The Later Crusades, 1274-1580: From Lyons to Alcazar

By Norman Housley | Go to book overview

2
Greeks, Turks, and Latins: The Crusade in Romania, 1274-1396

WHATEVER the strategic complexities which resulted from the idea of attacking Mamluk power in Egypt, and from the need to defend Armenia and Cyprus, crusading in the south-eastern Mediterranean remained essentially straightforward owing to the continuity of its foremost goal: the recovery of the Holy Land. The same cannot be said of the crusading activity which took place in the fourteenth century in the north-eastern Mediterranean, the area to which contemporaries gave the name Romania, and which roughly comprised the lands constituting the Byzantine Empire at the time of the Fourth Crusade (see maps 3 and 4). Latin interests here were complex and contradictory, and papal policy lacking in clarity; above all, there was no tradition of crusading comparable in richness and chivalric connotations with that which had developed in connection with the Holy Land. Despite this, it was in Romania that the crusading movement displayed its greatest vitality in the fourteenth century. And for all the complexity of texture, an evolution of ideas and goals is visible in this period, as the West moved from an initial concentration on countering the revival of Byzantine power towards attempts to organize resistance to the Turkish maritime principalities in Anatolia, finally recognizing the Ottomans as Christendom's greatest enemies.

A useful starting-point for the consideration of this evolution is the Greek recovery of Constantinople in July 1261. This put an end to the Latin Empire, the inherently weak state which had been created by the leaders of the Fourth Crusade after their capture of Constantinople in 1204. Byzantine revival had originated both in Epiros and at Nicaea, but the Emperor of Nicaea, Michael VIII Palaiologos, defeated his rival, Michael Doukas, at the battle of Pelagonia in 1259, and it was Michael VIII's

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