Post-classical history



‘Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity: for vanity shall be his recompence.’ JOB XV, 31

The news that had patched up a peace between the Franks and the Armenians, that had made Prince Raymond loth to leave Antioch, and that now induced Zengi to show mercy to his enemies was of a great army marching into Cilicia, led in person by the Emperor John Comnenus. Ever since the Emperor Alexius had failed to come to Antioch during the First Crusade the politicians of the Frankish East had blandly ignored Byzantium. Even though Bohemond’s attempt to invade the Empire from the west had utterly failed, Alexius had been quite unable to secure that the terms of his treaty with Bohemond were implemented. As the Franks in Antioch well knew, he was distracted by cares nearer home.

The Later Days of Alexius I

Theses cares endured for nearly thirty years. There were intermittent wars on all the frontiers of the Empire. There were Polovtsian invasions across the lower Danube, as in 1114 and 1121. There was continual tension with the Hungarians on the middle Danube, which flared into open war in 1128; the Hungarians invaded the Balkan peninsula as far as Sofia, but were driven back and defeated in their own territory by the Emperor. The Italian merchant cities periodically raided the Empire in order to extract commercial privileges. Pisa obtained a favourable treaty in 1111; and Venice, after four years of war, following on the Emperor John’s refusal to renew his father’s concessions, recovered all its rights in 1126. The Normans of southern Italy, cowed since Bohemond’s defeat at Dyrrhachium, became a menace once more in 1127, when Roger II of Sicily annexed Apulia. Roger II, who assumed the title of King in 1130, possessed to the full his family’s hatred of Byzantium, though he loved to copy its methods and to patronize its arts. But his ambitions were so vast that it was usually possible to find allies against him. Not only did he seek to dominate Italy, but he claimed Antioch as the only surviving representative in the male line of the House of Hauteville, and Jerusalem itself in virtue of the treaty made by his mother Adelaide with Baldwin I.

In Asia Minor there was no peace. During and after the First Crusade Alexius had consolidated his hold over the western third of the peninsula and over the northern and southern coasts; and had he had only to deal with the Turkish princes he could have kept his possessions intact. But groups of Turcomans were still seeping into the interior, where they and their flocks multiplied; and inevitably they overflowed into the coastal valleys, to seek a gentler climate and richer pastures. Their coming inevitably destroyed the settled agricultural life of the Christians. Indeed, the weaker the princes became, the more unruly and dangerous to the Empire were their nomad subjects.

At the time of the Emperor Alexius’s death in 1118, Turkish Anatolia was divided between the Seldjuk Sultan Mas’ud, who reigned from Konya over the southern centre of the peninsula, from the Sangarius to the Taurus, and the Danishmend emir Ghazi II, whose lands stretched from the Halys to the Euphrates. Between them they had absorbed and eliminated the smaller emirates, except for Melitene in the east, where Mas’ud’s youngest brother Toghrul reigned under the regency of his mother and her second husband, the Ortoqid Balak. In spite of the Byzantine victory at Philomelion in 1115 and the subsequent attempted delineation of the frontier, the Turks had during the following years recaptured Phrygian Laodicea and penetrated into the Meander valley, and had cut off the road to Attalia. At the same time the Danishmends were pressing westward into Paphlagonia. The Emperor Alexius was planning a campaign to restore the Anatolian frontiers when his last illness supervened.

1118: The Accession of John Comnenus

The accession of the Emperor John brought new vigour to Byzantium. John, whom his subjects called Kaloioannes, John the Good, was one of those rare characters of whom no contemporary writer, with one exception, had anything derogatory to say. The exception was his own sister. Anna Comnena was the eldest of Alexius’s children. As a child she had been betrothed to the young co-Emperor Constantine Ducas, to whom Alexius had promised the eventual succession. His early death, which followed closely on her brother’s birth, was a cruel blow to her ambitions; and she sought ever afterwards to redress the injustice of Providence by persuading her father, with her mother’s approval, to leave his throne to her husband, the Caesar Nicephorus Bryennius. Even when the Emperor lay dying, devotedly nursed by his wife and daughter, the two ladies punctuated their ministrations with demands for John’s disinheritance. But Alexius had decided that his son must succeed him. When John was admitted to bid him farewell, the dying man quietly passed him his ring with the imperial seal, and John hurried from the death-bed, to secure the gates of the palace. His promptness was rewarded. The army and the senate acclaimed him at once as reigning Emperor; and the Patriarch hastily endorsed their acclamation at a coronation ceremony in Saint Sophia. Anna and the Empress-Mother were outwitted. But John feared lest their partisans should make an attempt on his life. He even refused to attend his father’s funeral, having good reason to believe that his murder was planned for the occasion. A few days later Anna organized a plot to eliminate him, while he was staying at the quiet suburban palace of Philopatium. But the plot had one grave weakness. It was to place on the throne Nicephorus Bryennius; and he had no desire for the throne. It was possibly he that warned the Emperor. John punished the conspirators very lightly. The Empress-Mother Irene probably was not privy to the plot, but retired nevertheless to a convent. Anna’s leading supporters had their possessions confiscated, but many of them later received them back. Anna herself was deprived of her possessions for awhile, and henceforward lived in complete seclusion. Nicephorus went unpunished. Both he and his wife consoled themselves for the loss of a crown by adopting the less exigent calling of historian.

John was now secure. He was in his thirtieth year, a small, thin man, dark-haired, dark-eyed and remarkably dark of complexion. His tastes were austere; he did not share in the delight taken by most of his family in literature and theological discussion. He was above all a soldier, happier on campaigns than in the palace. But he was an able and just administrator, and, despite his severity towards himself, generous to his friends and to the poor and ready to appear himself in ceremonial splendour should it be required. He was affectionate and forbearing to his family and faithful to his wife, the Hungarian Princess Piriska, rechristened Irene; but she, though she shared in his austerities and his charities, had little influence over him. His only intimate friend was his Grand Domestic, a Turk called Axuch, who had been taken prisoner as a boy at the capture of Nicaea in 1097 and had been brought up in the palace. John’s conception of his imperial role was high. His father had left him a strong fleet, an army that was made up from a medley of races but was well organized and well equipped and a treasury that was full enough to permit an active policy. He wished not only to conserve the Empire’s frontiers but to restore it to its ancient boundaries, and to realize the imperial claims in northern Syria.

John began his first campaign against the Turks in the spring of 1119. He marched down through Phrygia and recaptured Laodicea. Urgent business then recalled him to Constantinople; but he returned a month later to take Sozopolis and reopen the road to Attalia. While he himself attacked the Seldjuks in the west, he had arranged for an attack on the Danishmends in the east. Constantine Gabras, Duke of Trebizond, took advantage of a quarrel between the emir Ghazi and his son-in-law, Ibn Mangu, a Turkish princeling established at Taranaghi in Armenia, to take up arms in support of the latter. But Ghazi, with Toghrul of Melitene as his ally, defeated and captured Gabras; who had to pay thirty thousand dinars to ransom himself. A timely dispute between Ghazi and Toghrul prevented the Turks from following up their victory.

1137: John prepares to invade Syria

For the next few years John was unable to intervene in Anatolia. These years saw an alarming growth in the power of the Danishmends. In 1124, when Toghrul of Melitene’s stepfather, Balak the Ortoqid, was killed fighting in the Jezireh, the emir Ghazi invaded Melitene and annexed it, to the delight of the native Christians there, who found his rule mild and just. Next, he turned westward and took Ankara, Gangra and Kastamuni from the Byzantines and extended his power down to the Black Sea coast. Constantine Gabras, thus cut off by land from Constantinople, took advantage of his isolation to declare himself independent ruler of Trebizond. In 1129, on the death of the Roupenian Prince Thoros, Ghazi turned his attention to the south; and next year, in alliance with the Armenians, he slew Prince Bohemond II of Antioch on the banks of the Jihan. Whatever views John might hold about Antioch, he had no wish for it to pass into the possession of a powerful Moslem prince. His prompt invasion of Paphlagonia kept Ghazi from following up his victory. Fortunately during these years the Anatolian Seldjuks were incapacitated by family disputes. In 1125 the Sultan Mas’ud was displaced by his brother, Arab. Mas’ud fled to Constantinople, where the Emperor received him with every honour. He then went on to his father-in-law, the Danishmend Ghazi, whose help enabled him, after a struggle of four years, to recover his throne. Arab in his turn sought refuge at Constantinople, where he died.

Yearly from 1130 to 1135 John campaigned against the Danishmends. Twice his work was interrupted by the intrigues of his brother, the Sebastocrator Isaac, who fled from the Court in 1130 and spent the next nine years plotting with various Moslem and Armenian princes; and in 1134 the sudden death of the Empress recalled him from the wars. By September 1134, when the death of the emir Ghazi eased the situation, he had reconquered all the lost territory except for the town of Gangra, which he recaptured next spring. Ghazi’s son and successor, Mohammed, harassed by family squabbles, could not afford to be aggressive; and Mas’ud, deprived of Danishmend help, came to terms with the Emperor.

With the Anatolian Turks cowed, John was ready to intervene in Syria. But first he had to protect his rear. In 1135 a Byzantine embassy arrived in Germany at the Court of the western Emperor Lothair. On John’s behalf it offered Lothair large financial subsidies if he would attack Roger of Sicily. The negotiations lasted some months. Eventually Lothair agreed to attack Roger in the spring of 1137. The Hungarians had been defeated in 1128 and the Serbians reduced to submission by a campaign in 1129. The defences on the lower Danube were secure. The Pisans had been detached from their Norman alliance by the treaty of 1126; and the Empire was now on good terms with both Venice and Genoa.

In the spring of 1137 the imperial army, with the Emperor and his sons at its head, assembled at Attalia and advanced eastward into Cilicia. The imperial fleet guarded its flank. The Armenians and the Franks were equally taken by surprise at the news of its approach. Leo the Roupenian, master now of the east Cilician plain, moved up in an attempt to check its progress by taking the Byzantine frontier fortress of Seleucia, but was forced to retire. The Emperor swept on, past Mersin, Tarsus, Adana and Mamistra, which all yielded to him at once. The Armenian prince relied on the great fortifications of Anazarbus to hold him up. Its garrison resisted for thirty-seven days; but the siege-engines of the Byzantines battered down its walls, and the city was forced to surrender. Leo retreated into the high Taurus, where the Emperor did not trouble now to follow him. After mopping up several Armenian castles in the neighbourhood, he led his forces south-ward past Issus and Alexandretta, and over the Syrian Gates into the plain of Antioch. On 29 August he appeared before the walls of the city and encamped on the north bank of the Orontes.

Antioch was without its prince. Raymond of Poitiers had gone to rescue King Fulk from Montferrand; and Joscelin of Edessa was with him. They reached the Buqaia to find the King released. Fulk had intended himself to go to Antioch to meet the Byzantines, but after his recent experiences he preferred now to return to Jerusalem. Raymond hastened back to Antioch to find that the Emperor’s siege had begun, but the investiture of the city was not yet complete. He was able to slip in with his bodyguard through the Iron Gate close under the citadel.

1137: Raymond pays Homage to the Emperor

For several days the Byzantine machines pounded at the fortifications. Raymond could hope for no help from outside; and he was uncertain of the temper of the population within the walls. There were many even of his barons who began to see the wisdom of Alice’s thwarted policy. It was not long before Raymond sent a message to the Emperor offering to recognize him as suzerain if he might keep the principality as Imperial Vicar. John in answer demanded unconditional surrender. Raymond then said that he must consult King Fulk; and letters were sent post-haste to Jerusalem. But Fulk’s reply was unhelpful. ‘We all know’, said the King, ‘and our elders have long taught us that Antioch was part of the Empire of Constantinople till it was taken from the Emperor by the Turks, who held it for fourteen years, and that the Emperor’s claims about the treaties made by our ancestors are correct. Ought we then to deny the truth and oppose what is right?’ When the King whom he regarded as his overlord offered such advice, Raymond could not resist longer. His envoys found the Emperor ready to make concessions. Raymond was to come to his camp and swear a full oath of allegiance to him, becoming his man and giving him free access into the city and citadel. Moreover, if the Byzantines with Frankish help conquered Aleppo and the neighbouring towns, Raymond would hand back Antioch to the Empire and receive instead a principality consisting of Aleppo, Shaizar, Hama and Homs. Raymond acquiesced. He came and knelt before the Emperor and paid him homage. John did not insist then on entering Antioch; but the imperial standard was hoisted over the citadel.

The negotiations showed the uneasiness of the Frankish attitude towards the Emperor. Fulk’s reply may have been dictated by the immediate needs of the moment. He knew too well that Zengi was the great enemy of the Frankish kingdom and he would not offend the only Christian power capable of checking the Moslems; and it may be that Queen Melisende’s influence was exerted in favour of a policy that would justify her sister Alice and would humiliate the man that had tricked her. But his verdict was probably the considered view of his lawyers. Despite all the propaganda of Bohemond I, the more scrupulous Crusaders held that the treaty made between Alexius and their fathers at Constantinople still was valid. Antioch should have been returned to the Empire; and Bohemond and Tancred, by violating the oaths that they had sworn, had forfeited any claims that they might have made. This was a more extreme imperialist view than the Emperor himself held. The imperial government was always realistic. It saw that it would be impracticable and unwise to try to eject the Franks from Antioch without offering compensation. Moreover, it liked to line the frontier with vassal-states whose general policy would be controlled by the Emperor but who meanwhile would bear the brunt of enemy attacks. The Emperor therefore based his claims not on the treaty made at Constantinople but on the treaty made with Bohemond at Devol. He demanded the unconditional surrender of Antioch as from a rebellious vassal; but he was prepared to let Antioch continue as a vassal-state. His immediate need was that it should co-operate in his campaigns against the Moslems.

1138: The Christians lay siege to Shaizar

It was now too late in the year for a campaign; so John, having asserted his authority, returned to Cilicia to finish off its conquest. The Roupenian princes fled before him into the high Taurus. Three of Leo’s sons, Mleh, Stephen and the blind Constantine, took refuge with their cousin, Joscelin of Edessa. The family castle of Vahka held out for some weeks under its valiant commander Constantine, whose personal combat with an officer of the Macedonian regiment, Eustratius, impressed the whole imperial army. Soon after its fall Leo and his elder sons, Roupen and Thoros, were captured. They were sent to prison in Constantinople, where Roupen was soon put to death; but Leo and Thoros gained the favour of the Emperor and were allowed to live under surveillance at the Court. Leo died there four years later. Thoros eventually escaped and returned to Cilicia. When the conquest of the province was completed, John went into winter quarters in the Cilician plain, where Baldwin of Marash came to pay him homage and to ask for protection against the Turks. At the same time an imperial embassy was sent to Zengi, in order to give him the impression that the Byzantines were unwilling to start upon an aggressive adventure.

Next February, by orders from the Emperor, the authorities in Antioch suddenly arrested all the merchants and travellers from Aleppo and the neighbouring Moslem towns, lest they might report to their homes of the military preparations that they had seen. Towards the end of March the imperial army moved up to Antioch and was joined there by the troops of the Prince of Antioch and the Count of Edessa, together with a contingent of Templars. On 1 April the allies crossed into enemy territory and occupied Balat. On the 3rd they appeared before Biza’a, which held out under its commander’s wife for five days. Another week was spent in rounding up the Moslem soldiers in the district, most of whom took refuge in the grottoes of el-Baba, from whence they were smoked out by the Byzantines. Zengi was with his army before Hama from which he was trying to expel the Damascene garrison when scouts told him of the Christian invasions. He hastily sent troops under Sawar to reinforce the garrison of Aleppo. John had hoped to surprise Aleppo; but when he arrived before the walls on 20 April and launched an attack he found it strongly defended. He decided not to undertake the ardours of a siege, but turned southward. On the 22nd he occupied Athareb, on the 25th Maarat an-Numan and on the 27th Kafartab. On 28 April his army was at the gates of Shaizar.

Shaizar belonged to the Munqidhite emir, Abu’l Asakir Sultan, who had managed to preserve his independence from Zengi. Perhaps John hoped that Zengi would not therefore concern himself with the city’s fate. But its possession would give the Christians control of the middle Orontes and would hinder Zengi’s farther advance into Syria. The Byzantines began the siege with great vigour. Part of the lower town was soon occupied; and the Emperor brought up his great mangonels to bombard the upper town on its precipitous hill over the Orontes. Latin and Moslem sources alike tell of the Emperor’s personal courage and energy and of the efficiency of his bombardment. He seemed to be everywhere at once, in his golden helmet, inspecting the machines, encouraging the assailants and consoling the wounded. The emir’s nephew Usama saw the terrible damage done by the Greek catapults. Whole houses were destroyed by a single ball, while the iron staff on which the emir’s flag was fixed came crashing down piercing and killing a man in the street below. But while the Emperor and his engineers were indefatigable, the Franks held back. Raymond feared that if Shaizar were captured he might be obliged to live there in the front line of Christendom and to abandon the comforts of Antioch; while Joscelin, who privately hated Raymond, had no wish to see him installed in Shaizar and perhaps later in Aleppo. His whispering encouraged Raymond’s natural indolence and his mistrust of the Byzantines. Instead of joining in the combat, the two Latin princes spent their days in their tents playing at dice. The Emperor’s reproaches could only goad them into perfunctory and short-lived activity. Meanwhile Zengi gave up the siege of Hama and moved towards Shaizar. His envoys hurried to Baghdad, where at first the Sultan would not offer help, till a popular riot, crying for a Holy War, forced him to send an expedition. The Ortoqid prince Dawud promised an army of fifty thousand Turcomans from the Jezireh. Letters were also sent to the Danishmend emir, requesting him to make a diversion in Anatolia. Zengi was also well aware of the dissensions between the Byzantines and the Franks. His agents in the Christian army fanned the Latin princes resentment against the Emperor.

1138: Johns Entry into Antioch

Despite all John’s vigour the great cliffs of Shaizar, the courage of its defenders and the apathy of the Franks defeated him. Some of his allies suggested that he should go out to meet Zengi, whose army was smaller than the Christian. But he could not afford to leave his siege-machinery unguarded nor could he now trust the Franks. The risk was too great. He managed to take the whole of the lower city; then, on about 20 May, the emir of Shaizar sent to him offering to pay him a large indemnity and to present him with his best horses and silken robes and his two most precious treasures, a table studded with jewels and a cross set with rubies that had been taken from the Emperor Romanus Diogenes at Manzikert, sixty-seven years before. He agreed further to recognize the Emperor as his overlord and to pay him a yearly tribute. John, disgusted by his Latin allies, accepted the terms, and on 21 May he raised the siege. As the great imperial army moved back towards Antioch, Zengi came up towards Shaizar; but, apart from a few light skirmishes, he did not venture to interfere with the retreat.

When the army reached Antioch, John insisted on making a ceremonial entry into the city. He rode on horseback, with the Prince of Antioch and the Count of Edessa walking as his grooms on either side. The Patriarch and all the clergy met him at the gate and led him through streets hung with bunting to the Cathedral for a solemn mass, and on to the palace where he took up his residence. There he summoned Raymond and, hinting that the Prince had recently failed in his duties as vassal, he demanded that his army should be allowed to enter the city and that the citadel should be handed over to him. The future campaigns against the Moslems must, he said, be planned at Antioch, and he needed the citadel to store his treasure and his war-material. The Franks were horrified. While Raymond asked for time to consider the request, Joscelin slipped out of the palace. Once outside he told his soldiers to spread a rumour round the Latin population of the city that the Emperor was demanding their immediate expulsion, and to incite them to attack the Greek population. Once the rioting was started, he rushed back to the palace and cried to John that he had come at the risk of his life to warn him of the danger that he ran. There was certainly tumult in the streets, and unwary Greeks were being massacred. In the East there is no telling where a riot may end. John wished neither that the Greeks in the city should suffer nor that he himself should be cut off in the palace with only his bodyguard, and his main army on the far banks of the Orontes. Moreover he had learnt that, thanks to Zengi’s diplomacy, the Anatolian Seldjuks had invaded Cilicia and raided Adana. He saw through Joscelin’s trickery; but before he could risk an open breach with the Latins he must be absolutely sure of his communications. He sent for Raymond and Joscelin and said that for the moment he would ask for no more than a renewal of their oath of vassaldom and that he must return now to Constantinople. He left the palace to rejoin the army; and at once the princes stilled the riot. But they were still nervous and very anxious to recapture the Emperor’s goodwill. Raymond even offered to admit imperial functionaries into the city, guessing rightly that John would not accept so insincere an offer. Shortly afterwards John said good-bye to Raymond and Joscelin with an outward show of friendship and complete mutual mistrust. He then led his army back into Cilicia.

1139-40: John in Anatolia

It is remarkable that during all John’s negotiations over Antioch nothing was said about the Church. By the treaty of Devol the Patriarchate was to be given back to the Greek line; and it is clear that the Latin church authorities feared that the Emperor might insist on that clause; for, in March 1138 almost certainly in answer to an appeal from Antioch, Pope Innocent II issued an order forbidding any member of his Church to remain with the Byzantine army should it take any action against the Latin authorities in Antioch. John must have been unwilling to stir up any religious trouble till he was politically and strategically on surer ground. Had he succeeded in providing Raymond with a principality in lieu of Antioch, then he would have reintroduced a Greek Patriarch into the city. But in the meantime he publicly condoned the presence of a Latin when on his solemn entry Radulph of Domfront came to greet him and conducted him to mass at the cathedral.

John journeyed slowly back to Constantinople, after sending part of his army to punish the Seldjuk Mas’ud for his raid into Cilicia. Mas’ud asked for peace and paid an indemnity. During 1139 and into 1140 the Emperor was occupied with the Danishmend emir, who was a far more dangerous enemy than the Seldjuk. In 1139 Mohammed not only invaded upper Cilicia and took the castle of Vahka, but he also led an expedition westward as far as the Sangarius river. His alliance with Constantine Gabras, the rebel Duke of Trebizond, guarded his northern flank. During the summer of 1139 John drove the Danishmends out of Bithynia and Paphlagonia, and in the autumn he marched eastwards along the Black Sea coast. Constantine Gabras made his submission; and the imperial army turned inland to besiege the Danishmend fortress of Niksar. It was a difficult undertaking. The fortress was naturally strong and well defended; and in that wild mountainous country it was difficult to keep communications open. John was depressed by the heavy losses suffered by his troops and by the desertion to the enemy of his nephew John, his brother Isaac’s son, who became a Moslem and married Mas’ud’s daughter. The Ottoman Sultans claimed to be descended from him. In the autumn of 1140 John abandoned the campaign and brought his army back to Constantinople, intending to recommence next year. But next year the emir Mohammed died, and the Danishmend power was temporarily put out of action by civil war between his heirs. John could revert to his larger schemes and turn his attention again to Syria.

There the benefits of his campaign against the Moslems in 1137 had been quickly lost. Zengi had recovered Kafartab from the Franks in May 1137 and Maarat an-Numan, Bizaa and Athareb in the autumn. During the next four years, when Zengi was fully occupied in his attempt to conquer Damascus, the indolent Franks of the north failed to take advantage of his difficulties. Every year Raymond and Sawar of Aleppo exchanged raids into each others territories; but no major engagement took place. The county of Edessa enjoyed a comparative peace, owing to the internecine quarrels of the Moslem princes round the frontiers, intensified by the death of the Danishmend Mohammed. To the Emperor John, carefully watching events from Constantinople, it seemed clear that the Franks of northern Syria were valueless as soldiers of Christendom.

1139: The Patriarch Radulph deposed

Raymond’s apparent nonchalance was partly due to shortage of man-power and partly to his quarrel with the Patriarch Radulph. He had never intended to keep to his oath to obey the Patriarch in all things; and Radulph’s arrogance enraged him. He found allies in the cathedral chapter, led by the Archdeacon Lambert and a canon, Arnulf of Calabria. Encouraged by Raymond they left for Rome towards the end of 1137 to complain of Radulph’s uncanonical election. As they passed through King Roger II’s dominions, Arnulf, who was born his subject, incited him against Radulph by pointing out that Radulph had secured the throne of Antioch, which Roger coveted, for Raymond. Radulph was obliged to follow them to Rome to justify himself. When he in his turn arrived in southern Italy, Roger arrested him; but such was his charm of manner and so persuasive his tongue that he soon won over the King to his side. He proceeded to Rome, where once again his charm triumphed. He voluntarily laid down his pallium on the altar of St Peter’s and received it back from the Pope. When he journeyed back through southern Italy to resume his patriarchal throne, King Roger treated him as an honoured guest. But when he arrived at Antioch his clergy, backed by Raymond, refused to pay him the customary compliment of meeting him at the city gates. Radulph, playing the part of a meek, injured man, retired discreetly to a monastery near St Symeon; where he remained till Joscelin of Edessa, always eager to embarrass Raymond, invited him to pay a ceremonious visit to his capital, where the Archbishop was received as spiritual overlord. Raymond soon decided that it was safer to have him back in Antioch. When he returned he was greeted with all the honours that he could desire.

But thanks to Raymond’s agitations, the inquiry into his position was reopened at Rome. In the spring of 1139 Peter, Archbishop of Lyons, was sent out to hear the case on the spot. Peter, who was very old, went first to visit the Holy Places; and on his journey north he died at Acre. His death discountenanced Radulph’s enemies; and even Arnulf of Calabria offered his submission. But Radulph in his arrogance refused to accept it; whereupon Arnulf, enraged, returned to Rome and persuaded the Pope to send out another legate, Alberic, Bishop of Ostia. The new legate arrived in November 1139 and at once summoned a synod which was attended by all the Latin prelates of the East, including the Patriarch of Jerusalem. It was clear that the sympathy of the synod was with the Prince and the dissident clergy. Radulph therefore refused to attend its sessions in the Cathedral of St Peter, while his only supporter, Serlon, Archbishop of Apamea, when he attempted to defend the Patriarch, was ejected from the assembly. After disobeying three summonses to appear to answer the charges against him, Radulph was declared deposed. In his place the synod elected Aimery of Limoges, the head of the chapter, a gross, energetic and almost illiterate man who had owed his first advancement to Radulph but had wisely made friends with Raymond. On his deposition the ex-Patriarch was thrown into prison by Raymond. Later he escaped and made his way to Rome, where once again he won the favour of the Pope and the Cardinals. But before he could use their help to restore himself he died, it was thought from poison, some time in 1142. The episode ensured for Raymond the loyal co-operation of the Church of Antioch; but the high-handed treatment of the Patriarch left behind an ugly impression, even amongst the ecclesiastics who had most disliked him.

In the spring of 1142 John was ready to return to Syria. As in 1136 he protected his rear by an alliance with the German monarch against Roger of Sicily. His ambassadors visited the Court of Conrad III, Lothair’s successor, to make the necessary arrangements and to seal the friendship with a marriage. They returned in 1142, bringing with them Conrad’s sister-in-law, Bertha of Sulzbach, who under the name of Irene was to be the wife of John’s youngest son, Manuel. The good-will of the Italian maritime cities was also assured. In the spring of 1142 John and his sons led his army across Anatolia to Attalia, driving back the Seldjuks and their Turcoman subjects who once again were trying to break through into Phrygia, and strengthening the frontier defences. While he waited at Attalia the Emperor suffered a heavy loss. His eldest son, Alexius, his appointed heir, fell ill and died there. His second and third sons, Andronicus and Isaac, were detailed to convey the body by sea to Constantinople; and during the voyage Andronicus also died. Despite his grief, John pushed on to the east, giving out that he was bound for upper Cilicia, to reconquer the fortresses that the Danishmends had taken; for he did not wish to rouse the suspicions of the Franks. The army passed by forced marches through Cilicia and across the upper Amanus range, the Giaour Dagh, and in mid-September it appeared unexpectedly at Turbessel, the second capital of Joscelin of Edessa. Joscelin, taken by surprise, hurried over to pay homage to the Emperor and to offer him as hostage his daughter Isabella. John then turned towards Antioch, and on 25 September he arrived at Baghras, the great Templar castle that commanded the road from Cilicia to Antioch. Thence he sent to Raymond to demand that the whole city be handed over to him, and he repeated his offer to provide the Prince with a principality out of his future conquests.

1142: John returns to Cilicia

Raymond was frightened. It was certain that the Emperor was now determined to follow up his demands with force; and it seems that the native Christians were ready to help the Byzantines. The Franks tried to gain time. Entirely changing the juridical position on which he had based himself in 1131, Raymond answered that he must consult his vassals. A council was held at Antioch at which the vassals, probably prompted by the new Patriarch, declared that Raymond only ruled Antioch as the husband of its heiress and therefore had no right to dispose of her territory, and that even the Prince and Princess together could not alienate nor exchange the principality without the consent of their vassals; who would dethrone them should they attempt to do so. The Bishop of Jabala, who brought the council’s answer to John, backed up the rejection of the imperial demand by citing the authority of the Pope; but he offered John a solemn entry into Antioch. This answer, completely counter to all Raymond’s previous undertakings, left John with no alternative but war. But the season was too far advanced for immediate action. After pillaging the property of the Franks in the neighbourhood of the city, he retired into Cilicia, to recover the castles taken by the Danishmends, and to spend the winter.

From Cilicia John sent an embassy to Jerusalem to King Fulk, to announce his desire of paying a visit to the Holy Places, and of discussing with the King joint action against the infidel. Fulk was embarrassed. He had no wish for the great imperial army to descend into Palestine; the price of the Emperor’s aid would inevitably be the recognition of his suzerainty. The Bishop of Bethlehem, Anselm, accompanied by Roard, castellan of Jerusalem, and by Geoffrey, abbot of the Temple, who was a good Greek scholar, was sent to John to explain that Palestine was a poor country which could not supply provender for the maintenance of so large an army as the Emperor’s, but if he would care to come with a smaller escort the King would be delighted to welcome him. John decided not to press his request further for the moment.

In March 1143, when the Emperor’s preparations for the reduction of Antioch were made, he took a brief holiday to go hunting the wild boar in the Taurus mountains. In the course of a hunt he was accidentally wounded by an arrow. He paid little attention to the wound; but it became septic and soon he was dying of blood-poisoning. John faced his end with composure. To the last he was at work arranging for the succession and the smooth continuance of the government. His two elder sons were dead. The third, Isaac, who was at Constantinople, was a youth of uncertain temper. John decided that the youngest and most brilliant, Manuel, should be his heir, and he persuaded his great friend, the Grand Domestic Axuch, to support Manuel’s claim. With his own feeble hands he placed the crown on Manuel’s head and summoned in his generals to acclaim the new Emperor. After making his last confession to a holy monk from Pamphylia he died on 8 April.

John’s death saved Frankish Antioch. While Axuch hurried to Constantinople ahead of the news, to secure the palace and the government from any attempt by John’s son Isaac to claim the throne, Manuel led the army back across Anatolia. Till he was sure of his capital there could be no further adventures in the East. The imperial project was laid aside, but not for long.

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