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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The fall of Byzantium

The external policy of Michael VIII


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With regard to Byzantium, Manfred adopted the policy of his predecessors which must have seriously alarmed Michael VIII, especially from the point of view of possible Latin re-establishment at Constantinople. Baldwin II, deprived of his throne, appeared at Manfreds court with definite plans and requests for help. Moreover, the podesta (the chief representative) of the Genoese who lived at Constantinople and possessed at that time exceptionally favorable trade conditions in Byzantium, entered into negotiations with Manfred. He proposed to him a plan for the sudden capture of Constantinople and the restoration of Latin dominion there. Informed of this, the infuriated Michael VIII sent the Genoese away from the capital and opened negotiations with Venice, the result of which was a new treaty with the Republic of St. Mark restoring and confirming the previous privileges of the Venetians, and binding them, along with the Greeks, to fight against the Genoese if they opened hostilities against the Empire.

But Manfred had no time to take actual steps against Byzantium; he fell a victim to papal intrigue. The pope, seeing that after the death of Frederick II, the irreconcilable enemy of the papacy, the strength of the Hohenstaufen's was weakened, determined to deal a death blow to the hated dynasty by destroying Manfred. Charles of Anjou, brother of the king of France, Louis IX (St. Louis), became the executor of the papal plans. In inviting Charles to take the Kingdom of Sicily, the pope had in view not only the destruction of the Hohenstaufens, but also the help which Charles would furnish for the restoration of the Latin Empire in the East. At least, in 1265, Pope Clement IV expressed the hope that with the aid of Charles the position of the Roman Empire would be restored (imperii Romani status reformabitur). Accepting the pope's proposal to interfere in south-Italian affairs, Charles of Anjou opened the era of French expeditions to Italian era very destructive to the essential interests and needs of France which, for several centuries, was to spend her energy and means on Italy, instead of turning her forces and attention to her nearest neighbors, for example, to the Netherlands and the Rhinelands.

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