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8-08-2015, 00:30

Successes and conflicts (1282–1341) Political affairs

Despite these problems, the immediate heirs ofMichael VIII had some successes. This is a time of significant contradictions: between the ideology of government and actual government, between a progressive impoverishment of the state and the wealth in some segments of society, in the ambivalent relations between Byzantium and the west. Many of these contradictions exploded in the great civil war of 1341–54, which left Byzantium a greatly altered state in a changed world. Andronikos II and his successor, Andronikos III (1328–41), shifted once again the centre of their interest, from western Europe to Asia Minor and the Balkans. Yet they had to retain close diplomatic relations with western Europe, primarily to ward off an attack and secondarily to seek aid against the Turks. On the whole, there is a shrinkage of the areas of interest and involvement in terms of foreign policy. Here the major successes of Byzantine policy were with regard to the splinter states of Greece: Thessaly, which was acquired piecemeal in 1333, and Epiros, where the city of Ioannina accepted Byzantine overlordship in 1318, and the rest of the despotate in 1340. In the Peloponnese, the process of reconquest proceeded throughout this period; after 1349, the Byzantine possessions, organised as the despotate of the Morea, became one of the most vital parts of the state. Relations with western Europe were successful as far as the first objective is concerned: there was, in fact, no major expedition against the Byzantine empire. The reduced Byantine diplomatic activities centred around efforts to thwart any coalition of forces that might attack the empire; that is, to make alliances with Ghibelline forces.Matrimonial policy served this purpose, as Andronikos II took as his second wife Yolande-Irene of Montferrat, whose father was allied to Castile, and Andronikos III married Anne of Savoy, daughter of Count Amedeo V. For the rest, Andronikos III had even less close relations with the west than did his grandfather Andronikos II, although the penetration of individual westerners, of western customs and ofVenetians andGenoese into the empire continued apace. The second aim, an alliance against the Turks, was not successful, for it hinged upon the union of the churches, discussions on which took place under Andronikos II after 1324, Andronikos III and John VI Kantakouzenos (1347–54), but foundered upon the divergent interests of the papacy and the Byzantine emperors. The situation in AsiaMinor became the nemesis of the Byzantines. The area rapidly fell into the hands of the Turks, especially after the Byzantine defeat at the battle of Bapheus, near Nikomedeia (1302). Andronikos II made a number of efforts to remedy the situation, and for a short time, in 1294, the campaigns of the great general Alexios Philanthropenos raised hopes. But he was opposed by powerful landlords in the area, was pushed into an unsuccessful rebellion, and his successeswere short-lived. The countryside was rapidly brought under Turkish control, and one by one the cities were starved into submission. The Ottomans took Prousa in 1326, Nicaea in 1331 and Nikomedeia in 1337. Further south, Ephesos, Smyrna, Miletos, Sardis and Tralles (Aydin) fell to the Seljuq emirates in the first decade of the century. Philadelphia and its immediate region remained as the sole Byzantine possession, until 1390.7 Andronikos III waged several campaigns in Asia Minor, to no avail. More importantly, after 1329, Andronikos III and, later, John Kantakouzenos had close relations of friendship and alliance with the amir of Sarukhan and with Umur, amir of Aydin. Directed originally against the Genoese lords of Phokaia and Lesbos, this became a more general alliance, in the course of which the Byzantines recognised the Seljuq conquests in Asia Minor.