Main SourcebooksAncientMedievalModern

Subsidiary SourcebooksAfricanEast AsianGlobalIndianJewishIslamicLesbian/GayScienceWomen

About IHSP Help Page IHSP Credits

Introduction to the Medieval World: Class 23

Class 23: Eastern Christendom after the Crusades

Assigned Reading:

I. Introduction A. Rise of the West - past few weeks Internal - art, literature External - Commerce, crusades B. Impact - on Byzantium and on Islam C. But these two cultures both had their own internal dynamics as well. II. Byzantium Eastern Roman Empire - correct description until c. 640 -Then loss of Syria and Egypt -Greek/Armenian Empire -Byzantine Dark Ages/Iconoclasm -Triumph of Orthodoxy 842 -Macedonian Dynasty 867-1057 Expansion - vs. Arabs and Bulgars + Cultural Renaissance -11th century - Decline of military empire at expense of Constantinopolitan bureaucracy -1071 - Mantzikert - Defeat of Romanus IV Diogenes by Seljuqs. -Collapse of Byzantine power in Anatolia -Finis? III. Russia Before we go on to look at that, lets pause a moment at look at the Slavs. -Why important? - Byzantium no longer exists, and Greece is small - But Byzantine culture spread to the Slavs. (Caesar Tsar. The Slavs - a tribe in eastern Europe Nowadays defined by language - Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Serbs, Croats, Bulgars ! - but not Hungarians or Romanians Kievan Rus - Viking background - names like Olga Russians first major appearance on scene - attack on CP 860 Photius decided to send missionaries - had very important consequences Missionary Expansion - SS. Cyril (+869. and Methodius - first in Moravia - Use of Old Church Slavonic Slavs never entirely happy with Byzantine politics, but accepted Byzantine culture in a purely Christian guise. -No access to pagan works in Greek or Latin -No Renaissance in Russia Permanent influence of Byzantium is through these Slavs. -Third Rome theory IV. The Comneni -Back to Byzantium -Byzantium was restored to relatively good health by the Comneni. Bureaucracy had led to a deliberate weakening of Byzantine military power in the 11th century. The old theme system was gone. Byzantine armies were composed of either aristocratic retinues or, more often, mercenaries. But the military families of the countryside, while keeping their estates in the country, saw how power was being exercised, and began in this period to move into the City. With the collapse of the bureaucracy, the still strong networks of the Great families cam into their own as a nexus of power in Byzantium - makes the history of the period read like Dallas. The Family which triumphed, after leading a successful coup, was the Comneni - led by the mother Anna Dalessena, who got her son Alexius made emperor (1081-1118.. To found a dynasty which would rule the Empire until 1185. Alexius initiated a Renovatio of the empire -Government through his family a golden hierarchy (used to be made fun of. Based on title Autokrator, Sebastos, Basileus -e.g.. Hypersebastokrator protonobelissimus What this did was to spread a veneer of majesty over his whole family. -other major families were united with his through marriage -power of women in this set up -Taking control of the Church -Appointing Patriarchs -Confronting and punishing heretics - and making it know that he was doing so. -Supporting selected monasteries -spread a pall of holiness around his family -Military restoration Fought Bulgars and fought back Turks - but could not regain all of Anatolia - used mercenaries - cheaper than own troops In all the Comeneni restore the stability of the Byzantine State. You also got in the 12th century a burst of creativity in Byzantium - writing of fiction etc. -although this was restricted to the upper classes. -Also canon Law But one thing Alexius did which ultimately proved disastrous was to call for help from the west. Led to crusades. V. The Crusades Byzantines never understood the Crusades. They wanted them to help defend Byzantium. Less concerned with Jerusalem - for Byzantines, Constantinople was the holy city. Alexius tried to tie the crusaders to him, by having them take oaths of fealty to him (not really a Byzantine idea.. Didn't work - Crusaders got to holy land and set up own states. Even worse contact btw east and west made each have a worse view of the other. -Before Crusades, Byzantine regarded Latins as vulgar and uneducated, but orthodox Christians. Afterwards they thought of them as barbarians greedy and uncivilized. -Westerners, initially had gone to aid eastern Christians, but on meeting them they pillaged their lands, killed them when they looked like Muslims. And took to the view that the Greeks were effete. slimy, and too rich. Led to distancing btw east and west. But for a long time, Byzantium was as rich and powerful as the westerners. There was an equilibrium. But - the Churches drifted apart. 1054 and all that - not so important -but appointment of Latin Bishops of Antioch and Jerusalem really distanced the churches. VI. The Fourth Crusade First Three Crusades had Holy land as a goal. First took Jerusalem - 1096 Second in response to Muslim capture of Edessa - 1146 Third in response to loss of Jerusalem - 1187 -but it failed The Fourth Crusade was significantly different. -it was pushed by the Pope, but this time Innocent III, the most powerful pope of the middle ages. -it did not really involve kings - they were too busy building up their newly solid kingdoms. -Instead it was made up of the second-tier nobility like the first crusade. By this time Crusaders were aware that there was no point in going to the Holy land overland, so they decided to go by sea - taking advantage of the increase in shipping due to the commercial revolution. Venice supplied the ships. Aim was to attack Egypt, not Palestine directly (Unreal - Egypt too populated for small crusader armies to subdue. Problem was things didn't go well. Not enough money was collected to pay the Venetians for all the ships they had provided. Venetians had a solution - help us take Zara Problem - Zara was a perfectly Catholic Christian city. The Pope was mad - but did not call off crusade. Crusade got to CP With crew was a dissident member of Byzantine Ruling House. This led to an excuse to conquer CP - 1204 Advantageous to Venice - who traded happily with Egypt -Setting up of Latin Empire of CP -Frankish Emperor -Venetian Patriarch (Final split. -Division of Greece among Frankish families - land grab VII. Villehardoin: The Capture of Constantinople Written in French Author: French b. c. 1150, An official history Story: It was all an accident ideas: honor, contract, relics, division of land. Discuss. VIII. Survival - Nicea, Epirus, and Trebizond The Byzantine state was smashed. But it survived Fragments formed into small states - Epirus, Trebizond -Nicea - most important Nearest to CP Probably had largest Greek pop Had the Greek Patriarch of CP Survival in Western Asia Minor Weakness of Latin empire - really a piece of western exploitation rather than a serious state. IX. The Palaiologoi Lascarids in Nicea Michael Paleologus - in charge of a young Lascarid. Murders him. Becomes Emperor. Founds last Dynasty. 1261 - CP recaptured. Byzantium again an important player -but fatally weakened - A city with little territory -still successor states all over Greek sprachraum -no longer an empire in any true sense, but a city state. Church Union - policy pursued by Michael VIII to stabilize his power - vs. Latin attackers. Church Union of 1272 But opposed by the Church - 1204 had dealt a fatal blow to Greek views of the Latin Church. Church as powerful as emperor - would condemn emperor if he disagreed. Michael VIII was excommunicated. Greeks coming to define themselves in opposition to Latin culture (discuss concept of dominant and dependent cultures. X. The Palaiologan Renaissance Periods of economic and political decline often see great cultural outpouring - e.g. the Italian Renaissance. -Art - frescoes -Literature - theology, biography, philosophy -Rebirth of Hellenism -All important as they preserved books XI. Palamas -Growth of monasticism's prestige. -International - not just Greeks, but Russians also Mt. Athos an independent monastic republic. -Rejection by some intellectuals of monks vision of God. -Led to a theological development known as Palamism. Affirmed the reality of monks experience of God in mysticism Cf. Aquinas affirmation of the experience of God in Intellect. XII. Late Byzantine Politics -Economy taken over by Genoese - Galata more important than CP. -Dynastic wars. -Growth of competitor states - e.g. Serbia. -Effect of Plague from 1347 on. -Church becomes more and more important as state declines. The Patriarch administers a wider area! XIII. The Turks While Byzantium was having a revival, a new and ultimately final challenge was developing. The Seljuqs who had originally conquered Anatolia had collapsed by the end of the 12th century - had been based at Konya. Development of competing Turkish statelets - Ghazi ideal Turkish state nearest CP - founded by Osman -leading Ghazi state. Began, c. 1300 to expand - taking over Byzantine land in the West of Asia Minor plus other Turkish states. 1358 - Turks took Gallipoli - benefited from internal civil wars in Byzantium. Soon took over all Balkans For last century Byzantium was a city state [with a flourishing out post in Morea] XIV. The End 1402 - saved by Tamurlane 1453 - Mehmet II took CP Establishment of a Turkish Empire - same areas as Byzantium at its height. An immensely civilized empire. Hollister too hostile. 1459 - Trebizond fell. XV. Survival of Orthodoxy Byzantium did not survive as a state. Its intellectual culture contributed to the Renaissance, and even to modern science as its leading intellectual went west - especially important was the University of Padua. Greece survived - under Turkokratia -in Greece, and all until 1922 in Western Asia Minor and CP. -Eimi rhomoi The Church Survived - As Rum Millet the Patriarch had more power than previously. Reborn in 1821 - Independent Greece. Byzantium also survives in Russia.

Return to Introduction to the Medieval World main page

© Paul Halsall, 1996.

This file is not copy-permitted.

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 6 October 2023 [CV]