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8-08-2015, 00:16


It was almost unthinkable that the ‘queen of cities’ should fall. It was in the words of Byzantine contemporaries a ‘cosmic cataclysm’. The Byzantine ruling class was disorientated and uprooted. The Constantinopolitan elite sought refuge where they could. Among the common people there was at first a sense of jubilation at their discomfiture: the proud had been humbled. Such was the demoralisation that at all levels of society submission to the conquering crusaders seemed a natural solution. Many leading Byzantines threw in their lot with the Latins. The logothete of the Drome Demetrios Tornikes continued to serve them in this capacity.He was the head of one of the great bureaucratic families which had dominated Constantinople before 1204. In the provinces leading families made deals with the conquerors. Theodore Branas governed the city of Adrianople – the key to Thrace – on behalf of the Venetians. Michael Angelos Doukas – a member of the Byzantine imperial house – took service with Boniface ofMontferrat, now ruler of Thessaloniki. The cooperation of the local archontes smoothed Geoffrey I of Villehardouin’s conquest of the Peloponnese. The crusaders elected a Latin emperor and created a Latin patriarch of Constantinople. There seemed every possibility that Byzantium would be refashioned in a Latin image. For exactly a year the Latins carried all before them. Then in April 1205 their success came abruptly to an end. They had alienated and underestimated the Bulgarians, who crushed them at the battle of Adrianople. Many of the crusade leaders were killed. The Latin emperor Baldwin of Flanders was led away into captivity, never again to be seen alive. This defeat revealed how insecure the Latins were in their newly conquered lands. It gave heart to the three Byzantine successor states that were emerging in exile. The most remote was centred on the city of Trebizond, where Alexios and David Komnenos, grandsons of the tyrant Andronikos I Komnenos (1183–5), established themselves early in 1204. David then pushed westwards to secure control of Paphlagonia, which had been held by his grandfather. This brought him into conflict with Theodore Laskaris, who was organising resistance to the Latins from Nicaea. Laskaris was the son-in-law and heir presumptive of Alexios III Angelos (1195–1203). He had escaped from Constantinople in September 1203, soon after his fatherin- law had abandoned the capital to the young Alexios Angelos and the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade. Laskaris secured control of the Bithynian cities in his father-in-law’s name. By the summer of 1205 it had become clear that Alexios III Angelos was a Latin prisoner. Theodore I Laskaris (1205–21) therefore had himself acclaimed emperor, the better to deal with his various rivals, of whomDavid Komnenos was the most dangerous.Meanwhile, the foundations of a third Byzantine successor state were being laid in Epiros behind the Pindos mountains byMichael I Angelos Doukas (1204–15) who had quickly abandoned his Latin allegiance. The Latin defeat at Adrianople allowed the Greeks to ponder the true meaning of the Latin conquest. The horror of the sack of Constantinople began to sink in. Sanctuaries were desecrated, nuns raped and boys of noble family sold into slavery among the Saracens. The atrocity stories that now started to circulate had only a single theme: the crusader sack of Constantinople was a calculated insult to orthodoxy. At the hospital of St Sampson the Latins turned the marble altar screen with its scenes from sacred history into a cover for the common latrine; at the shrine of the Archangel Michael at Anaplous a cardinal smeared the icons of saints with chalk and then threw icons and relics into the sea.1 But how were the sufferings of Constantinople to be avenged? The orthodox church was effectively without leadership. The patriarch John Kamateros does not cut an impressive figure. He had escaped from Constantinople to the relative security of the Thracian town of Didymoteichon, and had refused an invitation tomove toNicaea, where resistance to the Latins was strongest. When he died in June 1206, it was imperative that a new orthodox patriarch be elected. Otherwise, the patriarchate of Constantinople would pass by default to the Latins. The people and clergy of Constantinople hoped that Pope Innocent III would approve the election of a new orthodox patriarch. They cited the example of the crusader states, where the patriarchal sees of Antioch and Jerusalem had been divided between an orthodox and a Latin incumbent. This initiative appears to have been blocked by the Latin authorities in Constantinople.2 The orthodox clergy of Constantinople therefore turned to Theodore Laskaris at Nicaea. He gave his support to the election of a new orthodox patriarch of Constantinople. Michael IV Autoreianos (1208–14) was duly ordained patriarch at Nicaea on 20 March 1208. His first official act was to crown and anoint Laskaris emperor on Easter Day. Thus was a Byzantine empire re-created in exile in Nicaea.3