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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 enthusiasm with which the populace received Andronicus is explained by their expectations from the new Emperor. The two chief problems of the internal life of the Empire confronted Andronicus: first, to establish a national government and deliver Byzantium from the Latin preponderance; second, to weaken the office-holding aristocracy and large landowning aristocracy, because the preponderance of large landowners was bringing about the ruin and destruction of the agricultural class of peasants. Such a program, however hard its execution might be, met great sympathy among the mass of the population.

The archbishop of Athens, Michael Acominatus (Choniates), one of the most precious sources for the internal situation of the Empire in the twelfth century, wrote in eulogistic terms: And first of all I shall remember how, at the troublesome and painful time, the Roman Empire appealed to its former darling, the great Andronicus, to overthrow the oppressive Latin tyranny which, like a weed, had grafted itself on the young offshoot of the kingdom. And he brought with him no huge body of foot and horse, but armed only with justice marched lightly to the loving city. The first thing he gave the capital in return for its pure love was deliverance from the tyrannous Latin insolence and the clearing of the Empire from barbarian admixture.

With Andronicus, a new party came to power. This last representative of the dynasty of the Comneni, said Th. Uspensky, was or at least seemed to be a popular king, a king of peasants. People sang songs about him and composed poetical tales, the traces of which have been preserved in the annals and marginal notes of the unpublished manuscripts of the History of Nicetas Choniates. Among other things, Nicetas wrote that Andronicus commanded his statue to be erected near the northern gate of the Church of the Forty Martyrs, and the Emperor was represented there not arrayed in the imperial robes, not wearing golden ornaments as sovereign, but as a worker, oppressed with labor, in a very modest dress, holding a scythe.

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