continued from (30/06/09)

Then followed a scene of massacre and pillage: on every hand the Greeks were cut down, their horses, palfreys, mules, and other possessions snatched as booty. So great was the number of killed and wounded that no man could count them. A great part of the Greek nobles had fled towards the gate of Blachernae; but by this time it was past six o’clock, and our men had grown weary of fighting and slaughtering. The troops began to assemble in a great square inside Constantinople. Then, convinced that it would take them at least a month to subdue the whole city, with its great churches and palaces, and the people inside it, they decided to settle down near the walls and towers they had already captured….

Our troops, all utterly worn out and weary, rested quietly that night. But the Emperor [Alexius V] Murzuphlus did not rest; instead, he assembled his forces and said he was going to attack the Franks. However, he did not do as he had announced, but rode along certain streets as far away as possible from those occupied by our army, till he came to a gate called the Golden Gate through which he escaped, and so left the city.

Geoffroy de Villehardouin (d.1218), "The Conquest of Constantinople," Chronicles of the Crusades, Penguin, 1963, p.91

The "Fourth Empire" begins with a blow, from an Islâm reinvigorated by the Turks, which represents not only a further diminution of the Empire, but a portent of the actual collapse and end of the Empire altogether. The catastrophic defeat at Manzikert alienated much of what had for long been the heartland of the Empire, Anatolia. It was a mortal wound, never to be made good; but the Empire nevertheless twice managed to struggle back up into at least local ascendancy, first under the Comneni and then under the Palaeologi. The Comneni had help, of a very dangerous sort, in the form of the Crusaders. Defeat by the Turks was not the cruelest cut of the period. That was when the Crusaders, manipulated by Venice, took Constantinople in 1204. With the Latins, the Empire fragmented into multiple Greek and non-Greek contenders:  Nicaea, Epirus, Trebizond, Bulgaria, and Serbia, not to mention the Turks. While the Palaeologi, building on the success of Nicaea, reestablished Greek rule, only Epirus of the other successor states came back under Imperial control. The Empire of Michael VIII did seem to have a chance, but a new Turkish state, of the Ottomans, soon surged into dominance. It took more than a century for the Ottomans to scoop up all the spoils, but, like a slow motion car crash, the outcome has a horrible inevitability.

A. THE ADVENT OF THE TURKS, 1059-1185, 126 years

1060 AD — Romanian territory is intact, but the military and financial foundations of Roman power have been undermined. The coinage is debased for the first time since Constantine. Resources have been wasted absorbing Armenia, and the forces of the Armenian themes have been disbanded. Local Islamic states are no threat, but the Seljuks are on the way.





Era of Diocletian 776-1170, 394 years

The Ducases had the misfortune of suffering the most catastrophic defeat of Roman arms since the Arabs won Palestine and Syria at Yarmuk in 636:  The defeat by the Seljuk Turks at Manzikert in 1071, a battle lost more to treachery than to military superiority. And Romanus IV Diogenes became the only Roman Emperor besides Valerian to be captured in battle by an external enemy. What had hitherto been the heartland of Romania in Anatolia, now became a bleeding wound to Turkish conquest, never to be recovered. Simultaneously, the Normans won, for all time, the last Roman city in Italy. The Ducas genealogy is given below with the Comneni. They were the first Roman dynasty with a surname, which shows some of the social changes that took place during the long period of the Macedonians.

By about the time of Manzikert, there were interesting new recruits to the Varangian Guard. Where Harald Hårdråde had failed to conquer England in 1066, William the Conquerer, within days of the Norwegian defeat, would succeed at Hastings. The Norman Conquest spelled the dispossession of the native Saxon nobility, who then began to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Many of them consequently were drawn to the Varangian Guard. Having lost England to Normans/Vikings, Englishmen served the Empire that had withstood them. They would continue to do so for more than three centuries — the first reference to Englishmen in the service of Romania was in 1088, the last in 1404 — 316 years. According to Geoffroy de Villehardouin, there were still "Englishmen and Danes" defending Constantinople when the Fourth Crusade arrived in 1203. After the Greek recovery of the City by the Palaeologi in 1261, we have some indication that the surviving Varangian Guard may have been entirely English. In 1272 Michael VIII Palaeologus wrote a letter to Henry III of England concerning the Englishmen in his service, now called the Egklinovaraggoi (Enklinobarangi in Latin). Like the Norsemen, the English Varangians seem to have had their own church in Constantinople, dedicated to Saints Nicholas and Augustine of Canterbury (the Apostle to the English). Under subsequent Palaeologi, however, they fade from history.

Before the English Varangians, relations of their Norman conquerers had themselves briefly served the Emperor Michael IV. Two of the original de Hauteville brothers from Normandy were in a group of 300 Normans under George Maniaces in Italy in 1037-1038. The eldest de Hauteville brother, William, earns his sobriquet "Iron Arm" by defeating the Amir of Syracuse in single combat in 1037. The disaffection and revolt of the Normans would then drive Romania out of Italy by 1071, spelling the final alienation of Italy, retrieved by Belisarius in 536, from Constantinople (after 535 years) — but then it also led to the recovery of Sicily from Islam (1061-1091), specifically the Zirid Amirs of Tunisia and the reunion of all Southern Italy into one Kingdom (1130). This brought the South of Italy into the history of Francia for the first time — in the 13th century, under the German Emperor Frederick II, it could even be said to briefly be the center of that history, as Frederick made Palermo his capital.

Catastrophe. The heartland of the Empire in Anatolia is completely overrun. Italy is lost to the Normans, forever. Only the Balkan European possessions, secured not long before, enable Romania to endure and recover, somewhat — with the dangerous help of the Crusaders. Armenians, recently settled in Cilicia, are surrounded, although this will be the origin of the Kingdom of Lesser Armenia that will endure until 1375. The triumphant Normans meanwhile have invaded Sicily, which they will permanently recover from Islam.




Constantine X Ducas

Loss of Armenia, 1064


Romanus IV Diogenes

Defeated and Captured by Seljuk Great Sult.ân Alp Arslan, Battle of Manzikert; Bari captured by Normans, 1071

Michael VII Parapinakes

Nicephorus III Botaniates

The first Turkish and Moslem state in Anatolia ironically began against the wishes, virtually in rebellion against, the Seljuk Great Sult.ân Malik Shâh (1073-1092), who was even negotiating with Alexius Comnenus for the withdrawal of the Turks from the region. However, even the Seljuks were in no position to force such a withdrawal, and Roman resistance was so weak that Süleyman had no difficulty establishing his capital at Nicaea. The best that Alexius could do was to keep him back from Nicomedia. Meanwhile, even western cities like Ephesus were falling. The Turkish position was secure until defeat by the First Crusade in 1097. Then Alexius was able to recover the western cities. The Turks fell back on Iconium (Konya), which became their capital for the rest of the history of the Sultanate of Rûm. Although sacked by Frederick Barbarosa on the Third Crusade (1190), Konya was lost forever to Romania. The Sultanate already, however, seemed to have lost its edge. The devastating defeat of Manuel Comnenus at Myriocephalum (1176) was not followed up, and the subsequent decline of Romania was mainly from internal weakening and fragmentation (readying it for the Fourth Crusade). The Sultanate was then defeated by the Mongols in 1243 and spent the rest of its history in vassalage. The final fall, in 1307, coincided with a very fragmented, but vigorous, period of new Turkish states — the Oghullar or "sons" of Rûm.

The Oghullar of Rûm

Aydïn Oghullarï
Sarukhân Oghullarï
Menteshe Oghullarï
Germiyân Oghullarï
H.amîd Oghullarï
Tekke Oghullarï
Jândâr Oghullarï
Qaramân Oghullarï
Eretna Oghullarï
Dulghadïr Oghullarï
Osmanli Oghullarï

Part of his vigor may have resulted from an influx of refugees from the Mongols. The Beys of Aydïn captured Ephesus in 1304, but the most serious portent for the future was the capture of Prusa (Bursa) in 1326 by the Ottomans. This quickly spelled the end of Romania in Asia, and by 1354 the Ottomans had a foothold in Europe. Only Tamerlane delayed the ultimate Ottoman conquest.

This list is from Clifford Edmund Bosworth’s The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996].


Süleyman I ibn Qutalmïsh

Kilij (Qïlïch) Arslan I

Malik Shâh

Mas’ûd I Rukn ad-Dîn

Kilij Arlsan II

Myriocephalon, 1176; Konya sacked by Frederick Barbarossa on the Third Crusade, 1190

Kay Khusraw (Khosru) I

killed in battle by Theodore Lascaris, 1211

Süleyman II

Kilij Arlsan III ‘Izz ad-Dîn

Kay Kâwûs I

Kay Qubâdh I ‘Alâ’ ad-Dîn

Kay Khusraw II Ghiyâth ad-Dîn

Defeated by Mongols, Battle of Köse Dagh, becomes vassal, 1243

Kay Kâwûs II

Kilij Arslan IV

Kay Qûbâdh II

Kay Khosru III Ghiyâth ad-Dîn

Control by Mongol Governors, 1277

Mas’ûd II

Kay Qûbâdh III
1284, 1293-1294,

Mas’ûd III

Deposed by Mongols, 1307

The Empire has recovered as much as it is ever going to, and actually seems in relatively good shape, with deference all the way from Jerusalem to Hungary. But the Sultânate of Rûm is a nut that cannot be cracked — the true seed of doom for Romania. And Roman trade and shipping is now dominated by Venice.





Anna Comnena (d.1153), daughter of Alexius I, wrote a history of her father’s reign, the Alexiad. Most of it was written after she was banished to a convent by her brother, John II, whom she apparently had tried to assassinate. This particularly intense form of sibling rivalry was in part the result of Anna’s expectation that she would be closer to the seat of power, i.e. that the Emperor would be her husband. The birth of John spoiled this, and Anna, perhaps a feminist before her time, never accepted the wisdom of his succession. She blamed him for subsequent disasters but, since the Alexiad doesn’t cover his reign, she never quite says what they were. The real disaster, Myriocephalum, happened after her death to her nephew, Manuel I. One reference to the Alexiad that I remember from childhood, that Anna says her father didn’t trust the Crusaders because they didn’t have beards and smelled of horses, I have been unable to find in the text.
From the few and questionable foreign marriages of the
Macedonians, with the Comneni we find a large number of well attested ones, many with Crusaders but one making connections as distant as Spain. I was aware of few of these until a correspondent, Ann Ferland, began to point them out. The marriage of Maria of Montpellier, whose mother was Eudocia Comnena, to King Peter II of Aragon led to all subsequent Kings of Aragon and of Spain. A great deal of European Royalty, right down to the present, thus would be descendants of Alexius I Comnenus.


Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. Department of Philosophy, Los Angeles Valley College

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