If we have just retaken the city in spite of the resistance of its defenders ... it is only as a result of the Divine Power which on the one hand renders impregnable (when it so desires) those cities which seem the most feeble, and which on the other enfeebles those which appear the most invincible. We have undergone so many failures to take Constantinople (although we were greater in number than the defenders) because God wished us to know that the possession of the city was a grace dependent on his bounty. He has reserved for our reign this grace, which obliges us to eternal gratitude, and in according it to us he has given us the hope of retaking the provinces which we lost with it.
The Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus to his people, quoted by George Pachymeres
The Latin Empire was tottering. Already in 1236 young Baldwin, now nineteen, had left for Italy in a desperate attempt to raise men and money, and Pope Gregory IX had appealed to the conscience of Western Christendom to save Constantinople from the barbarous schismatics who threatened it; but the response had been half-hearted. Despite the death of John of Brienne in 1237, Baldwin had remained away for nearly four years, his return delayed — he claimed — by personal business in France and by the deliberate machinations of Frederick II; it was not until the first weeks of 1240 that he had returned to the Bosphorus, in time to receive his imperial coronation during Holy Week. Behind him had marched an army of some thirty thousand men; but when they discovered that he had no means of paying them they soon dispersed. This chronic shortage of money was also responsible for another decision that had a disastrous effect on morale within Constantinople, among Greeks and Latins alike: the pawning to Venice of the city's most hallowed possession, the Crown of Thorns that Christ had worn on the Cross. When the moment came to redeem it their Emperor was unable to do so: the opportunity was seized instead by St Louis of France, and the precious relic was shipped off to Paris, where Louis built the Sainte-Chapelle to receive it.1
Baldwin had obviously developed a taste for the West, and it is difficult to blame him; a tour of the courts of Europe, even cap in hand, must have been vastly preferable to life in gloomy, beleaguered Constantinople. In 1244 he was off again - to Frederick II (whom he begged to use his good offices to extend the current truce with John Vatatzes); to Count Raymond in Toulouse; to Innocent IV in Lyon (with whom he attended the Great Council in 1245 at which Frederick, already twice excommunicated, was declared deposed); to St Louis in Paris; and even to London, where King Henry III made a small and distinctly grudging contribution to his funds. But Constantinople was by now past saving; when the wretched Emperor returned in October 1248 it was to find himself in such financial straits that he was obliged to start selling off the lead from the roof of the imperial palace. Even then, he would probably have been surprised to learn that he was to reign for another thirteen years; nor, very probably, would he have done so if his enemy in Nicaea had survived much longer than he did. But on 3 November 1254, while still in his early sixties, John Vatatzes died in Nymphaeum; and with the succession of his son Theodore much of the momentum that he had generated was lost.
It is another of the ironies of history that John III Vatatzes, who was more responsible than any other single man for the eventual reconquest of Constantinople, did not live to enter it in triumph. During the last ten years of his life his health had been steadily deteriorating, the epileptic fits to which he had always been subject becoming increasingly frequent and at times tending seriously to unbalance him. There had, for example, been an extraordinary occasion in 1253 when the most brilliant of his younger generals, Michael Palaeologus, had been arraigned on a charge of conspiracy. George Acropolites — whose chronicle is our principal Greek source for this period of imperial exile - records that the accusation was based on nothing more than a conversation overheard between two private citizens, one of whom later claimed that he had been misinterpreted. The Emperor, however, had not only decided to pursue the matter but had ordered that, to prove his innocence, Michael should submit to ordeal by red-hot iron - a Western custom previously unheard-of in Byzantium. Fortunately for all concerned,
1 It is now kept in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame.
the case collapsed;1 and within a matter of months John, in a dramatic change of mood, had actually promoted the young general to the rank of 'Grand Constable' (another Western innovation), with command over all the Latin mercenaries. But by now it was clear to everyone at court that their Emperor was rapidly losing his grip.
John Vatatzes had been a great ruler none the less — one of the greatest, perhaps, in the whole of this history. He had inherited from his predecessor Theodore Lascaris a small but viable state, patterned on Byzantium, efficiently administered and strongly defended; but he himself during his reign had more than doubled it in size. When thirty-two years later he left it to his son Theodore II, its dominions extended over most of the Balkan peninsula and much of the Aegean, its rivals were crippled or annihilated, and it stood poised to achieve at last the purpose for which it had been established.
The Emperor's domestic record was no less impressive. Dispossessed landowners who had joined him in Asia Minor were rewarded with lands expropriated from those who had thrown in their lot with the Latin Empire; and along his own frontiers - which he fortified until they were stronger than ever before - he reintroduced the traditional Byzantine practice of granting smallholdings to his soldiers in return for military service when required. The Cumans in particular, as recent refugees from the Mongols, were delighted to be offered homesteads in Thrace or Macedonia, Phrygia or the valley of the Meander, and only too pleased to rally to the colours at the Emperor's call. All his subjects without distinction were continually reminded that they lived in a state of emergency, and that sacrifices were required of them until Constantinople should be theirs. Foreign imports - especially those from Venice -were forbidden; self-sufficiency was now the watchword, in both industry and agriculture, and Vatatzes himself set an example by running a profitable farm of his own, using the profits from his sales of eggs to buy his first wife Irene what he referred to as her 'egg crown' — a jewelled coronet, which he publicly presented to her as proof of how much might be achieved by careful and efficient husbandry.
The coronet was well-deserved, for Irene had proved an ideal wife to him. Together they set up countless hospitals, orphanages and charitable
1 Michael Palacologus had agreed to the ordeal on the condition that that he should receive the iron from the hands of the Metropolitan Phocas of Philadelphia (one of his principal accusers). When the Metropolitan declined on the grounds that the custom was barbarous, Michael had declared that as 'a Roman born of Romans' he too would submit only to Roman law.
foundations, endowed churches and monasteries, and worked indefatigably for the relief of the poor. Art and literature were encouraged, and the foundations laid for the spectacular cultural revival which was to occur in the reign of their son Theodore, under whom Nicaea would become, for the space of a generation, as active a centre for Byzantine culture as Constantinople had been in the previous century. In consequence John Vatatzes was deeply and genuinely loved by his subjects. His treatment of his second wife must be remembered against him; in all else he seems to have been in every way what his friend George Acropolites described as a 'kind and gentle soul'; and it is not altogether surprising to learn that he was canonized soon after his death and revered as a local saint. He was buried near Nymphaeum, at the monastery of Sosandra.
Although John Vatatzes did not live to see the recapture of Constantinople, he knew as he lay on his deathbed that the day towards which he had worked all his adult life could not be long delayed - despite some doubts that he must have entertained about the abilities of his only son and successor. Not that the young Theodore II Lascaris - he took his imperial name from his mother — was altogether unworthy of the throne. Educated by Nicephorus Blemmydes, who was perhaps the outstanding scholar of his day, he had grown up to be an intellectual who produced in the course of his short life a whole corpus of literary, theological and scientific works; but he never allowed these interests to deflect him from the business of government. For his gravest weakness he could not be held responsible: he had inherited his father's epilepsy in a far more serious form. What to Vatatzes had been - at least until his last years - little more than an occasional inconvenience became in his son a serious disability, which tended as he grew older to impair his judgement and drain him of energy, often leaving him physically prostrate. This was dangerous enough in Constantinople; when he was with his army in the field it was potentially disastrous. He nevertheless led a number of successful campaigns against the Bulgars - who had attempted something of a comeback after their losses of eight years before - showing much personal courage and a surprising degree of military skill.
Theodore ruled with a strong and ruthless hand. Instinctively distrustful of the aristocracy, he ignored it as far as possible and relied instead on a small group of humbly-born civil servants, chief among them being his protovestiarius George Muzalon and the latter's two brothers, Theodore and Andronicus; and he enraged the clergy by appointing as Patriarch an unworldly and bigoted ascetic named Arsenius, thus annihilating at a single stroke his father's old dream of union with Rome. Where foreign policy was concerned, he seems to have been content to play a waiting game. Trouble threatened, briefly, from the Seljuk Sultan; but a new Mongol advance occurred just in time. The Sultan, instead of attacking Theodore, was compelled to seek his support against the invaders.
As for the Bulgars, a second campaign in 1255-6 obliged them to sign a peace treaty; and relations were still further improved when the Tsar Michael Asen was murdered in 1256, to be succeeded in the following year by a boyar named Constantine Tich - who immediately repudiated his wife to marry Theodore's daughter Irene. Another dynastic marriage, planned in 1249 but celebrated only seven years later, was that of John Vatatzes's daughter Maria to Nicephorus, son of the Despot Michael II of Epirus. It should have cemented the bonds between Epirus and Nicaea; unfortunately it had precisely the opposite effect, Theodore having unwisely made a last-minute demand for Durazzo and the Macedonian city of Servia as a condition of the marriage. The bridegroom's mother, who had accompanied her son to the imperial camp on the Maritsa, was obliged to agree for fear of being taken prisoner; but when she returned to tell her husband that she had given away two of the most important cities in his dominions, the Despot understandably flew into a rage and launched an immediate campaign against Thessalonica, encouraging the Serbs and the Albanians to support him. Within days, Macedonia was up in arms.
The general best qualified to handle the situation was, without any doubt, Michael Palaeologus; the Emperor, however, detested him. The two had known each other since childhood, and Theodore had always felt the jealousy of an introverted semi-invalid towards the brilliant, handsome young aristocrat who seemed to possess all the gifts he himself so conspicuously lacked. He had also inherited his father's instinctive mistrust of Michael - which, in his more violent moods, bordered on the pathological. Earlier that year he had accused him -quite unjustifiably - of high treason, threatening him to the point where the young general had been obliged to seek refuge with the Seljuks, commanding the Sultan's Christian mercenaries against the Mongol invaders. Michael had sworn fidelity to the Emperor, who with a similar oath had guaranteed his future safety. None the less, it was only after some hesitation that Theodore decided to entrust him with the new command; and even then he was unable to overcome his suspicions altogether. Fearing, presumably, that his general might turn against him, he gave him too small an army to be of any real use. Michael and his men fought bravely, penetrating as far as Durazzo; but they were unable to stem the Epirot tide. By early summer the Despot was at the gates of Thessalonica, and Michael Palaeologus, recalled in disgrace and shortly afterwards excommunicated, was languishing in a Nicaean prison.
Why, on this occasion, did Michael give in without a struggle? Probably because he was confident - correctly, as it turned out - of being able to persuade the Emperor that he was guiltless. He may also have realized that Theodore had but a short time to live; if there was to be any dispute over the succession, it was important that he should be in Nicaea rather than the Balkans. However that may be, this totally unmerited treatment of the Empire's outstanding general, at a time when his presence was desperately needed in Thessalonica, confirmed the leading families of Nicaea in their conviction that their basileus was no longer capable of responsible government. From the outset of his reign he had made no secret of his hostility to them, and his treatment of Michael Palaeologus was only the most recent example of his impulsiveness and unreliability. Although largely excluded from the administration, they were still strongly represented in the higher echelons of the army and navy; and there would almost certainly have been a military revolt had not Theodore Lascaris suddenly and most conveniently succumbed to his disease in August 1258, aged thirty-six.
His eldest son John being a child,1 Theodore - with characteristic disregard for popular feeling - had appointed the hated George Muzalon as Regent. On his deathbed he had forced the leading members of the aristocracy to swear allegiance to John and George together, but their detestation for the protovestiarius and his cronies was too great: in the course of a memorial service for the late Emperor held at Sosandra monastery just nine days after his death they murdered Muzalon, together with one of his brothers, at the high altar and hacked the bodies to pieces. A palace revolution ensued, the result of which was to nominate the hastily liberated Michael Palaeologus - who had almost certainly been the chief instigator of the plot - in his stead.
Michael was now thirty-four. He was in many respects the obvious choice. His family was an old and distinguished one - a Nicephorus
1 Of our four principal sources, Acropolites gives his age as eight, Pachymeres nine, Gregoras and Sphrantzes
(writing a good deal later) six.
Palaeologus had been Governor of Mesopotamia under Michael VII in the eleventh century - and he himself could claim kinship with the three imperial houses of Ducas, Angelus and Comnenus, while his wife Theodora was a great-niece of John Vatatzes.1 To be sure, his record was not entirely without blemish: there had been his trial for treason and his flight to the Sultan, to say nothing of his recent brief imprisonment. But the circumstances in which these had occurred were well known, and no one took them too seriously. His complicity — to put it no higher — in the murder of Muzalon should have been seen as a darker stain on his character; but the protovestiarius had been so universally hated that few seem to have been disposed to hold it against him. He remained immensely popular with the army — particularly the Latin mercenaries whom he commanded - and was well thought of by the clergy; even the ambiguous attitude of Theodore Lascaris towards him was now considered a point in his favour. He was instantly awarded the title of Grand Duke (megas dux) and soon afterwards - at the insistence of the clergy -that of Despot. Finally in November 1258 he was raised on a shield and proclaimed co-Emperor, his coronation taking place at Nicaea on Christmas Day. He and Theodora were crowned first, with imperial diadems heavy with precious stones; only afterwards was a narrow string of pearls laid upon the head of his young colleague, John IV.
Few of those present at the joint coronation had any serious doubt that it was Michael VIII Palaeologus who would lead his subjects back into their ancient capital. Before he could do so, however, there was one more enemy to be faced. Early in 1258 young Manfred of Sicily, the bastard son of Frederick II, had invaded Epirus, occupied Corfu and captured several coastal towns, including Durazzo, Avlona and Butrinto. The Despot Michael, reluctant to give up his Macedonian campaign when Thessalonica seemed on the point of falling, had decided instead to form an alliance with him against Nicaea, giving him the hand of his eldest daughter Helena and suggesting that the conquered territories might be considered as her dowry. Manfred had accepted with alacrity, and as a token of his good intentions had sent his new father-in-law four hundred mounted knights from Germany. Soon afterwards the new alliance was joined by William of Villehardouin, the Latin Prince of Achaia in the northern Peloponnese, who married Michael's second
1 There is little evidence for the theory according to which Michael was also descended from an old Italian family in Viterbo. See D. J. Geanakoplos, Emperor Michael Palaeologus and the West,
daughter Anna. The ultimate object of the expedition was of course Constantinople, but this would clearly involve the capture of Thessalonica - as the European capital of the Nicene Empire - on the way.
Thus, at the time of the accession of Michael Palaeologus, it seemed that virtually the whole of the Greek mainland was ranged against him. Before the year 1258 was ended he had sent ambassadors to the three allies, in the hopes of persuading them to abandon their hostile plans, and a further embassy to Rome - always implacably hostile to the Hohenstaufen - with the usual hints of union of the Eastern and Western Churches; but the hour was too late for diplomacy, and the envoys returned empty-handed, as he had feared they would. Fortunately he had made alternative arrangements, having dispatched that same autumn a large expeditionary force to the Balkans, containing important contingents from Hungary and Serbia as well as the usual regiments of Cuman and Turkish mercenaries. It was commanded by his brother, the sebastocrator John Palaeologus, and the Grand Domestic Alexius Strategopulus; and early in 12 5 9 he ordered them to advance against the enemy.
Michael of Epirus and his army were still in their winter quarters at Castoria. Taken by surprise, they fled to Avlona - still under the control of Manfred — where the Despot appealed to his allies for urgent assistance. He did not call in vain: Manfred at once sent a further detachment of cavalry and Prince William personally brought a large army up from Achaia. Numbers are notoriously hard to assess; but if we put the total strength of the forces of the Western alliance at forty-five thousand we shall probably not be very far wrong. They almost certainly outnumbered those at the disposal of John Palaeologus, who marched northward to meet them at Pelagonia (now Bitolj, or Monastir); and there, some weeks later — the precise date is unknown, but it was probably in the early summer — the two armies met.
Almost immediately, the coalition fell apart. The sebastocrator John had had orders from his brother to exploit the lack of unity between the three armies, and did so to remarkable effect. His brilliant guerrilla tactics did the rest. The Despot Michael and his son Nicephorus, persuaded - without the slightest justification - that their allies were planning to betray them to the enemy, deserted the camp under cover of darkness and fled with most of their men, finally taking refuge in Cephalonia. Another son, John the Bastard, taunted by Villehardouin over his illegitimacy, joined the Nicene forces out of pique. By the time the battle began John Palaeologus, at the head of a united and well-disciplined army, found only the French and German cavalry of Villehardouin and Manfred ranged against him; and they proved defenceless in the face of his Cuman archers. Manfred's knights surrendered and were taken prisoner, as - subsequently — was Villehardouin himself, who was found hiding in a haystack near Castoria and was recognized only by his protruding front teeth. John then advanced through Thessaly, while his principal lieutenant, Alexius Strategopulus, marched straight to Epirus and captured its capital, Arta. The victory was complete.
Determined to keep up his momentum, early in 1260 the Emperor -now commanding his troops in person - marched on Constantinople itself. Unfortunately we know little about this campaign, our principal sources (Acropolites on the one hand, Pachymeres and Gregoras on the other) giving two such different versions of what occurred that it is sometimes hard to believe that they are describing the same expedition. Michael had apparently succeeded in suborning a prominent Latin in the city, who on an agreed signal was to open one of the gates; when at the critical moment this man proved unable to do so, he switched to an alternative plan and launched an attack on Galata, immediately opposite the city across the Golden Horn. But here too disappointment awaited him. Without a fighting navy1 he was unable to make any impact on the great iron chain that barred the Horn; meanwhile the Latins of Galata, assisted by many others who rowed over each morning from Constantinople, put up a far tougher resistance than he had expected. After a short time he decided to waste no more time on an operation which even if ultimately successful would yield him only limited advantage, and gave the order to retire.
To poor Baldwin, trembling in Constantinople, the departure of Michael Palaeologus and his army gave little comfort: since Pelagonia it was plain that the recapture of the city could only be a question of time, and a short time at that. Of all the allies to whom he had once looked for succour, there now remained only the Papacy and the Republic of Venice. Pope Alexander IV was deaf to his appeals; that left the Venetians, who had been more responsible than anyone else for the Latin Empire, and whose fleet of thirty ships still diligently patrolled the approaches to the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. In his frantic search for money with which to strengthen his defences, Baldwin managed to raise a further loan from the merchants of the Rialto, putting up his own son Philip as security. But soon the value of even Venetian support
1 The Nicaean Empire had never possessed much of a navy, despite the efforts of both John Vatatzes and Theodore II to create one.
began to appear problematical; for Michael Palaeologus, desperate for a navy, had entered negotiations with Venice's arch-rival Genoa,1 and on 13 March 1261 a treaty was signed at Nymphaeum by the terms of which, in return for their help in the struggle to come, the Genoese were promised all the concessions hitherto enjoyed by Venice, with their own quarter in Constantinople and the other principal ports of the Empire and free access to those of the Black Sea. For Genoa this was a historic agreement, laying as it did the foundations for her commercial empire in the East; for Byzantium it was ultimately to prove a disaster, since the two sea-republics would gradually usurp all that remained of her naval power and pursue their centuries-old rivalry over her helpless body. But that was in the future. In the spring of 1261, the Genoese alliance must have seemed to Michael and his subjects like a gift from heaven.
After all the treaties and alliances, all the discord and the bloodshed, all the heroic dreams and the disappointed hopes of the previous threescore years, the recovery of Constantinople eventually came about almost by accident. In the high summer of 1261, Michael VIII had sent the Caesar Alexius Strategopulus2 to Thrace with a small army, to check that the Bulgarian frontier was quiet and to indulge in a little mild sabre-rattling outside Constantinople, sounding out the city's defences at the same time. When he reached Selymbria, Alexius learned from the local Greek inhabitants that the Latin garrison was absent, having been carried off by the Venetian fleet to attack the Nicaean island of Daphnusia, a useful harbour which controlled the entrance to the Bosphorus from the Black Sea.3 They also told him of a postern gate in the Land Walls through which armed men could easily pass into the city. The year's truce with the Latin Empire that had been arranged at the time of Michael's withdrawal from Galata in September 1260 was theoretically still in
1Contrary to what is implied in most modern accounts, the initial overtures seem almost certainly to have been made by the Genoese. See Geanakoplos, op. cit., pp. 83-5.
2He had been granted the title after his capture of Ana in 1259. Until the eleventh century the caesar had been the highest dignity in the Empire, reserved for senior members of the imperial family. Alexius 1 had however lowered it slightly; it was now one degree below sebastocrator.
3Was the Daphnusia expedition somehow inspired by Michael Palaeologus, to empty Constantinople of its defenders at the moment of Strategopulus's attack? If not, it certainly seems a remarkably fortunate coincidence. But Geanakoplos (op. cit., pp. 97-104), after careful consideration of the evidence on both sides, concludes that 'one must ...abandon, however reluctantly, the hypothesis of premeditation so compatible with the characteristic resourcefulness exhibited by Michael throughout his entire career'.
force; but the Latins were already breaking it by their attack on Daphnusia, and anyway to Alexius Strategopulus the opportunity seemed too good to miss. That night a small detachment of his best men slipped unobserved into the city, took the few guards by surprise and threw them from the ramparts. They then quietly opened one of the gates. At dawn on 25 July 1261 the rest of the army poured in after them, meeting scarcely any resistance.1
Baldwin, asleep at Blachernae, was awakened by the tumult and fled for his life, leaving the imperial crown and sceptre behind him. Making his way on foot from one end of the city to the other, he narrowly escaped capture and was wounded in the arm; but somehow he reached the Great Palace, and found a Venetian merchantman in the little harbour of the Bucoleon. On this he escaped, together with the Venetian podesta and a few others, to the Latin-held island of Euboea.2 Meanwhile Alexius Strategopulus and his men set fire to the entire Venetian quarter of the city, so that the sailors on their return from Daphnusia, finding their houses destroyed and their terrified families huddled on the quayside, would have no spirit for a counter-attack or any real choice but to sail back to their lagoon. Among the remaining Franks there was widespread panic, joyfully described by the Greek chroniclers. Some fled to monasteries, frequently disguising themselves as monks to escape the vengeance of the Caesar's soldiers; others hid wherever they could find a place of concealment; a few, we are told, even resorted to the sewers.
They need not have worried. There was no massacre. Gradually they emerged from their various refuges and made their way - many of them staggering under the weight of their most valuable possessions - down to the harbour where the thirty Venetian ships were waiting, together with a large vessel which had recently put in from Sicily. No mention is made of their numbers; there may have been about a thousand all told. The moment they were all aboard, this fleet also left for Euboea - not, apparently, even pausing to load up with provisions, since it is recorded that many of the refugees died of hunger before reaching their destination.
1Such, at least, is the version of the story told by George Acropolites. Gregoras, who follows him in the most essential details, mentions a subterranean passage with its entrance near the monastery of the Fountain. Pachymeres talks of scaling-ladders set up at the Fountain Gate. We can take our choice.
2Euboea was known to the Latins - and to many later historians - as Negropont, or Negroponte. Since, however, this name is used indiscriminately for the island, its capital Chalkis, the Frankish lordship and the Venetian political unit, it seems advisable to retain the Greek version here.
The Emperor Michael was two hundred miles away, asleep in his camp at Meteorium in Asia Minor, when the imperial messengers arrived. His sister Eulogia1 woke him - according to Acropolites, by tickling his toes - and told him the news. At first he refused to believe her; only when he was handed Baldwin's abandoned regalia could he be convinced of the truth of the report. Immediately he began to make his preparations; and three weeks later, on 15 August 1261, 'the new Constantine' (as he called himself, being the second 'founder' of Constantinople) made his formal entry into the capital. It was not in any sense a triumph: aware of the immense historical and symbolic significance of the event, he had resolved to make it rather an act of thanksgiving. Entering by the Golden Gate, he first stopped to hear special prayers composed by his Grand Logothete, the chronicler George Acropolites; then, preceded by the great icon of the Hodegetria - 'She who points the way' - that had been painted, as everyone knew, by St Luke himself, he proceeded on foot along the traditional route down the Mese and through the whole city as far as St Sophia, where a second coronation ceremony was performed by Patriarch Arsenius. This time, however, he and his wife were crowned alone, while their baby son Andronicus was proclaimed as heir presumptive.
And what, we may ask, of John Lascaris, Michael's ten-year-old co-Emperor? He had been left behind in Nicaea, neglected and forgotten. A little over four months later, on Christmas Day, his eyes were put out. It happened to be his eleventh birthday.2
From the start, the Latin Empire of Constantinople was a monstrosity. The miserable offspring of treachery and greed, in the fifty-seven years of its existence it achieved nothing, contributed nothing, enjoyed not a single moment of distinction or glory. After 1204 it made no territorial conquests, and before long had shrunk to the immediate surroundings of the city that had been ruined and ravaged in giving it birth. The wonder is that it lasted as long as it did. Of its seven rulers, only Henry of Hainault - if we leave aside the octogenarian John of Brienne – rose
1Pachymeres records that Eulogia, who was several years older than her brother, used to lull him to sleep as a child by singing of how he would one day become Emperor and enter Constantinople through the Golden Gate.
2He was confined in the fortress of Dakibyze, on the southern shore of the Marmara, where he remained until his death nearly half a century later, in 1305.
above the mediocre; not one seems to have made the slightest attempt to understand his Greek subjects, let alone to learn their language. Meanwhile its Frankish knights trickled back to the West, its allies turned away, its treasury lay empty. And its fall was, if anything, even more ignominious than its beginning - overpowered in a single night by a handful of soldiers, while its defenders were engaged on an exercise of almost unimaginable pointlessness and futility.
If this pathetic travesty of an Empire could only have confined its misdeeds to itself, it might have been passed over with little more than a pitying glance; and the reader would have been spared a long and unedifying chapter of this book. Alas, it did not. The dark legacy that it left behind affected not only Byzantium but all Christendom - perhaps all the world. For the Greek Empire never recovered from the damage that it had sustained during those fateful years, danger that was spiritual as well as material. Nor, bereft of much of the territory that remained to it after the disaster of Manzikert, with many of its loveliest buildings reduced to rubble and its finest works of art destroyed or carried off to the West, did it ever succeed in recovering its former morale. Henceforth the Byzantines might continue to look back with pride on the glories of their past; but they would contemplate their future with trepidation and fear.
They had been robbed of something else too. Before the Latin conquest their Empire had been one and indivisible, under a single basileus who stood above them, half-way to heaven, Equal of the Apostles. Now, that unity was gone. So magnificent a conception was no longer tenable. There were the Emperors of Trebizond, still stubbornly independent in their tiny Byzantine microcosm on the Black Sea shore. There were the Despots of Epirus, for ever struggling to recapture their early days of power, always ready to welcome the enemies of Constantinople and to provide a focus of opposition. How, fragmented as it was, could the Greek Empire continue to perform the function that it had fulfilled for so long - that of the last grand eastern bulwark of Christendom against the Islamic tide?
But Christendom too had been changed by the Fourth Crusade. Long divided, it was now polarized. For centuries before and after the Great Schism of 1054, relations between the Eastern and the Western Churches had fluctuated between the politely distant and the bitterly acrimonious; their differences, however, had been essentially theological. After the sack of Constantinople by the Western Crusaders, this was no longer true. In the eyes of the Byzantines, those barbarians who had desecrated their altars, plundered their homes and violated their women could no longer be considered, in any real sense of the word, Christians at all. On more than one occasion in the future, attempts would be made to force the Orthodox Church back into union with Rome; some, like that of Michael Palaeologus himself in 1274, would even be briefly successful. But such attempts could never succeed for long, simply because in the end the eventualities that they were designed to avoid always appeared to the Greeks preferable to the idea of submission to Rome. 'Better the Sultan's turban than the cardinal's hat,' they were to say; and they meant it.