Michael Palaeologus, the schismatic, having usurped the name of Emperor . . . has seized the imperial city of Constantinople and the whole Empire, and has expelled the Emperor Baldwin and the Latins residing there . . . We therefore are ready with God's help to undertake the pious task of restoring the noble limb severed by the schismatics from the body of our common mother, the Holy Roman Church.
Second Viterbo Treaty, 27 May 1267
The basileus was back in his capital; and among the small Greek population who had remained in occupied Constantinople the rejoicings continued far into the night, with all the bells of the city pealing in jubilation and littie groups of monks and nuns hurrying from one church or monastery to the next, decorating each in turn as if for some great religious feast. Michael Palaeologus, however, took no part in these festivities. His first sight of the city from which he was to rule had affected him profoundly. Everywhere was desolation: churches in ruins, palaces razed, once-prosperous residential areas now reduced to piles of blackened timber. Even among those houses that had escaped the conflagration of 1204, many had subsequently been demolished and used for firewood. There had been no attempt at rebuilding; much of the debris still lay where it had fallen more than half a century before. After his coronation Michael had quietly withdrawn to the Great Palace on the Bosphorus - that of Blachernae, though newer and a good deal more comfortable, he felt to be tainted by the presence of the Latin Emperors1 - to ponder the formidable problems that faced him.
The most immediate was the defence of the capital. The larger part of
1 Pachymcrcs tells us that 'it was filled with thick smoke and Italian fire, which the servants of the uncouth Baldwin had allowed to permeate it'.
Greece, after all, was still under Frankish domination; Epirus and Thessaly, though Greek, remained implacably hostile, as did Serbia and Bulgaria. Venice and Genoa controlled Byzantine waters and much of the eastern Mediterranean. Pope Urban IV - a certain Jacques Pantaleon, the son of a leather-merchant in Troyes and former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem who had been raised to the Papacy a fortnight after the recovery of Constantinople - could not be expected to accept without a struggle the collapse of the Latin Empire of the East; and Manfred, now back in Sicily, would be only too glad of an excuse to return to the offensive. An alliance of some or all of these Western and Balkan powers, efficiently organized and properly led, could kill the newly-restored Empire at its birth. Among the Emperor's first priorities, therefore, was to make a thorough examination of the land and sea walls, improving and strengthening them wherever necessary. The weakest section, as he well knew, was that running along the banks of the Golden Horn; it was this that the Crusaders had breached in both 1203 and 1204. Eventually he was to give it a whole new inner rampart, thus presenting any attacking fleet with a double range of fortifications; for the moment, however, he contented himself with raising a giant wooden screen, seven feet high, the entire five-mile length of the wall, covered with hides to make it at least partially fireproof.
Ideally, of course, no enemy should be able to enter the Horn in the first place. The Emperor accordingly renewed the great iron chain that had formerly extended across the entrance to provide a barrier against all hostile shipping. But this chain could never be entirely impregnable and was certainly no substitute for a strong and effective fleet; hence the intensive programme of shipbuilding which Michael inaugurated during the first months after the reconquest. Meanwhile he had no alternative but to put his faith in the Genoese - his only Western allies - transferring to them the former palace of the Venetians1 and taking every opportunity to remind them of their obligations under the Treaty of Nymphaeum, signed only a few months before.
Next, there was the transfer of the government to be effected - and this was no easy matter. The Byzantine bureaucratic machine was complex and often unwieldy; to rehouse all its various departments - to say nothing of all the officials who administered them - in a largely
1 Formerly the Byzantine monastery of the Pantocrator. The Genoese immediately demolished it to the sound of triumphant musical fanfares, sending several of its stones back to Genoa, where they were incorporated into the famous Bank of St George.
devastated city was an awesome task. It was made possible only by the fact that Constantinople had also suffered a dramatic reduction of its population. Many Greeks had left when the Crusaders arrived, and many more had trickled away during the intervening years. A considerable number had inevitably been replaced by Latins, but now most of these had also disappeared, leaving whole sections of the city silent and abandoned. One of the new Emperor's first actions was to summon all former refugees back to the capital, and in 1262 to introduce a whole new community oftsakones - Greeks from the region around Monemvasia in the south-eastern Peloponnese, which was formally ceded to him in that year by the Prince of Achaia.
Meanwhile the imperial army was set to work on an ambitious programme of rebuilding. Living accommodation was a primary need, but Michael concentrated also on the ravaged churches and monasteries, realizing as he did their vital importance to popular morale. The Latins, seeing these as monuments of a detested heresy, had shown them scant respect — stripping the lead from their roofs, defacing their mosaics and frescos, robbing them of their treasures and sacred vessels. For the Byzantines, on the other hand, the reawakening of their religious life simultaneously revived their feelings of patriotism and national pride - while ensuring the greatest possible degree of ecclesiastical support for Michael's policies. Nor did the Emperor forget the public buildings of the capital: law-courts and theatres, market-places and forums. Finally, to symbolize all that he had done, he erected before the church of the Holy Apostles a tall column bearing a statue of his patron St Michael. At its foot stood another statue representing the Emperor himself, holding in his hands a model of Constantinople and offering it in the traditional manner to the Archangel. He had deserved well of his city and his people; and he was determined that they should not forget it.
Michael Palaeologus had been right in his assessment of Pope Urban; but he had no wish to antagonize him unnecessarily. After his first coronation at Nicaea he had punctiliously sent an embassy to the Holy See, giving it official notice of his accession to the throne; now, after his second, he did so again, loading his two envoys - though Greeks, both had been members of Baldwin's secretariat — with rich presents for the Pope. But if he had hoped thus to turn away the worst of the papal wrath, he was to be disappointed. However difficult it may be to believe Pachymeres when he tells us that one of the envoys was flayed alive while the other barely escaped with his life, there can be no doubt that they were given a distinctly hostile reception.
Urban, meanwhile - urged on by Baldwin - was pressing for a new Crusade to recover Constantinople for the West, and had already excommunicated the Genoese for casting in their lot with the Eastern Empire. The Venetians on the other hand were predictably giving him their fullest support, even going so far as to offer free passage to all who were prepared to take up arms against the Emperor. Elsewhere, to the Pope's disappointment, there was little enthusiasm. The crusading zeal that had been such a feature of the previous century was gone. In France, St Louis sensibly maintained that the purpose of Crusades was to fight the infidel and not one's fellow-Christians, however schismatic they might be. Germany had been in a state of confusion ever since the death of Frederick II in 1250. The Kingdom of Aragon was keeping a covetous eye on Sicily, but was little interested in anything further afield. As for England, despite its distinguished crusading record, the Pope seems simply not to have bothered about it. That left Frederick's son Manfred, who would have asked nothing better; apart from the rich territories to be gained, an alliance with Rome would almost certainly have achieved the papal recognition of his throne that he had so long desired. He and Baldwin did everything they could think of to effect a reconciliation with the Pope, but in vain. To Urban, who had inherited in full measure his predecessors' hatred of the Hohenstaufen, such an alliance would have been anathema. The King of Sicily, as he well knew, had ambitions of his own where Constantinople was concerned; and even if Baldwin were to be reinstated, the prospect of owing his return to Manfred was one too ghastly to be contemplated.
Michael Palaeologus - who had already built up for himself a formidable intelligence service - was well aware of these approaches to the Pope, which he looked upon with grave concern. He had long tried, without success, to reach some accommodation with Manfred; in the summer of 1262 he made another attempt. It happened that Manfred's half-sister Anna, widow of John Vatatzes, was still living at the imperial court; Michael now proposed to divorce his wife Theodora and marry her. Historians, ancient and modern alike, seem uncertain as to how to interpret this curious offer. Such a marriage could indeed hardly have failed to bring the two rulers closer together; on the other hand it would have provoked a major scandal at court and would almost certainly have resulted in the Emperor's excommunication by Patriarch Arsenius, who had already publicly censured his treatment of little John Lascaris.
George Pachymeres claims that Michael's real motive was 'burning love' for Anna. There is nothing inherently improbable in the idea; Michael (who had already sired two illegitimate daughters) might easily have succumbed to the charms of a woman who was still only thirty and - as far as we can judge - a good deal more attractive than her late husband's behaviour towards her might have suggested. But none of our other sources provide any corroboration for the theory, any more than does Michael's own subsequent decision to return her to her brother when he was persuaded to abandon the project under pressure from the Patriarch, Anna herself and his wife Theodora - who had no desire to end her days in a convent. In exchange, Manfred sent back the Caesar Alexius Strategopulus, who had been captured by the Despot of Epirus and handed over to him at his request; but Michael's long-desired political alliance remained a dream.
He was not unduly discouraged. There was plenty of work to be done nearer home, where he was determined to restore to the Empire the frontiers that had existed before 1204. He began in the Peloponnese, in 1262 releasing Prince William of Achaia from the prison in which he had languished during the three years since his captivity after the battle of Pelagonia, and receiving in return the all-important fortresses of Monemvasia, Mistra, Maina, Geraki and the district of Kinsterna - a significant first step in the re-establishment of imperial power in the peninsula. He and William then took solemn oaths never again to go to war against one another, the agreement being sealed by William's becoming godfather to the Emperor's son Constantine and being accorded the rank and title of Grand Domestic of the Empire.
The oaths, it need hardly be said, were broken almost as soon as they were made. In May 1262 at Thebes, William entered into an alliance with the Venetians against the Empire; and only two months later, at Viterbo,1 he was party to a further agreement between Pope Urban, Baldwin, Venice and all the Latin barons of the Peloponnese, by the terms of which the Pope formally released him from his pledges to the 'Greek schismatics'. For Michael PalaeoTogus, this was provocation enough. In the first months of 1263 an imperial fleet of newly-built ships sacked the Frankish-held islands of Cos, Naxos and Paros, attacked the cities of Oreos and Karystos at the opposite ends of Euboea and finally
1 Viterbo, some sixty miles from Rome, had been chosen by Pope Alexander IV in 1257 as his principal place of residence. It was to continue in papal favour for the next twenty-eight years, until the death of Martin IV in 1285.
descended on the south-eastern Morea, where it seized much of the coast of Laconia; meanwhile an army of some fifteen thousand men - a third of whom were Seljuk mercenaries — under the command of the Emperor's brother, the sebastocrator Constantine, was carried by Genoese ships directly to Monemvasia, whence it advanced north-west to besiege Lacedaemon, the ancient Sparta. William of Achaia — now seriously alarmed - hurried to Corinth in an attempt to mobilize his fellow-princes, whereupon Constantine abandoned his siege and led the army in a series of forced marches across the Peloponnese to William's capital at Andravida.
For a moment it looked as though all Achaia was doomed; the situation was saved only by the courage of the bailli whom William had left in charge, a local Greek named John Katavas. Despite his advanced age and a bad attack of gout, Katavas hastily assembled the three-hundred-man garrison and led it out to a narrow defile near the imperial camp. When a quick reconnaissance revealed that the invaders were still resting after their long journey, he immediately gave the order to attack. Constantine and his men, taken off their guard, could offer little resistance. Many of them were slaughtered; the remainder sought refuge in the neighbouring forests. The sebastocrator himself, narrowly escaping with his life, fled back across the peninsula to Mistra.
Only a month or two later, off the little island of Spetsai, a mixed fleet of forty-eight imperial and Genoese ships sailing southward to Monemvasia encountered a substantially smaller Venetian force of thirty-two galleys. Precise details of the engagement that followed are unclear, but it ended in a crushing defeat for the Genoese, whose fleet - more than half of which had refused to fight - was ignominiously scattered. They lost one of their admirals and, we are told, up to a thousand of their men.1 It was to be several years before they were once again a significant force in the eastern Mediterranean; more important still, they surrendered the respect of Michael Palaeologus, who paid for their naval patrols and demanded better returns for his money.
The Emperor had other reasons, too, for dissatisfaction. Since the Nymphaeum pact and the expulsion of the Venetians, the Genoese had been flooding into Constantinople, where they were now settling in such numbers - and trading so aggressively - as to constitute a serious threat to the native merchant community. Fully conscious of the extent to
1 For the figures we have to rely on Martino da Canale, a Venetian. He puts the casualties for his own side at 420.
which the Byzantines depended on their shipping, they were constantly increasing their handling charges on Greek goods; and the growing hostility that they aroused was rapidly assuming dangerous proportions. It was surely with these considerations in mind as well as his understandable disgust with their performance at Spetsai that, in the autumn of 1263, Michael abruptly dismissed their remaining fleet of some sixty galleys and ordered it to return home. This was not the end of the Nymphaeum agreement; before long Genoa sent him a number of replacements which, with rather bad grace, he accepted. But this halfhearted reconciliadon proved short-lived: in the following year a conspiracy was discovered on the part of the Genoese podesta in Constantinople, Guglielmo Guercio, to betray Constantinople to King Manfred of Sicily. Confronted by the Emperor in person with incontrovertible evidence of the plot, Guercio immediately confessed his guilt, whereupon he and his countrymen were banished altogether from the city. Just three years after the Treaty of Nymphaeum, the Genoese alliance had ended in disaster.
More than ever now, Michael Palaeologus needed friends. Manfred had ignored his overtures; King Louis was too fully occupied with his own crusading campaigns to give much thought to Byzantium. There remained Pope Urban. He was no less hostile than before; but his hostility sprang, not from any personal animosity to Michael of the kind that he felt towards Manfred, but simply from a natural desire to see Constantinople once again subject to Rome. On the other hand, his relations with the Hohenstaufen faction were steadily worsening, he was fully aware of Manfred's long-term ambitions and would, as Michael well knew, infinitely prefer a heretic Greek Emperor on the Bosphorus to the King of Sicily. It looked as if he might be ready to strike a bargain.
Now it so happened that in Constantinople at the time was a certain Nicholas, the Latin Bishop of Crotone in Calabria. He was, like most of his fellow-Calabrians, a Greek; and for many years he had maintained regular contacts with the Empire, having formerly corresponded with both John Vatatzes and Theodore Lascaris. Michael could wish for no better intermediary; and the Bishop accordingly left for Rome in the spring of 1263 with a letter to the Pope, hinting at the possibility of a union of the two Churches. Whether this letter also suggested a joint alliance against the King of Sicily we shall never know; but it certainly had the desired effect. Replying on 18 July, the Pope announced his intention of sending to Constantinople four Franciscan nuncios, armed with full powers to seal a union in his name. Meanwhile, in the expectation that the Emperor and the Prince of Achaia would soon be co-religionists, he adjured them both to cease hostilities forthwith.
Here, however, Urban asked too much. If Michael were to subject the Eastern Church to Roman authority, he would do so on his own terms; he remained as determined as ever he had been to drive the Latins out of Greece. In early October, therefore, he resumed the war against William, claiming that the non-appearance of the promised nuncios could only mean that the Pope had changed his mind. At the time it must have seemed a fairly unconvincing excuse, given that the journey from Rome to Constantinople could easily take three months or more. By the following spring, when the Franciscans had still not arrived, the Emperor's case was admittedly stronger; as things turned out, however, it mattered little.
Once again the sebastocrator Constantine led his army across the Peloponnese against the Achaian capital of Andravida; once again the Latins rode out to meet him; and about ten miles from the city, just outside the little town of Sergiana, the two armies met. Hardly had the battle begun when the Grand Constable Michael Cantacuzenus - Constantine's second-in-command, but by far his superior in ability and courage - fell from his horse and was cut to pieces. The sight was too much for the sebastocrator, who immediately withdrew from the field and led his army back to besiege the relatively inconsequential fortress of Nikli in northern Laconia. Here, however, a further catastrophe awaited him. The five thousand Seljuk mercenaries, who had not been paid for the past six months, suddenly demanded their wages and, when they still did not receive them, deserted en masse to the enemy.
At this point the wretched Constantine, somewhat unconvincingly pleading sickness, abandoned what was left of his army and returned to well-deserved obscurity in the capital. William of Achaia, on the other hand, seized the offensive and invaded the Byzantine lands of the southern Peloponnese where, thanks largely to the renegade Turks, he scored a crushing victory over the Greek forces and advanced to Mistra. Here at last the Greeks managed to put up a successful resistance. They could not, however, prevent William's army from ravaging the neighbourhood as far as the walls of Monemvasia before it retired once again to Nikli.
Fortunately for Michael Palaeologus, William now decided to call a halt. For all his military successes, the war had brought devastation to much of his territory and ruin to many of his subjects; the loss of life, too, had been considerable.1 So anxious was he for a period of peace that for some time he seriously entertained a Byzantine proposal for the marriage of his daughter and heir Isabella to Andronicus Palaeologus, Michael's eldest surviving son, despite the fact that his whole principality would then have passed to the Empire after his death. It was only under pressure from his Latin vassals - who had no wish to see their estates swallowed up, quite possibly in their own lifetimes - that he finally broke off negotiations.
To the Emperor, who had been within an ace of acquiring the entire Morea without sacrificing another man or loosing a single arrow, this decision must have come as yet another bitter blow. Frustrated, humiliated and friendless as ever, he had no choice but to turn again to Rome. After his recent quite unfounded accusations of bad faith — to which the Pope had replied by giving the Achaian war the status of a Crusade — he knew that he had no right to expect a favourable reception to any new overtures; his only hope lay in making Urban an offer that he could not refuse:
To the venerable father of fathers, most blessed Pope of old Rome, father of our Majesty, Lord Urban, supreme and sacrosanct Pontiff of the Apostolic See . . .
In the past, legates and nuncios were often sent back and forth, but they could not speak to each other and, since they conversed through ignorant interpreters, they seldom arrived at the real truth. This gave birth to a constantly increasing hatred between brothers, an extinction of love and a veiling of the True Faith ...
But a voice from the West touched our heart, and there came to our Empire Nicholas, the venerable Bishop of Crotone. And he revealed to us all things, one after another, and so we find the holy Roman Church of God to be not different from ours in the divine dogma of its Faith, but feeling and chanting these things almost with us. We therefore venerate, believe in, and uphold the sacraments of this Roman Church. To the Mother of our Church in all things, all peoples, all patriarchal sees and all nations, in devotion, obedience and love of this Church shall be subjected by the power of our Serene Highness.
Even this necessarily abbreviated version of the letter is enough to explain why the Pope rose at once to the bait. Not only would the Byzantine Emperor be a faithful and obedient member of the Church of Rome; Manfred would have to renounce his dreams of Constantinople. Moreover, Michael had not even confined himself to the question of
1 Sanudo tells us that one unfortunate lady lost seven successive husbands on the field of battle -though whether she was Greek or Latin he does not reveal.
ecclesiastical union; he went on to offer active support in the Crusade to the Holy Land on which Urban still set his heart. The papal reply, dated 23 May 1264 and addressed 'to Palaeologus, Illustrious Emperor of the Greeks', was drafted in the same fulsome - occasionally almost unctuous
terms. Once again it was entrusted to Nicholas of Crotone, whom it named leader of a plenipotentiary papal legation that included two more Franciscans, Gerard of Prato and Raynerius of Sens.1
It arrived in the high summer, and negotiations began immediately; but if the Pope had expected to dictate terms, he was quickly disappointed. The Emperor's representatives explained at the outset that they could not settle matters by themselves; they insisted on the contrary that all the questions at issue, both political and ecclesiastical, must first be discussed by a full council. The papal legates had no choice but to agree—a major concession in itself, and as it turned out a fatal one, since before such a council could be convened Urban died suddenly at Perugia, on 2 October 1264.
Even more than the return of Byzantium to the Latin fold, the chief preoccupation of Pope Urban during the last year of his life had been his arch-enemy, Manfred of Sicily. Their quarrel was not just a personal one: by now the age-old rivalry between the Papacy and the Western Empire had cut a great rift across the Italian political scene, polarizing itself into two opposite camps: the Guelfs - who were, roughly speaking, the papal party - and the Ghibellines, who supported and were supported by the Hohenstaufen. Nevertheless, Urban detested Manfred. In particular, he still bitterly resented the latter's seizure in 1258 of the Kingdom of Sicily (which included much of South Italy and now had its capital at Naples) from Manfred's six-year-old nephew Conradin, an action which had brought his dominions right up against the southern frontier of the Papal State. The Regno - as that Kingdom was generally called - was, by tradition, under papal suzerainty; and from the moment of Manfred's coup d'etat the Papacy had been looking for another, friendlier prince with whom to replace him. Several had been considered, including Edmund of Lancaster, son of Henry III of England; but the choice had finally fallen on Charles, Count of Anjou and Provence, the younger brother of King Louis of France.
1 What, we may ask, of the four Franciscans who had been dispatched to Constantinople the previous year? Urban asked that they too should be included in the legation if they were still in the city; but they seem to have vanished without trace.
No two brothers could have been more different. Unlike the saintly Louis, Charles was the very archetype of the younger son who cannot forgive fate for the accident of his birth. Cold and cruel, self-seeking and consumed with ambition, he asked nothing better than to take over Manfred's Kingdom in the papal name. The new Pope, Clement IV -another Frenchman - completed the arrangements that Urban had begun; Charles formally accepted the offer; his wife (who fully shared his ambitions) pawned her jewels to pay for the expedition; Louis gave his reluctant consent; and at Whitsun 1265 the new King arrived in Rome. It was typical of Charles's megalomania that he should immediately have installed himself at the Lateran Palace. He was a natural autocrat, with an unshakeable belief in himself as the chosen instrument of the Almighty. Against his army of thirty thousand Crusaders — for Pope Clement had by now declared the war a Crusade - Manfred stood little chance. On 26 February 1266, outside Benevento, he went down fighting. Only after three days was his body discovered; denied by Charles a Christian burial, it was laid beneath the bridge at Benevento, with every soldier in the French army casting a stone on the cairn as he passed. Manfred's wife, Helena of Epirus, and his three young children were imprisoned at Nocera. Of the four, three never appeared again; one son was still there forty-three years later. Charles was not a man to take chances.
In 1268 he proved it more conclusively still. Manfred's nephew Conradin marched south from Germany in a last desperate attempt to save his family's inheritance. On 23 August Charles shattered his army at Tagliacozzo; Conradin himself was captured, subjected to a travesty of a trial, found guilty of treason and beheaded in the market square of Naples. He was just sixteen, and the last of the Hohenstaufen.
Tagliacozzo marked the supplanting of the Germans by the French as the rulers of South Italy. Now it was Charles and the Guelfs who were everywhere supreme, just as it had been Manfred and the Ghibellines a decade before. To Michael Palaeologus, closely watching developments from Constantinople, the change was distinctly unwelcome. Manfred had been trouble enough; Charles, he strongly suspected, would be far, far worse - and events were soon to prove him right. For the next sixteen years his struggle with the King of Sicily was to continue, a duel between titans that was to dominate the rest of his life.
Charles started as he meant to continue. He had not been a year on the throne before, by dint of some distinctly shady diplomatic business, he had acquired the island of Corfu and part of the coast of Epirus, a perfect springboard for any invasion of imperial territories in Greece or Macedonia; and in May 1267, after a month of discussions at the papal court in Viterbo with Pope Clement, Prince William of Achaia and the deposed Emperor Baldwin — who had never given up hope of regaining his throne - he put his seal on two treaties which made his long-term intentions clearer still. The first provided for the marriage of William's daughter Isabella - who had been formerly intended for Andronicus Palaeologus — to Charles's son Philip of Anjou, and their inheritance of the principality on William's death. The second, amounting as it did to nothing less than a detailed exposition of Charles's plans for a restoration of the Latin Empire on the Bosphorus, deserves a short summary here.
The King of Sicily undertook that, within six or at the most seven years, he or his heirs would provide two thousand cavalry to fight for Baldwin. In return, Baldwin would cede to him suzerainty over the principality of Achaia; all the Aegean islands except Lesbos, Samos, Chios and Cos; one-third of the expected conquests, to exclude Constantinople and the four islands above-named but including Epirus, Albania and Serbia; the Kingdom of Thessalonica if Hugh, Duke of Burgundy (to whom Baldwin had given it in fief the previous year) failed to fulfil his obligations; and, finally, the imperial throne itself in the event of Baldwin and his son Philip of Courtenay dying without legal heirs. Meanwhile Venice would regain all her former rights in the Empire and, to seal the new alliance, Philip of Courtenay would marry Charles's daughter Beatrice as soon as she reached marriageable age.
It was, by any standards, an astonishing document. True, the King of Sicily did not succeed in laying direct claim to the imperial throne; Baldwin and Pope Clement (who was already becoming a little uneasy at the speed with which Charles was building up his position) would have seen to that. But it did immediately secure for him - in return for the vague promise of scarcely significant reinforcements, a long time in the future - what was in effect a small empire in the eastern Mediterranean, and one which would allow him to move against Constantinople equally easily by land and sea. No wonder Michael Palaeologus felt anxious when he heard the news. He too was now seriously threatened. He too, like Baldwin before him, might well find himself - if Charles of Anjou had his way - Emperor in a beleaguered city.
Although the death of Pope Urban had inevitably led to a suspension of negotiations on the union of the Churches, it was plain to Michael that after Benevento an improvement in his relations with the Papacy was more necessary than ever; and he took the earliest opportunity of reopening his correspondence with Rome. Clement IV, however, immediately showed himself to be a good deal less tractable than his predecessor, categorically rejecting a council of the kind the Greeks had proposed since, as he put it, 'the purity of the faith could not be cast into doubt'. Thus there could be no discussion of the filioque clause, nor of the use of leavened bread, nor of the all-important question of ecclesiastical jurisdiction - nor, in short, of any of the theological and liturgical differences that had separated the Eastern and the Western Churches for centuries past. Instead, Clement sent the Emperor the text of a 'confession of faith', which he insisted must be accepted unconditionally before any further progress could be made. His letter ended:
... With the opportunity afforded by this missive, we proclaim that neither are we wanting in justice (as we should not be) towards those who complain that they are oppressed by your Magnificence, nor shall we desist from pursuing this matter in other ways which the Lord may provide for the salvation of souls.
Whether or not the final clause accurately reflected the divine purpose of the Angevin army, the implied threat was clear enough.
Equally clear was the fact that if the Pope maintained this position there could be no question of Church union. The overwhelming majority of the Orthodox clergy were opposed to it in any case; if they were to be persuaded to accept it at all, it would certainly not be on the terms now proposed. Sensibly, Michael chose in his reply to ignore these altogether, and to concentrate instead on his promise to participate in a Crusade to the Holy Land - in which he also undertook to enlist the invaluable support of the King of Armenia. But Clement would not be mollified, and when he died in November 1268 the two sides were still as far apart as ever they had been.
Even an uncooperative Pope, however, was better than no Pope at all. Charles's influence was strong in the Curia, and for the next three years he succeeded in keeping the pontifical throne without an occupant, thus enabling himself to act as he liked towards the Byzantines - or, indeed, anyone else — without any restraint from Rome. By now, fortunately, Michael had acquired two allies. At the end of 1267 he had signed a new agreement with Genoa, by the terms of which he had welcomed back
1 The word - literally meaning 'and from the Son' - used to signify the Western belief that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father and the Son rather than directly and exclusively from God the Father. See Byzantium: The Apogee, p. 85.
those Genoese who had been expelled after the Guercio incident, ceding to them the whole district of Galata on the further side of the Golden Horn.1 Then, in the first weeks of the following year, he signed another - with Genoa's arch-rival, Venice.
As early as 1264 Michael had sent ambassadors to the Rialto, and in 1265 he had approved a compact offering to Venice privileges which, if they did not quite equal those which she had formerly enjoyed, represented at least an immense improvement on the existing state of affairs. At the time the Venetians had refused to ratify; the Byzantine East was still in turmoil, the future of the Empire still uncertain, and they saw no point in committing themselves. Four years later, however, the situation had changed. During the interim, not only had the lack of a proper base in the Levant left them dangerously vulnerable to attacks by the Turkish and Albanian corsairs who infested the eastern Mediterranean; they were also gravely concerned at Charles's acquisition of Corfu and part of the Epirot coast, from which vital strong-points he was perfectly capable of blockading the entire Adriatic if he chose. Against these considerations, the vague undertakings of the second Treaty of Viterbo carried little weight. In November 1267 Doge Renier Zeno sent two of his most experienced diplomats to the Bosphorus with full powers to conclude a treaty, and on 4 April 1268 that treaty was signed - to be ratified in Venice less than three months later.
It was, admittedly, to remain in force for a mere five years; but during that time the Venetians promised non-aggression, the withholding of all help to the enemies of the Empire and the liberation of their Greek prisoners in Crete, Modone and Corone, the three principal bases remaining to them in Greek waters. In return, the Emperor undertook to respect Venetian settlements both there and elsewhere, and once more to allow Venetian merchants freedom to reside, travel and trade, without let or hindrance or the payment of duties, throughout his dominions. Two concessions only were missing: Venice's three-eighths share of city and Empire - though it had gradually become in practice more of a titular claim than a genuine economic benefit - and the exclusivity that she had previously enjoyed. For, Michael insisted, the Genoese would retain all their existing rights. The dangers of the old policy, by which
1 It has been suggested that Michael put the Genoese in Galata to avoid any repetition of the Guercio conspiracy. In fact, however, the district had been favoured by them throughout the days of the Latin Empire and even before. They certainly showed no dissatisfaction with the arrangement, and Galata continued to be predominandy Genoese until the Turkish conquest.
one of the republics was given full imperial preference at the expense of the other, had now been conclusively demonstrated. Henceforward there would be free competition between them - though they were specifically enjoined not to attack each other in the straits or the Black Sea - and Byzantium could profit by their rivalry without driving the less favoured party into the arms of its enemies.
But if Michael's military and diplomatic position was stronger than it had been at any time since the reconquest, that of his enemy was rapidly growing stronger still; for Charles of Anjou, now freed of all papal constraints, was openly preparing for war against the Greek Empire. Dockyards throughout the Regno were working overtime; food, money, troops, supplies of provisions of every kind were sent urgently to the Morea, which Charles intended to make the principal bridgehead of his expedition. To prevent leaks of strategic information, all commercial traffic was banned between Italy and Greece. Charles was also busy building up a network of alliances with the princes of central Europe: Bela IV of Hungary, Stephen Urosh I of Serbia and Constantine Tich of Bulgaria - whose wife Irene, sister of the blinded and captive John Lascaris, never allowed him to forget Michael's treatment of her brother.1 In his determination to leave nothing to chance, he even sent ambassadors to the Seljuk Sultan, the King of Armenia and the Mongol Khan; and in August 1269 he succeeded in concluding a commercial treaty with the imperial ally Genoa, thus confirming the furious Michael in his frequently-expressed opinion that the Genoese were not to be trusted. (A similar approach to Venice came to nothing.) Meanwhile the ex-Emperor Baldwin had signed a treaty with Theobald of Champagne, King of Navarre, promising him a quarter of all future conquests -though without prejudice to the agreements already made with Charles, the Duke of Burgundy or the Venetians. With virtually the whole of western and central Europe now ranged against him, the future of Michael Palaeologus and his Empire looked bleak indeed.
It was no use looking for other potential allies; there were none available. Henceforth the Emperor would have to rely on diplomacy alone. One last hope remained - in the improbable person of King Louis
1 Angevin documents suggest that John Lascaris somehow escaped from his place of captivity and took refuge at Charles's court in Naples; but this is implicitly contradicted by both Pachymercs and Gregoras and seems highly improbable. Charles may of course have welcomed a pretender to give his enterprise more legal credibility, just as Robert Guiscard had in 1080 (sec p. 16); but he had after all firmly committed himself to Baldwin, and could hardly espouse John's claim as well.
of France. As a devout Catholic and the elder brother of Charles of Anjou, Louis would not normally have seemed a probable source of salvation; but, as Michael well knew, he was on the point of completing preparations for another Crusade and, as always when Crusades were in question, could think of nothing else. Byzantine envoys hastened to Paris with a letter from their master. The basileus, it explained, would have been happy to join the King's forthcoming expedition against the Saracens of North Africa, and indeed to provide a strong military contingent; unfortunately, however, he was in danger of imminent attack by His Majesty's brother - an eventuality which, if it were allowed to occur, would obviously prevent both parties from lending the Crusade the assistance it deserved. A second embassy in the spring of 1270 announced that the Emperor was ready, with his clergy and people, to return to the Roman obedience and, so far as his conflict with Charles was concerned, would submit himself unconditionally to Louis's personal decision.
The King replied at once. In the absence of a Pope he would immediately inform the Curia of this proposal, recommending its early consideration and the dispatch of a senior prelate to Constantinople. Soon afterwards the Bishop of Albano arrived on the Bosphorus. He had been carefully and thoroughly briefed: the 'confession of faith' enclosed in Pope Clement's earlier letter, with its clear statement of papal primacy, was to be circulated to every Greek church and monastery for signature by all the leading churchmen of the Empire, the signed documents being returned to Rome for safekeeping. Meanwhile a council was to be held in Constantinople at which that same confession would be read out and publicly accepted by Emperor, Patriarch, clergy and people.
For the second time, Michael decided to ignore this condition. He thanked the Bishop of Albano for his trouble and allowed him to return to the West, meanwhile dispatching a third embassy to King Louis. It included two senior churchmen, the Chartophylax of St Sophia John Beccus and the Archdeacon of the Imperial Clergy Constantine Meliten-iotes, both laden with lavish presents. They had, however, got no further than Cape Passero at the south-eastern tip of Sicily when they discovered that the Crusade had already departed for Tunis. There they arrived in early August, to find Louis gravely ill with typhoid fever. More than two weeks passed before he felt able to receive them - and then he could only whisper of his desire for peace between his brother and the Emperor. On the following day, 25 August, he died. 'Their hands empty except for promises', the Greek envoys returned home -just as Charles of Anjou was arriving in Tunis with his navy.
Why, finding his brother dead and personally assuming overall command of the army, did Charles not immediately give up the Crusade and set off there and then for Constantinople? It may have been out of loyalty to Louis — though from what we know of his character this does not seem very likely. More probably he found the campaign already so far advanced and with such excellent prospects of success that it would have been foolish not to have seen it through to the end - a supposition strengthened by the fact that soon afterwards he inflicted an overwhelming defeat on the Emir of Tunis; then, in November, he sailed to the Sicilian port of Trapani for the winter. His army and navy in full readiness, his morale and that of his men boosted by a triumphant victory, freed by his brother's death of the last force that might conceivably have restrained him, Charles of Anjou had never been more dangerous, Michael Palaeologus never more threatened. Only a miracle, it seemed, could save him now.
And then that miracle happened. Scarcely had Charles's fleet reached Trapani than, on 22 November, there arose one of the worst storms ever to have struck western Sicily. All eighteen of his largest men-of-war were reduced to matchwood, together with innumerable smaller vessels; men and horses, most of whom were still on board, perished by the thousand; vast quantities of stores and provisions went irretrievably to the bottom. Within a few hours, both army and navy were effectively destroyed. Michael Palaeologus wept when he heard the news. Once again the Blessed Virgin, Protectress of Constantinople, had saved the city. The King of Sicily would not be a serious menace to his Empire for several years to come.