The Byzantine Empire Essay

Monday, November 29, 2021 3:52:23 AM

The Byzantine Empire Essay

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The rise and fall of the Byzantine Empire - Leonora Neville

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There was no doubt therefore that his massive army would smash their way to Jerusalem with ease, provided it was given the means to do so by the Byzantine Empire. The Third Crusade thus set out with the aims of driving back the "infidels" who had taken Jerusalem. Richard and Philip's sea route meant that they would not have to rely on their Greek counterparts for supplies or permission to pass through. The odd exception came when Richard crushed the rebellion of Isaac Komnenos and refused to hand the island of Cyprus back to Byzantium, using it instead to tame his rebellious vassal Guy of Lusignan , former King of Jerusalem. The crusade under Frederick was a different matter. His army was too large for any Imperial fleet and took the land route through Anatolia.

Panicked by the sudden and overwhelming opponent army arriving, Isaac refused to offer Frederick support, imprisoning his envoys. A western Imperial fleet was also mobilized for transport to cross in Asia whilst he prepared an assault on Constantinople. Isaac failed to take advantage of the chaos of the Crusaders army. Not bearing to stand by and do nothing, Frederick sacked Iconium , capital of the Sultanate, before moving on. Frederick's army would later slowly but surely disband after the Holy Roman Emperor was found dead presumed to have either drowned in a river, suffered a heart attack or perhaps both. Meanwhile, the Third Crusade achieved ephemeral success — after a few indecisive victories against Saladin, [11] Richard was forced to depart for France where rumours reached him of planned treachery by his younger brother John , Lord of Ireland and of the intentions of his former ally Philip II, who had left the Crusade shortly after the Siege of Acre , to conquer the Duchy of Normandy.

However, he would soon be diverted in a campaign against Tancred of Sicily , claiming the throne in the name of his wife Constance of Sicily. Following this victory, Henry VI decided to resume his crusade against the Saracens. In Easter of , he wrote a stern letter to the Byzantine Emperor Isaac Angelos demanding a heavy tribute to pay for his mercenary troops. All of this would go to waste, however, when Henry VI died of a fever in Messina on 28 September It must be said however that the Byzantines after entertained no serious plans to reclaim Anatolia from the Turks, so how much territory Henry VI or his predecessor Frederick I seized may have been of little consequence in the long run.

In , Pope Innocent III broached the subject of a new crusade through legates and encyclical letters. The divided Holy Roman Empire was in no position to assist her rival-in-religious authority in any military undertakings. Instead, the Pope looked for nobles willing to lead the Crusade, much in the same manner as the First was. Theobald proposed a new approach to the crusades: rather than an attack into the territory of the newly established Ayyubid dynasty , which was well defended after its recent defeat of the Seljuk Empire and surrounded by allied Islamic factions, a more fruitful effort could be directed against Egypt , now the centre of Muslim power in the Levant , but with most of its best troops campaigning in the East.

The crusade went badly from the start — Theobald died in and the army that arrived at Venice in the summer of was one third the size that had been anticipated 4, knights, 9, squires, 20, men-at-arms expected. Venetian policy under the aging and blind but still ambitious Doge Enrico Dandolo was potentially at variance with that of the Pope and the crusaders because Venice was closely related commercially with Egypt. At the time, Venetian envoys were discussing trade terms with the Egyptians — but in the end, it was decided that such discussions would have allowed them to deceive the Egyptians. After stripping themselves of all potential wealth, the Crusaders remained 34, silver marks short of the 84, demanded by the Venetians.

Realizing that no more money would come forth, Doge Dandolo gave the Crusaders a chance to pay off their debt by doing some fighting for Venice. This former vassal city of Venice had rebelled and placed itself under the protection of the Kingdom of Hungary in The Crusaders then set sail on 8 November with ships, consisting of 50 large transports, horse transport galleys, sixty war galleys and numerous other smaller ships. Alexios appealed to Philip to help him and his father regains the Byzantine throne. Therefore, when Alexios offered Knights, 10, soldiers along with food and money to help the Crusaders with their drive to Egypt, Doge Dandolo and the other leaders of the Fourth Crusade happily accepted this new challenge.

Innocent reprimanded the leaders of the crusaders and ordered them to proceed forthwith to the Holy Land. Alexios III Angelos, the Byzantine Emperor at the time made no preparations for the defence of the city — there were few troops and very few military vessels. Military expenditure was seen as a waste by the corrupt emperors of the time and the money used for personal interests or on favourites. Thus, when the Venetian fleet entered the waters of Constantinople on 24 June , they encountered little resistance.

Typically under-manned and under-supplied, the tower offered resistance for no more than 24 hours. The Duke of Venice, an old man and stone-blind, stood on the prow of his galley with the banner of St. Mark and ordered his men to drive the ship ashore. And so they did, and he leapt down and planted the banner before him in the ground. And when the others saw the standard of St Mark and the Doge's galley beached, they were ashamed and followed him ashore. Alexios IV soon began to realize that the generous offer promised to the Crusaders would not be met. Meanwhile, the money including the , silver marks owed by the Byzantine Emperor was to be raised with heavy and unpopular taxes. Furthermore, they began destroying the city, pillaging to "pay ourselves" as chronicler Robert de Clari had it.

On 19 August , in an act of short-sighted zeal, some Crusaders went to the city and set the mosque , located outside the city walls, on fire. The fire was the worst to hit Constantinople since the Nika riots of , under the reign of Justinian I. He took the throne for himself as Alexios V. The crusaders and Venetians, incensed at the murder of their supposed patron, prepared to assault the Byzantine capital. They decided that 12 electors six Venetians and six crusaders should choose a Latin emperor. Alexios V Doukas then gave Byzantium the leadership that she had lacked for over 30 years.

The height of the walls was increased such that the Venetian ships could not emulate their previous success. Several initial assaults failed until the Doge had the ships tied into pairs, thus doubling their momentum as they sailed against the fortifications. There Alexios V and Eudokia were married, solidifying his relation to the Angeloi. He was later captured by the Crusaders in and flung to death. Meanwhile, the city was sacked for three days. The Venetians began pillaging and taking what treasures they could find — least of which were the famous Horses of Saint Mark.

Bonaparte sent them to Paris where they remained until the Bourbon Restoration of They were then returned to Venice where they still remain. A contemporary account describes the wanton destruction spread by the Crusaders in the fallen city:. They smashed the holy images and hurled the sacred relixs of the Martyrs into places I am ashamed to mention, scattering everywhere the body and blood of the Saviour Conquest and territorial reorganization were paralleled by reforms in state taxation and legislation, the latter codified in the Corpus Juris Civilis Corpus of Civil Law , a text that today forms part of the foundation of the Western legal system. Following the Nika Riot of , the emperor initiated a program of urban construction that aimed to remake the ancient capital founded by Constantine the Great in These were fashioned into floor and wall paneling, elegant columns, and finely sculpted capitals bearing the monograms of Justinian and his wife Theodora.

Along with tremendous patronage in monumental building and decoration, the portable arts also flourished during the age of Justinian. During his reign, silk production was introduced to Byzantine lands from China, an art form for which Byzantium would soon become famous throughout the medieval world. Pairs of luxury carved ivory panels , known as diptychs , continued to be made as imperial gifts and to commemorate the tenure of a consul in Constantinople or Rome. The majority of these are today found in the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai, and they are executed in the encaustic technique pigment suspended in hot wax , following the traditions of Roman and earlier painting in Egypt.

Some of these icons at Sinai may have been sent as gifts from the emperor to the monastery, which he patronized. The group represents some of the only examples of portable panel icons to survive from before the Iconoclastic Controversy — Brooks, Sarah. Evans, J. The Emperor Justinian and the Byzantine Empire. Westport, Conn. New York: Odyssey Press, Mainstone, Rowland J. Weitzmann, Kurt, ed. Exhibition catalogue. The 7th century was a period of radical transformation. The empire which had once stretched from Spain to Jerusalem was now reduced to Anatolia, Chersonesos , and some fragments of Italy and the Balkans.

The territorial losses were accompanied by a cultural shift; urban civilization was massively disrupted, classical literary genres were abandoned in favor of theological treatises, [60] and a new "radically abstract" style emerged in the visual arts. There also seem to have been interactions between the Byzantine realm and China at this time. Byzantine Greek historian Procopius stated that two Nestorian Christian monks eventually uncovered how silk was made. From this revelation monks were sent by Justinian I as spies on the Silk Road from Constantinople to China and back to steal the silkworm eggs. The Byzantine historian Theophylact Simocatta , writing during the reign of Heraclius r. Chang'an , its current ruler Taisson whose name meant " Son of God " Chinese: Tianzi , although this could be derived from the name of Emperor Taizong of Tang , and correctly pointed to its reunification by the Sui Dynasty — as occurring during the reign of Maurice , noting that China had previously been divided politically along the Yangzi River by two warring nations.

Byzantium , which they equated with Daqin i. Muawiyah I , governor of Syria before becoming caliph , who forced them to pay tribute. However, the threat against the Empire from the Arabs would never again be as great as it was during this first attack of Leo's reign. At the beginning of the eighth century the s AD there arose a feeling among some people of Byzantine Empire that religious statues and religious paintings that decorated churches were becoming the object of worship in and of themselves rather that the worship of God. Thus, the images, or icons, were interfering with the true goal of worship. Thus, an " iconoclast " movement arose which sought to "cleanse" the church by destroying all religions icons.

The primary icon of all Byzantium was the golden Christ over the Chalke Gates. Iconoclasm was more popular among people of Anatolia and the Levant as rather than the European portion of the Byzantine Empire. Although, Leo III was Syrian, there is no evidence that he was given to tendencies toward iconoclasm. However, before Constantine VI could come of age and rule in his own right, his mother usurped the throne for herself. Accordingly, the period of time called the "first iconoclasm" dating from AD through , came to an end.

In the beginning of the 9th century the Arabs captured Crete, and successfully attacked Sicily, but on 3 September , general Petronas attained a huge victory against the emir of Melitene. Under the leadership of Krum the Bulgar threat also reemerged, but in Krum's son, Omortag , arranged a peace with the Byzantine Empire. As noted above, the 8th and 9th centuries were also dominated by controversy and religious division over Iconoclasm.

Also as noted above, Icons were banned by Leo and Constantine, leading to revolts by iconodules supporters of icons throughout the empire. After the efforts of Empress Irene , the Second Council of Nicaea met in , and affirmed that icons could be venerated but not worshiped. Irene made determined efforts to stamp out iconoclasm everywhere in the Empire including within the ranks of the army. These small farmers of Anatolia owed a military obligation to the Byzantine throne.

Indeed, the Byzantine army and the defense of the Empire was largely based on this obligation and the Anatolian farmers. The iconodule policy drove these farmers out of the army and thus off their farms. Thus, the army was weakened and was unable to protect Anatolia from the Arab raids. Additionally, the abandoned farms fell from the tax rolls and reduced the amount of income that government received. These farms were taken over by the largest land owner in the Byzantine Empire—the monasteries. To make the situation even worse, Irene had exempted all monasteries from all taxation. Given the financial ruin into which the Empire was headed, it was no wonder, then, that Irene was, eventually, deposed by her own Logothete of the Treasury.

The leader of this successful revolt against Irene replaced her on the Byzantine throne under the name Nicephorus I. Nicephorus I — AD was of Arab extraction. Although he moved immediately to set the Byzantine economy on a better financial footing by countermanding Irene's tax exemptions and to strengthen the army, by drafting the destitute small land holders, Nicephorus I, nonetheless, continued Irene's iconodule policy. Nicephorous' son and successor to the throne, Stauracius AD , was severely wounded in the same battle.

Stauracius died just six months after the battle. Irene is said to have endeavored to negotiate a marriage between herself and Charlemagne , but, according to Theophanes the Confessor , the scheme was frustrated by Aetios, one of her favourites. Nicephorus I had refused to recognise Charlemagne's position and had merely ignored these claims by Charlemagne. In fact, Venice had been acting under a "de facto" independence since AD. This de facto independence was recognised by the Pax Nicephori of AD. Nonetheless, despite this de facto independence, Venice had officially remained a part of the Byzantine Empire until AD.

The threat posed by the Bulgars under their King Krum which had become very evident in the crisis of AD forced Michael I to reverse the policy of non-recognition of Charlemagne. As noted above, Nicephorus I had died in battle in AD and his son, Stauracious, had been severely wounded in the same battle and died a short time later in AD. The Bulgar threat required Michael I to reverse Nicephorus' policy and recognise Charlemagne and open peace negotiations with him in order to avoid war with both the Franks under Charlemagne and with the Bulgars at the same time.

This reversal of policy and the agreement reached with Charlemagne had long range implications. Under the terms of the treaty between Charlemagne and the Byzantine Empire, Charlemagne received recognition of his imperial title to the lands he held in the west and, in exchange, Charlemagne dropped all his claims to the throne or any part of the Byzantine Empire. Until this date, despite the centuries of separation, there had always remained the forlorn hope that the two parts of the old Roman Empire might eventually be reconciled.

From AD on this hope was finally given up. There was, no longer any hope or idea of merging the two parts of the old Roman Empire. Michael I had been forced into this treaty with Charlemagne because of the Bulgar threat. His failure to achieve success against the Bulgar would cause a revolt against him which would end his reign in AD. The military would rise up against Michael I. The leader of this revolt was the Armenian commander of the army who would take the throne under the name of Leo V.

Only in , would Empress Theodora restore the veneration of the icons with the help of Patriarch Methodios. However, iconoclasm may have been influential in the rise of feudalism in the Byzantine Empire. Feudalism is characterized and, indeed, defined as the decline of central governmental power as power is handed over to private, local, large landholders. In any given locality these private individuals become the new governmental power over the common people working and living in the area. The private land holders owe only a duty of military service to the central government when they are called upon by the central authority. This duty is called patronage and in exchange for the patronage, the land holders are granted immunity in their rule over the locality.

With the advent of iconoclasm, many monasteries were despoiled and church lands were seized by the Emperor. These lands were handed over to private individuals. Patronage for these individuals was once again the duty of military service to the Emperor. As noted above, some of these lands were restored to the monasteries under Empress Irene. However, feudalism had really been allowed to take root by the private control of these monastery lands. The Byzantine Empire reached its height under the Macedonian emperors of Armenian and Greek descent of the late 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries, when it gained control over the Adriatic Sea , southern Italy, and all of the territory of tsar Samuel of Bulgaria.

The cities of the empire expanded, and affluence spread across the provinces because of the new-found security. The population rose, and production increased, stimulating new demand while also helping to encourage trade. Culturally, there was considerable growth in education and learning. Ancient texts were preserved and patiently re-copied. Byzantine art flourished, and brilliant mosaics graced the interiors of the many new churches. Although traditionally attributed to Basil I — AD , initiator of the Macedonian dynasty, the Macedonian Renaissance has been more recently ascribed to the reforms of his predecessor, Michael III — AD and his wife's counsellor, the erudite Theoktistos.

The latter in particular favoured culture at the court, and, with a careful financial policy, steadily increased the gold reserves of the Empire. The rise of the Macedonian dynasty coincided with internal developments which strengthened the religious unity of the empire. Despite occasional tactical defeats, the administrative, legislative, cultural and economic situation continued to improve under Basil's successors, especially with Romanos I Lekapenos — AD. The theme system reached its definitive form in this period. Once the government was safely back in iconodule hands and the monastery lands and privileges were restored again, the church establishment, once again, became a strong loyal supporter of the imperial cause.

They created much legislation to protect and favour of small agricultural landholders as opposed to the aristocracy. Since owners of the land owed military obligations to the Byzantine throne, large numbers of small landholders created larger armies than did small numbers of large land holders. Thus support for the small landholders created a stronger military force for the Empire. By , the empire had re-stabilised its position in both the east and the west, and the efficiency of its defensive military structure enabled its emperors to begin planning wars of reconquest in the east. The temporary reconquest of Crete AD was followed by a crushing Byzantine defeat on the Bosporus , while the emperors were unable to prevent the ongoing Muslim conquest of Sicily — AD.

These drawbacks were later counterbalanced by a victorious expedition against Damietta in Egypt , the defeat of the Emir of Melitene , the confirmation of the imperial authority over Dalmatia , and Basil I's offensives towards the Euphrates s. Unlike the deteriorating situation in Sicily, Basil I handled the situation in southern Italy well enough and the province would remain in Byzantine hands for the next years. In the early years of Basil I's reign, Arab raids on the coasts of Dalmatia were successfully repelled, and the region once again came under secure Byzantine control.

This enabled Byzantine missionaries to penetrate to the interior and convert the Serbs and the principalities of modern-day Herzegovina and Montenegro to Orthodox Christianity. The attempt to retake Malta ended disastrously, however, when the local population sided with the Arabs and massacred the Byzantine garrison. By contrast, the Byzantine position in Southern Italy was gradually consolidated so that by Bari had once again come under Byzantine rule, and most of Southern Italy would remain in the Empire for the next years. The Paulicians were defeated and their capital of Tephrike Divrigi taken, while the offensive against the Abbasid Caliphate began with the recapture of Samosata.

However, Sicily was lost to the Arabs in , and in Thessaloniki , the Empire's second city, was sacked by an Arab fleet. The weakness of the Empire in the naval sphere was quickly rectified so that a few years later a Byzantine fleet had re-occupied Cyprus, lost in the 7th century, and also stormed Laodicea in Syria. Despite this revenge, the Byzantines were still unable to strike a decisive blow against the Muslims, who inflicted a crushing defeat on the imperial forces when they attempted to regain Crete in The death of the Bulgarian tsar Simeon I in severely weakened the Bulgarians, allowing the Byzantines to concentrate on the eastern front.

The Varangians later known as the Russians , who attacked Constantinople for the first time in , constituted another new challenge. These Byzantine victories culminated in the reconquest of Edessa , which was especially celebrated for the return to Constantinople of the venerated Mandylion , a relic purportedly imprinted with a portrait of Jesus. With a surplus of resources and victories thanks to the Bulgar and Syrian campaigns, Basil II planned an expedition against Sicily to re-take it from the Arabs there. After his death in , the expedition set off in the s and was met with initial, but stunted success.

The traditional struggle with the See of Rome continued through the Macedonian period, spurred by the question of religious supremacy over the newly Christianised state of Bulgaria. Ending 80 years of peace between the two states, the powerful Bulgarian tsar Simeon I invaded in but was pushed back by the Byzantines, who used their fleet to sail up the Black Sea to attack the Bulgarian rear, enlisting the support of the Hungarians. Leo the Wise died in , and hostilities soon resumed as Simeon marched to Constantinople at the head of a large army.

When a revolt in Constantinople halted his dynastic project, he again invaded Thrace and conquered Adrianople. A great imperial expedition under Leo Phocas and Romanos I Lekapenos ended with another crushing Byzantine defeat at the Battle of Achelous in , and the following year the Bulgarians were free to ravage northern Greece. Adrianople was plundered again in , and a Bulgarian army laid siege to Constantinople in Simeon died suddenly in , however, and Bulgarian power collapsed with him.

Bulgaria and Byzantium entered a long period of peaceful relations, and the Empire was now free to concentrate on the eastern front against the Muslims. Bulgarian resistance revived under the leadership of the Cometopuli dynasty , but the new emperor Basil II reigned — AD made the submission of the Bulgarians his primary goal. Basil's first expedition against Bulgaria however resulted in a humiliating defeat at the Gates of Trajan.

For the next few years, the emperor would be preoccupied with internal revolts in Anatolia , while the Bulgarians expanded their realm in the Balkans. The war was to drag on for nearly twenty years. The Byzantine victories of Spercheios and Skopje decisively weakened the Bulgarian army, and in annual campaigns, Basil methodically reduced the Bulgarian strongholds. Eventually, at the Battle of Kleidion in the Bulgarians were completely defeated. When Tsar Samuil saw the broken remains of his once gallant army, he died of shock. By , the last Bulgarian strongholds had surrendered, and the country became part of the empire.

This epic victory restored the Danube frontier, which had not been held since the days of the emperor Heraclius. Between and the Empire developed a mixed relationship with the new state of Kiev Rus that emerged to the north across the Black Sea. Kiev Princes were often married into the Byzantine imperial family and Constantinople often employed Princes' armies, most notably Vladimir the Great presented Byzantine with the famous Varangian Guard — an army of vicious Scandinavian mercenaries. Some believe that it was done in exchange for the marriage to Basil's sister, porphyrogenita Anna to Vladimir the Great. These relationships were not always friendly. During those three hundred years Constantinople and other Byzantine cities were attacked several times by the armies of Kiev Rus see Rus'-Byzantine Wars.

Kiev never went far enough to actually endanger the Empire, those wars were only a tool to force the Byzantine to sign increasingly favorable trade treaties, the texts of which are recorded in the Primary Chronicle , Rus'—Byzantine Treaty , [] and other historical documents. Constantinople at the same time constantly played Kiev Rus, Bulgaria, and Poland against each other. The Byzantine influence on Kiev Rus cannot be underestimated. Byzantine-style writing became a standard for the Cyrillic alphabet, Byzantine architecture was dominating in Kiev, and as a main trading partner Byzantine played a critical role in the establishment, rise and fall of Kiev Rus.

Yet even these victories were not enough; Basil considered the continued Arab occupation of Sicily to be an outrage. Accordingly, he planned to reconquer the island, which had belonged to the empire for over years c — c. However, his death in put an end to the project. Leo VI achieved the complete codification of Byzantine law in Greek. This monumental work of 60 volumes became the foundation of all subsequent Byzantine law and is still studied today. Leo also reformed the administration of the Empire, redrawing the borders of the administrative subdivisions the Themata , or "Themes" and tidying up the system of ranks and privileges, as well as regulating the behavior of the various trade guilds in Constantinople. Leo's reform did much to reduce the previous fragmentation of the Empire, which henceforth had one center of power, Constantinople.

However, the increasing military success of the Empire greatly enriched and empowered the provincial nobility with respect to the peasantry, who were essentially reduced to a state of serfdom. Under the Macedonian emperors, the city of Constantinople flourished, becoming the largest and wealthiest city in Europe, with a population of approximately , in the 9th and 10th centuries. The Macedonian emperors also increased the Empire's wealth by fostering trade with Western Europe, particularly through the sale of silk and metalwork. The 11th century was also momentous for its religious events. In , relations between Greek-speaking Eastern and Latin-speaking Western traditions within the Christian Church reached a terminal crisis.

Although there was a formal declaration of institutional separation, on 16 July, when three papal legates entered the Hagia Sophia during Divine Liturgy on a Saturday afternoon and placed a bull of excommunication on the altar, the so-called Great Schism was actually the culmination of centuries of gradual separation. Although the schism was brought about by doctrinal disputes in particular, Eastern refusal to accept the Western Church doctrine of the filioque , or double procession of the Holy Spirit , disputes over administration and political issues had simmered for centuries. The formal separation of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Western Catholic Church would have wide-ranging consequences for the future of Byzantium.

Byzantium soon fell into a period of difficulties, caused to a large extent by the undermining of the theme system and the neglect of the military. Mercenaries , however, were expensive and as the threat of invasion receded in the 10th century, so did the need for maintaining large garrisons and expensive fortifications. None of his immediate successors had any particular military or political talent and the administration of the Empire increasingly fell into the hands of the civil service.

Efforts to revive the Byzantine economy only resulted in inflation and a debased gold coinage. The army was now seen as both an unnecessary expense and a political threat. Therefore, native troops were cashiered and replaced by foreign mercenaries on specific contract. At the same time, the Empire was faced with new, ambitious enemies. Byzantine provinces in southern Italy faced the Normans , who arrived in Italy at the beginning of the 11th century. The allied forces of Melus of Bari and the Normans were defeated at the Battle of Cannae in , and two decades later Michael IV the Paphlagonian equipped an expedition for the reconquest of Sicily from the Arabs.

Although the campaign was initially successful, the reconquest of Sicily was not accomplished, mainly because George Maniaces , the commander of the Byzantine forces, was recalled when he was suspected of having ambitious schemes. During a period of strife between Constantinople and Rome which ended in the East—West Schism of , the Normans began to advance, slowly but steadily, into Byzantine Italy. It was in Asia Minor, however, that the greatest disaster would take place. The Seljuq Turks made their first explorations across the Byzantine frontier into Armenia in and in The emergency lent weight to the military aristocracy in Anatolia who, in , secured the election of one of their own, Romanos Diogenes , as emperor.

In the summer of , Romanos undertook a massive eastern campaign to draw the Seljuks into a general engagement with the Byzantine army. At Manzikert Romanos not only suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of Sultan Alp Arslan , but was also captured. Alp Arslan treated him with respect, and imposed no harsh terms on the Byzantines. By the Seljuks expanded their rule over virtually the entire Anatolian plateau from Armenia in the east to Bithynia in the west and founded their capital in Nicea. In the meantime, the Byzantine presence in southern Italy had been wiped out by the Normans.

Reggio , the capital of the tagma of Calabria , was captured by Robert Guiscard in At the time the Byzantines controlled only a few of coastal cities in Apulia. Otranto fell in , the same year in which the siege of Bari the capital of the catepanate of Italy begun. After the Byzantines had been defeated in a series of battles, and any attempt to relief the city had failed, Bari was surrendered in April This event ended the Byzantine presence in southern Italy. During the Komnenian, or Comnenian, period from about to about , the five emperors of the Komnenos dynasty Alexios I, John II, Manuel I, Alexios II, and Andronikos I presided over a sustained, though ultimately incomplete, restoration of the military, territorial, economic, and political position of the Byzantine Empire.

The Empire under the Komnenoi played a key role in the history of the Crusades in the Holy Land, which Alexios I had helped bring about, while also exerting enormous cultural and political influence in Europe, the Near East, and the lands around the Mediterranean Sea under John and Manuel. Contact between Byzantium and the "Latin" West, including the Crusader states, increased significantly during the Komnenian period. Venetian and other Italian traders became resident in large numbers in Constantinople and the empire there were an estimated 60, Latins in Constantinople alone, out of a population of three to four hundred thousand , and their presence together with the numerous Latin mercenaries who were employed by Manuel helped to spread Byzantine technology, art, literature and culture throughout the Latin West, while also leading to a flow of Western ideas and customs into the Empire.

In terms of prosperity and cultural life, the Komnenian period was one of the peaks in Byzantine history, [] and Constantinople remained the leading city of the Christian world in size, wealth, and culture. After Manzikert, a partial recovery referred to as the Komnenian restoration was made possible by the Komnenian dynasty. The Komnenoi attained power again under Alexios I in From the outset of his reign, Alexios faced a formidable attack by the Normans under Robert Guiscard and his son Bohemund of Taranto , who captured Dyrrhachium and Corfu , and laid siege to Larissa in Thessaly.

Robert Guiscard's death in temporarily eased the Norman problem. The following year, the Seljuq sultan died, and the sultanate was split by internal rivalries. By his own efforts, Alexios defeated the Pechenegs ; they were caught by surprise and annihilated at the Battle of Levounion on 28 April Having achieved stability in the West, Alexios could turn his attention to the severe economic difficulties and the disintegration of the Empire's traditional defences. At the Council of Piacenza in , envoys from Alexios spoke to Pope Urban II about the suffering of the Christians of the East, and underscored that without help from the West they would continue to suffer under Muslim rule.

The response in Western Europe was overwhelming. Alexios had anticipated help in the form of mercenary forces from the West, but he was totally unprepared for the immense and undisciplined force which soon arrived in Byzantine territory. It was no comfort to Alexios to learn that four of the eight leaders of the main body of the Crusade were Normans, among them Bohemund. Since the crusade had to pass through Constantinople, however, the Emperor had some control over it. He required its leaders to swear to restore to the empire any towns or territories they might conquer from the Turks on their way to the Holy Land.

In return, he gave them guides and a military escort. Alexios was able to recover a number of important cities and islands, and in fact much of western Asia Minor. Nevertheless, the crusaders believed their oaths were invalidated when Alexios did not help them during the siege of Antioch he had in fact set out on the road to Antioch but had been persuaded to turn back by Stephen of Blois , who assured him that all was lost and that the expedition had already failed.

Alexios' son John II Komnenos succeeded him in , and was to rule until John was a pious and dedicated emperor who was determined to undo the damage his empire had suffered at the battle of Manzikert , half a century earlier. In the course of his twenty-five year reign, John made alliances with the Holy Roman Empire in the west, decisively defeated the Pechenegs at the Battle of Beroia , [] and personally led numerous campaigns against the Turks in Asia Minor.

John's campaigns fundamentally changed the balance of power in the east, forcing the Turks onto the defensive and restoring to the Byzantines many towns, fortresses and cities right across the peninsula. He defeated the Danishmend emirate of Melitene , and reconquered all of Cilicia , while forcing Raymond of Poitiers , Prince of Antioch , to recognize Byzantine suzerainty. In an effort to demonstrate the Byzantine emperor's role as the leader of the Christian world, John marched into the Holy Land at the head of the combined forces of Byzantium and the Crusader states; yet despite the great vigour with which he pressed the campaign, John's hopes were disappointed by the treachery of his Crusader allies.

Raymond was emboldened to invade Cilicia, but he was defeated and forced to go to Constantinople to beg mercy from the new emperor. John's chosen heir was his fourth son, Manuel I Komnenos , who campaigned aggressively against his neighbours both in the west and in the east. In Palestine, he allied himself with the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and sent a large fleet to participate in a combined invasion of Fatimid Egypt.

Manuel reinforced his position as overlord of the Crusader states, with his hegemony over Antioch and Jerusalem secured by agreement with Raynald , Prince of Antioch, and Amalric , King of Jerusalem respectively. Despite this military setback, Manuel's armies successfully invaded the Kingdom of Hungary in , defeating the Hungarians at the Battle of Sirmium. By nearly the whole of the eastern Adriatic coast lay in Manuel's hands. In the east, however, Manuel suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Myriokephalon , in , against the Turks. Yet the losses were quickly made good, and in the following year Manuel's forces inflicted a defeat upon a force of "picked Turks".

John and Manuel pursued active military policies, and both deployed considerable resources on sieges and on city defenses; aggressive fortification policies were at the heart of their imperial military policies. From c. This allowed the Western provinces to achieve an economic revival which continued until the close of the century.

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