The Fall of Constantinople: Being the Story of the Fourth Crusade

By Edwin Pears | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IV.
WEAKENING OF THE EMPIRE FROM DYNASTIC TROUBLES.

AT the time when the Byzantine empire had need of all her strength, when half-civilised hordes were pouring into the Balkan peninsula from the North, when she had been almost overwhelmed by the wave of Turkish invasion in Asia Minor, when Sicilians, Venetians, and Crusaders were alike hostile to her, a series of dynastic troubles commenced in the capital itself, which greatly diminished the reputation of the New Rome and lessened its strength. These troubles were for the most part what we may call accidental. They did not arise, directly at least, in consequence of the struggles of the Empire with foreign enemies, though undoubtedly these troubles increased their importance. Under ordinary circumstances and in other times--say, for example, a century earlier--they would have settled themselves, and the Empire would have presented a united front to the various enemies who were attacking it. The earlier of these dynastic struggles weakened the Empire. The later contributed largely to its destruction.

The Emperor Manuel, who reigned from 1143 to 1180, had ruled with ability and energy. But he had become unpopular with his subjects on account of his fondness for the Latins and of his extravagance. The citizens of Constantinople complained that their own merchants were ruined by the favours which were heaped on the Italians. Manuel's leaning towards the West was due, in part at least, to his personal character. He had been influenced deeply by the spirit of Western chivalry. He was tall, of quite exceptional

The Emperor Manuel

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