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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Empire of Nicaea (1204-1261)

The Despotat of Epirus and its relation to the Empire of Nicaea 


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But the anti-Latin policy of Theodore Angelus did not stop there. Soon afterwards there arose the question of the Kingdom of Thessalonica (Salonika) whose king, Boniface of Montferrat, had been killed in 1207 in a fight with the Bulgars. After his death troubles and strife raged in the kingdom. As long as the energetic Latin Emperor, Henry, was alive, he could defend Thessalonica against its two most menacing foes, Bulgaria and Epirus. But after the death of Henry and of the new Latin Emperor, Peter de Courtenay, the Kindom of Thessalonica was unable to resist the aggressive policy of Theodore of Epirus.

Theodore made war against the neighboring Latin kingdom, won the victory and in 1222, without great effort, took possession of Thessalonica, the second city in importance of the former Byzantine Empire and the first fief of the Latin Empire of Constantinople. Thus, after only eighteen years of existence, this ephemeral Lombard kingdom fell ingloriously, the first of the creations of the Fourth Crusade to succumb. Having seized Thessalonica and extended his dominions from the Adriatic to the Aegean, Theodore judged it his right to assume the imperial crown, that is to say, to become emperor of the Romans. This meant that he refused to recognize the title of John Vatatzes, who had just ascended the throne of Nicaea (1222). From the viewpoint of Theodore of Epirus, he himself, as a representative of the glorious families of the Angeli, Comneni, and Ducae, had a great advantage over John Vatatzes, a man of no very noble origin, who had mounted the throne only because he was Theodore Lascaris son-in-law.

The question of who should crown Theodore at Thessalonica was next raised. The metropolitan of Thessalonica declined the honor, unwilling to violate the rights of the Greek patriarch, who was then living at Nicaea and had already crowned John Vatatzes. Accordingly Theodore turned to another hierarch, who was independent of the Orthodox patriarch of Nicaea, namely, to the autocephalous (independent of archiepiscopal or patriarchal jurisdiction) archbishop of Ochrida (Achrida) and of all Bulgaria, Demetrius Chomatenus (Chomatianos), whose works, the letters in particular, have great interest for the history of the epoch. He crowned and anointed Theodore who put on the purple robe and began to wear the red shoes, distinctive marks of the Byzantine basileus. One of the letters of Demetrius Chomatenus shows that the coronation and anointment of Theodore of Epirus was performed with the general consent of the members of the senate, who were in the west (that is, on the territory of the state of Thessalonica and Epirus), of the clergy, and of all the large army. Another document testifies that the coronation and anointment were performed with the consent of all the bishops who lived in that western part. Finally, Theodore himself signed his edicts (chrysobulls) with the full title of the Byzantine Emperor: Theodore in Christ God Basileus and Autocrat of the Romans, Ducas.

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