Post-classical history

Manuel I Komnenos (1118-1180)

Byzantine emperor (1143-1180).

Manuel Komnenos was born on 28 November 1118, the youngest son of Emperor John II Komnenos. As emperor, Manuel welcomed Westerners to his court and fostered efforts to unify the Latin and Greek churches. His attempts to play off the Italian maritime states against one another, however, led to the increasing alienation of Venice.

The arrival of the Second Crusade (1147-1149) on Byzantine territory provided an early challenge to Manuel’s authority. He attempted to revive the pacts that Alexios I Komnenos had established with the crusaders, but with little success. The German contingent under King Conrad III refused to cross the Hellespont at Abydos and was suspected of planning to capture Constantinople (mod. Istanbul, Turkey). After its defeat in Asia Minor in 1147, Manuel received the ailing Conrad in Constantinople. He then provided ships to take him to Palestine and arranged the marriage of his niece Theodora to Conrad’s nephew Henry Jasomirgott. Manuel’s relationship with the French contingent under King Louis VII was ambivalent, and even the Byzantine chronicler Niketas Choniates felt that Manuel had failed to support the enterprise adequately. Manuel minted a debased coinage to be used in transactions with the crusaders and made a truce with the Saljûq sultan of Rûm. He did nothing to prevent attacks on the French by both Turks and Greeks, and the failure of the crusade left a legacy of bitterness toward Byzantium in the West, as reflected in the account of Odo of Deuil.

In the East, Manuel had three major areas of concern: Jerusalem, Antioch, and Cilicia. His relationship with the rulers of Jerusalem was cordial. Baldwin III and Amalric were both married to Byzantine princesses, and Manuel sent large gifts of money to maintain the defenses of the kingdom and to redecorate the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre inJerusalem. In 1169, a force of 200 Byzantine ships joined King Amalric on his expedition to Egypt. Paul Magdalino sees Manuel as using Baldwin III as a “trusted relative” to ensure the good behavior of the other Frankish princes of Outremer [Magdalino, The Empire of Manuel I Komnenos, pp. 41-53; 66-88; 95-105]; Ralph-Johannes Lilie, by contrast, suggests that Amalric actually recognized the feudal supremacy of Byzantium [Lilie, Byzantium and the Crusader States, pp. 142-221].

Manuel abandoned his father’s aim of recovering the principality of Antioch, though he did manage to achieve the temporary return of a Greek patriarch. His ceremonial entry into Antioch in 1159, at which its ruler, Reynald of Châtil- lon, acted as his groom, emphasized his authority, and his second marriage, with Maria of Antioch (1161), brought him further influence. In Cilicia, Manuel faced opposition from Armenian rulers, who had no scruples about allying with the neighboring Muslim and Christian powers against him. He was able to reconquer the coastlands, but Byzantine authority was never fully reestablished.

Manuel attempted to assert his lordship over the Saljûqs of Rûm, who ruled much of central Anatolia. In a treaty in 1161, Sultan Qilij Arslān II agreed to hand over imperial cities and curb Turcoman raiders. However, Manuel’s attempt to recapture the city of Ikonion (mod. Konya, Turkey) ended in defeat at Myriokephalon (1176), and the situation in Asia Minor remained precarious. In general, however, Manuel succeeded in establishing a pax byzantina (Byzantine peace) whereby local potentates kept the peace while acknowledging the Byzantine emperor as their overlord. He died on 24 September 1180 and was succeeded by his son Alexios II.

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