The Uncertain Unity


For having so adroitly avoided the dangers that beset us, we shall incur no blame . . . rather shall we earn the praise of all men of prudence and wisdom. One consideration only has persuaded me to seek union: the overriding need to avert the perils by which we are threatened .. . But for that I should never have embarked on this affair.

Michael Palaeologus, quoted by George Pachymeres

By the last week of August of the year 1271, Western Christendom had - thanks to the intrigues of Charles of Anjou - been without a Pope for two years and nine months, the longest interregnum in the history of the Papacy; and there is no telling how much longer it might have continued had not the podesta at Viterbo, where the conclave was being held, gone to the somewhat extreme length of removing the roof from the palace in which the cardinals were assembled. This step had the desired effect; and on 1 September Teobaldo (or Tedaldo) Visconti, Archdeacon of Liege, was elected Supreme Pontiff. The news was brought to him in Palestine, whither he had accompanied Prince Edward of England, soon to become King Edward I. He embarked on the first available ship, and on arrival in Rome took the name of Gregory X.

Gregory's journey to the East had left an indelible impression on him. He never lost his interest in the Holy Land and made the recovery of Jerusalem the primary objective of his papacy. He genuinely doubted, however, whether this end could ever be achieved without the help of the Greek Empire; and the healing of the rift between the two Churches therefore assumed still greater importance in his eyes than it had to either of his two immediate predecessors. Even before his departure from Palestine he had written in the most cordial terms to Michael Palaeologus, emphasizing his desire for union; and in October 1272 he followed this up with a personal invitation to the Emperor to attend a General Council of the Church, which he proposed to hold at Lyon in two years' time. Meanwhile, he suggested, informal discussions between the two parties might begin at once, to settle as many questions as possible before the council began. He enclosed with his letter a copy of Clement IV's 'confession of faith'; but, unlike his predecessor, he was a realist. Understanding, far better than Clement ever did, the difficulties with which Michael would have to contend and fully conscious of the shortage of time available, he did not demand complete and unequivocal submission on the part of clergy, monasteries and people. Recognition of papal primacy on the part of the bishops would, he implied, be quite enough. His instructions to his ambassadors regarding the possible formulas to be adopted are even more revealing:

'We, coming voluntarily to obedience of this Church, will recognize and accept the Roman primacy' ... or, if the words 'we recognize' cannot be secured, there may be accepted in their place the following words or their equivalent: 'We therefore, the Emperor, agree with the truth of the Catholic faith' . . . But if the words 'we agree' also cannot be secured, in their place may be substituted the following words or their equivalent: 'We desire to recognize this faith, to assume it, profess it, and to be united with . . . the Holy Roman Church, our mother ... in the profession of faith, and to come to obedience of this Roman Church, [and] to recognize its primacy.'1

Realizing that any prevarications or delay on his part would inevitably risk driving Gregory into Charles's camp, Michael replied in kind. He assured the Pope that negotiations with his legates were already under way, and that he himself was putting the question of union before all other affairs of state. His representatives would certainly attend the forthcoming council; he asked only for a papal safe-conduct for them lest Charles, 'moved by his hatred of peace, may try to bring this divine work to nothing so that it may remain unfinished'. It was a wise precaution: the King of Sicily was, he knew, perfectly capable of arranging for the disappearance of the Byzantine delegation as it passed through his dominions, and then accusing him of bad faith in not having sent one at all.

The Pope may well have shared his misgivings. He immediately granted the request, instructing the Abbot of Monte Cassino to meet the imperial envoys on their arrival in the Regno and to escort them as far as Rome. Meanwhile he continued, in his dealings with Charles,

1 The full text of Gregory's letter is given in J. Guiraud, Les registres de Gregoire X. For the translation - and for much else in this section - I am indebted to D.J. Gcanakoplos, op. cit.

to impress upon him his moral duty to work towards the proposed union rather than to frustrate it. The King objected that he had a moral duty of his own: by the terms of the second Treaty of Viterbo of 1267, he had committed himself to launch his campaign within seven years, in other words before May 1274. Gregory begged him, however, to accept a year's postponement; and Charles, who had still not finished rebuilding his fleet after the disaster at Trapani, none too reluctantly agreed.

Despite the good offices of the Abbot of Monte Cassino and the self-restraint of the King of Sicily, the journey of the Greek envoys to the Council of Lyon was not a pleasant one. Leaving the Golden Horn in March 1274, they ran into an equinoctial storm off Cape Malea, in the course of which one of their two vessels was wrecked and all on board perished, including the Minister of the Treasury Nicholas Panaretos and the Grand Interpreter George Berrhoiotes. Lost too were all the lavish presents from the Emperor to the Pope, including several priceless gold icons and a sumptuous altar-cloth of gold and pearls which Michael Palaeologus had presented to St Sophia seven years before.

By the time the three remaining envoys - the former Patriarch Germanos,' the Metropolitan of Nicaea Theophanes and the Grand Logothete George Acropolites - reached Lyon towards the end of June, the council had already been in session for seven weeks. The cathedral of St Jean (which still looks much as it did in 1274) was thronged with all the leading ecclesiastics of Western Christendom, including the entire College of Cardinals and the former Latin Patriarch of Constantinople, the Venetian Pantaleone Giustinian - a total congregation of some fifteen hundred. Though all the Catholic reigning monarchs had been invited, one only - James I of Aragon - actually came; Charles of Anjou was conspicuous by his absence. On 24 June the three envoys were escorted in ceremonial procession to the papal palace, where the Pope received them and gave them the kiss of peace. They in return presented him with letters from the Emperor, his son Andronicus and the Orthodox bishops. There were no negotiations, no discussions. Five days later however, on 29 June, Gregory himself presided at a special bilingual Mass to celebrate the forthcoming union, with the ecclesiastical envoys

1 Germanos had been obliged to resign the Patriarchate in 1266 — after a single year in office -when he failed to revoke the anathema pronounced against Michael by his predecessor Arsenius for the blinding of John Lascaris.

playing an active part in the liturgy: gospel, epistle and creed were chanted in both Latin and Greek, including three somewhat pointed repetitions of the filioque. It was the one word that, more than any other, could normally be trusted to stick in Byzantine throats; if it did so on this occasion, the envoys somehow managed to conceal their discomfiture.

Finally, on 6 July, the union was formally enacted. After a sermon by the Cardinal Bishop of Ostia - the future Pope Innocent V - and a few words of welcome from Gregory, the Emperor's letter was read in Latin translation. It included the 'confession of faith' in full - with of course the filioque — and acknowledged papal primacy, asking only that the Byzantine Church should be allowed to retain its creed (which dated from before the schism) and such Eastern rites as did not conflict with the findings of the Ecumenical Councils. The other two letters followed, the Greek bishops also signifying their acceptance of the union but giving notification that if it came to pass the existing Patriarch would resign his office, while they themselves would accord to the Papacy 'all rights to which it had been entitled before the schism' - a somewhat nebulous concession, given that most of the papal claims had been formulated only as a result of the events of 1054. Finally the Grand Logothete George Acropolites took the oath in the Emperor's name, in terms similar to those set out in his letter; the Pope chanted the Te Deum and preached a sermon expressing his joy at the reconciliation; the creed was chanted again in Latin and Greek; and the ceremony was over. For the first time in 220 years, the Eastern and Western Churches were in communion one with the other.

Or so at least it seemed.

Throughout that summer of 1274, all remained quiet on the Bosphorus; it was only with the return of the imperial envoys in the late autumn that clergy and people began to understand the full significance of what had occurred. The acknowledgement of papal primacy was bad enough, even though - as the Emperor constantly reminded them - the length and difficulty of the journey between Rome and Constantinople was enough to ensure that the Patriarchs would lose virtually nothing of their effective independence. When, he asked, would the Pope appear in Constantinople to take precedence over the Greek bishops, and how often would anyone cross so vast a sea to carry an appeal to Rome? But the betrayal — and in the eyes of many Byzantines, both clerical and secular, it was nothing less - went far deeper than that. Their Empire was, and had always been, a theocracy, their Emperor the Vice-Gerent of God on earth, Equal of the Apostles. Far more than the Patriarch, he symbolized the religious faith of his people. But he was not all-powerful. By what right, they demanded, had he consented to an alteration to the very cornerstone of their religion, the Orthodox creed itself? That creed had been slowly and painstakingly evolved by the seven great Ecumenical Councils of the Church; it could be properly amended only by another such council, at which all five Patriarchs must be present. Thus the Emperor had effectively ridden roughshod over the canon law, uncanonically adopting a Western version of the creed which was itself uncanonical. In doing so, moreover, he had most surely given mortal offence to the Blessed Virgin, under whose special protection their city lay. Just seventy years earlier the people of Constantinople had forfeited that protection, with results that were still remembered by the entire adult population. What new tribulations must they now expect?

The Emperor's submission was also a bitter blow to their national pride. For centuries they had looked down on the West as being not only heretical but also crude and unsophisticated, barbaric and boorish; and the fifty-seven-year occupation of their city, during which they had been alternately bullied and patronized by a succession of semi-literate thugs, had given them no reason to change their opinions. Now, after only thirteen years of freedom, they saw themselves being harnessed once again to the Frankish yoke; and they were not prepared to submit without protest.

It seems to have been after a special service on 16 January 1275, at which the ceremony at Lyon was re-enacted in the chapel of the imperial palace, that the demonstrators first took to the streets; and feeling ran yet higher when the well-known unionist John Beccus - last encountered four years before when, as Chartophylax of St Sophia, he was one of his Emperor's chief emissaries to St Louis of France - was raised to the patriarchal throne. The Church was now more bitterly divided than at any time since the days of Photius over four centuries before; and the bitterness spread even as far as the imperial family itself, where the Emperor's sister Eulogia - who had by now taken the veil - showed herself so determined an opponent of her brother's policies that he was obliged to put her under arrest. Escaping soon afterwards, she fled to Bulgaria where she and her daughter Maria - who had married the Bulgar Tsar Constantine Tich as his second wife in 1272 - busied themselves planning an alliance with the Mamelukes of Egypt which, they hoped, would ultimately drive her brother from his throne.

This plan fortunately came to nothing; more worrying for the Emperor was the reaction of Nicephorus, ruler of Epirus - who had succeeded his father Michael a few years before - and his brother John the Bastard of Thessaly. These two, largely if not wholly for political reasons, made their territories the principal refuge of all those who continued to oppose the union. John indeed went further, setting himself up as a champion of Orthodoxy and later, on i May 1277, even summoning a 'synod' of fugitive monks to pronounce formal sentence of anathema on Emperor, Patriarch and Pope.

Had Michael Palaeologus for once misjudged the temper of his subjects? Perhaps he had, to some degree. Utterly convinced as he was that the action he had taken had been the only way to save the Empire from another potentially catastrophic Latin invasion, he had certainly hoped to induce them to take a similarly realistic view. But he had always known that he might fail to do so, in which case the consequences would simply have to be faced. As he saw the situation, he could not have acted otherwise than he did. For some weeks after the protests began in earnest, he was reluctant to inflict punishment upon the agitators; only when every attempt at persuasion failed did he reluctantly resort to force. Once his decision was taken, however, there were no half measures. Anti-unionists who refused to remain silent were imprisoned, exiled or blinded; others were tortured, yet others suffered confiscation of all their property. The monasteries, who headed the opposition, were treated with particular harshness: one dangerously voluble monk, Meletios by name, had his tongue cut out.

Union with Rome, by depriving the King of Sicily and the titular Latin Emperor, Philip of Courtenay — whose father Baldwin had died in 1273 — of any moral justification for their intended invasion, had temporarily saved the Greek Empire; it legitimized Michael's claim to Constantinople in the eyes of the West; it even eliminated papal opposition to his programme for finishing off the work he had started and clearing the last remnants of Latin occupation from the Balkan peninsula. But the cost, both to the Emperor and to his people, had been heavy indeed.

Long before the imperial envoys had even reached Lyon for the ceremony of union, their master's latest campaign in the Balkans was already under way; his troops had occupied the strategic port of Butrinto in Albania and the inland fortress of Berat, driving the Angevin army back to Durazzo and Avlona on the Adriatic. King Charles, seriously alarmed, dispatched what reinforcements he could; but he was too fully occupied in Italy and Sicily fighting off the Genoese and their Ghibelline allies - who were making incessant raids on the Sicilian coastal towns, as well as those of Apulia and Calabria - to take any real offensive on his own account, and was obliged to accept severe losses in both men and territory. The following year the Emperor kept up the pressure, simultaneously launching a major attack on John the Bastard in Thessaly under the command of his brother, the Despot John Palaeologus, and sending a fleet of seventy-three ships to harass the Latins and intercept any aid that might be sent.

The Bastard, taken by surprise, found himself under siege in his castle of Neopatras; but he had been in tight corners before. One dark night he lowered himself by rope down the walls and, in the guise of a groom seeking a runaway horse, managed to pass unsuspected through the Greek camp. Three days later he reached Thebes, where the local ruler, Duke Jean I de la Roche, lent him three hundred horsemen. With these, hurrying back to Neopatras, he attacked the Greek army from behind. The Despot John did everything he could to rally his men, but panic seized them and they fled.

The effect of this victory - much enhanced by the courage and resourcefulness shown by the Bastard, who had not only beaten the imperial army but had also made it look extremely silly - was to put new heart into the Latin lords. Quickly collecting a number of Venetian vessels from Euboea and Crete and supplementing these with any others that they could find, they attacked the Greek fleet at Demetrias on the Gulf of Volos. At first the advantage seemed to be with the assailants: many of the Greek sailors were wounded, others were flung into the sea. Just in time, however, John the Despot arrived from Thessaly with a locally-gathered army;1 and slowly the tide of battle turned. By evening nearly all the leaders of the Franks had been captured, and all but two of the Latin ships. Michael Palaeologus, when he heard the news of the two battles, made no secret of the fact that in his eyes the victory far outweighed the defeat. His brother the Despot John, however, took the opposite view. For him, not even his recent triumph could atone for the

1 It is hard to know exactly what happened at Demetrias. Gregoras insists that it was fought not on sea but on the shore, which would certainly make better sense of what follows. Another problem is that John is said to have heard of the battle while still at Ncopatras - i.e., within a day of that engagement - which would have given the Latins only a few hours in which to have got their navy together and launched their attack. But there is no doubt of the Greek victory, nor of its importance.

conduct of his army at Neopatras. No sooner was he back in Constantinople than he resigned his command and returned to civilian life, a sad and broken man. His natural successor would have been the protostrator1 Alexius Philanthropenus, who had commanded the fleet at Demetrias; but Alexius was still recovering from wounds sustained in the course of the battle, and the Emperor's choice fell instead on a renegade Italian whom we know only as Licario.

This man was, so far as we can gather, a member of a prominent Veronese family long resident on the island of Euboea - where, however, he had incurred the displeasure of the Latin rulers by an unseemly liaison with Felisa dalle Carceri, widow of one of them. In 1271 he had offered his services to the Empire. His first victory - the capture of the fortress of Karystos - had been rewarded by the grant of the whole of Euboea as an imperial fief, in return for a pledge of continued service with two hundred knights. In succeeding years he mopped up the entire island except the city of Chalkis, and also recovered a number of others: Skyros, Skopelos, Skiathos and Amorgos were captured from their Venetian lord Filippo Ghisi, who was sent back to Constantinople in chains; Ceos, Seriphos and Astipalaia followed soon after, as did San-torini and Therasia. Lemnos, thanks to the determination of its lord Paolo Navagaioso and his wife, surrendered only after a three-year siege.

The way now seemed clear for the final conquest of Euboea - of which only the capital, Chalkis, remained in Latin hands. A battle outside the walls resulted in the capture of one of the island's rulers, Felisa's brother Giberto da Verona, and of Jean de la Roche, Duke of Athens-Thebes; but before Licario could follow up his victory Jean's brother, Jacques de la Roche, Governor of Nauplia, arrived with a large army, while almost simultaneously came the news that the Byzantine army had suffered another serious defeat at the hands of John the Bastard. Chalkis, Licario decided, would have to wait. Returning to Constantinople with his prisoners, he was promoted by the Emperor to the rank of Grand Constable, commander of all the Latin mercenaries of the Empire — a post previously held by Michael himself. For Giberto da Verona, the shock proved too great: seeing one of the humblest of his erstwhile vassals arrayed in his sumptuous official robes and even whispering confidentially into the imperial ear, he died of apoplexy on the spot. Jean de la Roche was luckier; he was ransomed for 30,000 soldi, though he too died soon afterwards.

1 Technically, the commander of the vanguard and light cavalry.

As for Licario himself, his name vanishes from the chronicles as suddenly as it appears. There is no mention of his death - as there surely would have been had he been killed in battle - or of any disgrace; we can only assume that he too died of natural causes, probably in Constantinople. He never lived to capture Chalkis, or to assume over his native island the dominion that was rightly his; he deserves mention in these pages, however, as the most brilliant naval commander of his day and as one of the protagonists in the long struggle of Michael Palaeologus to regain his Balkan Empire.

This continuing warfare in the Balkans and the Aegean was a source of genuine sorrow to Pope Gregory; but he was enough of a realist to know that he could not prevent it, and in 127 5 he did at least succeed in arranging a year's truce between Michael Palaeologus and Charles of Anjou, thereby - as he hoped - allowing both of them time in which to consider the only military operation to which he would give his blessing: a new Crusade. It comes as something of a surprise to read that at this point Michael proposed that the Crusading armies, instead of coming by sea, should follow the route of the First Crusade - across the Balkans to Constantinople and then, once over the Bosphorus, through Asia Minor into Syria and Palestine. Such a plan sounds dangerous indeed. It would, apart from anything else, have involved a serious risk that the Latins might attempt another attack on Constantinople. True, it might also have led to the reconquest of Anatolia from the Turks and Mongols; but even if this proved possible, who was to guarantee that the recovered lands would be returned to their rightful suzerain? The thought of still more Latin princelings strutting about on imperial territory can have given Michael no pleasure at all.

On the other hand, if the Crusaders were coming in any event, was it not better that they should be put to good use? Here at least was a chance of ridding Anatolia once and for all of the infidel; when would there ever be another? And had not his great-great-great-great-grandfather Alexius Comnenus used the armies of the First Crusade in a similar way, with considerable success? Michael must have thought long and hard before making his proposal. Pope Gregory, however, was immediately interested. The idea of recovering the great Christian cities - even Antioch itself - could not have failed to appeal to him; this way, too, the armies would be spared the dangers of a long and uncomfortable sea voyage. Such was his enthusiasm that he even suggested a personal meeting with the Emperor as soon as possible after Easter 1276 in Brindisi - or, if Michael hesitated (as well he might) to set foot in the Regno, across the Adriatic at Avlona.

But on 10 January - just three months before the appointed meeting -the Pope died at Arezzo; and though his gentle and peace-loving successor Innocent V was to maintain close contacts with the Greek ambassadors he was a good deal less eager for a Crusade, and proved interested neither in the idea of the land expedition nor in that of a meeting with the Emperor. Both plans were accordingly abandoned. This was the last time in history that a united Christendom might -just possibly - have expelled the Turks from Anatolia and returned it, after two hundred years, to Byzantium. The opportunity, for reasons that will become all too clear by the end of this chapter, would never recur.

Innocent - Pierre de Tarentaise — was another Frenchman; and his election had naturally raised the spirits of Charles of Anjou, who had intrigued shamelessly on his behalf and who at once hurried to the papal court. Charles could not forgive Michael for having outwitted him at Lyon; nor had he ever concealed his disgust at Pope Gregory's policy of good relations with Byzantium. His designs on Constantinople were as determined as ever they had been, and when he found that the new Pope was no more sympathetic to them than his predecessor, we have it on the authority of both Pachymeres and of a contemporary Sicilian chronicler, Bartolomeo of Neocastro, that he chewed his sceptre in his rage. But Innocent died in his turn after a pontificate of five months; his successor, Adrian V, after only five weeks; while Adrian's successor John XXI lasted just seven months before the ceiling of his new study in the palace at Viterbo fell on him and crushed him to death.1 Only in November 1277 did the College of Cardinals, after sitting for six months in their fourth conclave in a year and a half, finally succeed in defying the endless machinations of Charles of Anjou by electing a Pope who was to reign long enough to make a lasting mark on papal policy.

Giovanni Gaetani Orsini, who took the name of Nicholas III, was a member of one of Rome's oldest and most powerful families. As such he

1 John was the only Portuguese ever to reach the papal throne, and the only Pope to achieve Dante's Paradise. He may also have been the only doctor: his Book of the Eye enjoyed much popularity, although according to Mgr. Mann {The Lives of the Popes in the Middle Ages, Vol. XVI) 'some of his remedies we should even now consider disgusting, and others are too curious to be set down here'. In fact he was only the twentieth pontiff to bear the name of John, but certain misguided chroniclers had unfortunately counted John XV twice.

had little patience with Charles's constant interference in papal affairs, and still less with his openly imperialist claims. For years the King of Sicily had used his title of Senator of Rome to sway - or attempt to sway - papal elections, bribing French and Italian cardinals alike to vote for his own candidates, just as he had taken advantage of the Imperial Vicariate of Tuscany to further his political ambitions in the peninsula. Within weeks of his election, the new Pope had stripped him of both positions. He also absolutely forbade Charles to pursue his plans for an attack on Constantinople. This last prohibition was not prompted by any particular sympathy for Michael Palaeologus, nor indeed for the Byzantine Empire as a whole; Nicholas simply saw the East and the West as two opposing forces, with the Papacy holding the balance between them and ensuring that neither became too powerful. But Michael cared little what Nicholas thought; for him it was enough to see his enemy humbled, his Empire free at last of the menace that had hung over it for so long.

In one respect the Pope remained every bit as firm as his predecessors: he was determined that the Byzantine Empire, having accepted ecclesiastical union at Lyon, should give proof that that union was now complete and that the Greek Church was prepared to obey in every detail, in liturgy as well as in doctrine, the dictates of Rome. Michael Palaeologus had already gone a long way in this direction. Apart from the ceremony at Lyon, he had agreed to that of January 1275 in Constantinople which had caused the first riots; and in April 1277, in the Palace of Blachernae and in the presence of the Patriarch, the senior clergy and the papal nuncios, he and his son Andronicus - co-Emperor since 1272 — had taken further oral oaths in ratification of those sworn on their behalf at Lyon by George Acropolites, after which they had signed various documents in Latin confirming the points covered. These included the filioque, the doctrine of purgatory, the seven sacraments as maintained in Rome, the use of unleavened bread in the Mass and of course papal supremacy, with the right of appeal to the Holy See. After this, all should have been well; unfortunately the Greek clerics had refused to make similar personal avowals, while the collective letter drafted on their behalf by Patriarch John Beccus had been transparently ambiguous on several major issues. A few months later, a synod at St Sophia had tried to show its sincerity by anathematizing Nicephorus of Epirus and John the Bastard for maintaining the old Orthodoxy — in answer to which, as we have already seen, John had had a similar sentence pronounced against Michael, John Beccus and Pope Nicholas in return; but to the Roman Curia the sincerity of the Greek Church in Constantinople continued to be deeply suspect.

Nicholas III was determined to settle the matter once and for all. He possessed little of the patience of Gregory X, and none of his diplomatic finesse. In the spring of 1279 he sent Bishop Bartholomew of Grosseto at the head of a new embassy to the Emperor, with a whole series of categorical demands. First, 'the Patriarch and the rest of the clergy of every fortress, village or any other place, individually and collectively, must recognize, accept and confess with a sworn oath the truth of the faith and primacy of the Roman Church . . . without any condition or addition'. A full text of the required oath was appended. Secondly, 'those who exercise the office of preachers must publicly and carefully instruct their congregations in the true faith, and chant the Creed with the addition of thefilioque. In order to ensure that this was done, the papal legates were personally to visit all the chief cities of the Empire and collect, from everyone they found in cathedrals, churches and monasteries, duly witnessed individual professions of faith and acceptances of papal supremacy. Signed copies of these were to be sent to Rome. Only then could the Greek clergy apply for confirmation of the offices they held; meanwhile all such offices would be considered uncanonical and would not be recognized in Rome. Nicholas specifically refused the Emperor's earlier requests - which had been repeated in the Patriarch's letter - that the Greeks should be allowed to preserve their ancient rites dating from before the schism: 'unity of faith,' he wrote, 'does not permit diversity in its confessors or in confession.' Finally, the Pope announced his intention of appointing a cardinal-legate, with his official residence in Constantinople.

To Michael, who had continually reassured his subjects that their capital would remain free of permanent papal representatives, this last demand must have been particularly irksome; but his whole position where Rome was concerned was rapidly becoming intolerable. His own Church — most of whose members had never wanted unity in the first place - made no secret of its anger at this continuing harassment by successive Popes, and he knew that he could press it no further. To make matters worse he had recently had a serious difference of opinion with John Beccus, as a result of which the latter had tendered his resignation and withdrawn to the monastery of the Mangana. This awkward fact he was able to conceal from the nuncios, by telling them that the Patriarch had merely retired for a well-earned rest and somehow persuading Beccus to maintain this fiction by receiving them in his retreat; but there was no way, as he well knew, of satisfying their demands. He could only do his utmost not to offend them more than necessary and try once again to temporize; and for this he needed ecclesiastical support. Summoning all the senior churchmen to the palace, he spoke to them more frankly than ever before:

You well know with what difficulty the present agreement was achieved ... I am aware that I have used force against many of you and have offended many friends, including members of my own family ... I believed that the affair would be ended and that the Latins would demand nothing more .. . but thanks to certain people who are determined to create discord they are now demanding further proof of union. That is the purpose of the present mission. I wished to inform you of this in advance so that when you hear the envoys you will not be unduly disturbed or, observing my own conduct towards them, suspect me of bad faith.

As God is my witness, I shall not alter one accent, one iota of our faith. I promise to uphold the divine Creed of our fathers, and to oppose not only the Latins but anyone who would call it in question. If I receive the envoys cordially it will do you no harm. I believe that we should treat them kindly, lest we create new problems for ourselves. For this new Pope is not so well-disposed towards us as was Gregory.

His words had their effect. The Greek prelates listened to Bishop Bartholomew in silence and managed somehow to remain polite. But they refused adamantly to swear the required oaths. The best the Emperor could do was to secure another written declaration similar to that of two years before; but many of those who had signed on the first occasion refused to do so again, and he was obliged to invent a number of fictional bishops and forge their signatures before the document looked even moderately impressive. Meanwhile, to convince the nuncios of his sincerity, Michael had them taken to the imperial prisons, where they could see for themselves the treatment accorded to those - including members of the imperial family - who had opposed the union. Finally on i September, in their presence, he and Andronicus repeated their former oaths both orally and in writing.

There was no more to be done. Bartholomew and his fellow-envoys may or may not have been persuaded of the good faith of Michael and his son; but with regard to the body of the Greek Church they can have only been confirmed in their previous suspicions. Whatever the documents they carried back with them might suggest, true ecclesiastical unity remained a chimera. In Byzantine hearts, the schism still ruled as strongly as ever.

If Pope Nicholas III had failed to bring the Empire back whole-heartedly into the Roman fold, he had been no more successful in reconciling it with Charles of Anjou. True, he had forbidden Charles to launch his threatened invasion; but his repeated efforts to achieve a treaty of peace between the two rivals had been ignored by both of them — Charles because he still harboured dark designs on Constantinople, and Michael because a treaty might have tied his hands in the Balkans, where his undeclared war against the princes of Achaia, Epirus and Thessaly was now yielding rich rewards.

William of Achaia had died on i May 1278, a year after the death of his son-in-law and heir Philip of Anjou. Thus, by the terms of the Treaty of Viterbo in 1267, Charles himself had inherited the principality and with it the overlordship of all Eastern Europe sdll in Latin hands. To Michael Palaeologus, this development caused little concern: henceforth Achaia, instead of having a prince of its own who could be a focus for its people's loyalty, was to be just one of many territories under a foreign, absentee ruler for whom - preoccupied as he was with Constantinople - it was relatively unimportant. The rapacity and corruption of the successive baillis whom Charles sent out as governors in his name soon brought the local populations, Latin and Greek alike, into a state of open revolt: and the imperial troops, working out of their two chief bases at Monemvasia and Mistra, were able to continue the reconquest of the Morea even faster than before.

Charles hardly bothered. The Peloponnesian ports and harbours would have been useful to him had he been planning a naval expedition against the Empire; but his lack of sufficient naval transport and his failure to reach an agreement with Venice — which had in fact made a new treaty with Michael in 1277 - ruled out any such possibility. The attack would therefore have to be made by land. True, the Pope had forbidden it; but the Pope was already in his sixties and would not last for ever. In any case Charles was quite prepared to defy him if necessary. When the moment finally came, the Angevin armies would have to take the Via Egnatia, the time-honoured route across the neck of the Balkan peninsula, which would in turn necessitate a bridgehead in Albania or northern Epirus. This region too was now coming under increasing Byzantine pressure; and on 10 April 1279 Charles concluded a formal treaty with Prince Nicephorus whereby, in return for military assistance against the Empire, Nicephorus declared himself a vassal of the King of Sicily and ceded to him a number of important strongholds.

For the next eighteen months a steady stream of men and horses poured across the Adriatic, where they were assembled into a fighting force by Hugh the Red of Sully, one of Charles's most trusted generals. With them came immense quantities of arms and siege engines and another small army of sappers, engineers and carpenters to provide technical support. The death of Nicholas III - which had occurred, most conveniently, in August 1280 - meant the end of the papal ban; and in the late autumn of that year the army of some eight thousand, including two thousand cavalry and a large force of Saracen archers, moved eastwards across Albania to the Byzantine fortress-town of Berat. Standing as it did on a high rock dominating the western end of the Via Egnatia, Berat represented the first link in the chain of strongholds that Sully planned to forge across the whole breadth of the peninsula, and he at once gave orders for a siege. As befitted its importance, the town possessed a strong and well-equipped garrison; but the size of the Angevin army suggested that it would not easily be discouraged, and the local commander very understandably sent messengers to Constantinople with an urgent appeal for reinforcements.

They found Michael Palaeologus in a state of considerable anxiety. Tempers were still running high over the issue of ecclesiastical unity, by whose opponents he had not been forgiven; many of them, he feared, might see in the Angevin expedition a means of getting rid of him once and for all. Nor did he have much confidence in the Venetians, who had returned to the city after the treaty of 1277 and whose numbers continued to increase, despite the Republic's abrogation of the agreement two years later. If Berat were to fall, Charles would be in Thessalonica in a matter of weeks; and what then would be the prospects for Constantinople? Entrusting his nephew Michael Tarchaneiotes - son of his sister Maria - with the command of all the finest troops he could muster, the Emperor ordered a night-long vigil throughout the city. For that night at least, Church unity was forgotten: it was the old Byzantine liturgy that echoed from a thousand churches as the people prayed for the salvation of their Empire.

The siege continued throughout the winter, while Charles sent a constant flow of messages to his commander, encouraging him to ever greater efforts and even, in December, commanding him to take the town by storm. But Berat's superb defensive position made such a task virtually impossible to fulfil; Sully could only ravage the surrounding countryside and hope to starve the Greek garrison into surrender. Meanwhile the garrison put up a stout defence, and was at last rewarded in March 1281 by the sight of the relief army approaching over the horizon. Still more welcome - since by this time they were seriously short of food -were the rafts loaded with provisions which, under cover of darkness, began to float down the Asounes river — now the Lium - into the city. Meanwhile Tarchaneiotes, who had been instructed by the Emperor to avoid pitched battles, dug his army in among the surrounding hills and awaited his opportunity.

It was not long in coming. A day or two later, Sully - who was easily recognizable by his flaming red hair - decided to make a personal reconnaissance of the Greek positions and had just ridden out of his camp, accompanied by an escort of twenty-five men, when his horse was suddenly shot from under him and he found himself surrounded by a band of Turkish mercenaries. Some of the escort escaped, and galloped back to the camp with the news; whereupon the Angevin army believing their leader dead, panicked and took to their heels, the Greeks -including those from the garrison within the town - following them in hot pursuit. The Latin cavalry, heavily armed as always, were well protected from the imperial archers; but their huge, slow horses were brought down one after the other, and by evening the greater part of the Angevin army, including nearly all its commanders, was in Byzantine hands. The prisoners, including Sully himself, were brought back to Constantinople and forced to participate in an imperial triumph through the streets of the city.

Michael Palaeologus later had a fresco of the victory painted on the wall of his palace, and no wonder: it was the greatest that he had scored over the Latins since Pelagonia and the recovery of Constantinople. As a direct result of it, moreover, he now found himself in control of the whole interior of Albania and northern Epirus as far south as Ioannina. To Charles of Anjou, on the other hand, the events of those few fateful hours brought utter humiliation before friends and enemies alike, the complete loss of two years' hard work - to say nothing of vast expenditure - on his expeditionary force and the indefinite postponement of his long-held dream of an empire in the East.

But though the dream might be postponed, it was by no means abandoned. The disaster at Berat seems if anything to have strengthened Charles's determination to destroy Michael Palaeologus. Despite his losses his situation was by no means hopeless, and had been greatly improved by the election to the papal throne in February 1281, six months after the death of Pope Nicholas, of the Frenchman Simon de Brie.1 Simon, who took the name of Martin IV, had served at the court of St Louis; later, as papal legate, he had been instrumental in preparing Charles's candidature for the throne of Sicily. A fervent patriot who deeply distrusted all Italians, he was totally devoted to the French royal house and made no secret of his readiness to submit the Papacy to the interests of France. Charles could henceforth pursue his expansionist policies without fear of any trouble from Rome.

The first object of these policies was Venice. Since Berat there could no longer be any question of sending another land expedition against Constantinople. Any new army would have to go by sea, and that would in turn be possible only with the help of the Venetian fleet. Recent attempts by Charles to woo the Serenissima had always come to nothing, owing to the Veneto-Byzantine treaty of 1277; but the intervening four years had brought a significant change in the Venetian attitude. On the Rialto the treaty was quickly seen to be almost worthless. Venice's trade had steadily decreased, her merchants had been treated as second-class citizens, their rights under the treaty ignored. Worst of all from their point of view, the Genoese were thriving, and enjoying to the full the privileges which were being withheld from the Venetians. In 1279 the Doge had abrogated the treaty, since when Venice's relations with the Empire had deteriorated still further; and by 1281 she was ready to make her volte-face. The treaty that was signed on 3 July at Orvieto by Charles, the Latin 'Emperor' Philip of Courtenay and the accredited representatives of the Republic provided for a sea-borne expedition against Constantinople, in which all three sovereigns - Charles (or his eldest son), Philip and Doge Giovanni Dandolo - would participate in person, to set out in the spring of 1283. A Venetian fleet of at least forty armed galleys would leave the lagoon not later than 1 April, to make contact with the transports to be provided by Charles and Philip at Brindisi a fortnight later.

Pope Martin was not a signatory to the treaty; but the fact that it was signed in the papal palace at Orvieto is proof enough that it had his enthusiastic support. Moreover, just three months later on 18 October, the Pope suddenly - and apparently spontaneously - pronounced sentence of excommunication on the Byzantine Emperor:

We declare that Michael Palaeologus, who is called Emperor of the Greeks, has

1 Charles had not been exclusively responsible for the choice of Simon as Pope. By that time the Orsini family had made themselves so unpopular in Viterbo that the mob had burst into the conclave and carried off the two Orsini cardinals until the election was over.

incurred excommunication as supporter of the Greek schismatics and consequent heretics . .. We absolutely forbid all individual kings, princes, dukes, marquises, counts, barons and all others of whatever eminence, condition or status, all cities, fortresses and other places from contracting with this Michael Palaeologus any alliance or association of any sort or nature that may be proposed while he is excommunicate . .. Furthermore his lands shall undergo ecclesiastical interdict, and he shall be deprived of all property that he holds from any churches whatever, and he shall suffer other spiritual penalties as we think best; and any such alliances contracted ... we declare to be null and void.

Twice in the following year this sentence was to be renewed; but for Michael the first was enough. No basileus had ever done so much as he had for the Papacy. He and his son had twice sworn fidelity to the Church of Rome and had accepted every single item of its Creed, the filioque not excepted. He had done his utmost to persuade his own ecclesiastics to do likewise - risking civil war and even his own throne in the process - and had even achieved a fair measure of success. And now, instead of rewarding him, that same Latin Church had put him under its ban, in one irresponsible moment undoing the work of twenty years - not only on his part but on that of at least six previous Popes -and leaving him alone to face his enemies. Surprisingly, he did not even now renounce the union: he still considered himself bound by his oath, and there was always the possibility that Martin's successor might revoke the ban. But he ordered the Pope's name struck from the diptychs - the lists of those whose names were regularly remembered during public prayers — and simultaneously suspended all the measures that he had previously taken to impose the Latin rite on his subjects. Meanwhile he made every effort to restore good relations with the Greek Church. It looked as though he would be needing its support more than ever in the trials to come.

Charles of Anjou was now the most powerful sovereign in Europe. Quite apart from his own Kingdoms of Sicily (which included all South Italy) and Albania, he was ruler of Achaia, Provence, Forcalquier, Anjou and Maine, overlord of Tunis and Senator of Rome. The King of France was his nephew, the King of Hungary and the titular Emperor of Constantinople his sons-in-law. In the diplomatic field, too, he had taken every possible precaution. He had treaties of alliance with Serbia, Bulgaria, the Greek Princes of Epirus and - most important of all because of her naval supremacy in the Mediterranean - the Republic of Venice. The Pope was his puppet, who had moreover obligingly elevated what was essentially to be a war of conquest to the status of a Crusade.

He had learnt his lesson from the reverse of the previous year, and was now preparing a naval expedition on a far grander scale than anything that he had hitherto contemplated. To achieve this he had imposed crippling taxes throughout the Regno, with an additional tithe for the Crusade which brought many of his subjects to the brink of destitution. The money raised allowed him comfortably to exceed the levels foreseen in the Orvieto treaty: he was now building three hundred ships in Naples, Provence and his Adriatic ports, while another hundred had been ordered from Sicily - a fleet massive enough to carry some twenty-seven thousand mounted knights, to say nothing of siege machinery, sledge-hammers, axes, ropes, cauldrons for boiling pitch, several thousand iron stakes and mattocks, and all the other equipment necessary for the success of the most ambitious campaign of his career.

Against him stood Michael Palaeologus, the Republic of Genoa and a newcomer to this story, King Peter III of Aragon. Peter, whose wife Constance was the daughter of King Manfred, believed himself to be the legitimate heir of the Hohenstaufen and naturally detested the Angevins, whom he considered usurpers of a Kingdom that was rightfully his. Ever since his succession in 1276 he and his brilliant Italian Chancellor John of Procida had been working for Charles's overthrow. An Aragonese envoy had twice secretly visited Michael in Constantinople, continuing on each occasion to Sicily with generous quantities of Byzantine gold which he had used to fan the flames of discontent;1 and by the end of 1280 Peter was making little attempt to conceal his aggressive intentions. He and Michael might be prompted by very different motives, but in their attitude to Charles of Anjou they were as one.

Peter of Aragon and John of Procida did their work well. Charles had never been unpopular in South Italy, where he had proved on the whole an able and conscientious ruler; but in Sicily he had always been hated, and the crippling taxation that he had imposed in recent years, in a cause for which his Sicilian subjects had little sympathy - many of them indeed, being of Greek origin, strongly favoured the Byzantines - made the island a fertile field for subversion. By Easter 1282, with the King's vast armada lying at anchor in the harbour at Messina while his bailiffs

1 According to Sicilian legend - and of course Verdi's opera Les Vipres Siciliennes, in which John plays a major part in the consequent rising - this envoy was in fact John of Procida himself; but John was already in his late sixties, and throughout the period of his reported travels his signature appears regularly on Aragoncsc documents. Sir Steven Runciman (The Sicilian Vespers, pp. 208-9)suggests that the secret envoy may have been one of his sons.

toured the farms and homesteads, requisitioning - without compensation - grain, fodder, horses and even whole herds of cattle and pigs to sustain the army on its long journey, and-Angevin feeling was near flash-point.

The fatal spark was lit on Easter Monday, 30 March, outside the church of Santo Spirito, which stands to this day in Palermo. The usual crowd thronged the square, enjoying the spring sunshine and waiting for the bell that was to call them for the evening Mass. Suddenly a group of Angevin soldiers appeared, obviously drunk; and one of them - a sergeant named Drouet - began importuning a young Sicilian woman. Unfortunately for him, her husband was standing nearby, and when he saw what was happening he fell upon Drouet in true Sicilian style and stabbed him to death. The other soldiers dashed forward to avenge him - and found themselves surrounded. They too were quickly dispatched. And so, as the church bells pealed out for vespers, the people of Palermo ran through the city, calling on their fellow-citizens to rise against their oppressor. 'Moranu li Franchiski!' they cried in their heavy Sicilian dialect. 'Death to the French!' Nor did they call in vain. All night long the massacre continued. Dominican and Franciscan friars were dragged from their convents and told to say the word ciciri — unpronounceable, it was maintained, by any but Italians. Those who failed were cut down where they stood. The victims, men and women, amounted to well over two thousand. By the following morning not a Frenchman was left alive in Palermo.

And the revolt was already spreading across the island. By the end of April it had reached Messina, where the seventy Angevin vessels lying in the harbour were set on fire. Once again Charles was obliged to postpone his Greek expedition; ordering to Messina all the two hundred ships still lying in the mainland ports, he immediately flung the whole force that he had gathered for the conquest of Constantinople against the rebels. Meanwhile he set to work to raise yet another army, and on 25 July led it in person across the straits and laid siege to Messina. Throughout the summer this siege continued; but it was of no avail. On 30 August Peter of Aragon landed at Trapani at the head of an immense host and on 2 September entered Palermo, where he was proclaimed King of Sicily. (He would doubtless have preferred a proper coronation, but the French Archbishop of Palermo had been massacred and his colleague of Monreale had fled.) A fortnight later his ambassadors presented themselves before Charles of Anjou in his camp outside Messina.

For Charles the situation was now desperate. The speed of Peter's unopposed advance was a clear enough indication of his popularity in the island. It was also plain that the forces of the Aragonese, both on land and at sea, were more than a match for his own. If he remained where he was and attempted to resist them, there was a serious danger that their navy might institute a blockade; he would then be caught between their advancing army and the still unconquered Messina, with no possibility of retreat across the straits. The only sensible course was to return to the mainland while he could, reassemble his troops at leisure and make plans for a new invasion - perhaps at some more vulnerable point along the coast - the following year. Summoning what dignity he could, he told Peter's ambassadors that, while he naturally repudiated all their master's claims to the island, he was prepared to make a temporary withdrawal. The evacuation began at once, and continued at ever-increasing speed as the Aragonese army approached; but vast quantities of baggage and stores were left behind, together with a number of unfortunate soldiers whom the triumphant Messinans were only too happy to massacre before opening their gates to Peter on 2 October.

For Michael Palaeologus and his subjects, the war of the Sicilian Vespers and the consequent elimination of Charles of Anjou as a serious threat to Byzantium was, if not another miracle, at least a further proof that the Almighty was on their side. The Emperor himself had been in no way responsible for the incident at the church of Santo Spirito, nor for the events which followed. He had, however, by his diplomatic intrigues and his generous financial contributions to the Sicilian rebels, done much to prepare the ground; and in the short autobiographical note that he composed at the end of his life for the benefit of his son Andronicus he saw no reason to be over-modest about it:

The Sicilians, having nothing but contempt for the forces remaining to the barbarian King, had the courage to take up arms and deliver themselves from servitude; and were I now to dare to claim that God planned their liberation, and that he achieved it through my own hands, I should be speaking no more than the truth.

Even now, his anxieties were not over. The moment he realized that his Empire was no longer under immediate threat from the King of Sicily he set off on a campaign against the Turks, who had taken full advantage of his preoccupations in the West to increase their pressure along his eastern frontier; and no sooner had he returned from Anatolia than he was obliged to launch another expedition against John the Bastard of Thessaly - of which, owing to the death of his brother the sebastocrator and several other of his principal generals, he took personal command. Determined to destroy John once and for all, he did not hesitate to appeal to his son-in-law,' the Mongol Nogay, Khan of the Golden Horde, who immediately dispatched four thousand Tartar tribesmen to his aid.

But Michael was now in his fifty-ninth year, and his exertions had taken their toll. By the time he left his capital he was obviously far from well. The Empress Theodora did her utmost to persuade him to stay in Constantinople, at least until the following spring; but he refused to listen to her and in late November embarked at Selymbria, on the northern shore of the Marmara, just in time to encounter a violent storm which seems to have done some damage to his ship: he was obliged to land again at Rhaedestum (now Tekirdag), only some twenty miles further along the coast. Thence he continued his journey on horseback, but when he reached the little Thracian village of Pachomios he could go no further. He took to his bed, and on Friday, n December 1282 he died, proclaiming Andronicus, his son and co-Emperor, as his successor.

Andronicus's first decisive act as sole Emperor was also one of his wisest. Unhesitatingly he gave his orders, which were carried out the same night. His father's body was taken, under cover of darkness, to a distant place, where it was covered with earth to protect it from wild animals. There was no grave, no ceremony. According to Gregoras, Andronicus acted as he did out of disgust for Michael's betrayal of the Church - although, he adds, no son was ever more dutiful; but his real motive was almost certainly to save the body from insult. He had no delusions as to the late Emperor's unpopularity in the capital. Moreover, since Michael had never formally renounced the Roman faith, in Orthodox eyes - despite his papal excommunication — he had died a heretic; there could therefore be no question of a state funeral. If, as seemed likely, the Church were to show its disapproval by refusing him a Christian burial, it would surely be better to deny it the opportunity. For

1 Michael had given Nogay the hand of one of his illegitimate daughters, Euphrosyne, in about 1272. Another, Maria, had been betrothed to the Mongol Ilkhan, Hulagu, in 1265. He had died before the marriage and she had married his son Abagu instead. After Abagu's assassination by his brother Ahmet in 1281, she returned to Constantinople, where she retired to the convent whose church was thereafter known, in her honour, as St Mar)' of the Mongols. Most of it still stands today, the only Byzantine church that has been continuously in Greek hands since before the Turkish conquest.

some years the body lay where it had been buried; much later, Andronicus had the remains transferred to the nearby monastery at Selymbria. But the Emperor in whose reign Constantinople had been reconquered, and who had saved his Empire from almost certain annihilation by the combined forces of Western Europe, was rewarded by what can only be described as a posthumous sentence of exile and never returned, in life or in death, to his capital.

Michael Palaeologus is principally remembered today for the recovery of Constantinople. For this, as we have seen, he deserves little of the credit. The Latins were already at their last gasp and could not in any event have held out much longer, while he himself was not even present when his troops first entered the city. But then he was never really a soldier-Emperor: nearly all the most important battles of his reign were fought without him. Though an outstanding general in his youth, after his accession he tended to leave the actual fighting to others, taking the field in person only when he felt it absolutely necessary to do so. This was not due to any lack of courage. It was simply because, in the circumstances then prevailing, military operations took second place to diplomacy - and in this field he was a master, perhaps the most brilliant that Byzantium ever produced. With virtually the whole European continent ranged against him, no one knew better than he when to act and when to prevaricate, when to stand firm and when to concede, when to conclude an alliance and when to arrange a marriage, when to threaten, when to cajole and when to bribe. To preserve the security of his Empire he was ready to make any sacrifice - even the independence of the Orthodox Church; yet when he died he left not only the Empire safer than at any time for the previous century, but the Church as free as it had ever been.

It could be argued that he was lucky; but so are most great men, and Michael Palaeologus was a great Emperor. Like all great men, he also had his faults. He was devious and duplicitous; though he would doubtless have argued that when his back was to the wall he had little choice in the matter, the fact remains that neither before nor after his accession did anyone really seem to trust him. Though temperamentally slow to anger, when finally roused he could be cruel and utterly without mercy. The reign of terror that he instituted in Constantinople in his determination to enforce Church unity was fearsome even by Byzantine standards. There was a vein of callousness too: quite apart from the murder of George Muzalon and his brother, his treatment of the child-Emperor John Lascaris shocked all his contemporaries including his own family, and continues to sicken us today. Yet the more we read about him, the more the conviction grows that few if any of his predecessors could have guided the Empire with so sure a hand through one of the most dangerous periods in all its history. Lucky he may have been; but his people, in having him when they needed him most, were luckier still.

Their immediate posterity were less fortunate. Economically, thanks to his policies of bribery and appeasement, Michael left the Empire on the verge of bankruptcy. Militarily, his return to Constantinople and his continued preoccupation with Europe thereafter allowed the Turks and Mongols a virtually free rein in Anatolia, enabling them to consolidate and even to increase their conquests. He himself would once again have maintained that he had no alternative, that he possessed neither the manpower nor the resources to fight simultaneously on two fronts and that, of the two, the Western represented the more immediate danger. In the short term he would have been right. But to most thinking Byzantines it was clear that the paramount threat to their Empire came from the East, where the forces of Islam were a more formidable enemy, even if a less immediate one, than the King of Anjou could ever have been. If the capital had remained at Nicaea, Byzantine power in western Asia Minor would have held the balance well enough, particularly since the Seljuk Sultanate had never really recovered from its defeat by the Mongols at Kosedag in 1243; the transfer of the government back to Constantinople proved, in this respect, little short of disastrous.

There was nothing new in all this. Standing as it did at the juncture of two continents, Byzantium had always had to look to both East and West, and every basileus worthy of his salt had found himself obliged to concentrate on one or the other. Thus, in the circumstances, it is difficult to see how Michael could have acted otherwise than he did. If there is blame to be apportioned, we must surely look elsewhere: to the nations of the West - and in particular to the Orthodox Greek princelings of the Balkan peninsula - who were so blinded by their own ambition that they could not see the looming threat, not just to themselves but to all Christendom, from which a strong and united Byzantium might yet have saved them.

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