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8-08-2015, 00:21

The course of events

The Latin empire led a tumultuous life throughout the fifty-seven years of its existence, up to its collapse in 1261. The imperial and territorial claims of its neighbouring rulers, the Vlacho-Bulgarian kingdom and the two main Byzantine successor states founded after the fall of Constantinople (one in Epiros and the other in western Anatolia, the so-called empire of Nicaea), exposed the Latin empire to almost continuous warfare. War broke out shortly after its establishment. In alliance with Greek leaders in Thrace, the ruler of the Vlacho-Bulgarian kingdom, Kalojan (1197–1207), advanced deep into Latin territory and captured Emperor Baldwin in May 1205 (see also below, p. 784). Henry of Hainault (1206–16), Baldwin’s brother and successor, repulsed Kalojan’s attacks. After Baldwin’s death in 1206, Henry captured extensive territories to the north and succeeded in stabilising the Latin–Bulgarian borders and political relations for a few years. In Anatolia Henry faced Theodore I Laskaris (1205–21), the ruler of the Greek state centred on Nicaea: he managed to surmount his own shifting fortunes by decisively defeating Laskaris in October 1211. This resulted in the renewal of Latin rule in western Anatolia along the entire coastline stretching from Nikomedeia to Adramyttion (see also p. 737). The treaty signed between the two rulers, presumably in the following year, ensured peace between their states until 1224. Henry died in 1216, leaving an empire temporarily strengthened by his military and diplomatic skills, his conciliatory attitude toward his Greek subjects, and his use of Greek troops against his enemies. The fate of the Latin empire was closely linked to that of the kingdom of Thessaloniki. After the sudden death of Boniface of Montferrat in battle with the Bulgarians in 1207, Henry was forced to intervene against ‘Lombard’ rebels; they included the terzieri of Negroponte, who wished to see William VIII of Montferrat crowned king of Thessaloniki. In 1209 Henry secured the orderly succession of Boniface’s son andWilliam’s halfbrother, the youthfulDemetrios.Henry also compelled the lords ofNegroponte to submit to himself directly at Thebes, as he did with Geoffrey I of Villehardouin (c. 1209–25/31), lord of Frankish Achaia, at Ravennika. However, the Latin emperor Peter of Courtenay – crowned in Rome by Pope Honorius III (1216–27) – was compelled to transfer effective authority in the kingdom of Thessaloniki to William VIII of Montferrat in 1217. Theodore Angelos, who styled himself as Komnenos Doukas, was the forceful ruler of Epiros (1215–30) and emperor at Thessaloniki (1224– 30). He captured Peter on his way from Rome to Constantinople, taking advantage of the internal feuds in the Latin kingdom to penetrate into Macedonia and Thessaly and encircle the city of Thessaloniki, which he occupied in 1224. Two years later Theodore Angelos reached the walls of Constantinople, but Ivan II Asen (1218–41), king of the Vlachs and Bulgarians, prevented him from conquering the city which he coveted for himself. In 1230 Ivan Asen defeated Theodore Angelos and occupied large tracts of Epirot territories, as far afield as Albania. In the meantime, by 1225, the Nicaean forces of John III Vatatzes (1221–54) had reduced the Latin hold in western Anatolia to Nikomedeia and a strip of land opposite Constantinople. In 1233 the Latin emperor John of Brienne (1229–37) launched a short campaign in Anatolia, which failed to produce any lasting benefits. Two years later he faced a coalition of Vatatzes and Ivan Asen that endangered the very existence of the Latin empire, by then shrunken to the city of Constantinople itself. In 1246 Vatatzes wrested Thessaloniki from the Greek ruler of Epiros. His successor Theodore II Laskaris (1254– 8) was too preoccupied with warfare against neighbours in the Balkans to move against Constantinople, and gave the City some respite (see also above, pp. 748–9). The existence of the Latin empire was thus prolonged by temporary agreements and shifting alliances with its neighbours, and particularly by rivalries among the latter. In the long run, however, its ability to survive was seriously impaired by a chronic absence of adequate financial and military resources and the lack of a firm, permanent and general commitment from the west to assist it. Papal intervention on the empire’s behalf yielded only limited and temporary results: repeated ecclesiastical negotiations with its neighbours failed to achieve their submission to the church of Rome or to reduce their pressure on the empire. Neither papal pleas for help from western rulers, nor the proclamation of military expeditions to aid the Latin empire as crusades yielded meaningful, sustained support. The hard-pressed Baldwin II (1237–61) travelled extensively in the west, first in 1237–9 and again in 1243/4–8, in desperate attempts to enlist help. During his first absence the barons of the Latin empire mortgaged the Crown of Thorns, supposedly worn by Christ, as surety for the repayment of 13,134 hyperpyra: this sum had been provided by the Venetian Niccol`o Querini for the consolidation of a number of loans previously advanced to them. The precious relic was redeemed in 1238 by the king of France, Louis IX (1226–70), who placed it in the specially built Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. In 1248 Baldwin II owed 24,000 hyperpera to some Venetian merchants in Constantinople; later, in return for another loan, he mortgaged his only son Philip of Courtenay, who spent several years in Venice in the custody of the creditors. In 1260 Baldwin was compelled to strip lead from the roofs of Constantinople’s palaces to raise money for the empire’s defence. The western lay powers each pursued their own interests. Even Venice, despite having an economic stake in the Latin empire’s survival, sent naval help only intermittently. In 1260 Venice became aware of the acute danger to Latin rule over Constantinople, yet it was already too late. In the course of its existence the Latin empire was alsoweakened fromwithin by the growing willingness of its Greek subjects to turn to foreign rulers, particularly those of Epiros and Nicaea who appealed to their Greek identity, and even to assist invading armies. Eventually it wasMichael VIII Palaiologos (1258–82) who, after seizing the throne of Nicaea in 1258, reinstated Byzantine rule in the imperial capital three years later and put an end to the Latin empire. Baldwin II escaped to the west, where his efforts to obtain support for the recovery of his state came to nought.3

 

 

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