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Honorius

The Angeloi

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As we all know the reign of the Angeloi Emperors was among the shortest and perhaps most devastating throughout Byzantine history. Only three Angeloi occupied the throne Isaac II, Alexius III, Alexius IV Angelos and ruled for a mere 19 years. But where they really that bad? i know Isaac squandered money on his favourites and had increased taxes to massivley high levels but hadnt many emperors done the same previously? Alexius III also depleted the treasury trying diplomatically to defend the empire and was infact a usurper to boot, but hadnt many other usurpers let alone many emperors done the same?

 

i myself for some reason like the Angeloi and im not sure exactly why but id like to hear everyones opinions about them and if they were infact that bad

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Eh I don't know much about those emperors but what I do know is that I played them in my latest game of Crusader King and crushed the muslim turks which had invaded my Empire, retaking all the lands up to the Caspian Sea and converting them back to the true faith. But I'd say that in order for one to understand the bad reputations those emperors had it might be good to look at their relations with the orthodox church for often bad reputations comes from bad relation with the priests...

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i forgot to mention that Isaac endowed the churches and monastaries of Constantinople with lavish gifts which also weighed down on the treasury. so i doubt that the Orthodox church was anti angeloi then. But in his sons reign Alexius IV tried to submit the church to the Papacy.

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Salve, H. HERE is a very cool depiction of this dynasty and its main characters. Unfortunately, its language is German. I hope you find it useful. Good luck!

 

sadly i cannot read german though it does seem like a good site as it continues on with the Angeloi whom were despots of Epirus after the sack of 1204

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i forgot to mention that Isaac endowed the churches and monastaries of Constantinople with lavish gifts which also weighed down on the treasury. so i doubt that the Orthodox church was anti angeloi then. But in his sons reign Alexius IV tried to submit the church to the Papacy.

Isaac appears to have sparked off the Vlach-Bulgarian rebellion, which led to the Second Bulgarian Empire, by heavy taxation (to pay for his own wedding, it was said) and by dealing insensitively with the protesters. That rebellion, so close to Constantinople, was a disaster for the Empire, which never regained the territory lost.

 

My overall impression is that the Angeloi were camping in the Empire rather than maintaining it; eventually it fell down around them. They never learned practical politics.

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The results of the short rule of the dinasty were the greatest disaster for the empire.

The succesful rebellion in Bulgaria, led by the Asan brothers, was a huge blow to the empire. And this was a direct result of the policy they made. The brothers were vlachs, that is romanian speakers in the Balkans, a group that lived mostly in the mountains (from the Balkan mountains, to Macedonia and Epirus) being shephards.

They had military privileges, but the emperor tried to tax them. When the Asan brothers that were leaders of group in the Balkan mountains protested the emperor slapped on the face one of them. The bad thing was that this vlachs living in the mountains were hard to reach and to defeat. They were also military organized.

So, the emperor thru his tax policy and bad understanding started a revolt that he found hard to defeat. The rebels were persistent and they survived all attempts to defeat them, another proof of the byzantine weak leadership. Their succes drew more groups to join them and soon the empire had o admit defeat and lose some of their northern provinces to a group of rebels that created a competing bulgarian state.

The bulgarian victory over the crusaders in 1205 it's a good indication that even the empire did not had to face the IV crusade they would have had troubles with bulgarians, serbians etc.

I'll say that the bulgarian rebellion was a disaster that the empire never had before or after. Sure, outside enemies defeated the empire many times with hard effects, but to push your subjects in a succesful revolt it's a huge mistake that proves bad administration and weak leadership. Not to mention 1204 when they had a lot to do with it. So, it was the Angeloi.

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Salve, guys! This is what the superb website of the Friesian sachool has to said about the Angel(o)i:

 

The worst dynasty in Roman history. Alexius IV brings in the Fourth Crusade, with impossible promises, to restore his incompetent father, and only succeeds in losing Constantinople to a foreign enemy for the first time ever. This may qualify as the true "Fall of Rome." The damage was bad enough, with many treasures and archives destroyed or carted off to Venice. Unlike the Goths at Rome in 410, the Crusaders stuck around for 60 years, with steadily decreasing success.

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Salve, H!

And this is (in English) what the Russian historian Vasilief had to said about the foreign policy of the Angel(o)i:

 

Characteristics of the Emperors of the House of the Angeli. The dynasty of the Angeli, elevated to the throne by the revolution of 1185, sprang from a contemporary of Alexius Comnenus, Constantine Angelus, of the city of Philadelphia in Asia Minor, a man of low birth, who was married to a daughter of the Emperor Alexius; he was the grandfather of Isaac II Angelus, the first emperor from this house, who was therefore related by the female side to the Comneni.

One of the aims of the late Andronicus had been to establish a national government; obviously he had failed in this task and at the close of his reign he had begun to incline to the West. After his death, the need of a national government became thoroughly felt, so that, as a recent Italian historian of the rule of Isaac II Angelus, Cognasso, wrote: The revolution of the twelfth of September (1185) became especially nationalistic and aristocratic in its plans; thus, from the advantages derived from the revolution all classes were excluded except the Byzantine aristocracy.

Isaac II (1185-95) who represented, to quote Gelzer, the embodied evil conscience which sat now upon the rotten throne of the Caesars, possessed no administrative talents at all. The excessive luxury and foolish lavishness of the court together with arbitrary and unendurable extortions and violence, lack of will power and of any definite plan in ruling the state in its external relations, especially in the Balkan peninsula where a new danger to the Empire appeared in the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, and in Asia Minor, where the Turks continued their successful advance unchecked by the fruitless Third Crusade, all this created an atmosphere of discontent and agitation in the country. From time to time revolts broke out in favor of one or another claimant to the throne. But perhaps the chief cause of general discontent was the fatigue of the population at enduring the two evils well recognized by Andronicus: the insatiability of the fiscal administration and the arrogance of the rich. Finally, in 1195, a plot against Isaac was formed by his brother Alexius, who, with the help of a certain part of the nobility and troops, dethroned the Emperor. Isaac was blinded and imprisoned, and his brother Alexius became Emperor. He is known as Alexius III Angelus (1195-1203), or Angelus Comnenus, sometimes surnamed Bambacoratius (Βαμβακοραβδής).

In his qualities and capacities the new Emperor scarcely differed from his brother. The same foolish lavishness, the same lack of any political talent or interest in government, the same military incapacity brought the Empire by rapid steps far on the way towards disintegration and humiliation. Not without malicious irony Nicetas Choniates remarked concerning Alexius III: Whatever paper might be presented to the Emperor for his signature, he signed it immediately; it did not matter that in this paper there was a senseless agglomeration of words, or that the supplicant demanded that one might sail by land or till the sea, or that mountains should be transferred into the middle of the seas or, as a tale says, that Athos should be put upon Olympus. The Emperor's conduct found imitators among the nobility of the capital, who exerted themselves to the utmost to compete with each other in expense and luxury. Riots took place in both the capital and the provinces. The foreigners who resided in Constantinople, the Venetians and Pisans, often met in bloody conflicts on the streets of the capital. External relations were also unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the son of the deposed Isaac II, the young prince Alexius, had succeeded in escaping on a Pisan vessel from Byzantium to Italy; he went then to Germany, to the court of Philip of Swabia, king of Germany, who was married to his sister Irene, daughter of Isaac Angelus. It was the time of the beginning of the Fourth Crusade. The prince begged the pope and the king of Germany, his brother-in-law, to help him to restore the throne to his blind father Isaac. After many complications Alexius succeeded in inducing the crusaders in the Venetian vessels to sail to Constantinople instead of Egypt. In 1203 the crusaders seized the capital of Byzantium and, deposing Alexius III, re-established upon the throne the old and blind Isaac (1203-1204); then they seated his son Alexius by the side of his father, as his co-emperor (Alexius IV). The crusaders encamped close to Constantinople expecting the accomplishment of the terms for which they had stipulated.

But it was impossible for the Emperors to fulfill those terms, and their complete obedience to the crusaders roused a riot in the capital which resulted in the proclamation as Emperor of a certain Alexius V Ducas Mourtzouphlos (1204), related to the family of the Angeli and married to a daughter of Alexius III. Isaac II and Alexius IV perished during the revolt. The crusaders, seeing that they had lost their chief support in the capital in the persons of the two dead Emperors, and realizing that Mourtzouphlos, who had raised the banner of the anti-Latin movement, was their enemy, decided to take Constantinople for themselves. After a stubborn attack by the Latins and desperate resistance by the inhabitants of the capital, on April 13, 1204, Constantinople passed over into the hands of the western knights and was given up to terrific devastation. Emperor Mourtzouphlos had time to flee from the capital. The Byzantine Empire fell. In its place there were formed the feudal Latin Empire with Constantinople as its capital and a certain number of vassal states in various regions of the Eastern Empire. The dynasty of the Angeli or Angeli-Comneni, Greek in its origin, gave the Empire not one talented emperor; it only accelerated the ruin of the Empire, already weakened without and disunited within.

 

Relations with the Normans and Turks and the Second Bulgarian kingdom. In the year of the revolution of 1185, which dethroned Andronicus I and elevated Isaac Angelus to the throne, the condition of the Empire was very dangerous. After the taking of Thessalonica, the Norman land army started to advance towards the capital, where the Norman fleet had already arrived. But, drunk with their successes, the Normans began to pillage the captured regions; overconfident and having too little respect for the Byzantine army, they were defeated and forced to evacuate Thessalonica and Dyrrachium. This failure of the Normans to land obliged their vessels to leave Constantinople. A treaty of peace concluded between Isaac Angelus and William II put an end to the Norman war. As for the Seljuq danger in Asia Minor, Isaac Angelus succeeded in reducing it temporarily by rich presents and an annual tribute to the Turkish sultan.

For Isaac Angelus even a temporary interruption of hostilities against the Normans was of very great advantage, for in the first years of his reign events of great importance to the Empire had taken place in the Balkan peninsula. Bulgaria, which had been conquered by Basil II Bulgaroctonus in 1018, after several unsuccessful attempts to regain her independence finally threw off the Byzantine yoke and in 1186 established the so-called Second Bulgarian Kingdom.

At the head of this movement stood two brothers, Peter or Kalopeter and Asen (Asan). The question of their origin and of the participation of the Wallachian element in the insurrection of 1186 has been several times discussed, and formerly historians believed that the brothers had grown up among the Wallachs and had adopted their tongue. In the persons of the leaders, said V. Vasilievsky, there was embodied exactly that fusion into one unit of the two nationalities, Bulgarian and Wallachian, that has been obvious in all narratives of the struggle for freedom and has been emphasized by modern historians. More recently, Bulgarian historians have traced the origin of Peter and Asen to the Cuman-Bulgarian racial elements in northern Bulgaria, denied the strength of the Wallachian-Roumanian element in the insurrection of 1186, and considered the foundation of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom of Trnovo a national Bulgarian achievement. Modern Roumanian historians, however, vigorously emphasize again the importance of the part played by the Wallachians in the formation of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom and say that the dynasty of the new kingdom was of Wallachian, i.e. Roumanian, origin.

Some elements of Bulgarian and Roumanian nationalism have become involved in this question, so that it is necessary to reconsider it with all possible scholarly detachment and disinterestedness. On the basis of reliable evidence, the conclusion is that the liberating movement of the second half of the twelfth century in the Balkans was originated and vigorously prosecuted by the Wallachians, ancestors of the Roumanians of today; it was joined by the Bulgarians, and to some extent by the Cumans from beyond the Danube. The Wallachian participation in this important event cannot be disregarded. The best contemporary Greek source, Nicetas Choniates, clearly stated that the insurrection was begun by the Vlachs (Blachi); that their leaders, Peter and Asen (Asan), belonged to the same race; that the second campaign of the Byzantine Empire during this period was waged against the Vlachs; and that after the death of Peter and Asen the Empire of the Vlachs passed to their younger brother John. Whenever Nicetas mentioned the Bulgarians, he gave their name jointly with that of the Vlachs: Bulgarians and Vlachs. The western cleric Ansbert, who followed the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in his crusade (1189-1190), narrated that in the Balkans the Emperor had to fight against Greeks and Vlachs, and calls Peter or Kalopeter Emperor of the Vlachs and of the most part of the Bulgarians (Blacorum et maxime partis Bulgarorum dominus) or imperator of the Vlachs and Cumans, or simply Emperor of the Vlachs who was called by them the Emperor of Greece (Kalopetrus Bachorum (Blachorum) dominus itemque a suis dictus imperator Grecie). Finally, Pope Innocent III in his letters to the Bulgarian King John (Calojoannes) in 1204 addressed him as King of Bulgarians and Vlachs (Bulgarorum et Blacorum rex); in answering the pope, John calls himself imperator omnium Bulgarorum et Blacorum, but signs himself imperator Bulgariae Calojoannes; the archbishop of Trnovo calls himself totius Bulgariae et Blaciae Primas.

Although the Wallachians initiated the movement of liberation, the Bulgarians without doubt took an active part in it with them, and probably contributed largely to the internal organization of the new kingdom. The Cumans also shared in the movement. The new Bulgarian kingdom was ethnologically a Wallachian-Bulgarian-Cuman state, its dynasty, if the assertion of Nicetas Choniates is accepted, being Wallachian. The cause of the revolt was the discontent with the Byzantine sway felt by both Wallachians and Bulgarians, and their desire for independence. The time seemed particularly auspicious to them, since the Empire, which was still enduring the consequences of the troubles of Andronicus' time and the revolution of 1185, was unable to take adequate measures to put down the revolt. Nicetas Choniates naively said that the revolt was caused by the driving away of the Wallachs cattle for the festivities held on the occasion of the marriage of Isaac Angelus to a daughter of the king of Hungary.

Peter, this renegade and evil slave, as he was called by the metropolitan of Athens, Michael Acominatus, and Asen at first received some defeats from the Byzantine troops; but they were able to enlist the aid of the Cumans, who lived beyond the Danube. The struggle grew more difficult for the Empire, and Peter and Asen succeeded in concluding a sort of treaty. Peter had already assumed the title of tsar at the outset of the revolt and had begun to wear the imperial robes. Now the new Bulgarian state was recognized as politically independent of Byzantium, with a capital at Trnovo and an independent national church. The new kingdom was known as the Bulgarian Kingdom of Trnovo, Simultaneously with the Bulgarian insurrection a similar movement arose in Serbian territory, where the founder of the dynasty of Nemanya, the Great Zupan (Great Ruler) Stephen Nemanja, who laid the foundation for the unification of Serbia, made an alliance with Peter of Bulgaria for the common fight against the Empire.

In 1189, as a participant in the Third Crusade, Frederick Barbarossa of Germany was passing across the Balkan peninsula towards Constantinople on his way to the Holy Land. The Serbs and Bulgarians intended to use that favorable opportunity and to obtain their aim with Frederick's help. During his stay at Nish Frederick received Serbian envoys and the Great Zupan Stephen Nemanya himself, and at the same time opened negotiations with the Bulgarians. The Serbs and Bulgarians proposed to Frederick an alliance against the Byzantine Emperor, but on condition that Frederick should allow Serbia to annex Dalmatia and retain the regions which had been taken away from Byzantium, as well as that he should leave the Asens in permanent possession of Bulgaria and secure the imperial title to Peter. Frederick gave them no decisive reply and continued his march. In this connection a historian of the nineteenth century, V. Vasilievsky, remarked: There was a moment when the solution of the Slavonic problem in the Balkan peninsula was in the hands of the western Emperor; there was a moment when Barbarossa was about to accept the help of the Serbian and Bulgarian leaders against Byzantium, which undoubtedly would have led to the ruin of the Greek Empire.

Soon after the crossing of the crusaders into Asia Minor the Byzantine army was severely defeated by the Bulgarians. The Emperor himself narrowly escaped capture. A contemporary source reported, The many slain filled the cities with weeping and made villages sing mournful songs.

In 1195 a revolution occurred in Byzantium which deprived Isaac of the throne and of his sight and made his brother Alexius Emperor. First of all, Alexius had to confirm himself on the throne and therefore he opened peace negotiations with the Bulgarians. But they presented unacceptable terms. Some time later, in 1196, by means of Greek intrigues, both the brothers, Asen and later Peter, were murdered. Thereupon John, their younger brother, who had formerly lived for some time in Constantinople as hostage and had become very well acquainted with Byzantine customs, reigned in Bulgaria. He was the famous Tsar Kalojan, from 1196 a threat to the Greeks and later to the Latins. Byzantium could not cope alone with the new Bulgarian tsar who, entering into negotiations with Pope Innocent III, received a royal crown through his legate. The Bulgarians recognized the pope as their head, and the archbishop of Trnovo was raised to the rank of primate.

 

Thus, during the dynasty of the Angeli a powerful rival to Byzantium arose in the Balkan peninsula in the person of the Bulgarian king. The Second Bulgarian Kingdom, which had increased in power towards the end of the reign of the Angeli, became a real menace to the Latin Empire which was founded in the place of the Byzantine Empire

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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But where they really that bad?

 

i myself for some reason like the Angeloi and im not sure exactly why but id like to hear everyones opinions about them and if they were infact that bad

 

Salve, H!

After reading this thread, I think that the Angel(o)i actually weren't that bad.

They were worse.

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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interesting. i never really took notice of the second bulgarian empire as my interest after the sack moves more to trebizond. But do you think that if the sack of 1204 never occured that perhaps the Angeloi would have been able to reconquer the Bulgarian empire in time? or not?

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interesting. i never really took notice of the second bulgarian empire as my interest after the sack moves more to trebizond. But do you think that if the sack of 1204 never occured that perhaps the Angeloi would have been able to reconquer the Bulgarian empire in time? or not?

Salve, H!

I think that any "what if" scenario is risky at best and doubtly useful.

The IVth Crusade was probably the main isolated factor that contributed to the demise of the Empire and was one of the turning points in History.

Had it never occurred, ANYTHING could have been possible, even the survival of the Empire to our days. Who knows?

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From my understanding on what I've read of this era, at the time when the Eastern Empire most needed leadership or at at least moderate leadership, they were ruled by the most incompetent or care-free rulers in it's history. At the time, it seems the Empire still had a lot of potential strength and with some rudimentary leadership or foresight would have probably been able to prevent the outcome of the Fourth Crusade...from which the Empire never recovered.

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Well, without going into too much detail, let us ponder what exactly they did do:

allowed the fiscal crisis to worsen, hastened the loss of territory due to inaction and inability, caused Western Europe to view the Romans (Byzantines) as ever more treacherous, thus inciting more aggression, and ultimately caused Constantinople to be taken (a little bit of generalization there, but not much).

 

So yeah, they sucked. I typically try not to be too harsh on people such as emperors who have an impossible amount of stress to abide, but those three were basically un-clever schemers who could not control the positions into which they were placed.

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