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History of the Byzantine empire
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Byzantium and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Charles of Anjou, and the Sicilian Vespers. — The attitude of Michael VIII towards the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies is the keystone to his external policy. In connection with this attitude were developing and shaping his relations with the Italian republics, Genoa and Venice, as well as with the papal curia. His relations with the Turks in the East also depended upon his western policy.
At the close of the twelfth century, the king of Germany, Henry VI Hohenstaufen, Frederick Barbarossa’s son, owing to his marriage with the Norman princess Constance, heiress to the Norman state in southern Italy and Sicily, gained control of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and inherited the stubborn enmity of the Normans for Byzantium and their aggressive plans. The union of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies with Germany lasted till 1250, when, at the death of Frederick II Hohenstaufen, his natural son Manfred became king of Sicily. The legitimate son of Frederick, Conrad, began to rule in Germany and reigned for a short time. Under the rule of Manfred, who took care not only of the material but also of the spiritual interests of his kingdom, Sicily enjoyed a period of peace. His court was the most brilliant of that time; foreign rulers esteemed him highly; and the last Latin Emperor Baldwin II, who had fled from Constantinople, appealed to him for help in regaining his lost throne. With regard to Byzantium, Manfred adopted the policy of his predecessors which must have seriously alarmed Michael VIII, especially from the point of view of possible Latin re-establishment at Constantinople. Baldwin II, deprived of his throne, appeared at Manfred’s court with definite plans and requests for help. Moreover, the podestá (the chief representative) of the Genoese who lived at Constantinople and possessed at that time exceptionally favorable trade conditions in Byzantium, entered into negotiations with Manfred. He proposed to him a plan for the sudden capture of Constantinople and the restoration of Latin dominion there. Informed of this, the infuriated Michael VIII sent the Genoese away from the capital and opened negotiations with Venice, the result of which was a new treaty with the Republic of St. Mark restoring and confirming the previous privileges of the Venetians, and binding them, along with the Greeks, to fight against the Genoese if they opened hostilities against the Empire.
But Manfred had no time to take actual steps against Byzantium; he fell a victim to papal intrigue. The pope, seeing that after the death of Frederick II, the irreconcilable enemy of the papacy, the strength of the Hohenstaufens was weakened, determined to deal a death blow to the hated dynasty by destroying Manfred. Charles of Anjou, brother of the king of France, Louis IX (St. Louis), became the executor of the papal plans. In inviting Charles to take the Kingdom of Sicily, the pope had in view not only the destruction of the Hohenstaufens, but also the help which Charles would furnish for the restoration of the Latin Empire in the East. At least, in 1265, Pope Clement IV expressed the hope that with the aid of Charles “the position of the Roman Empire would be restored” (imperii Romani status reformabitur). Accepting the pope’s proposal to interfere in south-Italian affairs, Charles of Anjou opened the era of French expeditions to Italy—an era very destructive to the essential interests and needs of France which, for several centuries, was to spend her energy and means on Italy, instead of turning her forces and attention to her nearest neighbors, for example, to the Netherlands and the Rhinelands.
Few prominent figures of history have been portrayed by historians so darkly as Charles of Anjou, and perhaps they have not been quite just. Recent works on Charles have put aside forever the legend which made him a real tyrant, “covetous, cunning, and wicked, always ready to drown in blood the smallest resistance.” In their appeals to Charles the popes seem not to have taken into consideration the distinctive features of his character which entirely precluded the possibility of his becoming a mere tool in the hands of another. He was a well-trained, energetic, at times severe, even cruel, ruler, but not without cheerfulness, a love of tournaments, and an interest in poetry, art, and science; above all he was unwilling to become a puppet in the hands of the pope who had invited him to Italy.
On his coming to Italy with an army, Charles crushed Manfred at Beneventum in 1266. With Manfred’s death, Sicily and Naples came under French sway. Charles of Anjou became the new king of the Two Sicilies. The French began to leave their country in masses and emigrate into Charles’ new dominions, where general conditions were excellent.
Shortly after, Charles’ attitude toward Byzantium was clearly shown. With the consent and in the presence of the pope, at Viterbo, a small Italian city north of Rome, he made a treaty with the expelled Latin Emperor, Baldwin II, in which the latter transmitted to Charles his right to the supreme power over all Frankish dominions in the former Latin Empire, reserving to himself only Constantinople and several islands in the Archipelago, which Charles was to help him reconquer from the Greeks. The Norman claims to Byzantium thus revived again in full measure under the French sway in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Realizing fully the approaching danger, Michael VIII had recourse to skillful diplomacy. On the one hand, by means of negotiations with the pope concerning the union between the eastern and western churches, Michael diverted him from close co-operation with Charles, and made him wish for a conciliatory policy regarding Byzantium. On the other hand, Michael decided to make peace with the Genoese who, as has been mentioned above, had established relations with Manfred of Sicily, planned to hand Constantinople over to the Latins, and thereupon had been expelled from the capital. The Genoese were allowed to return to Constantinople, where some quarters were allotted to them not in the city itself, but in its suburb of Galata, across the Golden Horn. This distance did not prevent the Genoese from regaining all their former trade privileges, expanding their commercial activity, and forcing the Venetians, their rivals, into the background. A Genoese of the family of Zaccana, for example, who obtained from the Emperor the right to work and exploit rich deposits of alum in the mountains of Asia Minor, near the city of Phocaea (in Italian, Fogia, Foglia) at the entrance into the Gulf of Smyrna, made a colossal fortune. Finally, all over the Byzantine East, under the Palaeologi, Genoa took the place of Venice.
Meanwhile, Charles of Anjou seized the island of Corfu, which was the first step in carrying out his plan of invading Byzantium. Michael VIII, hoping to be more successful in his conciliatory policy towards the pope and to imitate the aggressive policy of Charles of Anjou, appealed to the latter’s brother, the king of France, Louis IX, who was the most pious, just, and esteemed ruler of that time. Shortly before Michael’s appeal to him, England had begged him to be arbiter and to settle some complicated problems of her internal life. Circumstances tended to involve Louis also in the history of Byzantium. Michael sent Louis IX a manuscript of the New Testament adorned with miniatures. When at the close of the seventh decade the Byzantine envoys arrived in France “in view of the reunion of the Greek and Roman churches,” Michael proposed to the king of France that he should “settle as an arbiter the conditions of the union of the two churches, and assured him in advance of his full concurrence.”
At the outset, Louis IX disapproved of the decision of his brother Charles to conquer southern Italy and only later does he seem to have become reconciled to the fait accompli, probably because he was persuaded of its utility for a future crusade. Moreover, Charles’ plan of conquering Byzantium also met with Louis’ serious objection, because, if the main forces of Charles were diverted to Constantinople, they would be unable to take an adequate part in the crusade to the Holy Land, an idea which strongly influenced Louis. Besides, Michael’s decision, with which Louis had been acquainted through the embassy, to beg him to be arbiter in the problem of the church union, and the Emperor’s promise to submit entirely to his decision, inclined the king of France, a zealous Catholic, to the side of the Byzantine Emperor.
It could hardly be expected that pressure from Louis would really persuade his warlike brother to give up his aggressive plans against the Empire. But Charles was somewhat delayed in his hostilities against Byzantium by Louis’ second crusade to Tunis, which encroached upon the policy of Charles in the West. The question of Charles’ attitude as to the origin of this crusade, is one on which scholars’ opinions vary. The sudden death of Louis in Tunis in 1270 destroyed Michael’s hopes of his co-operation. The Byzantine, envoys, who had arrived in Tunis for negotiations a short time before Louis’ death, went back, said a Greek source, “with hands empty of promises.” Charles made his appearance in Tunis and after two brilliant victories compelled the emir of Tunis to make peace on his terms, that the emir should indemnify Charles for his military expenses and pay him an annual tribute. Charles then decided to carry out his plan of invading Byzantium. But on his way back from Tunis a terrible storm destroyed a major part of his fleet, so that, at least for a time, he was unable to undertake the offensive against Byzantium on such a large scale as he had planned.
At the beginning of the seventies, however, Charles was able to send a considerable number of auxiliaries to the Peloponnesus, into Achata, where they fought successfully against the imperial troops. At the same time Charles succeeded in establishing himself in the Balkan peninsula. He seized several fortified places, the most important of which was Dyrrachium (Durazzo, Drač), on the east coast of the Ionian Sea; the Albanian mountaineers became Charles’ subjects, and the Despot of Epirus took the oath to him. Accordingly, the king of the Two Sicilies began to style himself the king of Albania (regnum Albaniae).
In a document he names himself “by the Grace of God the King of Sicily and Albania” (Dei gratia rex Sicilie et Albanie). In a letter Charles writes that the Albanians “elected us and our heirs kings and perpetual masters of the said kingdom” (nos et heredes nostros elegerunt in reges et dominos perpetuos dicti Regni). An Italian historian of the twentieth century remarks: “When Charles’ work is better studied and known, he will appear in his true light, as a dim precursor of the political and civil autonomy of the Albanian people that, even at the beginning of the twentieth century, seems a dream and a vague and indetermined aspiration.” But Charles was not satisfied. He addressed the Serbs and Bulgars and found in them zealous allies. The envoys of “imperatons Vulgarorum et regts Servie” appeared at his court. The southern Slavs began to crowd into his service and to emigrate into his Italian dominions. A Russian scholar, who was well acquainted with the Italian archives and from them drew a great deal of information on the Slavs, V. Makushev, wrote that, in spite of the incomplete and laconic material, “one may form an idea of the course of the Slavonic settlements in southern Italy and of the great number of Slavs pouring from all quarters of the south-Slavonic world into the service of the Angevins … The Slavonic settlements in southern Italy, from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, are constantly increasing: new ones are being founded, the old ones are growing.” In a document of 1323 at Naples is mentioned “a quarter called Bulgarian” (vicus qui vocatur Bulgarus). The Serbian and Bulgarian envoys arrived in Naples for negotiations. Obviously serious danger threatened Byzantium from the Slavo-French allies. Moreover, Venice, which occupied a most important place in the political, economic, and commercial life of Charles’ realm, was also on a friendly footing with him and for the time being supported his imperialistic policy in the East. In addition, the last Emperor of Nicaea, John IV Lascaris, deposed and blinded by Michael VIII, escaped from his Byzantine prison and, at Charles’ invitation, appeared at his court.
Thus, around Charles of Anjou gradually assembled all those who were dissatisfied with and offended by the Byzantine Emperor; the Serbs and Bulgars, Baldwin II and John IV Lascaris, even cautious Venice, became tools in the hands of the ambitious and skillful king. The marriage between Baldwin’s son and Charles’ daughter gave Baldwin the hope, with the aid of his new relative, of restoring the Latin Empire. Such was the general international situation in Italy and the Balkan peninsula, which must have roused extreme fear in Michael VIII for Constantinople and his throne.
But the skillful politician Charles faced in Michael VIII a politician no less skillful, who concentrated his chief attention upon the papal curia, to which he promised the union of the churches. Pope Gregory X willingly inclined to the desire of the Emperor, not only from fear of the increasing power of Charles, which could not but alarm him, but because of his sincere desire to establish ecclesiastical peace and unity and to further the liberation of Jerusalem. In his peaceful policy of coming to an understanding with the eastern church Gregory X undoubtedly met many obstacles from Charles, who was planning the forcible subjugation of the Emperor. But the pope succeeded in persuading Charles to postpone for a year the expedition against Byzantium already decided on, and within that time he accomplished the union with the eastern church.
The envoys of Michael Palaeologus to the council, which was to be held in the French city of Lyons, passed safely through the dominions of Charles, who provided them with special safe conducts and provisions. At Lyons in 1274, the union was achieved between the pope and the representatives of Michael VIII. According to newly studied Vatican documents, this union led at once to negotiations between Gregory X and Michael VIII concerning a new anti-Turkish league. A cardinal of high rank went to Constantinople in the depth of winter. The date and place for a personal conference of the pope and the Emperor were immediately fixed: the two venerable personages were to meet on Easter Monday, 1276, at Brindisi or at Valona. But at the very beginning of that year, on January 6, the pope suddenly died, and the project came to nothing. Michael, however, felt that the union gave him the right to hope for papal support in his plans to reconquer the regions of the Balkan peninsula, which had formerly been under the power of the Empire. Accordingly he opened hostilities against the troops of Charles and his allies and met with great success, because Charles was at the time diverted by some difficulties with Genoa.
But after some friction with the pope, evoked by the union of Lyons, Charles succeeded in seating upon the papal throne one of his best friends, a Frenchman, Martin IV, who supported entirely the policy of the Sicilian king and broke the union with Michael. Then in 1281 a treaty was concluded between Charles, the titulary Latin Emperor, and Venice “for the recovery of the Empire of Romania which is under the sway of the Palaeologus” (ad recuperationem ejusdem Imperii Romaniae, quod detinetur per Paleologum). Avast coalition formed against Byzantium: the troops of the Latin possessions on the former territory of the Byzantine Empire, the troops of Italy and of Charles’ native France, the Venetian fleet, the papal forces, and the armies of the Serbs and Bulgars. The Byzantine Empire seemed to be on the brink of ruin, and Charles of Anjou, the “forerunner of Napoleon in the thirteenth century,” had world power in his grasp. A Greek author of the fourteenth century, Gregoras, wrote that Charles “was dreaming, if he took possession of Constantinople, of the whole monarchy of Julius Caesar and Augustus.” Sanudo, a western chronicler of the same time, said that Charles “was aspiring to world monarchy” (asperava alla monarchia del mondo). It was the most critical moment in Michael’s external policy. In 1281 Michael VIII opened negotiations with the Egyptian Sultan Qala’un concerning the military alliance “against the common enemy,” to wit against Charles of Anjou.[56a]
Deliverance to Byzantium came suddenly from the West, from Sicily, where on March 31, 1282 a revolt against French domination burst out; it spread rapidly all over the island and has become known in history as the Sicilian Vespers. Michael VIII had some part in this rebellion, The Sicilian Vespers, one of the most important events in the early history of the political unification of Italy, always brings to mind a work of the famous Italian historian and patriot, Michele Amari, The War of the Sicilian Vespers. This book, written at the beginning of the fifth decade of the nineteenth century, has been edited many times and has formed the basis for scientific study of this problem. Of course, in Amari’s lifetime many of the sources were inaccessible, and Amari himself, gradually becoming acquainted with new discoveries in the field, made changes and corrections in the later editions of his book. A new stimulus to the study of this problem was given by the celebration in Sicily, in 1882, of the six hundredth anniversary of the Sicilian Vespers, when a great number of new publications appeared. An enormous mass of fresh and important documents has already been published, and more are still being published from the Angevin archive at Naples and the Vatican at Rome, as well as from the Spanish archives. The Sicilian Vespers, which at first sight seems to be an event of western European history, has its part also in the history of Byzantium.
Before Amari’s work came out, it was usually thought that the chief creator and leader of the Sicilian revolution of 1282 was a Sicilian exile, Giovanni Procida (Prochida, Prochyta) who, motivated by personal revenge, entered into negotiations with Peter of Aragon, the Byzantine Emperor, Michael VIII, the representatives of the Sicilian nobility, and others; that he won all of them over to his side and thus raised the revolt. The great humanist of the fourteenth century, Petrarca, regarded Procida as the chief mover of the revolution. But on investigation of the sources Amari showed that this account is a legendary development of historical fact, which, among the causes of the Sicilian revolution, has only secondary significance.
The Sicilian people felt bitter anger against the severe French domination. The arrogant attitude of the French to the subject population and the terrible taxes which were levied, especially in connection with Charles’ expensive and difficult expedition against Byzantium, were the chief causes of the revolt of March 31. The two best politicians of that time, exclusive of Charles, Michael VIII and Peter of Aragon, skillfully used the discontent of the Sicilian population. Peter, related to the former king of Sicily, Manfred, the natural son of Frederick II Hohenstaufen, could not become reconciled to the excessive power of Charles, and felt he was within his rights in taking possession of Sicily. Michael VIII made use of Peter’s ambition, and promised him a subsidy if he opened hostilities against Charles. In Italy the imperial party, the Ghibellines, and a portion of the Sicilian nobility sided with Peter. Giovanni Procida was an intermediary in all these negotiations, but no more than that.
The revolt was crowned with success. Upon the invitation of the Sicilians, in August of the same year, Peter of Aragon landed on the island and was crowned with Manfred’s crown at Palermo. The attempts of Charles, who had returned from the East where hostilities against Byzantium were going on, to reconquer Sicily and to expel Peter of Aragon were unsuccessful. Charles was forced to give up his plans against the Empire of Michael VIII. Thereafter Charles was king only of southern Italy. The importance to Byzantium of the Sicilian Vespers, which deprived Charles of Sicily and saved the Eastern Empire from fatal danger, is obvious. In addition, the events connected with the revolution of 1282 laid the foundation for friendly relations between the Byzantine emperors and the kings of Aragon. Since Michael had supported Peter of Aragon with subsidies, he accordingly took part in the settlement of the Sicilian problem. In his autobiography Michael VIII, speaking of Charles’ expedition against his Empire, remarked, “The Sicilians disdaining the rest of Charles’ force as despicable, dared to raise arms and free themselves from slavery; therefore, if I said that God who granted freedom to them, granted it through us, I should tell the truth.”
The Sicilian Vespers greatly affected the position of Pope Martin IV. It was not only an unheard-of innovation that, as the historian Ranke wrote, “the people, despite the commands of Rome, had dared to set a king over themselves,” but the events of 1282 undermined the foundations of the Byzantine policy of this pope, who had broken with the Union of Lyons, sided wholly with the eastern plans of Charles of Anjou, and hoped for the Latin occupation of Constantinople. The Sicilian Vespers made that impossible, for it dismembered and weakened the south-Italian kingdom of Charles which hitherto had been the chief basis for the western aggressive policy against Byzantium.
The revolution of 1282 had a repercussion on the policy of Venice who, a year before, had bound herself by an alliance with Charles against Byzantium. Learning of the rising in Sicily and foreseeing the fall of Charles’ power and the defeat of his eastern plans, the Republic of St. Mark rapidly changed her policy; realizing that Charles could be of no more use to her, she broke with him, formed closer relations with Byzantium, and three years later concluded a treaty of friendship with Michael’s successor, Andronicus the Elder. Moreover, Venice also established relations with Peter of Aragon.
Thus the international relations of the times and the discontent of Sicily, of which Michael VIII took advantage, saved Byzantium from the fatal danger that menaced her from the powerful Charles of Anjou.
Eastern policy of Michael VIII. — The Emperors of Nicaea and, after the restoration of Constantinople, Michael VIII, turned their main forces to the West for the recovery of the Balkan peninsula, and to the exhausting struggle with Charles of Anjou, which practically decided the destiny of the restored Empire. The eastern border was somewhat neglected, and the Byzantine government seems sometimes to have forgotten the threatening danger there. A Byzantine historian of the fifteenth century, George Phrantzes, wrote: “Under Michael Palaeologus, because of the wars in Europe against the Italians, the Roman Empire has been exposed to dangers in Asia from the Turks.” Of course, the Turkish danger to Byzantium had begun much earlier; but this observation of the historian well emphasizes a distinct feature of the eastern policy under Michael VIII. It was fortunate for the Empire that in the thirteenth century the Turks themselves were living through a troubled epoch owing to the military successes of the Mongols.
In the thirties and forties of the thirteenth century the threatening danger of the Mongol invasion appeared from the East. The Seljuq Sultanate of Rum or Iconium, bordering on the eastern part of the Empire of Nicaea, had been defeated by the Mongols. In the second half of the thirteenth century, at the time of Michael VIII, the last Seljucids were the mere deputies of the Mongols of Persia, whose dominions extended from India to the Mediterranean, and at whose head stood Hulagu, acknowledging the khan of the eastern Mongols as his overlord. In 1258 Hulagu took Bagdad, where the last Abbasid caliph suffered a violent death. After that he invaded and devastated Syria, Mesopotamia, and the surrounding lands, and meditated a march on Jerusalem and then probably a campaign against Egypt. But the news of the death of the Mongol Great Khan Mangu forced him to give up his aggressive plans in the south. The Mongol dynasty established in Persia was, in the last decades of the thirteenth century, an ally of the Christians against the Muhammedans. As a recent historian said, “Hulagu led the Nestorian [i.e., Christian] Turks of Central Asia on a real Yellow Crusade (Croisade Jaune) against Islam.” Finally, in 1260, the Mongol army was crushed by the Egyptian Mamluks, at Ain-Jalut. Another very powerful Mongol state was at that time established in the north, in Russia. This was the Golden or Kipchak Horde with its capital at Sarai, on the lower Volga. Realizing the great importance of this new Mongol factor in the international life of his epoch, Michael Palaeologus tried to make use of it several times in his external policy.
In this connection it is important to remember that the Mamluk (Mameluke) dynasty established in Egypt in 1250 was united ethnographically with south Russia. The word Mamluk means “owned,” “belonging to,” “slave,” and the Mamluks in Egypt were originally the bodyguard of Turkish slaves first formed there under the successors of Saladin; in 1260 these “slaves” seized the throne, and they reigned over Egypt from 1260 to 1517, when Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. From the third decade of the thirteenth century on, the chief contingent of the Mamluk bodyguard consisted of the Turkish tribe of Cumans (Polovtzi) from southern Russia, who had fled before the Mongol invasion or had been taken captives and sold into slavery. A Byzantine historian says that the Mamluks were drawn from “the European Scythians dwelling near the Maeotis (the Sea of Azov) and the river of Tanais (Don).”
Thus, owing to the Cuman origin of many Mamluks, they were interested in maintaining and developing relations with their compatriots of south Russia, where, even after the Mongol conquest, a considerable number of Cumans (Polovtzi) were left. Besides, the khan of the Golden (Kipchak) Horde had embraced Islam, and the sultan of Egypt, Mameluk Beybars, was also a Muslim, while Hulagu was a Shamanist, i.e., a pagan, and an enemy of Islam. Deadly rivalry, not only political but also religious, existed between Hulagu and Berke (Bereke), khan of the Golden Horde.
The land route between the Mamluks and Kipchaks was blocked by the dominions of Hulagu. Communication by sea between Egypt and south Russia was possible only through the Hellespont, Bosphorus, and Black Sea; but both straits were in the power of the Byzantine Emperor, so that the Mamluks needed special permission from Michael Palaeologus to use them. Accordingly the sultan of Egypt, “willing to be a friend of the Romans and to have permission for the Egyptian merchants to sail through our straits [the Hellespont and Bosphorus] once a year,” sent his envoys to Michael Palaeologus. The difficulty was that at that time Michael was on friendly terms with Hulagu, head of the Mongols in Persia; therefore the Egyptian ambassadors were from time to time retained at Constantinople. In 1265 the Kipchak Khan Berke declared war against Michael, and in this war the Bulgarian Tsar Constantine Tech (Tich) took part on the side of the Mongols, under Berke’s general Nogai. The Mongols (Tartars) and Bulgarians vanquished the Byzantine troops. After this defeat Michael was forced to abandon Hulagu and to join the Kipchak-Egyptian combination. To win over the powerful Nogai Michael gave him his illegitimate daughter to wife, and in the following war with the Bulgarian king, Constantine Tech, Michael was so actively supported by his son-in-law that the Bulgarian king was forced to stop hostilities. Diplomatic relations between the Golden Horde, Egypt, and Byzantium existed during Michael’s whole reign. The friendly relations between Michael Palaeologus towards the end of his reign and the sultan of Egypt, Mamluk Qala’un (1279-90) are very interesting. A common danger urged both monarchs to come to an agreement, for the ambitious plans of Charles of Anjou menaced both empires. These relations were apparently to lead to the conclusion of a formal treaty of friendship and commerce, which according to the French scholar M. Canard was actually concluded in 1281 but according to the German scholar F. Dölger did not go beyond the stage of diplomatic negotiations. The fall of Charles of Anjou and the Sicilian Vespers entirely altered the situation both in the West and in the East.
In Asia Minor Michael Palaeologus was not particularly menaced. Although he had broken with Hulagu, the Persian Mongols were too much preoccupied with their internal troubles to take any decisive steps against Byzantium. As for the sultanate of Rum, it was a mere dependency of the Mongol Empire. Still, separate Turkish bodies of troops, sometimes real predatory bands, regardless of any treaties formerly concluded between the emperors and sultans, ceaselessly invaded the Byzantine territory, and penetrated into the interior of the country, sacking cities, hamlets, and monasteries, and murdering and taking captive the people.
Beginning with the time of the Arabian power, Byzantium had established on the eastern border of Asia Minor a line of fortified places, especially in the mountain passes (clisurae), and, besides the regular troops, had organized a peculiar sort of defenders of the outermost borders of the Empire, called akritai. Gradually, along with the advance of the Turks toward the west, the border line with its defenders, akritai, was also being pushed back to the west, so that in the thirteenth century they were concentrated chiefly in the mountains of the Bithynian Olympus, that is to say, in the northwestern corner of Asia Minor. In the epoch of Nicaea these border settlers, provided with land, exempted from taxes and contributions, and enjoying great wealth, had had only to render military service and to defend the border from enemies, and, as far as one may judge from the sources, they had defended it courageously and energetically. But after the capital was transferred from Nicaea to Constantinople, the akritai ceased to receive the support formerly given by the government, which, in its new center, felt itself less dependent upon the eastern border. Moreover Michael Palaeologus, attempting financial reform, took an official census of the wealth of the akritai and confiscated to the treasury the greater part of their land, from which they drew their incomes. This measure undermined the economic prosperity of the Bithynian akritai, on which their military readiness depended, and who were “the nerves of war,” and left the eastern border of the Empire almost defenseless. The government quelled the revolt raised by the akritai and refrained from exterminating them completely only from fear of opening the way to the Turks. Influenced by the Russian scholar, V. I. Lamansky, several other scholars have considered the Bithynian akritai Slavs.” But more probably they were representatives of various peoples among whom may have been the descendants of the Slavs who had long ago settled in Bithynia. The external policy of Michael VIII, so strongly influenced by the imperialistic policy of Charles of Anjou, had a bad effect upon the eastern border.
The results of Michael’s enforced eastern policy were felt when the Turks, after a period of troubles and disintegration, were unified and strengthened by the Ottoman Turks; they were to deal the final blow to Byzantium and destroy the eastern Christian Empire.