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8-08-2015, 00:06

Conclusion: the waning of imperial power in the balkans

At the death of Basil II, Byzantium was the most powerful polity in the easternMediterranean. Imperial advances in the Balkans, as in the east, had been consolidated by the construction of fortifications and imposition of garrisons, but stability was ensured by securing the allegiance of peripheral potentates, who lived in fear of imperial retribution should they err, and enjoyed the prestige and prizes of office when they remained loyal.123 As the eleventh century proceeded, troops were withdrawn from the periphery, and fear of retribution was allowed to dissipate.Moreover, a thirst for gold to service the state economy led bureaucrats in Constantinople to tax subject peoples too harshly, provoking rebellions by the Bulgarians. Authority was recovered, but on each occasion with greater difficulty. From the middle of the twelfth century the Balkan peoples, courted and threatened from both sides, were offered unprecedented choices. The Dalmatians welcomed the return of Byzantine patronage, which was lavish compared to that of the Venetians orHungarians, but the Serbs made overtures on various occasions to theHungarian and SicilianNorman kings and the German emperor, showing an informed preference for a more distant suzerain. Byzantine efforts to maintain authority in the Balkan periphery involved balancing a multitude of internal and external interests, forces and factors.Manuel I Komnenos’ policy became increasingly elaborate and expensive, and his agents roamed ever more widely. AfterManuel’s death in 1180, the empire was without an emperor able to maintain this delicate balance, and unwilling to commit substantial resources to the periphery. The empire endured a series of short reigns punctuated by rebellions. Increasingly, Balkan potentates saw no reason to tie their own interests to those of eastern emperors who were unable even to control their own kin. The Vlachs, Bulgarians and Serbs all rebelled and resisted attempts to restore Byzantine suzerainty. The titles and stipends offered by Constantinople, which had seduced all in the 1020s and 1030s, lacked magnetism in the 1180s and 1190s. After the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the emperor in Constantinople would never again enjoy political control across the Balkan peninsula.