III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > F. Europe, 461–1500 > 7. Eastern Europe, 1300–1500 > f. The Byzantine Empire
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1261)
f. The Byzantine Empire
After the recapture of Constantinople by the Greeks in 1261, the empire of the Paleologi was still a relatively small domain, consisting of the former Nicaean Empire, the city of Constantinople and its immediate surroundings, the coastal part of Thrace, Salonika (Thessalonica), and southern Macedonia with the islands of Imbros, Samothrace, Lesbos, and Rhodes. The northeastern part of Anatolia was still held by the Greek empire of Trebizond, which, in the course of the 13th century, had managed to hold a balance between the Seljuk Turks and the Mongols and had become the great entrepôt of the eastern trade coming to the Black Sea by way of Persia and Armenia. The city and the court reached their highest prosperity and brilliance under the Emperor Alexius II (1297–1330), whose reign was followed by a period of dynastic and factional struggle. The reign of John Alexius III (1350–90) marked a second period of splendor, but the 15th century was one of decline. The empire of Trebizond ended with the Ottoman conquest in 1461 (last ruler, David, 1458–61).  1
The European territories of the earlier empire were divided between the Greek despotate of Epirus and the Greek duchy of Neopatras (Thessaly, Locris), the Latin duchy of Athens, the Latin principality of Achaea, and the Venetian duchy of the Archipelago.  2
MICHAEL VIII (Paleologus). He was the ablest of the Paleologi, a man who devoted himself to the restoration of Byzantine authority throughout the Balkan area, persisting despite many setbacks.  3
Michael established a foothold in the southeastern part of the Peloponnese (Morea). Mistra (Misithra) became the capital of a flourishing principality and one of the great centers of late-Byzantine culture.  4
Michael II of Epirus was forced to recognize the suzerainty of the Constantinople emperor. In a series of campaigns, much of the despotate was regained for the empire (Janina taken, 1265).  5
Constant raids of the Bulgars into Thrace led to a formidable campaign against them and the reconquest of part of Macedonia.  6
Charles of Anjou became king of Sicily. He made an alliance with Baldwin II, the last Latin emperor, and, through the marriage of his son with the heiress of the Villehardouins, extended his authority over Achaea. He soon became the most formidable opponent of the Greeks, for by the Treaty of Viterbo (1267), he took over the claims of Baldwin II.  7
Death of Michael II of Epirus. Charles of Anjou had already taken Corfu (1267) and now undertook the conquest of the Epiran coast, the essential base for any advance on Thessalonica and Constantinople. Durazzo was taken in 1272. John Angelus, driven out of Epirus, set up as lord of Neopatras (to 1295). Nicephorus I was the titular ruler of a much-reduced Epiran state (to 1296). Charles of Anjou proclaimed himself king of Albania and entered into alliance with the Serbs, who had begun the construction of a large state by advancing down the Vardar Valley.  8
The Council of Lyons. Michael, to escape from the Angevin danger, accepted the Roman creed and the primacy of the pope, thus effecting the reunion with Rome. This purely political move met with vigorous resistance on the part of the Orthodox Greeks.  9
Campaigns of Michael against the Angevins in Epirus had varying success.  10
The death of William of Villehardouin, prince of Achaea, gave the Greeks an opportunity to expand their holding in the southeastern part.  11
Michael VIII won a great victory over the Angevins at Berat. Thereupon Charles made an alliance with the papacy and with Venice, with which the Serbs and Bulgars were associated. Michael, in reply, effected a rapprochement with Peter of Aragon.  12
The Sicilian Vespers (See 1268–85) served to relieve the pressure on the Greek Empire.  13
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.