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The Komnenoi emperors and after:
a detailed chronicle of Byzantium
(Basileía Rõmaíõn),
AD 1118 to AD 1220
From the death of Alexios I Komnenos to the Latin sack of
Constantinople and the formation of the Lascarid state at Nicaea




Michael O’Rourke
Canberra Australia
January 2011

List of Roman (Byzantine) Emperors

1118-43: Ioannes (John) I Komnenos/Comnenus

1143-80: Manouel (Manuel) I Komnenos
1180-83: Alexios II Komnenos
1182-83: (Regent:) Andronikos Komnenos
1183-85: (Emperor:) Andronikos I Komnenus
1185-95: Isaakios (Isaac) II Angelos
1195-1203: Alexios III Angelos
1203-04: Isaac II Angelos, restored. Co-emperor Alexius IV Angelos. And
Alexios III Angelos, rival emperor in Thrace.*
1204: Alexios V Doukas Murtzuphlos
Rival emperor in Thrace: Alexius III Angelos
1204-61: Latin rule in Constantinople
1205-21: Theodoros (Theodore) I Laskaris, Greek emperor at Nicaea, modern

(*) Thrace is the region of Europe that adjoins Istanbul / Constantinople, i.e.
today’s Turkey-in-Europe plus the southern quarter of Bulgaria. Its largest town
was (is) Adrianople (modern Edirne).

To disambiguate the several Alexioi:

Alexios II: son of Manuel Comnenus; grandson of Alexius I.

Alexios III: younger brother of Isaac Angelos.
Alexios IV: son of Isaac Angelos.
Alexios V: husband of Alexius III’s youngest daughter; brother in law of Theodore



In addition to the entries for each year, this paper gives an extended treatment over
several pages to the following topics:

‘The Second Crusade: Alamanoi, Keltoi and Germanoi, 1146-47’.

‘The Norman Raid on Greece, 1147-48’.
‘Byzantium’s Last Italian Campaign, 1154-56’.
‘The Comnenian Army’: after 1158.
‘The Comnenian Apogee: Byzantium in Benjamin of Tudela’s Itinerary, ca. 1166-68’.
‘The March to the Danube, 1167’.
‘The Battle of Myriocephalon, 1176’.
‘Old and New Cities in 1200’: after the entry for 1185.
‘Latin Crusaders attack, capture and plunder Christian Constantinople, 1203-04.’
‘The Nicaean Army and Lascaris’s Expedition to the Meander Valley, 1211.’

Introduction: The Mediterranean World in the Early 1100s

Christian princes ruled the northern side of the Mediterranean, while Muslim sultans
and emirs controlled North Africa (also southern Spain) and the Levant
Taking Islam first, and beginning in the East, we have the Seljuk Turks ruling from
Persia west to Anatolia. The great Seljuk Empire was, however, breaking up: the two
strongest Seljuk-ruled states were the Sultanate of Hamadan in our lower Iraq (including
Baghdad) and the Sultanate of Rum in what is now upland central Turkey. In addition
there were lesser emirates at: Shiraz in Persia; Mosul (our upper Iraq); Ganja in
Azerbaijan; Akhlat on the coast of Lake Van (old Armenia); Erzurum; Erzinjan; Sivas
(seat of the Danishmendid Turks); and Damascus.
There were four Latin Christian (‘Crusader’) states lodged in what had been, until the
First Crusade, one of the heartlands of Islam: 1 the Kingdom of Jerusalem, ruled by the
French-born Baldwin II (Baodouin de Bourcq, r. 1118-31); 2 the County of Tripoli; 3 the
Principality of Antioch in Syria; and 4 the County of Edessa in NW Mesopotamia.
The Fatimids (Shi’ite Arabs) ruled Egypt. Our Libya and Tunisia were divided between
the Bedouin Arabs of the Beni (Banu) Sulaym tribe, the Beni Hilal nomads, and the
Zirids of Mahdiya (northern Tunisia).(*) Algeria was ruled by the Hammadid emirs, a
Berber line. Finally, we have the Almoravid Empire [al-murabitun, “battle-ready”], ruled
by another Berber dynasty, covering Morocco and the bottom half of Iberia. Muslim rule
still extended as far as southern Catalonia.

(*) The Fatimids had sent the Beni Hilal Bedouin from Egypt west to the Mahgreb
in the 10th Century to punish the Zirids for abandoning Shi’ism. The historian Ibn
Khaldun noted that the lands ravaged by Banu Hilal invaders became completely
arid desert.

Turning to the Christian states, we will begin with Iberia and track east. First, the north
of Iberia was divided between the Kingdom of Leon-Castile and the Kingdom of Navarre
(seat at Zaragoza from 1118). The Kingdom of France had a small toe-hold on the NW
coast of the Mediterranean, dividing the County of Barcelona from the County of
Provence (both of which were subject to the Count of Barcelona).*


(*) To call the upper part of this region ‘Occitania’ would be an anachronism: the
name does not appear until 1242. The name Catalunya (for the lower part) appears
somewhat earlier, i.e. in the early 1100s.

The northern Italian princes were vassals of the ‘German’ Emperor (Franconian or
Salian dynasty). (*) In the south, the Norman Kingdom of “Sicily” so-called (also known
as “the Regno”) included not only Sicily but (from 1130) also the whole southern half of
the Italian peninsula. It was called ‘Sicily’ because the capital until 1266 was at Palermo.

(*) It is perhaps too early to use the term ‘German’. The Salian kings’ subjects were
variously Bavarians, Alemanns (Swabians), Franconians, Dutch, Saxons, Slavs and
Italians (”Lombards”).
Many would argue, however, that a German (as distinct from Frankish) identity
was in fact firmly established by the eleventh century. In any event, the Papacy
used the term regnum teutonicorum or ‘kingdom of the Germans’ against Henry
VI, king from 1056 and emperor from 1084. The pope wanted to restrict Henry’s
(Heinrich’s) claim of rulership. Henry II, king from 1002 and emperor from 1014,
flourished the title of rex Romanorum, ‘king of the Romans’. This was a piece of
anti-Byzantine propaganda. Rex Romanorum was used again thereafter by Henry
VI, to emphasise to the Pope and others that his Salian empire extended well
beyond the Teutonic realm.
It is also noteworthy that the term “holy Empire”, as in ‘Holy Roman Emperor’
does not appear until 1157. The full phrase ‘Holy Roman Empire’ (sacrum
Romanum imperium) is not used until 1254 (Rosenwein 2009: 351). The ‘true’
Roman Emperor (Gk: Basileus Rhomaion) of course lived in Constantinople . . .

The Adriatic coast of the Balkans was divided between Venice, Byzantium and the Serbs.
The latter are often counted as part of the Empire because they were a Greek (Byzantine)
protectorate [see 1165] and culturally dominated by Byzantine clergymen.
The splintering or devolution of the Muslim powers meant that Byzantium, or as it is
better called, ‘the Christian Roman Empire of the Greeks’ [Gk: Basileía Rõmaíõn,
Romaiki Aftokratoria], had become once again the richest and strongest state in
the Mediterranean sphere (albeit initially rather weak at sea). It extended (see next)
from our Montenegro and Albania through Greece and Bulgaria to the lowland two-fifths
of what is now Turkey. As we have said, the Seljuk Turks ruled the upland three-fifths of
Asia Minor.

The Empire in 1118

At the death of Alexios I ‘the Great’ in 1118, the European sector of the empire remained
somewhat larger than its Asian sector.
On the European side the Byzantines controlled or protected parts of the lower
Dalmatian coast (Dubrovnik and Kotor); the whole of the Balkans from the Danube at
Belgrade to the tip of Greece; Crete; and an outpost in the Crimea. Conquered in 1018,
Bulgaria had been a province of the Empire for 100 years. Or rather: several provinces,
for the Bulgarian lands were subdivided for the purposes of imperial government.
Serbia [Zeta and Rascia] was effectively independent, with the upper Dalmatian
coast divided between it and Venice. Belgrade on the Danube and Dyrrhachium (Durres)
on the Adriatic were the far points of the empire in the NW. The Serbians at this time
controlled only the upper Drina basin and Montenegro; the Morava valley was still in


Byzantine hands. A ‘theme’ (thema, imperial province) of Nish-Branichevo had been

created in 1114 (Stephenson 2000: 152).
In Asia, the Byzantines controlled the densely populated eastern third of Asia Minor:
broadly from Rhodes to Ancyra and Trabzond [med. Trebizond]; and Cyprus. In the SW
the Seljuks still held Laodiceia (see 1119).
As we have said, the sultanate of Rum - capital at Iconium/Konya - held much of the
eastern three-fifths of Asia Minor, including part of the southern coast, and (since 1107)
part of Cilicia. Antalya [see 1119] was a Byzantine enclave surrounded by Seljuk-
controlled country.
The Danishmendid emirate ruled the area of NE Anatolia inland from Trabzond; their
capital was at Sebasteia (Sivas).
Latin crusaders ruled the Levantine coast from eastern Cilicia to Jerusalem. (See

Above: The Mediterranean sphere in about 1140.

Byzantine rule was not restored across the whole southern littoral of Asia
Minor until the 1130s. Cilicia, the region on the mainland NE of Cyprus, was
much fought over in the 1100s between Byzantium, the local Armenians, the
Crusaders of Antioch and the Turks.

The Restored Komnenian Empire


Looking back, it is helpful to know that Alexios I Komnenos, r. 1081-1118, had

rescued the Byzantine empire (Basileía Rõmaíõn) from its troubles by cleverly using the
help of the Venetians and the first Crusaders.
Gold and diplomacy had always been key weapons for Byzantium-Rhomaniya,
supplementing its army and navy. Alexios raised diplomacy to a new level of artistry and
rebuilt the army.
It was a new army formed on a different basis, including many ‘mercenaries’, or as
they are better called: paid professional foreign troops. Thematic troops – semi-
professional Greek and Slav soldier-farmers - from ‘Bulgaria’ so-called ( - the Byzantine
theme or province of that name: the northwest Balkans) helped defeat an incursion by
Uze Turks as late as 1065 (Skylitzes Continuatus, cited in Treadgold, Army p.116). But
we hear no more of the Theme forces from the later 11th century [i.e. soon
after 1071] (Browning p.131). The Themes were replaced by the pronoia system of quasi-
feudal military land grants, first attested in the time of Alexios I (Mango p.53). And more
use was made of foreign-born fulltime professional troops, misnamed ‘mercenaries’.

According to Treadgold, Alexius in 1081 had an army of probably fewer than 20,000
men, made up of remnants of the Tagmata (full-time elite Greek troops), the Varangians
(ethnic English and Danish heavy axe-infantry: Kinnamos’s “axe-bearers of the British
nation”) and a few seasonally engaged mercenaries, mainly Turks. Whatever was left of
the Tagmata, however, was eliminated the same year when Alexius lost a major battle to
the invading Italo-Normans in 1081-82. This left the Varangians as the only element
remaining from before the Battle of Manzikert (1071). Even when rebuilt, with native
and foreign professional troops, including renegade Normans, Alexius’ army probably
never exceeded 20,000 (Treadgold 1997: 612, 615, 680).
This may seem a small army by earlier East Roman standards, but it was not
necessarily small in comparison to other states of the late 11th century. John France, pp.
359 ff, considers that Fatimid Egypt, second only to the Seljuks among the Muslim
powers, had just 25,000 troops enrolled at this time. The Egyptians deployed some
16,000 men at the Battle of Ascalon in 1099, where they were surprised and defeated by
a smaller Crusader force of about 10,000 (1,200 knights and about 9,000 foot-soldiers).

The imperial navy had been rebuilt but it remained small; it was not a major force to
be reckoned with, and, for and large sea action, Byzantium had to rely on Venice or other
allies. There is no known example of a decisive Byzantine naval victory in the whole
Comnenian period; for a partial exception see under 1149 (Dromon pp.111. 452). Cf
below: 1122-23, 1149.

Even as the Turks were rolling into upland Asia Minor, the Normans under Robert
Guiscard and Bohemund had landed in the Balkans (1082) and advanced across
Byzantine Macedonia. Cut off by a combined Imperial-Venetian fleet, however, the
Normans were compelled to withdraw (1085).

Two of Alexios' key successes show the value of gold and diplomacy when backed with
arms. First, against the steppe raiders. The East Roman capital was threatened by the
Turkic Pechenegs (Patzinaks) from the Ukrainian steppe in 1090-91. Using gold, Alexios
called in, from behind them, in what is now South Russia, the Pechenegs' traditional
enemies the Cumans. In the battle that followed, the Pechenegs were completely
destroyed by the combined Byzantine-Cuman army and soon (after 1122: see there)
disappeared from history. Once again a well-led First World military power prevailed
against Eurasian nomads.


Second, against the Franks, as the Latins were known to the Rhomaioi: When the
Crusaders captured Antioch from the Muslims, Alexios used the rules of feudalism to
oblige the city's new Latin lord to recognise him as overlord (1108).

The First Crusade arrived at Constantinople in 1096-97. The crusader army may have
amounted to 5,000 cavalry and 30,000 infantry: for comparison, the Rhomaioi might
have been able to muster half that many: perhaps 15,000 (says Runciman, cited by
Treadgold 1997: 621). Assisted by Alexios' troops, the Latins invaded Seljuq-controlled
Asia Minor. Proceeding thence to Syria, they captured Seljuk Antioch (1098) and the
holy city of Jerusalem from the Egyptian Fatimids (1099).

Alexios' reforms allowed his son and grandson John II and Manuel I to advance in the
east and west, as we shall see. Alexios himself, first of all, recovered much of Asia Minor
from the Seljuks in 1116. Then John II, 1118-43, would subdue Cilicia, where Armenian
refugees had begun to found independent statelets, and Romanic imperial suzerainty
over Antioch was successfully re-asserted. The Latin Crusader lordships of Syria and
Palestine, lodged among the Muslim domains, sometimes helped and often hindered this

1118-1143: JOHN (Ioannes) II Comnenus,

called “Calo-Johannes”, ‘Beautiful John’, or better: ‘John the Good’, so-
called because of his piety, integrity and frugality.

Aged 30 or 31 at accession. Wife: Piroshka-Irene, a cousin of the king of

Hungary. Sons: Alexios, died 1142: married to Irene of Kiev; Isaac also
d. 1142; and Manuel, the future emperor (aged 25 in 1143).

Choniates proposes that John was the best emperor of the Comnenian
dynasty. Ostrogorsky states that “the verdict of both contemporaries
and posterity has acclaimed John [II] (1118-43) as the greatest of the
Comneni”. Others would say that his father and his son were greater. Cf
Treadgold: “Like his father Alexios, John was a man of limited
ambitions, a brilliant manager rather than a great ruler” (State and
Society p.637). Browning 1992: 169 says that he built up an effective
military force out of mercenaries, feudal levies and prisoners of war,
and led it “with brilliance and caution”, although he probably
overstretched the military capacity of the empire towards the end.

A skilled strategist, if a demanding and fastidious taskmaster, and

conventionally pious without feeling a need to meddle in ecclesiastical
affairs, John did not call for the execution or maiming of a single
subject during his reign (Choniates, ed. Van Dieten, p. 47; Rautman

-- There survives a well-crafted marble carved relief or circular

“tondo”, 90 cm in diameter, showing the newly crowned John
(Washington: Dumbarton Oaks collection).
-- The great mosaic in Hagia Sophia shows the Virgin and Child
standing between John and Empress Irene, probably dating from 1118


(picture in Rice p.120).

John devised a strong military policy, focused on the destruction of the Norman
principality in Antioch. In 1137 Antioch fell to the Byzantines. John became involved in
western diplomacy against the Norman kingdom in South Italy. Also struggles with the
Hungarians to gain control over Serbia, Dalmatia and Croatia (against Venice). In Asia
Minor he fought the Seljuks of Ikonion or Konya and the Danishmend rulers of northern
Anatolia and Syria.

Anna Comnene, aged 35, the princess and future historian, retires to a convent after
unsuccessfully conspiring to make her husband ruler in place of her brother, the new
emperor John II Comnenus.
As noted, John was aged 31 when he ascended the throne.

Poem by Cavafy:

Anna Comnena

“In the prologue to her Alexiad,

Anna Comnena laments her widowhood.

Her soul is dizzy. "And with rivers

of tears," she tells us "I wet
my eyes ... Alas for the waves" in her life,
"alas for the revolts." Pain burns her
"to the the bones and the marrow and the cleaving of the soul."

But it seems the truth is, that this ambitious woman

knew only one great sorrow;
she only had one deep longing
(though she does not admit it) this haughty Greek woman,
that she was never able, despite all her dexterity,
to acquire the Kingship; but it was taken
almost out of her hands by the insolent John.”

1118-48: Al-Andalus: Christian 'reconquest' (expansion) continues in northern

Spain, down the Ebro valley: capture of Muslim Zaragoza 1118 and then Tortosa

1. SW Asia Minor: In 1119 an army under emperor John, with John Axuch or Axouchos,
“domestic [commander] of the East and West”, as second in command, set out for
Phrygia. Their base camp was Philadelphia. They managed to recapture Laodiceia
(Denizli) near the Lycus River from the Turks - called Persai by Kinnamos - under the
command of Alp-qara (Kinnamos p.14). The town was rebuilt with a new line of walls.
The Byzantines also took (1120) Sozopolis (Uluborlu), along with a series of fortresses
leading up from the Meander (Menderes) valley to the central Anatolian plateau, and
then managed to reopen the road from the plateau to Attaleia (Antalya), their main


port of the Mediterranean. The captured forts near Attaleia included Hierakoryphite
(Kinnamos; PBW; Freely 2008: 36). Cf 1119-20 below.

2. fl. John (Ioannes) Zonaras, historian, one time private secretary to Alexios I. “His
Historical Epitome … is on a much higher level than other Byzantine world-chronicles”
(Dudley & Lang, p.214).

Financing the Army

The military obligations of the pronoia land grants or ‘assignments’ - tax payments
colleted by a military troop-supplier rather than paid to the state - are first mentioned
'before 1119', although the grants were being made from about 1090. The grantee was
now often referred to as "the soldier" (stratiotes), although in practice the pronoiar
(holder of a pronoiar) was often a local magnate and sent a specified number of trained
retainers to fight and might himself stay home. Subsequently, during and after the reign
of Manuel I, references to pronoia become more and more frequent. Some scholars claim
that the popularity of the army as an occupation increased through Manuel I Komnenos'
widespread utilization of pronoia. Fine 1994: 1 says that by Manuel’s time in most
provinces the retainers of the pronoiars plus mercenaries made up more than half the
province’s armed forces. In other words, the ‘thematic’ troops, semi-professional soldier-
farmers who held modest farms in return for military service, had become the minority
(Bartusis p.6; Laiou 2008; Hussey p.59).

Victories in inland SW Asia Minor: As noted above, the emperor and the grand domestic
John Axuch campaign in the upper Meander Valley and the western highlands.
As noted, the towns of Laodicea (1119), Sozopolis (1120) and the road to the Byzantine
port of Attalia (Antalya) were retaken. Thus a Byzantine corridor is established
separating the Turks of Caria - med. Karia: north of Rhodes: NE of present-day Bodrum
- from the Sultanate of Iconium. Cf 1132. But this did not hedge in the Turks: they always
moved freely across the imperial-controlled corridor between Sozopolis and Attalia.

As related by Kinnamos, John made an attack in Asia as soon after his succession as
possible (in 1119), used Philadelphia as a fortified camp, and captured Laodikeia. He
captured forts near Attaleia, including Hierakoryphite, then returned leaving a good
garrison in Laodikeia and proceeded to Constantinople (1120).
Returning briefly to Byzantium, John set out again to Phrygia in 1120 and captured the
town of Sozopolis, on precipitous terrain, by a cunning ruse. The commander of the
cavalry (called doryphoroi, ‘spearmen’, but they carried bows as well as lances),
made an assault on the walls, and allowed the Turks to chase them, whereupon the latter
fell into an ambush. In the meantime, the gates were assaulted and the Turkish
defenders were thus caught in a pincer movement (Birkemeier 2002: 89).
Birkenmeier draws attention to several elements in this victory: the use of ‘Turkish’-
style tactics - feigned flight triggering an ambush - against the Turks and the use of the
bow and lance (dory, ‘long spear’). It shows, he says, “tactical combat discipline, careful
coordination between units and skill with both lance and bow”: Komnenian Army 2002:
John further took a fortress called Hierakokoryphitis and, we are told, others in the
vicinity (Andrew Stone, ‘John II’ at;
accessed 2008).


Palestine: The Latins establish the Knights Templar, originally with the aim of protecting
Christian pilgrims. Later it became an aggressive conquering order.

1120: France/Occitania: fl. William IX of Poiters, "the first troubadour".

Petcheneg invasion across the Danube.
In the winter of 1121-1122, the Petchenegs [Patzinaks, Gk: Patzinakoi, Pechinakoi] - or
so we are told by the historians: they may have been Cumans, another Turkic people -
crossed the river Danube into the Empire and began laying waste to Thrace. Florin
Curta, 2006: 312, has proposed that they were the remnants of the Oghuz and Pecheneg
tribes, expelled thither by the Rus’ (Kievan Slavs). (The Cumans replaced the Pechenegs
on the Danubian steppe at about this time; and after 1122 the Pechenegs disappear from
history, at least under that name.)
In any event, Ioannes (John) II moved into north-central Thrace, wintering (1121-22)
at Beroe [Berrhoea: Stara Zagora in oue south-central Bulgaria], seeking to divide the
presumed Pecheneg invaders.
John marched out to meet them, managing to detach some of the chieftains from the
main body through gifts. The remainder were routed (1122) in a decisive battle near
Berroea, leaving many dead and many captives. He bribed some Pechenegs & defeated
the rest, capturing their camp & making many recruits (PBW). Cf next – 1122.

2. The Georgians break free from Turkish domination: King David II takes Tbilisi. See

The Balkans: As noted, the Byzantines defeated the Patzinaks/Pecheneg Turks at the
Battle of Eski Zagra near medieval Berrhoea: present-day Stara Zagora in central
Bulgaria. The Varangians, now with kite-shaped shields, and Latin knights, led
personally by John II Comnenus, advanced on foot and broke into the enemy wagon-
laager (fortified camp) and slaughtered many of the Pechenegs en masse. Many others
surrendered. The Pechenegs now disappear from history, being replaced by the
incoming Cumans or Kipchaks [called Scythai by Kinnamos].
— Benedikz 2007: 181 says that John had with him “480” Varangians as life-guards.
Presumably the rest of the regiment had stayed in Constantinople. We may imagine, I
suppose, the 480 axemen racing in to punch a large hole in the front of the wagon-laager,
with the Latin knights on foot behind bearing swords.
— In the Norse sagas, the incident is remembered as a failure by John’s Byzantine,
Frankish and Flemish cavalry regiments: finally the mainly British and Norse Varangians
volunteered to go in, and it was they who won the day (Kinnamos, trans. Brand p.16;
Davidson p.191). We may guess that the wagon-laager was too strong for the cavalry but
was able to be broken into by determined foot soldiers such as the Varangians were.
— Those among the Pechenegs who surrendered were enrolled in the Byzantine army.

— The Byzantine historian Kinnamos refers to the Varangians as “axe-bearers of the

British nation [Gk: Brittioi]”. Specifically, Emperor John II was protected by axe-bearers
who are described as “a Brittanic people who of old served the Roman Emperors”.
Likewise, Niketas Choniates (fl. 1205) mentions the emperor’s “life-guards”, "the axe-
bearing Britons, now called English” (with “one-edged axes”): in his Historia Niketa


Choniate, ed. I. Bekker (Bonn, 1835, p. 547; and the commentary of Jacob Gretser and
Jacob Goar on the Pseudo-Kodinos, Peri ton offikialion toy palatiou tou
Konstantinoupoleus (De officiis), in J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus,
vol. 157, Paris, 1854, pp. 294-295. —For lengthy quotations from both sources, see
Benedikt S. Benedikz, The Varangians of Byzantium, Cambridge 2007, pp.150ff.

2. John sought to strengthen Imperial finances by cancelling Venetian trading privileges

in the empire. Evidently this was also meant to punish the Venetians for capturing
several Dalmatian towns still loyal to the empire (Magdalino 2002: 35). The emperor
was forced to restore the trading privileges (in 1126: see below) after the Doge
unsuccessfully laid siege to Byzantine Corcyra (1122) and raided several Aegean islands
(PBW). The Venetian fleet sailed on to Egypt (cf 1123 and 1125).
Pryor & Jeffreys (2006) argue that this demonstrates clearly the small size and
weakness of the imperial navy; it was able to offer no resistance (Dromon p.111).
The imperial navy was later strengthened. Cf 1144: Byzantine naval raids against Latin
Antioch; and 1148: Byzantine naval riposte to Norman-Sicilian attacks.


Mosaic panel in Hagia Sophia showing the late emperor Alexius I Comnenus (picture in
Rice p.120).

Incursions by the Venetian navy, which are never challenged by Byzantium, presumably
because its own navy was too weak. But cf 1147-49.

1. First Western church council: rise of the so-called “Papal monarchy”.

2. Palestine: Venetians destroy the Egyptian (Fatimid) fleet. The Venetian fleet - about
40 ships according to William of Tyre - commanded by Doge Domenico Michiel, inflicted
a crushing defeat on an Egyptian fleet just off Ascalon. A besieging Egyptian fleet had
only just withdrawn from Jaffa. The Venetians gave chase, drew it into battle, and
defeated it off Ascalon on 30 May 1123. Turning south, they captured some merchant
ships laden with spices and precious cargo. Finally they took part in the crusaders' siege
of Tyre, which fell on 7 July 1124.
This gave the Italians - Venice, Genoa, Pisa - nearly a free hand in the eastern
Mediterranean. Cf 1125-26.
See John H. Pryor, Geography, Technology, and War: Studies in the Maritime
History of the Mediterranean 649-1571 (Cambridge 1988) for an extended analysis of
the advantages enjoyed by Italian navies in this period.

3. Sicily: George of Antioch, born ca. 1190, becomes deputy commander of the Italo-
Norman navy. He was an Antioch-born Greek Christian, fluent in Greek and Arabic,
having grown up before 1108 in Ifriqiya (Tunisia), where his father had taken service
with the Zirids. George himself was briefly employed by the Byzantine emperor before
going to Tunisia, where he served the Zirids as a financial official. He went over to the


Normans in about 1110. In 1146, by which time his is chief minister and navy
commander, George will capture Tripoli and establish Sicilian (Norman) authority in
North Africa on a permanent basis. He also conducted naval raids on Byzantium. Fleets
of 70 ships were not unknown during his time. —See Alex Metcalfe, 2003: Muslims and
Christians in Norman Sicily.

John campaigns again against the Turcoman ‘nomads’ (transhumants) in Asia Minor, in
winter.* The season was chosen because he knew they would be camped scattered across
the region and thus vulnerable. Many prisoners are converted and resettled (PBW;
Kinnamos, trans. Brand p.17; Hendy p.115).

(*) Migration between summer (highland) and winter (lowland) pastures is called

By 1124:
Arab-style gold coins being minted in the Crusader principalities.

The Caucasus: With the decay of Seljuk power, David II reunites the Georgian lands.
The neighbouring emirates of Erzerum, Akhlat and Ganja were effectively autonomous
within the Seljuk empire. In the Georgian west (east of Trebizond) there was a short
border with the Byzantines.

Around 1125: The icon afterwards known as "Our Lady of Vladimir" (Madonna and
child) was painted in Constantinople; it was subsequently taken to Russia (Rice p.127).

The Skylitzes Manuscript

The ‘Madrid Skylitzes’ is a heavily illustrated illuminated manuscript of the Synopsis of

Histories, by John Skylitzes, which covers the reigns of the Byzantine emperors from the
death of Nicephorus I in 811 to the deposition of Michael IV in 1057. The manuscript was
produced in Sicily in the early 12th century, and is now at the Biblioteca Nacional de
España in Madrid. It is the only surviving illustrated manuscript of a Greek chronicle,
and includes 574 brightly coloured miniatures, many of which show battles and other
military topics.


Above: Roman (Byzantine) cavalry, from the Madrid Skylitzes, a Greek

manuscript produced in Sicily in the 12th century.

Trousers and Carnivals, c.1125

It is not clear whether trousers were in continual use from Late Roman times -
braccarii, "breeches makers", are mentioned in Diocletian's Edict on Prices and in some
Egyptian papyri - through the early Middle Ages; but they were being worn again by the
twelfth century. Eustathios of Thessaloniki (fl. 1160) several times mentioned with
disapproval "the covering of the pudenda [i.e. with breeches], known by the Romans as
braccae or anaxyrides". —Quoted by Epstein.
Likewise Niketas Choniates (298.30-32) commented acidly on the dress of David
Comnenus, the governor of Thessalonica, mentioning that his tight trousers (anaxyrides)
were held up by a knot in the back (ibid.). Trousers were still novel and considered

Roman horse racing was exceedingly popular during the first centuries of Byzantine
history, even playing a part in state ceremonial. By the 11th century, however, the circus
spectacle was relegated to a minor role in Byzantine social life; its place was taken by the
carnival. “In contrast to the spectator sport of the circus, the carnival, with its
masquerading, carousing and buffoonery, allowed for the full participation of the
common man". —Ann Wharton Epstein, ibid.
The carnival is described, for example, by archbishop Eustathius of Thessalonica, fl.
1160 (in Angold 2000: 458 ff). Garland 2006: 17-173 assesses ‘street life’ in

1. The Danube: The middle sector was a contested borderland between the Serbs,
Hungarians, Byzantium and the Cumans - who now succeed the Patzinaks/Pechenegs on


the trans-Danubian plain in present-day Rumania. (Bulgaria at this time was just
another Byzantine province.)
The chronology of the wars between Byzantium and Hungary is confused. Vine, 1991:
235, follows Radojcic in dating the Hungarian attack on Belgrade to 1125; and the
imperial campaign to the same year; followed by peace in the winter of 1125-26 and then
the Hungarian attack on Branicevo in 1126. Others prefer 1128: see there.
And Serbia was forced to accept Byzantine suzerainty after a Byzantine offensive in
1126 (Fine 1991: 235).

2. John’s attempt to revoke the harmful privileges of the Venetians had led to a sea-war.
The Venetian fleet, returning from Egypt, raided (1125) Byzantine Rhodes and wintered
on Chios, then looted several more islands - Samos, Chios itself, Lesbos and Andros -
before returning via the Morea and Dalmatia to Venice (Nicol 1992: 79; Magdalino 2002:
In June 1125 Domenico Michiel brought his fleet in triumph up the Adriatic to a hero's
John was glad to escape by restoring Venice's trading privileges (1126) (PBW; Norwich
1996: 70; Dromon p.111). The empire's own fleet was too weak to interfere.

The Venetians had originally sailed east (1124) to assist the Latin king of Jerusalem. On
their leisurely cruise back to Venice, they plundered Rhodes [1125], attacked the islands
of Chios, Samos, Lesbos and Andros, and, returning across the Aegean, destroyed the
town of Methoni or Modon in the Peloponnese. They still flew the flag of St. Peter; but
“their only act of piety was to relieve the church in Chios of the relics of St. Isidore to add
to their collection in Venice” (Nicol, Byzantium: accessed 2010.)
Several Byzantine-held Dalmatian towns, including Dubrovnik (med. Ragusa), were
seized and held for about 20 years (R Harris 2003: 36). Cf 1167: Restoration of Byzantine

Venetian Crossbowmen

The militia reforms instituted by Domenico Michiel in the early 12th century ensured
a large pool of able reserves that the Republic could call upon in moments of crisis
(such as the taskforce of Venetian militia that retook S. Giorgio Maggiore during the
final Genoese siege of the city). Moreover, the semi-professional Arsenalotti (who
were technically the guards of the Arsenal and honorary guards of the Doge, but in
reality were a state-subsidized "select corps") provided a strong backbone to Venetian
infantry. The reforms of Domenico Michiel instituted mandatory crossbow practice
for the militia units, and provided for their organization along neighborhood lines -
much like other city-states of the time, but the units were given far less free-rein.

1126 or earlier: d. ‘Umar al-Khayyam, "Omar Khayyam", the Persian mathematician,

astronomer and poet from Nishapur - then part of the Seljuk Sultanate of Merv.

In this period the reduced Byzantine navy could not hold its own against the Italo-
Normans or the Venetians. Having been run down, the fleet had to be rebuilt in 1148. Cf


under 1147-49.

1. The emperor turns 40.

2. The Danishmendid ruler of Sivas, Amir Ghazi, captures Kayseri and Ankara from the
Seljuqs of Rum. Intervening in the war then being waged between Mas'ud and his
brother Malik 'Arab, prince of Ankara and Kastamonu, he defeated the latter and in
521/1127 captured Caesarea and Ankara from him. See 1130.

World Cities

In 1127, Constantinople once again became perhaps the world's largest city, following the
destruction of Chinese Kaifeng. The sequence ran thus, according to Tertius Chandler's
Four Thousand Years of Urban Growth, An Historical Census:

340 AD: Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), 400,000 people by 500. The

Christian Roman Empire.

570: Ctesiphon, Iraq. The Zoroastrian empire of Sassanian Persia. More likely
Ctesiphon never exceeded Csonatinople.

637: China: Changan (Xi'an) of the Tang dynasty, China: 400,000 people in 622;
600,000 by 800.

775: Abbasid Baghdad, Iraq: First city with over 1 million; 700,000 (in 800).

935: Córdoba, Umayyid Spain? But there is good contrary evidence that Cordoba was
only half the size of Baghdad.

1013: Kaifeng of the Song dynasty China: 400,000 (in 1000); 442,000 (in 1100).
Sacked by the Jin (Ruzhen 'Tatars') in 1127.

1014-47: (Not in Chandler’s list:) Reign of Rajendra Chola ‘the Great’ in S India. The
Chola capitals Thanjavur [Tanjore] and (from 1025) Gangaikonda Cholapuram
must have been among the world’s largest cities.

1113-50: Reign of the Khmer monarch Suryavarman II, builder of Angkor Wat. Many
consider Angkor the most extensive urban complex of the preindustrial world – if
a sprawl of over 1,000 sq km can be considered one ‘city’. It was a constellation of
suburbs capable of sustaining up to one million people. — B-P Groslier (1979),
Bull Éc Fr Extrême-Orient 66:161–202.

1127: Romanic imperial Constantinople 1127-1145 under Emperor John II

Comnenus. —About 200,000 people, according to Chandler; most scholars give it
a population larger than 200,000, e.g J. Phillips, The Fourth Crusade and the
Sack of Constantinople, 2005: 144. offers 400,000. – Cf below.


1145-53:Turkish (Seljuk) Merv (Mary) in Khurasan, today’s Turkmenistan: 200,000 in

1150. Destroyed 1153 by an uprising of fellow-Turkish Ghuzz tribes.

1153: Byzantine Constantinople - until 1180: about 200,000 according to

Chandler. Emperor Manuel I Comnenus.
Magdalino (in Laiou ed. 2002) thinks Constantinople under the Comneni had
nearer 400,000 people. This is possible, given that the Comnenian era was
Byzantium’s most properous age (after the Sixth Century). The earlier writers
Vasiliev and Geanakoplos preferred a much larger figure, i.e. “800,000 to one
million”, which seems far too large (Vasiliev, Empire, University of Wisconsin
Press 1958 p. 483, and Geanakoplos, Byzantine East & Latin West: Two Worlds
in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Harper Torch books, New York 1966).

1180-1315: Hangzhou (then called Lin’an), China.

The Balkans: John Comnenus reinforces control on his north-west boundaries. He
defeated a Hungarian invasion of Serbia; and crushed Bolkan, the zhupan of Rascia, the
Drina River region.
-- The Magyar kingdom of Hungary, of which John’s empress Irene was a princess,
began a frontier war on the Danube, but had the worse of it (1128).
-- The Hungarian forces swarmed through the Balkans down the Great Military Road
via Sofia to Thrace, penetrating to the outskirts of Philippopolis (Plovdiv) before retiring
(Norwich 1996: 71).
As related by Andrew Stone, John marched out to meet the enemy (spring 1128), with
naval support sailing up the Danube. The Byzantine army reached Philippopolis shortly
after the Hungarian army had left it.
Using a ploy, John was able to effect a crossing of the Danube by a part of his army
upstream from Chramon (Kama, Haram, Horom)*, and then himself crossed at
Chramon, from which he took much booty (as related by Cinnamus and Choniates). The
Hungarian army, surprised from behind, was defeated.
The defences of the frontier town of Branitshevo (Branichevo) were strengthened, and
Cinnamus associates the Hungarian attack on it with John's return to Byzantium.
Marching back out to Branitshevo (so Cinnamus), John rebuilt the town, and, although
his army was afflicted with disease, it avoided excessive casualties, despite the
treacherous terrain, on the march home (PBW; Stone, ‘John II’, at http://www.roman-

(*) Hungarian Haram = Serbia Stara Palanka, near Banatska Palanka, on the northern
side of the Danube at its confluence with the Nera, below Smederevo. It is the point at
which the Danube today forms the start of the Serbian-Romanian border. More
precisely: the mouth of the Nera is in Serbia, and the Serbian-Romanian border begins
about one km to the east (Andrew Urbansky, Byzantium and the Danube Frontier,
Twayne Publishers, 1968; 46; also
The so-called ‘military road’ running north from the Balkan interior reaches the
Danube at Viminacium, about 20 km above (SW of) Haram / Stara Palanka. One might
guess that the Byzantine army had marched up the road, and then turned east to Haram
as a feint.

1129: fl. Peter Abelard, early French-Latin theologian and philosopher. Western


Europe was now re-establishing its intellectual power. Cf 1134: Chartres.

The general importance of Abelard lies in his having fixed more decisively than
anyone before him the scholastic manner of philosophising, with the object of
giving a formally rational expression to received ecclesiastical doctrine. He
helped to establish the ascendancy of the philosophical authority of Aristotle
which became firmly established in the half-century after his death, i.e. by 1200.

Above: The ancient geographical divsions of the East.

In later Byzantine times, Achaia (the Peloponnesus) was also known as the Morea.
“Thessaly” was the name of the east-central section of Greece, east of Epirus. With the
arrival of the Bulgars in the 7th C, Moesia became Bulgaria.

1. NW Asia: The emperor has a new powerful fortress built at Lopadion, present-day
Ulubad, a key point on the main highway running eastwards from Kyzikos to Bursa. It
served as a base for his Asian campaigns (ODB 11: 1250).
Then in 1130 or 1132 John marched out with his army against Castamon or
Kastamonu* in Paphlagonia, the ancestral home of the Comneni (Kinnamos 1976 ed
p.20). It had fallen into the hands of the Danishmendid Turks. Capturing it and a great
many captives, he returned to Constantinople and held (1133) a triumph. Pride of place
went to a silver chariot, partly covered with gold and semi-precious stones. John went
ahead of it, yielding his place in the chariot to an icon of the Mother of God. —Stone,
John II, at; also Freely 2008: 38.
Chariot: cf 1168.

(*) Between Ankara and Sinope – nearer the latter.

2. John II of Byzantium allies himself with the German emperor Lothair II (III) against
the Norman king Roger II of Sicily (S Italy).

3. Unified Norman kingdom: In Palermo cathedral, Roger II (Rogerius, Ruggero,


Rutger) is crowned ruler of Sicily, Calabria and Apulia, and assumes the title King. He
built a palace at Palermo using Byzantine craftsmen.
Roger II had laid claim to the duchy of Apulia on the death of his cousin William in
1127, and had himself crowned king of Sicily by the antipope Anacletus II in 1130.

An interesting question is: what language was used at the ‘Norman’ court and in the
towns? - Alex Metcalfe, Muslims and Christians in Norman Sicily: Arabic speakers and
the end of Islam, Routledge, 2003: 102-04, proposes that, while the Norman kings knew
Arabic and may have occasionally used it at court, the most used tongue was probably
Latin or a Latinate (Romance) dialect, i.e. ‘proto-Sicilian’* or Norman-French (the first
Normans having come to S Italy before 1030). Hubert Houben, Roger II of Sicily: a
ruler between East and West, Cambridge University Press, 2002 p.108, notes that Roger
recruited many of his soldiers directly from Normandy and France and they at least
spoke ‘French’ (langue d’oïl) at court. It seems that Roger’s son William I was educated
in Latin while a youth, i.e. in the period 1136-46; he may have known a little Greek, but
probably did not speak it well or at all. The kingdom’s scribes, at least in Palermo and the
east (Val Demone), tended to use Greek until the 1200s (Metcalfe p.67). In that sense,
the language of the administration was Greek. ‘Greeks’—Greek-speaking Christian
Sicilians who also knew Arabic, and immigrants from Greek-speaking Calabria—acted as
intermediaries between the ruling stratum of Latin lords and their Arab/Berber ‘villeins’
(Jeremy Johns, Arabic administration in Norman Sicily: the royal diwan, Cambridge
University Press, 2002, p.5).

(*) Frederick II (or Frederick I of Sicily), between 1198 and 1250, encouraged the
Sicilian School of poetry. Thus Sicilian became the first of the Italic tongues to be
used as a literary language.

By 1130:
John had added very little to his father's empire: only a section of south-east Asia
Minor (west Cilicia); and suzerainty over a still largely independent Serbia. ‘Greco-
Armenian’ East Cilicia was dominated by the Latin or Crusader principality of Antioch.
Sixty years after Manzikert [the victory that gave the Turks entry to Anatolia], the
empire's territory lay two-thirds in Europe, where it extended from the Danube to Crete,
and only one-third in Asia. But the latter was much more densely populated.
In Asia Minor, the Seljuks of “Rum” at Konya and the Danishmendid Turks of Sivas
controlled the uplands of the interior, with Byzantium ruling the lowlands of western
Anatolia and the whole littoral strip (from Trabzond around to Cilicia). Cf 1130-35:
Byzantine attack on Kastamonu.
Upland Cilicia was in the hands of the Armenians, under the suzerainty of Latin
Antioch. See 1130-35, 1132 and 1134/35: Armenian resurgence.
The Seljukid domains were by now divided between three major sultanates based at,
respectively, Konya (Seljuk Anatolia or "Rum"), Hamadan (Seljuk Persia) and Merv
(Seljuk Central Asia). In addition there were a number of lesser but powerful, de facto
independent emirates: the "Danishmend" emir at Sivas and Erzinjan, and others at
Erzerum, Akhlat, Ganja in Azerbaijan, Mosul, Shiraz (Persia) and Kirman. In the south
there was also a powerful emir at Damascus.

Morocco, 1130-63: Abd al-Mu'min, first Almohad ruler - al Muwahhidun, the

mountain Berbers, lit. "those who proclaim God's unity". War against the
Almoravids - al-Mu'min will take Marrakech in 1147.


Paphlagonia and western Pontus (modern-day N Turkey): Series of campaigns against
the Danishmendids. John will recover Gangara, Castamon / Kastamonu (1132: briefly
lost again in 1134) and other towns between modern Ankara and Sinope. Cf 1132.
This served only to restore lands that had first been recaptured by his father in 1106.
Cf 1132.

1131: (or 1127): Italy: King Roger ‘s Normans captures Amalfi. See 1139.

1. Leo [Levon], prince of Lesser (Cilician) Armenia takes the lowland towns of Tarsus,
Adana and Mamistra [Mopsuestia] either from the Latins of Antioch or from the
Byzantines (from which is disputed) (Norwich 1996: 75).

The corner point between Byzantium, the Sultanate of Rum and Armenian Cilicia lay
west of Tarsus, SE of Konya. The Seljuqs of Rum held the interior south of Konya. The
Byzantine-Armenian border was in the littoral north of the sharp “horn” of Cyprus
(Wikipedia, 2010, map in “Leo I of Cilician Armenia”).

2. Asia Minor: John campaigns again (1132) into northern and then central Anatolia
against the so-called "Persarmenians", i.e., Danishmendid Turks, and permits himself a
triumph (1133) (Angold 1984: 155).
— North-central Asia Minor: In 1130 or 1132, as noted, John marched out with his army
against Castamon in Paphlagonia, the ancestral home of the Comneni; it had fallen into
the hands of the Danishmendid Turks. Capturing it and a great many captives, he
returned to Constantinople and held a triumph (1133).
— As described by Niketas Choniates, Annals 18-19, the centrepiece of the triumph was
a purpose-built silver-plated chariot pulled by four white horses, on which was mounted
an icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God). The emperor led the way on foot - not at all in
the Antique fashion - holding a cross in his hand, the parade passing through the
crowded streets of the city which were decorated with "all manner of gold-embroidered
purple cloths" (banners) and lined with framed images of Christ and the saints. John
gave thanks to God in Hagia Sophia and then ceremonially entered his palace.

A start was made towards installing a regular provincial administration in western Asia
Minor when the theme (province) of Thrakesion was restored. And in Caria a new theme
of ‘Mylasa [Tk: Milas] and Melanoudion’ - Melanoudion being a large fortress between
Miletos and Mylasa - was formed from part of the old Thrakesion south of the Maiander
River and parts of the old theme of the Kibyrraiotai (Angold 1984: 256; John F. Haldon,
Warfare, state and society in the Byzantine world, 565-1204, Routledge 1999 p.97).
Later (see 1161), John’s son Manuel will create a new theme of Neokastra in NW Asia

1134: France: Western façade of Chartres cathedral built. The relatively

backward West was now beginning to catch up with Byzantium. Cf 1137
(troubadours) and 1163.

1134 or 35:


Large expedition into Turkish-ruled northern Cappadocia: John/Ioannes defeats the

Danishmend emir of Melitene.
Ioannes (John) II attacked the Danishmend emir Muhammad in Gangra (Chankiri,
Çankırı)* with the aid of Masud of Konya. Beaten off in his first attack on Gangra, he
wintered on the Ryndakos River in Bithynia (NW Asia Minor). Despite reconciliation
between Muhammad and Masud, Ioannes II captured Kastamon and Gangra.

(*) On a a line drawn NE from Ankara to Sinop(e), Çankırı is nearer the former; it
is about halfway along a line drawn from Ankara to Kastamon.

When he took the field again in 1135, John was successful in capturing both
Castamon/Kastamonu and Gangra, towns inland SW from Sinope, the latter after a
siege. Heavy artillery was deployed, in the form of trebuchets (large swung catapults).
Garrisoning Gangra with 2,000 men, John returned to Byzantium. Gangra, however, was
soon recaptured by the Danishmendids.
Angold 1984: 155 notes that six years’ hard campaigning led to “meagre” results; and,
as a result, “the emperor had neither the time nor the energy to look to his interests in
other parts of Asia Minor”.

Use of Trebuchets in the 1130s

Choniates records that in 1130 or 1132 John surrounded Kastamon with helepoleis
(trebuchets) and captured it. Then at Gangra in Paphlagonia, modern Çankırı, in 1135 he
kept up a constant barrage of missiles aimed at the houses within the city (Choniates

Against the seemingly impregnable Anazarba—Anazarbus in Cilicia, Lesser Armenia—

the following year, the Byzantine trebuchets began pounding the town’s walls, but the
Armenian defenders returned their fire with stones and fiery iron pellets which set the
Byzantine helepoleis on fire (Dennis, 1999: Byz Heavy Artillery).
“In the 1130s, John II Komnenos used counterweight** trebuchets with great effect in
his siege campaigns in Cilicia and Syria. These campaigns mark the full incorporation of
the counterweight trebuchet into the Byzantine armed forces”. —Chevedden 2000.

(**) An earlier type, the rope-pull or traction trebuchet, was powered by men
pulling down on ropes.

1135-60: Africa: The Norman-Italians establish military outpost-camps at various

sites along the Tunisian coast of the Zirid Emirate of Mahdiya, but eventually are
ousted. Tunis is held from 1146 to 1160.

A series of campaigns brings the whole Black Sea coast of Anatolia, including Trebizond,
back under Byzantine rule (Freely 2008: 38). See 1139-41 below.

1. Italy: A number of Byzantine troops took part in the German emperor Lothair’s
abortive campaign against the Normans of Italy.
In 1136, at the insistence of Pope Innocent and Byzantine Emperor John II Comnenus,


the campaign began, directed against Roger of ‘Sicily’ (South Italy and Sicily). Two main
armies, one led by Lothair, Western emperor since 1133, the other by Henry the Proud of
Bavaria, entered Italy. Advancing deep into the Norman realm in the south, the two
armies met at Bari, and continued further south in 1137.
The German troops, however, refused to campaign during the hot summer and
revolted. Lothair, who had hoped for the complete conquest of Sicily, instead separated
Capua and Apulia from Roger's kingdom and gave them to Roger's enemies. Pope
Innocent, however, protested, claiming that Apulia fell under papal claims; Innocent and
Lothair eventually jointly enfeoffed the duchy to Rainulf of Alife. Lothair turned north,
but died while crossing the Alps in December 1137.

2. Constantinople: The emperor John dedicates, in the capital, a large monastery-church

to Christ Pantocrator: the ‘triple church of the Monastery of Christ Pantocrator’. It
survives whole in modern Istanbul (photo, Mathews p.34; also Treadgold, State p.632).
Treadgold suggests that the building of such a grand monastery-church indicates that
taxation and the treasury had recovered from the straitened period at the start of the
century under John’s father Alexios.

The Diets of Monks and Sea Travellers

The typikon or founding charter of the Pantokrator Monastery, written in 1136, carefully
detailed the meals for the year, providing the monks with a diet far removed from the
hagiographic ideal. For instance, "on Saturdays and Sundays, one serves three plates,
one of fresh vegetables, one of dry vegetables*, and another of shellfish, mussels and
calamari, and onions, all prepared in oil; one also gives them the habitual pint [half-
litre] of wine. . .". As did Kekaumenos, the typika enjoin a good breakfast; they limit the
evening meal to bread and wine, occasionally with vegetables and fruit in addition.
(Fresh bread would have made up 75% of their food; meat is not mentioned.) —Kazhdan
& Epstein 1990: 81.

(*) The most common vegetable crops were the pulses or legumes: broad beans, lentils,
chickpeas and vetches (Rautman p.176). Broad beans are themselves one species of

Pulses contain 20 to 25% of proteins, which is double that found in wheat and three
times that found in rice. Pulses are sometimes called "poor man’s meat". (Potato is
superior to all in food per hectare per day, but of course it was not known in the 12th C.)

Legumes also formed a significant part of a sea-traveller’s food. The average carried by,
or allocated to, galley passengers in grams per day was: 42 gms or a mouthful of cheese
(4%); 91 gms or two mouthfuls of pork or other salt meat (9%); 106 gms or a small
serving of legumes (11%); and 756 gms of wheat “biscuit” or double-baked hard tack
(76%) (Pryor 2006: 11). Typically the meat and legumes were consumed as a soup.
Cf 125 gms of cheese is quite a small packet today; 140 gms is the smallest can of baked
beans in Australia (also the size of the smallest serving of canned fruit); and the standard
loaf of bread in Australia today weighs 700 gms.

Speaking more generally of on-shore life, Laiou, 2002: 53, says that pulses provided
vegetable protein and wine provided calories. Honey was an important supplement, and
a 12th-century source states that apiculture was more developed than in northern


There was a considerable variety of fruits and vegetables, as one can see from sources
from most periods. In the Middle period we have mention of olives, apples, figs, pears,
cherries, nuts, melons, pomegranates, raisins, spinach, endives, carrots, cabbages, leeks,
carrots, beetroot, radishes, turnips, onions, garlic, cucumbers, lettuce, and pumpkins
(underlined: the most common fruits according to Harvey 2003: 320).

The Byzantine Economy and Tax Revenues

Bouras, in Laiou 2002 p.1153, offers the following estimates for the Byzantine economy
in the 12th century:
a. Agriculture represented 75% of domestic production.
b. Monetisation of the non-agricultural sector was 80%.
c. Monetisation of agriculture was 35%.
d. The tax burden on monetised non-agricultural product was 20%.
e. The tax burden on total agricultural product was 23%.

The rate of taxation here may be compared to that in ‘less developed’ or backward parts
of Europe. The tax on moveable goods imposed in England in 1207 was 1/13th or 7.7%
(Nigel Saul, 2000: The Oxford illustrated history of medieval England, p.113). Under
Edward III, d. 1377, ie after the Black Death, the tax on all moveable property was
normally a tenth (10%) for towns and a fifteenth (6.7%) for farmland (A.L. Brown, 1989:
The Governance of Late Medieval England 1272–1461. London: Edward Arnold, pp.70-
71). Or compare a general tax imposed by the king of France in 1296 on all lands, goods
and revenues: 1/5oth or 2% (M. S. Kempshall, 1999: The common good in late medieval
political thought, p.252).

It may also be compared with earlier times. In very general terms Hopkins estimates the
effective rate of taxation to have been less than 10% of GNP in Roman Antiquity
(Hopkins, Keith, 1980: "Taxes and Trade in the Roman Empire (200 B.C.–A.D. 400)",
p.120). But that is a conservative estimate, and moreover the level of tax was not the
same in all provinces. Around AD 150 in Roman Cilicia and Syria the rate of taxation on
income from land was of the order of 15% (Fergus Millar, 1993: The Roman Near East,
31 B.C.-A.D. 337, p. 110).

The Patzinaks captured at Eski Zagra in 1132 were settled as military colonists in Thrace
and Macedonia, and thrived there until the Latin Conquest in 1204; the last record of
Patzinak ‘mercenaries’ (professional soldiers) in the field seems to date to 1136-39
(Heath 1995: 33). See next: Cilician expedition.



Above: The Levant in 1135. Armenian control of the coast in Cilicia was quite
recent, newly acquired from the Latins of Antioch.

The Byzantines attack Lesser Armenia (Cilicia), raise the Armenian siege of Byzantine
Seleucia, and push on to Syria, where the Latin-ruled metropolis of Antioch is besieged
(NCMH IV: 651). The Latin prince Raymond submits to John, and Armenian east Cilicia
is annexed (and joined to Byzantine west Cilica).
Extension of imperial domination to Cilicia and Syria was to be the major
territorial gain of this reign. For Antioch: see 1138.
The Armenian prince Leon, of the Rupenid family, after taking many lowland Cilician
towns by 1132, was attempting to besiege the coastal town of Seleuceia (1136-1137). In
response, John marched into Cilicia with an expedition of a scale that would suggest that
subjugation of it and neighbouring ‘Coele Syria’ [the crusader County of Edessa] was
more important to him than his conquests in Asia Minor proper. At any rate, a great part
of Cilicia (“the entire country”) was subjugated, including the major towns of Tarsus,
Adana and Mopsuestia, hitherto (since 1109) under Latin rule (NCMH IV: 617;
Magdalino 2002: 38). See 1042.
The imperial forces included Hungarian and Patzinak mercenary cavalry.

With a large army, John II Komnenos marched through the cities of Attaleia and
Seleukeia, and from Zephyrion, SW of Tarsus, advanced through Tarsos and Adana to
John reconquered Cilicia, including Tarsus and Adana, from the Latins in early 1137.
Then, having enforced fealty from western Syria (the Principality of Antioch), he made a
vain expedition up the river Orontes against the Muslims of Aleppo (1138).


John attempted to impose his authority in Antioch, travelling there himself in 1137 to
negotiate a new treaty. The emperor John II arrived (29 August 1137) with an army
before the walls of Antioch. Though the Basileus /vasilefs: emperor/ refrained from
entering the city, his banner was raised atop the citadel and Raymond was compelled to
do homage. In addition, Raymond agreed that if John could capture Muslim Aleppo,
Shiazar and Homs, he would exchange Antioch for them. In 1138 a riot was engineered
against John and he was forced (or chose) to leave (Magdalino 2002: 41).

Wintering over in Cilicia, John’s army, aided by the Latins of Antioch and Edessa,
attacked Aleppo (20 April 1138) which was governed by the atabeg (Turkish viceroy)
Imadeddin Zengi. The attempt failed, and when John moved further on (28 April) to
Shiazar [Shayzar, SE of Antioch, S of Aleppo] on the Orontes, the Franks withheld their
support. And Zengi’s army, strengthened by contingents sent from Abbasid Baghdad,
was approaching from the east. Infuriated, John returned (21 May) to Antioch ahead of
his army and this time made a triumphal entry on horseback, with the Prince of Antioch
(Raymond) and the Count of Edessa (Joscelin) walking as his grooms on either side, a
sign of their subordination. Later he was forced to leave, or goaded into leaving, when
Joscelin II of Edessa roused the citizens to riot [spring 1139] (Runciman 1987: 217; O
city of Byzantium: annals of Niketas Choniates - trans Harry J. Magoulias, Wayne State
University Press 1984, pp16-18).

1137-1237: This was the 'century of the Troubadours' in "Occitania", as modern-

day SW France and N Catalonia was soon to be called.* The urban centres of
Occitania, at the time still small towns, were: Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux,
Narbonne, Marseilles and Lyon. The epic poems included the Song of Antioch,
c.1135, concerning the First Crusade, and the Song of the Albigensian Crusade,
final version c.1229.
- The troubadour lyric did not become widely diffused until the time of the
Third Crusade (1189-92).

(*) The name appears after 1237.

1. Emperor John campaigns in Syria, with grudging support from the local Latin princes.
As noted earlier, John laid siege to Latin-ruled Antioch, and it soon surrendered. He
agreed to the proposal that Raymond of Poitiers, prince of Antioch, should remain in
control of the city as the emperor's liegeman, but only until such time as Aleppo or
Halep capitulated to their combined armies. This was effectively a reimposition of the
terms of the Treaty of Devol (imposed in 1108 by his father Alexius I).
At first (spring 1138), the combined forces took Buza'ah, then advanced on Aleppo.
Since there was an insufficient water supply for a protracted siege, John moved on from
there with the armies south-east to Shaizar (Gk: Sezer) on the Orontes. The lower town
was taken, but, with the news of the approach from Mosul of the powerful Turkish
atabeg Zengi and his forces, the siege was lifted [23 May 1138] after an indemnity had
been exacted. The Christian armies, joined by that of Joscelin Count of Edessa, returned
to Antioch, and John made a solemn entry, with the two Crusader princes, Raymond
and Joscelin, escorting him on foot as his grooms (a form of ritual obeisance). —Stone,
‘John II’ at (2009). See 1042.

2. d. Nicephorus Bryennius junior, general and historian, the emperor’s brother-in-law.


Bryennius’ History covers the period 1070-79.

1139: The Normans conquered the Duchy of Naples, and it was subsequently
incorporated into their southern Kingdom.

In the far north-east: Several imperial campaigns against the Danishmendid Turks result
in the recovery of the entire Pontic seaboard – the far eastern Black Sea coast
of Asia Minor - including Greek-ruled Trebizond. This restored a short border
with Christian Georgia (Runciman 1987: 219).
John’s campaigns in 1119, 1130-5, and 1139-40, although hampered by the treachery of
his brother, the Sebastocrator Isaac, were successful in maintaining the frontier and also
in annexing the region between Philomelium and coastal Attalia (including the Great
Lakes region), while curbing the powerful Danishmandites. But the Emperor made no
real impression on the inland plateau, the stronghold of the Turkish tribes.

Asia Minor: Raiding Turkmen [Turkish herders] from the Anatolian highlands reached
the western lowlands. John went to the rescue of Lopadium in Mysia (spring 1139), and
then the regions of the Sangarius river. He also built a fortress further south named
Achyraous, modern Hisarlik near Balikesir.
He then decided to march east against Muhammad in the Danishmendid emir's
stronghold of Caesarea (Kayseri) and against the rebel duke Constantine Gabras, who
(since 1126) held Trebizond. He proceeded along the northern coast so as only to have
one flank exposed to the enemy. He campaigned throughout the summer, cowing Gabras
into submission (1139), and wintered at Kinte in the Pontus (Choniates, trans. Magoulias
p.20). There was a bitter winter in Cappadocia, the theatre of war for the next
campaigning season (1140). After an initial reverse, trusting in his Greek lancers and
Latin knights (*), he turned the Danishmendids to flight and he was able to advance to
Neocaesareia: inland Niksar, SE of Trebizond. The emperor was forced to retreat due to
a lack of horses and provisions (late summer 1140). Thus Kayseri itself was left
untroubled. The emperor was back in Constantinople by January 1141. —Andrew Stone,
‘John II’, at, accessed 2010; also
Norwich 1996: 82.

(*) A good illustration of Latin knights charging with couched lances appears in a Life of
St Edmund c.1135. The mail hauberk extends from head to knee and to the wrists; the
helmet is still an open-faced style; it was not until the later 1100s that the closed-faced
‘great helms’ appeared (Keen 1999: 77).

1139-45: The Almohads conquer N Morocco and W Algeria. See 1146.

1140: In Kayseri (Anatolian Caesarea): building of the great mosque of the


c. 1140:
James of Venice [Jacobus Veneticus Grecus], who probably spent some years in
Constantinople, translated Aristotle's Posterior Analytics from Greek into Latin in the
mid-12th century, thus making the complete Aristotelian logical corpus, the Organon,
available in Latin for the first time.


c.1140-1187: Italy/Spain: Gerard of Cremona in Toledo: he translated some 88

works from Arabic into Latin (Fletcher 2003: 120). Cf 1143.

1. Antioch defects or reverts to independence: the prince of Antioch repudiated his oath
of allegiance to the empire and (briefly) put an effective end to Byzantine influence south
of the Taurus Mountains (Browning 1992: 169). See 1142-43 and 1145.

2. German alliance to counter the ambitions of Roger II of Sicily. It is agreed that prince
Manuel will marry Bertha of Sulzbach, renamed Eirene (d.1159/60), dau. of count
Berengar von Sulzbach and sister-in-law and adopted daughter of the German monarch
Conrad III (Conrad’s wife’s sister). The marriage, not formalised until 1146, will
introduce a strong Western influence in the Byzantine court (Nicol 1992: 84).
Bertha was the daughter of Berengar II, Count of Sulzbach (d. 1125) and Adelheid von
Wolfratshausen. Her brother was Gebhard III of Sulzbach; her sister was Gertrude von
Sulzbach, who married Conrad III of Germany.

When Manuel's first wife, the German-born Bertha of Sulzbach, arrived in

Constantinople in 1142, the court poet Theodore Prodromos delivered a welcoming
address that in many ways lays bare the ideological implications of foreign marriages.
Addressing Bertha's [adopted] German father, he writes: "O great king of the ancient and
older Rome ... glorious Conrad ... now you have risen in honour, now you have been
ennobled still further, because you have been grafted into the Comnenian family and
have been held to be the heir of so mighty an Emperor" (quoted by Hilsdale 2005).
(When Manuel took the throne, Bertha was adopted by emperor Conrad as his daughter,
in order to give her higher status. The marriage had originally been negotiated when
Manuel was a lesser prince, not expected to become emperor. At that time Bertha was
just Conrad’s sister-in-law and the daughter of a mere count, Berenger of Sulzbach.)

1142: Turkmen Eastern Anatolia: When the emir Mehmed died in 1142, the
Danishmend lands were divided between his two brothers, Melik Yaghibasan, who
maintained the title of "Melik" (‘king’) and ruled from Sivas, and Ayn el-Devle, who
ruled from Malatya.

1142: Syria: The Count of Tripoli, ruler of Latin (Crusader) Lebanon, gives the site
of the future massive castle of Crac des Chevaliers to the Hospitallers. ‘Crac’ =
Syriac karak, ‘fortress’. By 1170 the Hospitallers had built it up to become what we
see today, the largest and most beautiful crusader castle in the East. By about 1200
it will house a garrison of 2,000 men (mainly infantry: the number of Hospitaller
knights was modest).
It withstood sieges by Nur ad-Din in 1163 and Saladin in 1188. It remained under
Christian control until 1271.

Campaign to southern Anatolia and Cilicia and thence to Syria. Death of the emperor on
8 April 1043, aged 54, following a hunting accident.
In 1142 John marched to Attaleia on the southern coast of the Anatolian peninsula
(Choniates, trans. Magoulias p.21). From there he decided to make an attack – a detour


to the NE - on the ‘Greek’ inhabitants of the fortified islands of Lake Pousgouse (in
Phyrgia: modern Beysehir Gölü, west of Konya), who had friendly relations with the
Turks and regarded the Byzantines as the enemy. They had largely assimilated to
Turkish customs. His stratagem of using fishing boats to attack the islands was
successful, although casualties on the imperial side were heavy. Choniates records that
groups of boats were lashed together to enable small trebuchets to be mounted on them.
Shortly afterwards his eldest two sons, Alexius and Andronicus, died, and it was with
Manuel alone - for the third son, Isaac, accompanied the bodies of his two elder brothers
back to Constantinople - that John marched on Syria (September 1142) to enforce
Byzantine suzerainty over the principality of Antioch for once and for all. On the way, he
demanded hostages from Joscelin II of Courtenay (the Latin prince of Edessa). He also
sent missives ahead of him to Antioch announcing his intentions. However, the
Crusaders withdrew to the citadel, and John decided to return to Cilicia to winter,
permitting his soldiers to pillage the suburbs of Antioch (Norwich 1996: 83).

John returned to Syria in 1142 but Raymond, motivated by the hostility of his barons to
Byzantine suzerainty, refused to submit once again. Because the season was late, John
returned to Cilicia where, over the winter, he laid plans not only to firmly establish his
sovereignty over Antioch but indeed over all of Palestine. Only his untimely death (1143)
in Cilicia prevented the attempt.
Emperor John II Komnenos was fatally wounded, according to the chroniclers
Choniates and Kinnamos, in an encounter with a boar in the Taurus mountains in
Cilicia; he nicked himself with one of his own poisoned arrows while fighting off the
boar. The poison did not kill him; rather the wound became infected and he died from
sepsis. He was aged 55 (Birkenmeier p.211).

Territory in 1140
After the map in Mango’s New Rome 1980: 1988 paperback p.84.

Muslim rule was briefly in eclipse, with the Christians – Byzantines, Armenians and
Latin Crusaders – holding the entire coast of the Levant, from Anatolia through Syria to
Palestine as far as the border of Fatimid Egypt. On Mango’s map, Armenian East Cilicia
and Crusader Antioch count as part of the Empire.

The Roman (Byzantine) Empire proper was centred on the Aegean, with somewhat more
territory on the European side than in Asia.
Tracking from west to east, the Basileus’s rule extended thus:

1. from parts* of the Dalmatian coast, i.e. the enclaves around Ragusa and Cattaro/Kotor
[vs Croatians and Serbs]** and Albania to Cyprus; west Cilicia and Antioch [vs Muslim
Turks and Christian Armenians].
(*) Venice controlled upper Dalmatia, while Hungary dominated central Dalmatia
including Split (Stephenson 2000: 211). It would not be until 1165-67 (see there) that
Byzantine power over Split would be reasserted.

(*) In the text of the Moroccan-born Sicilian geographer Idrisi, fl. 1150, we find
many of the coastal towns of Dalmatia, including Ragusa (Dubrovnik), inhabited
by Romance-speaking Dalmatians, while other towns and all the hinterlands
were inhabited by Slavs. Tracking eastwards, Idrisi calls Ragusa, populated by
Dalmatians, the ‘last town of Croatia’. By implication Cattaro/Kotor, also
inhabited by Dalmatians, was a Romance-speaking enclave in Serbia/Duklja (text


in Vanni 2007: 6).

Although Romance-speaking and Latin in religion, Kotor acknowledged the
emperor as its sovereign or at least gave nominal allegiance.

2. from Crete through the whole of the Balkans to the lower Danube [vs Cumans] and
modern eastern Serbia;

3. from Thrace across most of the southern Black Sea coast to Trebizond; and

4. the western third and the southern coast of Asia Minor. Or if we follow Mango, the
entire coast of Asia Minor – the whole Black Sea coast from Trebizond westwards, and
the whole Mediterranean coast from Tarsus westwards.

The Seljuk Sultanate of Rum with its capital at Konya, and the Danishmendids of
Kayseri, held all the central Anatolian plateau; they were upland states with no outlet to
the seas.
In Cilicia by 1133, Vahka, Sis, Anazarbus, Mamistra [Gk: Mopsuestia], Adana and
Tarsus were under Armenian (Rubenid) rule. The lowland towns Mamistra, Adana and
Tarsus had just recently been recently captured from the Latins of Antioch (Setton et al.
2006: 636). Byzantium re-asserted its suzerainty there in the late 1130s, ejecting the
Armenians from the coastal towns and the littoral (see 1137-38).
Thus, at the end of John's reign, the empire's borders, except for the highland half of
Anatolia held by the Seljuks, and Cilicia, contained most of the same provinces as in
Basil II's time [died 1025]. (See also the map in Treadgold 1997: 635.)
If we compare the position at the end of John’s reign with that at the end of his
father’s reign, we find that John’s main achievement was the recapture of
Caria (SW Asia Minor: see 1133), the S coast of Asia Minor and (insecurely)
Cilicia-Syria from Attaleia to Antioch and Germanicea (maps in Angold 1984:
316 and ODB i:355).

As noted earlier, the reconquest of the more densely populated parts of Asia Minor under
the Comneni emperors (mainly by Alexios), along with continued population growth,
would presumably have brought the empire back to, say, eight or 10 million in about 1175
according to Treadgold. Or, following Tulane (1999), to perhaps as many as 10-12 million
already under John II, d. 1143.
In Anatolia the losses due to the Turkish invasion were probably cancelled out by
population growth, leaving the Byzantine sector - the western third, including almost all
the coast - with perhaps seven of 10 million in 1143, or about 70% of the whole empire,
concentrated above all in the western plains of Asia Minor. If this is right, then
Byzantium’s European domains – the entire Balkans except for Serbia - held only about
three million people in 1140 (Treadgold, State, note 22 p.961; but McEvedy & Jones
1978: 135 estimate that modern Turkey-in-Asia contained only six million people in
1200, of which we may guess two-thirds or four million were ruled by the emperor).

Western Dress

From about 1140, “long costume” became general wear among the upper classes
men in the Latin West, or at least for knights, in the form of the loose ankle-
length belted robe called the cote, often topped by a long surcoat. This is
commonly attributed to the influence of Crusaders returning from the East (but


possibly derives from indigenous long styles, which had continued in the church
and at the university). Military costume too took on a long style. Western knights
after about 1140 began wearing calf-length surcoats over their mail armour (as
for example in the MS ‘Victory of Humility over Pride’, c.1175, in Hanover’s
Kestner Museum: François Boucher, 20,000 Years of Fashion, Harry Abrams,
1966, p.185).
The Scholars of Andalus

Spain and N Africa: Some of the most important Islamic and Jewish philosophers
of the Middle Ages lived during the Almohad period. The principal Islâmic figures
were Ibn Bâjja: known in the Latin West as Avempace, d. 1138, Ibn Tufayl or
Abubacer, d. 1185, and especially Ibn Rushd, Latinised as Averroës, aged 50 in
1176. The great Jewish philosophers were Moses Maimonides (50 in 1185) and
Moses Nahmanides (50 in 1244).

Above: Several inaccuracies in this map should be noted. First, the name ‘Holy Romam
Empire’ for the German empire was not used before the 1200s. Second, there was no
Bulgaria in 1140; it was still a province of the Roman (Byzantine) Empire. Third, Cyprus
too was Byzantine.


1143-1180: MANUEL I Comnenus

Son of John Comnenus; aged 25 at accession. First wife: Bertha-Irene, niece

of the German emperor Conrad III. Their daughter Maria married (1180)
Rainier-John, son of the margrave of Montferrat in German N Italy.
Second wife: princess Maria-Xena or Xene, ‘Maria of Antioch’, daughter of
the late Norman prince of Antioch, Raymond of Poitiers. Son: Alexius, b.
1169, the future emperor Alexius II.

Manuel is described as tall, handsome, dark-skinned, energetic and

charming (Norwich 1996: 88). He was a hands-on military commander:
Kinnamos mentions no less than seven occasions on which he received
wounds (Birkenmeier, Komnenian Army p.214).

Manuel would repel attacks by the Sicilian Normans under Roger II, by the
Serbs, and by the Hungarians. He was also active in the East, in Cilicia and

Portrait of Manuel:

“A ruler of outstanding ability and energy”, according to Browning 1992: 169. The
contrary view: “his expansionary policies were”, in Stephenson’s estimation,
“unsustainable and precipitated the crises that the empire faced after his death”. Thus
Stephenson in Harris 2005: 55.

But for most, the reign of the emperor Manuel I Comnenus, 5 April 1143 - 24 September
1180, can well be regarded as a high-water mark of Byzantine civilization. It was
the apogee of the so-called "Comnenian Restoration", according to Andrew Stone: at
Cf Treadgold: At Manuel’s accession, Byzantium “could still be considered the
leading power in the Mediterranean, if only by a narrow margin” (State p.638). –
The other major powers were: the Almohad-Almoravid empire of Spain-N Africa*; the
Hohenstaufen German Empire of Conrad III (see 1147: crusade); Fatimid Eqypt; Zengid
Syria (Edessa captured 1144); and, in the next rank down, the Seljuq Sultanate of Rum,
ruling highland Anatolia.

(*) The Almoravids (who lost Lisbon in 1147) were succeeded by the Almohads in
the period 1147-1170.

“The Komnenoi”, writes Kazdhan, “tamed the relentless spirit of earlier ‘Franks’ and
transformed them into obedient servants of the empire. Let me emphasize that this
conclusion does not mean that the number of Westerners decreased under Manuel. Just
the opposite occurred, for the figures we have from the 12th century - with all their
exaggeration - show how enormous was the influx of Westerners into Byzantium.
Eustathios of Thessaloniki thought that the number of Latins in Constantinople reached
60,000 [cited also by Geanakoplos 1959: 131]. Manuel I was a Latinophile but only to a
certain extent: he entrusted the command of the army primarily to his relatives,
although in his late years some Western generals may appear in top positions.” —


Alexander Kazhdan, in The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the
Muslim World, edited by Angeliki Laiou and Roy Mottahedeh, 2001. Emphasis added.

France, 1143: First Latin translation of the Koran, sponsored by the Abbot of
Cluny; but it was not widely circulated.

In Cilicia/Little Armenia, emperor John was ready to resume his campaign against
Antioch and Edessa. During a hunt, as we noted earlier, he was accidentally wounded in
the hand by an arrow. It became infected and, aged 53 or 55, he died (8 April) of
septicaemia. He announced that his younger son, 25 years old Manuel, who was present,
would succeed him (Norwich 1996: 84).

N Africa: June 1143 a Sicilian (Norman) fleet attempted to take the city of (Libyan)
Tripoli, which was ruled by the Arab house of the Banu-Matruh. Cf 1146.

Above: The Levant in 1143. Antioch was a crusader (Latin) principality, at

this time under Byzantine ‘protection’ or suzerainty, as was Little Armenia
(Cilicia). Konya was the seat of the Seljuqs of Rum (Anatolia). Kayseri
(Caesarea) was the seat of the Danishmendids, a Turkmen line.

Turkish Anatolia: When the Danishmendids broke into warring factions after 1142, the
Seljuq ruler Rukn ad-Din Mas’ud began to absorb their holdings and began the real
development of Konya as a capital city. By the time of his death in 1155, the Seljuq state
had become the dominant state in central and eastern Anatolia (EB 15 under ‘Turkey’).
There was until after 1143 an intersection point in NW Cilicia between the territories of


the four powers: the Byzantine empire, the Seljuqs of Rum, the Danishmendids of Sivas
and the Armenians of ‘Little Armenia’. Cf 1144-46 below.

1. Syria: A successful Byzantine expedition was sent to take revenge on Raymond of
Antioch. The fleet, called “long ships” by Choniates, under Demetrius Branas ravaged the
coasts of the principality, while an army under the Contostephani brothers, John and
Andronicus, ravaged the land (Choniates trans. Magoulias p.31; Norwich 1996: 91). See

2. Italy: Norman-Italians capture a section of the Duchy of Spoleto.

3. Zengi, the atabeg [Turkish viceroy] of Mosul and Aleppo, captures (24-26 December
1144) the crusader principality of Edessa. This alarmed all Christendom because it could
be interpreted as God no longer favouring the cross over the crescent. A year later Louis
of France announced that he would go East to restore the Christian position. See next.

1. NE Syria: End of the Frankish-Crusader principality that historians call the "County of
Edessa". The emir of Aleppo, Zangi or Zengi, takes (1144) Edessa in ancient Syria:
modern Urfa in today’s SE Turkey, from the Latins; this will provoke a Second Crusade
(from 1147).
Edessa was the weakest and least Latinised crusader state, and Zengi captured it on 24
December 1144. This event led to the Second Crusade, and later Muslim chroniclers
noted it as the start of the jihad against the Crusader states.

2. Cilicia: Anti-Byzantine revolt by the Armenian leader Thoros II who had recently
escaped from captivity in Byzantium. Unable to receive any aid from the ‘Crusader’
princes of Antioch, Thoros was compelled (1145) to resist alone a Greek (Byzantine)
army of 12,000 men, commanded by Andronicus Comnenus, a cousin of the emperor
Manuel I.
The Armenian lands were wedged between Byzantium, the Seljuks and the Latin
Principalities of Edessa and Antioch.


GO HERE for a large clear map of the Levant in 1144, immediately before Zangi’s
conquest of Edessa:
Asia Minor: The corner-point between Byzantium, the Seljuqs of Rum and Armenian
Cilicia lay in the interior directly north from Cyprus, which is to say: SE of Konya.

Western Europe: Gothic architecture is usually considered to begin with the design
of the choir at the Abbey of Saint-Denis, north of Paris, by the Abbot Suger,
consecrated 1144. The beginning of Gothic sculpture is usually dated a little later,
with the carving of the figures around the Royal Portal at Chartres Cathedral,
France, 1150–55.

1. The East: Like his father, Manuel was most intent on the rich lands of Cilicia and
North Syria and the subjection of the Armenians and Latins who ruled there. His first


war, conducted by his nephews, the brothers Andronicus and John Kontostephanos,
reduced Raymond of Poitiers, ruler of Antioch, to submission (1145). A land and sea
expedition (Choniates refers to “longships”) was launched that obliged Raymond to come
to Constantinople where he made obeisance (Harris 2006: 94; Phillips 2007: 208;
Chonaites/Magoulias p.31).
- In 1144/45 Manuel brought back prince Raymond of Antioch to his allegiance, and in
the following year drove the Seljuk Turks out of Isauria, the inland region ‘above’
Antalya. See 1146.

2. NW Asia Minor: Manuel himself supervised the rebuilding of the supply base or
fortress (aplekta or “staging post”) of Malagina/Melangeia on the Sangarius river SE of
Nicaea (Iznik) in Bithynia (1145 or 1146). There seems to have been no town of
Melangeia as such; it was more the name of a district through which ran the highway
from Nicomedia and Nicaea to Dorylaion.
The date is disputed; others say 1144. According to Booth, Manuel I made a major
display in western Paphlagonia in 1144 in order to settle the place down so that he could
continue with his military policy of reoccupying Dorylaeum, two days march further
south-east. If so, then he probably only rebuilt (at Melangeia) the minimum necessary to
maintain his control of the area and saw Dorylaeum as the key to maintaining control
there. – Ian Booth, 2005, ‘Display, conquest or reestablishment of authority: what did
Manuel I achieve around Malagina in 1144? ‘– at; accessed 2007.

3. Cilicia: After escaping captivity in Constantinople (1143), Toros or Thoros II, the
Roupenid prince, took advantage of Manuel's preoccupations to revolt (ca. 1145), and
Cilician Armenia was never again fully subdued. As a result of a great expedition (1158-
1159: see there), Manuel would obtain acceptance of his sovereignty over Cilician
Armenia and Antioch, but this proved a transitory success.

c. 1145:
Ioannes (John) Kantakouzenos, a military commander, married, 1145/50, Maria
Komnena, dau. of Andronikos Komnenos the sebastokrator and niece to Emperor
Manuel I. John commanded the left wing at the battle of Myriokephalon IX.1176, and
was killed (see there).

1145-54: Fl. the geographer Idrisi: Abu Abd Allah Abdullah Muhammed ibn
Muhammed ibn Ash Sharif al Idris, born in present-day Morocco (then part of
the Almoravid Empire). In his youth he was a great traveller, going to even so
remote and obscure a place as England.
Idrisi's fame as a man of letters was established before his invitation to the
court of King Roger II, Norman king of Sicily. He arrived in Sicily around 1145,
and may have first visited it as early as 1139. His greatest surviving work is his
"Pleasure Excursion of One Eager to Traverse the World's Regions", better known
as the Book of Roger (“al-Kitab al-Rujari”). The Book of Roger was completed
early in 1154, shortly before the death of the king for whom it was named.
His famous planisphere, a large global map made of precious metal (mostly
silver), did not survive the 12th century, but it is known to have been a
noteworthy work of geography, probably the most accurate map of Europe, north
Africa and western Asia to have been created during the Middle Ages.


From the 1140s: The Latin West: "Early Gothic" architecture - as it is nowadays
called - begins in France.

After 1145:
Cilicia: The previous Byzantine emperor John II Komnenos had succeeded in annexing
the whole of Cilicia during 1137-38, but Thoros II, 1145-68, and Mleh, 1170-75, will
restore Armenian rule, with some Turkish aid. See 1158.

Anatolia: At Manuel’s accession, the bands of the Seljuk ruler Ma’sud I were committing
terrible ravages; Manuel fortified the frontier, subsidised the chief Danishmandite emir,
and struck at, but could not take, Iconium itself (1146-7).
Manuel fortified Malagina or Melangeia (or earlier in 1144) in NW Asia Minor to stop
Turkish attacks on Bithynia. But Manuel's successful raid from Lopadion could not
prevent a major Turkish invasion of the Thrakesion theme.

Andrew Stone: “The Seljuk sultanate of Rum under Masud had become the ascendant
Turkish power in Anatolia. Manuel himself supervised the rebuilding of the fortress of
Melangeia [Malagina] on the Sangarius river in Bithynia (1145 or 1146). In the most
daring campaign of these early years, after building the new fort of Pithecas in Bithynia,
Manuel advanced as far into Turkish territory as Konya (Iconium), the Seljuk capital. He
had been wounded in the foot by an arrow at a mighty battle at Philomelium [modern
Aksehir] (which had been Masud's headquarters), and the city had been razed; once at
Konya, he allowed his troops to despoil the graves outside the city walls, before taking
the road home.” —Stone, Manuel, at

As a result of the Turks’ capture of Pracana (just north of Silifke/Seleucia) in Cilicia, and
Turkish raids into the Thracesian theme, Manuel now decided (1146) to attack
Iconium/Konya itself.
He assembled his army in Bithynia at the newly constructed fort of Lopadion [modern
Uluabat near Karacabey], located between the two lakes just inland from the S shore of
the Sea of Marmara. Lopadion was on the western shore of the eastern of the two lakes
(Kinnamos, trans. Brand p.38).
He defeated the forces of the sultan successively at Acrounos near modern Afyon, NW
of the Lakes, at Calograias Bounos [Gk for “hill”], and at Philomelium, modern Aksehir
in the Lakes District, NW of Konya. Manuel was lightly wounded by an arrow in the foot
at Philomelium. But the imperial armies marched to the Seljuk capital itself, Konya, and
desecrated the Muslim cemeteries outside the walls. The arrival of Muslim
reinforcements from the Danishmendids, however, forced Manuel to lift the siege and to
retire westwards, via the road alongside Lake Pougouse, to Choma [sic: Chonae, east of
Laodicea, modern Denizli]. Source (2009):; also Freely 2008: 40.

The clash at Philomelium has been examined by Birkenmeier, Komnenian Army, 2002
pp. 103 ff. The Byzantine army drew up in two lines: a main body and a rearguard. When
the imperial cavalry charged, the Turks withdrew, with Manuel’s men in hot pursuit.
This exposed the rearguard to ambush by other, hidden Turkish units. Manuel soon
returned with the main force, but was barely able to reassert control over the rattled


Byzantine forces. The next day, however, he pushed onwards towards Konya. Since he
did not attempt a siege of the city, it is possible (this is unclear from the sources) that his
siege equipment had been lost or damaged during the ambush of the rearguard.
Kinnamos mentions the emperor taking ‘archers’, i.e. horse-archers, with him when he
rode out on several forays during the slow return march back from Konya, which implies
that his immediate retinue was armed only with lances. That is, the counter-attacking
forays were made by forces composed of both heavy and light horse (Birkenmeier p.

Summer 1146, Libya: George of Antioch, "Grand Vizier, Emir of Emirs and
Archonte of Archontes" for Roger II, was born a Byzantine or Greco-Syrian. With
“200” ships he now conquers North African Tripoli. The city fell to the Normans
within three days. After several days of plundering, George declared an amnesty
and immediately began to fortify and reorganize the place This begins the
Norman-Sicilian expansion into North Africa.Cf 1147.

1146: The Almohads, hardline Muslim revivalists from North Africa, conquer
Almoravid Fez and enter Muslum Spain. See 1148.

The Game Park of the Philopation

The Philopation was a walled or enclosed park outside Constantinople containing not
only a natural landscape for hunting but also constructed features such as canals, pools
and pavilions. Its general location can be deduced from the fact that the higher ground
above the Philopation could be seen from the palace at the Blachernai, at the northern
end of the land walls.
Kinnamos refers to the Philopation as “an imperial dwelling place,” which “is
overgrown with leaves and produces rich grass” and “bears everywhere a green
appearance”. —Henry Maguire, ‘Gardens and Parks in Constantinople’, DOP 2000 –
online at

Odo of Deuil saw it in 1147: “Before [outside] the city stood a spacious and impressive
ring of walls enclosing various kinds of game and including canals and ponds. Also,
inside were certain hollows and caves which, in lieu of forests, furnished lairs for the
animals. In that lovely place certain palaces which the emperors had built as their
springtime retreat are conspicuous for their splendour” (in Jones & Wills 2005).

Or as another translation has it: “In front of the city [i.e. on the west] is a beautiful,
spacious, enclosed place with all sorts of animals for game, also canals and ponds, and
ditches and caves, so that, instead of woodland, the creatures have hiding-places. At this
delightful spot there are shining palaces, built by the emperor for coolness in summer -
all indescribably grand.” The Philopation was destroyed by the crusaders in 1147; its site
was lower than that of the palace, whence the devastation could be seen.

2. Greece: While the Latins proceeded overland towards Constantinople, a Norman

(Sicilian) fleet of 70 ships under the Syrian-born ‘Greek’, George of Antioch, sailed from
Otranto and seized (1147) the Byzantine island of Corfu (Norwich 1996: 96). Kinnamos
calls our ‘Normans’ Keltoi. The Keltoi fleet then proceeded to the Aegean.
Monemvasia in the Peloponneus proved too strong for them to take, and, after
proceeding as far at Euboea (Evvia), they turned back west and sailed, or better: rowed,


back and around into the Gulf of Corinth. Thebes fell, and they plundered around the
Gulf. Chief among the captives they took were the Byzantine silk-weavers (Angold 1984:
The production of expensive silk cloth for export was undertaken in Nicaea, Corinth,
Andros, and, above all, Thebes. Indeed, already by the mid-twelfth century it would
appear that the production of Thebes had outstripped that of Constantinople itself. —
Bouras, in Laiou 2002: 20.

Gibbon, Decline and Fall: “With the fleet of 70 galleys, George, the admiral of [Norman]
Sicily, appeared before Corfu; and both the island and city were delivered into his hands
by the disaffected inhabitants, who had yet to learn that a siege is still more calamitous
than a tribute. In this invasion, of some moment in the annals of commerce, the
Normans spread themselves by sea, and over the provinces of Greece; and the venerable
age of Athens, Thebes, and Corinth was violated by rapine and cruelty.”

1. Second Crusade: Setting off in May 1147, it proceeded via Constantinople to Syria
and Palestine, under the German king Conrad III, who was Manuel's kinsman, and the
French king Louis VII: for details, see notes below.

The Second Crusade: Alamanoi, Keltoi and Germanoi, 1146-47

Manuel had married Irene [born as Bertha of Sulzbach], sister-in-law of the German
king Conrad III in 1146, and the following year he cooperated with Conrad and the other
leaders of the unsuccessful Second Crusade (as it proved to be). Later, when the French
king Louis VII and the Norman-Sicilian king Roger II formed an anti-Byzantine alliance,
Emperor Michael allied himself with his kinsman the German emperor Conrad III.

The Balkans: Conrad set out (May 1147) with an army of 20,000 men; from Vienna they
went overland via Hungary, causing disruptions in the Byzantine territories through
which they passed. The Germans arrived at Constantinople by September 1147, ahead of
the French army.
There was a brief skirmish in Thrace with some of the more unruly Germans -
‘Alamanoi’ in the Greek of Kinnamos. Near Philippopolis and at Adrianople, the
Byzantine general Prosouch fought with troops commanded by Conrad’s nephew, the
future emperor Frederick (Wikipedia 2010, under ‘Second Crusade’).
After correspondence in which Conrad angered Manuel by calling him “king of the
Greeks”, the Germans proceeded towards Constantinople and camped [10 September
1147] just north of the city, opposite Manuel’s own palace, the Blachernae, i.e. north of
the upper Golden Horn (Kinnamos, trans. Brand p.64; Angold 1984: 165).

A battle ensued just outside the City in which the Byzantines had much the better of it.
The smaller Byzantine army contained many Turkish and Cuman troops, whose horse-
archer skills may have proved decisive. Kinnamos says only that the Byzantine side was
“superior in military science and perseverance in battle” (quoted by Harris 2006: 96).
Conrad then decided to negotiate, and accepted Byzantine help in crossing to the Asian

As described by Kinnamos p.65, the Byzantine force under Prosouch and Tzikandyles,
fought ‘scientifically’, deployed in three or four lines: light infantry, perhaps heavy


infantry, cavalry and a final line of Cumans or Pechenegs (“Scythians”), Turks and “the
Romans’ archer force”, presumably meaning Greek foot-archers.
As analysed by Birkenmeier p.110, the first line consisted of second-class troops,
presumably all spear infantry, “in four units”, which he sees as forming a then “screen” in
front of the army; then a line of elite heavy cavalry (kataphraktoi: presumably heavy
lancers or knights); then a third line of men on “swift-footed” horses: perhaps light
armed sword-cavalry or spear-cavalry; and finally in the rear a fourth line of ‘barbarian’
horse-archers and Greek foot-archers. He proposes that the archers were at the rear
because the terrain was well known and no manoeuvring was expected. But it was never
a rule that archers were placed in front; we know from earlier centuries that missile-file
was often delivered from behind, i.e. over the heads of the front lines.

Asia Minor: The Germans proceeded onwards SE along the road that led eventually to
Philomelion and Konya-Ikonion. Manuel had appointed Stephen, head of the Varangian
guard, to be their guide. But, when they had reached Dorylaiaon, Conrad’s troops were
ambushed by Turks, defeated, and pushed back to Nicaea. Meanwhile Louis VII and his
French crusaders - called Germanoi by Kinnamos! - had crossed through Byzantine
territory to Constainople (4 October 1147) and crossed to Nicaea (late October 1147),
where they met the retreating Germans (Freely 2008: 41).

Western View of Constantinople

Odo de Deuil or ‘Diogilo’, Louis VII’s chaplain, accompanied the French to Byzantium.
The French forces arrived at Constantinople on 4 October 1147.
While Odo was impressed, he was also repelled: just as “she [Constantinople]
surpasses other cities in wealth, so too does she excel them in vice”.

Odo was particularly impressed by the luxury of the Blachernai Palace and Hagia Sophia.
Describing the city proper, he writes thus of its quintessentially medieval feel: "The city
itself is squalid and fetid, and in many places harmed by permanent darkness, for the
wealthy overshadow the streets with buildings and leave these dirty, dark places to the
poor and to travellers ...".
Even in this period there were already fields of wheat and vegetable gardens within
and without the western land-walls: within the city there was a full square mile [about
2.5 sq km: about 1,600 metres by 1,600 metres] of arable land, while another four to five
square miles [about 3,500 m by 3,500 m] were worked just beyond the Theodosian
walls, i.e. outside the city, where Odo saw “gardens that furnish the citizens all kinds of
vegetables” (quoted in Brand, p.102 and Rautman p.75).

Odo of Deuil records that during the passage in Constantinople in 1147, the French king
Louis VII was allowed to sit in Manuel’s presence. Odo however fails to mention
whether the two seats were of the same height and stature, an omission that is
somewhat suspicious. John Cinnamus, who offers us the Byzantine perspective, states
that only a simple chair had been provided to Louis, while Manuel was seated on an
elaborate and splendid throne. Regardless of Cinnamus’ many biases, his interpretation
seems more probable, since Byzantine protocol was fairly strict on such matters.
Contrary to William of Tyre, Odo perhaps considered that such a detail was damaging to
his sovereign’s dignity, so that he chose to overlook it (M. Carrier, “Perfidious and
effeminate Greeks [in] Western Chronicles…”, at


The French Link Up with the Germans

Having bypassed Constantinople, the German forces encountered (as we have said) a
Turkmen force under the command of the ‘chieftain’ Mamplanes near Dorylaeum on the
Bathys river. There the Crusaders were decimated (26 October 1147). The survivors
turned back (Kinnamas 1976 edn p.68; Choniates trans. Magoulias p.39.
Then, as we also noted, the French joined the Germans back at Nicaea. (The French
had left western Europe in June 1147 and reached Constantinople on 4-5 October 1147.)
The French met the remnants of Conrad's army at Nicaea, and Conrad joined Louis’
force. Both armies progressed thence (November 1147) south through “Romania” (as
Odo calls it*) to Philadelphia and Ephesus. They followed Otto of Freising’s route south
along the East Mediterranean coast, and they arrived at Ephesus in December 1147,
where they learned that the Turks were preparing to attack them. Conrad fell ill at
Ephesus and retired to Constantinople.

(*) In contrast, the chronicler of the 4th Crusade, Geoffroi de Villehardouin, fl. 1210,
will use “Romania” for the Byzantine Balkans, while he calls Byzantine Asia

Interestingly, the coastal highway, or at least the section from Lopadion to Edremit
(Adramyttium), was so decayed and overgrown that many of the troops wandered off it
and got lost. The shorter, more direct route through the Mysian hills was broader and
more accessible, perhaps suggesting that it was maintained by the Byzantine state (John
Haldon, ‘Roads and communications in the Byzantine empire’, in Pryor ed., Logistics of
Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, 2006 p.139, citing Theophanes Continuatus).
As the French advanced south of Adramyttium [i.e., from Nicaea towards Pergamon],
where Greek rule had been reestablished only for several decades*, they found many
towns along the coastal regions in ruins, and they observed that the Greeks still
inhabited only those towns that had been rebuilt and girded with walls and towers.
Odo “found many cities in ruins and others which the Greeks had built up from the
ancient level above the sea, fortifying them with walls and towers” (Odo, quoted in
Angold 1987: 257; also in Vryonis).

(*) The Turks had first penetrated through Asia Minor to the Aegean in the 1070s.
They took Smyrna (Izmir) in 1076. Byzantine troops under Alexios I’s brother in
law, John Doukas, re-established Byzantine rule in Chios, Rhodes, Smyrna,
Ephesus, Sardis, and Philadelphia in 1097–1099 (Treadgold 1997: 623).

The French and surviving Germans turned inland at Ephesus and reached Laodicea,
immediately north of present-day Denizli, early in January 1148, only a few days after
Otto of Freising’s army had been destroyed in the same area. Resuming the march, the
vanguard under Amadeus of Savoy became separated from the rest of the army, and
Louis’ troops were routed or at least serverely harried by Türkmen (ca. 8 January 1148).
But the Turks did not bother to press their attack further and the French marched on
through Caria to the Byzantine port of Attaleia (Adalia or Antalia) on the south coast,
continually harassed from afar by the Turks, who had also burned the land to prevent the
French from replenishing their food, both for themselves and their horses (20 January

Birkenmeier p.111 describes the account of the Seljuk defeat of Louis’s French in the


upper Maiander valley as one of Choniates’ best descriptions of a Turkish army in action.
The Turks had large numbers of foot-archers as well as horse-archers.

To Palestine

When the remainder of the crusader army reached Attaleia [Antalya, Adalya] on the
southern Anatolian coast, king Louis and the barons were transported in Byzantine ships
to Antioch, landing there on 19 March 1148. They left the rank-and-file soldiers to
struggle overland as best they could through hostile Turkish territory. The Turks killed
large numbers during the march.
Conrad meanwhile sailed from Constantinople, arrving at Acre in April 1148, and his
Germans and Louis's Frenchmen joined forces (June 1148) at Jerusalem* and undertook
fruitless campaigns against Damascus and Ascalon [in southern Palestine].
In Syria the Crusaders launched (July 1148) a failed assault on ex-Seljuk Damascus;
they are defeated by the Muslims. Instead of proceeding to relieve Christian Edessa, the
Latins fell back and called off their crusade (Freely 2008: 42).

(*) Keen 1999: 103 notes that more than half of the “162” fortified sites, many quite
modest, identified within the area occupied by the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem
date from the middle years of the 12th century (say 1130-1170). They served as
fortified manor houses.

1147-48: al-Andalus: Iberian Muslims lose Lisbon to the Portuguese, whose capital
it now becomes. In the east, a federation of Aragon and Catalonia completes the
Christian reconquest (reconquista) of the Ebro Valley with the capture of Tortosa
[midway berween Barcelona and Valencia]. But, at the same time, the Almohads
(Moroccan fundamentalists) extend their power in the south, taking possession of
Cordoba in 1148.

The Adriatic: With Manuel busy in the East helping the crusaders on their way, a
Norman-Italian fleet sailing from Otranto, as we have noted, attacks and captures
Corfu (1147). Thebes was pillaged and Athens and Corinth sacked (see details
Sanders offers a rough estimate of Corinth’s population: the town may have grown
from about 2,000–3,000 in the early ninth century to a peak of perhaps 15,000–20,000
in the twelfth century. Much of this growth seems to have taken place in the later 11th
and early 12th centuries (Sanders, ‘Corinth’, in Laiou ed., 2002).

The Normans Raid Greece, 1147-48

Roger II of Sicily had launched repeated naval attacks on Byzantine territory; in 1147 he
took advantage of the Second Crusade's passage through the empire to seize Kerkyra
(Corfu) and plunder Corinth and Thebes. Only in 1149 did Manuel regain Kerkyra.
— 1147-48 is the traditional date for the removal of the silk industry from Byzantine
Thebes and Corinth to Norman Sicily (Baynes p.69). That is, the Normans took as
captives most of the silk-weavers from those towns.

Roger sent a fleet to attack the Byzantine Empire, which had continued to contest his
gains in southern Italy. His admiral George of Antioch sailed from Otranto to assault


Corfu. According to Nicetas Choniates, the island capitulated (1147) due to resentment
at the imperial tax burden and George's promises.
The Normans took the disaffected island of Corfu, strategically important since it
commanded the approach to the Adriatic, in mid 1147. Then, as we have noted, their fleet
sailed into the Aegean and raided Euboea, before turning back around the bottom of the
Peloponnesus and entering the Gulf of Corinth. They attacked Thebes (which was stoutly
defended) and Corinth, whence they carried away the weavers of silk to Palermo; they
also raided to Athens and into the Peloponnesus [early 1148] (Angeliki Laiou & Cécile
Morrisson, The Byzantine economy, Cambridge University Press, 2007: 127-29).
— Varangian reinforcements were sent to aid in the unsuccessful defense of Thebes from
the attack by Roger II of Sicily (D’Amato 2010: 10).
— George’s fleet sacked Athens and quickly moved on to the Ionian Islands. The
Normans ravaged the coast all along Euboea and, after sailing back westwards, they
entered (1148) the Gulf of Corinth and penetrated inland as far as Thebes, where they
pillaged the silk factories and carried off the Jewish silk weavers. (But several decades
later Benjamin of Tudela found 2,000 Jewish weavers still at, or re-established at,
Thebes.) George capped the expedition with a sack of Corinth, in which the relics of Saint
Theodore were stolen and Greek noblewomen taken as slaves, and then returned to Sicily
(June 1148) (Phillips 2007: 170).
Notwithstanding the losses in skilled labour, Roger’s court geographer, Edrisi, was
still able to describe Corinth as “large and flourishing” six years later, in 1154. Likewise
Thebes: The fact that the Normans forcibly removed the silk workers to Sicily does not
seem to have had much impact on the production of silk in Thebes. Only a few years
later, Benjamin of Tudela (ca. 1165) found in Thebes a flourishing community of 2,000
Jews whose members included the best-known makers of silk and purple-dyed cloth: “ …
the great city of Thebes, where there are about 2,000 Jews. They are the most skilled
artificers in silk and purple cloth throughout Greece”, he writes.

The emperor prepared a fleet of over “500 triremes” (sic: large war galleys) and
1,000 horse transports and supply ships to counter them (thus Cinnamus, trans. Brand
p.76; Norwich 1996: 98). Choniates says a total force of ‘nearly 1,000’ ships: neither
figure is credible. But Manuel was distracted by a Cuman raid across the Danube in 1148,
although this was soon repulsed. He then sailed west (in 1149: see there). —Pryor 1992:
151; Stone, ‘Manuel I,; accessed 2010.

Even if definitely exaggerated, these numbers probably imply that Byzantium’s

navy, when rebuilt in 1148, was still at least as large as any of its
neighbours. Cf 1169 – expedition against Egypt.
Haldon, in Harris 2005: 78, states generally that the Byzantine navy under the
Comnenoi had probably some 10,000 oarsmen. That was sufficient to equip some 22
large war-galleys (150 oars) and 67 small war-galleys (100 oars) for a total of 89 ships.
Cf 1168-69: “over 200” ships.

While the Norman raid was still going on, Manuel confirmed the Venetians’ privileges
(October 1147), and the following year he granted the them an extension of their trading
base at Constantinople and exemption from being taxed at Crete and Cyprus (these
islands having been excluded from the charter of 1082).



Manuel, aged 30 in 1148, divided his time between Constantinople and a series of
military camps in Macedonia and Thrace.
So long did he spend in these semi-permanent and luxurious tent-camps, that we can
say that the empire had two capitals (Jeffreys 2000).

1. Syria: The surviving Western crusaders attack Damascus (June 1148). But so
weakened and demoralised were they that the attack was abandoned after just four days’
fighting (Nicolle & Hook 2009). They decided it would be impossible to continue against
Damascus, let alone recover Edessa. The military reputation of the Latin West lay in
tatters; Islam attained a new solidarity and strength (or so says Norwich 1996: 101).
Conrad left Palestine by ship for Thessalonica in September. Louis stayed on.

2a. Constantinople: Under the terms of Manuel’s 1047 chrysobull, the Venetian quarter
was enlarged in 1048. (The Italian quarters – Venetian, Amalfitan, Pisan and Genoese -
lay on the southern shore of the Golden Horn opposite Galata.) See next; also 1171.

2b. The Imperial fleet was rebuilt, and a treaty negotiated (March 1148) with Venice for
aid against the Norman-Sicilians. John Cinnamus says – which is hard to credit – that
the rebuilt Byzantine navy supposedly numbered “500” galleys (Norwich 1996: 98). -
See 1149, 1155 and 1159.
In autumn 1148 a naval expedition to Corfu was organised in two squadrons: a
squadron of native Byzantine "triremes" [sic: in fact bireme galleys] and another of
Venetian galleys. They attacked the coast of Sicily but were forced back by storms.
Meanwhile Manuel himself led (1149) an army of 20-30,000 men into the Balkans
intending to recover Corfu, still held at this time by the Norman-Sicilians, and
recaptured it.
As noted earlier, the planned attack on Norman-held Corfu was delayed first by an
invasion by pagan Cumans from across the Danube, and then by the arrival (September)
at Thessalonica of the German emperor Conrad, who was returning disheartened and
defeated from his crusade to the Holy Land. The Byzantine army went into winter
quarters in Macedonia (Nicol B&V p.86; Norwich 1996: 98). See 1149.

The Western Galley supersedes the Byzantine Dromon

The superior Western war galley may have emerged in Norman south Italy by about
1150. It was rowed by oarsmen all sitting above deck using the superior ‘alla sensile’
style ( ‘the simple style’: the “stand and sit stroke”). Two files of oarsmen sitting in the
open air were able to use use larger oars because two or more men operated each oar.
By constrast, the Byzantine dromon had one file below deck and one sitting above
deck. Each smaller oar was operated by only one man, who rowed from a static seated
position. The alla sensile style probably spread from Norman Italy to Genoa, Pisa and
Venice, replacing the Byzantine-style dromon after 1150 (Pryor & Jeffreys, Dromon
pp.284, 452). Cf 1169: adopted by the Byzantines.

1148-53: Norman-Italians from the Norman kingdom of Sicily subdue Tunis and
Tripoli (the fort of Bona falls in 1153). See 1160.

1148-72: Muslim Spain brought under Almohad rule. See 1152.

After 1148:


Anna Komnene, at age 65+, completes her famous history, ‘the Alexiad’ [Gk Alexias], a
detailed account of her father’s reign: Alexios I, d. 1118.
Franks v French: In Anna’s terminology, the ‘Franks’ have no connection with the land
called Frankia. The so-called ‘Franks’, where they are identifiable, are actually
predominantly Normans, while the king of Frankia, the count of Frankia, Stephen, and
probably “all the counts in Frankia”, are called ‘French’ (Laiou & Mottahedeh 2001: 90).

Frankish Jerusalem

The chronicler William of Tyre reports on the reconstruction of the Church of the
Holy Sepulchure in the mid-12th century, when the crusaders began to renovate or
rebuild the church in a Romanesque style and added a bell tower. These renovations
unified the holy sites and were completed during the reign of Queen Melisende in
1149. The church became the seat of the first Latin Patriarchs, and was also the site of
the kingdom's scriptorium (book factory).

1. The Adriatic: Emperor Manuel sailed west to take charge of the combined Venetian-
Byzantine land and sea forces engaged against Corfu (held by the Normans since 1147).
He recovered Corfu or Kerkyra [English Corfu = Greek Kerkyra], and prepared to take
the offensive against the Norman-Sicilians. But this was postponed when the Serbs
revolted: see next. —NCMH IV: 621.
— In 1149 Corfu was retaken by Byzantium and Roger’s admiral George of Antioch took a
fleet of 40 ships up the Bosphorus to the walls of Constantinople, where he tried to land.
Failing this, he ravaged a few villae on the Asian coast and fired arrows at the old
imperial palace (Norwich 1996: 103).
— A small Norman fleet made a diversionary journey as far as Constantinople but as it
returned it was caught off Cape Malea and defeated by the Venetian-Byzantine fleet.
— Pryor & Jeffreys p.452 note that this may have been a partial exception to the
proposition that in the Comnenian period the Byzantine navy won no victories at all.

2. Serbia: The Serbian zupan Uros had rebelled: Manuel twice ravaged Serbia, but the
zupan’s troops withdrew before him.
Manuel was kept from his main objective, the subjugation of the Normans of Sicily,
due to distraction from troublesome neighbours on the Balkan frontier. The Serbs of
Rascia, being so induced by Roger of Sicily, invaded Byzantine territory in 1149, although
their grand zupan Uros was forced to flee to mountain fastnesses when Manuel and his
army advanced against him (Andrew Stone, ‘Manuel II’, at http://www.roman-; accessed 2010). See 1150.



3. Jerusalem: Latin Crusaders build the church of the Holy Sepulchre: a single large
Romanesque style church was built over all the scattered Byzantine/eastern shrines on
the site (Armstrong 1996: 291).

Economic High Tide

“For most of the 12th century the Byzantine monetary system was still the best


administered in the world [i.e., the world west of India]. All the evidence suggests
that the Comnenian age was the Indian summer of Byzantine commerce”
(Porteus p.37).

“In the 12th century, the state’s revenue from the revitalised trade economy seems to
have been substantial, and certainly much greater than it had been in the tenth century.
Perhaps this may explain why, despite the loss of territory in Asia Minor, the state of the
Komnenoi appears wealthy for its time; it possessed large sums in cash and experienced
no particular difficulty in financing a costly foreign policy and maintaining an even more
expensive army of mercenaries. It was not until the closing decades of the twelfth
century that Byzantium displayed any evidence of economic weakness”. —Oikonomides,
‘Role of the state’, in Laiou, ed., Economic History of Byzantium, 2002.
The great city of Thessalonike attracted merchants from all over the known world, as
we learn from Kaminiates and the 12th century satirical dialogue the Timarion. Indeed,
the latter text informs us that merchandise from the Black Sea was shipped to
Constantinople and then travelled (or at least some of it did) overland, carried by great
caravans of horses and mules, to Thessalonike. - Avramea, ‘Land and Sea
Communications’ in Laiou ed., 2002.

Populations in 1150

The Byzantine Empire was the largest and strongest power in Christendom. On McEvedy
& Jones’s figures, it incorporated over eight million people. Treadgold would allow up to
10 M. And a much higher figure, namely 19 million in 1143, has been proposed by
Angeliki E. Laiou, ‘Human Resources [of the Empire]’, in her (ed.) The Economic
History of Byzantium: From the Seventh through the Fifteenth Century Washington:
Dumbarton Oaks, 2002; online at

Compare the figures for other Christian lands given by McEvedy & Jones:

Germany (present-day borders): about 5 M people. But the 'German Empire' then
included N Italy and parts of what is now France; thus the empire presumably
contained some 9 M people altogether.

France (modern-day borders): about 8 M, according to McEvedy & Jones. But the then-
smaller Kingdom of France probably contained only about 4 M.

Iberia: about 6 M. Presumably somewhat more people lived in the Islamic south, and
fewer in the five Christian kingdoms: say 4 M in ex-Almoravid al-Andalus, with
2 M divided between Portugal, Leon, Castile, Navarre and Aragon.

Italy: 5.5 M, variously under German and Norman rule. Presumably the Norman
kingdom in the south contained 2-3 M.

British Isles: about 2.25 M, of whom perhaps 1.75 M were in England and Wales.
In 1154 Henry Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, became king of England. His
wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, possessed the entire western half of what is now
France. Their ‘Angevin Empire’ extended from the border of Scotland to the
Pyrenees, making Henry II the second richest monarch in Christendom after
Manuel of Byzantium. Henry may have had some 5 M subjects.


c.1150: 1. Norman Sicily: Great Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator, in the Cathedral of

Cefalu, built 1131-48, done by Byzantine artists for a Western patron: "soft,
sympathetic and subtle". Picture in Rice p.161.

2. Epic Spanish poem, Poema de mio Cid, the "chanson de geste" about the
Christian warlord El Cid, so-called from the Arabic sidi, "master, lord". At this
time, east Spain, the scene of El Cid's activity, was still in Muslim [Almohad]
hands. There were five Christian kingdoms in the west and north: Portugal, Leon,
Castile, Navarre and Aragon.

1. The East: After the fall of Edessa to Zengi, the fortified village of Turbessel - Arabic
Tall Bashir; Turkish Tilbeshar - near modern Gaziantep became the principal ‘city’ of
what remained of the Latin County of Edessa, until it was eventually sold to the emperor
Manuel I Comnenus in 1150. Baldwin III of Jerusalem was unable to help defend
Turbessel, the last tiny remnant of the county of Edessa, and was forced to cede it to
Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus in 1150. It fell to Nur ed-Din's Muslims within
the year (Tyerman 2006: 189).

2. The West: The Serbs became restive again, and this time they had the support of
contingents from their Hungarian neighbours under Géza II.
Uros of Rascia [central Serbia] fought Radoslav of Duklja [modern Montenegro]. In
response to Radoslav's appeal for help, Byzantium attacked Serbia and forced Uros to
flee to the mountains, winning a decisive victory against a combined Serbian-Hungarian
army on the River Tara in 1150 (modern Montenegro) (Curta 2006: 329). Ioannes (John)
Kinnamos records that "Uresi" [Uros] sent envoys to Emperor Manuel I and swore fealty
to the Byzantines, soon after was deposed by the Serbs in favour of "fratri…Dese" [Uros’
brother Desa], but reinstated by the emperor (Ioannes Kinnamos, Liber III, 9, p. 113;
Stephenson 2000: 246).
Serbia: After a victory in 1150 at the Tara river in present-day Montenegro over a
combined Serbian-Hungarian force, Manuel brought Rascia to heel.
A kinsman of the emperor, John Cantacuzenus, distinguished himself in battle against
the Serbs, and Manuel duelled against a Serb or Hungarian champion, Bagin (or Bagyon)
(Magdalino 2002: 442). Victorious, he then crossed the Danube to invade the region of
Syrmia/Sirmium, also known as Frangochorion, Slavic: Fruska Gora, a strip of territory
between the Danube and Sava rivers [NW of Belgrade]*, and prevailed over the
Hungarians [Kinnamos’s Ounnoi – ‘Huns’].
Geza feared another defeat and sued for peace; Manuel then returned (1150) to
Constantinople to celebrate a triumph (Stephenson 2000: 230).

(*) Where today the Danube forms today’s Croatian-Serbian border. The Sava
River enters the Danube at Belgrade. ‘Western Syrmia’ is today the easternmost
part of Croatia, while ‘eastsrn Syrmia’ lies within Serbia.
Although mainly Slavic in population, Syrmia (“Srem”) was contested for
centuries between Hungary, Bulgaria and Byzantium. The first Serbian to rule
Belgrade was king Dragutin, acc. 1276, who received the Belgrade sector of Srem
from the Hungarians in 1284.

The extension of imperial domination in the NW Balkans – over Serbia (Zeta and


Rascia): see 1150-53; and Bosnia and S Dalmatia: see 1159 - was to be the major
territorial gain of this reign. But it was ephemeral.

The Capital in 1150

The population may have risen to 400,000.

The city centre and the seashores were heavily built up with three- or even five-story
houses. Yet much of the space, even within the Constantinian walls [i.e. the older eastern
half], was farmed. Country sounds and smells pervaded the built-up area: priests kept
pigs and farmers stored hay in apartment buildings; imperial officials operated donkey
mills in the courtyards of their townhouses. The main streets and squares could be deep
in mud; and various sources mention prostitution, violent crime, and homelessness in
the arcades; stray dogs; and the ever-present risk of violent, uncontrollable fires. —
Magdalino in Laiou 2002: 534, citing Michael Attaleiates fl. 1070, John Tzetses fl.1160
and Nicholas Mesarites.

Over 10,000 Venetians were living in New Rome (Constantinople) in the 1160s (see
sources cited in Laiou & Mottahedeh 2000: 98; also Angold 1997: 226). Cf 1170, 1180.

Latin wars: The emperor was almost continuously at war with Hungary between 1150
and 1167. His attempt to regain Italy: see 1154/55, however, was to be a failure; it was
sunk by the Normans and Germans. In 1158, see there, Romanic imperial troops will
leave the Italian shore forever. (There were pockets of Greek-speakers in southern Italy
even into the 20th century.)

On his northwest frontier, Manuel forced the rebellious Serbs to vassalage (1150-1152)
and made repeated attacks upon the Hungarians with a view to annexing their territory
along the River Sava.
In the wars of 1151-1153 and 1163-1168, Manuel led his troops into Hungary but failed
to maintain himself there. See further below, under 1151-52.

There was an intersection point along the Belgrade stretch of the middle Danube River
between (a) the Byzantine protectorate of Serbia, (b) Hungary, (c) Byzantine-ruled
Bulgaria and (d) the Cumans. In effect Serbia and trans-Danubian Cumania were buffer
zones between the larger powers of Hungary and Byzantium.

Norman Apulia, Calabria and Sicily: Haussig, 1971: 248-49, has noted that this period
saw what he calls the “downfall”, i.e. fading, of Graeco-Byzantine civilisation in Italy, or
in other words: its Latinisation under Norman rule.
After the military conquest of Muslim Sicily by the Normans, the Greek Basilian
monks had been called in to assist with re-converting the island, and they covered it with
a network of monasteries. San Salvatore in Messina, founded in 1131, was the mother
house. Before long there were fully 1,500 Greek-speaking monasteries in Sicily and S
Italy. (Most monasteries were not large: this would represent some 15,000 monks.)
Documents in Greek continued to be issued by the Norman king to high Greek office-
holders until after 1200; but among the people, Latin and Italian were becoming


Frederick II, elected western emperor 1212, still issued his instructions in Greek (also
Latin and Arabic). But after his death (1250), Greek was no longer one of the languages
of administration in Sicily. Cf 1152, 1160.

Last recorded visit to Constantinople by a Northern/Norse leader, namely
Jarl (iarla, earl) Rognvald of Orkney.*
One purpose was to visit the Holy Land; but equally it seems the expeditioners, or
some of them, intended to enrol as mercenaries in Byzantium. With a fleet of 15 long-
ships, Rognvald’s party sailed down to the Mediterranean. Near Sardinia they made an
abortive attack on two large Muslim dromundr (galleys, dromons). The “blazing
brimstone and flaming pitch” thrown or dropped by the Saracens did not deter the
Norse, who succeeded in capturing, looting and burning one of the ships. It was manned
by Saracens (i.e. Arabs and/or Berbers) and “also many black men”. They killed all the
crew except for a handful, including a big man who was later revealed as a “nobleman of
Serkland”, the name for the Muslim lands that the Norse used. The reference would be to
North Africa. Then they proceeded via Byzantine Crete to Palestine (the crusader
Kingdom of Jerusalem). On the return journey they were well received at “Miklagard”
(Constantinople) by Emperor Manuel, who tried, but failed, to enrol them in his
Varangian Guard. It seems implied that the Varangians already in imperial service, who
were mainly Anglo-Saxons, spoke slightingly of the Orkney Norse (Orkneyinga saga; also
Davidson p.266).

(*) Scottish rule was limited to the mainland until 1266. The Orkneys were before
that were part of the Norse Kingdom of “Mann” [i.e., Isle of Man and the Hebrides]
“and the Isles”. The Kingdom had two parts, Sodor or the South Isles (the Hebrides
and Isle of Man), and Northr, or the North Isles (Orkney and Shetland). The Kings
‘of Mann and the Isles’ were vassals of the Kings of Norway. Scotland took control
of the Hebrides in 1266; but the Orkneys remained an earldom under Norwegian
suzerainty until the late 1400s.

1151: Incendiary jars were in use in the West, namely by the army of Geoffrey V of
Anjou and Normandy - father of Henry II of England - in a battle with rebels at the
siege of the castle of Montreuil-Bellay. The jars were hurled from throwing engines
(Bradbury 2004: 302). Although Geoffrey had connections with the East, his father
being king of Jerusalem, it seems likely that this was not the same as Greek Fire
(which was squirted from siphons). He got the idea from the ancient Latin text of
Vegetius and no doubt concocted his incendiary material from locally known
ingredients. - Our next reference to true Greek Fire comes in 1162: see there.

The Northwest: Manuel leads a campaign, or rather punitive expedition, into Hungary:
he proceeded to the region of Sirmium and then across the Danube. Zemun on the Tsiza
River north of Belgrade was besieged but not taken (Vine 1991: 238). On return to the
capital (1152), he celebrated a triumph. As described by Niketas Choniates, the emperor
led a great parade, including many captive Hungarians and Serbians, through the streets
of Constantinople.

1. Cilicia: The emperor’s cousin Andronicus Comnenus, whose army included “12,000
cavalry”, besieges the Armenian prince Thoros II in Mopsuestia (Mamista). Thoros made


a sally out of the town and defeated the Byzantines, killing 3,000. Andronicus fell back to
Antioch (Kinnamos, trans. Brand p.98; also ‘al-Massisa’, in Encyc. Islam, citing Gregor.

2. A Byzantine fleet sails for Italy to reinforce the expeditionary forces besieged there
against the Norman-Sicilians. See 1154.

1152. Africa: Almohads conquer the whole of the eastern Maghrib to as far as
Tripolitania: North Africa is united for the first and last time (ie, since early
Abbasid times). See 1163.

In Germany, the Duke of Swabia was elected Western, i.e. German, Emperor as
Frederick I, called ‘Barbarossa’ (red beard). Note that the phrase "Holy Roman
Empire" does not appear in official documents until 1254.

1153: ex-Zirid (Almohad) N Africa: Roger of Sicily sent a fleet against Bona
(ancient Hippo Regius, modern Annaba) under the command of Philip of
Mahdia, an ethnic Greek, who had succeeded the recently dead George of Antioch
as admiral. With the help of Arab auxiliaries, Philip laid siege to the strong
coastal fortress of Bona, which he conquered in autumn 1153.

1. War continues with Hungary.
The Hungarians took the opportunity to lay siege to Branitshevo. They withdrew to
Belgrade upon news of the approaching Byzantine army. There was an indecisive bloody
battle (1153) between the Byzantine force under a certain Basil and the Hungarians.
Manuel for his part decided to winter at Stara Zagora (in modern south-central Bulgaria,
winter of 1154-55), and then marched as far as the Danube frontier (Stone, “Manuel”, at; accessed 2010).

2. Following the fall of Merv in Northern Persia, held by the Seljuk Sultanate, to the
Ghuzz Turks (1153), Constantinople, with at least 200,000 people, for a brief moment
again became the world's largest city, or so says Tertius Chandler, Four Thousand
Years of Urban Growth: An Historical Census. In truth, Chinese Hangchow [Hangzhou]
was almost certainly larger than Constantinople. Also very large were Fez in the
Almohad Caliphate, Fatimid Cairo, and Seljuk Baghdad.


1. Hungary: Manuel sent an army under Basileios Tzinziloukes and the rebel-pretender
Istvan (III) of Hungary against a Bosnian ally of Hungary. Tzinziloukes and Istvan, by
mistake, attacked the main Hungarian army and were nearly wiped out. Ioannes (John)
Kantakouzenos rallied the remnants of the Byzantine army and restored order in
Belgrade (PBW).

2. A further fleet is prepared for dispatch to Italy: see 1155-56.

3. A force of Varangian Guards were instrumental in foiling an attempt to assassinate

Manuel I. His cousin Andronicus led a band of Isaurians in an attempt on Manuel’s life,
but word came to the emperor and he sent 300 Varangians under their commander Isaac


to arrest Andronicus. —Kinnamos, cited by Benedikz p.157.

ca. 1154: The Muslim scholar al-Idrisi constructs a world map for king Roger of
Sicily which includes considerable detail about greater Asia.

Cyprus: Renault or Raynald [Old French: Reynaud] de Châtillon, the crusader Prince of
Antioch (1153-60), attacked and very brutally pillaged Byzantine Cyprus (1156).
The island numbered some Varangians among its garrisons; they guarded the port of
Paphos (Ciggaar 1996: 113; D’Amato 2010: 10). A little later Varangians were very much
in evidence when Manuel made (see 1158) his state entry into Antioch as its conqueror
(Benedikz p.158).

2. First treaty with Genoa: 1155, to help in Manuel’s invasion of Norman Italy: see next.
Trade privileges were extended to Genoese merchants, the competitors of the
Venetians and Pisans (Nicol 1992: 95). See 1180.
By 1200 the Byzantines will have wholly surrendered their naval supremacy to the
Italians … (after 1169 - see there).

3. Italy: The emperor sent Michael Palaeologus and John Ducas with an army and gold
to effect the reconquest of Apulia. The Byzantine generals were assisted by Alexander of
Gravina, a disaffected Norman nobleman who had sought refuge at Constantinople, and
a local, Robert “of Bassonville” (the name of his family’s fief in Normandy), a cousin of
the Norman king William. Robert’s seat was at Conversano near Bari.
There was a spectacular string of successes in which numerous strongholds yielded
either to force or the lure of gold. Manuel was reckoned to have spent fully 2,160,000
hyperpyra on this campaign (Hendy p.598). At the end of 1155, Greek troops and local
Italians under overall Byzantine command captured Bari, Trani, Giovinazzo, Andria,
Taranto and began to besiege Brindisi.

Byzantium’s Last Italian Campaign, 1154-56

Having landed at Ancona in 1154, Palaeologus’s and Ducas’s expeditionary force fought
its way right down the coast to Bari and Taranto by the end of 1155.
With an army consisting mainly of Cumans and Anconans, Michael Palaeologus and
John Ducas descended the Italian peninsula into Apulia. A “stout battalion of lancers”,
presumably meaning Latin knights from N Italy, had been recruited at Venice
(Choniates, trans. Magoulias p.53). No numbers are known but, judging by the accounts
of several battles (see below), we may guess that their troops numbered not much over
10,000 men when at full strength.
Vieste (on the bump on the calf of the Italian leg) was the first town to fall (late
summer 1155), but important Trani resisted surrender until Bari was bribed, or chose, to
open the gates of its citadel a week later. Bari was won over by Byzantine gold, but there
was also resentment among the citizens at Norman rule. Then, not only Trani, but also
Giovinazzo and Ruvo surrendered to the Byzantine forces.* Only Barletta and Andria
resisted. Richard, Count of Andria, was killed in battle and Andria too submitted. The
imperial (Italo-Byzantine) army moved on to besiege the nearby castle of Bosco, where it
defeated a royal (Norman-Sicilian) army of 2,000 knights and a considerable force of


infantry, say 8,000 in all. Montepeloso, Gravina, and “50” hamlets surrendered and
Monopoli signed a truce (Matthew, Norman Kingdom, 1992 p.268). It was then, at the
height of the campaign, during the siege of Monopoli, that Palaeologus was wounded by
an arrow (late Deecember 1155). He died at Bari (January 1156). Ducas pressed on to
Mottola and Massafra. The Normans fell back on Taranto.

(*) Locations: Tracking down the coast, the coastal towns are Barletta, Trani,
Giovinazzo and Bari. Andria lies inland from Trani. Ruvo lies inland from
Giovinazzo. Montepeloso and Gravina are further inland. Proceeding further
down the coast from Bari, one comes to Monopoli. Taranto is on the Gulf of
Taranto inside the heel. Mottola and Massafra lie inland just NW of Taranto.
Brindisi is on the outer, Adriatic coast of the heel, well to the east of Taranto. (The
section of the coast from Barletta down to Brindisi is some 150 km as the crow
flies. Barletta to Taranto: about 120 km.)

Gibbon, Decline and Fall: “To the brave and noble Palaeologus, his lieutenant, the Greek
monarch intrusted [sic] a fleet and army: the siege of Bari was his first exploit; and, in
every operation, gold as well as steel was the instrument of victory. Salerno, and some
places along the western coast, maintained their fidelity to the Norman king; but he lost
in two campaigns the greater part of his continental possessions; and the modest
emperor, disdaining all flattery and falsehood, was content with the reduction of 300
cities [read: towns] or villages of Apulia and Calabria, whose names and titles were
inscribed on all the walls of the palace.” Emphasis added.

With the help of disaffected local Italo-Norman barons, including William’s cousin
Bassonville (Count Roberto Bassavilla of Loritello: modern Rotello), the Byzantine army
achieved astonishingly rapid progress as nearly the whole of southern Italy rose up in
rebellion against the (Norman) Sicilian Crown. Ten ships accompanied the coastal stage
of the expedition, presumably carrying stores.
The Byzantines fought (1155) their way down the coast, from Trani to Bari, and thence
to Monopoli and Brindisi. Finding Trani [north of Bari] well defended, they bypassed it
and marched on to Bari. Gold induced the surrender of Bari.

Gibbon: “The lieutenant of Manuel [the commander Michael Palaeologus] had informed
his sovereign that he was strong enough to quell any domestic revolt of Apulia and
Calabria; but that his forces were inadequate to resist the impending attack of the
[Norman] king of Sicily. His prophecy was soon verified: the death of Palaeologus
devolved the command on several chiefs, alike eminent in rank, alike defective in
military talents; the Greeks were oppressed by land and sea; and a captive remnant that
escaped the swords of the Normans and [Sicilian] Saracens, abjured all future hostility
against the person or dominions of their conqueror.”

In the battle fought near Bari, Richard of Andria led 1,800 knights and
“innumerable” infantry, which may suggest his army comprised over 5,000 in all.
Kinnamos says that the Imperial army under Doukas was smaller: “600” horse and
perhaps only around 3,000 foot (”inferior to the very numerous infantry force with
Richard”). But this was not the whole imperial force in Apulia, only a corps of it.
The Byzantine corps drew up as follows (Kinnamos IV.4; 1976 edn p.112). The
brackted numbers are my guesses, MO’R. It is not clear where the infantry were placed,
except for the foot-archers in the front line. Some infantry ‘threw stones’, which
doubtless meant they were slingers (mentioned elsewhere in Kinnamos).


-- Front line: A solid formation of the Cumans [?100 horse-archers] and “those bowmen
[presumably Byzantines] who were on foot”.
-- Second line: Bassonville and other counts with “the rest [half] of the cavalry” [200 ?
Norman and Italian knights] “occupied the middle ground”.
-- Rear: The commander Ducas with “half of the cavalry [200 ?Byzantine knights] and
especially a company of Cumans” [i.e. horse-archers, say 100] “held the rear”.
It is also known that Georgians and Alans arrived in Italy with Palaeologus; they can
be regarded as imperial regulars rather than mercenary troops such as the locally-
recruited Italians (Choniates, cited by Birkenmaier, Komnenian Army 2002 p.162).

At the end of 1155 ‘Greek’ troops (Byzantines, Cumans, Georgians and Alans in imperial
service) and Italians from Ancona took Bari and began to besiege Brindisi (1156).
Control of both sides of the entrance to the Adriatic again seemed about to pass into the
hands of a single power. The Venetians quickly abandoned the Byzantine alliance and
came to terms with the Normans. Without Venetian support, the Byzantines were
unable to maintain their hold on the Apulian ports and were soon forced to withdraw.

Ducas continued the campaign on the inside of the heel in 1156: at Massafra and Mottola,
north of Taranto, and at Taranto itself. Taranto they found too impregnable, so they
returned to Monopoli. Brindisi was reached again on 14 April 1156 (Brand p.123,
translation of Kinnamos).
When the gold began to run out, the Byzantine commander’s Italian allies departed.
At the approach of the enemy, the mercenaries who had been hired with Manuel's gold
demanded impossible rises in their pay. The knights from Ancona wanted their pay
doubled. When this was refused, they deserted. Even the local barons started to melt
away, and soon John Ducas was left hopelessly outnumbered. Only a very small force of
Byzantine regulars, composed largely of Cuman, Alan and Georgian auxiliaries, was left
to face the Norman army.
The turning point was the Battle for Brindisi, where the naval battle was decided (May
1156) in the Sicilians' (Normans’) favour. With William himself now involved, the
Byzantines saw their rebel allies begin to fall away. Landing on the Italian peninsula,
William led an army of Sicilians and Calabrians to destroy the Greek flotilla (four ships)
and army at Brindisi (28-29 May 1156) and recovered Bari. Ducas was captured at
Brindisi and taken to Palermo (Norwich 1996: 115-16).

Pope Adrian came to terms at Benevento (18 June), abandoned the rebels and confirmed
William as king, and in 1158 peace was made with Byzantium.

The Georgian kingdom is strong under George III - allied to Byzantium. Cf 1155-56.
Georgia was wedged between the Alans of Transcaucasia, the small Emirate of Shirvan
on the west coast of the Caspian Sea and various semi-independent Turkish emirates in
Seljuq Armenia and Azerbaijan.


1155: 1. (June 18:) The German king Frederick I Barbarossa, aged 33, is crowned
(western) Roman Emperor. At the time Frederick was proceeding through Italy on
a planned expedition against the Normans in the south; his army rescued a grateful
Pope Adrian from a local revolt in Rome. (The attack on the Normans did not



2. fl. Ibn Tufail [Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Muhammad ibn Tufail
al-Qaisi al-Andalusi], the Andalusian polymath. He served as a secretary to the
ruler of Granada, and later in Seville as vizier and physician for Abu Yaqub Yusuf,
the Almohad ruler. Author of the philosophical novel, Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, also
known as ‘Philosophus Autodidactus’, written as a response to al-Ghazali's ‘The
Incoherence of the Philosophers’.

c.1155 (or 1148):

Norman Sicily: Mosaics in the cathedral of Cephalù. Probably made by Byzantine
craftsmen brought to Sicily to work for Norman patrons (Cormack 2000: 185). The main
apse features a very large classic version of Christ Pantocrator.

Kilij or Qilich Arslan II, Seljuk Sultan of Iconium. See 1157-58 and 1159.
During his reign the Armenians will establish a unified principality in Cilicia; and the
Seljuks will finally subdue their Turkish rivals the Danishmendids and the latter’s
territories will be annexed to the sultanate (1174).

Initially Kilij controlled on the south and east, from Konya, while his brother
Shahanshah ruled the north and west from Ankara.
The Danishmendid domains were divided between three emirs: respectively at
Kayseri, Sivas and Malatya.
Ringed by competitors, Kilij decided in 1158 (see there) to seek an alliance with

The Latins of Antioch under Reynald and the Armenians of Cilicia under Thoros attack,
capture and pillage Byzantine Cyprus (Norwich 1996: 121).

Pressed by the Muslims, King Baldwin III of Jerusalem goes to the Byzantine court for
aid, understanding, as William of Tyre says, that Manuel was “THE MOST POWERFUL AND
WEALTHY PRINCE OF THE WORLD” (quoted by Magdalino 2002: 3). It was agreed that
Baldwin would marry Manuel’s niece Theodora. Baldwin gained a powerful ally against
the threat from Nur al-Din, and Manuel would be free to attack Latin-ruled Antioch
without Baldwin’s interference. See 1158.
The Seljuk Empire had broken apart by this time, splintering into (1) lesser Turkish
emirates in Anatolia (under the two sons of Mesut, d. 1156; and three Danishmend
rulers); (2) the post-Fatimid, post-Seljuk “Zangid” empire in Egypt and Syria - so-called
from the name of Zangi, the Turkish atabeg of Mosul; and (3) a re-emerged Abbasid
(Arab) caliphate in lower Iraq.

Power Expressed as Opulence

Manuel I is said by William of Tyre to have sent Theodora “100,000 hyperpyra [gold
coins] of standard weight” plus “10,000 of the same coins” for the expenses of her


wedding with Baldwin of Jerusalem. Her outfit of “gold, gems, clothing and pearls,
tapestries and silks, as well as precious vessels, might justly be valued at an additional
14,000 [hyperpyra]”. As for Baldwin himself, he received gifts “reputed to amount to
22,000 hyperpyra and 3,000 marks of purest silver” (argenti examinitissimi),
supplemented again by garments, silks, and precious vases.*
Such long gift-lists were created and read as indices to both wealth and might (Hendy

(*) Putting aside the silver, the gold coins totalled 146,000. Now a hyperpyron
weighed 4.45 grams and contained 85% gold, i.e. 3.78 grams of gold per
hyperpyron (Philip Grierson,1982: Byzantine coins, Taylor & Francis). Multiplying
this by 146,000 gives us 552 kilograms (551,880 grams) of gold. Now the price of
gold has recently been rising. So, to calculate ‘present-day’ values, I will use the
price of gold in AD 2000, namely US$21.42 per gram. Applied this to Manuel’s gift,
the result is . . . US$11,821,269 (!!)

1. Italy: A further Byzantine force under Alexios Axouchos is sent (1157) to Ancona,
evidently just in order to improve Manuel’s bargaining position with the Norman king
William. But a number of towns, and indeed some elements in Rome itself, proclaimed
their allegiance to Byzantium. By early 1158 negotiations had progressed to the point of
signing a treaty. Manuel agreed to recognise William’s royal title, which is to say:
Manuel gave up his claim on southern Italy (Angold 1984: 173; Matthew 1992: 269;
Norwich 1996: 118).

2. Asia Minor: Mas'ud's successor, Kilidj II Arslan, took the towns of Pannoura and
Sibyla in Isauria from the Byzantines in 1157, but, with the making of peace between
Manuel and Kilidj in 1158, the emperor turned to Cilicia to settle accounts with Thoros’s
The emperor's eastern march of 1158 was highly successful. En route he defeated the
Turkmens or "Turkomans": nomadic (transhumant)* or 'noble Turks' who had intruded
into Little Phrygia or N Mysia, inland from the S coast of the Sea of Marmara; and, once
in Cilicia, he took the towns of Cistramon, Anazarba, Longinias, Tarsus and Tili. Cf 1162.

(*) Migration between summer (highland) and winter (lowland) pastures is called


HISTORY OF THE VARANGIAN GUARD, 988-1329. See 1176, 1195.

1. Emperor Manuel turns 40.

2. Italy: Truce with the Normans: the Romaic expeditionary forces withdraw from
south-eastern Italy.
Manuel sent, first, Alexius Comnenus - the son of his aunt, the historian Anna
Comnena - and then Alexius Axuch (1158) to Ancona to levy further support, but in the
end he decided to negotiate with Roger's successor William I (1158). This ended any
aspirations Manuel may have had of re-conquering Apulia.

3. The East: The Rhomaioi establish feudal sovereignty over the Armenians and the


Crusading states in Syria (Magdalino 2002: 67). Manuel moved (autumn 1158) with a
large army along the coast from Anatalya into Cilicia, reasserting East Roman authority
there, and in the following year he inflicted a defeat on Reynald of Antioch, who was
forced into a humiliating submission (described below under 1159). Cf also 1161 below.
The emperor was sufficiently successful in Syria to be able to restore a Greek patriarch at
Antioch in 1165.

Manuel marched out to Tarsus in 1158 and prevailed over the Rupenid prince Thoros,
who had reconquered the greater part of Cilicia, although Thoros obtained refuge in the
mountains (Norwich 1996: 121).
Kurkjian writes thus: “Emperor Manuel … could not tolerate the seizure of Cyprus [in
1156]. He sought revenge in 1158 by invading Cilicia at the head of an army of 50,000
[sic: an exaggerated figure]. He captured Anazarba, Till Hamdoun, Tarsus and Lamos,
while Baron [or prince] Thoros, unable to defend his country, retired to the castle of
Dajikikar (Dadjog) in the Taurus Mountains. Renaud [Reynald] and Baldwin of
Jerusalem (husband of the Emperor's niece) interceded for Thoros, and regained for him
the major part of his domain, on condition that he recognize the Greek Emperor's
suzerain right. Thoros was then honoured with the title "Palatin of Pansebastos"
(History of Armenia 1958). Thoros had to walk barefoot and bareheaded to the camp of
the emperor; there he prostrated himself in the dust before the imperial platform.

Satisfied with what he had achieved in Cilicia, the emperor advanced on Syrian Antioch.
The Latin prince of Antioch, Reynald, had raided Cyprus, and he needed an ally against
the atabeg of Aleppo, Nur ed-Din. Reynald therefore made a ritual submission to
Manuel, unshod, with head bared and a halter around his neck. The ceremony is
described below in the entry for 1159.

4. fl. Michael Glycas (‘Sikilites’, the Sicilian), historian, theologian and poet. Author of a
"world" history. Little is known of Glycas' life except that he probably came from either
Corfu or Sicily, later lived in Constantinople, and was imprisoned and ultimately blinded
by order of Emperor Manuel I in 1159 - apparently for slandering a neighbour.

THE COMNENIAN ARMY of the mid 1100s

Numbers of troops

In a letter to the Angevin king of England, Henry II, Manuel mentions that when on the
march the Byzantine army extended for ‘10 miles’ or 16 kilometres (Baynes p.73). - If we
allow two metres a man, and assume there are two files*, then we have 8,000 metres x 2
men = 16,000 men. Or 8,000 x 4 files = 32,000 men.

(*) Of course two metres per man/horse is marching in very close order. Haldon, in
Pryor 2006: 141, has proposed that some “14 km” of route would have been
occupied by an army of just 15,000 men (10,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry). If
he calculated using five abreast, then this represents up to five metres’ separation
between each per man/horse [15,000 men = five files of 3,000: then 14,000 metres
divided by 3,000 men/horse = 4.7 metres]. This is not unreasonable given that
many mule-drawn carts went along.
Haldon says the same force would have been strung out for “17 km” if marching
three abreast on a narrow road - ‘vertical’ separation per man/animal of 3.4



The expedition of 1158 seems to have been the most formidable Byzantine force
assembled in memory, so probably a figure of over 20,000 must be accepted.
Treadgold, in Harris 2005: 78, has proposed that the total enrolment of the army
under Manuel did not exceed 40,000 men. A field army would take only a proportion of
that; but again, since the expedition of 1158-59 seems to have been the most formidable
Byzantine force deployed in memory, it cannot be ruled out that Manuel led as many as
25,000 men in 1158.

We have a fairly good breakdown of the types of troops as formed up to fight the
Hungarians at Semlin in 1167, and partial evidence for their numbers (Haldon 2001:
138-39; cf also Birkenmeier p.119). In the following table I have made some heroic
guesstimates, using 1,000 as the size of a ‘taxiarchy’ or brigade and assuming that the
three main divisions were the same size. The asterisks indicate actual numbers supplied
by the original sources.

1,300? The screen of cavalry ahead of the main line

comprised mainly [say 400] Turkish and
[400] Cuman horse-archers, but also a few
cavalry lancers (Byzantine and/or Latin
knights) [let us guess 250 Byzantines + 250

4,500? The mainly infantry central division was

made up of (2,500?) Varangians and
(1,000?) Hetaireiai (imperial guards:
literally “Companions”), *500 allied Serbian
spear-infantry, and some Lombard-Italian
horse-lancers (say 500).

4,500? The left wing or division consisted of

[4,000] *four ‘taxiarchies’ or brigades of
Byzantine regular cavalry, and some allied
units (500): say 4,500 in all.

4,500? The right wing or division was composed of

[2,000?] the elite Byzantine units and
[2,000?] German knights (“mercenaries”),
together with some Turkish units (say 500

4,500 The second line: cavalry flankers behind

each wing (2 x 500 = 1,000?) and a central
reserve of Byzantine heavy infantry and
foot-archers in *three taxiarchies [3,000
Greeks] along with a number of heavily
armoured Turks, probably infantry also [say

19,300? TOTAL


We assume further that all troops are Greeks unless otherwise specified. In approximate
terms then, the ethnic composition of the army at Semlin was this: Byzantine Greeks
11,250 (59%); Varangians (English and Danes) 2,500; Germans 2,000; Turks
1,400; Serbians 500; Italians 500; ‘other allies’ 500; Cumans 400; and Latins
unspecified 250. Adding together the Germans, Italians and unspecified Latins, we
get 2,750 Latins (14 %).
Birkenmeier would put the proportion of ethnic Byzantines even higher: native
‘Greek’ units, he says, constituted some two-thirds of the whole, forming the left flank
and parts of the right division, and “undoubtedly” provided most of the infantry
(Komnenian Army 2002: 162).


Birkenmeier emphasizes three points of Komnenian tactical doctrine: (i) the army
formed up in three lines: vanguard, main body and rear-guard; (ii) elite cavalry (called
“picked” men) were brigaded separately from run-of the-mill cavalry. And (iii), by
Manuel’s time if not earlier, the decisive element in the battle was - following a softening
up with arrows - a decisive cavalry charge by heavy lancers, i.e. with the originally
Western technique of couched lances. Also the Byzantine mace was used to powerful
effect when the cavalry engaged in hand to hand combat.

Wound Statistics

Birkenmeier, pp. 220 ff, has made an interesting analysis of battle wounds mentioned in
the Comnenian chronicles. Sword-wounds outnumber lance-wounds which outnumber
missile (mainly arrow, some javelin) wounds. This may suggest that the melee, when the
armies came into hand to hand combat, was the deadliest phase of a battle. Mace-
wounds are very little mentioned, possibly because maces were a weapon of last resort.
He suggests that because lance-wounds caused one-fifth of all serious wounds, one-
fifth of those horsemen who fell in battle died in the initial charge or charges. (The
chronicles dwell on cavalry warfare, but supply few details of what was done by, or
happened to, the infantry including foot-archers; thus these statistics are essentially the
statistics of cavalry fighting: Birkenmeier p.228)
Perhaps surprisingly, missile wounds represent only 11% of serious and trivial wounds.
This may indicate ( - a speculative proposal) that by the 12th century Byzantine doctrine
called for a lance charge as early as possible, after only a brief arrow-barrage.
The low proportion of missile wounds may also reflect the quality and widespread use
of Byzantine armour, at least among the cavalry (cf Birkenmeier p.229). The
imperviousness of the klibanion - body armour in the form of a lamellar corselet [of
metal platelets] - would explain the anecdote, recounted by Anna Comnena, of how
Alexios I took two charges from Frankish cavalry and was merely pushed partly off, then
back onto, his horse without sustaining any injury. Backed by a thick kabadion, and
mail in the case of someone of status, and covered by an epilorikion, an iron lamellar
corselet would be almost impenetrable. —Tim Dawson: ‘Kremasmata, Kabadion,
Klibanion: Some aspects of middle Byzantine military equipment reconsidered’,
Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, number 22, 1998, pp.38-50.

Armour and Arms

Kinnamos (Brand p.99) writes thus:


“It had previously (i.e. before about 1150) been customary for them [the Byzantines]
to be armed with round shields and for the most part to carry quivers and decide
battles by the bow, but he [emperor Manuel] taught them to hold ones [shields]
reaching to their feet [i.e. triangular and convex]; and trained them to wield long lances
and skillfully practise horsemanship. … Thus charging with blunted lances they practised
maneuvering in arms. …”
“The pronoia [dedicated estates paying military taxes] were expected to pay not only
for a soldier's upkeep, but his expensive equipment, for in Manuel's reign the bow and
arrow and circular shield had been replaced by a heavier . . . panoply of armour, large
triangular [almond or kite-shaped] shield and lance.” Thus Andrew Stone, at, citing Kinnamos, Book III.17.
The claimed replacement of bows by lances should not be read too literally. After all,
the Byzantines had been excellent horsemen and used long, light stabbing-poking lances
for centuries. What Kinnamos probably meant was that they now used the larger
heavier western lances held under-arm in the couched position for charging, as
practised in jousts.* As a result, no doubt the dual bow plus light-lance armed
cavalryman became a less important type, or rather: less prestigious. Indeed in the
Palaiologian period (after 1261), evidently few native Byzantine horsemen still carried a
bow – most or all native archers were infantrymen.

(*) Bartusis p.329 claims (citing Nicolle, Arms and Armour of the Crusading Era,
New York 1988) that the Byzantines first adopted the couched lance technique as
early as the time of Alexios I, r.1081-1118.

Also the new (or supposedly new) triangular shield may well have originated in
Byzantium itself, as it is attested before 1066; and so it may well have come back to the
East from the West. Parani proposes that it was about 125 cm high and convex
(Reconstructing the Images of Reality, 2003: 128). As reconstructed by Tim Dawson,
the shield is large enough to protect the whole body of a cavalryman, from neck to below
the knee. See photograph by Dawson at: (2005).

In the earlier period especially, lamellar armour (constructed from metal platelets) was
solely for cavalry. A scattering of later pictures indicates that in the 12th century some
infantry too had the benefit of this "exceptionally effective" armour, as Dawson calls it.
For example: a 12th century fresco of Saint Nestor in the Church of Saint Nikolas at
Kastoria (Thessaly). The construction of this lamellar is unique to
Byzantium/Rhomaniya, and the inverted lamellar sleeves and skirt (with platelets
facing upwards, whereas the main cuirass is ‘scale’: downwards-facing platelets) are
also distinctive to this century. Thus Dawson: Kremasmata, Kabadion, Klibanion; in
Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, no. 22 (1998).
Conversely, in one 12th C depiction of St Michael as a soldier, we find a lamellar cuirass
matched with a scale skirt: see below.


Above: St Michael as a Byzantine soldier.

Here the body armour is lamellar, while the skirt and upper-arm guards
look to be scale armour. There is some mail at the top of his chest, probably a
mail coif whose hood is not in view.
The ‘almond’ or ‘kite’-shaped shield appears too small (but Parani p.127
proposes there was a smaller variety of the almond-shaped shield about 80
cm in height). The sword, which does look the correct length [“94-110 cm”
according to Parani, p.131], would be worn on a baldric, allowing it to be
pushed behind the back. His lower legs look to be armoured with tubular
greaves but perhaps it is high leather boots that are depicted.
His missing helmet would probably have been a plain blunted-cone shape,
worn over a mail coif that enclosed the whole neck and face except for the

Byzantine Lancer Cavalry

As pictured in Nicolle’s Eastern Europe 1988, the armour of a Byzantine cavalryman

consisted of a short-sleeved mail hauberk that extended to the thigh; he carried a long
teardrop-shaped shield (about 1.25 metres tall, according to Pirani, Reconstructing
p.128). Hungarian knights were similarly equipped.
- Nicolle gives him a conical helmet covered with leather.
- The emperor Manuel was described in 1150 as wearing a mail hood or an aventail that
also covered his face, and presumably the better class of Byzantine cavalry did this too
(ibid, p.17).

Latin knights

In the Comenian period, the Empire used hired Norman, Italian, German and other
Western knights in large numbers.
They favoured mail armour: a shirt or tunic made from mail is a hauberk if knee-


length, haubergeon if mid-thigh length, and byrnie if waist-length. Mail leggings are
called chausses, mail hoods coif and mail mittens mitons (in use by about 1175). A mail
collar hanging from a helmet is camail or aventail.
Helmets were conical or round with a nasal guard for most of our period; but
cylindrical ‘pot helms’ or ‘great helms’ came into use during the late 1100s.
Helen Nicholson says a medieval lance was typically four metre in lengthy; Nicolle &
Hook say three metres; De Vries & Smith offer 2.7-3 metres [i.e. nine to 1o feet] as the
length of a Norman lance at Hastings in 1066 (Nicholson, Medieval warfare: theory and
practice of war in Europe, 300-1500, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, p.102; David Nicolle,
Christa Hook, Knight Hospitaller: 1100-1306, Osprey Publishing, 2001 p28; Kelly
DeVries, Robert Douglas Smith, Medieval weapons: an illustrated history of their
impact, ABC-CLIO, 2007 p/130).
Boas says the Latin sword usually had a two-edged blade about 75 cm long that
narrowed to a point: so perhaps 90 cm including hilt/handle; it weighed about 1.5 kg.
(Adrian Boas, Crusader archaeology: the material culture of the Latin East, Routledge,
1999 p.169).

It would be wrong to think Latin knights were the majority. As noted earlier,
Birkenmeier, Komnenian Army 2002: 162, proposes that at the battle of Semlin against
the Hungarians in 1167, native ‘Greek’ units constituted some two-thirds of the whole,
forming the left flank and parts of the centre division, and “undoubtedly” provided most
of the infantry. Latins made up many of the rest; there is also mention of allied Cuman,
Serbian and Turkish units. Likewise at the battle of Myriokephalon against the Turks in
1176, it is clear enough that Greeks made up at least two-thirds of the troops, Latins
perhaps 20%, and the rest were Serbs, Hungarians and Cumans.

Heavy Infantry

Heath 1995 - illustration by Angus McBride - offers a picture of a Byzantine heavy

infantry spearman, based on the Psalter of Queen Melissande, c.1131-43. He wears a
brimmed helmet or “kettle hat” (chapel-de-fer) with a non-metallic aventail, and whole-
body armour of mail extending from neck to finger and toe, with a short, quilted body-
tunic worn over the mail (cf also Nicolle 1988: 17). Dawson 2007b: 22 says that tycpioali
armeou for a Byzantine infafteem man was mail to the elbow and mid-thiugh. Hetah’s
man has an almond-shaped shiled about a metre high.

Dawson says that in the earlier period especially, lamellar armour was used solely by
cavalry. A scattering of later pictures indicate that in the 12th century some infantry too
had the benefit of this “exceptionally effective” armour. In his 2007 book (Dawson
2007b: 63), he says that in the 1100s greater resources allowed lamellar armour to
become more available to the infantry than it had been previously. It sometimes
extended down to cover the lower belly and loins.
His own reconstruction shows a heavy infantryman with a torso cuirass of lamellar
and also inverted lamellar sleeves to the elbow and lamellar skirt extending to the upper
thigh. The construction of this lamellar was unique to Byzantium, and the inverted
lamellar sleeves and short skirt were also distinctive to this century. Probably the
sleeves and skirt helped deflect downwards the slashes of an enemy’s sword. Dawson’s
infantryman carries a small circular shield* or in another illustration a teardrop / kite

(*) At; accessed 2010.


(**) Book, 2007b: p.40.

The Varangian Guard

The Empire’s famous axe-armed heavy infantrymen were by the 1100s mostly Anglo-
Saxon refugees from Norman/Angevin England; but we also find mention still of Danes
(see 1204). According to Phillips, The Fourth Crusade, p. 159, the Guard numbered
5,000 men in this period.
In one famous episode (see under 1122), the Varangians, or “480” of them, equipped in
this era with kite-shaped shields, led personally by John II Comnenus and suported by
dismounted Latin knights, advanced on foot, and, wielding their axes, broke into the
wagon-laager of the opposing Pechenegs where they slaughtered many of them en

Their two-handed fighting axes were medium length and lightweight rather than long
and heavy. The axe-head was about the same breadth (width and height) as that of a
present-day wood-chopping axe, but distinctly thinner, as it was designed to cleave
human flesh and bones. According to Bachrach, the haft of the Danish axe is generally
agreed by archaeologists to have been approximately 107 cm or “42 inches” (3 ft 6
inches: 3.5 feet) in length, which happens to be the same as the maximum allowed length
of a modern baseball bat. Cricket bats are slightly shorter, i.e. 96.5 cm [38 inches] or less
(cf O’Rourke 2009; Bernard Bachrach, ‘Caballus et Caballarius in Medieval Warfare’,
1988, republished at


The bow used in the East was the composite recurve bow.

(a) Horse-archers

Nicolle 1988: 16 states (no reference is given) that there were ethnic Greek horse-archers
who shot in disciplined ranks, not in the harassment technique of steppes nomads. Still
it would appear that nearly all the horse-archers in the Comnenian army were ethnic
professionals, misnamed ‘mercenaries’, such as Cumans (see 1167) and Turks (also 1167)
(Haldon 1999: 216-217). Also 1146: horse-archers brigaded with lancers.
Tactically the Cumans were a fairly typical steppe nomad army, relying on hit and run
tactics to wear down and disorder the enemy. According to Niketas Choniates, Annals
93-94, "their weapons consisted of a quiver slung athwart the waist, curved bows, and
arrows: in battle they [also] wheel about with spears".
Towards the end of the Komnenian period, Alan soldiers, undoubtedly cavalry,
became an important element in Byzantine armies, e.g. in the Italian campaign of the

On one occasion we find, quite unusually, horsemen carrying both bow and lance (see at

(b) Foot archers

Foot-archers too are mentioned regularly: see at 1155 (Bari), 1167, and 1176
(Myriocephalum). Their ethnicity is not clear but we may guess they were Greeks


(Byzantines). Bithynia, or specifically the Trikokkia region NE of Nicaea (Bartusis p.54),

was well-known for its infantry archers until the late 1200s, when says Pachymeres,
i.129, they were disbanded, or at least they were no longer formally enrolled in the army
as borderers. Pachymeres also relates, however, that a great part of the forces of Michael
VIII in the siege of Galata in 1260 were Nicaean archers.


Kinnamos writes of an “innumerable crowd” of slingers fighting in the Byzantine army in

Italy in 1155; it is not clear whether they were Greeks or some other ethnicity, perhaps
local Italians, or both. In any event Byzantine slingers formed part of the imperial army
that attacked Antioch in 1137; and they helped defend Durres (Dyrrhachium) during the
Norman siege of 1185 (see there). —Nicolle, David: Medieval Warfare Source Book, Vol.
II London (1996), p. 74.


Benjamin of Tudela, a Spanish Jew, writing in about 1165/1168: "They [the Byzantines]
hire from amongst all nations warriors called ‘barbarians’ to fight with [against] the
Sultan of the Seljuks; for their natures [the Byzantines’] are not warlike, but are as
women who have no strength to fight." —Benjamin ed. Adler 1907.
Alternatively translated thus: “They hire from amongst all nations warriors called
Loazim (barbarians) to fight with the Sultan Masud, King of the Togarmim (Seljuks),
who are called Turks; for the natives [Byzantines] are not warlike, but are as women who
have no strength to fight.”
Benjamin was a Spaniard, and this view may represent the general judgment of
Westerners. Or he may have seen “Greek” troops who did not impress him. Many people
today find American soldiers unimpressive as individuals but their army fights well
enough (not least because of its excellence in logistics and firepower). Or again, it may
just reflect Benjamin’s noticing how many foreigners were serving in the Byzantine army.
In any event, the native Rhomaioi (“Greeks”) appear to have fought manfully enough,
and often, against the Hungarians and against the Turks at Myriocephalon: see 1176.
In short, it is not obvious that any contemporary army was superior to that of

The trope of Greek ‘effeminacy’ begins at least as early as the 1090s* when the Norman
chronicler William of Apulia was writing his Gesta Roberti Wiscardi (at 1.224-27). His
judgment seems to have reflected a certain resentment, as the Byzantines had often
enough defeated the Normans in Italy before 1071.

(*) As Gibbon noted, the Greeks in Italy were already called effeminate by
Claudian, d. ca AD 404. But it was his job, as a writer of invectives directed at
Stilicho's rivals in the Eastern court of Arcadius, to find fault with the ‘East
Romans’. Indeed earlier the Greeks of the Classic and Hellenistic eras, e.g. Arrian
and Isocrates, had held the Persians to be effeminate.
The West Romans too ‘became’ effeminate when they began to lose at war: in
Salvian’s Treatise on the Governance of God (mid 400s AD), the Vandals are
masculine and the Latin Romans effeminate.

The use of so-called ‘mercenaries’ (salaried professionals) by Byzantium had already

been cited around 1100 by western annalists of the First Crusade as evidence of the


Byzantines’ lack of courage. In the Gesta Francorum (ca 1100), this observation is made
by Peter Tudebode [a source probably used by the Gesta author], Raymond of Aguilers
[himself a participant in the First Crusade], Robert Monarchus and Albert of Aachen,
also a chronicler of the First Crusade. —Harris 2006: 89; also Marc Carrier [2001],
‘Perfidious and Effeminate Greeks’,; accessed 2009.
According to the Franco-Palestinian chronicler William of Tyre, fl. 1180, even the
emperor Manuel himself saw his Greeks as coddled and effeminate (“soft and unmanly”)
and preferred to depend only on Latins in difficult military situations (William at xxii, 11:
16-17; Harris 2006: 85). See the entry below for 1159: Greek pride and Latin shame.
Confirmation that Benjamin’s and the later William’s assessment probably was the
general judgment in the West can be found in the Itinerarium Regis Ricardi, a
fictionalised account Richard of England’s exploits, written after 1200. The anonymous
Latin author states that the Greeks had lost their courage and learning (i.e. since
ancient times) and therefore did not join in the war (crusade) against the infidels. This is
presented as a Translatio militiae (‘transfer of military spirit’), or handing-down to the
West of military virtue. —Cited in K N Ciggaar, Western Travellers to Constantinople:
The West and Byzantium, 1996.
Nor was it only a Western view. The Armenian chronicler Matthew of Edssa, d.1144,
likewise calls the Greeks effeminate and perfidious: “(our kingdom’s) false defenders, the
ineffectual, effeminate, ignoble nation of the Greeks” (quoted by Régine Pernoud, The
Crusaders, Ignatius Press, 2003: 170).
See generally Matthew Bennett, "Virile Latins, Effeminate Greeks and Strong Women:
Gender Definitions on Crusade?" (in) Gendering the Crusades. Eds. Susan B. Edgington
and Sarah Lambert. Cardiff: Univ. of Wales, 2001.

Byzantium undertook a series of campaigns against the Seljuk frontiers. See 1161, 1162.

1158-1222: Universities were founded in a now re-civilised West: Bologna 1158;

Oxford 1167; Montpellier [Provence] 1181; Cambridge 1209; Padua 1222, etc, etc.
- Cf the future theologian-philosophers: Albertus Magnus: aged 20 in 1226;
Bonaventura: 20 in 1241, and Aquinas: 20 in c.1245.


Above: Imperial couple in court dress, 12th Century.

The emperor’s diadem or crown looks to be of a style earlier than 12th C.,
i.e. before the crown became a closed hemisphere. It is said that John II was
the first to wear the closed crown with the low semi-spherical bowl
(Spatharakis 1976: 28), but John’s sister Anna refers to closed hemispherical
crowns worn already in their father’s time (Alexiad I.3; cf Parani p.28). John
wears this style in the contemporary mosaic in Hagia Sophia (reproduced in
Treadgold 1997: 629; Parani says this is its first appearance in art). Manuel I
too is shown wearing a hemispherical crown in a contemporary miniature,
ca.1170 (Vatican graecus 1176: Treadgold 1997: 644) Also (1) no emperor was
beardless after the 7th C (!!) – but perhaps the artist is picturing a post-
Comnenian Latin emperor of Constantinople; and (2) one might have
expected purple boots, rather than sandals.
The empress’s crown here is clearly based on the Vatican Library miniature
of Manuel I’s 2nd wife Maria of Antioch, who was a blonde; but the dress is
different. There are other empresses shown wearing high flared hat-like
crowns as here, eg in the mosaic, mentioned above, of John II’s wife
Irene/Piroshka in Hagia Sophia. The clothes are based on a miniature
depicting Maria of Alania (died after 1103), wife of Nikeforos III
[Bibliothèque nationale de France, Manuscript Coislin 79 folio 2 bis verso,
1074 / 1081].

1. Syria: Having received the submission of Reynald, Manuel makes (12 April) a
triumphant entry to Antioch. See next.

Greek Power and Latin Pride, 1159


At Antioch the supplicant Latin prince, Reynald, walked beside Manuel's horse, and
Baldwin III, the Latin king of Jerusalem, followed behind on horseback.
-- Manuel made a triumphal entry into Antioch on Easter Sunday, 12 April 1159.
Preceded by his Varangians (”a large company of axe-bearing barbarians”), he had pride
of place in the procession, wearing a purple robe over his golden mail, and a jewelled
crown. Reynald/Renaud/Geraldus was on foot next to his horse, and the better-regarded
Baldwin of Jerusalem followed a long way behind without his insignia, though granted a
horse (Browning 1992: 74; Choniates/Magoulias p.61). This ceremonial obeisance of the
Crusader princes having been made, Manuel disbanded his army for the return journey.
In Anatolia his men were set upon by Turks, and a large part of his army lost.

William of Tyre describes the reception of the Prince of Antioch, Reynald of Châtillon, by
his new suzerain, Manuel I Comnenus, in 1159 as follows. Reynald had fallen into
disgrace and was compelled to present himself to the emperor as a supplicant (Jonathan
Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades, Continuum Intenational 2006: 106). As expected,
the Byzantines made it a point for the event to be symbolic:
“For in view of the assembled legions”, writes William, “he [Reynald] is said to
have appeared before the emperor barefooted and clothed in a woollen tunic
short to the elbows, with a rope around his neck and a naked sword in his hand.
Holding this by the point, he presented the hilt to the emperor. As soon as he had
thus surrendered his sword, he threw himself on the ground at the emperor’s
feet, where he lay prostrate till all were disgusted and the glory of the
Latins was turned into shame.”
Obviously, the pride of the Normans and of all Latins in the East was wounded by this

Niketas Choniates (108 f.) offers a description of a tourney arranged in Antioch after
Manuel's solemn entry into the city in 1159:
Two detachments were arrayed against each other for "fighting with ironless spears",
i.e. a joust between Manuel’s retinue and a number of Italian knights. The Byzantine
troop consisted of those imperial relatives especially capable of "brandishing pikes".
Manuel himself [aged 41] entered the lists, ‘grinning a little as usual’ and grasping his
lance. He wore a fashionable cloak pinned at the right shoulder so that his hand
remained free, and his "fair-maned horse" (an allusion to the Iliad 5.323) was adorned
with gold trappings that vied with his noble rider's array.
The emperor ordered that every one of his companions be clad as beautifully as
possible. Prince Geraldus (Reynald of Chatillon) came to meet him riding a stallion
"whiter than snow" and wearing a long chiton [light, full-length tunic] split in two from
the waist down and a tiara-shaped felt cap embellished with gold (Choniates, quoted
from Ann Wharton Epstein, Popular and Aristocratic Cultural Trends in Byzance,

On his return from Antioch to Constantinople—he departed 20 April 1159—Manuel

dared to cross straight through Turkish territory by way of Laranda/Karaman and
Kotiaion/Kutahya; he again lost many troops (Notes to Kinnamos p.250; Choniates-
Magoulias p.63). Kilij Arslan attacked the Byzantines as they marched past Iconium
(Konya, capital of Rüm).
Manuel took the direct route home, despite opposition from Kilij Arslan, and
celebrated a triumph. But cf 1259-61: marriage negotiations.


2. The Balkans: As result of struggles with Hungary, Byzantium re-establishes its

influence in Bosnia, Croatia proper and Dalmatia, which is present-day coastal Croatia. A
treaty was later drawn up (1164) with the assistance of the king of Bohemia, giving the
emperor considerable influence and eventually led (1166-67) to the subjugation, or
nominal subjection, of Croatia, Bosnia, and much of Serbia to the Byzantine Empire
(Gregory 2010: 307; Fine 1991: 245).

3. Asia Minor: Manuel and his allies launch a four-pronged attack against Kilij Arslan II.
(a) Manuel lead the main imperial army, strengthened by Serbian allies, up the Meander
River. (b) From Cilicia General John Contostephanus led Frankish and Armenian troops
now allied to Byzantium, and Pecheneg auxiliaries, through the Taurus passes. (c) Nur
ed-Din of Syria advanced from the middle Euphrates. (d) The Danishmendids invaded
from the north-east. Not surprisingly, Kilij Arslan quickly agreed to a treaty (Norwich
1996: 125). Others place this in 1161: see there.

The treaty between Byzantium and the Seljuks in 1159 (signed in 1162) only served to
allow Kiliç Arslan II to concentrate on the conquest of central and eastern Anatolia with
his western borders secured. He absorbed his brother’s territory around Ankara and
Çankiri (medieval Gangra), and eventually dissolved the Danishmendid state with the
annexation of Sivas, Niksar and Tokat in 1178. The whole inland half of Anatolia was by
1174 under the rule of the Rum Seljuks. Cf 1161 and 1176.

1159/60: North Africa: Almohad empire: re-conquest of the eastern Maghreb;

and Norman-Sicilians ejected from Mahdiya.

From 1159:
Serbia submits to Byzantium. Stefan (Stephen I) Nemanja, 1159-95, established control
over the territories of neighboring Serb domains including Zeta/Doclea, and unified
them into a single state. He conquered the chiefs of the other Serbian tribes, with the
exception of those in Bosnia, and thus founded, ca. 1171, a united hereditary and
independent state under Byzantine ‘protection’. He accomplished this with the aid of the
Eastern Emperor, Manuel I, to whom he swore fealty in return for recognition as Grand
Zupan. See 1162-64.

Above: Ordinary day-wear of a Byzantine princess, 12th C.



Marriage alliance with the Franks of Outre Mer (“Over-Seas”): At the end of 1159,
Manuel's wife Empress Eirene - originally named Bertha of Sulzbach - had died, and
Manuel wanted (cf 1159 above) to marry a princess from one of the east-Latin or
‘Crusader’ states.
The army commander John Kontostephanos; the akolouthos [commander] of the
Varangian Guard, Basil Kamateros; and the chief dragoman or interpreter Theophylact,
were sent (1160) to Outre Mer to seek a new wife. The two princesses Maria of Antioch,
15 years old daughter of the late prince of Antioch, Raymond of Poitiers [executed in
1149 by Saladin], and Melisende of Tripoli, a daughter of Count Raymond of Tripoli by
Hodierna of Jerusalem, were offered as candidates. Maria was preferred, perhaps
because she was a blond, reflecting her Norman ancestry. At any rate, an imperial
embassy led by Alexios Bryennios Komnenos and the prefect of Constantinople,
Andronicus Kamateros, subsequently came (1161) to Antioch to negotiate the marriage.
Maria embarked from the port of St. Simeon for Constantinople in September 1161, and
the marriage took place in Hagia Sophia on 24 December. Three patriarchs performed
the marriage: Luke Chrysoberges, Patriarch of Constantinople; Sophronios, Patriarch of
Alexandria; and Athanasios, Orthodox [Greek] Patriarch of Antioch (Meineke, A., ed.
Ioannis Cinnami Epitome rerum ab Ioanne et Alexio Comnenis gestarum, CSHB, Bonn,
1836, p.210; also Wikipedia 2010, ‘Maria of Antioch’).


GO HERE for a contemporary portrait of Maria after her marriage:
Her blond hair is quite evident.

1. fl. John Tzetzes, Byzantine scholar and man of letters. A teacher and minor official, he
wrote many letters, commentaries and poems.
The most important of his many works is considered to be the Book of Histories,
usually called Chiliades ("thousands") from the arbitrary division by its first editor (N.
Gerbel, 1546) into books each containing 1,000 lines; it actually consists of 12,674 lines
of so-called "political" [politikos, ‘secular’] verse - with 15-syllable lines. It is a collection
of literary, historical, theological and antiquarian miscellanies, whose chief value
consists in the fact that to some extent it makes up for the loss (to us) of works which
were accessible to Tzetzes. The total number of authors quoted is more than 400.

2. fl. Theodore Prodromos: Poet at the court of Irene Doukaina and John II. Prodromos
should have had a career in the army, as typical for a man of his social status, but ill
health forced him to take up scholarship and writing (as he explained: Hist. Ged. no.
38.11-40). He envied the soldiers of John II for fighting their emperor's battles while he
could only stay at home and pray for victory (no. 17.5-10).
He was fascinated by everything connected with warfare. He glorified warriors far
more eloquently than was required by mere convention: the two sons of Nikephoros
Bryennios were both “excellent” riders, hunters, and soldiers; Stephen Kontostephanos
[see 1161] was “famous” for his military skill; Alexios Phorbenos was a tall and mighty
soldier; Alexios Kontostephanos had an excellent sword; Manuel Anemas was a wise
general, the "great tower of the Rhomaioi"; and so on.

1160-90: N France: fl. Chrétien de Troyes, writer in ‘Old French’ of courtly

romances (verse novels) dealing with the Grail theme. He served at the court of


his patroness Marie of France, Countess of Champagne, daughter of Louis VII

and Eleanor of Aquitaine. In the 1170s he wrote Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
(French: Lancelot, le Chevalier de la Charrette). Chrétien's final romance was
Perceval, the Story of the Grail, written between 1181 and 1190, but left

Western Asia Minor: Manuel created a further new Theme of Neokastra around
Pergamon, in the region Khliara-Pergamon-Adramyttion. This represented a firm effort
to refortify the frontier areas against the Turcoman nomads and to re-create local
military forces capable of defending the region (Angold 1984: 190). See 1175.

1. NE Asia Minor: Proceeding from Syria, the Byzantine general John Kontostephanus,
Manuel’s nephew, leads a force of Franks (allies or vassals from Jerusalem, Antioch and
Syria) to victory over the Seljuq sultan Kilidj Arslan at Sebastia. The Turkish army
numbered “over 22,000” according to Kinnamos (Brand p.152). When Manuel moved to
the south the sultan was encircled. This seems to have decided him to come to terms with
Manuel. See 1162. —Treadgold 1997: 646; also www.third-millennium-
The Seljuks of Rum (Iconium) briefly acknowledged Manuel's suzerainty in 1161/62;
but in 1176, the Turks will win an important victory at Myriokephalon, negating the gains
the emperor has made.

2. Manuel, aged 43, re-marries: to Maria/Mary of Antioch, aged 16: b. 1145, dau. of the
late Raymond de Poitiers, the French Prince of Antioch.
Maria embarked from the port of St. Simeon for Constantinople in September 1161,
and the marriage took place in Hagia Sophia on December 24. Three patriarchs
performed the marriage: Luke Chrysoberges, Patriarch of Constantinople; Sophronios,
Patriarch of Alexandria, and Athanasios, Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch.
"His two marriages, first to Bertha and then (1161) to Mary of Antioch, fostered his
strong preference for the Latins, who filled his court to the wrath of the Greeks [sic], and
he wasted his resources in the vain pursuit of Western ambitions, conducted chiefly by
an enormously expensive diplomacy, to the detriment of the all-important wars with the
Turks" (in the moralising words of the Shorter Cambridge Medieval History, 1952:
author C.W. Previte-Orton).



Asia Minor: Not until 1160 did Manuel resume the war against Qilij (Kiliç) Arslan,
Ma’sud’s son, in alliance with the Danishmandites or Danishmendids. After just one
successful battle (1161), he was content with a peace (1162), missing ( - as it appears to
us) the golden opportunity of exploiting a Seljuk civil war.
A peace treaty is agreed between Manuel and Qilish Arslan II; the sultan visits
Constantinople and is received in grand style. He stays for 80 days (primary source: O
city of Byzantium: annals of Niketas Choniates, trans, Harry J. Magoulias, Wayne State
University Press, 1984, pp.66-68). Magdalino 2006: 76 dates this to 1161.

The emperor, trying to nudge the sultan toward a lasting peace, prepared for him the
best spectacles Constantinople could offer: an impressive reception in the throne room of
the palace, magnificent banquets, a visit to the baths and the horse races, even a
demonstration of the efficacy of 'Greek fire'* (Laiou & Maguire 1992: 73).
The affair was to culminate with the entrance of the emperor and the sultan into the
church of Hagia Sophia. Here, however, the patriarch baulked, and, taking a recent
earthquake as an omen, would not allow the entry of a Muslim ruler into the greatest
church of Byzantium.
— This date marks the turning point in the rise of the fortune of Kilidj II Arslan and the
reversal of Imperial success on the Asia Minor front. Manuel, given a false sense of
security, became increasingly involved in western affairs with a consequent neglect of the
‘Turkish problem’.

(*) An incendiary weapon similar to a modern flame-thrower. The material was

based on petroleum, and typically, but not only, it fired with siphon-pumps. It was
used both on warships and on land (see Haldon 2006a).

West and East

Picturing a Western visitor encountering Byzantium in 1162, Angeliki Laiou (in Laiou &
Maguire 1992) imagines the empire thus:


- “The number of towns and their size would have been greater than in France, where the
average town might have 2,000 inhabitants, and the towns would have impressed him.
Constantinople was a large city, with a population of about 250,000 to 400,000 [sic*]
at a time when Venice, the largest city in western Christendom, may have held a
population of fewer than 80,000, and Paris fewer than 20,000 people. It was also
magnificently built, a city meant to be imperial, to impress its inhabitants and foreigners
with the magnificence and power of the Byzantine state and the magnificence and
orthodoxy of the Byzantine church. …
This was a cosmopolitan society, and one which tolerated foreigners and even
welcomed them, as long as they were not hostile to the interests of the state; …. The
elaborate court ceremonies produced an unexpected and negative reaction in some
Westerners, for they could not understand how a man could exact such subservience.
While such reactions are well attested, nevertheless what filtered back to the West
tended to be the mysterious and majestic image of the emperor.” —Angeliki A. Laiou,
‘Byzantium and the West’, in: Angeliki Laiou and Henry Maguire eds., Byzantium, A
World Civilization, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington,
D.C., 1992.

(*) A high estimate is about 1,000,000 people in Constantinople, including its suburbs,
in the later 12th century (Runciman 1965: 9). This looks too high, given that Treadgold,
1997: 700, estimates that the whole empire contained 10 million people in the mid 1100s.
Laiou’s “400,000” looks more credible.
Paris and London did not reach even 300,000 until after 1600. Paris: over 250,000
in 1550; then after setbacks in the late 1500s, rose to 400,000 before 1643. London: only
about 200,000 in 1600; but about 450,000 by 1660 (Vanessa Harding, The Dead and
the Living in Paris and London, 1500-1670, Cambridge University Press 2002: 15; also
Harding in London Journal 15 [1990], 111-128).

Serbia: Nemanja, younger brother of the zupan of Raska/Rascia, met the Emperor
Manuel in Nish in 1162, who gave him the region of Dubochica (in the SE of modern
Serbia) to rule over and declared him independent of Raska. The Emperor gave him a
high court title already in 1161: a high title in the Byzantine hierarchy, as it was
important for the Byzantine Emperor to have the borderlands of the Empire ruled by
loyal leaders. Nemanja's Serb squadrons fought in the Imperial Army in 1164 in Srem
(Syrmia: WNW of Belgrade) during the Emperor's 1163-64 war against the Kingdom of
Hungary. See 1166.

The north-west: The new king of Hungary, Stephen (István) III, acc. 1162, decided to
contest the earlier arrangements over Sirmium, and advanced against the Byzantines
who were occupying it. Manuel crossed the Danube on the second occasion and secured
the promise of Béla's inheritance. (Prince Bela was nominally ruler of Croatia, Dalmatia
and the Szerémség [NW Serbia: the region west of Zemun]. Manuel had no son at this
time: in 1163 he and Stephen III agreed to give these provinces to the empire on the
understanding that Stephen’s 15 years old brother Bela would marry Manuel’s 11 years
old daughter Maria, with Bela to succeed Manuel as emperor of Byzantium.) Cf 1164-65.
—Stone, ‘Manuel I’,

1163-69: Contest for Fatimid Egypt: Amaury, the crusader king of Jerusalem vs


Nur al-Din’s generals, Shirkuh and Yusuf ibn Ayyub, called ‘Saladin’. See 1164,

1163-84: North Africa: Abu Ya'qub Yusuf, 3rd Almohad caliph. During this reign,
the Cordoba-born scholar Ibn Rushd [Averroes] wrote his famous
commentaries on Aristotle. Ibn Rushd moved between Cordoba, Seville (the
Almohad capital) and Morocco.

1163-1235: Building of Notre Dame cathedral, Paris. Cf North transept: AD 1210-


Syria: The advantage of having Manuel as suzerain was demonstrated to the crusader
princes in 1164, when the emperor paid the ransom of 100,000 dinars for Bohemond III
of Antioch (who had been captured by Nur ed-Din/Nur al-Din) (Harris 2006: 107).
Manuel also presented himself as protector of the Holy Places, defraying the expenses of
decorating the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the church of the Nativity
in Bethlehem.

1164: fl. Gerard of Cremona (his birthplace in Italy). He was head of a group of
translators in Toledo in Castile, part of present-day Spain. Many scientific and
philosophical works were translated from Arabic into Latin, especially the Arabic
texts of Aristotle* and the writings of Avicenna [Ibn Sina, d. 1037]. As a result,
the West began to catch up intellectually with Islam and Byzantium (achieving
parity by, say, about 1250).

(*) Translations direct from the Greek come later, e.g. the Metaphysics,
translated into Latin by the Flemish cleric Willem van Moerbeke (‘William of
Moerbeke’), fl. 1265, sometime Latin archbishop of Corinth.

Hungary: A Byzantine expedition in 1164 ended with a truce and the withdrawal of
Byzantine support for István (Stephen) IV.
Manuel I launched a new campaign against Hungary on the pretext of ensuring Duke
Béla's paternal inheritance, i.e., he wanted to take Croatia and Dalmatia from the
kingdom. With the mediation of the King of Bohemia, Stephen made peace with the
emperor by transferring the Szerémség (a fertile region of the Pannonian Plain in
Europe, between the Danube and Sava rivers) to the Byzantine Empire.
Manuel agreed to recognise Stephen (István) III as King of Hungary, renouncing
ancient Roman claims, in exchange for which Stephen's son Bela was promised to
Manuel's daughter Maria. Bela would rule Dalmatia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Sirmium while
Manuel lived, and would succeed as emperor.
But István III's forces resumed the offensive and besieged his uncle in Semlin
(Zevgminon), and István IV died of poison in 1165: see next. This secured István III on
his throne, although he had to face further Byzantine intervention in favor of his younger
brother Béla, whose lands in central Dalmatia he had appropriated. See next.

1a. The Danube: war with Hungary. Stephen tried to reconquer the Szerémség, and


occupied the fortress of Zimony, but the emperor made a counter-attack, reoccupied the
fortress and (briefly) conquered Bosnia, Croatia and Dalmatia.

The emperor himself was engaged in the siege of Zeugminon (Zimony), to which Stephen
III had laid claim (modern Semlin, opposite Belgrade - 1165). The historian John
Cinnamus was an eyewitness of this siege. He says that Manuel himself - aged 47 - had to
be forcibly prevented from being the first to mount a siege tower! The fortress eventually
capitulated under bombardment from siege engines and a sapping of the walls. —Stone,
‘Manuel I’,

Niketas Choniates account is the earliest historical narrative to provide descriptive

details of the counterweight trebuchet. In describing the siege of Zevgminon in 1165,
Niketas states that “Andronikos [Komnenos] took charge of a ‘rock-throwing engine’”
(thus Dennis).
Four large Byzantine trebuchets launched huge stones against the Hungarian
fortress-town of Zevgminon. The commander Andronikos Komnenos, Manuel’s cousin
and erstwhile foe, after personally adjusting the sling, the winch and the beam, fired
stones which hit with such violence that they brought down a section of the wall between
two towers.

1b. Manuel subsequently celebrated a triumph from the Akropolis to Hagia Sophia, not
using the solid gold chariot (as had his father). Cf 1168.

2. Another rebellion by Desa of Serbia [zhupan of Raska, 1162-66], and the re-conquest
of Dalmatia by John Ducas (both also 1165).
After Desa's revolt against imperial suzerainty, Byzantium divided (1165) the Serb
lands between the four sons of Zavida: Tihomir ruled in Raska, Stracimir in Duklja,
Miroslav in Zahumlje and Travunia, and Stefan Nemanja in Toplica (in today's central
Serbia). Tihomir rebelled against the Byzantium, but only Stracimir supported him:
Miroslav and Nemanja did not. Cf 1166-68.

1165-74: Present-day S France-Catalonia: Emergence of the "Catharist" heresy

(Bogomil dualism) in south-west Europe (‘Occitania’, as it wouold become

Palermo, Sicily: Byzantine artists, or perhaps Sicilians trained in Byzantine workshops,
were hired to decorate the palace of the Norman king William I. Cf 1180: Eugenius of

The Northwest: The Hungarian king raided Byzantine territory in Syrmia (the region
west of Belgrade) and Dalmatia in 1166 and won some successes, but the Byzantines
were eventually victorious in 1167 (see there for a description of the battle). The Empire
took control of both Syrmia and Dalmatia, and Hungary was forced to recognize the
nominal suzerainty of the emperor. A Byzantine ‘duke of Dalmatia’ was appointed in the
person of Nicephorus Chalouphes, with lesser officials under him called ‘consuls’ in
several towns (Curta 2006: 343). See further under 1167.
An army of Hungarians under a certain Denis [Hung. Dénes, Gk Dionysios] advanced


on Sirmium (1166). It turned an army of Byzantines under Michael Branas and Michael
Gabras to flight. Accordingly Manuel sent two new armies against the Hungarians, one to
the Danube under Béla-Alexius, his son-in-law, and one under Leo Batatzes to invade
Hungary from the Black Sea. The latter captured much booty. A further invasion was led
by John Ducas, whose success was marked by a cross commemorating the victory,
erected on Hungarian soil.
This was about the time that Manuel entered into alliances with some of the Russian
princes, Primislav, Rostislav of Kiev and Yaroslav of Galicia (1165), in order to counter
the perennially troublesome Hungarians (thus Stone, ‘Manuel I’, www.roman-

Dalmatia: Manuel's successful campaigns against Hungary from 1165 gave him control of
Croatia, Bosnia and most of the Adriatic coast. The Byzantine army marched (1166) to
beyond Split, capturing along the way, says Kinnamos, “57” towns (Fine, Early Balkans
1991: 242). Cf 1167.

2. Italy: Manuel became the ally of Pope Alexander III against the German emperor
Barbarossa. Another of Byzantium’s Italian allies was the republic of Ancona [on the NE
coast of Italy]. Manuel sent troops to garrison Ancona (1166/67) but he fell out with
Ancona’s maritime rivals, the Venetians, whose pride and privileges had long made them
hated in the Eastern empire. See 1167. Also 1179-80: anti-German marriage alliances.

d. Theodore Prodromus, Byzantine poet and man of letters, former teacher in the
Patriarchal school in the capital and colleague of Michael Italicus.
“He moves at ease in the classical tradition” (but at the same time:) is “one of the first
men to break through the stifling classical literary tradition ... and to write on everyday
life in the language of the people” (Dudley & Lang, p.211).

Byzantine ‘Polo’

Byzantine polo (tyzkanion) is attested to by Kinnamos and Nikephoros Chrysoberges:

Koukoulès, Vie et civilisation 3, (Athens 1949) 139-42. But the game was known already
earlier in Byzantine history. John Tzimiskes, for example, liked riding exercises involving
ball-play: Skylitzes 313.37-41.

As played by the Rhomaiyans, it was more like lacrosse on horseback than our style of

“Some youths who divide themselves equally cast a ball made of leather, comparable to
the size of an apple, into some level space which seems right to them when they measure
it out. As it lies in the middle like a prize, they charge their horses at full speed toward it,
against one another. Each holds in his right hand a stick sufficiently lengthy, but which
abruptly terminates in a broad loop which is divided in the middle with cords of gut,
dried by time, intertwined with one another in the fashion of a net. Each side makes
great haste to sweep it up and get it first to the other end, which from the outset has been
assigned to them. Whenever the ball, driven by the sticks, comes to either end, this
constitutes victory for that side. Such is this sport, very perilous and dangerous. It is
constantly necessary that one participating in it turn backwards and swing his hips, spin


the horse in a circle and engage in every sort of race and be carried along in as many
types of movement as the ball happens to make.” —Kinnamos, describing a game that
took place in 1166-67: quoted in Barbara Schrodt, ‘Sports of the Byzantine Empire’,
Journal of Sport History, Vol. 8, No. 3 (1981).

The Comnenian Apogee: Byzantium in Benjamin of Tudela’s Itinerary, ca.


The Jewish-Spanish (Navarrese) traveller Benjamin of Tudela travels - ca. 1168-69:

before 1171 - from Spain to Palestine and back. He variously calls the Byzantine empire
“the lands of the Greek”; “the dominions of Manuel, sovereign of the Greeks”; “the land
of Javan [sic: Yavan]*, which is called Greece” and “Javan, whose people are called the
Greeks”. The Byzantines he calls “Javanim or Greeks”.

(*) Yavan is the standard Hebrew name, used since before the time of Alexander the
Greek. From early Greek Iawones or ‘Ionia(n)s’, i.e. western Asia Minor. Cf Sanskrit
Yavana and Arabic Yunani.

Describing Thessaly, he writes that “the nation called Wallachians live in those
mountains [the Pindos]. They are as swift as hinds, and they sweep down from the
mountains to despoil and ravage the land of Greece. No man can go up and do battle
against them, and no king can rule over them. They do not hold fast to the faith of the
Nazarenes, but give themselves Jewish names. Some people say that they are Jews, and,
in fact, they call the Jews their brethren, and when they meet with them, though they rob
them, they refrain from killing them as they kill the Greeks. They are altogether lawless.”

Of Constantinople he writes “there is none like it in all the world except for
Baghdad.” - “They say that the city’s annual income, with rent from shops and
markets and the customs levied on merchants coming from sea and land, reaches
20,000* gold pieces”. Alternatively translated thus: “It is said that the tribute of the city
amounts every year to 20,000 gold pieces, derived both from the rents of shops and
markets, and from the tribute of merchants who enter by sea or land.”

(*) This seems a small amount if we read it as the state’s entire income; but it did not
include land taxes, which were very much larger.
— Mango, New Rome p.86, puts the city's population at about 225,000 including at
least 40,000 Westerners, mainly Italians.

“From every part of the Empire of Greece”, writes Benjamin, “tribute [tax] is brought
here every year, and strongholds are filled with garments of silk, purple, and gold. Like
unto these storehouses and this wealth, there is nothing in the whole world to be found.
It is said that the tribute of the city amounts every year [sic] to 20,000 gold pieces,
derived both from the rents of shops and markets, and from the tribute of merchants
who enter by sea or land. The Greek inhabitants are very rich in gold and precious
stones, and they go clothed in garments of silk with gold embroidery, and they ride
horses, and look like princes. Indeed, the land is very rich in all cloth stuffs, and in bread,
meat, and wine. Wealth like that of Constantinople is not to be found in the whole
world. Here also are men learned in all the books of the Greeks, and they eat and drink
every man under his vine and his fig tree.” —Quoted in Vasiliev.

He mentions that traders came from as far as Spain and Persia: "From the land of


Babylon, the land of Shinar [lower Mesopotamia], from Persia, Media and all the
sovereignty of the land of Egypt, from the land of Canaan [i.e. the Latin-ruled Kingdom
of Jerusalem], and the empire of Russia, from Hungaria, Patzinakia [i.e. our Ukrainian
steppes], Khazaria [i.e. the hinterlands east of the Black Sea] and the land of Lombardy
[i.e. Northern Italy under German suzerainty] and the Sepharad [Spain]". He also notes
the spectacle of (feigned) fights between wild animals in the Hippodrome**; and the
well-paid multi-ethnic army, implying that only a minority of soldiers were native
The most prominent Jew was the emperor's physician, Solomon Hamtsri. The Jewish
community itself was confined to Pera, the suburb north shore of the Golden Horn
(Brand pp.102 ff)

(**) “(At) the Hippodrome, … every year on the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, the king
gives a great entertainment there. And in that place men from all the races of the world
come before the king and queen with jugglery and without jugglery and they introduce
lions, leopards, bears, and wild asses, and they engage them in combat with one
another; and the same thing is done with birds. No entertainment like this is to be found
in any other land.”
Horse races were still held in the 12th century, albeit much less frequently than in
Antiquity. Polo was also played there, and, after about 1150, knightly jousts were held.
The hippodrome also remained the city’s main assembly site and place of public
spectacles, punishments and executions (Rautman p.113).

A description of the imperial couple appearing in the Hippodrome is given by al-

Marwazi, c. 1120: “In the morning the king comes in [to the imperial box overlooking the
Hippodrome] with his intimates and servants, all of them dressed in red [this probably
means imperial purple]. He sits on an eminence overlooking the place and there appears
his wife called ‘dizbuna’ [Greek Despoina, Lady, Mistress] with her servants and
intimates, all of them dressed in green and she sits in a place opposite the king” (quoted
in Herrin 2007: 170, emphasis added).

Sea Travel

Benjamin of Tudela gives in detail the distances from island to island on the way south
into the eastern Aegean from Constantinople and then eastward to Cyprus. Sailing, or
better: rowing, from Constantinople along the NW coast of the Sea of Marmara, it was
two days journey to Rhaidestos [some 80 miles, 130 km], two days from Rhaidestos to
Kallipolis/Gallipoli [about 50 miles], two days from Kilia (Koila?) to Mytilene on Lesbos,
three days from Mytilene to Chios [under 50 miles], two days from Chios to Samos, three
days from Samos to Rhodes, and four days from Rhodes to Cyprus. Total, Constantinople
to Cyprus: 18 days. —Avramea, in Laiou ed. 2002: 83.

The Balkans: The Serbian prince Nemanja, already aged 57, gathers his partisans, drives
out his older brothers in 1166 (or a little later), and proclaims himself zupan of Rascia.
Helped by Byzantium, his elder brother Tihomir tries to reconquer Rascia, fails, and
perishes in about 1168 in combat (Fine 1994: 3).
The Byzantine Emperor raised a mercenary army for Tihomir, made up of Greeks,
Latins and Turks. Proceeding from Skopje, it was defeated (date uncertain: ca. 1168) by
Nemanja at the Battle of Pantino, south of Zvechan (our northern Kosovo) (Fine 1994:


5). Nemanja assumed the title of Grand Prince [zupan] of All Rascia, and took the first
name Stefan (Greek: Stephanos, ‘crowned’) in honour of his patron saint - Saint Stephen.
Tihomir drowned or drowned himself in the river Sitnica.
Nemanja then tries to break free from the Byzantine domination, but, deprived of the
assistance of Hungary, he has to submit (see 1172). He had to await the death of emperor
Manuel, in 1180, to gradually liberate Rascia, and bring together the other Serb
territories, in particular inner Dalmatia and Dioclea. Cf 1168 below.

1a. Manuel offers to appoint the pope as patriarch of Constantinople in return for being
crowned as emperor of East and West.

1b: The Adriatic: Ancona had accepted Byzantine protection from the German emperors
and Venice in 1155. The Anconans and the Byzantine troops stationed in the town
withstood a brief (three week) siege by Frederick I Barbarossa in 1167 until he was
distracted by events elsewhere. Frederick was seeking above all the Byzantine gold stored
there, that Manuel’s agents were using to influence the Italian towns (Stephenson 2000:

2. The Balkans: Manuel allowed war to break out between Byzantium and Hungary,
which brought Dalmatia, Croatia, and Bosnia firmly back under Byzantine control
(Treadgold 1997: 650).
The Hungarians under general Denis (Denes, “Dionysius”) were once again advancing
on Sirmium, and Manuel sent an army under the command of Andronicus
Contostephanus to deal with the invasion. Andronikos Kontostephanos defeats the
Hungarians. The campaign is described below.

A decisive victory near Zemun (Semlin: today part of Belgrade) enabled Manuel to
conclude a peace by which Dalmatia and other frontier strips were ceded to him. The
authority of Rhomaniya-Byzantium was restored in Croatia and Dalmatia, which had
been lost to the empire during the time of the Croatian King Petar Kresimir IV (d. 1074).
Suddenly Venice found it had a large and powerful new neighbour.

The March to the Danube, 1167

Kinnamos, s.271, trans. Brand p.203, describes the marching order of the Byzantine
army as follows (also Birkenmeier p.120). This presentation differs a little from that
offered in our earlier description of the Comnenian army (see above, after the entry for
It may seem implied that cavalry outnumbered infantry, but probably the sources were
focused on the aristocrats on horses more than on the plebs on foot.
Six nationalities or ethnicities are mentioned: Byzantines, Germans, Italians, Serbs,
Cumans and Turks; but still the impression is that ‘Greeks’ made up over half the
Birkenmeier, Komnenian Army 2002, p.162, rightly observes that ‘mercenary’ is the
wrong word to describe foreigner professsionals enrolled as regular troops, and cites the
modern example of Gurkhas in the British army.

i. A vanguard of cavalry: The (1) Cumans and “most of the (2) Turkish force” [i.e. horse-


archers], “together with (3) a few [Byzantine/Greek] knights who fought with lances”.

ii. Second: Several “regiments of Romans” [Byzantine cavalry]. When formed for battle,
they became the left wing.
- As pictured in Nicolle’s Eastern Europe 1988, the armour of a Byzantine cavalryman
consisted of a short-sleeved mail hauberk that extended to the thigh; he carried a long
teardrop-shaped shield (about 1.25 metres tall, according to Pirani, Reconstructing
p.128). Hungarian knights were similarly equipped.
- The emperor Manuel was described in 1150 as wearing a mail hood or an aventail that
also covered his face, and presumably the better class of Byzantine cavalry did this too
(ibid, p.17).

iii. Third: “[Byzantine] infantry mingled with bowmen [foot archers] and an armoured
regiment of Turks” (presumably also infantry). On the battle-field, they made up the
third line or rearguard.

iv. Fourth: The lesser commanders with “picked Romans [Byzantines] and (4) Germans
and also Turks” (presumably elite cavalry, both lancers and horse-archers). When
formed for battle, they became the right wing.

v. Rear: The commander in chief with a small body of imperial guardsmen (Varangians
and Greeks) and various (5) Italian [Norman-Lombard] ‘mercenaries’ and (6) Serb
auxiliaries. In battle, they fomed the central division. Quite possibly these troops were
all infantry.

Niketas Choniates (Annals 157) refers to the Byzantines deploying lancers with pikes and
"long swords", and mounted archers. At least some of the imperial troops also carried
iron maces. He claims that when their lances were shattered, the imperials resorted to
their long swords and when they were blunted, to maces (in Birkenmeier p.208). It is
notable that, in this context, there is no mention of archery (but it would have been used
in the preliminary skirmishing: see Haldon’s account below).
Kinnamos says (s.270: Brand p.203) that the Hungarian army numbered 15,000 men:
“armoured knights, bowmen and light infantry”.
Presumably the imperial army was somewhat larger: say 20,000 men. Birkenmaier,
Komnenian Army 2002: 162, remarks that native ‘Greek’ units constituted some two-
thirds of the whole, forming the left flank and parts of the centre division, and
“undoubtedly” provided most of the infantry. Latins made up many of the rest. There is
also mention of allied Cuman, Serbian and Turkish units.

Ignoring the emperor's injunction not to fight on St Procopius' day, 8 July 1167,
Andronicus and his army, thanks presumably to the effectiveness of the mace against
Hungarian mail armour, had a resounding victory, the most spectacular of the
reign, according to Stone: so total that the Hungarians were not to be a problem again
in the reign of Manuel. Haldon calls it a “stunning” victory (Haldon 2001: 138; also
Stone, ‘Manuel’, at:, accessed 2005).

By this victory, Manuel’s army restored the authority of Rhomaniya-Byzantium in

Croatia and Dalmatia, which had been lost during the time of the Croatian King Petar
Kresimir IV (d. 1074). In Dalmatia, a united administration was introduced. Dubrovnik,
together with Split and Trogir, came under this administration. The East Roman Empire
would rule in Dalmatia until the death of Manuel in 1180, when Dubrovnik alone


continued under the Empire's rule.

John Haldon’s Account of the battle of Semlim or Sirmium, 1167 (Haldon

2001: 138-39. Cf also Birkenmaier p.119.)

The fortress of Sirmium is today’s Sremska Mitrovica, on the left bank of the Sava about
50 km WNW of the Sava-Danube confluence at Belgrade.* Semlin (Zemun) was another
fortress in the same area, on the Danube itself, nearer Belgrade; indeed today it
constitutes part of that city.
This region was fought over several times between 1164 and 1167.

(*) Near the modern intersection point of Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia.

Kontostephanos drew up his forces in three main divisions, with the river Sava at some
distance to his rear.
Ahead of the main line was screen of cavalry: mainly Turkish and Cuman horse-
archers but also a few cavalry lancers (Byzantine and/or Latin knights). Kontostephanos
commanded the mainly infantry central division, made up of the Varangians and
Hetaireiai (imperial guards: literally “Companions”), 500 allied Serbian spear-infantry
and some Lombard-Italian horse-lancers. The left division consisted of four ‘taxiarchies’
or brigades of Byzantine regular cavalry and some allied units. The right division was
composed of the elite Byzantine units and German professionals (“mercenaries”),
together with some Turkish units. There was a second line: cavalry flankers behind each
wing and a central reserve of Byzantine heavy infantry and foot-archers in three
taxiarchies along with a number of heavily armoured Turks, probably infantry also.

The Hungarian commander Denis (Dénes, Dionysius) placed his men in three
unorganized large divisions, probably with infantry in the centre of each and also behind
the cavalry. The cavalry were the offensive element.
Nicetas Choniates remarks that the formation, military equipment and training were
generally the same on both sides; Haldon proposes that the difference lay in the superior
order, discipline and tactical dispositions of the imperial troops, provided these were
properly exploited by an able commanding officer.

The battle opened with the imperial skirmishers skirmishing forward firing arrows from
horseback so as to tempt the Hungarians into a charge. This was successful, and the
whole Hungarian line surged forward. The imperial horse-archers continued their
offensive fire as the Hungarians charged. The Byzantine left, except for two brigades
(“taxiarchies”), was immediately pushed back and retired in a feigned rout towards the
river Sava. There it quickly reformed. This feigned withdrawal seems to have weakened
the cohesion of the Hungarian line. Meanwhile (this was a key point in the battle) the
Byzantine central and right divisions maintained discipline and managed to hold the
enemy charge. The Byzantine right then counter-charged, smashing into the Hungarian
line which was pinned on its right by the two taxiarchies that had not withdrawn.
Kontostephanos now counter-attacked in the centre and ordered forward the infantry
reserve. This threw the Hungarians off balance. Soon they were driven back along their
whole line. They then broke and fled in a rout. The maces of the Byzantine cavalry were
used to good effect in the close-in fighting.
The battle shows, says Haldon, that Byzantine tactical order and discipline could carry
the day even when the enemy were not outnumbered and employed the same
technology. Sensible and intelligent leadership was also important.


3. The East: The Byzantine noblewoman Maria Komnene of Nauplia, daughter of John,
was born 1154, died ca 1217; so aged just 13 in 1167 when she married (1) Amalric
d'Anjou, the 31 years old French or Frankish King of Jerusalem (*1136, +1174). She later
married (2) 1177 Balian d'Ibelin, the crusader or Franco-Palestinian Lord of Nablus

1. Serbia: Tihomir imprisoned his brother Nemanja, who escaped, then mobilised an
army and expelled Tihomir and his other two brothers, possibly with help from
Byzantium, in 1167/68. Tihomir fled to Constantinople, returning with Byzantine troops
to challenge Nemanja but was defeated and killed at Pantino, near Zvechan on the
Sitnica River in present-day Montenegro (Fine 1991: 224; Fine 1994: 5). See 1168.

2. Failed invasion of Fatimid Egypt by the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem.

1168: MANUEL TURNS 50. Also 150th anniversary of the Byzantine conquest of Bulgaria.

1. To celebrate his army’s victory over the Hungarians, Manuel conducts a triumph:
"Every purple-bordered and gold-speckled cloth was hung [from windows as banners],
and the citizens, flowing towards the procession [as it entered the city] … emptied out
the agorae [market squares], houses and churches … platforms [were] to two and three
storeys, and the rooftops above all were crammed with spectators. . . . A gilded silver
chariot drawn by four white horses carried an icon of the Mother of God. Immediately
behind it came the lesser royals and high minister and officials. The emperor followed
them mounted on a horse and decked out in the imperial regalia. Then followed the
victorious general Kontostephanus. The procession proceeded to Hagia Sophia where
thanks were given" (Choniates, Annals 158).

2. (or 1172?) Manuel marches with an army to western Thrace to intimidate the Serbian
prince Stefan Nemanja, who submits. Nemanja, ruling as ‘grand zhupan’, ca.1171-96, will
become the creator of a unified Serbian state. Cf 1169, 1172.
The grand zupan Desa was succeeded by his nephew Stephen Nemanja. When he
rebelled, he was pursued by Manuel and his army and forced to hide in caves before he
finally surrendered (in 1168 according to Choniates).

3. The East: The cleric and future chronicler, William of Tyre, aged about 38, was sent on
a diplomatic mission for Amalric of Jerusalem to the Byzantine emperor Manuel I
Comnenus, to finalise the treaty made between the two rulers for a joint campaign
against Egypt. See next.

The Serbs as described by William of Tyre, 1169/79

The following passage suggests that pastoralism or transhumance was mainly relied
upon by ‘rebellious Serbs’ (rebellantibus Serviis) and others living in, or raiding through,
the Byzantine-ruled Bitola-Ohrid region, part of today’s FYROM. Alternatively, since we
know that agriculture existed in Serbia, at least among the Slavs of Serbia, this passage
may describe just the transhumants of the Pindos and other mountains: Albanians,
Vlachs and others. His statement “at times coming down from the mountains” probably


refers to the winter sojorun in the lowlands, after summer grazing in the highlands.

Est autem populus incultus, absque disciplina, montium et silvarum habitator,

agriculturae ignarus: gregibus et armentis copiosi, lacte, caseo, butyro, carnibus, melle
et cera uberius abundantes. Hi magistratus habent, quos suppanos vocant; et domino
imperatori aliquando serviunt; aliquando de montibus et silvis egredientes, omnem
circa se regionem, ut sunt audaces et bellicosi viri, depopulantur (Historia Transmarina
20.4, quoted in Vanni 2007: 11).

‘Moreover the populace is uncultivated (uncouth), lacking education (teaching), dwellers

in the mountains and forests, ignorant of agriculture: [it is] well supplied with flocks
and cattle-herds, [and] milk, cheese, butter, meats, honey and beeswax in the greatest
abundance. They have this office (magistracy) that they call a ‘suppan’ [i.e. zhupan]; and
at times (aliquando: at length, finally, ever) they serve [him] as (their) master-
commander; at times coming down from the mountains and out of the forests, [and] as
they are bold and warlike men, every area (is) ravaged (laid waste) by them.’ —My
translation, MO’R.

The East: A formal alliance with the Latins was negotiated, and in 1169 (see there)
Manuel sent a joint expedition with King Amalric I of Jerusalem to Egypt. The
expedition was a dramatic demonstration of the power of the Empire, involving a large
fleet of over 200 ships, including many large war vessels equipped with siege weapons
and Greek fire, and an army which represented a substantial investment of resources by
the Byzantines. Heath 1995: 17 states that the fleet comprised 12 large warships, 150
other galleys and 60 transports. See next.
The Crusade historian William of Tyre was impressed by the Byzantine fleet of this
period; describing a Byzantine naval expedition against Egypt in 1169, he noted (see
under 1169 next) the swift dromons and “60” large horse-transports used by the navy to
transport the imperial cavalry. This expeditionary fleet comprised over 200 ships, and
represented a powerful tool of Byzantine foreign policy.

Above: Egypt was captured by the Zengids in 1169.

1. Alliance between the Angelos and Dukas families: Alexios Angelos, the older brother of
the future Emperor, Isaac II Angelos, in c. 1169 marries Euphrosyne Doukaina
Kamaterina or Kamatera, the daughter of Andronikos Doukas Kamateros, a high-


ranking official who held the titles of megas droungarios [high admiral] and
pansebastos (died 1176).

2. Joint Byzantine-Latin attack on Fatimid Egypt: failed siege of Damietta [present-day

Dumyat] in the eastern delta. The Byzantine fleet of 200+ ships sailed (rowed) with
provisions for three months: by the time the crusaders were ready, the supplies were
already running out, and eventually the fleet retired after an ineffectual attempt to
capture Damietta.
Amalric, the Latin king of Jerusalem, persuaded Manuel to participate in a joint
venture in which the Byzantines would supply the navy, which was commanded by the
megas doux [admiral] Andronicus Contostephanus (Kinnamos, trans. Brand pp 208 f).
The Byzantines proceeded (July) on the slow voyage via Acre [October 1169] to Damietta
on the Nile Delta [27 October], to which they laid siege, but were prevented from ‘sailing’
(rowing) up the Nile since the way was blocked by a great chain stretched across the river
by the defenders. The fleet was running short of supplies when Amalric’s land troops
finally arrived (27 October) on the scene. Saladin dispatched reinforcements from Cairo,
and Amalric was persuaded by a bribe to lift the siege (13 December). It had lasted 55
days (Lyons & Jackson 1985: 36).

The native fleet had been revived by Manuel I, so that for the expedition to Damietta
in 1169 he was able to provide 12 large warships or transports, 150 other galleys and 60
sail-powered transports (Heath’s 1995: 17 reading of William of Tyre). Nicetas confirms
this, writing generally of “over 200” vessels. Cf 1171: 150 galleys; also 1175, 1187.
More specifically, William of Tyre says the Byzantine fleet was composed of 10 or 12
“[naves] maxime que dromones dicuntur”: ‘very large (transporter-combat) ships called
dromons’; 60 “[naves] maiores ad deportandos equos deputante” [i.e. larger ships:
ramp-equipped large horse transports]; and 150 galee [battle galleys] or “longae
naves rostrate [long beak-prowed ships, i.e. with spurs*] arranged with twin ordines
[banks] of oars”. William says that the 12 dromones carried supplies, arms and siege
engines, while the 60 transports had “doors in their sterns” for loading and
disembarking horses. As noted below under 1174, Norman horse-transports could take
about 40 horses per vessel; we may imagine the Byzantine ships had the same capacity.
If so, then some 2,400 horses were embarked.
Noting that the term ‘dromon’ had now come to mean a transport ship, Pryor &
Jeffreys deduce that by this time the Byzantines had adopted as their main battle
galley the western-style bireme galley - rowed in the new ‘alla sensile’
mannner: the “stand and sit stroke”, with two rowers per oar (Dromon p.415). The old
terms ‘dromon’ and ‘chelandion’ would soon became anachronistic among the
Byzantines and were replaced respectively by katergon and taretes or toretes (from the
Latin ‘taride’, itself borowed from Arabic).

(*) Latin calcar, ‘horse spur’, ‘rooster’s spur’. A thick wooden pole wrapped with
iron. Used to break or shear through the oar-banks of opposing ships.

The late 1100s saw the run-down of the navy. By the time of the Fourth Crusade
(1203-04) Niketas Choniates, an eyewitness, observed that only “20" half-rotten vessels
(“rotten and worm-eaten tubs”) could be mustered to face the Latin invaders. By that
time there would be no large ships at all (Partington p.11, citing Niketas; Heath 1995:


2. Egypt: Yusuf ibn Ayyub, later dubbed Saladin or Salah ad-Din, meaning
'Righteousness of the Faith', becomes vizier to the last Fatimid caliph. Hence the
dynastic tag used by latter-day historians: "Ayyubid". See 1171.
The Fatimid Egyptian army he commanded in 1169 is said to have numbered 80,000
men of which half were cavalry (Konstam, Historical Atlas of the Crusades: London,
Mercury 2004: 137). This would be just the number enrolled. One might guess that field
armies numbered more like 25,000.

3. Serbia: Stefan Nemanja becomes Veliki Zhupan or "grand chieftain" of Raska or

Rashka*: Latin, Rascia, today’s southern Serbia. Or in 1171. See 1172.

(*) The region west of Nish. The Rashka River runs through south-east Serbia
proper, past the northern tip of modern-day Kosovo, through Novi Pazar and the
town of Rashka. The Rashka joins the Ibar River which in turn joins the western
Morava River (Zapadna Morava) near Kraljevo in today’s central Serbia.

The alliance between Venice and Byzantium ended when Venice supported the
Normans, seizing Ragusa (Dubrovnik) and, briefly, Chios in the Aegean. Manuel strikes
treaties with Genoa and Pisa, a precautionary move against Venice (although Venice was
still formally allied to Constantinople). Cf 1171, 1175, 1204.

1169-85: Spain: Ibn Rushd - the philosopher afterwards known to the Latins as
"Averroes" - serves as religious judge in Seville and Cordoba.

Theatres of War 1160-80:

West Balkans Asia Minor The East

1161 Seljuqs
1163 PEACE
1164 Semlin
1165 Serbian War: Semlin

Papal alliance:
War: Dalmatia

1167 Sirmium,

1168 Serbian War:

Skopje, Thrace


1169 Alliance with

Venetian War: Latin
Dalmatia Jerusalem:
1170 Chios, Aegean

1172 Serbia
1174 PEACE
Invasion and
1177 Meander Valley Egypt
1178 Philadelphia
1179 Bithynia


Eastern Mediterranean: Raid on Chios (see further under 1171) by the Venetians under
the Doge Michele/Michael ll in revenge for a perceived breach of faith on the part of
Emperor Manuel. The Doge decides to winter there. But the occupying Venetian troops,
who are laid low by plague, accuse the Greeks of poisoning the water supply, and leave
with only 17 ships. Source:
See next.

1. Manuel ordered the arrest of all Venetians everywhere within the empire. This took
place on 12 March: 20,000 people were detained according to the sources cited by
Treadgold. All their goods were confiscated.
As Browning 1992: 176 correctly remarks, this was “a beautiful demonstration of the
efficiency of the Byzantine civil service [and army], and one quite beyond the capacity of
any Western state to emulate”.

The Venetians took reprisals at Euripos in Euboea and in the eastern Aegean (Chios and
Lesbos). They were pursued by the megas doux Andronicus Contostephanus with “150”
ships, but mostly evaded capture. Retreating Venetian ships were chased across the
Aegean by a Byzantine fleet of "150 triremes" [galleys] carrying “men who bear on
their shoulders single-edged axes”, i.e. Varangians (says Choniates, VI.5: Annals 173;
and Kinnamos, Deeds s.283; Stephenson 2000: 262; D’Amato 2010: 19).
Here the term ‘triremes’ is merely a classical tag; in reality they were probably bireme
galleys, with just two banks of oars (4 x 27 oars: total rowers 108; a larger number of
rowers would be required if the Western ‘alla sensile’ style had already been adopted by
the Byzantines). They were assembled from the immediate environs of the city and


manned, “not from abroad”, but by native mariners, as Eustathios pointedly notes
(Magdalino 2002: 233). This may imply that the ships were converted or requisitioned
merchant galleys.
Pryor & Jeffrey’s emphasize the weakness or limited capability of the Byzantine navy
in the Comnenian period [except for brief periods: cf 1169 above]; if this was a victory for
Byzantium, it was gained by strategy and disease rather than by naval action as such
(Dromon p.452).

Kinnamos says the Venetians protected their ships against Greek Fire by wrapping
them in cloth of felt soaked with vinegar.
This is the last mention in this chronology of the Byzantines using or
possessing Greek Fire. In the sieges by the Latins in 1203-04 (see there), the
Byzantines did not deploy it (also Makris, in Laiou ed., 2002; Haldon 2006a).* This
suggests that knowledge of how to make it and/or access to the necessary ingredients
was lost between 1171 and 1204. Haldon 2006a: 305 says that the crude oil was obtained
from Alania, which is today’s ‘southern Russia’: the greater North Caucasus region
between the Crimea and the Caspian, including Tmutarakan, at the entrance to the Sea
of Azov. He thinks that adequate supply could no longer be secured in the late 1100s
because the fleet declined in numbers and efficacy and moreover the oil-supplying
regions “became inaccessible to imperial agents” (p.316). Byzantium maintained an
outpost in southern Crimea (Cherson) until 1204, but the Cumans, or ‘Cuman-Kipchak
confederation’, controlled all sides of the Sea of Azov during the 1100s.
In 1185 (see there) Andronicus was able to prepare 100 ploia makra (“major vessels”)
to aid towns threatened by a Sicilian-Norman attack. Although Greek Fire is not
mentioned, we may guess it was after 1185 that the weapon ceased to be used. It was in
1187 that the Byzantines began relying almost entirely on hired Venetian war-galleys.
Perhaps that was the point at which they gave up making Greek Fire.

(*) There is no reference to fire-siphons in 1203-04, but some type of incendiary

material was hurled in pots and other containers, thrown using catapults (Haldon
2006a: 316). A co-writer of Haldon elsewhere does assert that ‘Greek fire’ was used
after 1204, specifically during the Turkish siege of Constantinople in 1453 when it
was “sprayed” on a Turkish siege machine as well as poured down the walls
(Nicolle’s paper, in Nicolle, Haldon & Turnbull 2007: 152).

2. The king of Jerusalem, Amalric (Amaury) I, visits Byzantium (March-July 1171) to

seek aid from Manuel (Magdalino 2002: 75; Harris 2006: 109). He sailed from Acre with
10 galleys. William of Tyre not only offers his readers a surprisingly complete description
of the king’s reception by Manuel I Comnenus, but does not neglect to emphasise the
beauty and splendour of the imperial palace, nor the elegance of the court ceremonial. In
other circumstances, however, Byzantine diplomacy and court ceremonial would be
considered by Latins as arrogant, perfidious and decadent.

3. Saladin: Yusuf ibn Ayyub, called ‘Salah ad-Din’, deposes and replaces the Fatimid
caliph in Egypt: origin of the Ayyubid dynasty. Attacks on Latin Palestine and Syria from
1173. Salah ad-Din is an honorific that means The Righteousness of the Faith in Arabic.
Saladin was himself an ethnic Kurd.

Lamellar armour


Ireland: In Giraldus Cambrensis’s account of the Danish attack on Dublin in 1171,

the Danes are wearing laminis ferreis arte consutis, or ‘iron plates skillfully sewn
together’ (Claude Blair, European Armour circa 1066 to circa 1700. London: B.
T. Batsford, 1958, p. 37). It is likely that does not mean the ‘coat of plates’
construction, but rather lamellar or scale armour, inspired no doubt by the
service of Danish soldiers in Byzantium.

100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF MANZIKERT, the victory that gave the
Turks entry to Anatolia. Cf 1176.

1171-73: Almohads conquer al-Andalus: Great Mosque of Seville built

1171-72; extended 1193.

The Balkans: Manuel defeats a revolt by the leading Serbian prince Stephen Nemanja,
the zupan of Raska/Rascia, who is taken prisoner. This confirmed the status of the
Serbian state as an imperial 'protectorate'. Serbia recognised Byzantine suzerainty but
it was not annexed (Browning 1992: 176). Present-day maps, however, tend to include
12th century Serbia as part of the empire.
Abandoned by Western allies and facing a superior Byzantine force, Nemanja
nevertheless did show political prowess and farsightedness. His spectacular surrender to
Manuel in 1172, followed by seemingly humiliating ceremonies of submission at
Constantinople, all ultimately led to his return and consolidation of power and stability
in an autonomous Raska for the next eight years (Dimnik, ‘Southern Slavs’, in NCMH IV:

Bela III was King of Hungary circa 1172-1196:
The first to receive the Byzantine title despotes (sub-ruler, lit. “master, lord”) was
actually a foreigner, Bela III of Hungary, signifying that, at least in the eyes of
Constantinople, Hungary was considered a Byzantine tributary state.

1. Italy: The ‘maritime republic’ of Ancona on the Adriatic coast of Italy maintained
friendly relations with the Emperor Manuel I Komnenos during his reign in opposition
to the menace of the German Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. As a result, the town was
besieged twice during Frederick's reign, the most serious siege being in 1173. Manuel
sent money and military advisers. The heroic resistance of the Anconitans was the talk of
the Italian-German-Greek world (Nicol 1992: 100; Magdalino 2002: 94).

2. Cilicia: The Armenian leader Mleh strikes alliances with the various Muslim powers,
and is finally recognised by Emperor Manuel in 1173 as the independent Baron of Lesser
or Cilician Armenia. In other words, the claims of the Latin/Crusader principality of
Antioch to Cilicia are denied.


Above: The Mediterranean in about 1173.

The ‘Muwahid’ caliphate is more usually known as Almohad (Arabic al-
Muwahhidun). Pisa ruled Corsica and Sardinia. The term ‘Holy Roman
Empire’ is an anachronism; ‘German Empire’ should be preferred. Croatia
was tempoerialy part of the Roman (Byzantine) Empire, but for most of our
period it was ruled by and paid taxes to the Hungarian king, although there
was local administration under a Croatian ban or viceroy. (Sometimes
Croatia acted as an independent agent and at other times as a vassal of
Hungary.) Serbia too, while nominally part of the Empire, might be
considered quasi-independent. The Cumans, a pastoralist Turkic people,
occupied present-day Rumania and part of the Crimea. The ‘Four Emirates’
were the Turkish statelets based at Sivas [see under 1174], Erzinjan, Erzerum
and Akhlat. Armenia (Old or Greater Armenia) was ruled by the Turkish
emirs or beys of Akhlat or Ahlat and Maragheh. The crusader Principality of
Antioch, while nominally subject to Byzantium, was de facto independent.

Byzantine Territory and Population in 1173-75

Byzantium dominated the whole Balkan-Aegean-Black Sea sector, ruling from Dalmatia
to the Danube and thence east to the Black Sea corner of eastern Asia Minor; and from
Greece to Crete, Cyprus and Antioch.
In the west, Byzantium's neighbours were the Norman kingdom of Sicily-South Italy;
and Venice.
Constantinople also controlled the densely populated western third of Asia Minor (see
1174 and 1175), while the powerful Seljuk Sultanate of Rum ruled the less populated
highland two-thirds of Anatolia. Cf 1174: conquest of Sivas; 1175 and 1176.

The territorial gains made since 1130 were modest: some additional borderlands
captured from the Seljuks in Anatolia, and suzerainty over ex-Crusader Cilicia and

Angeliki Laiou, 2002: 51, has proposed that Constantinople reached a population of
300,000 to 400,000 under the Komnenoi in the late 12th century. Thessalonike, she
says, may have reached 150,000; a number of other cities ranged from 10,000 to


30,000; and others upward of 30,000. Corinth has been estimated as having a
population of 15,000–20,000, and Monemvasia one of 20,000 [sic!: the offshore quasi-
island is so tiny that this figure must have represented mostly “suburbs” on the shore].
Thus it is not unlikely, according to Laiou, that in the late 12th century, that is, in the
1170s, and thus before the secessions of the last part of the century, the population was
similar to that of 1025 (when Byzantium still ruled the interior of Anatolia). In other
words: the loss of upland Anatolia was compensated for by population growth in the
eastern Aegean littoral and the rest of the empire.

1173-85, N Italy: Leaning Tower of Pisa: Commissioned in 1173, work on the

tower was begun by an unknown architect. Almost as soon as the foundations
were completed, the now famous lean became evident. By 1185, when the tower
had reached four floors in height, construction work was halted. (It was not to be
completed until 1360.)

The Seljuqs of Kilij Arslan II of Rum conquer Danishmendid Sivas. (The emirs of Sivas,
Erzinjan and Erzerum sometimes recognized the Seljuqs of Konya and sometimes did
not.) See 1178.
Sivas had been protected by Nur ad-Din of Mosul as overlord, but when he died in 1174,
the Sivas lands were incorporated into the Rum Sultanate. Four years later, the Malatya
Danishmends were defeated and also incorporated, marking the end of Danishmend

This brought Rum to an early zenith; the whole inland half of Anatolia was under Seljuk
control (map in EB15 under ‘Turkey’; also Times Atlas 1994: 81). But if Byzantium is the
standard, then Seljuk Rum was still a second-rank power. The empire controlled the
entire coast from Trebizond right around to lowland Cilicia and Antioch. Cf 1175:

2. Egypt: The Cordoba-born Jewish scholar Maimonides becomes court physician to



1174, post-Fatimid Egypt: An Italo-Norman (“Sicilian”) force of 150 galleys and

“50” or “36” horse transporters salied (rowed) to Alexandria as part of an
intended joint attack with the Christians of Jerusalem. If, as reported, there were
‘1,500’ horses transported on ‘36’ tarides, boats with loading ramps, then we
have an average of 40+ horses per boat. —Nicolle 1996.
In the month of Ze El Hegga [July-August] in 569 AH /1174 AD the fleet of the
King of Sicily reached the shores of Alexandria equipped with infantry and
knights and war machinery. (In the meantime, the King of Jeruslem had died,
and so no land forces would come from crusader-ruled Palestine.) Battles broke
out between the invaders and the people of Alexandria. This ended in the victory
of the Alexandrines and the withdrawal of the Italo-Normans in their ships later
in 570 AH / 1174 AD. It is said (by Ibn al-Athir) that the withdrawal was
prompted by news that the new ruler of Egypt, Saladin, was approaching from
Cairo with an army.

1. Asian borderlands: The culmination of a program of fortification was the re-erection of
the fortress-towns of Dorylaeum [Eskisehir] and Siblia in Phrygia (1175), effected under
the supervision of Manuel himself. In order to erect the former, Manuel needed to beat
off Turcoman nomads encamped in the area. Having assembled an army at Malagina,
he proceeded to Dorylaion. The Turks resorted to a scorched-earth policy in order to try
and forestall the work, which was nevertheless completed, and the new forts were
garrisoned by both locals and Latin mercenaries. —Andrew Stone, “Manuel”,, citing Kinnamos.
The city of Dorylaeum in east-central Asia Minor - med. Dorylaion: present-day
Turkish Eskisehir, west of Ankara* - was rebuilt in 1175 by Manuel Comnenus and
fortified as well as possible. At this time John Cinnamus ("Histor.", VII, 2-3) and Nicetas
Choniates ("De gestis Man. Comn.", VI, 1) write enthusiastically about it as one of the
most beautiful towns of Asia Minor. The next year, however, it fell again into the hands
of the Turks.

(*) On a notional line from Konya to Istanbul, Eskisehir is two-thirds of the way
from Konya.

2. Alliance of Venice with the Sicilian-Norman king William II against

The name Basilicata - the present-day province forming the central part of the boot of
Italy - appears for the first time in a document from 1175, and probably derives from
Basiliskos, a Byzantine administrator.

3. fl. Eustathius, archbishop of Thessalonica 1175-1191, scholar and theologian: “a noble

product of the 12th-century renaissance, with its renewed interest in the classical
tradition, its rationalism and its high artistic standards”. He wrote on grammar, theology
and history. His letters preserve an account of the Norman sack of Thessalonica (see
below under 1185).

4. First Seljuq silver coins.


As noted earlier, the reconquest of the more densely populated parts of Asia Minor under
the Comneni emperors, and continued population growth, would presumably have
brought the Empire's population back to say eight or 10 million under Manuel in about
1175 (according to Treadgold). Or, following Tulane (1999), the population may have
reached 10-12 million already under John II (d. 1143).

Toledo/Castile/Spain: Gerard of Cremona translatedi nto Latin, c. 1175, the

Arabic version of Ptolemy’s Almagest (dealing with the mathematics of the paths of
the planets and stars). It became the most widely known version in Western
Europe before the Renaissance.

From 1175:
SW Asia Minor: The doux [military commander] and anagrapheus [manager of land
taxes] of the Theme of Mylasa and Melanoudion from 1175 was Andronikos
Kantakouzenos, fl 1170-90, a younger brother of John. Cf 1176.
Mylasa is today’s Milas, near Bodrum.

Run-down of the Byzantine navy: The finance minister or collector of revenues,
John of Poutzê, was blamed by the contemporary writer Niketas Choniates for all but
eliminating the "triremes" … but cf 1176, 1177.
At the start of his reign, Manuel confirmed John Axuch in the office of Grand
Domestic, that is, commander of the army. He appointed John of Poutze - from Poutze in
Thrace - as procurator of public taxes, grand commissioner and inspector of accounts
(megas logariastes); and John Hagiotheodorites as chancellor. John of Poutze proved to
be an oppressive tax collector, but was also unsusceptible to bribery. However, allegedly
with the emperor’s concurrence, Poutze diverted monies levied for the navy into the
treasury, which would soon increase Byzantine dependence on the maritime Italian city-
states of Venice, Genoa and Pisa (Pryor & Jeffreys, Dromon p.111, citing Choniates;
Magoulias edn p.33).

The historian John Kinnamos* credits Emperor Manuel I Komnenos with introducing
Frankish cavalry methods to the Byzantine army, specifically mentioning the
replacement of round shields with kite shields. (But artistic sources show them
appearing earlier.) Greater wealth allowed the more extensive use of lamellar
armour, including inverted lamellar sleeves and skirts. The "Phrygian cap" helm - a
helmet shaped like the forward-pointing Phrygian cap - was a fashion that appears in
Byzantine sources in the eleventh century, and became very widespread in the twelfth
century across cultural and religious boundaries. —Very good illustration at: Dawson,
accessed 2002:

(*) John Kinnamos’s History covers the period 1118-1176: English trans. Deeds of John
and Manuel Comnenus, Charles. M. Brand (New York: Columbia University Press,
1976). He was Manuel's confidential secretary.

1175-1225: Zenith of medieval Persian poetry in Shiraz: ruled by ‘the Empire of

the Khwarizm Shah’. Khwarizm was located where the Oxus River enters the Aral
Sea; the classical "Chorasmia".



1. Asia: According to Michael the Syrian, Turkish nomads or Türkmen invaded the
‘northern’ part of Byzantine territory. This probably meant Bithynia. They seized
approximately “100,000” people, killed all the men, and sold the women and children to
slave merchants, who took them to Persia (Chronique, III, 309, IV, 715.) The figure of
100,000 looks quite improbable; possibly it just signals a very large number.

2. The Levant: Kinnamos records that before leaving Constantinople to campaign in Asia
Minor (see next), Manuel sent or planned to send “150” ships against Egypt, manning
them with difficulty (”insufficient troops”) (1176). William of Tyre says that this or
another fleet– 70 imperial galleys and other ships - that Manuel sent against Egypt in a
second prong of his "crusade" appeared off Acre (1177) but did not see action. It seesm
implied that the other 90 dis not set out. —Stone 2010; Hamilton 2005: 113.

3. Asia Minor: Manuel campaigns against the Seljuk Turks under Qilch Arslan II.
Momentus for its results, the Turks defeat his large Romaic imperial army at the battle of
MYRIOCEPHALON* in central Asia Minor. As it turned out, this ended forever the
Byzantines’ hopes of recovering central Anatolia.

(*) SE of Pisidian Antioch/Yalvac, between modern Beysehir and Konya. More

specifically: east of modern Yunuslar. See below for a detailed discussion of the

Two Imperial armies set out to attack Turkish Rum: one under Andronicus Vatatzes was
routed at Neo-Caesarea (Niksar) south of Trebizond; the other, led by Manuel himself,
having proceeded up the Meander valley past Laodikeia, moved broadly east along the
route of the First Crusade. But Manuel, who like a Latin neglected all reconnaissance [or
so says Previté-Orton], was surrounded and met (17-18 September) with utter disaster in
the defiles of Myriocephalum (thus The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History, Charles
William Previté-Orton, 1962: 541; Choniates says no scouts were sent forward into the
defile). The battle is described below.
-- In Manuel’s own judgement, "it was a second Manzikert", refrring to the battle of
1071 that first gave the Turks entry to Anatolia.
-- Kinnamos says that “more than 3,000” wagons carried the imperial baggage and
siege-equipment (and no doubt also spare weapons and so on). Although oxen are
mentioned, we must imagine that most of these ‘wagons’ were carts pulled by mules*
(R.-J. Lilie, ‘Die Schlacht von Myriokephalon 1176’, Revue des Études Byzantines, 35
(1977) 257-275).

(*) If two animals per cart = 6,000 mules. We may guess that the number of mules
carrying food provisions was as many again – perhaps 12,000.
John Haldon, in Pryor ed. 2006: 158, has calculated, using known consumption and
carrying levels, that some 9,000 mules (used as pack animals) were needed to carry
provisions - human food, plus grain and hay for horses - for an army of 10,000 men
(6,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry).
The provisions will last for 24 days, longer if foraging is allowed for. Applying an
average marching rate, this was enough only for a return journey of 240 km out and 240
km back – if there was no re-provisioning. (Cf: 500+ km from Constantinople to Konya.)
But probably the expedition re-provisioned at one or more aplekta (fortified base-
camps: ‘storage bases, staging areas, marching camps’). And certainly foraging and also


confiscations or food tribute from the villages passed, both Greek and Turkish, would
have supplemented whatever food provisions the mules were able to carry.
In 1176 it seems that the most remote aplekton in southern Asia Minor was at
Soublaion or Chonai, which is modern Honaz, near Denizli/Laodiceia (Haldon 1999: 151
and Birkenmeier 2002 passim). It had been re-established in 1175 as a prelude to the
campaign of 1176. As the crow flies, it is over 300 km from Honaz to Konya. Let is
imagine the line of march was more like 375 km. Marching at 20 km per day, the army
would need some 19 days to reach Konya . . .

The Battle of Myriocephalon, 1176

“Manuel gathered [summer 1176] an army, supposedly so large that it spread across 10
miles [this is entirely plausible: MO’R], and marched towards the border with the
Seljuks. Arslan tried to negotiate but Manuel was convinced of his superiority and
rejected a new peace. He sent part of the army under Andronicus Vatatzes towards
Amasia [between Samsun and Sivas in NE Asia Minor] while his larger force marched
towards the Seljuk capital at Iconium. Both routes lay on a heavily wooded route, where
the Turks could easily hide and set up ambushes; the army moving towards Amasia was
destroyed in one such ambush, and Turkish envoys brought to Manuel Andronicus'
head” (Wikipedia, 2010).
Manuel’s huge army, encumbered with baggage and siege engines, proceeded west
from the Meander valley toward the highlands of the Sultan Dagh - the Sultandegi or
Sultan Daglari range - which runs from the NW to the SE between Antioch-in-Pisidia
[Yalvaç] and modern Aksehir. There the Byzantine army had to traverse a pass, in which
stood an abandoned Byzantine fortress known as Myriokephalon. The Turkish army was
stationed on the hills overlooking the pass, clearly visible to the Byzantines.
The Turks destroyed crops and poisoned water supplies to make Manuel's march more
difficult. Arslan harassed the Byzantine army in order to force it further east from the
Meander valley, and specifically the mountain pass in which the fortress of
Myriokephalon lay. There, Manuel decided to march forward, despite the danger from
further ambushes, and also despite the fact (or so say the Wikipedia authors) that he
could have attempted to bring the Turks out of their positions to fight them on the
“nearby” plain of Philomelion/Aksehir (Wikipedia 2010, ‘Battle of Myriokephalon’). But
Aksehir lies some 60 km from Myriocephalon, which would have been a major detour.

According to Michael the Syrian III, 371, cited by Vryonis, the Turkmen [herdsman-
warriors], in groups or columns of 5,000 to 10,000, harassed the Byzantine army as it
proceeded towards Myriocephalon, and, when the army halted, some “50,000” Turkmen
[the figure seems too large] attacked and pillaged the Byzantine camp.

The Battle

At this point Manuel probably had about 25,000 men, although he may have had as
many as 50,000. Haldon 2005, in Harris p.78, suggests a maximum of 30,000. This
included a force of Latins from the Principality of Antioch.
The troops were divided into [1] a vanguard of infantry; [2] the cavalry, foot-archers,
and other infantry followed behind them; then [3] the right wing led by Manuel’s new
brother-in-law Baldwin of Antioch; and [4] the Byzantine left wing under John
Cantacuzenus, husband of Manuel’s niece. [5] The rear was commanded by the
emperor’s nephew Andronicus Contostephanus.
Manuel in a letter to Henry II of England - whose wife Eleanor of Aquitaine was a


cousin of Manuel's wife Mary of Antioch - mentions that 'Englishmen', i.e. either Anglo-
Saxons or Anglo-Normans: "some of the chief men of your nobility" [also translated as:
“some of those great men of yours”] were prominent in this battle in the Varangian
Guard or some other unit (D’Amato 2010: 10). While it is assumed that Manuel meant
the Varangians, we must remember that Henry (Henri) II’s descent was largely French
(Anjou and Maine) on his father’s side, with Norman and Scottish ancestry on his
mother’s side. Thus the “great men” could have been Anglo-Norman knights.
Kilij Arslan may have had about the same number of troops as Manuel, or fewer, but
the exact number on the Turkish side is unknown.

There was some debate whether it would be prudent to take the Byzantine forces through
such a defile in full view of the enemy. The hotheads prevailed. So they posted flank
guards, and the army pressed into the pass, where it brushed aside the Turks who tried
to resist them. When they were well into the defile, however, the enemy moved around
them through the hills and charged into their flank and rear (Jessica Pease or another,
‘Battle of M.’, at; accessed
The Byzantine infantry vanguard was the first to encounter Arslan's troops, and made
it through the winding 25 km-long pass with few casualties, as the Turks apparently had
not finished setting up their positions. By the time the vanguard reached the end of the
pass, the rear was just about to enter. This allowed the Turks to almost completely trap
them. The Turks attacked the right-wing division first, inflicting heavy casualties,
including Baldwin himself.
For a time the Byzantines held on, pressed close together into a dense mass. Then
Manuel, whether because he hoped to outflank the Turks or because his nerve failed,
tried to ride back out of the pass, followed by most of his army. They found themselves
entangled with the baggage train, which blocked the narrow road. The Turks were able
to cut them down without mercy until nightfall.

Manuel felt he could do little but watch the slaughter from his position, but eventually
gathered his troops and headed back into the pass to drive off the Seljuks. This he
accomplished, and the rearguard was able to finish their march with fewer casualties
than the right and left wings had suffered. As night fell, Manuel fortified his position and
defended it from Turkish archery attacks, which lasted for some time until the Turks

Finally Manuel accepted the sultan's offer of terms and withdrew westwards with the
remnants of his army. (Haldon 2001 and Hendy 2008 – see below – have Manuel
making it all the way through the pass, where the entire Byzantine army, except of course
for those killed or wounded, spent the night at a fortified position. The next day, by
agreement, the Byzantines were able to leave peacefully, marching back through the pass
and homewards.)


Both sides suffered significant casualties, but perhaps they were light on the Byzantine
side relative to its large numbers. Manuel's siege equipment had been captured and
destroyed. The Byzantines, probably now with an inferior force, and without any means
of attacking Iconium, were allowed to retire only when Manuel promised to remove his
forts and armies on the frontier at Dorylaeum and Chonai Siblia. The latter was also
known as Sublaeum or Sublaion - near ancient Colossae; modern Honaz, near


Denizli/Laodiceia. Chonai was located on the northern slope of Mt Honaz, the highest
peak in Turkey's Aegean Region (2,517 or 2,528 m).

Manuel himself compared the defeat to Manzikert, and like Manzikert, it seems to have
become a legendary disaster. In reality, although a defeat, it did not significantly ruin the
Byzantine army, which was fighting in the Balkans soon after. However, as with
Manzikert, the balance between the two powers began to gradually shift - Manuel never
again attacked the Turks and they were able to move further and further west, deeper
into Byzantine territory.

John Haldon’s Account of Myriokephalon (Haldon 2001: 139 ff; supplemented by

Hendy 2008)

Haldon’s 2001 account is broadly the same as in his 2005 paper. The 2001 version is
presented here in some detail. I have added a few points from other accounts, notably
The expedition under Manuel may have numbered about 25,000 men, noting that
its siege and baggage train included 3,000 carts and its line of march stretched for more
than 10 miles (15+ km). Hendy 2008: 150 says there were “between 3,000 and 5,000
wagons”. There were apparently large vehicles pulled by oxen as well as lighter vehicles
pulled by mules.
The order of march was: 1. the van division, chiefly infantry, largely of the palace
regiments; 2. the main or centre division, made up of various eastern and western
tagmata (Byzantine battalions); 3. a third division (the right wing): mainly Latins from
Antioch and elsewhere under Baldwin of Antioch; 4. the baggage train; 5. a fourth
division (the left wing) under Theodore Mavrozomes and John Kantakouzenos; 6. the
emperor’s own division and picked troops (Gk epilekton, possibly including the
Englishmen or Anglo-Normans mentioned earlier); and 7. a rearguard under Andronikos
Kontostephanos. Except for the van division, each division was made of a mix of
cavalry, foot archers and spear infantry. (Freely 2008: 48 notes that there is also
mention of Serbs, Hungarians and Cumans, but in what numbers is unclear.)
The number of troops on the Turkish side is not known. The relatively light casualties
the Turks were able to inflict and the fact that the sultan chose not to press home the
advantage may indicate that his army was much smaller in number than the Byzantines’.

The campaign was directed at the Seljuq capital, Ikonion (Konya). The imperial army,
with a large siege and baggage train, set out in the summer of 1176.
Kilij Arslan sought to negotiate, but Manuel declined to talk and pressed on with his
march. Seeing the size of the enemy forces, the Seljuq Sultan decided to rely on
ambushes and delaying actions.
The route of the march was eastwards from the Meander Valley but there was a
northern turn to get around the great lake of Akrotiri (Egirdir Gölü) before Manuel
would reach Pisidian Antioch [mod. Yalvaç] and could proceed thence SE along the
eastern shore of Lake Pousgouse (modern Beyshehir Gölü). From there the Byzantine
army would have to march along broken and rugged ground and then through a 25 km
long winding pass or “rectangular glen” named by Choniates as Tzybritze (“the defiles
of Tzivritze”: Choniates trans. Magoulias p.101), before continuing NE again along the
road to Ikonion. The pass lay a little east of the Lake, i.e. well west of Konya.(*)

(*) See the discussion in Hendy, Studies in the Byzantine Monetary Economy, 2008:
149-54. He says, p.149, it was today’s Barsak Dere Bogazi which translates as ‘the Pass


through the Valley of the Gut’. Magoulias, notes to Choniates p.384, identifies Tzivitze as
today’s Turrije Boghaz.
According to Hendy, the defile proper was located just past (i.e. SE of) modern
Yunuslar, or in other words where the modern D330 highway takes a diagonal (NW to
SE) turn. Specifically the defile begins after a horse-ride of 65 minutes past Yunuslar. It
continues for “24” km. At the other end, one exits the defile 15 minutes ride west of, i.e.
before reaching, Kızılöran or Kizilviran (table in Hendy p.150).

About 10 km inside the pass lay the abandoned fortress of Myriokephalon, meaning
‘thousand peaks or heads’. It was so called on account of the view to mountains ranged
behind (the Sultan Daglari, according to Haldon: which is to say, the view back to the
west). The modern name of the rock and the ruined fortress on it is Asar or Assar Kalesi.
Alternatively, following Hendy, Myriokephalon was the name of one specific spikey-
topped mountain on the northern side, i.e. in the direction of present-day Derbent.
Travelling eastwards from Yunuslar, one sees this mountain to the left after a horse-ride
of one hour 50 minutes, which is to say: about a third of the way into the defile (Hendy
There was a further narrow defile at the other end of the long pass, before the route
emerged onto the hilly plateau “about 40 km” from Konya, i.e. about midway between
Beyshehir and Konya; Hendy says ‘30-40’ km. Evidently this was the modern
Kizilören/Kizilviran district.

The Turks had already destroyed as much as they could of the available seasonal forage
and poisoned or otherwise rendered unusable the main watering places. Thus the
Byzantines were already suffering from shortages and weakened by dysentery.
Seeing that the pass was held by the Turks, Manuel could either turn back to Pisidian
Antioch and take a different route to Konya via Aksehir (Philomelion) or fight his way
through the Tzybritze pass. For reasons unknown, he chose the latter.
Without making any halt, on 17 September 1176 the emperor ordered an advance into
the pass. The loads of the baggage train were not adjusted and no scouts had been sent
forward, both cardinal sins according to the military handbooks. Nor did Manuel obey
the other prescript of Byzantine military science, that in a narrow defile or pass cavalry
should dismount and place their horses in the centre for protection.
As noted, the Byzantine van was a division mainly of infantry. Perhaps surprisingly,
they were able to push through the defile into the pass with only token opposition. Quite
possibly they were allowed an easy entry. It probably took over five hours to reach the
exit defile at the other end of the pass, so probably the van had reached the head of the
pass by the time the rear divisions were entering.
Manuel broke another rule by not leaving behind a detachment of troops to hold the
entry point of the pass until the army had returned.
Once the main division was nearing the end of the pass, the Turks launched their
attack. They concentrated their arrow-fire on the middle units, Baldwin’s right-wing
division (Antiochan Latins) and the baggage train in particular. These had become
strung out over a longer distance during the march along the pass. No counter-attack
was attempted, and soon the right-wing division broke formation and began to run both
forwards and to the rear. Baldwin was killed.
The pass wound through seven ‘trench-like’ mini-valleys. The Turks had placed
ambushers above them all. So as the Byzantine units made their way alive through one
mini-valley they were immediately attacked in the next.
Meanwhile, the van division, which had escaped the main attack, made it out of the
other end of the pass, and occupied a small hill. There, in proper Roman style, it dug


itself into a fortified encampment. The main division of tagmatic troops soon joined it
and did likewise. The Turks left these two division alone once they had pushed through
the pass and encamped.
The Byzantine rear divisions behind the baggage train now began to come upon the
numerous carts and bodies of pack horses and mules and their dead handlers killed in
the Turkish onslaught. This panicked them, and their formations began to dissolve.
Initially Manuel was so demoralized that he was unable to issue orders. His officers
rallied him, however, and he was able to re-form the various detachments into a
defensive formation. He managed to get this body of troops through the pass where it
joined the van and centre divisions. There were substantial casualties including the
general John Kantakouzenos. The rear guard seems to have followed through without
suffering from the Seljuk attacks, and arrived at the fortified encampment as dark fell.
The encampment was so well placed that the sorties and attacks of the Seljuqs during the
night were ineffective.
The following day, the Turks circled the camp firing arrows; Manuel ordered two
counterattacks, led by John Angelos and Constantine Makrodoukas respectively, but
there was no renewal of a general action. Without its siege equipment, the expedition
could not hope to achieve its aim of taking Konya, so the next day the emperor accepted
the sultan’s offer to negotiate. The Byzantines were allowed to withdraw back to their
territory without further loss. Hendy loc. cit. suggest that this was simple prudence on
the part of the sultan, ridding himself of a large mostly unharmed army so close to his
capital, albeit one whose supply-carts he had captured.
Haldon, 2001: 143, emphasises that despite the drama in Choniates’s account (his
History was completed in 1207), the numbers and capability of the Byzantine army in
the next year or so suggest that overall the casualties were not heavy, except for
Baldwin’s division. It was almost annihilated. Hendy, 2008: 128, proposes that over half
the expedition came through relatively unscathed, while under half suffered casualties
that were more or less extensive.

It has been suggested that the dynasty of the Comneni can be divided into two phases:
before and after the battle of Myriocephalon: the first relatively successful, the second a
period of decline.

Pushing back the Byzantines, the Seljuks expand NW to Dorylaeum and SW into inland
Caria (map in EB15 under ‘Turkey). Cf below, 1177-80.

1176-86: Others offer a date of ‘ca 1174-82’.

Sicily: Byzantine craftsmen install mosaics in the cathedral of Monreale in Norman
Sicily. It is the world’s largest surviving complex of mosaics (see T F Mathews, The Art
of Byzantium, Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, 1998, pp 14-16). In contrast, the painted
decorations on the ceiling are Moorish in style, executed by local Arab-Sicilians.

1. The Levant: As noted above, the fleet of 150 ships which Manuel sent (1176) against
Ayyubid Egypt, in a second prong of his "crusade", appeared off Acre (1177) but did not
see action. (The attack on Konya was one prong, an attack on Egypt the second.)
Philip of Alsace, Count of Flanders, hoped to take part in a planned invasion of Egypt,
for which purpose the crusaders had allied with “the lord emperor of Constantinople”, as
William of Tyre calls Manuel. A Byzantine fleet of 70 war galleys and 80 auxiliary ships


was waiting at Acre when Philip arrived on 2 August (William’s figures: Magdalino
2002: 97). But Philip refused to cooperate. He left Jerusalem in October to campaign in
the north for the Principality of Antioch, participating in an unsuccessful siege of Harim
before returning home. Meanwhile, the Byzantine alliance against Egypt was abandoned.
In November, however, the crusaders under Baldwin IV of Jerusalem and Raynald ‘of
Chatillon’ [his birthplace in France, the erstwhile prince of Antioch] defeated Saladin at
the Battle of Montgisard.

2. Western enemies: The Peace of Venice of 1177 was signed between Pope Alexander III,
the German emperor Frederick Barbarossa (who now disowned his own anti-pope),
William II of Sicily, and the communes of Lombardy [N. Italy]. A fifteen-year peace was
concluded between Frederick and William II of Sicily, paving the way for Sicily's (i.e.
South Italy’s) golden years of peace and prosperity.
It was, however, effectively an anti-Byzantine coalition. Manuel felt the need to secure
allies on the western flank of this bloc. To this end he concluded a marriage pact with
William 'the Old', marquis of Montferrat (NW Italy): see 1179. —Magdalino 2002: 100.

Palestine 1177: The modest forces of Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, r. 1174-85, the

young ‘leper king’, - perhaps 3,000 men - heavily defeat a much larger army
under Saladin at Montgisard near Ramla. The Muslim forces had relaxed and
spread out and were not in an organised disposition when the Latins fell upon
them. Saladin himself only avoided capture by escaping on a racing camel.

Hostilities continue in western Asia Minor. In retaliation for a violation by Manuel of his
treaty with him, Kilidj Arslan sent a force of “24,000” men to ravage the Meander valley
as far as the Aegean Sea. Pisidian Antioch and Tralles [Aydin] were sacked (Norwich
1996: 136). John Vatatzes was dispatched (1177) by his uncle the emperor to intercept
this horde on its return journey, and many Turks met their death on the banks of the
Meander. Vatatzes’ troops included many of the “eastern” troops who had survived
Myriocephalon [above: 1176], and some Alans* (Birkenmeier 2002: 162). Treadgold says
Vatatzes “annihilated” the Turkish “main force” (1997: 649)
This victory did much to restore confidence to the army after the humiliation of

(*) The Alans were a partly pagan, but perhaps majority Christian Iranian-speaking
people. They held much of the north Caucasus region between the Black Sea and
the Caspian. They were the ancestors of today’s’ Ossetians. Their conversion or re-
conversion to Christianity - they had first converted in Antiquity, but reverted -
began in the 900s. The people, however, as distinct from the court, were not fully
converted for centuries (see Jean Richard’s chapter on the eastern churches in
NCMH I: 577-79).

Ca.1177: Vatatzes’ victory at the Battle of Hyelion and Leimocheir: The Seljuq army was
returning towards Turkish territory when it approached a 'choke point' in its journey
where the great eastern highway crossed the Meander River by way of a bridge (probably
ruined or semi-derelict), near the villages, or forts, of Hyelion and Leimocheir, not far
from Antioch-on-the-Meander, which is to say: on the upper-middle section of the
valley, east of modern Nazilli.(*) The Byzantines had concealed themselves and were
divided into two corps, separated by the river. They caught the Seljuq army in an ambush
when it had partially crossed over the river, destroying it as a fighting force. The


Byzantine light troops played a prominent role in the battle; posted on high ground they
are described as raining missiles down onto the near helpless Seljuqs (Birkenmeier
2002: 196, citing Choniates).

(*) There were two Antiochs in Asia Minor: 1 Antioch on the Meander and 2
Pisidian Antioch (Yalvaç), nearer Konya.

“In 1178 (probably), Manuel advanced against the Turks encamped at Panasium and
Lacerium [= Lacerion: east of Philadelphia on a northern tributary of the Meander], but
they were frightened away by Manuel's scouts. Andronicus Angelus encountered the
Turks at Charax [east of Laodicea] (later in 1178?) only to turn tail and flee, his army
following suit, abandoning the livestock they had captured. Next, in the year 1179,
Manuel rode, with a relay of horses, to the rescue of the beleaguered city [read: town.
MO’R] of Claudiopolis [modern Bolu, about halfway between Nicomedia and Ankara] in
Bithynia and frightened the Turks away. Finally, in 1180, there was another victory
against the Turks, although Manuel did not supervise it in person.” —Andrew Stone,
‘Roman Emperors DIR: Manuel I Comnenus’, at;
accessed 2010.

Vryonis: “The western push of the Türkmens [warrior pastoralists] really got under way
only in the second half of the 12th century. . . . the nomads pushed westwards into the
regions from Tripolis-Hierapolis-Laodicea [i.e., the upper Meander River] in the south,
[and] to Lacerion-Pentapolis-Panasion in the north” [i.e., the far upper Meander Valley].
See below under 1177-80.

Mesopotamia: The Seljuqs of Rum conquer Malatya - until then under Danishmendid
rule (Singh 2002: 216).

French alliance: In early 1178, Philip, Count of Flanders, visited Constantinople on his
way back from the Holy Land. This prompted Manuel to decide on a French bride for his
son. Over the winter of 1178-1179 an Imperial embassy, led by the Genoese Baldovino
Guercio, accompanied Philip to the French court to secure a match between King Louis’s
young daughter Agnes and Alexios, the only son and heir apparent of Manuel by his
second wife Maria of Antioch. See next.

1. Agnes, the nine-year-old daughter of Louis VII of France, embarked on a Genoese ship
that took her to Constantinople, the city of the emperor of the Romans. Here she would
wed (1180) Manuel’s purple-born son, Alexios, and prepare for her new role as Byzantine
“augusta” (empress). See next.

2. Egypt under Saladin: By 1179, when Acre was attacked, the Egyptian navy had 80
ships: 6o war-galleys and 20 transports. Fifty we allocate to the defence of Egypt while
30 were sent against Acre (Hillenbrand p. 568). Cf 1191.

Italian and French alliances: Manuel made marriage alliances with Barbarossa’s rivals


in Italy and France: Renier, son of William V of Montferrat near Turin, the Italian enemy
of Barbarossa, arrived in Constantinople in autumn 1179 and soon afterwards
accompanied Manuel on a military expedition. His marriage to the 27-years-old Maria
took place at the Church of St Mary, Blachernai, in February 1180. The wedding was
celebrated with lavish festivity including games in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, as
fully described by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, William of Tyre, who happened to be
The marriage of Maria and Renier was celebrated at the same time as that of prince
Alexius with Agnes, daughter of Louis VII of France, on or before 2 March 1180.

c. 1180:
Links with Georgia: Rusudan was the younger daughter of King Giorgi III of Georgia and
of his wife, Burdukhan (Gurandukht). Her elder sister was Tamar, who succeeded their
father as ruler of Georgia.
Born about 1158/1160, Rusudan was married, possibly in 1180, to the emperor’s 2nd
cousin Manuel Komnenos (aged 35: born 1145), the eldest son of the future emperor
Andronikos I, r. 1183 to 1185 (Manuel was blinded in 1185 when his father fell: see

d. emperor Manuel, aged 62. He had ruled for 37 years.

Poem by Cavafy:

One sad September day

Emperor Manuel Komninos
felt his death was near.
The court astrologers - paid, of course - kept on insisting
that he still had many years to live.
But while they were having their say,
he remembered an old religious custom
and ordered ecclesiastical vestments
to be brought from a monastery,
and he put them on, glad to appear
modestly dressed like a priest or monk.

Happy all those who believe,

and like Emperor Manuel end their lives
dressed modestly in their faith.

Gains During Manuel’s Reign

If we compare a map of the empire at the end of John’s reign with that at the end of
Manuel’s, we find that the latter’s main achievement was extension of imperial rule in
the NW Balkans: over southern Dalmatia, Bosnia and Zeta-Rascia, which is latter-day
Serbia. In Asia the net position had not changed, except for the gain of a parcel of
territory in N Syria between Germaniceia and Samosata and to the west of Edessa-Urfa.
Manuel also restored Byzantine rule in Crimea (maps in Angold 1984: 317 and ODB

If one looks back over 100+ years to the time of Basil II, d.1025, the net losses by the


empire since then were: (a) lower Italy to the Normans; (b) upper Dalmatia and Croatia
to Venice and Hungary; (c) the highland third of Anatolia, i.e. the greater Ikonium-
Colonea sector, to the Seljuk Turks of Rum; and (d) greater Armenia, also to the Seljuks.

Andrew Stone notes that, to the Byzantines at the time, the empire seemed to be holding
its own; the "nations" around were being kept at bay, and, even though the panegyric of
renovatio (renewal) is less evident than in the reign of John II, still the emperor remains
despotes, "master" of the oikoumene, "known world". Indeed, Manuel would be
remembered in France, Genoa and the Crusader States as THE MOST POWERFUL SOVEREIGN
IN THE WORLD, i.e., the world west of India. Thus Stone, at: http://www.roman-

The only rulers who might have contested this assessment were: (1) Saladin [Salah ad-
Din], acc. 1174, the new Zangid/Ayyubid ruler of Syria-Egypt: the ‘Zangid empire’ of
today’s historians, and the future capturer of Jerusalem (1187). Or (2) Frederick I
Barbarossa, the German emperor, acc. 1152 [see 1187 and 1190], whose realms extended
from Rome to the North Sea. Or (3) Henry II Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, Duke of
Aquitaine and King of England, 1154-89, ruler of the historians’ so-called ‘Angevin
empire’ that extended from the Pyrenees to southern Scotland and eastern Ireland. Or
(4) the Almohad caliph of Seville, Yusuf II or "Abu Ya'qub", 1163-1184, ruling the
Maghreb and southern Spain, which had fallen to the Almohads in 1150-72. A Berber
dynasty ruling from Seville, the Almohads will fade after being defeated by the Christians
at Los Navos de Tolosa in 1212.

Review of the reign of

MANUEL II, 1143-1180:

Adapted from: E L S Knox, ‘Manuel I’,

at; accessed 2007.

Manuel was concerned early in his reign with Sicily. In 1143 he considered an
arrangement whereby the Norman-Sicilian King Roger II would marry his son to
Manuel's daughter, but that came to nothing. During the Second Crusade, Roger
attacked Corfu, which is one reason why the Rhomaioi were unable to provide
substantial help to the Crusaders. In fact, Manuel had to enlist the help of Venice in his
fight against Sicily, and Venice obtained further trading privileges in the empire.
Manuel was able to drive Roger back in 1148, but only at great cost. Part of the loot the
Normans took away with them was a group of silk weavers, bringing that skill to the
West for the first time. Manuel spent the next few years trying to assemble a counter-
invasion of Italy. He and his long-time ally King Conrad III of Germany were planning an
expedition for 1152, but Conrad died that February and the plan fell through.
Conrad was succeeded by Frederick I ‘Barbarossa’, who was much less friendly toward
Byzantium. He played along from time to time, however, so Manuel continued to hatch
plots against Sicily. In 1155, the Byzantines actually invaded Apulia [SE Italy], but they
did not get very far, and were defeated at Brindisi. They continued to operate in southern
Italy for a few years, but Manuel came to terms with King William of Sicily in 1158 and
withdrew his troops from Italy.
After this, Manuel did not try open invasion against his old enemies, but continued to


use diplomacy. His main effort was to ally with the papacy, for the popes often regarded
either Sicily or the German emperor, or both, as their principal enemy. One item he
offered was the prospect of a union of the Churches, a diplomatic prize that could be
offered almost any time the Byzantine Basileus /vasilefs/ sought an alliance with the
Manuel also sought allies among the Italian city-states, but this ground was even more
treacherous than southern Italy. Venice, Pisa and Genoa were all rivals, but all had a
significant trading presence in the empire. To ally with one would be to make enemies of
the others. Moreover, alliance with any of these meant trade concessions, and the
Rhomaioi hated the Italian merchants who occupied whole sections of their towns,
including Constantinople itself. So, every move Manuel made in this direction aroused
the anger of his own people.
Manuel was close to Venice in the first part of his reign, but they had a falling out in
the 1160s. There had been quarrels and skirmishes in Dalmatia [present-day coastal
Croatia] (1166), arguments over the extent of privileges, and even street fighting in the
imperial city between Venetians and Genoese. In 1169, Manuel made a treaty with
Genoa, and in 1170 he made one with Pisa. Then, on March 12, 1171, he ordered the
arrest of all Venetians everywhere within the empire (20,000 people according to
Treadgold). All their goods were confiscated.
The Doge of Venice sent a fleet to attack towns in Dalmatia and some desultory
fighting resulted, but despite the dramatic gesture, relations between Venice and the
empire were gradually restored. By this time, Venice understood that
Constantinople was a key to its wealth and ability to compete against Genoa
and Pisa; she could not afford a pitched war. Conversely, for
Rhomaniya/Byzantium a war with Venice would be more expensive than the empire
could manage. Consequently, both sides gradually backed down over the next decade
and the situation in 1180 was much the same it had been in 1170. One legacy persisted,
however: bitterness. The Rhomaioi still hated the Venetians, restored to their former
arrogance. And Venice was bitter over yet another example of Greek duplicity and
betrayal, this one having struck at the very heart of the city's existence. They were never
again more than uneasy allies.

By 1180, there were more than 60,000 Italians: Venetians, Pisans, Genoese etc, living in
and around Constantinople.

Manuel was able to stabilise his northern frontier by a marriage alliance with Hungary.
Hungary and Byzantium had long been enemies, clashing over the Serbian border
territories. In 1164, Manuel agreed to recognise Stephen III as King of Hungary,
renouncing ancient Roman claims, in exchange for which Stephen's son Bela was
promised to Manuel's daughter Maria. Bela would rule Dalmatia, Croatia, Bosnia, and
Sirmium while Manuel lived, and would succeed as emperor.
With the birth of a son to Manuel, aged 51, in 1169, the arrangement was cancelled.
Bela and Maria were betrothed but not yet married, so the relationship was dissolved.
Bela kept his lands but would no longer succeed to the empire. The Hungarian prince
was eventually married to Agnes of Châtillon, daughter of Reynauld and Constance of
Antioch and, with East Roman help, succeeded to the Hungarian throne in 1173.
Manuel was initially successful in the East, but then suffered a dramatic reverse. He
moved into Cilicia in 1158, reasserting Imperial authority there, and the following year
inflicted a defeat on Reynald of Antioch. He was sufficiently successful in Syria to be able
to restore a ‘Greek’ [Rhomaion: Byzantine: Melkite] patriarch at Antioch in 1165. He
remained on good terms throughout his reign with King Baldwin III of Jerusalem.


But when Manuel tried to move against the Turks in Anatolia, disaster struck. He
himself led a large Romanic imperial army in 1176 against the Seljuks under Kilij Arslan
II. His entire army was trapped in the pass of Myriokephalon and was saved from
complete destruction only because the sultan offered terms. The emperor was forced to
accept the Turks as allies and to forswear aggression against them, as well as paying a
huge sum of money. Myriokephalon marked the end of Manuel's military activities and
struck a severe blow to Rhomaioi prestige.

Alexios and his successors, then, had recovered Syria and extended their rule to the west
Balkans, dominating Croatia and Dalmatia from 1167. But, while the Rhomaioi recovered
much of Asia Minor, the Turks were never dislodged from the highlands of
central Anatolia, and the Venetians dominated the empire's economy by taking
control of the Mediterranean trade.

1180-83: ALEXIUS II Comnenus

Regent: the dowager empress Maria-Xena to 1182;
then Andronicus Comnenus 1182-83.

a. Manuel was succeeded by his young son Alexios II (age 11), whose mother
was a Latin. And Alexios himself was married, or at least betrothed, to a
Latin, namely Agnes of France, daughter of Louis VII. The reign saw even
further westernisation of the court and the emperor.

b. Andronikos, the sexagenarian cousin of Manuel, spear-headed the

opposition to westernisation and to the military aristocracy; he led a
revolution in Constantinople which ended in the Latin Massacre of 1182.

Territorial Review

At Alexius II’s accession, ‘Greek’ or Rhomaioi rule extended over the whole Balkans and
most of Asia Minor: from Spalatum or Split and Belgrade in the north-west [cf 1180] to
Cyprus [cf 1184] and coastal Cilicia and N Syria in the southeast. And from Corfu in the
SW to Trebizond in the NE; also several enclaves in the Crimea (Times Atlas 1994: 81).
The Byzantines controlled the entire coast of Asia Minor, but – and this was the major
contrast with the empire’s borders before 1071 – the upland half of Anatolia was still
controlled by the Seljuk Turks of Rum or Iconium, and much of the greater Taurus
Mountains region (N Cilicia) was ruled by various small Armenian chiefdoms. Cf 1182.
The borderland between the Empire and Seljuk Rum lay as close as the middle
Sangarios or Sankarya River north from Dorylaeum; the latter was already under threat
from Turkish raiders (cf 1181, 1182 and 1198). In the south-west, nomadic Turks
controlled, or at least they roamed through, the upper reaches of the Meander Valley in
Caria (map in EB15 under ‘Turkey’). Cf 1181: Sozopolis; and 1190: German crusaders will
clash with Türkmen in the upper Meander.

Byzantium’s neighbours in clockwise order were: 1. The Norman Kingdom of ‘Sicily’ (i.e.
South Italy); 2. Hungary, which at this time included Slovenia: cf 1181; 3. the Cumans -
Gk Chomanoi: the Turkic-speaking Kipchaks or "Polovtsy" north of the Danube; 4.
Georgia (including Old Armenia: adjoining Trebizond, cf 1184); 5. minor Seljuk rulers


east of Antioch; 6. Armenian lordships in the highlands of N Cilicia [see 1180, 1183]; and
7. Turkish Rum/Konya [cf 1181]. There was also a three-way corner border, point inland
from Sinope, between Byzantium, the Seljuks and the other Turkish state, that of the
Danishmendids (Nicolle 2008: map p.16).
Serbia (see 1180: border war) is sometimes mapped within the empire as a self-
governing protectorate, while all of Bulgaria was divided into themata or Themes
(military governorates) and thus fully incorporated into the empire (see 1185: revolt).
In addition there were three Crusader states in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine: the
principality of Antioch - which acknowledged Byzantine suzerainty; the County of
Tripoli; and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. They held the Levant coast and parts of the
interior against the great Muslim power, the Ayyubid empire of Saladin, acc.1174.

1. Regency under the dowager empress Maria-Xena (Maria of Antioch), aged 35. Alexius
II, her son, is aged 11 when he ascends the throne (Treadgold 1997: 650).
The regent’s regime was seen as pro-Latin and quickly became unpopular, especially
when the empress gave the reins of power to her late husband's nephew, Alexius the
protosebastos, who was assumed to be her lover.
After the death of Manuel in 1180, Maria officially became a nun with the name
"Xene", but in reality she acted as regent for their son Alexios II. Despite being a nun,
she had many ambitious suitors, but she chose another Alexios, the protosebastos and
protovestiarios, a nephew of Manuel and uncle of Maria Komnene, former queen of
Jerusalem, as an advisor and lover, causing a scandal among the Greek population
(Wikipedia 2010 under ‘Maria of Antioch’).

2. Byzantine-dominated Serbia opens its fight to become self-determining.

Stephen Nemania had become Grand Zhupan (senior chieftain) of Rascia in 1165 (or
possibly a few years later) and proceeded to unify both the western (Rascia) and inland
regions (Duklja or Zeta) of Serbia. Following a long border war (1180-96), the Serbs
gained a large degree of autonomy from the Empire. Cf below under 1186 (Bulgaria). See
also 1219.

3. fl. Constantine Manasses, c. 1130 - c. 1187, Byzantine chronicler, the author of a

Chronicle or historical synopsis of events from the creation of the world to the end of the
reign of Nicephorus Botaniates (1081). It was written by direction of Irene, the emperor
Manuel’s sister-in-law.

4. Sicily: fl. Eugenius of Palermo, the Norman-Sicilian-Greek poet, mathematician and

official. He wrote in Greek and translated from Arabic: “an interesting representative of
the trilingual culture [Greek-Latin-Arabic] of Norman Sicily”. Thus Dudley & Lang p.191.
This was nearly a century after the Normans had completed their conquest of the

From about 1180:

NW Europe: Emergence of "chivalry" - the religious idea of the all-virtuous knight - in
northern France and southern England (see Flori's book 1986).
The weapons and equipment of a Western knight were as follows in c.1180: rounded
bowl-like helmet with nasal bar; armour of mail from head to toe including hood,
aventail or neck protector, and mittens. The shield is kite–shaped and long (extending
from shoulder to knee). Weapons: lance and sword. Lances were still thrown overarm as


well as held couched (Hopkins 1996: 45).

Breakdown of the Byzantine domination in the NW Balkans, whcich is related in
Stephenson’s (2000) last chapter, ‘Casting off the ‘Byzantine Yoke” (pp. 275-315).
The author posits a link between the factions in the capital and the centrifugal
movements. By 1200 Byzantine prestige was so low that the peoples of the northern
Balkans considered the patronage of any Western potentate superior to that of the
Eastern emperor. In fact this centrifugalism was already remarked by Nicetas Choniates,
who said “fratricide [i.e. rebellion] spread as a pattern, model and general law from the
queen of the cities [Constantinople] to the far corners of the earth" (p.315). He rejects
“national" origins for the revolts and ( - in Stephenson’s words) considers that “the
increased centifugalism of the twelfth century was exacerbated by the extension of the
empire's frontiers". The former administration exercised under Byzantine suzerainty by
local aristocrats was preserved, but now the weakness of the central power led them “to
look elsewhere for alternative patrons or symbols of power and prestige". This explains,
he says, the policies followed by the rulers of the new Serbian and Vlacho-Bulgarian
states. —Stephenson 2000.

Asia Minor: Kilij Arslan II conquered an extensive border region. He definitively severed
the empire’s tenuous link with the southern coast and Cilicia, taking everything up to
Attaleia, present-day Antalya, on the SW coast [held by Byzantium until after 1204];
Sozopolis in Pisidia: west of Konya, about midway between Kutahya and Antalya; and
Cotyaeum or Kutahya itself, in the central-west (Treadgold, State p.651; Hendy p.118,
citing Choniates, dates this to 1182).(*) Cf 1182.
In the period 1181-1243, the heyday of the sultanate, the Seljuks will expand to both
coasts: in the south, they will capture the Mediterranean littoral from Armenian Cilicia
through Antalya [1207] to Byzantine Caria; and in the north, beyond Ankara, they will
capture a swathe of territory running NE to the Black Sea port of Sinope (map in Nicolle
2008: 23).

(*) Kutahya is about mid-way on a line drawn from Izmir (Smyrna) to Ankara. Or
about two-thirds of the way from Konya on a line drawn from Konya to Istanabul

2. NW Balkans: The Hungarians under Béla III had taken the opportunity to conquer the
Balkan frontier towns of Branitshevo* and Belgrade (they had already taken Sirmium
and Dalmatia). Bela advanced south up the Morava to Nish, proceeding even as far as
Sofia, removing the relics of the local saint, even though he abandoned the latter. The
Romaic army, setting out in the summer of 1181 under Alexius Branas and Andronicus
Lapardas, was ineffective against him (Stone, ‘Alexius II’: http://www.roman-

(*) From east to west up the Danube, the key towns were: Branichevo, Belgrade
and Sirmium. Zemun lay on the Tisza River to the north of Belgrade.

3. Egypt: One notable diplomatic initiative of the protosebastos Alexios (companion to

the dowager empress-regent) was the meeting between East-Romanic envoys and
Saladin in Cairo, May-June 1181. Friendship between the Empire and Saladin meant that


no Greek ships would go to the aid of the crusader princes. —Harris 2006: 122; Al-
Makrizi, Histoire d'Egypte, tr. into French by E. Blochet in Revue de l’Orient latin 8
(1900-1), p.539.

1. Challenge for the throne by Andronicus Comnenus, the young emperor’s older cousin
– aged about 67. This leads to turmoil in the capital: Andronicus takes control of the
regency. It is said that a comet “like a twisting serpent” observed in this year (1182)
foretold the tragic end of Andronicus (see 1183, 1185). —Magoulias, introduction to
Choniates, p.xx.
— The late emperor Manuel's aging but energetic cousin Andronikos Komnenos, who
had been exiled during Manuel's reign, was invited back by the Porphyrogenita Maria,
and marched on Constantinople in 1182. He provoked the citizens into a massacre of, or
at least he allowed them to massacre, the Latin inhabitants, mostly Venetian and
Genoese merchants. See next entry.

Under the regency of Maria of Antioch and her lover the protosebastos Alexius, and with
the failure of the attempted coup by Alexius' elder half-sister Maria Porphyrogenita and
her husband the kaisar Renier of Montferrat, the populace of Constantinople began to
look to Andronicus as their preferred candidate for the regency. So Andronicus marched
on the capital in 1182 from Paphlagonia, refusing attempts by the regents to buy him off.

Andronicus had little difficulty in convincing himself that it was his duty to go to
Constantinople to protect the interests of the young emperor. Young Alexios was clearly
in danger from his mother and her lover, the protosebastos. Andronicus met very little
resistance as he advanced upon Constantinople in the early spring of 1182. Once he
arrived opposite the capital, all he could do was wait, since the crossing to
Constantinople was barred by the navy. Choniates says that “triemes [sic: bireme
galleys] covered the Propontis [Sea of Maramata]”, mainly manned by the Latins of
Constantinople (Venetians etc), although “some” were crewed by Byzantines and carried
Byzantine troops (Magoulias p.139). The decisive event was the desertion of the
commander of the fleet to Andronicus.
-- Run-down of the imperial navy: The protosebastos Alexios Komnenus had to
turn to Latin ‘mercenaries’ or salaried mariners to man most of the war-galleys
dispatched to face the revolt of Andronicus Komnenos. Choniates notes that their quality
(“fiercest in battle”) was superior to that of Byzantine crews (Dromon p.121). Cf 1185.

Andronicus having entered the capital, the protosebastos was blinded, and, as related
earlier, the Constantinopolitan mob massacred (1182) the Latins present in the capital,
who had enjoyed so much favour under the protosebastos' régime.
Though Maria had been one of Andronicus’s chief supporters, ironically, as he started
his reign of terror in 1182, she was one of his first victims. One of her family eunuchs,
Pterygeonites, who had even been a retainer of Manuel's, was bribed by Andronicus to
slowly poison her. —Garland & Stone, at;
accessed 2009.

Nicaea in Bithynia refused to submit to Andronicus, and John Ducas and the Grand
Domestic John Comnenus were entrusted with its defence by the regency government.
Choniates relates that Andronicus Angelus (father of the future emperors Isaac II and
Alexius III) marched out from Nicomedia and fought with Andronicus Comnenus at the
village of Charax, to be roundly defeated in spite of his superior numbers. See 1184.


2. Massacre (1182) of Latins in Constantinople: a mob sacks the Pisan and Genoese
quarters along the Golden Horn. It is said that the pogrom was orchestrated by the new
ruler Andronicus, but Fossier 1997: 508 is probably right in deciding that he had not
wished it (also Harris 2006: 120).
Counting the Venetians as well, there were some 60,000 Latins in the City in the late
12th century: Eustathius of Thessalonica, cited by Geanakoplos 1959: 131. Eustathius
gives this as the number killed, but Garland 1999: 208 rightly calls this an exaggeration
for the number of the dead. Roland 1999: 25 proposes that only several hundred were
killed, although she accepts that 4,000 were sold to the Turks as slaves.
"The slaughterers spared neither women nor children, neither old nor sick, neither
priest nor monk. Cardinal John, the Pope's representative, was beheaded and his head
was dragged through the streets at the tail of a dog; children were cut out of their
mothers’ wombs; bodies of dead Westerners were exhumed and abused; some 4,000
who escaped death were sold into slavery to the Turks" (Catholic Encyclopaedia, citing
William of Tyre; also in Brand p.113).
“Those who were able to do so, . . fled from the wiles of the Greeks and the death
which threatened them. Some embarked on 44 galleys which chanced to be in the
harbour, and others placed all their effects on some of the many other ships there. The
aged and infirm, however, with those who were unable to flee, were left in their homes,
and on them fell the wicked rage which the others had escaped. . . . Even those who
seemed to show more consideration sold into perpetual slavery among the Turks and
other infidels the fugitives who had resorted to them and to whom they had given hope
of safety. It is said that more than 4,000 Latins of various age, sex, and condition were
delivered thus to barbarous nations for a price” (William of Tyre).
NB: “Nowhere in the sources is it implied that the aristocracy held a particular
contempt for the Latin merchants. This is not surprising when we consider that the
Italian monopoly over Byzantine trade had a limited effect on the land-owning
aristocratic class.” – Simpson, at Citing
Brand, Byzantium Confronts the West, p.12; and Magdalino, The Empire, pp.138-9.

Those of the Latins who escaped the massacre took a cruel revenge for it. Assembling
near Constantinople, they took to the sea and went from the mouth of the Hellespont to
the Black Sea, plundering the unfortified settlements along the Sea of Marmara and
killing all the Greeks they met with (related in the Old French translation of William of
Tyre’s Latin history; Priestly 1802: ix.361).

1. Western Asia Minor: The Seljuks return to Dorylaeum-Eskisehir (east of Brusa). Cf

2. Lebanon: The Maronites of the mountains had preserved a relative autonomy between
the Byzantine emperors, on the one hand, who had reconquered Antioch in the 10th
century, and, on the other hand, the Muslims. After 1100 the Crusaders of the County of
Tripoli entered into relations with them. At Antioch in 1182 almost the entire nation –
William of Tyre says “40,000” people (*) - were converted to Latin Christianity, or so
legend has it. We might better say that they now proclaimed allegiance to the chief
patriarch of the crusaders, i.e. the patriarch or pope of (Old) Rome. Latin usages were
not imposed until after 1216 (Setton et al. 1985: 93).
It is a much argued question whether the Maronites were oroiagaly Orthodox-Catholic


or, as seems more likely, Monothelites. Orthodoxy (East and West) holds that Jesus
Christ has two wills (human and divine) corresponding to his two natures (to be precise:
"two natural wills and two natural energies, without division, alteration, separation or
confusion"), while the Monothelites hold that He has two natures but only one will.
Monothelitism was condemned by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in AD 681.

(*) A count that probably covered men only. The total community therefore
probably exceeded 100,000.

1183-85: ANDRONICUS I Comnenus

The erstwhile regent Andronikos I Komnenos was aged 65 or 67 at accession.

He was the grandson of Alexius I’s youngest son.
He married twice and had numerous mistresses; his eldest son was born in
1145, so aged 40 when his father was deposed in 1185.

His coins show him with a long forked beard, a feature noted in the written
sources. Such beards subsequently became fashionable and are found on the
coins of a number of his successors

Andronikos was “one of the most bloodthirsty tyrants to sit on the Byzantine
throne”, says Stone.

1. Armenians in full control of Cilicia. See 1198.

2. The regent Andronicus Comnenus is crowned co-emperor with Alexius II. The boy
emperor Alexius is then strangled on the orders of the co-emperor (Norwich 1996: 143).
Plot by senior officials against Andronicus, led by Andronicus Angelus and the grand
admiral of the fleet. When found out, Angelus fled, but Comnenus ordered most of the
rest blinded.
Andronicus Comnenus marries Alexius' child-widow, the 11 year old Agnes-Anna, dau.
of King Louis VII of France.

The Patriarch Theodosius did not possess the stomach to face Andronicus and preferred
to go into retirement. He knew that he would be called upon to sanction Andronicus's
elevation to the imperial office. This duly occurred in September 1183 and the young
emperor was strangled at the first convenient opportunity. The ageing Andronicus
completed his triumph by marrying the 11 year old Agnes of France, the young emperor's
consort (Angold 1997: 297).


Above: Dress of a 12th C Byzantine courtier; non-ceremonial.

New Fashions

The historian Niketas Choniates' conservatism was reflected in his nostalgic description
of a statue of Athena, on which, he wrote, the folds of the goddess's long robe covered
everything that nature had ordained be covered (Nik. Chon. 558.52-54); it was also
shown in his disdain for clothing of a new, open fashion. Andronikos Komnenos, for
instance, wore a slit mauve costume (short cloak) sewn of Georgian fabric that came
down to his knees and covered only his upper arms; he had a smoke-coloured hat in the
shape of a pyramid (252.73-76; also see 139.50-52).
According to Choniates' description of Andronikos's public portrait, he presented
himself "not arrayed in golden imperial vestments, but in the guise of a much-toiling
labourer, dressed in a dark, parted [split] cloak [or blue/mauve shirt] that reached down
to his buttocks, and having his feet shod in knee-high white boots" (332.35-37).
Presumably trousers were worn under the shirt and boots. The openness of the costume
clearly sparked Choniates' indignation - the short parted shirt or cloak and short sleeves
might be convenient for freedom of action, but, after all, naked arms were unchaste
(509.11-12) and symbolic of humiliation and unconditional submission (285.79). —
Guglielmo Cavallo, The Byzantines, University of Chicago Press, 1997 p.61; also Ann
Wharton Epstein, Popular and Aristocratic Cultural Trends in Byzance:; accessed 2005.

1. The Balkans: Nemanja of Serbia joined Béla III King of Hungary in invading Byzantine


territory, sacked Nish and Sardika [Sofia], and moved into Thrace. Béla posed as the
avenger of the late boy-emperor and his mother (Fine 1994: 6). Taking advantage of
Byzantium's internal difficulties during the reign of Emperor Andronikos I, Nemanja
conquered Kosovo, Metohija, Skopje, and Nish (which he made his capital: until 1190),
effectively shaking off Byzantine suzerainty. He also conquered southern Dalmatia,
including the towns of Kotor, Ulcinj and Bar, and parts of northern Albania (NCMH IV:
270). See 1190.

2. Cyprus: Isaac Comnenus (aged about 28: grand-nephew of Manuel I) appeared, in

1183 or 1184, in Cyprus, producing forged imperial letters and claiming to have been
appointed the lawful governor of the island. But soon (1184) he revealed his true intent
and proclaimed himself emperor. He ruled the island in the manner of a tyrant and
committed many acts of murder, rape, and plunder, alienating all classes of the
population (Pohlsander, ‘Isaac’ at;
accessed 2010).

3. Architecture and the minor arts: The Arab authors of the 12th and 13th centuries
reiterated the now entrenched belief of the Romaics’ unequalled skill in building,
craftsmanship, and painting. Ibn Jubayr (d. AH 614 / AD 1217), the Andalusian traveller
whose rihla (voyage) took place between 1183 and 1185, confirms, through his personal
observations, the Byzantines as supreme builders. He includes his own original
descriptions but also reproduces older traditions. —Nadia Maria El-Cheikh, ‘The Islamic
View of Late Byzantium’, at

1183-84: In the Crusader “Kingdom of Jerusalem”: Saladin unsuccessfully

besieges Rainald de Chatillon in his castle of Kerak-in-Moab (“El Kerak”) in
present-day Jordan, SE of the Dead Sea.
The castle had been built in 1142. The Christians held most of Palestine at this
time, so that Muslim travellers from Cairo to Mecca or Damascus had to come
this way, i.e. SE around the Dead Sea. The Muslims will eventually capture El
Kerak in 1188 (Bradbury 2004: 291).

Ioannes (John) Kantakouzenos*, Isaac II’s (future) brother-in-law, was either partially
or fully blinded on the orders of Emperor Andronikos I in 1183, but was restored to
favour under the Angelos family in 1185, when he was styled Caesar. Died after 1199;
m.1185/86 Eirene Angelina, dau. of Andronikos Angelos and sister to Emperors Isaakios
II and Alexios III Angelos.

(*) A relative of the John killed at Myriocephalon in 1176.

NW Asia Minor: Andronicus Comnenus pursues the war against the rebel Angeli - Isaac
and Theodore Angelus - at Nicaea and Prusa. When he takes Prusa/Bursa and blinds
Theodore Angelus, the revolt collapses.
Theodore Kantakouzenos, the younger brother of John, was an active opponent of
Emperor Andronikos I Komnenos. Theodore was killed during the siege of Nicaea 1184.

Revolt broke out (1184) among the inhabitants of Lopadium, Nicaea and Prusa. Alexius
Branas and the emperor himself led their combined armies first against Nicaea, where
one of the defenders was Isaac Angelus (who will become Andronicus' successor). The


town defended itself very capably and resisted the siege-engines of the imperial forces.
There was a general slaughter and the Prusaeans' animals were seized as booty by
Andronicus' forces. Similarly at Lopadium no mercy was shown, with many impaled*
and left to rot in the sun. —Choniates, cited by Stone, ‘Andronicus I’, www.roman-

(*) When carried out by the Byzantines, “impaling” (Gk anskolopismos) meant
‘empaling’, i.e. being tied up and exposed on a forked pole, and not having the
stake inserted into or through one’s body. The victim was first ridiculed and then
either strangled or left to die of thirst (Notes to Leo the Deacon, trans. Talbot &
Sullivan p. 216).

Dennis 1999: “At the siege of Nicaea in 1184 the trebuchets employed by Andronikos
[Comnenus] were put out of commission by stones hurled by the defenders (Nik.Chon.
282.73–76). Boasting of his skill in taking cities, he again set up his helepoleis
(trebuchets) and carefully adjusted the sling, the beam, and the winch, but his efforts
were wasted … the defenders sallied forth from postern gates and set the machines on
fire. But his boasting was justified at Prusa, where his helepoleis repeatedly struck one
section of the wall until it crumbled (287.35–39)” (Dennis, Byzantine Heavy Artillery,

When Prusa fell, its leader Theodore Angelus was blinded at the orders of the emperor,
and set on an ass to be carried in whichever direction it should take him. Theodore's co-
defenders Leo Synesius and Manuel Lachanas were hung on vine-stakes along with 40
others and various other men were cruelly mutilated. There was a general slaughter and
the Prusaeans' animals were seized as booty by Andronicus' forces. Similarly at
Lopadium no mercy was shown, with many impaled and left to rot in the sun. – Andrew
Stone at, citing Choniates, ed. van Dieten, pp.
287-9. See next – impaling of the relatives of the rebel Isaac Comnenus.

2. Cyprus breaks with Constantinople: Isaac Comnenus, another cousin of Andronicus,

grand-nephew of the late emperor Manuel I Comnenus, seizes power there, proclaims
himself Basileus (1184) and rules independently, until 1191..

Isaakios Dukas Komnenos, pretender-emperor in Cyprus (1184-91), born 1155/60, died

of poisoning 1195/6; first wife: 1175/6 a dau. of Thoros II, the Armenian ‘Lord of the
Mountains’; second: 1185/6 an illegitimate dau. of King William I of Sicily. See 1191.
At Constantinople Andronicus held as hostages Isaac’s father in law Constantine
Makrodoukas and Andronikos Doukas; when Isaac refused to come back from Cyprus
and submit, the hostages were impaled (*) on the Asian shore at a point opposite the
Monastery of Mangana (Choniates: Magoulias p.163; Harris 2006: 118; Wikipedia, 2010,
under ‘Isaac of Cyprus’; the Mangana is the district at the easternmost shore of the city).

(*) When carried out by the Byzantines, “impaling” (Gk anskolopismos) meant
‘empaling’, i.e. being tied up and exposed on a forked pole, and not having the
stake inserted into or through one’s body. The victim was first ridiculed and then
either strangled or left to die of thirst (Notes to Leo the Deacon, trans. Talbot &
Sullivan p.216).

3. Ex-Muslim Sicily: One of just two surviving examples of Arab architecture is the baths
of Cefala Diana, 30 kilometres outside Palermo on the road to Agrigento. Although now


in poor repair, the baths were still in use as recently as the early 20th century. They were
built in the 11th century, and were visited by Ibn Jubair or Jubayr in 1184-85 (an
Andalusi shipwrecked in Norman Sicily during his return journey from Mecca).
Ibn Jubair: “The Christian women of this city [Palermo] follow the fashion of Muslim
women, are fluent of speech, wrap their cloaks about them, and are veiled. They go
forth on this Feast Day dressed in robes of gold-embroidered silk, wrapped in elegant
cloaks, concealed by coloured veils, and shod with gilt slippers." Although the Normans
ruled Sicily, the women in question would have been ethnically ‘Greek’ (Byzantine);
Latins were still a small part of the population.
Jubayr was depressed by the oppression under which the Muslims of lived in the
countryside; at Palermo, however, conditions seem to have been better for them, perhaps
because royal power was stronger there.


a. According to Chase-Dunn &Willard (we do not concur), the two largest cities west of
India in 1200 were Fez in present-day Morocco, the capital of the Almohad* Caliphate,
and Ayyubid Cairo with 200,000 each. They were followed by East-Romanic
Constantinople - presumably some 175,000; Norman-ruled Palermo; and Marrakesh, the
latter also under the Almohad Caliphate. —Christopher Chase-Dunn and Alice Willard,
‘Cities in the Central Political/Military Network Since CE 1200: Size, Hierarchy and
Domination’; at; accessed

(*) Al-Muwayidun, ‘Devotees of the One God’, a Shi’ite dynasty.

But this was after a century of uninterrupted prosperity in the Byzantine empire, so we
will prefer Treadgold’s estimate (below) of 300,000 for Constantinople, ahead of Fez and

b. Romaic Constantinople, Ayyubid Cairo and Abbasid Baghdad were the Big Three cities
according to McEvedy, New Penguin Atlas, 1992. He ranks ex-Almohad Tunis ahead of
Fez and Marrakesh; and he considers that Venice and ‘German’ Milan were both larger
than Norman-Angevin Palermo.
Modelski agrees that Cairo and Baghdad were distinctly bigger than Fez: George
Modelski, World Cities: BC 3000 to AD 2000, Washington DC: Faros, 2000, 2003.

c. As estimated by Treadgold, the size of the major Byzantine and Anatolian cities were
as follows. Constantinople’s population was around 300,000; Thessaloniki 150,000;
and Nicaea perhaps 65,000 people; followed by the lesser centres of Trabzond [med.
Trebizond]; Attalia under Seljuk rule; and Smyrna, Adrianople and Thebes [Greece],
each with over 30,000. Agreeing with McEvedy, he proposes that the largest city in the
Christian West, with about 100,000 people, was Venice (State pp.700-702).

d. The comatepary chrioiclaer Villehardoiu Jacoby Poulation

1184-1203: N. Africa: The Banu Ghaniya end Almohad rule in E Algeria and


Zenith of Georgia's power, under Queen Tamar. Her realm stretched from Azerbaijan to
the borders of Cherkissia /Circissia/, from Erzurum to Ganja, forming a "pan-Caucasian
empire" (Encyc. Brit. 2005 under 'Transcaucasia"). Cf 1187 and 1205.
Georgia at this time was the easternmost Christian kingdom, bordered on the west by
the 'Greeks'/Byzantium and later the tiny so-called "empire of Trebizond" (whose ruler
affected the title Emperor of the Romans); on the north by the mainly pagan Alans; and
on the south by Muslims: first the Seljuks, then the Ayyubids.
Georgia had come into existence in 1008 as a result of the union of the ancient
kingdoms of Abasgia and Iberia. Dominated by its Muslim neighbours until after 1100,
the Georgian state recovered in 1121-30 and reconquered eastwards - pushing into
Azerbaijan by 1200.

The "national bard" of Georgia, Shota Rustaveli, is said to have written his epic verse-
romance "(the quest for) Man [or knight] in the Panther's [or tiger’s] Skin" in this reign
(the earliest text dates only from the 1600s). This relates the romantic adventures of two
"knights", one Arab and the other Indian, in Arabia and India.

fl. Theodore Balsamon, clerical writer. He was not so ignorant as not to know of
sophisticated sex. He judged cunnilingus a serious sin for a clegyman but not as sinful as
vaginal intercourse:

“ . . some maddened by love kiss the female shameful part, and are not ashamed,
but say, “our lips are before us, who will be our lord?” [Psalms 11:5]. … And many
who write erotic poetry say the female privy parts gape, spit, and are magnified
in being on top of a tongue. Therefore, I believe that the clergyman who is defiled
by such lips in whatsoever way, as one who has committed a most hateful action,
will be excommunicated for a time, but, as one who did not commit a complete
sin by sexual intercourse, will not be deposed”. —Quoted in Patrick Viscuso,
"Theodore Balsamon's Canonical Images of Women," Greek Roman & Byz
Studies 3 (2005) pp.317-326.


In the case of Western Europe, we first have record of windmills in Normandy, our
Belgium and eastern England (e.g. low-lying East Anglia) in the 1180s or a little earlier.
They appeared at much the same time in the Byzantine empire, or perhaps a century
earlier.* —Adam Lucas, Wind, water, work: ancient and medieval milling technology,
2006 p.111; England: Mokyr, Lever of Riches, OUP, 1990, pp.31 ff; Byzantium: Bouras in
Laiou ed, 2002: 549.

(*) According to The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies, ed. Elizabeth Jeffreys et al.,
2008: 403, under ‘Mills and Milling Technology’, windmills probably reached Byzantium
from the East before the Crusades, presumably meaning around 1050. They are
expensive to build, and inferior to water-mills where there are perennial watercourses.
It is said that windmills reached Western Europe from Persia via Spain.

1a. NW Balkans: Sailing from Messsina, a Norman-Italian army is sent by Guillaume


d'Hauterive, King William II of Sicily, to invade the Empire, the troops being carried in a
fleet of “200” ships. Durres in present-day Albania was captured on 24 June 1185. A
number of ‘Greek’ (Rhomaioi) fortresses and towns surrendered to the Latins without
any show of resistance, e.g. Kerkyra on Corfu, in part because of the popular hatred of
the emperor's tax collectors (Norwich 1996: 147). William’s army then marched across
the Balkans. Thessalonica, betrayed by its governor, also falls (24 August).* The
Norman army proceeds towards Constantinople. For more on this, see the next section.

(*) A point of interest is that Choniates says the Normans at Thessalonica “grabbed the
beards of the natives and ridiculed the shagginess and length”. But once they settled in
the East many of the Latins began to grow beards, e.g. Baldwin of Edessa, d.1118 (see in).
On the other hand, several Latin princes of Antioch, namely Raymond of Poiters, d.1149
and Bohemond III, d.1201, are portrayed as clean shaven.
William II himself, d.1189, is depicted with a neat beard in Monreale Cathedral.
Frederick I Barbarossa, d. 1190, famously sported a red beard, but he was no Norman.
The tomb of Richard I of England, d.1199, shows him wearing a neat beard of medium
—Ciggar, “Adaptation to oriental life”, in Krijna Nelly Ciggaar, David Michael Metcalf,
eds., East and West in the Medieval Eastern Mediterranean: Antioch from the
Byzantine reconquest until the end of the Crusader principality, Peeters Publishers,
2006, p.270. Also Giles Constable, Crusaders and crusading in the twelfth century,
Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008, pp.333-34.

William saw his chance, mustered an army that according to the local archbishop
Eustathius numbered an implausible “80,000” infantry and select cavalry (5,000 horse),
and a fleet of 200 ships. He dispatched these forces under Count Baldwin and his cousin
Count Richard [Riccardo] of Acerra (who were in command of the army) and Tancred of
Lecce (in charge of the navy) to the Balkan peninsula (Norwich 1996: 147). Cf 200 ships x
40 soldiers = just 8,000 – not counting any oarsmen. Even if oarsmen doubled as
soldiers, 200 ships is only enough to transport some 40,000 men (i.e. 200 x 200).
Ancient Epidamnus (Dyrrhachium, Durres) was taken without a blow (24 June 1185),
and then the Normans marched on and laid siege to Thessalonica, the infantry arriving
on 6 August 1185, the navy on 15 August. Both sides used archers and siege machines, ie
stone-throwers. The attackers soon undermined one part of the city’s wall and made a
breach. When the city capitulated on 24 August, the Sicilian Normans plundered “every
abode” and there was a wholesale slaughter of the inhabitants, leaving 7,000 Greeks
dead. —Eustathius, ed. Melville-Jones, p. 150; Andrew Stones, ‘Andronicus I Comnenus,
at; accessed 2010.

The Normans were happy to have an excuse to invade the Byzantine Empire. A pretender
claiming to be the murdered Alexius II was duly produced to give greater respectability
to the undertaking. In June 1185 the Norman expedition arrived before the city of
Dyrrakhion (Durres). It fell with scarcely a blow. The disaffection of the Byzantine
aristocracy was evident. The commander of the garrison, John Branas, preferred to be
led away to a comfortable captivity in Sicily, rather than to return to face Andronicus's

The siege of the city of Thessalonica in 1185 is the subject of a syngraphe, or short


history, by its metropolitan bishop, Eustathius of Thessalonica. He relates how even

women and clergy helped to defend the city, which was attacked primarily from the
direction of the eastern wall. When the city capitulated (24 August 1185), the Italo-
Normans plundered every abode and there was a wholesale slaughter of the inhabitants,
leaving 7,000 Greeks dead; those who sought sanctuary in the churches did so to no
Eustathios of Thessalonike complained of the “recent” disappearance of papyrus,
meaning its final replacement by paper. —Oikonomides, ‘Writing Materials’ in Laiou
ed., 2002.

The empire begins to dissolve: The permanent separation of Zakynthos and Cephalonia
from Byzantium took place in 1185 AD, when the islands were offered as a war-present to
Western leaders. The Latins exercised an absolute power, and introduced Catholicism, in
the palatinate county of Cephalonia-Zakynthos, as it was called, which was maintained
for three centuries, up to 1479 AD.

1b. Constantinople: With the Normans approaching the capital, the mob switched
allegiance from Andronicus to Isaac Angelos (11 September). The aged emperor tries to
escape, but is caught and mangled to death by the mob. Isaac Angelos assumes the
throne (Norwich 1996: 153).
In summary, Andronicus’s right hand was cut off, his teeth and hair were pulled out,
one of his eyes was gouged out, and, among many other sufferings, boiling water was
thrown in his face. At last, led to the Hippodrome of Constantinople, he was hung up by
the feet between two pillars, and two Latin soldiers competed as to whose sword would
penetrate his body more deeply.
In more detail: His beard was torn out, his head shaved, teeth pulled out and he was
made the sport of those who were present, being battered even by women whose
husbands he had executed or had blinded. Finally, his right hand was cut off with an axe,
and several days later one of his eyes was gouged out and he was seated on a camel and
paraded in the marketplace. Further indignities followed, including blows on the head
from clubs and befouling of his nostrils with cow dung and the like. He was pelted with
stones and one prostitute poured a pot of hot water over his face. He was led into the
arena, and suspended by his feet. Despite all these indignities, however, Andronicus held
up bravely and remained in possession of his senses. Worse followed, with assaults on
his genitals and the thrust of a sword down his throat, and further wounds, the result of
which was an agonising death. – Stone ‘Andronicus’, at www.roman-; citing Choniates.

a. Andronikos had attempted to reverse many of the policies and trends of the past few
years. He established a strong autocracy which dealt summarily with the aristocracy (by
executing many of them) and which centred on a strongly anti-Western foreign policy.

b. He tried to stamp out the abuses of the bureaucracy and he appears to have succeeded.

c. Nevertheless, Andronikos' foreign and domestic policies brought him many enemies
and the state had to meet a challenge from the neighbours who had been controlled by
the power of Andronikos' predecessors.

d. In 1185 Andronikos was torn to pieces by the mob in Constantinople.


e. Under Isaac Komnenos, acc. 1185, Cyprus declared itself independent of the empire -
the first of the Greek "successor" states.



The following table shows that during the 12th century the "rising regions" had been: 1.
"Greater Persia" – the Khwarizm shahdom or sultanate; 2. Ayyubid Egypt and Syria; 3.
Almohad North Africa; 4. Northern Italy; and 5. (interestingly) a North Sea quadrant
comprised of Paris-Ghent-Bruges-London.

+++ = major termini of Asian trade ("silk route"), or major Mediterranean trade

** = future major cities (after 1212).

In Christendom the major trade axis was the sea route from "Greek" Constantinople to
"Latin" Venice. In Islam the major trade axis was the land route from Baghdad to
Damascus and Cairo. It was contested until 1187 by the Latins or crusaders of Palestine
and the several Muslim powers.

Ruling Faded Old and Newly emerged or

Power in 1212: cities continuing cities revived cities
(since AD 1000-1212: in 1212:

a. Empire of the SHIRAZ (larger), +++SAMARKAND,

Khwarizm Shah (ex- Isfahan, Rayy, Bukhara, Herat.
Seljuk) = "Persia": Hamadan; Nishapur.

b. Emirate of Azerbaijan; **Tabriz.


c. Emirate of Luristan: Mosul.

d. Abbasid Caliphate in BASRA, Wasit, ++

"Iraq" (ex-Seljuk). ONE +BAGHDAD.

e. "Greater Egypt": The +++ CAIRO (now larger); Aleppo (revived); Mahalla
Ayyubid Sultanate; ex- DAMASCU +++ALEXANDRIA [new city: coastal Egypt];
Fatimid: ONE S (reduced) and Qus on the upper Nile
METROPOLIS AND (also new).

f. Latin East (Crusader +++ANTIOCH



g."Ex-Imperial Turkey": Konya.

the Seljuk Sultanate of
Rum (Anatolia)

h. "Greater Maghreb": Cordoba Kairouan; Fez, +++TUNIS, Marrakesh

The Almohad or (smaller) Seville [the capital [the original capital], and
Hispano-Maghrebi after 1170] Rabat.
Caliphate; ex-Almoravid:

i. Castile (Christian) Toledo.

j. Kingdom of France: **Paris.

k. "German Flanders": **Ghent, Bruges.

l. 'Romanesque N Italy' MILAN, +++VENICE

(nominally subject to the Brescia, Verona, Padua,
German emperors): Pavia, **Genoa+++, Pisa,
NINE CITIES: **Florence, a republic
since 1198.

m. The Papacy; ex- Rome (revived).


n. Kingdom of Sicily; ex- Palermo. Naples.


o. Franco-English London.
Kingdom or ‘Angevin
empire” (also ruling

p. Russian republic of Novgorod.


q. Latin-ruled ex- CONSTANTINOPL
Byzantine Empire; ONE E


Dynasties in Constantinople:
Angeli emperors 1185-1204
Latin (Crusader) kings 1204-61
Palaeologi emperors 1261 to 1453

Constantinople or New Rome remained by far the largest city in Christendom, but the
empire faded as a major power after the death (1180) of Manuel, third of the Komnenoi


Much territory in the Balkans was lost (1188) to the Hungarians, Croats and Serbs.
Even Bulgaria broke with Byzantium/Rhomaniya (1187). But the major cataclysm was
the sack of Constantinople in 1204 (see there) and the partitioning of the empire
between Venetians, Franks and successor Greeks. Finally in the later 1200s various
Turkish emirs pressed westward out of the Anatolian highlands.
In Anderson's summary: "the renewed expansion of Manuel Comnenus, who led his
troops into Palestine, Dalmatia and Apulia, once again capsized into catastrophe, as the
Turks cantered towards the Aegean and the Franks [Latin Crusaders] sacked
Constantinople [in 1204]" (Passages p.277).

1185-95: ISAAC II Angelus

Isaac Angelus was aged 29 at accession. He was a great-grandson

of Alexius I Comnenus, his grandfather Constantine Angelus
having married Alexios's daughter Theodora Comnena.
Isaac II's wife, marr. 1185: Margaret-Maria, dau. of the
Hungarian king.
Children: Irene and Alexius, the future Alexius IV. Irene
married 1. (1193) Roger III of Sicily and later 2. (1197) duke Philip
of Swabia, the future king of Germany.

Treadgold 1997: 656 calls him a “quite ordinary ruler”, “mild-

mannered and pleasant”, of “middling intelligence”. Gibbon, ch.
xxxiv, says, less charitably, that he was “one of the most
despicable of the weak princes that sat upon the Byzantine

A Fun Occasion

Isaac II, wrote Choniates, “lived in luxury, arranging spectacular feasts even during the
day. On his table it was possible to see hills of bread, coppices full of animals, streams of
fish, and seas of wine” (441.9-12). The sumptuous meals were enlivened with jokes and
wisecracks; Choniates' description of an imperial dinner provides some sense of the
atmosphere of revelry. On one occasion Isaac asked that the salt be passed to him. The
mime Chaliboures, who attended the dinner, retorted immediately with a play on the
Greek word for salt (halas) and the feminine plural of the word for other (allas). Looking
around at "the choir of the emperor's concubines and relatives", Chaliboures cried out,
"Your majesty, would you first taste of these, and later on order to have others brought
in?" (441.23-27). Everyone burst into laughter*.” – Epstein, at

(*) We also have record of an earlier emperor, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, sharing a

laugh with a Western ambassador (when court acrobats performed during Luitprand’s
first visit in 949). These examples disprove the gibe that there was no laughter in
Byzantium. But certainly it was disapproved of by the most devout. Antiochus of
Palestine, fl. AD 620, had said, “It is generally forbidden to Christians to laugh, and
particularly to monks” (quoted in Mango’s New Rome, paperback 1988: 225).


1. The mob that deposed Andronicus also raised Isaac Angelus to the throne. In return he
let the mob dismember Andronicus (as described earlier).

2. Hungarian alliance: Margaret-Maria (Hung. Margit), 1175-1223, was the eldest

daughter of King Bela III of Hungary and his second wife Agnes of Antioch. Her
maternal grandparents were Raynald of Chatillon and Constance of Antioch. In 1185,
Margaret, aged just 10 [says Choniates, I.iv.481], married the new Eastern Roman
Emperor Isaac II Angelos, himself aged about 29.

3. The Balkans: As related earlier, William of Sicily had sent his brother in law Richard of
Acerra - a fief near Naples - with a Norman army to the Balkans. Having taken East-
Romanic Durres (24 June), the Norman-Italians march across the peninsula and sack
Thessalonica (24 August) and then turn towards Constantinople; but in Thrace they are
twice defeated (7 September and November) by the new Emperor Isaac’s forces.
The fleet of William [Guillaume d'Hauterive], Norman King of Sicily, comprising
“200” ships, besieged Thessalonica by sea and by land with an army of “80,000” (sic! –
one might belive 18,000) infantry and 5,000 knights (the figures given by Eustathius).
The town was captured (August 1185), and all resistance from the Greeks punished with
death, 7,000 Greeks in all being killed. In the following year (1186), however, it was
recaptured by the Byzantines; the metropolitan Eustathius wrote an account of the
campaign in a homily, which was read during the Lent of 1186.

The Romaic commander, Alexius Branas, made a surprise attack, routing the Norman-
Italian advance force at Mosynopolis, SW of Constantinople - present-day Komotini in
Grecian Thrace: NE of Abdera, just inland from the middle of the northern coast of the
Sea of Marmara. Negotiations followed, but now the Byzantines unexpectedly attacked
(winter: 7 November 1185) the main army coming behind under Baldwin at Demetritsa
or Dimitriza on the eastern side of the Strymon River and routed it. The Norman
generals, Baldwin and Richard of Acerra, were captured. The Italo-Norman fleet was
attacked by boats from Thessalonica and much damaged (Choniates/Magoulias p. 199;
Norwich 1996: 154; Bradbury 2004: 152).
The Normans are first checked at Mosynopolis in S Thrace by the Byzantine general
Alexius Branas (September), and then their army is completely routed on the River
Strymon (7 November), where the leaders of the Norman expedition, Richard of Acerra
and Baldwin, are captured. Thessalonica rises in revolt against the Normans, and the
surviving invaders withdraw from the Empire.
- Isaac put general Alexius Branas in sole command of the imperial forces. On 7 Nov
1185 Branas suddenly attacked the Normans and won a complete victory. The Normans
evacuated Thessalonica in panic and fell back on Dyrrakhion (Angold 1984: 271). See

Following the killing of Andronicus I Comnenus, his grandson the young Alexios
Komnenos, with Norman backing, was proclaimed Basileus /vasilefs/ in Thessalonica;
but he would be imprisoned and blinded by Isaac Angelus 1185, and dies 1187.
As we have said, William had launched an invasion in 1185, capturing
Durazzo/Dyrrhachium (11 June) and then Thessalonica. His advance on New Rome
(Constantinople) itself was halted in September 1185 by the Byzantine general Branas at
the Battle of the Strymon [Struma River which crosses the modern Bulgarian-Greek
border and runs into the Aegean]. This effectively ended the Norman-Sicilian
attempts on the 'Greek' [Rhomaike: Byzantine] Empire. As noted, Thessalonica


was recovered in 1186.

Despite a weakening of the East-Romanic navy since about 1177, there were still
sufficient squadrons for Andronicus (1185: before his death in September) to prepare
100 ploia makra (“major vessels”) to aid the towns threatened by the Sicilian-
Norman attack, to block access to the Golden Horn, and for the fleet to later (November
1185) engage the Sicilians in the Gulf of Astakos (off Smryna) and to force them to
withdraw into the Aegean (Dromon p.121; Pryor in Bull et al. 2003: 110). Cf below, 1186:
successive fleets of 80 and 70.

4. Balkans: Rebellion by Theodore and Ivan Asen, who take advantage of the Norman
invasion of the empire. They failed to immediately capture Bulgaria's historic capital
Preslav, but established a new seat in the west at Tarnovo, presumably the centre of the
revolt. See 1186.
The Vlachs (Romance speakers)* of Moesia (modern N Bulgaria) rebelled against the
heavy taxation imposed by the emperor Isaakios Angelos for the wedding of his daughter
and soon created (1186) a Bulgarian-Vlach empire of the ‘Asenids’. Ioannis (Ivan) Asen
in a letter to the pope called himself "Imperator omnium Bulgarorum et Blacorum’ -
Emperor of all Bulgarians and Vlachs, but signed the letter as imperator Bulgariae
Calojoannes, Kalo-ioannes, emperor of Bulgaria’. When (in 1189) Frederick Barbarossa
passed through the region, Ioannes (Ivan) Asen was mentioned by Ansbert as ‘Lord of
Vlachs and most Bulgarians’ [Blacorum et maxime Bulgarorum dominus], ‘Emperor of
Vlachs and Roumani [i.e. Greek speakers]’, or ‘Emperor of Vlachs and Greeks’. It is not
known whether Theodore and Ivan were Vlachs (Romance-speakers) or Bulgarians
(Slav-speakers), although Choniates says they were Vlachs. But in their own documents
they are always ‘emperor(s) of the Bulgarians’ (Vasiliev II: 442 and Fine 1994: 13 are
undecided; Curta 2006: 358 accepts they were Vlachs).

(*) The Vlachs were (are) a Romance-speaking, non-Slavic people: the future
‘Aromanians’ of Greece and "Rumanians” or ‘Daco-Romanians’ living north of the
Danube. Vlack is an outside-name or ‘exonym’, a Slavonic label that means "stranger",
i.e. ‘non-Slav’. The Vlachs of northern Greece call themselves Ar’manji; while the Vlachs
(Rumanians) north of the Danube call themselves Romani.
In the lower Balkans too there were various regions, e.g. parts of Thessaly, dominated
by the Vlachs, who presumably had originally migrated there centuries earlier as part of
the poorly recorded "Slavic flood" of the 6th and 7th centuries (Heurtley et al. p.46).

The Adriatic: Margaritus or Margaritone de Brindisi, Gk: Megareites, a Sicilian-based
admiral or ‘pirate’ or corsair*, was an ethnic ‘Greek’ (Byzantine) from Apulia in S Italy;
he was commander of King William’s fleet in Norman ‘Sicily’ (S Italy) and married
Marina d’Altavilla, an illegitimate daughter of William’s. Margaritone, d. 1195, captures
(1185) ex-Byzantine Corfu and Cephalonia and rules there, from 1185 to 1194, as ‘Count
Palatine of Cephalonia’. In 1188 he led a fleet of 60 ships to Syrian Tripoli and Tyre in aid
of the Crusaders there. —Norwich, John Julius. The Kingdom in the Sun, 1130-1194.
Longman: London, 1970.
See next: alliance with Cyprus.

(*) Pirates try to capture the trading ships of any nation including their own;


corsairs are officially recognised plunderers who attack everybody’s except their

1. Isaac II, aged 30, personally led a campaign that recaptured Dyrrhachium from the
Normans, and sent an expedition against the rebel Isaac Comnenus in Cyprus.
The emperor Is. Angelus finally sent a fleet against Is. Comnenus in an attempt to
restore imperial government, but to no avail. The rebel defeated the emperor's fleet with
the help of the Italo-Greek corsair named Megareites or Margarito (Margaritone de

With his brother Alexios III being held captive in Acre, Emperor Isaac II Angelos sent 80
galleys to liberate him, but the fleet was destroyed off Cyprus by the Norman-Italian
pirate Margaritus of Brindisi. Later in the same year, another Romaic fleet of 70 ships
was sent by Isaac II to recapture Cyprus from Isaac Komnenos, but was also defeated by
Margaritus. —Jonathan Harris (2006), Byzantium and The Crusades. Hambledon &
London. See 1189.

2. Bulgaria: Isaac II marches against the Bulgarian rebels. After winning an initial battle
that he led personally (21 April: dated from a solar eclipse), he returns too promptly with
his army to Constantinople, leaving the country ungarrisoned and allowing the rebellion
to spring to life once again (Stephenson 2000: 290f). See next (1186-87).

3. Dioclea or Duklja (modern Montenegro): Nemanja decided to capture the the towns
that were under Byzantine supremacy. His army defeats his cousin Mihailo, the last
zhupan of Duklja and ruler at Bar, who was loyal to Byzantium. The Serb (Raskan) army
quickly takes the Adriatic coastal towns of Bar, Ulcinj and inland Svac, in present-day
Montenegro, and Danj (Danja, Dagno: modern Kukës) and Sard (Sarda near Shkodra) in
what is now N Albania (Dusan Batakovic, 2005: Histoire du peuple serbe, L'age
D'homme [publisher, p.15). Others say he took Ulcinj in 1183.
On 27 September 1186, a peace treaty was negotiated in Ragusa (Dubrovnik), leaving it
the only town on the Dukljan coast not in Nemanja’s hands. (Before 1186 Ragusa had
been an independent Romance-speaking enclave or ‘maritime republic’ surrounded by
Dukljan [Slavic] territory; the Dalmatian tongue survived in use at Ragusa/Dubrovnik
for many centuries into the future.) See 1192: alliance with Byzantium.

1. Anatolia: Kilij Arslan had divided his territories between his 10 sons. This leads to
literally fratricidal civil wars over the next decade:
i. Qutb Al-Din Malik-Shah received Aksaray (and in 1189 seized Konya, briefly
deposing his father); ii. Kay Khusrau received Burglu (Gk: Dadibra) (he succeeded hs
father as sultan at Konya in 1192); iii. Rukn Al-Din Sulayman-Shah – Tokat (he deposed
Kay Khusraw and ruled as sultan at Konya from 1196); iv. Nasir Al-Din Berk Yaruk-Shah
- Niksar; v. Mughith Al-Din Togril-Shah – Elbistan including Erzerum; vi. Al-Din
Mahmud Sultan-Shah - Sivas; Vii. Mu'izz Al-Din Qaysar-Shah – Malatya; viii. Arslan-
Shah – Nigde in Cappadocia; ix. Uhyi Al-Din Mas'ud-Shah - Ankara; x. The 10th son’s
name and region is not known. – From the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, at; accessed 2008.

2. Byzantine rule restored in Thessalonica.


3. N Balkans: Bulgarian and Vlach rebels led by the brothers Ivan and Peter Asen of
Turnovo defeat the imperial forces; Isaac recognises the independence of “the restored
Bulgarian empire” under Petar (Peter) IV and Ivan (John) Asen I (1186-96).
Bulgarian rule extended south to a line broadly west-east just above Philippopolis; the
latter was held by Byzantium. Evidently western Macedonia, the sector SE of Serbia, was
contested territory. See below and 1197.

Although Ivan (John) Asen played the more active part in the operations against the
Byzantines, his older brother Theodore was proclaimed Emperor of the Bulgarians under
the name Peter IV (Bul. Petar IV). Peter styled himself "Tsar of the Bulgarians, Greeks
and Vlachs". John was crowned co-emperor thereafter, in 1189.

The contemporary East-Romanic historian Niketas Choniates alternates interchangeably

between the terms Mysoi [Moesian], Boulgaroi, and Blachoi (Vlachs) for the people,
preferring Mysia (Moesia) for the country, and Blachos for describing persons and
language. Thus geographically the medieval Wallachia in question (distinct from both
Great Wallachia in Thessaly and the later Wallachia north of the Danube), probably
overlapped with the former Roman province of Moesia Inferior, as distinct from so-
called ‘Bulgaria’, the Byzantine theme further west (Choniates, 481, 488).

The northern Bulgarians under John and Peter Asen revolted in 1185/86 following a
further attempt to impose exorbitant taxes. An important element of the rebel armies
came from the Vlachs who dwelt on the mountain slopes [Balkan Range].
Among those who broke their ties with the Byzantine court was the Vlach officer
Dobromir Hrs, the imperial administrator of Strumica [in modern FYROM], with 500
soldiers at his command. He rose against Constantinople, and from Strumica occupied
the town of Prosek in 1185, located where the Vardar River passes through the Demir
Kapija Gorge [near todays’ FYROM-Kosovo border]. Hrs moved his capital to Prosek,
extending his holdings in 1186 to Prilep (south of Skopje, west of the Vardar), part of
Pelagonia [NE of Lake Prespa] and some parts of Thessaly (ruling there until 1202-03).

A decisive battle was fought in 1187 near the fortress-town of Lovech in the north-central
sector of modern Bulgaria: west of modern Veliko Turnovo. After a three-month siege,
Emperor Isaac II Angelus failed to crush the resistance of the defenders of the fortress,
fighting for their newly liberated realm. In the end, the Basileus was forced into a treaty
that recognised Bulgarian independence, but he took the two leaders' younger brother
Kaloyan to Constantinople to guarantee good behaviour from his neighbour (Curta
2006: 361). See below: Subsequently the Bulgarians defeated Emperor Isaac at Berrhoe
1189/90; and they will retain their territory despite losing at Arcadiopolis in 1194.
The most important outcome from these battles was (1191) the definitive recognition of
the Bulgarian state. An independent archbishopric was created at Trnovo, the new
Bulgarian capital - modern Veliko Tarnovo.

Dalmatia: The republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) used Italo-Norman overlordship to
protect it from the Serbian kingdom and the Venetians; when the Normans’ Italian
kingdom began to weaken, it returned to Romaic/Byzantine authority (Harris 2003: 38)


Thrace: Alexius Branas, the hero of the Norman war, is sent against the Bulgarian rebels,
but he revolts, declares himself Emperor, and marches on Constantinople (April). Isaac
and his Italo-German relative Conrad, son of the Marquis of Montserrat, lead a sortie
from the city, and Branas is killed (May) (Fine 1994: 14).
The rebel general Alexius Branas advances from Adrianople towards Constantinople,
but is defeated and killed by loyalist forces led by Isaac’s brother in law, Conrad of
If we may believe Choniates, Conrad inspired the supposedly weak Emperor to take
the initiative. He fought heroically, without shield or helmet and wearing a linen cuirass
instead of mail, in the battle in which Branas was killed. He was slightly wounded in the
shoulder, but unhorsed Branas, who was then killed and beheaded by his bodyguards
(Wikipedia 2010 under ‘Conrad of Montferrat’).

Thrace: “Of particular interest was the revolt of General Branas (1187, see next), who
according to Choniates employed his German allies in the struggle. The numerous
pseudo-Alexioi that appeared in Asia Minor, and the revolts of some of the remaining
members of the Komnenoi family in Constantinople, revealed the weakness of imperial
government and aroused further aristocratic ambitions to power. In the end it would be
Isaakios's son Alexios IV who escaped to the court of Philip of Swabia and invited the
crusaders to capture Constantinople in his name.” Thus Alisia Simpson, ‘The Perceptions
of the Byzantine Aristocracy towards the Latins: 1081-1204’, online (2010) at

2. Thrace and S Bulgaria: Isaac campaigns against the Bulgarians, Vlachs and Cumans
(September-October), in a long running battle fought between Adrianople, Philippopolis
and Berrhoia. The northerners used the age-old ‘nomad’ tactics of feint, retreat and
return. Isaac defeats them at a hard-fought battle near Berrhoia/Beroe [Stara Zagora],
but he has difficulty coping effectively with the hit-and-run raiding tactics of Asen, who
retained the upper hand (Stephenson 2000: 292). See 1188.

3. A mercenary navy: An agreement with Venice in 1187 provided that, at six months
notice, the Republic would provide 40 to 100 galleys, equipped at the Empire's expense,
on which three out of every four Venetian colonists within the empire were expected to
serve, if required. In the event of an unexpected emergency, the colonists were expected
to serve aboard Byzantine vessels instead (Heath 1995: 17). Cf 1283.
Nicol, B&V p.117, notes that it is doubtful whether the emperor could muster more than
a handful of warships in 1187: the ‘40 to 100’ ships would have to be built - and they
weren’t (see also discussion in Dromon pp.120-21).
Cf 1189: offer of naval aid to Saladin.

This was the first agreement in which Venice was treated as a partner - a true treaty -
rather than a privilege granted from on high to an inferior power (Nicol, B&V p.111).

Northern Palestine: The army of Saladin, aged 50, crushes the Latins of Jerusalem
at the Battle of Hattin/Hittin (July) and recovers Jerusalem for Islam (it
surrenders to him on 2 October 1187). - By 1188 only Tyre, Tripoli and Antioch will
remain in 'Frankish' hands. See 1189.
— On 2 July the two armies almost met near Nazareth; thence they proceeded NE to


Hattin which lies east of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias in what is now N Israel).
The battle took place there on 4 July.
— At Hattin, probably about 18,000 but perhaps up to 30,000 Muslims under
Saladin faced about 19,000 Christian troops of whom only 1,200 were knights; or
20,000 and 2,000 according to some. Cf 1191.
- The leading Latin knights had begun to adopt the closed-face helmet (“great
helm”) by this time. The earliest type was cylindrical with a flat top (Keen
1999: 199).

Jerusalem: Saladin's biographer Baha' ad-Din ibn Shaddad reports that, after the
Ayyubid capture of Jerusalem in 1187, Queen Tamar of Georgia sent envoys to the sultan
to request that the confiscated possessions of the Georgian monasteries in Jerusalem be
returned. Furthermore he claims that Tamar outbid the Byzantine emperor in her efforts
to obtain the relics of the True Cross, offering “200,000” gold pieces to Saladin who had
taken the relics as booty at the battle of Hattin – to no avail, however. —Johannes
Pahlitzsch, "Georgians and Greeks in Jerusalem (1099-1310)", in Ciggaar & Herman
(eds., 1996), East and West in the Crusader States, Peeters Publishers, pp. 38–39.

1187: Earliest record of the magnetic compass in Europe. Its origins were probably
Chinese. See 1270.

d. archbishop Constantine Manasses: poet, historian, orator and churchman,
metropolitan of Naupactus on the N coast of the Gulf of Corinth, and the author of a
verse chronicle Synopsis historike, the “Historical Synopsis” covering from the Creation
to 1081. Written at the request of Emperor Manuel I's sister-in-law, Irene, the chronicle
uses the so-called ‘political’, i.e. 15-syllable, metre.

End of Byzantine Cilicia: The Armenian Leo or Levon, 1182-1219, formally became "Lord
of the Mountains" or ruler of Cilician Armenia in 1187; and in 1199 he will receive the
title ‘king’ from the Papacy. He fostered commerce with Venice and Genoa, opening to
them his ports at Ayas and Corycos - on the mainland coast north from Cyprus, near
Silifke. —See generally Jacob Ghazarian, The Armenian Kingdom in Cilicia during the
Crusades: The Integration of Cilician Armenians with the Latins (1080–1393);
Routledge-Curzon (Taylor & Francis Group), 2000, Abingdon.

With the onset of the Third Crusade, he opened negotiations with Frederick Barbarossa
to receive the title of King of Armenia, but Frederick's drowning (1190: see there) at the
Saleph River in Cilicia forestalled the plan. Leo continued to appeal to the new German
Emperor, Henry VI, and to Pope Celestine III for a royal title. These efforts were
successful, and on 6 January 1199 he was crowned King of Armenia by the papal legate,
Konrad I Cardinal von Wittelsbach, Archbishop of Mainz, in the Church of Holy Wisdom
at Tarsus.

1. Europe: Isaac campaigns against the Bulgarian insurgents, but he fails after a three-
month siege (spring of 1188) to take the fortress of Lovitzos [today’s Lovech], in the


north-central sector of modern Bulgaria (Stephenson 2000: 293). See 1191.

2. fl. Michael Choniates or ‘Akominatos’, archbishop of Athens (until 1204) and man of
letters. Author of many works in prose and verse. Cf 1206.
- His memorial to Alexis III Angelus on the abuses of imperial administration, the
poetical lament over the ‘degeneracy’ (backwardness) of Athens, and the monodies on
his brother Nicetas and Eustathius, archbishop of Thessalonica, deserve special mention.
“His inaugural address, delivered on the Acropolis, compared by Gregorovius with
Gregory the Great's sermon to the Romans in St. Peter's, exhibits both profound classical
scholarship and high enthusiasm; the latter, however, is somewhat out of place in view of
the material and spiritual wretchedness of his times. These pitiful conditions moved him
to compose an elegy, famous because unique, on the decay of Athens, a sort of poetical
and antiquarian apostrophe to fallen greatness” (Cath. Encyc.).
Choniates writes that he lives among a barbariaed people ‘clad in rags’ and
insufficiently nourished, among whom no trace of ancient learning or spark of ancient
spirit remains to be perceived.

SW Asia Minor: Theodore Mangaphas revolted at Philadelphia, and, having recruited
some Turkish freebooters, went plundering in the upper Maeander valley (ODB: 1286).
Cf 1193.
A place like Philadelphia looked for its defence to its own inhabitants, who were famed
for their skill at archery (Akropolites, s.53). Rather than rely on the doubtful support of
Constantinople, the people of Philadelphia preferred to raise up their own ruler. His
name was Theodore Mangaphas, a local man. He was proclaimed emperor and even
minted his own coins. He soon brought under his control the inland areas of the theme
of Thrakesion.
Isaac Angelos could not let this challenge to his authority go unchecked and he led
(June 1189) a punitive expedition against Philadelphia (Choniates trans. Magoulias
p.219). News of the approach of Frederick Barbarossa's crusade [see below] forced him
to withdraw. He recognized Mangaphas as de facto ruler of Philadelphia on condition
that the latter gave up his imperial claims and sent his sons as hostages to
When Frederick Barbarossa's crusade passed by in the spring of 1190, Philadelphia
acted as though it was an independent state (Theban Tribunal Sourcebook: ‘Failure of
the Comnenian System’, at; accessed Feb

Attack on Aphrodisias
(Asia Minor: about 90 km SE of Philadelphia; a little SW of Laodiceia/Denizli):

“Nicetas Choniates describes how he [Mangaphas] attacked and plundered Laodicaea

and Chonae (Nicetas' own home town), and then describes his progress on [southward]
into Caria - ‘where he also plundered’. Then he continues, … Mangaphas allowed the
‘barbarians’ (his Turkish freebooter troops) to burn ‘the church of the archistrategus
Michael, a very great work, and well-known, exceeding in beauty and in length the shrine
of the noble martyr Mocius in Constantinople’. Although this has been taken as a
reference to the famous church of St. Michael at Chonae, Professor W. Kaegi has pointed
out that the narrative reads far more easily if we take the reference to be to a church in
Caria; and the name Caria was by this date the term regularly used to describe [the


district of] Aphrodisias/Stauropolis [the well preserved ancient city].” —Charlotte

‘Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity’; at:; accessed
Jan 2005.
Cf 1190 – Laodiceia: Barbarossa’a crusade.

Cilicia and Syria: Because of political intrigues in Constantinople and Iconium, as well as
the resounding defeat of the Crusaders by Saladin at Hattin (1188), the Armenian ruler
Levon or Lewon [Leo] II was in a position to enlarge and consolidate his ‘barony’.
He not only secured all of the forts from the Calycadnus, the modern Göksu River, to
the Anti-Taurus Mountains, but he occupied three Templar sites near the plain of
Antioch: the fortresses of La Roche de Roissol (in the Amanus Mountains), La Roche
Guillaume and Baghras (1191). Levon even led raids as far north as Anatolian Caesarea
and briefly occupied (until 1216) the East-Romanic fort of Loulon to the north of the
Cilician Gates [the main pass from Cilicia into Amatolia]. See 1198. —A. Savvides,
Byzantium in the Near East: Its Relations with the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in Asia
Minor, the Armenians of Cilicia and the Mongols, A.D. c1192-1237 (Thessaloniki, 1981).

1. Further Byzantine-Venetian treaty, prompted by the Third Crusade.
Since it had proved impractical to restore to the Venetians all the goods they had lost
in the confiscations of 1171, Isaac enlarged their colony in Constantinople and granted
them more landing-stages on the Golden Horn. He also promised to pay, over six years,
the extravagant total of 1,500 pounds of gold as compensation.
“Isaac II, under pressure from his Venetian patriarch Dositheos, and desperate to
secure Venice’s support against any threat from the Third Crusade (see below), granted
Venice’s request to be given the emboloi and skalai (warehouses and landing jetties) in
the possession of the French and Germans. We do not know where these properties were
situated, but it was probably to the west of the existing Venetian quarter. Nor do we
know when and why the French and Germans acquired these lucrative concessions, but
we can guess that it had something to do with the importance of France and Germany in
the Crusades and in the international diplomacy of the Komnenian emperors.” —
Magdalino, Maritime quarters of Constantinople, at

2. Asia: As noted, Theodore Mangaphas, a citizen of Philadelphia, revolts against Isaac II

(winter). Isaac marches against Mangaphas and besieges him in Philadelphia, but is
unable to take the town. Concerned about the approach of the German crusader army of
Frederick Barbarossa from the west, Isaac accepts a negotiated resolution. Mangaphas
and the citizens of Philadelphia are granted immunity in return for their submission

3. So-called "Third Crusade", intended to recover Jerusalem from Saladin. This

crusade, under Frederick of Germany, Philip of France and Richard of ‘England’ so-
called (Angevin Anglo-Francia), was “socially the most spectacular", as Roberts remarks,
1993: 507. See 1191. It was also the largest: when it departed, it comprised supposedly
“100,000” men, including about 20,000 knights and other mounted troops (J France
p.136, citing Johnson and Runciman; Andrea 2000: 231 rightly calls ‘100,000’ a gross
exaggeration but still allows it to be ‘one of the largest’).
The German king Frederick Barbarossa departs from Ratisbon [Regensburg in
Bavaria] and proceeds to the Balkans, crossing into the Byzantine Empire at


Viminacium. His army followed the so-called Military Road that went from Singidunum
(Belgrade) alongside the Danube to Viminacium, where the road turns south away from
the Danube into the Balkan peninsula, to Naissus (Nish), then SE to Serdica (Sofia) and
thence to Philippopolis (Plovdiv) and Adrianople (Edirne) (map in OHBS: 297). The
‘Great Count [zhupan] of Serbia and Rascia’, Nemanja, called on Barbarossa at Nish on
27 July, bringing gifts and supplies. The Nish-Sofia region, although officially part of the
Empire, was at this time under Serbian control. Cf 1190: Byzantines reassert their rule.
In the region between Belgrade and Sofia (the upper north-central Balkans) the
Germans found everything in ruins, a consequence of frequent hostilities in recent
decades between Hungarians and Byzantines (and perhaps the recent Vlach-Bulgarian
revolt). And again, “between Philippopolis and Constantinople not a city or castle is to be
found inhabited”, wrote Barbarossa to his son (16 November 1189: in Barber & Bate
2010: 89). This was a great exaggeration, as plainly Adrianople was inhabited, as were
many other towns and villages (see the contemporary account translated in Graham
The Crusade of Frederick Barbarossa: The History of the Expedition of the Emperor
Frederick and Related Texts, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2010, pp.73-75). Perhaps
Barbarossa meant that there were also a good number of deserted towns and villages?
Distrusting the Byzantines, Frederick seizes Byzantine Adrianople, where he he
winters, before coming to terms with emperor Isaac (1189-90) (Treadgold 1997: 658).
See 1190.

Theodore Branas is first heard of in 1189 as commander of the Alans – ‘mercenaries’

(salaried professionals) from the Caucasian steppes in Byzantine service - against
Frederick Barbarossa's Germans. Branas’ troops are annihilated near Philippopolis
(Plovdiv) by the crusaders.

Isaac II negotiates with Saladin, seeking his support against the Seljuk Sultanate of
Iconium in return for Isaac's agreement to prevent Western crusaders from crossing the
Empire's lands (winter/spring); he ultimately renews a treaty with Saladin concluded
four years earlier by Andronicus (early summer). Cf 1190: letter of apology.
In an attempt to regain some lost territories in the Holy Land, in 1189 the Byzantine
Emperor agreed to send 100 galleys (i.e. to be supplied by the Venetians) to aid Saladin
in capturing the Latin-ruled principality of Antioch. – Harris 2003/2006: 130.

4. Earliest surviving document in Serbian: Trade treaty between the ban (prince) Kulin
of Bosnia and the merchants of ex-Greco-Romaic imperial port of Ragusa [Dubrovnik],
now a small republic within Serbia. Indeed this is the first time that the name
‘Dubrovnik’ is used in place of Ragusa (Harris 2003: 27; NCMH IV: 275).


GO HERE for a map of Serbia in 1189:

The Byzantine-Serbian borderland lay along a line from Skopje to Nish, while Belgrade
was still part of Hungary. Tracking up the Adriatic coast, Byzantium ruled Durres, while
Serbia controlled most of the Montenegrin and Dalmatian coast to beyond Dubrovnik.
Bosnia ruled the middle Croatian coast while Hungary controlled the far upper Croatian


Above: The Seljuk sultanate of Rum before it conquered part of the southern coast
from Byzantium. The star represents Konya, seat of the sultan. The site of the
battle of Myriocephalon (1176) is wrongly placed too far west. In truth it was fought
much nearer Konya itself.

1. Asia Minor: Isaac Angelos could not let the challenge to his authority go unchecked
and he led (June 1189 or early 1190) a punitive expedition against the Byzantine rebels of
Philadelphia. As noted earlier, news of the approach of Frederick Barbarossa's crusade
forced him to withdraw. He recognized Mangaphas as de facto ruler of Philadelphia on
condition that he gave up his imperial claims and sent his sons as hostages to
Constantinople. When Frederick Barbarossa's crusade passed by in the spring of 1190
[see next], Philadelphia acted as though it was an independent state. It was only some
three years later (1193) that Mangaphas was driven out and Philadelphia was brought
back under the control of the imperial government.

2. The East: Frederick I Barbarossa and his German crusaders cross at Gallipoli (late
March). Here the Latin chronicles refer to Bithynia and Phrygia under the joint name of
“Romania” (Loud 2010: 96). The army marches down the coast of Byzantine Asia Minor,
then swings inland up the Meander Valley to Laodiceia (27 April) and thence into the
interior, and onwards past the site of Manuel II's defeat at Myriocephalum.
Türkmen - nomadic Turks - were present in large numbers as Barbarossa proceeded
into the Laodiceia-Sozopolis-Philomelium region of central-western Anatolia= (west and
NW of Konya). But the crusaders brushed them aside (1-3 May). One source put their
figure at “100,000” - no doubt a vast exaggeration; but perhaps plausible if women and
children were included. At Myriocephalum west of Konya, it was said that “30,000”
Turkish fighters awaited (3 May 1190) the Crusaders (contemporary sources
translated in Loud 201o: 102; also Vryonis). Cf 1200.

The Germans proceeded to defeat the Turks in two battles in late April and on 3 May.
The German army briefly occupies the Seljuk capital of Iconium (18 May).

After the capture of Konya, the sultan Qilich (Kilij) Arslan was forced to provide guides
and provisions for the crusaders. The Germans reached Armenia (Cilicia) on 30 May


Barbarossa, 68 years old, subsequently dies by drowning – fell or was thrown from his
horse - while crossing the Calycadnus (Göksu) River near Seleucia in Cilicia in SE Asia
Minor (10 June 1190). Most of Barbarossa’s army returned to Germany; only a few
continued on to Antioch with Frederick’s son. Mewanhaile Richad of England and Phillp
of France also deearted for the East: see below.

The term “Turkia” or ‘Tourchia”, meaning upland Anatolia, first appears in a Latin
chronicle of this period (Jenkins 1999: vol. 1, p.204). Turquia was used by at least on
troubadour in the early 1200s. William of Rubruck used it in his account of his visit to
eastern Anatolia in 1255, returning from China; and Roger Bacon in his Opus Majus [at
I: C-373] of 1267. In Greek, ‘Turkia’ tended to mean Hungary. The Turks (Seljuqs) called
Anatolia Rum.

3. Egypt: According to Arab sources, emperor Isaac wrote to Saladin to inform him that
prayers were being said in his name at the Constantinople mosque; and (which is hard to
believe) he apologised for agreeing to the passage of German crusaders through
Byzantine territory (El Cheikh 2004: 190).
The negative reaction in Byzantium to the quasi-alliance with Saladin can be seen in
an oration delivered by Niketas Choniates on 6 January 1190. Choniates opposed the
alliance and tactfully urged Isaac II to turn his attention towards redeeming Jerusalem,
then under Saladin's control.

4. The NW Balkans: Further Serbian advances were checked by Byzantine emperor Isaac
II Angelos, in 1190; however, the ensuing peace treaty left most acquisitions intact for
the Serbian (Raskan) state, along with full recognition and an amicable disposition from
the now ailing Constantinopolitan court.
In September 1190, Byzantine troops defeated, or at least stymied, the Serbs at the
Morava River, and under the subsequent peace treaty the Byzantines regained Nish,
Beograd and northern Macedonia including Skopje, although they recognised Serb
independence and Nemanja's right to rule Zeta, southern Dalmatia, Trebinje and Hum
(Fine 1994: 24-25).
Byzantium, to avenge the Serbs’ having aided Barbarossa, defeated (1190) Stefan
Nemanja’s Serbs in the battle of Morava at Chuprija (the ancient Horreum Margi:
almost at the very centre-point of present-day south Serbia). And they burned down
Stefan's residence at Kurshumlija, further south. But Nemanja negotiated with Isaac II
Angelus, and agreed (1191) to return to the Byzantine emperor a part of his conquests,
but accepting in exchange the recognition of his autonomy. His son Stefan II was thus
married to the princess Eudoxia, niece of Isaac II and daughter of the future Romaic
emperor Alexios III Angelus, who in 1195 gave him the title of Sebastokrator.

fl. Nizami, the Azerbaijani-Persian poet. Author of five verse epics, including one
about the ancient Iranian monarch Khusraw II, completed 1180, and one on
Alexander the Great, in two parts: 1191 and c.1200. In this period, the strength of
the Great Seljuks was fading, and the power of the Khwarizmi Shahdom based
south of the Aral Sea was growing [see 1194].

1. (Or 1190:) Last-ever attempt by Byzantium to re-conquer the Northern
Balkans. The whole of the Balkans was slipping out of the East-Romanic grasp. In


1190-91 Isaac made a desperate attempt to recover the initiative against the rebels.
Although he fails against the Bulgarians, he succeeds against the Serbs (1191). As noted,
Nemanja's son Stephen marries the emperor's niece, signalling Serbia's reincorporation
into the 'Byzantine commonwealth' but as a de facto independent country.

Once again the emperor led an army into the interior of the Balkans. He campaigns
against the Bulgarians, but finds their towns and cities strongly fortified. Isaac Angelus
marches inland from the Gulf of Burgas but fails to capture the Bulgarian capital Trnovo
[Veliko Tarnovo] and is defeated while returning (details below). The main medieval
road ran north along the littoral from Mesembria to Varna and thence west, inland, to
Pliska and Trnovo (map in OHBS: 297); but the Byzantines may have taken a more direct
route. Indeed the Wikipedia authors (‘Battle of Tryavna’, 2010) say they did not go quite
as far as Anchialus (Pomorie), but headed to the west (i.e. via Karnobat) and passed
through the Rishki or Rish Pass to Preslav and then marched westwards to besiege the
capital Tarnovo. (The Rishki Pass is SSE of Preslav and north of Karnobat.)

By way of the Gulf of Burgas, Isaac marched (1191) into the narrow passes of the Balkans.
Norwich 1996: 157 and the Wikipedia authors place this in 1190; Curta 2006: 361 gives
1191. The Byzantines encountered fortresses supplied with newly-built walls and
“crowned towers”, and the enemy Vlachs and Bulgarians “leaping up the inaccessible
heights as lightly as deer and as sure-footed as goats” (this would no doubt mean that
their light infantry fell back or climbed into country that was impassable to the imperial
army). Isaac managed to advance on Tarnovo again and besieged it, but was forced to
retreat because of the progress, or reputed progress, of Asen’s Cuman (Kipchaq Turk)
reinforcements from the north.
The Bulgarians and Vlachs obstinately refused to fight, but they caught the Byzantine
army in an ambush as it was retiring southwards through the passes of the Balkan
mountains, and inflicted a heavy defeat. The vanguard division was commanded by
Manuel Kamytzes, the main division by Isaac and the rearguard by John Doukas. They
made the mistake of taking a short-cut towards Berrhoea/Berrhoia (Stara Zagora)
through a narrow valley, where there was a waterfall, instead of keeping to the main
road*, which was suitable for marching (Stephenson 2000: 300). The Wikipedia authors
(‘Battle of Tryavna’, 2010, with map); also Evans 1960: 60, say that the site of the
ambush was the Tryavna Pass**, on the northern edge of the Balkan Range some 25 km
SSW of Veliko Tarnovo, i.e. much nearer to Tarnovo than Stara Zagora (S G Evans, A
Short History of Bulgaria, Lawrence & Wishart, 1960). Curta 2006: 362 says, I believe
wrongly, that the site was “most likely” the Shipka Pass.*

(*) The “celebrated” Shipka Pass through which ran the old Roman road from
Novae (Shistova) on the Danube to Stara Zagora / Beroe (J B Bury, Hist. Later
Rom. Emp. I: 267). The Shipka is a little to the west of the Tryavna Pass, hence a
longer route to Stara Zagora.

(**) In the town of Tryavna (SW from the pass) there is a church of St Michael the
Archangel. The original building (destroyed in 1819) is believed to have been built
by order of the Asen brothers, or by Ivan, to commemorate the victory. This was
the origin of the town.

During his retreat, the Byzantine emperor was ambushed by Ivan Asen, whose troops
had gone ahead (south) and taken over the Balkan passes, and Isaac II barely escaped
with his life, losing much of his army and treasures. According to Wolff, the Byzantines


were ambushed in a defile while crossing the Haemus [Balkans] mountains near Beroe
or Boruy: modern Stara Zagora, on the southern slope of the Karaja Dagh, 110 km NW of
Adrianople. (As noted, the Wikipedia authors say the ambush took place on the northern
side of the main range.) He was set upon, and lost the greater part of his army, escaping
himself, Nicetas says, only through divine aid (Wolff, ‘Second Bulgarian Empire’, at
During the next year, the Bulgarians, for the first time, will successfully attack a
number of substantial towns, including Anchialos, Varna, Serdica and Nis/Nish. This
meant that they had moved from being bandits to becoming a well organised army. See

2a. Byzantine Cyprus is attacked by the Angevin crusaders en route to Palestine (1 June).
Richard of England’s armada consisted of 100 ships carrying 8,000 men. The ship
bearing his fiancée Berengaria had gone aground off the coast of Cyprus, and she was
threatened by the island's independent ruler, Isaac Comnenus (self-styled as ‘emperor’
[basileus] since 1185). Richard came to her rescue, captured the island, overthrew
Comnenus, and married Berengaria in the Chapel of St. George at Limassol.
The ‘English’ (Angevin) chronicler Ambroise records that Isaac Komnenos fired two
arrows at Richard from horseback (Heath 1995: 24). This may indicate that horse-
archers were important in the Cypro-Byzantine army.

2b. Palestine: Aged 34, Richard Coeur de Lion, the 'Lionheart', the Anglo-French king of
the so-called ‘Angevin Empire’, arrives with an army by sea. Although born at Oxford,
Richard’s spoke no English; his forebears were mostly French, his grandfathers being
Geoffrey of Anjou and William of Aquitaine. The two seats of the ‘empire’ were at Angers
and Chinon in the Loire Valley (in our NW France).
The Saracens called him Melek-Ric or Malik al-Inkitar - King of England. The –tar
ending echoes the French Angleterre (Hillenbrand 2000: 240).

Palestine: Intervention by the ‘Anglo-Norman’ king of Angleterre

King Richard, the Franco-Norman king of England and Aquitaine, captures Byzantine
Cyprus, 1191. Its ruler Isaac Comnenus is deposed.
Richard was reluctant to keep Cyprus under his control as his main aim was Palestine.
For this reason he sold it to the Knights Templar. The Templars so ruthlessly exploited
Cyprus that the inhabitants (Greeks) rose against them during Easter 1192 AD. Realising
that it was difficult to keep the island under their control, they in turn sold it to Guy de
Lusignan, the ex-King of Jerusalem (for Jerusalem was now in the hands of the Arabs),
and he took possession of the island in May 1192 AD.

Sailing from Cyprus to Acre, Richard had captured a Saracen transport ship laden with
armaments bound from Beirut to Palestine. As well as ballista, bows, arrows, and lances,
it carried an abundance of what is dubbed Greek fire (ignem Graecum) – but probably
it was some sort of a similar incendiary material - in bottles (in phialis). It may be
significant that siphon-pumps were not used, as in the High Byzantine era. As Haldon
1999: 138 rightly observes, Westerners tended to use ‘Greek fire’ for all and any
incendiary weapons.

At the Battle of Arsuf in Palestine (NW of Muslim-controlled Jerusalem), perhaps

25,000 - but probably as few as 10,000 - Crusaders under Richard defeat 25,000 (or
perhaps 50,000) Muslims under Saladin. The Crusader force included 4,000 knights;


2,000 or 4,000 Turcopole light horsemen who were Turkish horse-archers converted to
Christianity; and an indeterminate number of infantry, the latter being about half
crossbowmen and half spearmen.
July: The port of Acre capitulates to the Anglo-Normans and French. The Arabs used
Greek Fire, or again an incendiary of similar type, on both land and sea in the failed
counter-siege of Acre. Interestingly it was used by cavalry, presumably in the form of
pottery grenades. The Venetians too had learnt the composition of Greek fire or an
equivalent, by about this time (Partington pp.25-27). But caution is best: Haldon 1999:
138 notes that Westerners tended to use ‘Greek fire’ for all and any incendiary weapons.
Cf 1208.

Saladin retained control of almost all of the Levant, with the Latins hemmed into two
enclaves along the Syrian-Palestine coast: the "Principality of Antioch-Tripoli" and the
"Kingdom of Acre".

3. The Levant: The Egyptian fleet was re-created in 1191 by order of Salah al-Din
(Saladin), who made his brother, Sayf al-Din al-‘Adil, admiral (Dromon p.120). The Nile
was sufficiently navigable for the arsenal to be located far inland at Cairo.
For action involving the Ayyubid navy, see 1195, 1196, and 1198 For other fleets, see
1148, 1168-69, 1185 and 1196 (Byzantine), 1123, 1147 and 1149 (Norman-Sicilian), 1123
and 1203 (Venetian), and 1207 (Nicaean).

1. Dalmatia: Norman-Sicilians take and briefly hold Ragusa (Dubrovnik). The Ragusans
had preferred Normans domination to that of Vencie.
In 1192, however, Dubrovnik’s inhabitants shook off the sovereignty of the Normans
(Stephenson 2000: 301; Radvan 2010: 108). Again they returned to the fold of the
Byzantine Empire [until 1204]. As an incentive, they received from Emperor Isaac
Angelus a special Charter (hrizovulja). The Charter gave the people of Dubrovnik the
right to trade freely in the Byzantine Empire and Bulgaria, and in return they were
bound not to form any alliance directed against the East-Romanic Empire.

2. N Balkans: (Stephenson 2000: 301 dates this to 1191.) The insurgent Bulgarians and
Vlachs for the first time successfully attack a number of substantial towns, including
Anchialos, Varna, Serdica, and Nish. Choniates, s. 434, says Serdica was largely razed.
Isaac marches against the also rebellious Serbians, who have attacked and destroyed
Skopje, and defeats them on the Morava River (autumn); he continues on to the Sava
River for a summit meeting with his father-in-law Bela III of Hungary (October), then
returns to Constantinople.
Dividing his army between the military leaders, Isaac rebuilt Varna and Anchialus,
from which the Vlachs had apparently withdrawn, and installed garrisons. In the autumn
of 1192 (or 1191) near Philippopolis he attacked the Vlachs and also the Serb zhupan,
Stephen Nemanja, who had destroyed Skopje. Again, however, his luckless forces were
caught, this time crossing the Morava, as they pushed on into south Serbia, and many
soldiers were drowned or killed with spears. But Isaac passed Nish, and moved across
the Sava River to a rendezvous with his father-in-law, King Bela of Hungary, at Belgrade
(late 1191 or ealy 1192). After a conference with him, planning joint action against the
Bulgarians and Vlachs, Isaac returned at once to Constantinople via Philippopolis (Fine
1994: 26; Stephenson p.301). See 1193 and 1195.

3. Isaac restored the commercial privileges of the Pisans and Genoese, hoping thus to


restrain the pirates from those towns. The small Romaic fleet had been overwhelmed by
piracy in the Aegean.
The Byzantine emperor gave to the Genoese, among other property in the city, the so-
called palace of Botaneiates, probably formerly a possession of the emperor Nikephoros
Botaneiates (d. 1081) or a member of his family. The palace consisted of a number of
houses and pavilions of small or middle size, and two churches arranged around several
terraces on different levels, and enclosed by a wall (see photoshop reconstruction at
website “Byzantium 1200” at It has been
identified with the remains of an early Imperial substructure in the north-west of the
present Erkek Lisesi, but it is more probable that it lay in the gardens of Topkapi Saray-
somewhere to the west of the Column of the Goths. (The Palace of Botaneiates lies NNW
of Hagia Sophia, a little inland from southern shore of the Golden Horn. The Column of
the Goths is on the NE side of the ancient acropolis not far from the city’s NE tip.)

4. SW Asia Minor: The Pseudo-Alexius II*, with the support of Kilij (Qilish) Arslan II and
the Turkish border leader Arsan, invades imperial territory with 8,000 troops and seizes
many towns in the Maeander Valley (Wikipedia 2010: ‘Pseudo-Alexius’). See 1193:
Chonae plundered.

(*) Alexius II had been murdered by Andronicus I Comnenus. Several pseudo-

Alexii emerged, pretending that they had survived the political upheavals.

5. E Anatolia: The first of the Seljuk caravanserai or "hans" – fortified inns for traders
and pilgrims - was the Alay Han, constructed along the Aksaray-Kayseri road by Kiliç
Arslan II in 1192 (thus, accessed 2010). Aksaray lies on
the route that runs SW from Kayseri to Konya, and is located nearer the former. In other
words: in the very heart of the sultanate.
Caravanserai took the name Sultanhan or Han in Anatolia. They were constructed
entirely of cut stone and placed one day’s distance apart along the roads that caravans
took. Often large, they resembled small palaces and reflected the power that the Seljuk
Sultans embodied in upland Anatolia.
By 1240 there would hans throughout the Seljuq realms, from Sinope in the north to
Antalya in the south (map in Nicolle 2008: 19).

Civil war in Seljuq Anatolia: war between the sons of Qilish Arslan II. See 1196. Kay
Khusraw will be ejected in 1197 but regains the throne in 1205.

Kay Khusraw I, nominal Seljuq sultan of Rum. In 1195-97 he had to comte rule of the
sulatane with his brother Suleymanshah (Rukh al-Din). Cf 1194 and 1196.

1a. Europe: A Bulgarian victory at Arcadiopolis in 1193 (or 1194) led to their annexation
of much of outer Thrace (the NCMH 2004 IV: 266 prefers 1193). A new stronger
Bulgaria will emerge, usually called the ‘Second Bulgarian Empire’. See 1194.

1b. On learning that Peter and Asen of Bulgaria have quarrelled with each other and
divided their forces, Isaac sends his young cousin [aged about 20], the Grand Duke
[megas doux]* Constantine Angelus Ducas, against them with an army. Constantine
melds his army into an effective force and wins a number of successes, but then decides


instead to march on Constantinople and seize the throne. His brother-in-law, the Grand
Domestic [megas domestikos: army commander]* Basil Vatatzes, seizes him by trickery
and Isaac has him blinded (Brand 1992: 111). See 1194.

(*) At a later period, the post of chief admiral was called Megas Doux. At this time,
however, it was a senior court title borne by military commanders (a title or
honorific, not a rank or post). On the other hand, the Megas Domestikos was a
post, namely the senior-most commander of land troops, i.e. equivalent to our
Field Marshal (ODB, 1991: 329).

2. SW Asia Minor: The church at Chonae still had its decorations intact when in was
plundered and defiled by the troops of Pseudo-Alexius in 1193, as described by Nicetas
Choniates (422, 85 ff.), who emphasises that this took place in his home town. --- —
Aphrodisias site:; accsed 2010.

4. d. Saladin.
PERIOD" - from 1096: First Crusade; to 1291: fall of Acre, the last Latin stronghold in

5. Mesopotamia: acc. the last ‘Greek’ (Rhomaioi, Melkite) bishop of Turkish-ruled

Melitene (Cath. Encyc. s.v. ‘Melitene’).

THEATRES OF WAR, 1183-1203:

S Balkans N Balkans: Asia Minor:

Note war almost Frequent but not
every year with annual Turkish
Bulgarians incursions:
1184 Nicaea, Prusa: CW.
1186 Norman Invasion: Bulgarian Revolt

1187 Revolt (Branas) Bulgaria

1188 Bulgaria; 3rd Crusade Philadelphia: CW

1189 Philadelphia: CW;
also 3rd Crusade
1190 Bulgaria
1191 Serdica Cyprus: 3rd Crusade

1192 Ragusa (Normans) Turkish incursions:

Meander River
1193 Chonae.

1194 Arcadiopolis
1195 Bulgaria (CW)
1196 Bulgaria Meander, Paphlagonia
1197 Caria
1198 Sakarya River.


1199 Philippopolis vs. West

1200 Meander
1201 Rebellion Maritsa River
1202 Macedonia

1203 4th Crusade

CW: civil war.

1. Thrace: Isaac put Alexius Gidos, domestic (commander) of the troops in the East, and
Basil Vatatzes, domestic of the West, in command of a force that engaged a raiding party
of Bulgarians and Vlachs near Arcadiopolis, and suffered a severe defeat. Vatatzes was
killed in the field (Choniates/Magoulias p.245; Brand p.96).

2. Italians under Matthew Orsini (son-in-law of Margaritone of Brindisi) rule in Greek

Cephalonia - nominally subject to Venice from 1204 (D M Nicol 1992).

3. fl. John Cinnamus, Gk: Kinnamos, Byzantine historian, poet, orator and confidential
secretary to the emperor.
His Epitome, covering the period to 1176, deals very clearly with military events. The
author's hero is emperor Manuel, but, notwithstanding his understandable conviction
that the Greek East was superior to the Latin West, and his opposition to papal claims,
he retains considerable objectivity.

4. d. Tughril III, the last Seljuq ruler in Persia, resulting in the end of Seljuq power in
Iran and the rise of the Turkic Khwarezmians in Transoxiana. - With the death of the last
Great Seljuk sultan in Iran, the Anatolian Seljuks (Rum) finally became the sole
representatives of the dynasty.

1194: Norman Sicily becomes part of the German empire of Henry IV of Swabia.
See 1196.

1195-1203: ALEXIUS III Angelus

Older brother of Isaac II Angelus, who he succeeded in 1195. Age

about 42 at accession.
Wife: Euphrosyne. Three daughters: 1 Anna who married
Theodore Lascaris, afterwards emperor in Nicaea; 2 Irene who
married Alexius Palaeologus; and 3 Eudocia who married
[ca.1186] Stephen [Stefan Nemanjich], the future first king of
Serbia, and later Alexius V Ducas, emperor in 1204.

“It is generally agreed that the decline of Byzantium, which

had begun after the death of Manuel I, reached the point of
no return under Alexios III Angelos” (Nicol, B&V p.117). Cf
1196: the navy.


The important office of sacellarius or finance minister was filled under Alexius III
Angelus by the eunuch Constantine, a person who was powerful enough to give orders to
the palace guard (Nic. 727: Nicetas Choniates). Alexius III also frequently charged the
eunuchs with diplomatic missions, for example, the embassy to Ibankos [Ivankos,
commander of the garrison at Trnovo: see below 1196] who had revolted (Nic. 677 f.;
Dölger Reg. 1655). —Rodolphe Guilland, ‘Les eunuques dans l'Empire Byzantin: Étude
de titulature et de prosopographie byzantines’, in Études Byzantines, Vol. I (1943), pp.

1. In the course of a campaign in Bulgaria, Alexius conspires against his younger brother,
the emperor Isaac II. The latter is deposed on 8 April and blinded.
Isaac decided to take command in person once again, and in the spring of 1195 began
to assemble a large army, which included Hungarian auxiliaries sent to him by Bela as
arranged at their conference in Serbia. But once more the Bulgarians and Vlachs won a
victory, which was Isaac's last defeat. While his brother Isaac II was away hunting in
Thrace, Alexius [III] was proclaimed emperor by the troops; he captured Isaac at
Stagira/Stageira on the Chalkidiki Peninsula in Macedonia [east of Thessaloniki], put
out his eyes, and kept him henceforth a close prisoner, though he had been redeemed by
him from captivity at Antioch and loaded with honours (Gregory 2010: 310).
A group of discontented nobles headed by his brother, Alexius Angelus, succeeded in
winning over the army; Isaac was dethroned; he escaped, was captured, blinded, and
remanded to a captivity from which the arrival of the Latins of the fourth Crusade some
eight years later was so briefly to rescue him.
- The coup that brought Alexios Angelos to the throne was engineered by a powerful
faction among the court aristocracy. Its leaders were Theodore Branas [see under 1196],
George Palaiologos, John Petraliphas, Constantine Raoul and Michael Cantacuzenus.

2. The Varangian Guard had contained Englishmen as well as Norsemen since the late
1000s. "King Sverrir's Saga" (Sverrissaga) claims that as late as 1195 Alexius III
(“Kirjalax”: kyr Alex) made a direct request to the kings of Scandinavia for 1,200 (or
3,000? – 1,000 from each of three kings) men to join the Guard. They did not agree to
this request (Benedikz 2007: 219). Danish guardsmen are last recorded in 1204 (by
Villehardouin); evidently the Guard was wholly English after that time. The total
enrolment in 1204 was perhaps 6,000 men (Queller & Madden 1999: 185).
At the end of the 12th century Varangians seem to have received as much as 10-15 gold
coins (nomismata-hyperpyra) per month (up to 180 p.a.: 2.5 pounds p.a.) as well as
special gratuities and a large share of the booty taken on campaigns (Heath 1979: 16).

1195-1245: Armour: Changes in the equipment of a Western elite knight can be

seen by comparing the seals of the Franco-English (Angevin) kings Henry II (d.
1154) and Henry III (acc. 1216).
In both cases mail covers the body from head to toe, but by about 1225 the
basic conical Norman helmet is replaced by a new heavier face-covering box-like
helmet or “great helm”. The classic ‘Norman’ triangular shield is replaced by a
shorter chevron-shaped shield now with armorial designs. And the bare mailed
warrior of the 1180s also adds, after 1200, a long linen surcoat over his mail
armour (Hyland p.102). This last development no doubt arose from crusading
experience in the East.
The end of the 12th century (from c. 1180) also saw the introduction in the


West of a completely new type of helmet (used by both infantry and cavalry)
known as the chapel de fer or kettle hat. It is known as a kettle hat because of its
close resemblance to a medieval cauldron or kettle. The lasting form of the
helmet consisted of a round bowl with a wide brim, sometimes of one piece, but
often assembled from a number of plates riveted together. Its value was in
protecting the face from arrows when the wearer pointed his head forward.
Joinville, the chronicler of the Seventh Crusade and counsellor to the French
king Louis IX, lent (1249) his kettle hat to the monarch to replace an enclosing
helmet so Louis could get more air (Bradbury 2004: 257).
It may have had an Eastern origin, because we see the kettle hat worn by
Byzantine heavy infantrymen before 1150. Byzantium continued to use the chapel
de fer into the 14th century.

The sons of Kiliç Arslan II contest the rule of the sultanate of Rum. When Suleymanshah
(Rukn ad-Din) starts to get the upper hand, Kay-Khusraw [Tk: Keyhüsrev] negotiates
with Byzantium. See 1196.

1. Maladministration and run-down of the East-Romanic navy.
As late as 1185 (see there), Byzantium had been able to deploy “100” major vessels
(ploia makra). One of the main culprits in the decay of the navy was Michael Stryphnos
or Struphnos, who was serving as admiral (megas doux) of the navy, as admiral on
paper, in the 1190s. Most probably favoured by Eufrosyne, Alexios' wife, he "sold the
ships’ nails, anchors, ropes and sails, emptying the arsenals of warships" (says Brand
1968, citing Choniates).
By 1196-97 the Calabrian-based Genoese pirate Gafforio [Caffaro] was raiding the
Aegean islands and coasts as far as Adrmyttium. The Byzantine navy had only only 30
combatant ships remaining to fight him. In the ensuing clashes, Byzantium lst fully 26 of
these 30.
–Bull et al. p.111; Fine 1994: 35; Garland 1999: 217; Dromon p.121; also Eleftheria
Chaldeou, Byzantine emperor Alexius III (1195 - 1203) as viewed in Choniates's
History, at Accessed 2010.

By 1204, the navy will have no large ships at all (Nicetas, cited in Partington p.11).
Cf 1198: further alliance with Venice.

2. Henry VI, the ‘Salian’ or Bavarian emperor of Germany and Sicily, challenges Alexius
III, nominally on behalf of the blinded Isaac.
To prevent an invasion, Alexius offers to pay money to Henry, but Henry will die (1197)
before it is delivered. The sum of 1,600 pounds of gold was to be paid annually: a special
tax called the Alamanikon was instituted, which bore heavily on all classes in the empire
(Browning 1992: 187; Hendy 2008: 238). See 1198.

Nicetas Choniates, himself a Byzantine administrator, explains in his chronicle how the
German ambassadors were not impressed by eastern wealth and magnificence during an
audience with Alexius III Angelus in 1196. “’The Germans”, they said, “have neither need
of such spectacles [imperial robes], nor do they wish to become worshippers of


ornaments and garments secured by brooches suited only for women whose painted
faces, headdresses and glittering earrings are especially pleasing to men.’ To frighten the
Byzantines (“Romans”), they said: ‘The time has now come to take off effeminate
garments and brooches and to put on iron instead of gold’”(Choniates, in Harris 2006:
140). See 1202.
Also this: "Between us and the Franks is set the widest gulf. We are poles apart. We
have not a single thought in common. They are stiff necked, with a proud affection of an
upright carriage, and they love to sneer at the smoothness and modesty of our manners.
But we look on their arrogance, and boasting and pride as a flux of the snivel which
keeps their noses in the air; and we tread them down by the might of Christ, who giveth
unto us the power to trample upon the adder and upon the scorpion" (Nic. Choniates).

3a. Macedonia: Alexius sends his son-in-law, the sebastokrator Isaac, with a substantial
force against Ivan Asen’s Bulgarians. Isaac falls into an ambush near Serrai or Serres on
the River Strymon in Macedonia and is captured; he later dies in prison.

3b. Returning from victory at Serres, the Bulgarian leader Asen (Ivan Asen I) is
murdered in a domestic quarrel with his nephew Ivanko, the commander of the garrison
at Trnovo. Ivanko, fearing the wrath of Asen's brother Peter, then goes over to the
Romaniyans and surrenders Trnovo to them. See 1197.

4a. SW Asia Minor: The Seljuk prince Kay-Khusraw [Tk Keyhüsrev] ravages the
Maeander Valley, carrying off 5,000 captives or several groups of 5,000. He then signs a
truce. See next. – Brubaker p.97.
The Christian captives were not taken as slaves but as peasants who were deported
into Turkish territory as future taxpaying farmers. They were resettled around Akshehir
[west of Konya: Greek Philomelion] and given fields, seed, farming tools, houses and
villages. They were gratned exemption from taxation for five years. Evidently the Turks
of western Anatolia were still mostly ‘nomads’ (transhumants) who produced much less
tax revenue per head (Holt et al. 1977: 255).

4b. Anatolia: Kilij Arlsan’s third son, Rukn ad-Din Sulayman II [Ruknuddin Süleyman
Shah] of Tokat, 1196-1204, captures Konya and ousts his brothers: no.2 son Kay-
Khusraw [Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev] seeks refuge (1197) in Constantinople. Rukn will save
the sultanate from destruction and conquer Erzerum, a competing Seljuk emirate.

5. N Asia Minor: Muhyi al-Din, a younger son of Kilij Arslan and ruler of Ankara*,
accompanied by yet another pseudo-Alexius, besieges the Anatolian town of Dadibra in
Paphlagonia near Gangra. Emperor Alexius sends a relief force under several of his
principal lieutenants, including Theodore Branas, but it is surprised and destroyed on
‘Mount Babas’ [not located]. The Dadibrenians then come to terms with Muhyi al-Din
and evacuate their town. Alexius makes peace by agreeing to renew the subsidy or tribute
to Muhyi al-Din (December) (N. Choniates, trans. Magoulias 1984: 260).

(*) Kilij Arslan had divided his territories between his 10 or 11 sons in 1188. See

The deposed Kay Khusraw wanders from court to court, seeking refuge from and aid
against his brother, lodged in Konya. Finally (1200) he went to Byzantium.


1. Macedonia: The troops of Alexius III unsuccessfully besiege the fortress of Prosakos
(Prosek) on the Axios or Vardar River, held by a ‘Wallachian’ (Vlach) or ‘Aromanian’*
named Dobromir Chrysos who had previously been an officer in the Byzantine army
(Stephenson 2000: 307). The defenders deployed at least one trebuchet against the
The Bulgarians and Vlachs sortie from the fortress and rout the imperial forces, and
Alexios agrees to a peace. He cedes the lands around Prosakos and Strumitsa to Chrysos
and agrees to give him one of his kinswomen as a bride.

(*) The Vlachs were (are) a Romance-speaking, non-Slavic people: the future
‘Aromanians’ of Greece and "Rumanians” or ‘Daco-Romanians’ living north of the
Danube. Vlack is an outside-name or ‘exonym’, a Slavonic label that means "stranger",
i.e. ‘non-Slav’. The Vlachs of northern Greece call themselves Ar’manji; while the Vlachs
(Rumanians) north of the Danube call themselves Romani.
In the Balkans there were various regions, e.g. parts of Thessaly, dominated by the
Vlachs, who presumably had originally migrated there centuries earlier as part of the
poorly recorded "Slavic flood" of the 6th and 7th centuries (Heurtley et al. p.46).
The first mention of Vlachs in a Byzantine source was back in the year 976, when
Kedrenos (ii. 439) wrote about the murder of the Bulgarian prince Samuel’s brother by
certain Vlachian wayfarers, at a spot called ‘the Fair Oaks’, between Kastoria and Prespa
(i.e. where today the borders of Albania, Greece and FYROM meet). Georgios Kedrinos
wrote that the brother of the future Bulgarian emperor Samuel was killed by ‘odites [Gk:
wanderers] Vlachous’ between Kastoria and the Prespa lakes. —Encyc Brit, 1991 edn,

2. Thrace and lower Bulgaria: Ivanko, the renegade nephew of the Bulgarian tsar, is now
given the Byzantine name Alexius and appointed imperial commander of Philippopolis;
he raises Wallachian troops to fight against the Bulgarians and strongly fortifies the
passes across the Haemus (Balkan) range. Alexius rewards him by betrothing him to his
grand-daughter Theodora. —Website ‘The Hellenic World’, at; accessed 2008. See 1199: rebellion by

3. SW Asia Minor: (Others date this to 1204:) “The Sultan of Iconium [Rum] attacked the
area [inland SW Asia Minor], and took prisoner the inhabitants of the kosmopoleis
[middling towns of] Caria and Tantalus, before advancing on Antioch on the Maeander
…” (thus Nic. Choniates s. 494). This is Kay Khusraw, not Suleymanshah. Cf 1198:
incursions into Bithynia.
“The reference to Tantalus”, writes Roueché, “is presumably to the modern settlement
of Dandalas on the river of the same name, a little way north of Aphrodisias, and Caria
here must mean the settlement at Aphrodisias/Stauropolis. The tone of the passage
suggests that both these settlements were less important than Antioch on the Maeander,
and the term cosmopolis seems to mean something between a city and a village. The
Sultan captured and took away apparently the entire able-bodied [Greek] population of
these settlements, which only came to some 5,000 people [each]*; they were resettled by
the Turks at Philomelium [nearer Iconium], on terms so reasonable that many others
came to join them (Nic. Chon. 495). All this suggests that the population of the area had
been much reduced, and that their circumstances were already fairly intolerable before
the Sultan's raid”. —Charlotte Roueché, at
ps/epapp/web/booktest03/narrative/sec-VII.html; accessed Jan 2005. Cf c.1204 below -



(*) It seems the reference is to several sets of 5,000. The Christian captives were not
taken as slaves but as peasants who were deported into Turkish territory as future
taxpaying farmers. They were resettled around Akshehir [west of Konya: Greek
Philomelion] and given fields, seed, farming tools, houses and villages. They were
granted exemption from taxation for five years. Evidently the Turks of western Anatolia
were still mostly ‘nomads’ (transhumant herders) who produced much less tax revenue
per head (Holt et al. 1977: 255).

King Kaloyan – Ivan (John) II or “Johannitsa” - of Bulgaria, ‘tsar of the Wallachians and
Bulgars’, as some Western documents call him. He briefly recognised Rome (1202) but
reverted to Eastern Orthodoxy when Constantinople again recognised (1203) the
independence of the Bulgarian church.

By 1198:
The Crimea was controlled by Greek Trebizond.

1. Land and taxes in Greece: In the end, the people who paid were the peasantry, and
Michael Choniates, the archbishop of Athens, ended a petition he addressed to Alexius
III Angelos in 1198 with a plea that the archontes [lords or magnates] of Athens should
be prevented from acquiring more peasant land. The peasants were in danger of being
'blown hither and thither like leaves before the wind'.
Choniates bewails the failing prosperity of Attica. The main cause was the oppressive
fiscal administration. Worse still, for all its demands, the imperial government failed to
protect the region from the depredations of the pirates who now “swarmed” through the
Aegean. The locals Greeks on Aegina, the island SE of Athens, cooperated with the
pirates, no doubt for a share of the plunder (Angold 2000: 204; also Theban Tribunal
Sourcebook, accessed 2010).
Likewise Benedict, abbot of Peterborough, or the chronicle ascribed to him, gives a
graphic account of the coast of southern Asia Minor (Lycia), as it was in 1191, reporting
that some of the islands near Finica/Finike, Myra and Patara (east of Rhodes) were
uninhabited from fear of pirates and that others were their chosen lairs. The mouth of
the river Finike at the western end of the Bay of Antalya became known as ‘Portus
Pisanorum’ because it was used by Pisan corsairs (Hendy 2008: 114; Pryor 1992: 157).

2. Asia Minor, Upper Sangarius River: “In Bithynia, the approaches to the lower Sakarya-
Sangarius and the main road down from the plateau via Bozuyuk-Lamunia [near
Dorylaeum-Eskisehir] were poorly defended. Turkish nomads regularly wintered on the
San Su or Bathys, a tributary of the Sakarya, and in the spring of 1198 Alexius III Angelus
led troops from Nicaea and Bursa in a vain attempt to prevent their raiding the upper
reaches of the river and descending from the plateau” (thus Lindner).

3. Defensive alliance with Venice: Although largely a restatement of the treaty of 1187, a
new treaty also provided for Venice to come to Byzantium’s aid in the event of its
territory being attacked by the German emperor, i.e. through the NW Balkans, if there
were to be another crusade (Madden 2003: 116). Cf 1202.

4. The south-east: The pope and Barbarossa’s son and successor, Henry VI, recognise
the Armenian ruler of ex-Byzantine Cilicia, Barbarossa’s ally Leo [Levon], as “king”.


Cilicia would become known as “Lesser Armenia”.

From 1198: Kingdom of Lesser Armenia independent (until 1375). It formed a
Christian enclave between the two great Muslim powers, the Seljuk Sultanate of Iconium
and (the late) Saladin’s Ayyubid Sultanate.
After agreeing (at least nominally) to certain papal demands regarding changes in the
Armenian liturgy, Levon or Leo finally received from the Latins recognition of his royal
status and independence. On 6 January 1198/99 at Tarsus, in the presence of the Greek
metropolitan of Tarsus, the Syrian Jacobite patriarch, the Armenian katholikos, and the
papal legate, Conrad of Mainz, Levon was crowned King of Armenia. —Jacob Ghazarian,
The Armenian Kingdom in Cilicia during the Crusades: The Integration of Cilician
Armenians with the Latins (1080–1393); Routledge-Curzon (Taylor & Francis Group),
2000, Abingdon.

Averroes, d. 1198: in Arabic, Ibn Rushd, 1126–98: Spanish-Arab philosopher, in

Cordoba, then part of the Almohad Caliphate. Commentary on Aristotle;
refutation of al-Ghazali’s fundamentalism.

1198-1216: Pope Innocent III (Lotario dei Conti di Segni). - Height of the so-
called ‘papal monarchy’, meaning church domination of Western kings.
Persecution of heretics is proclaimed as the duty of catholic kings. See 1209.
The patrimonium of the Pope (the papal lands in central Italy) was routinely
threatened by Hohenstaufen German kings who, as ‘Roman’ emperors, claimed it
for themselves.

1. The Bulgarian ruler Kalojan (Ivan, Ioannes) occupies a portion of Byzantine territory

2. Michael the Syrian, lately patriarch of Antioch and historian of the Monophysite
(Jacobite) Church, dies in Muslim-ruled Melitene. His Chronicle, written in Syriac, is the
largest, or one of the largest, of medieval times.

Thrace: Rebellion by Ivanko-Alexius, the Vlach general in imperial service; the emperor
has him murdered.
Ivanko-Alexius rebels at Philippopolis. Alexius sends a force against him under the
leadership of the protostrator or chief groom Manuel Kamytzes; however, Ivanko
ambushes Kamytzes when he and his staff were separated from the main body of their
troops and captures him. He sells his prisoner to the Bulgarian ruler Kalojan
[“Joannitsa”] (cf 1201). —Curta 2006: 365.
Ivanko succeeded in capturing Thrace and Rhodope from the mouth of Maritsa River
to the Strymon, but in 1200 Alexios, fearing that he aimed at usurpation set out to fight
him. Ivanko was captured (see below: 1200) and executed, and his regions restored to
the Empire [Choniates, pp.257-60, 281-5].


Asia Minor: “By the end of the [12th] century they [the Türkmen nomads] were
threatening the regions of the Meander [i.e. the far SW of Asia Minor], Attaleia [modern
Antalya, the port on the S coast] and the towns of Bithynia in the north”. - “After the
initial recovery [of Pamphylia and Pisidia] by Alexius and John [the Comnenoi


emperors], the Turks raided and expanded into the region, until [in the south] by 1204
little outside Attaleia remained Byzantine” (Vryonis 1971: 148).

2. Present-day Ukraine: The Cumans (called "Polovtsy" in Russian: allied with the
Kipchaks), or rather: the ‘Cuman-Kipchak confederation’, had by 1200 cut the Kiev-
Constantinople trade route down the Dnieper River. That is to say, the ‘Russian’ (Kievan)
state was no longer strong enough to insist that the Cumans allow Russian traders
through. (The Cumans will sack Kiev in 1203.) The sea-trade continued to and from
Constantinople across the Black Sea to the Cuman-Romaniyan borderlands in the
Crimea and to Georgia.

fl. Farid al-Din Attar, at Nishapur: Persian mystic poet and biographer of the
mystic Saints. Poem "Conference of the Birds" (birds meaning souls). During his
life Persia passed from Seljuk and Ghuzz rule to that of the Khwarizm Shah.

1. Thrace: Despairing of defeating Ivanko-Alexius in the field, Alexius III agrees to come
to terms with him. But when Ivanko comes to the imperial camp near Adrianople to sign
the treaty after receiving assurances of safe conduct from Alexius Palaeologus, Alexius
violates these guarantees and seizes and kills Ivanko. The rebellion then quickly dies out
(Fine 1994: 31).

2. Asia Minor: Alexius hires an assassin to kill the Seljuk Sultan Rukn al-Din (Sulayman
II), but the man is captured before he can execute the plan while carrying a letter in ‘red’
ink from the Emperor (August); Rukn al-Din then launches attacks against East-
Romanic towns in Asia Minor. A Byzantine renegade named Michael, who is allied to
Rukn al-Din, ravages the Maeander Valley. Meanwhile the anti-sultan, his broether Kay
Khusraw, visits Constantinople (Brubaker p.98).

3. The Varangian Guard were used to put down two attempts to overthrow Emperor
Alexius III (Benedikz 2007: 162; Queller & Madden 1999: 107).
By this time (or more probably after 1204: see there) they had ceased to have a battle-
field role, their duties being confined literally to guard duties (Bartusis p.273).

Many Greek outposts in NW and SW Asia Minor fall to the Turks, both to regular Seljuq
forces and the Turcoman ‘irregulars’, i.e. warrior-pastoralists.

The Balkans: The protostrator Manuel Kamytzes is ransomed from a Bulgarian prison
by his son-in-law, Chrysos of Prosakos. When Alexius refuses to repay Chrysos for the
ransom money, Chrysos and Kamytzes rebel, capturing Pelagonia and Prilep (east of
Ochrid) and raiding the country as far as the Vale of Tempe (a narrow valley in N
Thessaly) (Fine 1994: 32).
Alexius III releases his nephew Alexius [IV], son of Isaac II from captivity so that he
can accompany him on his campaign against Kamytzes; but Alexius [IV] arranges with
the master of a Pisan ship for a small boat to be sent to him, and by this means he
escapes to the ship and thence sails to Sicily (September).
Spring 1201: Escape of Prince Alexius IV from Constantinople - Alexius IV seeks
assistance of Philip of Swabia.


2. Leon Sgouros, Archon (governor) of Nauplia in the NE Peloponnesus, S of Corinth,

since 1198, also rebels against Alexius III. See 1204.

3. Catholic Encyclopedia under “manuscripts”: ‘There has been preserved a catalogue of

the library of Patmos*, dated 1201; it comprised 267 manuscripts on parchment, and 63
(19%) on paper. The majority are religious works, among them 12 Evangeliaries, nine
Psalters, and many Lives of the saints. Among the 17 profane [i.e. secular] manuscripts
are works on medicine and grammar, the "Antiquities" of Josephus, the "Categories" of
Aristotle, etc.’

(*) The island in the east Aegean west of Milas/Mylasa; NW of modern Bodrum.

4. Anatolia: The Turkish travellers' inn or hostel, the caravanserai or “han” of Altinapa,
was built on the Konya-Beyshehir trade route. (Beysehir is SE of Konya, near the bottom
end of Lake Beysehir.)

1.Macedonia: The Bulgarians under Kaloyan conquered Konstanteia (Simeonovgrad) on
the Maritsa River in Thrace near present-day Haskovo and also Varna on the Black Sea
from the Byzantine Empire in 1201, and most of Slavic Macedonia in 1202 (see there).

2. Greece: A rebellion in Thessaly and Macedonia led by general Manuel Kamytzes (a

relative of the imperial family) and Dobromir Chrysos cut southern Greece off from
Constantinople (Choniates, trans. Magoulias p.293). Taking advanatge of this Leo
Sgouros, governor of Nauplia [near Corinth], established himself as an independent
ruler. He then proceeded to take the citadels of Argos and Corinth.

3. Italy: (Or as early as 1193?1196?*) The Venetians begin minting silver ducats, a name
derived from dux: hence ‘coins of the doge’, a token of economic development in
the Latin West. The coin was also called a grosso or matapan. It was the first high-
value coin minted in the West for five centuries.

(*) The date is contested: see discussion in Thomas Madden, 2006: Enrico
Dandolo and the Rise of Venice, p.110.
The name ‘ducat’ first meant the silver grosso worth 24, later 26, denarii, a coin first
struck in 1201 and weighing 2.2 g, imitated a century later in Constantinople under the
name of basilicon. Subsequently, and normally today, it means the gold ducat (ducatus
aureus), created in 1284/5 and weighing 3.56 g.

The Georgians took and annexed the formerly Muslim-ruled Armenian capitals of Ani
and Dvin. In 1204, Tamar's army occupied the city of Kars.

Italy and the East: Recognising that arithmetic with Hindu-Arabic numerals is
simpler and more efficient than with Roman numerals, “Fibonacci” (Leonardo
of Pisa) travelled throughout the Mediterranean world, including to Egypt, to
study under the leading Arab mathematicians of the time. Leonardo returned from
his travels around 1200. In 1202, at age 32, he published what he had learned in


Liber Abaci (Book of Abacus or Book of Calculation), and thereby promoted the
use of Hindu-Arabic numerals in Europe. (The numerals were known earlier, eg
the Frenchman Gerbert, the future Pope Sylvester II, came across them in Spain in
ca. 967, and used them, albeit not including zero, in his variant of the age-old
In the Liber Abaci, Leonardo mentions Egypt, Syria, Greece, Sicily and Provence.
They were ruled respectively by the Zangids, then the Ayyubid dynasty of Saladin
(Egypt and Syria); Byzantium; the Italo-Normans; and Aragon. Also Syrian
Antioch was ruled by Latins (the crusader Principality of Antioch). Pisa herself
ruled Corsica and Sardinia and traded extensively with Almohad-ruled N Africa.

1a. Alexius III recovers most of Thrace, but parts of Anatolia and Greece were in revolt
and paying no taxes.

1b. Following the destruction of Varna (1201), Alexius came to an agreement (late 1201
or early 1202) with the Bulgarian ruler Ivan or Kaloyan/Joannitsa.* Civil strife in
Cumania meant that Kaloyan could call on few Cumans troops and his army was thereby
weakened. The treaty left the Romaniyans in control of Thrace, the Rhodope mountains
and Macedonia; but in return they recognised Bulgarian independence. The line of the
Balkans became the border between the two states (Fine 1994: 32).

(*) Greek Ioannes = Slavic Ivan. Kaloyan [kal+ioan] = ‘Good or Handsome John’;
Joannitsa = ‘Little John’.

2. Plans are hatched in the West for a ‘Fourth Crusade’, to give it its modern label. (The
term croisade does not appear in French until the 1400s, and later in English, not
becoming common until the 1700s.*) The Eastern emperor's nephew Alexius (Isaac's
son) conspires with the Venetians and Frankish (Flemish, French and Burgundian)
crusaders. The crusaders, transported in Venetian ships, take Zadar/Zara in Dalmatia [in
upper Dalmatia, above Split], which represented an assault on a Catholic town by
Catholic troops. The purpose was to defray part of the cost of transporting the
expedition, which the crusaders were unable to pay to Venice. Zara, formerly under
Venetian domination, was allied with the Papacy and the Croato-Hungarian king**
against Venice.
Dec. 1202: Treaty of Zara: Alexius IV promises aid and money in return for restoration
to his throne. Thus (although the pope protests) the crusader fleet proceeds against
Christian Constantinople.

(*) See Laiou & Mottahedeh 2001: 10-12.

(**) Although they were administered separately, Croatia and Hungary had the
same king (a “personal union”).


The emperor ruled somewhat more territory in Europe than in Asia. The entire Balkan
peninsula except for Bulgaria was Byzantine, from Serbia and the middle Danube down
to the Peloponnesus. Crete was Romaic, while Cyprus was ruled by Latins (‘Crusaders’).


In Asia Byzantium ruled the NW third of Anatolia. The Byzantine-Seljuq border ran from
near Bodrum NE to near Ancyra [Ankara]. The Seljuqs ruled our Bodrum; the emperor
ruled Laodicaea in the Upper Meander Valley; and Ancyra was again Seljuq (map in
Konstam, 2004, Historical Atlas of the Crusades).

The Angelus Dynasty

. . . Alexiuses III and IV and V followed in quick order . . .

The family line begins with Alexius I’s younger daughter, Theodora Comnena, sister to
the historian Anna. Theodora married Constantine Angelus.
The senior Angelus line produced three sons, the elder two being Alexius and Isaac.
Although younger, Isaac II Angelus happened to be in the capital when the mob deposed
the tyrant Andronicus I and went looking for someone to replace him. So it was that
Isaac assumed the throne at age 29 in 1185. In 1195 he was deposed and blinded by his
older brother, the then 42 years old Alexius III Angelus.
Isaac’s son and Alexius III’s nephew, young Alexius [IV] Angelus, asked the Latins
(“crusaders”: see next) to place him to the throne in place of his uncle. When (see below)
Alexis III fled during the siege of 1203, his predecessor Isaac II Angelus, still only 47 but
blind, was re-acclaimed senior emperor; he reigned with his son Alexius IV Angelus (age
21) as co-emperor (1203-04). The latter was the effective ruler, acting in cooperation
with the Latins, perhaps in fact their puppet. For that reason Alexius IV was soon ousted
(1204) by his cousin’s wife and Alexius III’s son in law, “Murtzouphulos” (the nickname
of Alexius V Ducas), aged 64. Then for 57 years various Latins ruled as emperors in
Meanwhile Alexius III’s daughter Anna Angelina married Theodore Lascaris, who at
age 31 in 1205 assumed the legitimate ‘Greek’ throne at Nicaea.
A junior line of the Angeloi produced Isaac II’s cousin Theodore Angelus Ducas, who
became (1224) ‘Emperor of Thessalonica’.

So-called “Fourth Crusade”, 1203-04: The larger part of the Latin army was drawn from
northern France and Burgundy, with lesser numbers of Flemish, Franco-Italians,
Germans and Venetians. Their fleet was provided by Venice. The leaders were a
Burgundian (Piedmontese) princeling, Boniface, marquess of Montferrat near Turin,
aged about 53, and the doge of Venice, Enrico Dandolo, aged 80+ and blind or at least
very short-sighted.
The two major Western sources for the Fourth Crusade are Villehardouin and Robert
de Clari. Villehardouin was part of the leadership of the Crusade, while de Clari was a
much lower level knight.
The Greek history of Niketas Choniates covers the period 1118-1207: English
translation, O City of Byzantium, Annals of Niketas Choniates, trans. Harry J.
Magoulias (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1984). Notwithstanding its artful
rhetoric, this work is of considerable value as a record, on the whole impartial, of events
of which Choniates was either an eye-witness or had heard at first hand. An interesting
portion is the description of the capture of Constantinople, which balances
Villehardouin's and the Venetian Paolo Rannusio's works on the same subject.

Villehardouin, chronicler of the 4th Crusade: “Now you may know that those who had
never before seen Constantinople looked upon it very earnestly, for they never thought
there could be in all the world SO RICH A CITY; and they marked the high walls and strong


towers that enclosed it round about, and the rich palaces, and mighty churches of which
there were so many that no one would have believed it who had not seen it with his eyes -
and the height and the length of THAT CITY, - WHICH ABOVE ALL OTHERS WAS SOVEREIGN”.
And, “A CITY RICHER THAN ANY OTHER since the beginning of time”. – The French chronicler
Villehardouin, referring to 1203, quoted in El Cheikh 2004: 204. Of course he had not
seen Baghdad or Cairo; but the point is well-made in relation to Christendom.

Above: The Blachernae Palace is at the far top of the city. The Blachernae
Gate is the little ‘bubble’ near the point or apex of the walls.

Latin Crusaders attack and plunder Christian Constantinople, 1203-04

The original aim was an attack on Muslim Egypt, but money had to be found to pay the
Venetians for supplying the ships. The Byzantine pretender offered to provide this if he
were placed on the throne of Constantinople. Accordingly the Latin fleet, including some
40-60 Venetian war-galleys, sailed (1203) around the Balkan coast and into the Aegean,
capturing in turn Romaniyan Durres, then Corcyra, Euboea (Evvoia) and Abydus. Venice
was to hold Durres [Italian: Durazzo] until 1268.

One source has the all-Venetian ship numbers as: 40 escort galleys; 70 provision ships;
120 horse-transports*; and ‘240’ troop and weapon transports, i.e. total 470 (Hearsey
p.191). The Wikipedia authors propose 60 war galleys, 50 large transports and 100 horse
transports (total 210), manned by “8,000” Venetian oarsmen and marines, i.e. average
just 38 per vessel (Wikipedia, ‘Fourth Crusade’, accessed 2009). And Robinson says 60
oared war-galleys, 40 cargo ships (pure sailboats) and “100 or so” horse-transports**
(uissiers, partly oar-driven but mainly sail-reliant), for a total of over 200 vessels
(Robinson, HistoryNet at:


(*) Robert of Clari says that in the landing in July 1203 the knights rode down the ramps
[Old French tot monté, ‘fully mounted’]; but other accounts seem to indicate that the
horses came off before the knights could mount them. Villehardouin says that the
knights boarded the uissiers [horse transports] armed, with helms laced and horse
saddled and caparisoned, perhaps implying that they rode onto the ships but more likely
meaning that they walked their horses back onto the transports (Pryor in Bull & Housley
Various accounts from the 13th century suggest that horse-transport ships could each
accommodate 20-30 animals (Hyland, Warhorse p.145). Thus the Latins had at most
3,600 horses on arrival. (They would have been able to buy or commandeer others
locally during 1203-04.)

(**) The number of ships assembled at Venice numbered of the order of 225: Pryor
guesses 50 war galleys and 150 horse-transport galleys crewed by 27,000 men (sic!) plus
an unknown number of sailing vessels crewed by a further 4,500 sailors: total mariners
31,500 (Pryor in Bull et al., The Experience of Crusading 2003: 118 ff). But not all the
ships were actually dispatched to Constantinople. Only about a third of the expected
troops turned up, so it is possible the fleet that sailed was under 100 vessels … . Also
Pryor’s 30,000+ mariners may be compared with the estimated number of Venetians
who disembarked in the East, i.e. “10,000” [the minimum number of crusaders who left
from the West was ‘11,167’, i.e. one-third of the hoped-for recruitment figure of 33,500].

Let us imagine, however, that all the ships did go East. We imagine further that all the
galleys were small: 50 oarsmen, 25 marines and five others, for a total of 80 men per
ship. If 60 galleys: total 4,800. Deducting 4,800 from “8,000” we have 3,200 Venetians
manning the remaining 150 vessels, i.e. around 20 seamen per vessel (which seems
about right). If the total personnel (see below) was just 11,000 men including rowers,
then only some 3,000 can have been French. More likely, this “11,000” was made up of
10,000 Northern European soldiers and 1,000 Venetian marines …
- Figures of “40,000” in the Latin force (Hearsey p.194) are not credible; that would
require the troop ships each to have carried 167 men. Villehardouin himself says
“20,000” Latins.

The Byzantines under Alexius III in 1203 seem to have deployed more troops than
the Crusaders; but in 1204 the defence was badly managed, and the emperor could
muster just 20 decrepit warships! (Treadgold 1997: 664). That the crusader force was
modest is confirmed by Geoffrey of Villehardouin. “The sheer size of the Byzantine army
daunted . . . Villehardouin: 'you would have thought [he recalled] that the whole world
was there assembled'. Another witness [de Clari] believed that the Greeks had 17
divisions of men compared to the crusaders' seven.” - Thus Phillips 2004.

The estimates offered by modern writers* range from 7,000 to 13,000 troops on the
Latin side, and from 15,000 to over 30,000 on the Byzantine side.
This is the last time we read of Byzantine forces larger than 10,000 men

(*) For example, these:


(a) Queller & Madden (2000) note that the minimum number of crusaders who left from
the West was ‘11,167’ (i.e. one-third of the hoped-for recruitment figure of 33,500). They
propose, following the Venetian chroniclers, that up to 13,000 Latin troops landed at
Chalcedon, namely 4,500 to 5,000 horse plus 8,000 foot. This is broadly consistent with
de Clari’s mention of “seven” cavalry ‘divisions’ or battalions deployed in 1203 (i.e. 7 x
700 = 4,900 cavalry).
They think that, on the other side, the Emperor Alexius may have deployed as many as
“35,700” men, i.e. 17 battalions or units of 300 first-class cavalry ( = 5,100 elite
horsemen); along with 10,200 other cavalry and 20,400 infantry (in a ratio of 1:2:4). —D
Queller and F Madden, Fourth Crusade, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2nd edn, 2000:
232, 263.

(b) Jonathan Phillips, The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople London,
Pimlico, 2005: 159 269, offers about 10,000 crusaders plus 10,000 Venetians (total
20,000) versus about 30,000 Byzantine troops.

(c) Pryor 2006: 218 offers “11,000” fighting men on the Latin side.

Transported to Chalcedon by the Venetians (24 June 1203), the Latins (mainly French)
threaten the Romaniyan capital (Norwich 1996: 171). Alexius III Angelus flees and is
deposed (17 July 1203). The crusaders establish their ally and his nephew the young
Alexius IV Angelus, aged 21, as puppet ruler (18 July 1203). Then Alexius Ducas, son in
law of Alexius III, seizes power as Alexius V and orders Alexius IV strangled (28 Jan
1204). The crusader army takes and sacks the imperial city (April 1204): Alexius V

Alexius III Angelus had replaced his younger brother Isaac II Angelus in 1195. Aged
about 42 in 1195.

Alexius IV Angelus was installed by the Latins as Byzantine Emperor in July 1203 and
ruled to January 1204. He was the son of emperor Isaac II and nephew of Alexius III.
Aged about 21 in 1203.

Alexius V Ducas ‘Murtzouphlos’ was proclaimed emperor on 5 February 1204, during the
siege of Constantinople. His nickname "Murtzouphlos" referred to his extremely bushy
eyebrows. He was related by marriage to the imperial Angelus family. Aged about 64 in

Chronology thus: Crusaders sail to Constantinople via Corfu, Euboea and the Bosporus
(Abydus). SUMMER: 24 June 1203: Crusaders enter the Bosporus and land opposite
Constantinople at Chalcedon (Scutari). 26 June 1203: Byzantines reject the pretender
Alexius IV. 5 July 1203: Capture of the Tower of Galata; the iron chain protecting the
Golden Horn* is removed on 6 July; the Crusade then sails up Golden Horn, disembarks
and encamps overlooking the Blachernae (Vlachernai) Palace. 6 July 1203: Crusaders &
Venetians besiege Constantinople.

(*) The chain ran from the SE to the NW across the mouth of the Golden Horn. Its
SE anchor-point was near the NE tip of the city. The NW anchor-point was at a
point on the shore below (SE of) the Tower of Galata.


An attempted landing near the Palace of Vlachernai was repulsed by the Pisans and “the
axe-bearing barbarians” i.e. Varangians. And “English, Danish [Varangians] and
Greeks” defended the towers with “axes and swords” (Norwich 1996: 173). When the
Crusaders sent negotiators to the Emperor, they saw Englishmen and Danes, fully armed
with their axes, posted at the ‘gate of the city’, i.e. the Vlachernai gate, a dual-wall gate at
the northern point of the city, and all the way along (several hundred metres) to the
Palace. The total enrolment of the Varangian Guard in 1204 was perhaps 6,000 (Queller
& Madden 1999: 185).

Makris, in Laiou ed., 2002, notes that there is no evidence of the use of either large
dromons or Greek fire during the siege of Constantinople by the Crusaders: evidently the
know-how had already been lost or access to the raw materials had been cut off. The last
reference to Greek Fire that I have found comes in 1171 (see there).

17 July 1203: Failure of a General Assault: the ‘Franks’ (Northern Europeans) attacked
from the land, while the Venetians made an amphibious assault from the Golden Horn;
but ALEXIUS III flees taking the state treasury and crown jewels with him; then there is
a coup in the city in favour of the blind ISAAC II [age 47], who is is re-proclaimed
emperor. 1 August 1203: Coronation of Isaac II and his son, the Latins’ candidate,
ALEXIUS IV ANGELUS. The latter, aged 21, was the effective ruler, installed at the
insistence of the crusaders who were still outside the walls. Promises to fulfill terms of
Treaty of Zara, i.e. payment of 200,000 silver marks.

Aug.-Oct. 1203: Alexius IV and the Crusaders campaign in Thrace which was controlled
by Alexius III. In Constantinople Byzantine-Crusader relations deteriorate. 19 August
1203: Expulsion of Latins from Constantinople. Great Fire ravages the city.

WINTER: Nov. 1203: Crusaders deliver an ultimatum to their man Alexius IV. Dec. 1,
1203: Anti-Latin riots erupt again. Late Dec. 1203: Romaniyan efforts to burn the
Venetian fleet. Late Jan. 1204: further anti-Latin riots in Constantinople: counter-

1 Feb. 1204: The protovestiarios or senior minister ALEXIUS [V] DUCAS, nicknamed
Mourzoufle or Murtzouphlos, ‘beetle-brows’, seizes the throne; murders of Isaac II and
Alexius IV: the latter was strangled on 8 February; and refusal to honour terms of Treaty
of Zara. Mar. 1204: “Partitio terrarum imperii Romaniae”: Crusader-Venetian
agreement to divide Romaniya, the Romaic Empire, between them.

SPRING: 9 April: Renewed Crusader assault and failed Byzantine counter-attack,

launched from the western land wall. Alexius Ducas conducted the defence with great
bravery until it became hopeless (12 April), whereupon he fled to Thrace. 12 April 1204:
General assault by the Latins on the north-west corner of the City (the Blachernae
sector); flight of Alexius V to Thrace. 13 April 1204: Crusaders capture and sack and
loot Constantinople (13-16 April). 9 May 1204: Election of BALDWIN of Flanders as
Latin Emperor.

As recently as 1169 the ‘Greeks’ had sent a splendid fleet of “150” ships to help the


Crusader States fight the Egyptians. By the time of the Fourth Crusade, however, Niketas
Choniates, an eyewitness, observed that only “20" small, half-rotten vessels (“rotten and
worm-eaten tubs”) could be mustered to face the invaders. There were no large ships at
all (Partington p.11, citing Niketas; Brand, p.147).

The Great Palace (which adjoined Hagia Sophia on the SW) was demolished in the sack
of 1204. Among the huge number of treasures looted and taken to Venice were the
famous statue of the Tetrarchs; and the gilt-bronze horses of San Marco/St Mark’s, taken
from the Hippodrome*; and the gold reliquary or staurotheke now held in the cathedral
of Limburg am Lahn (Rice p.110, Fossier p.365). Today there are no less than 32 chalices
in St Mark's treasury, Venice, most of them taken as loot in 1204.
Altogether the Latins turned one-sixth of the city into smouldering ruins and
eliminated perhaps one-third of her buildings (Queller & Madden 1999: 356).

(*) Images at, including an

illustration showing where the horses originally stood.

To summarise: The Venetians sought revenge for earlier humiliations: they now
persuaded the Fourth Crusade - comprised of Normans, French, Norman-English and
some Germans - to turn on Byzantium, "the empire of Romania" as the French
chronicler Villehardoun calls it. The Crusaders entered and sacked the East Roman
capital in 1204. They succeeded where Muslims and Bulgarians had failed for 500 years.
Latin lords would rule in Constantinople in place of 'Greeks' (Rhomaioi) for two
generations (1204-1261) and Venice would take control of Crete and mcuh of the Aegean.

Constantinople before the Sack

There are excellent, not to say brilliant, ‘photo-style’ images of a

reconstructed Constantinople at the website “Byzantium 1200” This site is very
highly recommended.

"Two thirds of the world's wealth is to be found in Constantinople", wrote

Robert de Clari (Baynes & Moss p.68). – “Nor do I believe, of my own knowledge, that in
the 50 richest cities [read: towns] of the world [his yardstick being Western Europe]
could there be so much wealth as was found in the body of Constantinople. For the
Greeks also bore witness that two-thirds of all the wealth of the world was in
Constantinople, and that the other third was scattered throughout the world” (de Clari,
chapter 81).

Constantinople’s population may have reached 300,000 by 1204. According to Herrin

2007: 18, Villehardouin ventured “400,000” people. Angeliki Laiou, 2002: 51, says
‘300,000 to 400,000’. Using 300,000 we have the capital making up 2.5% of the
empire's total population, if the latter was 12 million. This seems a credible proportion.
Certainly the Crusaders judged that the city was far larger than Venice, which at that
time had about 100,000 people (Treadgold 1997: 700). And Villehardouin mentions
Thessaloniki [Salonica] as an 'extremely rich city', although it had been sacked as
recently as 1185 (Baynes p.70).


Urban farming: Already in about 1200, Nikolaos Mesarites [898, ch. 4.2], describing the
area around the church of the Holy Apostles, in the heart of Constantinople, mentions
plants, trees, fruits, vines, crops, and fields of wheat. It seems implied that they served to
support only the clergy of that district. At this time the extent of the cropland within the
walls would have been very limited, unlike in later centuries. Two much later travellers,
Ibn Battuta (1332) and Clavijo (1403), report that a number of scattered urban nuclei
(quarters or village-like collections of houses) had sprung up within the walls. Demetrios
Kydones, fl. 1374, said that they were separated by profuse vegetation.

Choniates and Villehardouin on the Sack of the City

Choniates: “Having opened the graves of those emperors which were in the burial
ground situated in the area of the church of Christ's Holy Apostles [the city’s second
most important church: in the centre of Constantinople, near Valens Aqueduct: where
Fatih Mosque now stands], they [the Latins] stripped all of them during the night and, if
any golden ornament, pearl, or precious stone still lay inviolate in these [tombs], they
sacrilegiously seized it. When they found the corpse of the Emperor Justinian, which
had remained undisturbed for so many years, they marvelled at it, but they did not
refrain from [looting] the funerary adornments.
We may say that these Westerners spared neither the living nor the dead. They
manifested [toward all], beginning with God and his servants [i.e. the clergy], complete
indifference and impiety: quickly enough they tore down the curtain in the Great Church
[Hagia Sophia], the value of which was reckoned in millions of purest silver pieces, since
it was entirely interwoven with gold.” –Online at -

Villehardouin: “The booty gained was so great that none could tell you the end of it: gold
and silver, and vessels and precious stones, and samite [heavy silk fabric] and cloth of
silk, and robes vair [sic: the colour of squirrel fur] and grey, and ermine, and every
choicest thing found upon the earth. And well does Geoffrey of Villehardouin, the
Marshal of Champagne, bear witness, that never, since the world was created, had so
much booty been won in any city. . . . That which was brought to the churches was
collected together and divided, in equal parts, between the Franks and the Venetians. ...
After the division had been made, [the Crusaders] paid out of their share 50,000 marks
of silver to the Venetians, and then divided at least 100,000 marks among themselves. ...
If it had not been for what was stolen, and for the part given to the Venetians, there
would have been at least 400,000 marks of silver, and at least 10,000 horses - one with

Imperial Purple

The production of ‘Murex purple’—Greek porphyra: a purple-red dye extracted from sea
snails—for the Byzantine court came to an abrupt end with the sack of Constantinople in
1204. (The intensity of the purple hue improved, rather than faded, as dyed cloth aged.)
David Jacoby concludes that "no Byzantine emperor nor any Latin ruler in former
Byzantine territories could muster the financial resources required for the pursuit of
murex purple production. On the other hand, murex fishing and dyeing with genuine
purple are attested for Egypt in the tenth to thirteenth centuries." —David Jacoby, "Silk
Economics and Cross-Cultural Artistic Interaction: Byzantium, the Muslim World, and
the Christian West", Dumbarton Oaks Papers 58 (2004:197-240)




Latin-Crusader kings - Flemish and French - controlled the capital and much
of the Aegean including Thessaloniki; and Venice ruled Crete, its first colony
in the East. The Frankish imperial title for the ruler in Constantinople was, in
Latin, "Imperator Romaniae", Emperor of Rhomaniya, the full style
being dei gratia imperator Romaniae semper augustus [‘by the grace of God
emperor of Romania ever venerable’].*

(*) Cf 'Danubian Romania': Wallachia and Moldavia coalesced into a single

entity in 1859. The name "Romania" was selected in 1862 as a suitably post-
Romantic name to describe the combined state, most of which spoke a
Romance tongue. Likewise, earlier in that century, the Lower Balkan lands,
when they achieved their independence from the Ottomans, could have
chosen the name 'Romania' but preferred the more Romantic ‘Hellas’.
Western Europe called it ‘Greece’, from Graecus, an originally Latin term
first used in Italy for the Hellenes whose colonies dominated southern Italy
when Rome first emerged.

After 1204 'Greek' or Rhomaike rule was split between five small states:
- the Despotate of Epirus with its capital at Arta;
- the outpost of Monemvasia in the Peloponnese (until 1248);
- the ‘Empire’ of Nicaea which controlled most of the western third of Asia
Minor: strongest of the ‘Greek’ (Rhomaioi) statelets;
- the Despotate of Rhodes, Gk Rodhos; and
- the tiny ‘Empire’-presumptive of Trebizond on the north coast of Anatolia.

During the 11 or so months that Constantinople was being defended against the Latins,
the Turks advanced west and SW in Asia Minor.
They captured the important SW town of Isparta, Gk Baris: the fortress of Saporda,
which lies to the SW of Lake Limnae, the modern Egirdir Golu; north of Antalya. The
occupation of this “impregnable” fortress opened the way to Inner Pisidia. Indeed sultan
Rukn ad-Din’s [Suleiman II’s] forces advanced to take the town of Patara on the SW
coastline - located where a line drawn due east from Rhodes meets the coast - in about
1204. In the SE, Cilician Heraclea [modern Eregli] on the road to Konya also fell in 1204
(Savvides 1981: 66). Cf 1207 – Antalya.

Both based in Thrace, the two deposed Byzantines, Angelus and Ducas - Alexius III
Angelus, deposed 1203; aged about 51 in 1204, and his son-in-law Alexius V Ducas
‘Mourtzouphlos’, ejected 1204 by the Latins; aged about 64 in 1204 - strike an alliance.
But Angelus seizes and blinds his erstwhile ally Ducas. Ducas is soon captured the Latins
(November 1204), who execute him by hurling him or forcing him to jump from the 20
metre high Column of Theodosius in Constantinople. —Bradbury 2004: 7.
Retreating to Greece, the surviving Alexius (Angelus) is captured by Boniface, the
Latin king of Thessalonica. Cf below: Anna Angelina (1205).


2. Hellas: Leon Sgouros, the rebel archon (lord) of Nauplia: modern Nafplio in the
Morea, S of Corinth, marches on Athens and captures the lower town, but the acropolis
holds out against him under the leadership of the city's archbishop, Michael Choniates or
Acominatus (summer) (Fine 1994: 64).

3. Asia: The Latin Emperor Baldwin and his brother Henry defeat the forces of Alexius
III’s son-in-law Theodore Lascaris at Poimanenon in Bithynia (6 December). The
armies were tiny, probably fewer than 1,000 on either side. Baldwin led just
140 knights plus an unknown number of mounted sergeants (Bartusis, LBA p.262;
Bradbury 2004: 177). Cf 1211.

4. Creation of the Despotate of Epiros: Michael Angelus Comnenus Ducas, governor of

the Peloponnesus, seizes Epirus and establishes a court at Arta (Angold 200o: 215). See
Michael Doukas, sometimes called Michael I Angelos, was the first ruler (1205–15) of
an independent Epiros following the fall of Constantinople in 1204. As the illegitimate
son of the sebastokrator John Angelos Komnenos, he was first cousin of Alexios III
Angelos. In 1204 he was governor of the Peloponnesus.
The title "despotes" had been created by Manuel I Comnenus in the 12th century, as
the highest title after the emperor. A ‘despot’ could be the holder of a despotate; for
example, the Despotate of Morea, centred at Mistra, was held by the heir to the
Romaniyan throne after 1261. The feminine form, despoina, referred to a female despot
or the wife of a despot. The word does not imply harsh rule; that is simply the
connotation of our English word.

5. Konya: d. Rukn ad-Din (Suleymanshah); in 1205 Kay-Khusraw (lately resident in

Constantinople, 1203-04) will recover the throne with Greek help (see 1205).

Cairo: d. Moses Maimonides (Moshe ben Maimon; Mussa bin Maymun;

“Rambam”), born in Muslim-ruled Cordoba, the greatest of the medieval Jewish
His family were forced into exile in Morocco when he was 13. He received most
of his education there. He moved to Fustat (Old Cairo) before 1170 and soon
became physician to the succeeding Ayyubid rulers of Egypt: initially to Saladin’s
vizier, and served from 1177 as head of the Jewish community of Fustat. Most of
his works were produced there. He wrote mainly in Arabic.

Asia: Kay-Khusraw/Keyhusrev I, restored (1205) as Seljuk sultan of Rum. His wife was a
daughter of the Byzantine magnate Manuel Mavrozomos or Maurozomes, a major
landholder or warlord ruling independently of Nicaea in the Meander Valley.
The sultan married Angela, daughter of Manuel Maurozomes, son of the army general
Theodore Maurozomes (who had fought at Myriocephalon), and Manuel’s wife, an
illegitimate daughter (name not known) of the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus.
Maurozomes fought on behalf of his son-in-law Kay Khusrau in 1205 and 1206.

The Sultan granted Mavrozomes a fiefdom (or better: pronoia, a grant of land taxes) in
the Upper Maiander Valley at Honaz/Chonai and Denizli/Laodikeia. Mavrozomes thus
controlled the head of the valley and as its master could open or close it to the passage of
Türkmen. His appointment seems to have been a precursor of the office of ‘Emir of the
Uç [Tk: borderlands]’. Theodore Lascaris took the field (1204) against Mavrozomes,


winning a victory but without eliminating the rebel (Hopwood, “Frontier” p.157). See

THEODOROS I KOMNENOS LASKARIS establishes a court in Nicaea (crowned
1208). Theodore was aged about 31 (or 33) when he assumed the title of emperor. He
was the son-in-law of Alexius III Angelus, being married to the latter’s daughter Anna
Angelina. He spent the years 1204-06 subjugating the region around Bursa (Gardner
1912: 60).

Theodore I Comnenus Lascaris, Emperor of Nicaea 1205-22, *1175, +VIII.1222; 1m: 1199
Anna Komnena Angelina (*ca 1156, +1212); 2m: 1214 (divorced 1216) Philippa (*1183,
+after 1219) dau. of Rupen III of Armenia, Lord of the Mountains; 3m: 1219 Marie de
Courtenay (*1204, +IX.1222), dau. of the then Latin empress-regent in Constantinople,
Yolanda of Flanders.

After 1204 the Venetians controlled Crete and much of the Aegean, and the Venetian
colony in Latin Constantinople was ruled by an official (podesta) appointed from Venice.
The doge of Venice now (from around 1208) began pretentiously to style himself
"Quartae Partis et Dimidiae Totius Imperii Romaniae Dominator", i.e. "Ruler or lord
(dominator) of 1/4 and 1/8 [=3/8ths] of the entire (totius) Byzantine Empire
(Romania)" (Encyc. Brit. 15th ed). Cf 1217.
The new Latin emperor was given a quarter of the empire, and the remaining three-
quarters (6/8ths) were divided up between Venice and the barons, half (3/8ths) going to
each party. In this way the Doge became "Lord of a quarter and a half of the Imperii
Romaniae." In orer of size, the largest Venetian-ruled areas were Crete, Euboea and


Villehardouin says that at the start of 1205 “they [the Latins] had lost so much of the
country, that outside Constantinople they only held Rodosto [Rhaedestos, modern
Tekirdag] and Selymbria; the whole of the rest of the country [on the European side]
being held by Johannizza [Ivan], King of Wallachia and Bulgaria. And on the other side
of the straits of St. George [i.e. in Asia], they held no more than the castle of Piga [Pegae,
today’s Karabiga: on the southern Marmara shore halfway between Gallipoli and Erdek],
while the rest of the land was in the hands of Theodore Lascaris.” —Trans. Frank T.
Marzials, London: J.M. Dent, 1908, p. 102.
By 1212, however, the position of the Latins will be much improved, after they have
pushed (see 1208) the Bulgarians out of nearly all Thrace, pressed down into Greece,
and, in Asia, re-asserted their hold both sides of the Gulf of Nicomedia. The Latins will
control the entire coast of the Sea of Marmara. See next. Cf 1214: treaty with the

1. March 1205, Asia Minor: Baldwin’s army defeats Theodore Lascaris.
Henry of Flanders, Baldwin's younger brother, leads an army into Asia Minor, where
he captures Adramyttium from Lascaris and advances down the coast, defeating Greek
forces led by Theodore Mangaphas of Philadelphia (winter-spring).
Villehardouin, the French soldier-chronicler, has it thus: “Theodore Lascaris, who had


been discomfitted at Poemaninon [near modern Manyas in December 1204], collected as

many people as he could, and assembled a very great army, and gave the command
thereof to Constantine, his brother, who was one of the best Greeks in Roumania, and
then rode straight towards Adramittium [in NW Asia Minor]. And Henry, the brother of
the Emperor Baldwin, had knowledge, through the Armenians, that a great host was
marching against him, so he made ready to meet them, and set his battalions in order;
and he had with him some very good men, as Baldwin of Beauvoir, and Nicholas of
Mailly, and Anseau of Cayeux, and Thierri of Loos, and Thierri of Tenremonde. “ … by
God's help the Franks prevailed, and discomfited their foes, so that many were killed
and taken captive, and there was much booty. Then were the Franks at ease, and very
rich, so that the people of the land turned to them, and began to bring in
their rents.” —Text online at
2. Hellas: Boniface of Montferrat, the Latin ruler of Thessalonica, marches with an army
into central Greece, captures (1204) Romaniyan Thebes and Athens, and besieges Leon
Sgouros, the rebel Archon of Nauplia, in the fortress of Acrocorinth (spring). The army of
Boniface took Boeotia and Attica without resistance, and relieved the blockade of Athens,
where Choniates surrendered the town to him. By spring 1205 Boniface controlled the
countryside of the northeastern Peloponnese, while the fortified towns held out against
him (Fine 1994: 64). Cf 1208.
And the Frenchmen William [Guillaume] of Champlitte and Geoffroi de Villehardouin
[not the chronicler but his nephew; aged 36] defeat (1205) Greek forces led by Michael
Ducas of Epirus at Koundoura in Messenia, the SW section of the Peloponnesus. This
wins them control of most of the Morea (summer-autumn). Champlitte was acclaimed
Prince of Achaia (Curta 2006: 375).
Mikhail or Michael Ducas set forth to defend his rights as governor of the Byzantine
Theme of Peloponnese, but his army of “5,000” was defeated by (supposedly) 600 Latin
Franks under Boniface and Geoffrey of Villehardouin at Koundoura, thus completing
their conquest of the Byzantine Morea. (See below for more on this battle.) Thus was
created the 'Duchy of Athens' under a Burgundian noble and the Principality of Achaia in
the Peloponnese under Geoffrey de Villehardouin the younger. The former became one
of the most durable of the ‘Frankish’ princedoms. See 1246 and 1311.
3. N Asia Minor: David Comnenus of Trebizond occupies Paphlagonia and then sends an
army against Nicomedia, which is held by Theodore Lascaris, but Lascaris ambushes it
and captures its commanding general, Synadenos. This sets a limit to the westward
advance of the small Trapezuntine ‘Empire’ (Savvides 1981: 68).

4. Thrace: Greek revolt against Latin rule in ex-Byzantine Thrace, with encouragement
from the Bulgarians: the Latins are briefly ejected from Adrianople and the Bulgarians
capture the Latin emperor Baldwin.
While besieging Adrianople in 1205, Baldwin’s army was attacked (14 April) by a
Bulgarian army under Ivan I or “Johanizza”: ‘Little John’. The army included 14,000
pagan Cumans, according to Villehardouin; also Vlachs and Greeks. The harassing fire of
the Cumans tempted Baldwin out of his defensive formation, only for the Latins to be
turned and routed. This was the usual tactic of feigned retreat and ambush used by
steppes people. A relief force led by the Venetian Doge Dandolo covered the retreat but
Baldwin was never seen again (Choniates, trans. Magoulias p.337).
Emperor Baldwin I was captured, Count Louis I of Blois was killed, and the old
Venetian Doge Enrico Dandolo led the surviving portions of the crusader army into a
hasty retreat back to Constantinople, during the course of which he died of exhaustion.
The Bulgarian tsar Ivan/John or Ioannitzis (Kaloyiannis) destroys the Thracian towns
of Philippoupolis (Plovdiv), Trajanoupolis, Mosynoupolis etc. and occupies and then


razes (1206) Didymoteicho on the lower Maritsa/Evros River below Adrianople.

Whereas in the past Kaloyan had limited his oppression to the aristocracy, these
campaigns included wholesale transfer of populations from the captured towns to distant
regions in Bulgaria (Wikipedia 2010, ‘Bulgarian-Latin Wars’). But Henry of Flanders, the
new Latin emperor at Constantinople, manages to reinstate Frankish rule over a large
part of Thrace. In contrast to his brother and predecessor, Baldwin, he maintains a
conciliatory stance vis a vis the Greeks (Romaics), whose collaboration with the
Bulgarians is short-lived.

5. Anatolia: From 1205 to 1207, several Greek magnates, including Manuel Maurozomes,
contested control of the lower Aegean littoral with Theordore Lascaris (Treadgold 1997:
In 1205 Maurozomes (based in the Meander Valley) and the frontier Türkmens helped
the deposed sultan Ghiyas (Ghiyath) ad-Din Kay-Khusraw I or Kaikhosrau, r. 1192-96,
1205-11, Qôlôch (Kilij) Arslan's son by a Romaniyan noblewoman, to seize Konya. Kay-
Khusraw too married a Greek, i.e. Maurozomes’ daughter.
In 1206 Theodore made peace with the sultan and Maurozomes who, as the sultan’s
vassal, retained only the border forts of Chonae and Laodiceia. In 1207 Theodore
defeated and imprisoned him; Chonae and Laodiceia returned to Seljuk rule (Brubaker &
Linardou p.106, citing Choniates).

Under Kay-Khusraw I and his two sons and successors, 'Izz ad-Din Ka`us I, 1211-20, and
'Ala` ad-Din Kay-Qubadh I, 1220-37, the Anatolian Seljuks will achieve the zenith of
their power. See 1207: capture of Antalya. Also 1211.

6. Old Armenia: Profiting from Seljuk and ‘Greek’ (Rhomaioi) weakness, Queen Tamar’s
Georgians capture Kars (which they will hold for 300 years).

W Europe: d. Peire Vidal, Provençal troubadour. He was active at the courts of

Toulouse, Marseilles and Montferrat among others.

West-central Greece: Michael I Komnenos Doukas, also known as ‘Angelos’ (illegitimate
son of John Angelus Ducas), was a cousin of the East-Romanic emperors Isaac and
Alexios III Angelos. With the disintegration of the Byzantine Empire after the Fourth
Crusade, he established himself as ruler of the independent state of Epiros, with Arta as
his capital (1205-15) (Angold 2000: 215).

Battle of Koundoura

In 1205 Michael Ducas, seeing a force of Franks/Burgundians under Champlitte and

Villehardouin (nephew of the chronicler) advance to attack and take Patras and
Andravida in the NW Peloponnesus, set forth from Arta to defend his putative rights as
governor of the Byzantine Theme of the Peloponnese. As noted earlier, at Koundoura
(the name of an olive grove) near Kiparissia on the plain of Messenia in the SW
Peloponnese, he was soundly defeated by the Franks. This all but completed the
Frankish conquest of Romaniyan Morea.
The two primary sources are Villehardouin’s (the uncle) Chronicle (CV) and the 13th C
Chronicle of Morea (CM). Supposedly about 500 Franks (CV: “500 men mounted”) or


700 (CM: “not [not more than] 700 on foot and mounted” )—Curta allows ‘fewer than
1,000’ —led by William (Guillaume) of Champlitte and the younger Geoffroi de
Villehardouin defeated Michael’s ‘army’ of over 5,000 (in CV) or 4,000 (in CM) men.
Michael may have brought a few professional soldiers with him, but most of his troops
were armed townsmen from the nearby towns of Lacedaemon (Sparta), Veligosti and
Nikli, the mountaineers of Maina, and some men from the the Slavic-speaking tribes of
the Taygetos Mountains west of Sparta.
It is possible, seeing that the CM mentions soldiers on foot as well as mounted, that
the cavalry alone (“knights and mounted serjeants”) numbered 700. If so, then the total
Frankish force might have numbered of the order of 2,100, presumably including both
Frankish infantrymen and some allied Greek foot soldiers (peasant irregulars).
Thereafter Byzantium held hardly more than the south-east coastal fortress-town of
Monemvasia (Curta 2006: 375). To be specific, a few forts continued to hold out. The fort
of Araklovon in Elis, was defended by Doxapatres Boutsaras and withstood the attacks
until 1213, when the garrison finally surrendered. The fortified port of Monemvasia, and
the castles of Argos, Nauplia and Corinth under Leo Sgouros held out until his suicide in
1208 (Miller William, 1908: The Latins in the Levant : a history of Frankish Greece,
1204-1566 E.P. Dutton and Company, New York, p.38).
Michael retired (1205) to Epiros and declared himself Despot, the highest rank in the
Romaic political hierarchy that was still subordinate to the Emperor. Cf 1211, 1212, 1214.

Villehardouin moved north and joined forces with another Frankish baron, Guillaume de
Champlitte, and together they swept through the north and west of the Peloponnese. A
4,000 strong army of Byzantines with help from the Melingoi [say 1,000: total 5,000?] -
the Slav tribe which dominated the western Taygetus - confronted the Franks in open
battle at Koundoura, which is thought to be in the north of the Messenian plain (in the
SW sector of the Peloponnenus), in May 1205. Although seriously outnumbered, the
Franks routed the Greek forces.
According to the Chronicle of Morea, as we have said, the Franks were 700, while the
"Romans" (Byzantine Greeks) had 4,000 men, mounted and unmounted. Another
source, the Chronicle of Geoffrey of Villehardouin, uncle of Geoffrey I, states that the
army of Michael I numbered 5,000 men and that of the Franks “500”.
“They [the Byzantines] were four thousand, on foot and mounted. The Franks, though,
when they learned it [sic: this] from the Romans; since they were together with them and
they knew the place; there they drew them, they came and they found them; and war
they gave the Franks and the Romans; and the Franks were not, on foot and mounted,
but just seven hundred” (Chronicle of Monemvasia).

1. Latin-ruled Crete: The Genoese ruler of Malta, Enrico Pescatore, attacks Candia
(Iraklion) with 24 galleys and five sailing ships; he expels the Venetian troops of Ranieri
Dandolo (Lock 1995: 145). While formally he offers allegiance to the Latin emperor in
Constantinople, in practice he rules independently. He orders the reconstruction of the
walls of Candia and strengthens the fortress of Mirabello. Cf 1207, Kythera.

2. fl. Nicetas Choniates, poet, theologian and historian.

Younger brother of the archbishop of Athens, Michael Choniates, Nicetas was chief
minister before 1204 and a high official under the exiled emperor in Nicaea, Theodore
Lascaris. His History covers the period through to the sacking of the City in 1204.



Venetians occupy Cephalonia; the local Italian rulers of the Orsini family subsequently
(1236) transferred their allegiance to the prince of Achaia.

Henry of Flanders, Latin ruler in Constantinople. See 1210.

1. Gulf of Nicomedia: Lascaris tries to take the Crusader coastal fortress at Cibotos near
Nicaea. Villehardouin says the Latins sent 16 ships “great and small” to relieve the town
and were confronted by an East-Romanic fleet of “full 60” vessels (presumably small
boats as well as galleys). But the Greeks only captured Cibotos once the Latins had
abdandoned it (Molin 2001: 229).

2. Boniface of Thessalonica was killed in an ambush by the Bulgarians on 4 September

1207, and his head was sent to the Bulgarian Tsar Kaloyan (Ivan I “Ioannitza”). Then on
26 October, as Kaloyan prepared to besiege Thessalonica, he too was killed, assassinated
by a Cuman chieftain (Norwich 1996: 190).

3. SW Aegean: The Venetian fortune-seeker Marco Venieri conquered the island of

Kythera in 1207. It became thereafter part of the "duchy of the Archipelago" (established
1210 by Sanudo: HQ at Naxos: Latin rule until 1566).
Although awarded Kythera by the Venetian state, Venieri had broken with the doge by
1207 and ruled Kythera in his own right. The "duchy", when recognised in 1210,
nominally acknowledged the suzerainty of, first, the Latin emperor in Constantinople;
and then Achaia (1236); and finally Naples (1267). See 1210.

3a. South coast of Asia Minor: ex-Byzantine Antalya [Gk: Attaleia] falls to the Seljuq
Turks of Konya (Rum). It was held by a Tuscan adventurer formerly in Byzantine
employ, named Aldobrandini. The defenders were both Greek and ‘Frankish’ (Latins
from Cyprus). The soldiers of Kay-Khusraw I captured the port after a siege of two
months. This gave Rum an important outlet to the Mediterranean (Ibn al-Athir: in
Zachariadou 1989: 213; Freely 2008: 63, 161; also M E Martin, ‘The Venetian-Seljuk
Treaty of 1220’, The English Historical Review Vol. 95, No. 375 (Apr., 1980), pp. 321-
330). Cf 1215 – capture of Sinope; and 1221 – Alanya.

At this time trade with Cyprus was dominated by the Provençales [the Aragonese of our S
France] and trade with Egypt by the Genoese. Cf 1218, 1220.
Trade to and from Antalya and later Sinope helped bring Rum into its golden age …

3b. NW Asia Minor: Seljuq or at least Turkmen influence extended as far west as
Seyitgazi (Gk: Nakoleia), 45 kms south of Eskisehir (Gk: Dorylaion). The mosque built
there by order of the sultan’s wife is dated 1207 or 1208. The Muslim or Turkish name
was (is) that of the 8th century Arab warrior-martyr, Seyyit Battal Gazi, to whom a
monument had been erected in 1092. It had long been a major Muslim pilgrimage
centre. Hopwood, “Frontier” p.156, calls the mosque a “marker in the Uç [borderlands]”,
signalling that in this period (after 1204) the Seljuqs controlled this part of the uç. Cf

Several sources mention the Nicaean fleet. That is to say, it was not created by Theodore


Lascaris’s successor John III Vatatzes (who in 1225 will recapture Lesbos, Chios and
Samos). —George Akropolites: The History, Introduction, translation and commentary,
by Ruth Macrides. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007, introduction p.100.
For example, in a letter of 1212, the Latin emperor Henry writes of Lascaris
assembling “a very great number of galleys” with a view to retaking Constantinople
(Vasiliev II: 516).

Bulgaria: The Latins of Constantinople defeated the army of the new Bulgarian monarch
Boril at Philippopolis (Plovdiv). There were 2,000 knights on the Latin side and an
unknown number of other horse and foot (1/6th being ‘Greeks’), presumably no more
than 8,000 men in all. It is difficult to accept that the Bulgarians could have fielded as
many as “33,000” men, including Cuman allies; but at any rate the Latins were seriously
outnumbered (Setton et al. 2006: 206). The Latins sprang an ambush on a detachment
led by Boril and he fled, propitiating a retreat by the whole Bulgarian-Cuman force. The
Latins pursued but the fighting was inconsequential.
As a result, the Latins recovered control of N Thrace; and held Philippopolis until
1230 (Fine 1994: 93).

2. North-central Peloponnese: In 1208 the Franco-Italian de Tournay family built the

castle of Kalavryta* or Oria, a strong Frankish fortress, as the seat of the Barony of
Kalavryta, which was divided into 12 knightly ‘feuds’. The area stayed under the control
of the Franks from 1205 until 1330, when it was retaken by the Byzantine generals of

(*) About halfway between Patras and Corinth; nearer the former.

3. Commercial treaty between Venice and the Ayyubids of Aleppo. Aleppo was the largest
Muslim city near the Crusader-dominated coast; it was an important source for eastern
goods including cotton, silk, pistachios, and medicinal drugs. —Olivia Constable,
Housing the stranger in the Mediterranean world:
lodging, trade, and travel in late antiquity and the Middle Ages, Cambridge University
Press, 2003, p.124.

1. (By 1209:) In W Asia Minor the Turks take Afyon Karahisar, Gk: Acreonum, located
NW of the Great Lakes District. Cf 1211.

2. Venice gains Negroponte or Euboea/Evvoia, the long Aegean island above Athens
(and will control it for over 150 years).

1209: a. Religious revival in the West: Pope Innocent approves the first version of
the Franciscan rule.

b. French crusade against the “heretic” Albigensians [Cathars] in s. France. Cf


1. The Aegean: With the entire island of Naxos occupied in 1210, the Italian Marco
Sanudo, the nephew of the late Venetian doge Enrico Dandolo, and his associates soon
conquered Melos and the rest of the islands of the Cyclades. He established himself as


Duke of Naxia or Duke of the Archipelago with his headquarters on Naxos (Setton et al.

1207-10: Marco Sanudo, a nephew of Doge Enrico Dandolo, the Venetian leader who had
helped the crusaders take Byzantine Constantinople in 1204, won for himself by force of
arms, the large and fertile Greek island of Naxos in the centre of the Aegean Sea, and
with his supporters proceeded to take the surrounding islands, proclaiming (in 1210) a
"Duchy of the Archipelago".
Sanudo was accompanied by Marino Dandolo and Andrea and Geremia Ghisi, as well
as Ravano dalle Carceri, lord of Euboea (medieval Negroponte), and Philocalo
Navigaioso, lord of Lemnos. He arranged (1207) for the loan of eight galleys from the
Venetian Arsenal and, with his latter-day Argonauts, cast anchor in the harbour of
Potamidides, in the southwest of the island, and largely captured the island (Setton et al.
1985: 429).

2. Byzantine Corinth: Following a five-year siege, the ‘Franks’ under Villehardouin and la
Roche take the Acrocorinth; Theodore Ducas escapes to Argos (autumn). Only
Monemvasia continued to hold out: until 1248. —Fine 1994: 64, 67.

3. The Latin emperor was allied with the Turks, while the Nicaeans were allied with the
Bulgarians. Cf 1211, 1235.
- Epirus: Allowing the Venetians freedom of access to the markets of the Despotate
would help its prosperity and obviate their attacking it. Accordingly an agreement was
drawn between "Michael Comnanus Dux" and the Doge Pietro Ziani in June 1210 to the
satisfaction and benefit of both (Nicol 1992: 160; Fine 1994: 68).

1211: Saladin's conquest of Jerusalem (1187) and the resettlement of the city with
Jews caused a wave of messianic excitement to pass through many Jewish
communities. One of the first results was the ‘aliyah (immigration) of a group
described as 300 rabbis who came from France and England and settled in 1211.

1. The Nikaian (Nicaean) army, although very small, was quite effective. It beat the
Constantinopolitan or Romaniae Franks repeatedly and in 1211 prevailed against the
Turks at Antioch on the Meander - SW Asia Minor: present-day Kuyucak, near Nazilli:
slightly nearer Aydin than Denizli.

The Nicaean Army and Lascaris’s Expedition to the Meander Valley, 1211

In spring 1211, having already taken Attalia, Sultan Kay-Khusraw [Keyhüsrev] marched
from the east down the Meander (Maiandros, Menderes) Valley, accompanied by ex-
emperor Alexius III, who had arrived at the Turkish court the previous year after being
ransomed by Michael I Ducas of Epirus.
Theodore Lascaris proceeded against them, leading an all-cavalry force from Nicaea
via Philadephia (Alasehir) to the upper Meander River, i.e. to a point behind the Turks.
Riding thence westwards, down the valley to Antioch, his army defeats the Seljuq army,
and Theodore I Lascaris personally slays Kay-Khusraw (late spring). Or such is the Greek
version. Kay-Khusraw wounded Lascaris with a mace but the emperor then unhorsed
him with his sword and beheaded the sultan before he could get up (thus both
Akropolites and Gregoras: trans. Savvides, online at A Muslim source in turn says it was a


‘Frank’ (Italian) who killed the sultan (Freely 2008: 64).

Alexius III too is captured by his son-in-law Theodore Lascaris, who allows him to
spend the rest of his life in a monastery.
This was the last major battle between the Byzantines and the Seljuqs. After
1211 the Turks of Konya turned their interest eastward; and after 1243 they came under
Mongol domination.

According to Akropolites, Theodore Lascaris, when informed that the Seljuks were
besieging Antioch on the Meander [east of modern Nazilli], marched from Nicaea to
Philadelphia at a pace faster than the usual one.
The route is discussed at length in Langdon’s paper, 1992: 27-29. He argues that
Theodore travelled first to Sardis in the Hermus (Gediz) valley and thence briefly
westwards up the ancient military road before turning SE to Philadelphia [Alashehir],
Tripolis [near modern Yenicekent] and thence onwards SE to the Meander River near
Laodiceia (our Denizli). There the Byzantines turned westwards down the river, coming
up—after about 35 km—against the Turks from behind. To speed up the pace of his
march, Theodore ordered his 2,000 soldiers - 1,200 Byzantines and 800 Italian
‘mercenary’ cavalry - not to carry any tents or any other burden, apart from a small
quantity of food and their clothing. See also Savvas Kyriakidis, ‘The Nicaean armies:
Logistics, Weather and Geography’, citing Akropolites, I, 14-16 and Gregoras, I, 18;
online at
The size of the Seljuq force deployed in 1211 is not known, but since it was ‘large’ in
relation to the Nicaean forces, we may guess it was possibly as large as 6,000 men. This
included a contingent of Latin mercenaries. Others have suggested that Kay-Khusraw led
possibly 20,000 men; but this seems too many (cf discussion of numbers in LBA, vs Rice
1961: 68 and Savvides 1981: 101 who cite Gregoras; also Norwich 1996: 190).

The Sultan of Ikonion, Kay-Khusraw I (“Kaihosru”), invades the Meander Valley with a
“large” army, ostensibly to aid Theodore Lascaris’s estranged father in law, ex-emperor
Alexius III. - Laskaris, with support from Leo, the king of Armenia Minor (Cilicia),
managed to defeat and kill the sultan in the spring of 1211, at Antioch on the Meander.
Soon after, however, on 15 October 1211, Lascaris was defeated by Eric's forces - the
Latins of Constantinople - at the battle of the Rhyndakos river [mod. Orhaneli Çayi] S of
Bursa: the river marking the ancient border between Mysia and Bithynia: it exits into the
Sea of Marmara NW of Bursa.
— Theodore I Lacaris was able to put 2,000 men, or 3,000 if we follow George of
Pelagonia, into the field against the Seljuks in 1211. Antioch was a ‘Greek’ (Rhomaioi)
victory in which the sultan Kay-Khusraw was killed. There were some 800 Latin
mercenaries, called “Italoi” by Gregoras, in this force of over 2,000; the other 1,200 or so
were Imperials and some allied Bulgarians and Hungarians (or else all Byzantines); all
were cavalry (cf LBA p.28).
— Most of the Latins died fighting; they led the charge against the Turks. As Bartusis
notes, this was a good advertisement for the best kind of mercenaries (LBA p.28; also
Gardner 1912: 82, citing Gregoras and Acropolites).

2,000 men: Noting that Lascaris’s force was essentially a flying column, and comprised
wholly of cavalry, the total that he was generally able to deploy in a field army may have
been more like 6,000 men. In 1225, according to George of Pelagonia, John Vatatzes will
lead “8,055” men in his campaign in the same region (Langdon 1992, his note 186). By
1259 - see there - the Nicaeans will field an army of over 6,000 (Treadgold 1997: 717,
819; Encyc. Brit. 15th ed under ‘Turkey’). Cf 1259.


By 1214 Theodore’s polyglot army will consist of Alamanoi or Germans, Persai

(Turcomans and other Turks), Armenioi (Armenians from Cilicia) and Latinoi (i.e.
Franks, usually from the Latin ‘empire of Romania’). Also mentioned are a Skythikon
regiment (Cumans) and a regiment of native Romaics called the Rhomaikon. Thus
Savvides 1981: 98, citing Pachymeres and Angold. The use of Western knights was much
reduced under John III Vatatzes, acc. 1221, in favour of native Greek troops (Cassidy
2004: 167 ff).

2. The Latin Emperor, Henry, defeats (October 15) Theodore Lascaris on the river
Rhyndacus, east of Bursa. The Rhyndacus formed the border between Bithynia and the
old province of Mysia. Henry’s force penetrated as far south as Nymphaion which is
inland from Smyrna, but then withdrew (LBA p.22). The Latins thereby hold on to the
south Marmara littoral opposite the Dardanelles.
Fighting with a very small force (only 260 knights) against larger armies, Henry won a
series of clear victories, beginning in October. By the end of the year he had conquered
much of the Ionian coast and had forced Lascaris to sign a treaty recognising the
conquests. Nicaea kept Pergamum and lands further south, but the coast north of there
and along the Sea of Marmara was now Latin. More specifically the Greeks were
recognised as holding Pergamon and the country from the Kaikos (Bakırçay) valley
southward, and from Lopadion (modern Ulubad) eastwards (Gardner 1912: 85). That is
to say, the Latins received the far NW corner of Asia Minor opposite the Gallipoli
peninsula. Cf 1224: Latins ejected.

Izzeddin Keykavus, Sultan of Seljuk Rum.

Territory in 1212

A large Latin-ruled 'Empire of Romania', governing from Constantinople, dominated the

Aegean and the eastern Balkans. Venice controlled Durazzo (Durres), Corfu, Negroponte
(Evvia: Euboea) and Crete; also a long section of the sea coast within the Sea of
Marmara from Gallipoli nearly to Constantinople. See 1214.
The three 'Greek' states were small: Epirus under Michael Ducas (see 1212); Nicaea
(the largest) under Theodore Lascaris; and the so-called "empire" of tiny Trabzond on
the Black Sea coast in NE Asia Minor: see 1214.
If we look at the pre-1204 boundaries of the Byzantine empire, we see that its northern
Balkan lands have passed half to Bulgaria and half to the Latins, while in Asia the Seljuks
of Konya or Rum have extended their rule to the SW coast opposite Rhodes.

1. Theodore Laskaris’s eldest daughter was Eirene Dukaina Komnene Laskarina, died
1239; 1m: 1212 Konstantinos Dukas Palaiologos, died 1212; 2m: ca 1212 the general
Ioannes (John) III Dukas Batatzes or Vatatzes (*), future Emperor of Byzantium in
Nicaea: born ca 1192, acc. 1221, died Nymphaion 3.11.1254.
Batatzes, later army commander as well as Theodore’s son-in-law, was later (1221)
nominated as heir to the throne, Theodore thereby excluding the other members of his
Laskarid line.

(*) In post-classical Greek the letter β (beta) came to be pronounced as v.


2. Greece: The citadel of Argos falls to the Franks (summer). This extinguishes Greek
rule in the Morea, except for the fortified peninsula-town of Monemvasia in the SE.

3. The Venetians conquer Crete from the Genoese of Enrico Pescatore, who has held it
since 1207-08. They also subdued the local Greek archontes (chiefs). Colonists were sent
from Venice (Setton et al. p.423).

4. The Balkans: The Epirote leader Michael Dukas led an attack into the Thessalian
plain. The Latin knights seem to have offered little resistance, and within a year the
Epirote army had reached as far as the Gulf of Volos, i.e. on the eastern coast of Thessaly
opposite Evvia/Euboea. By June 1212 the town of Larissa was again under Greek
authority. The capture of Larissa seriously hindered communications by land between
Latin-ruled Thessalonike and the Latin states in the south. Ducas’s Despotate now
extended from the Ionian to the Aegean Sea.

From 1212: Spain: Highpoint of the Christian advance or "reconquista". The

Almohads will lose most of al-Andalus permanently to Aragon, Castile and

1212-50: r. Frederick II Hohenstaufen of Germany, Italy and Sicily, the latter

being where he spent most of his life. His capital was Palermo.
From 1196 (aged 2) he was king of the Germans, and from 1197 king of Sicily,
with his mother as regent, recrowned in Sicily in 1198 when she died. His mother
had abandoned Frederick’s claim to Germany, and Otto IV was king of Germany
from 1198 and western emperor from 1209. The German throne was contested
between the two from 1211 to 1218, and it was not until 1220 that Frederick, now
aged 26, was confirmed as both German king and western emperor (while
remaining king of Sicily). Also nominally ruler of Jerusalem 1225-43. Cf 1244.
He was patron of the Sicilian School of poetry at his royal court in Palermo,
where from around 1220 to his death we witness the first use of a literary form
of an Italo-Romance language, Sicilian. —Wikipedia contributors,
2010,"Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor” [sic: the title is anachronistic].

1. Asia: Towards the end of 1214 the treaty of Nymphaion was signed, which determined
the borders between the Byzantine (Nicaean) and the Latin Empires. Nymphaion was a
town inland from Smyrna, with a palace built (ca. 1184) in the time of Andronicus II
Comnenus; later (in 1222) it became seat of the Nicaean court. The Latins received the
far north-western littoral of Asia Minor, as far as Adramyttion, while the rest of the area,
up to the borders of the Seljuk territories, remained in the hands of the Byzantines of
Nicaea/Nymphaion (Norwich 1996: 191).

2. N Asia Minor: The new Seljuk Sultan, Keykavus, Kaikawus or Kay Ka'us I, attacked
Sinope and killed the junior ‘emperor’ of Trebizond, David of Paphlagonia. He also
captured and compelled the senior ruler Alexius to cede Sinope and render tribute and
military service (Freely 2008: 68).
The loss of Sinope in 1214 isolated Trebizond from direct contact with, and further
territorial encroachment by, the Empire of Nicaea, which took control of western


Paphlagonia. Trapezuntine foreign policy no longer focussed on claims to the Byzantine

throne but on relations with Georgia, the Sultanate of Iconium, the Italian maritime
towns (especially the Genoese who operated in the Black Sea), and the small emirates of
Erzerum and Erzincan (Wikipedia 2010, under ‘Alexius I of Trebizond’).

3. Following the fall of Sinope, there were small-scale clashes between Greeks (Nicaeans)
and Turks in the greater eastern Paphlagonia/Kastomonu region (Langdon p.11).

By 1214:
1. NE Anatolia: The Seljuks of Rum under Kay-Ka'us conquer Sinope (or in 1215) from
Trabzond and extend the sultanate's frontiers to the Black Sea. As noted, they captured
the prince of Trabzond, Alexius Comnenus, and compelled him to acknowledge the
supremacy of the Seljuqs, pay tribute and serve in the armies of the sultan. (Until this
time the tiny ‘Greek’ or Byzantine “empire” of Trebizond had controlled almost the entire
Black Sea coast of Asia Minor.)

2. The West: Michael Komnenos Doukas of Epirus - hence: the "Epirotes" - takes Durres
(1213) and Corfu (1214) from the Venetians (Fine 1994: 68). See 1223.
Michael launched his attack on Durazzo (Durres) and the Venetian garrison was forced
to withdraw. This was especially important because it closed the overland route from the
Adriatic to Thessalonike, depriving the Latins there of easy reinforcement.
After having taken possession of Venice's most valuable territory in mainland Epiros,
Michael turned to the conquest of Corfu. He encouraged the Corfiotes to be loyal to the
Despotate by renewing certain privileges granted to them by the Emperor Isaac II. The
inclusion of the island in the Despotate may probably be dated to 1214. No chronicler
describes what happened, and we know of the change of hands only indirectly (Nicol
1992: 161).
From 1207 to 1224 the troops of Epiros were to fight successful wars against the Latin
Empire, regaining Thessaloniki, Thessaly, Thrace, and much of Macedonia. Doukas was
a first-class gneral. But he would be defeated and captured by the Bulgarians in 1230
while preparing to recapture Constantinople; his nascent empire then split into three
Despotates: Epiros, Thessaly, and Thessaloniki.
The Epirote army included Frankish mercenary knights, native ‘Greek’ or Romaic
cavalry (armoured lancers), Vlach cavalry, Bulgarian horse-archers with shields; and
Albanian horse archers [spear, bow, and shield]. The foot soldiers included
Greek/Imperial or mercenary infantry spearmen; and various light infantrymen, mainly
archers: Byzantine, Albanian and/or Vlach foot, in each case outfitted with a bow and
little else.

John Apokaukos (pronounced “apo-kaf-kos”) was metropolitan of Naupaktos (in SE

Epirus) from around 1200 to his death, around 1233, that is during the creation of the
despotate of Epiros. During these critical years, he affirmed the need for resistance
against Latin rule and his belief in the restoration of the Byzantine empire, with the
despotate of Epiros at its centre. His opinions are expressed in his works - in his many
letters to his friend Michael Choniates, who was metropolitan of Athens at the time, and
to other prominent personalities of the end of the 12th century, as well as in a number of
poems in iambic verse and in formal documents. His writings constitute a valuable
source of information on the history of the state of Epiros. – ‘Foundation of the Hellenic
World’:, accessed Dec 2004.



Theodore I Lascaris of Nicaea, second marriage: 1214 (divorced 1216) to 31 years old
Philippa (born 1183, +after 1219), dau. of the late Rupen III of Armenia, Lord of the
Mountains (died 1187) and niece of Levon (Leo) I, the reigning King of (Cilician)
At this time the Seljuks of Rum ruled the SW coast of Asia Minor, separating the lands
of Nicaea from those of Armenian-ruled Cilicia.

(Others give the date as 1214:) The Seljuks obtain the N Anatolian port of Sinope from
the Greeks of Trebizond. Captured by the Turks, the ruler of Trebizond ceded it as
ransom for his life. With Antalya (held since 1207), this gave them outlets to both the
Meditterranean and Black Seas. Sinope traded with the Crimea, while ships from
Antalya sailed via Cyprus to Egypt and elsewhere. The aim was to attract the passing
caravans from the east, i.e. from the trading centres of Erzerum and Erzinjan
(Zachariadou 1989: 213). See 1223-24.

1215: Damascus: fl. ibn al-Arabi or "Muhyi al-Din", Spanish-born Arab mystical
writer. Mystical Sufi religious-erotic odes. Born in Murcia before the Christian
'reconquista' and raised in Seville, he later settled in Damascus.
Spain at this time was divided between various Christian kingdoms (the north)
and the Almohad empire (south). Syria was part of the Ayyubid sultanate, with
North Africa divided almost equally between these two major Muslim powers.

r. Theodore I Komnenos-Doukas - Theodoros ‘Doukas Komnenos Angelos’*, - despot of

(*) Father’s surname Angelos; mother’s surname Ducas (Doukaina); paternal

grandmother’s surname Komnenos (Komnene).

Theodore expanded Epirote rule in the Balkans at the expense of the Latin Empire.
Taking advantage of the temporary weakness of Bulgaria and the Kingdom of
Thessalonica, the Epirotes seized most of Macedonia (with Ohrid) and Thessaly in c.
In 1217, the new Latin Emperor Peter of Courtenay (grandson of Louis VI of France
and cousin of Philip Augustus) arrived from France with an army of 5,500 men,
including 160 knights, and attempted to reach his lands by crossing from Durres through
Epirus along the Via Egnatia. Theodore defeated and captured him. Peter died in
captivity (Nicol 1957: 51; Norwich 1996: 191).

Latin Syria: Leo of Armenia (Cilicia) at the head of an army occupied Antioch and
(briefly) re-installed his grand-nephew, Raymond-Roupen de Poiters, as its head,
replacing Bohemund IV.

Battles between the Seljuks of Rum and the Armenians of Cilicia. The Armenians
recognised Seljuk suzerainty and agreed to aid them in war.


From grand zhupan to king: Stefan II Nemanjich of Serbia (Rascia), Nemanja’s son,
finally obtains a royal crown from Pope Honorius III, probably through the aid of Venice,
which, since the Fourth Crusade, had become a neighbour of Serbia. In return for a
coronation by a papal legate, he promised to place Serbia under the jurisdiction of the
Latin Church. Not surprisingly, this was opposed by many of the Serbian clergy,
including Stephen’s own brother, the monk and bishop Sava [St Sava] (Fine 1994: 107-
08). See 1219.

Sicily: Scottish-born Michael [the] Scot, c. 1175–1232, translated the works of al-
Betrugi (‘Alpetragius’) in 1217, al-Bitruji's On the Motions of the Heavens, and
Averroës' [Ibn Rushd, d.1198] influential commentaries on the scientific works of
Aristotle. Averroes' commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle was among the
works he translated into Latin at the court of Sicily from 1227 to 1230. (From Paris,
Scot had gone to Bologna, and thence, after a stay at Palermo, to Toledo. There he
acquired a knowledge of Arabic.)

Fifth Crusade in the East. The main target of the Latins was Ayyubid Egypt, which the
Latins planned to use as a base for the reconquest of Jerusalem. Cf 1218, 1260.
- The crusaders spent the winter of 1217-1218 in Palestine fighting small-scale
operations against the Muslims. See below, 1218.

1217-1240: North Africa: Uthman I, first Marinid ruler. Another Berber dynasty.
They fought the Almohads for control of Morocco until 1269.

Treaty between Genoa and Latin-ruled Constantinople: a few Genoese traders return to
Constantinople; but they remained under Venetian hegemony until 1261; they were not
influential in the East until the period of restored Greek rule after 1261 (NCMH 1999:

Fifth and Sixth Crusades

Ayyubid Egypt: In early July 1218, the Crusaders of Palestine (The ‘Kingdom of
Acre’) marched up to Damietta, the port in the eastern delta near our Port Said,
and made camp outside the walls, out of range of any defending artillery
weapons. They spent a couple of weeks building artillery weapons of their own,
but as soon as these were moved into position they were destroyed by Damietta's
secret weapon – possibly Greek Fire, or more likely, an incendiary similar to
Greek Fire, in this case launched in “tubs” of fire hurled from a large ballista.

At the end of March 1219, Sultan Al-Kamil of Egypt and his younger brother
Sultan Al-Mu'azzam of Syria offered the Crusaders an extraordinary peace deal:
the city of Jerusalem itself, and all the territory between it and Acre. This cession
of territory was not delivered until the ‘Italo-German’ king Frederick II
Hohenstaufen came east in 1228. Frederick’s army was relatively weak, but his
reputation was great, and the Sultan was dealing with a rebellion in Syria. So a
10-year truce was agreed, which involved the Christians re-gaining control
of most (not all) of the Jerusalem, plus Bethlehem (immediately south of
Jerusalem), Jaffa (Yafo: modern Tel Aviv, on the coast above Ashkelon),


Nazareth (N Palestine: inland SE of Acre/Akko), and Sidon (in Syria). Jaffa had
remained in Christian hands; the treaty confirmed this.
The result (1229) was to move the front lines of the conflict 125 miles or 200
km to the south, from the Acre-Sea of Galilee axis to a new boundary running
from present-day Tel Aviv on the coast, passing just south of Jerusalem to
Jericho and the northern tip of the Dead Sea in the east. It placed the Muslim-
held towns of Ashkelon and Hebron* on the new front lines, and these towns
became very heavily fortified against attack.

(*) Hebron is less than 30 km S of Jerusalem; Ashkelon or Ascalon is on the

coast, nearly directly west of Hebron.

Sultanates, Empires and Kingdoms

The major powers in Christendom were the ‘German Empire’ and the ‘ex-Norman’
Kingdom of Sicily (South Italy), also at this time a Hohenstaufen (Swabian) possession.*
The lesser powers included Hungary, Capetian France, Castile and Plantagenet
(Angevin) England. There were four strong Muslim states: 1 the ‘Empire of the
Khwarizm Shah’ in Iran; 2 the Seljuks of Rum; 3 the Ayyubid Sultanate of Syria-
Palestine-Egypt; and 4 the Almohad Caliphate in North Africa and southern Spain.

(*) Otto IV (d. 1218) was king of Germany from 1198 and western emperor from
1209, with Frederick II Hohenstaufen as king of Sicily/South Italy. The German
throne was contested between the two from 1211 to 1218; and it was not until 1220
that Frederick was confirmed as both German king and western emperor (while
remaining king of Sicily).

In our area of interest, the Greeks of Epirus controlled the central Balkans [cf 1221]. The
Latins of Constantinople - the "Romanian Franks" - under empress Yolande, 1217-19,
ruled in the Peloponnesus, parts of the Aegean, most of Thrace, and Constantinople.
Venice dominated the southern Aegean (Crete, the Cyclades and Euboea) along with the
NW shore of Marmara in Tharce. The Greeks of Nicaea under Theodore I ruled a large
slice of western Asia Minor [see 1246]. The Sultanate of Iconium or Rum under
Kaikawus I, 1210-20, ruled most of Asia Minor.

Tsar Ivan/John Asen II of Bulgaria. In his reign, as a result of the splintering of the
Byzantine Empire, Bulgaria again became the leading power in the Balkans (see
1230, 1241).


1. [or 1220]: Acc. Alaeddin Keykubad I [‘Ala al-Din Kay-Qubadh or 'Kaikobad'], r. 1219-
37. The Encyc Brit. 15th ed. calls him "the most powerful and illustrious prince of the
Rum branch of the Seljuqs"; certainly the sulatanate reached the peak of its prosperity
during his reign (Freely 1208: 70). See 1220.

Kai-Qubad I, the greatest ruler of his dynasty, promoted trade, turned much of Anatolia
into a market garden, developed industry, including sugar refineries. In 1220-21 he took
over a section of the Armenian-ruled coast east of Antalya including the promontory at


Kalonoros (Tk Alaiya or Alanya, from his name ‘Ala al-Din) where he built (1228) an
“enormous” naval base.* Now he began to style himself ‘Sultan of the Two Seas’. By the
time of his death (poisoned by his son Kai-Khusrau II in 1237), he controlled the larger
part of Asia Minor. —Freely 2008: 72; also Steven Lowe and Martin Baker, ‘The Seljuqs
of Rum’, Varangian Voice No. 21, Feb 1992; online at
See 1220.

(*) The great rock on the peninsula was called Kalonoros in Greek; the port-town
beneath it was known as Coracesium (Freely 2008: 165). The harbour may have been
“enormous” but the ‘arsenal’ or shipyard was not massive. As noted below under 1228,
the shipyard itself is 56.5 metres long, 44 metres wide and consists of five chambers.
Each chamber, just big enough to shelter one galley, is 7.70 metres wide and 42.30
metres deep, all opening to the sea.

2. St. Sava, 1176-1235, the founder of the Serbian Church, is consecrated in Nicaea as
Archbishop of Serbia:
Under Sava, the Serbian Church obtains partial independence from the 'Greek' church
[cf first Serbian king Stefan (Stephen), r. 1217-27].

Serbian ‘catholics’, thereby pro-Latin, would be an obstacle for the emperor of Nicaea in
recovering Constantinople. Stefan and his brother Saint Sava knew this. Stefan had
already obtained from Rome the title of King. Now in 1219 Sava managed to obtain from
the Byzantines autocephaly for the Serb orthodox Christian church. In two years, the two
brothers had obtained all the attributes of a powerful State: a crown and an independent

1. Treaty (1219-1220) between Theodore of Nicaea and Jacopo or Giacomo Tiepolo, the
Venetian podestà (governor) at Constantinople, a symptom of the weakening power of
the Latin emperor since 1216. The parties agreed not to tax each other’s merchants.
Theodore is recognised as Emperor, Imperator Romeorum [sic] semper Augustus
(“emperor of the Romans, perpetual/always monarch/venerable”) and, interestingly,
Theodore had no difficulty in recognising the Doge of Venice as ‘lord (despotes) of
Romania’ and ‘ruler (dominator) of a quarter and half a quarter [=3/8] of Romania’
(Gardner 1912: 95; Vasiliev II p.512). Both titles were somewhat aspirational as Theodore
held less than a third of Asia Minor and the largest part of ‘Romania’ that Venice ruled
was Crete.

2. Aegean: d. Michael Choniates or ‘Acominatus’, c.1140-1220, the Romaic writer and

ecclesiastic, born at Chonae: the ancient Colossae, inland SW Asia Minor. He was a
Classical humanist whose sensitive appreciation of past literature is reflected in the easy
elegance of his letters.
At an early age he had studied at Constantinople, and about 1175 was appointed
archbishop and metropolitan of Athens. After the capture of Constantinople by the
Franks and the establishment of the Crusader ‘Latin empire’ (1204-05), he surrendered
the town to the Latins and retired to the island of Kos or Coos.
A versatile writer, he composed homilies, speeches and poems. With his
correspondence, these works throw considerable light upon the miserable condition of
Attica and Athens at the time. On Athens: “Everywhere you see walls stripped and
demolished, house razed to the ground, their sites ploughed under” (quoted by Andreas


Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, p.136). The famous Stoa Poikile (‘Painted Porch’, on the

north side of the Agora or open assembly ground below the Parthenon) had long been
turned into a sheep pasture: “Try your utmost”, he wrote, “you would not find a trace of
the Helaiai, the Peripatos, or the Lyceum; and sheep graze among the meagre relics of
the Stoa Poikile” (quoted in Athens News, 24.12.201o, online). Also of interest are his
memorial to Alexis III Angelus on the abuses of Imperial administration, a poetical
lament over the degeneracy (poverty) of Athens and the monodies on his brother Nicetas
and Eustathius, archbishop of Thessalonica.

3. (or 1221:) S. coast of Asia Minor: The Seljuqs take the port of Alaiyye: modern Alanya,
east of Antalya, from the Armenian baron Kyr Vart or Fard. It was to become a major
trading port inhabited by Westerners, especially Florentines, also Turks, Arabs, ‘Greeks’
(Byzantines) and Jews. Cf 1228.

Zenith of the Seljuq sultanate under ‘Ala al-Din Kay Kubad I. The Seljuks controlled
parts of both the southern and northern coasts of Asia Minor, cutting off all connection,
other than by sea, between Byzantium and the Levant.

The Meditterranean World in the early 1200s

After the map in McEvedy 1992: 77.

There were three great powers: [1] the Ayyubid Sultanate, from 1218 under Saladin’s
nephew al-Kamil, which covered the Levant from Libya to Syria (except for two* tiny
crusader enclaves on the coast: Acre and Antioch-Tripoli); [2] the Almohad Caliphate in
the Mahgreb and S Spain (Tunis to Córdoba [the latter was lost 1236 to the Christians]);
and [3] the Italo-German Hohenstaufen Empire of Frederick II, which in principle**
extended from Sicily to the North Sea. Northern Italy had by this time become the most
closely urbanised region west of India.

(*) Jerusalem was briefly restored to the Christians in 1229-44.

(**) Although ruled by an official (podestà) nominally subject to the Hohenstaufen

emperor, the N Italian towns had local jurisdiction over their territories, and the
freedom to elect their own councils and to enact their own legislation. The division
between two distinct "Guelph" and "Ghibelline" parties had become defined during
Frederick Barbarossa's reign (died 1190). Ghibellines were the imperial party,
while the Guelphs supported the Pope. Smaller towns tended to be Ghibelline if the
larger town nearby was Guelf, as with Guelf Florence vs Ghibelline Siena.

None of the three Greek states, with their seats at Arta, Nicaea and Trebizond, was very
strong. The Despotate of Epirus, capital at Arta, consisted of Epirus and our Albania. It
neighbours were Serbia, Bulgaria, the Latin “empire” of Constantinople (Greece, Thrace
and most of the Aegean), and the Venetians on Evvia (the Greek island of Euboea). The
Empire of Nicaea consisted of the NW third of Asia Minor, from Rhodes to Paphlagonia
(just west of Seljuk Sinope). Its neighbours were the Latins in N Bithynia, the Seljuks in
Anatolia, and the Venetians on Crete. Trebizond, finally, was a small enclave surrounded
by Seljuk territory, except in the NE, where it had a short border with Christian Georgia.

In 1261 the Greek Emperor will return to Constantinople; but that is another story … .



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