The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

MICHAEL.

of Michael, but left off with his accession (Zonar. vol. ii. p. 286, &c. ; Bryen. lib. ii. Hi. &c.; Scylitz. p. 850, &c.; Glyc. p. 329, &c. ; Manass. p. 134, 135; Joel, p. 185.) [W. P.] ^ MICHAEL VIII. PALAEO'LOGUS (MiX^\ 6 Tla.\cuo\6yos), emperor of Nicaea, and afterwards of Constantinople, from a. d. 1260 to 1282, the restorer of the Greek empire, was the son of An- dronicus Palaeologus and Irene Angela, the grand­ daughter of the emperor Alexis Angelus. He was born in 1234. At an early age he rose to eminence, which he owed to his uncommon talents as much as to his illustrious birth, and to the same causes he was indebted for many a dangerous persecution. Without dwelling upon his earlier life, we need only mention that he was once obliged to take refuge at the court of the sultan of Iconium, and having subsequently been appointed governor of the distant town of Durazzo, the slander of his secret enemy followed him thither, and he was carried in chains to Nicaea. He justified himself, however, and the emperor Theodore II. Lascaris held him in higher esteem than he had ever done before. This emperor died in August 1259, leaving a son, John III., who was only nine years old, and over whom he had placed the patriarch Arsenius and the magnus domesticus Muzalon, as guardians. Neither of them enjoyed popularity, being both known for their friendship for the Latins. Nine days after the death of Theodore, while his obsequies were solemnizing in the cathedral of Magnesia, the im­ perial guard suddenly broke into the church, and Muzalon, his brothers, and many of his principal adherents fell victims to the military wrath. Mi­ chael Palaeologus, whom Theodore had lately ap­ pointed magnus dux, was chosen as guardian in­ stead of Muzalon, and soon afterwards he received or gave himself the title and power of despot. Thence there was only a step to the throne, which Michael also took. He made himself master of the imperial treasury, bribed or gained the Varan­ gian guard and the clergy, and was proclaimed em­ peror at Magnesia. Michael. and the boy John were crowned together at Nicaea, on the 1st of January, 1260. His succession filled the Nicaean empire with joy and satisfaction. It was not so in Constantinople. Although Baldwin II. enjoyed little more than the name of an emperor and the shadow of an empire, the substance whereof was in the hands of the princes of Nicaea, Epeirus, and Achaia, he assumed a haughty tone towards Michael, and demanded the cession of those parts of Thrace and Macedonia which belonged to Nicaea, as a condition of acknowledging him as emperor. At first Michael treated the Latin ambassadors with ridicule, till they declared they would be satisfied with Thessalonica or even Seres. " Not a village!''replied Michael sternly, dismissing them , with contempt; and he was right in doing so, for | he had already taken proper measures for driving the Latins out of Constantinople. The ambition of Michael, the despot of Epeirus, checked him for a while in his lofty career. Seeing a child on the throne of Nicaea, and a lofty but forsaken foreigner, destitute of power, on that of Constantinople, Michael of Epeirus conceived the same plan as Michael Palaeologus, arid the success of the latter at first did not at all discourage him. Things growing serious, the new emperor of Nicaea made him honbufable offers in order to maintain peace between them. But the despot of Epeirus reckoned

107.9

MICHAEL.

upon his alliance with Manfred, the Norman king of Sicily, and William de Villehardouin, the French prince of Achaia and the Morea, and rushed boldly into the field. At Achrida he suffered a severe de­feat ; Villehardouin was taken prisoner and brought to Constantinople. The Greeks in their turn were totally beaten at Tricorypha. Little moved by the disadvantageous turn of his affairs in the West, Michael Palaeologus hastened his expedition against Constantinople, and before the end of the year 1260 Baldwin II. was shut up within his capital. Michael, however, was not strong enough to reduce the city, and returned to Nicaea. Upon this he made an alliance with the Genoese, and in 1261 sent a new army beyond the Bosporus, the progress of which he watched from his favourite residence of Nymphaeum near Smyrna. Strategopulus Caesar commanded the Greek army round Constantinople, the natural strength of which offered again such obstacles to the besiegers, that the Caesar converted the siege into a blockade, informing the emperor of the bad chances he had of speedy success. While matters stood thus, one Cutrizacus, the commander of a body of voluntary auxiliaries, was informed of the existence of a subterranean passage leading from a place outside the walls into the cellar of a house within them, and which seemed to be known only to the owner of the house. Cutrizacus im­mediately formed a plan for surprising the garrison by means of the passage, and after concerting measures with the commander-in-chief, ventured with 50 men through the passage into the city. His plan succeeded completely. No sooner was he within than he took possession of the nearest gate, disarmed the post, opened it, and the main body of the Greeks rushed in. The.stratagem was executed in the dead of night. The inhabitants, roused from their slumber, soon learned the cause of the noise, and kept quiet within their houses, or joined their daring countrymen. The Latins dispersed in various quarters were seized with a panic, and fled in all directions, while the emperor Baldwin had scarcely time to leave his palace and escape on board of a Venetian galley, which carried him imme­diately to Italy. On the morning of the 25th of July, 1261, Constantinople was in the undisputed possession of the Greeks, after it had borne the yoke of the Latins during 57 years 3 months and 13 days.

A private messenger brought the news of this strange revolution to Nymphaeum, and Michael at first refused to believe it till the arrival of some officers of the Caesar dispersed all doubt: as a further token of the veracity of their account, they produced the sword, the sceptre, the red bonnet, and other articles belonging to Baldwin, who had not found time to carry them with him. Michael lost no time in repairing to Constantinople, and on the 14th of August held his triumphal entrance, saluted by the people with demonstrations of the sincerest joy. Constantinople, however, was no more what it had been. During the reign of the Latins plunder, rapine, and devastation had spoiled it of its former splendour ; trade had deserted its harbour; and thousands of opulent families had abandoned the palaces or mansions of their fore­fathers, in order to avoid contact with the hated foreigners. To restore, re-people, and re-adorn Con­stantinople was now the principal task of Michael j and, in order to accomplish his purpose the better, he confirmed the extensive privileges which the

3z 4

Pages
About | First

1078

1079

1080
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.