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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantium and the Crusades

Foreign affairs under the last Comneni, Alexius II and Andronicus I 


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The five-year period comprising the reign of the two last Comneni, Alexius and Andronicus, wrote the Russian historian, Th. Uspensky, is interesting particularly as a period of reaction and state reforms which had an entirely rational basis and were evoked by the well realized defects of the former system of administration. After Manuel's death his twelve-year old son, Alexius II (1180-83), ascended the throne, and his mother Mary (Maria) of Antioch was proclaimed regent; her favorite Alexius Comnenus, Manuel's nephew, however, had the direction of all state affairs. The violent struggle of the court parties as well as the continuing Latin preponderance led to the summoning of the famous Andronicus into the capital. He had already for a long time been filled with ambitious plans of seizing the imperial throne; and he snatched at the opportunity to appear as a defender of the weak Emperor Alexius II, surrounded by wicked advisers, as well as a protector of Greek national interests. A short time before he entered the capital, the massacre of the Latins had taken place. Venetian sources pass over the massacre of 1182. Nevertheless the Venetian merchants no doubt also suffered considerably.

In the same year, 1182, Andronicus entered Constantinople and, in spite of his solemn promise, began to aim openly at sole dominion. By his order, the powerful Alexius Comnenus was arrested and blinded; then the Regent Mary of Antioch and, shortly after, the unfortunate Emperor Alexius II were strangled. In 1183, Andronicus, then sixty-three years old, became all-powerful sovereign of the Empire. In order to make his position more solid, he married the widow of Alexius II, Agnes (Anne) of France, who, at the death of her fourteen-year-old husband, was not quite twelve years of age.

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