by treaty in ±±·, signalling the end of


± °
Browning ±°: ±; Magdalino ±b: ±·“°±. Choniates, History “.
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
Byzantine Roman dominance in the Balkans. Hostilities against Bulgaria
continued into the ±±°s with a major Bulgarian victory at Arcadiopolis in
±±, while Isaak had more success with Serbia, defeating Stefan Nemanja
in ±±°.
Isaak could not even consider military action in the east, but was able
instead to resort to diplomacy. After Saladin seized Jerusalem in ±±·, the
empire made friendly approaches to the Saracens. After all, this Muslim
success had effectively removed the irritant of the crusader kingdoms and
returned the Middle East to a more familiar model for the Byzantine
Romans. Above all, the empire needed at this time, with so much trouble
threatening from the west, to be on good terms with its powerful eastern
neighbour. To the west, though, such diplomatic efforts appeared typi-
cally duplicitous of the Byzantine Romans “ it reminded westerners of
how Manuel Komnenos had treated with the Seljuks after his entry into
Antioch in ±±µ, and how the Seljuk sultan Kilij Arslan had been feted
in Constantinople in ±±. This perception in the west helped to make
the Third Crusade, from ±±, even more traumatic for the empire. In the
circumstances, with the west the greater threat at this time, the approaches
to Saladin were a strategic error on Isaak™s part.±
The Third Crusade was a real crisis for Isaak and for the empire.
Although the French and English contingents went by sea, the Germans
under the hostile Frederick Barbarossa came overland through the Balkans.
From the start, the Germans treated Byzantine Roman territory as hostile:
Philippopolis was occupied, Adrianople taken by force, and the countryside
harried. In an understandable response, Isaak arrested the German envoys
in Constantinople, but this was again a piece of Byzantine Roman bravado,
or lack of realism, that could in no way be backed up. Barbarossa promptly
took Didymoteichum in Thrace and announced preparations for a crusade
against the duplicitous and obstructive empire. Isaak had to apologise and
provide hostages for the future good behaviour of the Byzantine Romans “
an unprecedented humiliation.
Barbarossa died on campaign, but his successor Henry VI continued
the German hostility to the empire. Henry™s brother Philip of Swabia
was married to Isaak™s daughter and, when Isaak was ousted in ±±µ, this
presented the Germans with a possible pretext for invasion of the empire
on Isaak™s behalf. Isaak was succeeded by his brother Alexios III Angelos,
who attempted to buy off the Germans with a substantial payment of


± 
Lilie ±: °“µ. Harris °°: ±“±.

Byzantine identities
tribute; this was paid for by the Alamanikon “ the German tax “ which was
a burden felt throughout the empire. Fortunately, the Alamanikon lapsed
on Henry™s death in ±±·; nevertheless, German hostility to the empire
remained strong. Alexios attempted to bolster his position with the west,
and so minimise this German threat, by entering into negotiation with the
papacy on bringing about a union of the eastern and western churches.
Historically, the two churches had been in a state of schism since ±°µ, and
this had added fuel to prejudices in both east and west. However, the
level of opposition in the church to making any concessions on doctrine,
and the level of popular anti-westernism in Constantinople, made this
infeasible. Meanwhile in the Balkans, the Bulgarians overran much of
Macedonia.
The situation in the opening years of the thirteenth century was thus
reminiscent of the situation in the ±°·°s, but it was notwithstanding in
many ways worse. The successors to Manuel I were in their different ways
poor rulers who brought the empire into disrepute at home and abroad.
The fates of the young Alexios II, of Andronikos I and of Isaak II “ who
was blinded on his deposition to make him un¬t for rule, as had happened
to Romanos Diogenes over a century before “ marked a return to violence
at the heart of the government. As with the Macedonians, the lack of
an obvious dynastic heir had laid the imperial throne open to competi-
tion, this time from rival claimants within the established imperial family.
Militarily, Andronikos Komnenos and the two Angeloi achieved nothing
of signi¬cance. The sack of Thessaloniki by the Normans, the demeaning
apology to Frederick Barbarossa, the payment of the Alamanikon, and even
the hint of some concessions to the west on church doctrine, had inten-
si¬ed resentment of westerners and must also have diminished respect for
the emperors who allowed such humiliation for the mighty empire of the
Romans. The ineffectiveness of central rule also allowed the provinces on
the periphery of the empire to develop some autonomy; rule had similarly
become increasingly centralised. There are strong suggestions that many
people were disenchanted with imperial rule, and these will be explored
further below.
As the thirteenth century opened, a whole array of threats crowded
around the empire. In the east, Asia Minor had been largely lost, weak-
ening the economy of the empire and leaving it open to any threat
from the Muslim world. In the west, the Balkans had been effectively


 See below, pp. µµ“.
° Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
lost to the empire, with Bulgaria and Serbia achieving practical or actual
independence. The western provinces of the empire were geographically
remote from Constantinople and, as we shall see, disenchanted with impe-
rial rule. Further west, the Normans had recently sacked the second city of
the empire and the Germans were actively hostile; moreover, the dynamic
Pope Innocent III was planning a fourth crusade, and these holy pilgrim-
ages had become ever more dif¬cult for the empire to handle. Venice was

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