Post-classical history

Manuel II Palaiologos (1350-1425)

Byzantine emperor (1391-1425).

Manuel was the second son of Emperor John V Palaiolo- gos and Helena Katakouzene and became heir to the throne on the death of his elder brother, Anronikos IV (1385).

As emperor, Manuel inherited his father’s policy of accepting the position of vassal of the Ottoman sultan. In 1394, however, Sultan Bayezid I decided to abandon conciliation and laid siege to Constantinople (mod. Istanbul, Turkey), forcing Manuel to revert to the tactic of seeking assistance from western Europe. He sailed for Italy in 1399 with the aim of making a personal appeal. After touring the cities of northern Italy, the emperor and his retinue moved north, stopping first at Paris and arriving in London at the end of 1401. Manuel was warmly and sympathetically received wherever he went, and Pope Boniface IX ordered crusade preaching to encourage volunteers and donations of money.

The unsettled conditions of the time made it impossible for large-scale help to be sent to Constantinople from either France or England, and salvation ultimately came from an entirely unexpected quarter. In July 1402, following Bayezid’s defeat and capture by the Turkic khan Timur at the battle of Ankara, the Ottoman threat to Constantinople evaporated, and Manuel was able to return. This was, however, only a stay of execution. By the time of Manuel’s death, the Ottomans had recovered from their defeat and were once more making plans to capture Constantinople. He was succeeded by his son John VIII Palaiologos.

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