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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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Few prominent figures of history have been portrayed by historians so darkly as Charles of Anjou, and perhaps they have not been quite just. Recent works on Charles have put aside forever the legend which made him a real tyrant, covetous, cunning, and wicked, always ready to drown in blood the smallest resistance. In their appeals to Charles the popes seem not to have taken into consideration the distinctive features of his character which entirely precluded the possibility of his becoming a mere tool in the hands of another. He was a well-trained, energetic, at times severe, even cruel, ruler, but not without cheerfulness, a love of tournaments, and an interest in poetry, art, and science; above all he was unwilling to become a puppet in the hands of the pope who had invited him to Italy.

On his coming to Italy with an army, Charles crushed Manfred at Beneventum in 1266. With Manfred's death, Sicily and Naples came under French sway. Charles of Anjou became the new king of the Two Sicilies. The French began to leave their country in masses and emigrate into Charles' new dominions, where general conditions were excellent.

Shortly after, Charles attitude toward Byzantium was clearly shown. With the consent and in the presence of the pope, at Viterbo, a small Italian city north of Rome, he made a treaty with the expelled Latin Emperor, Baldwin II, in which the latter transmitted to Charles his right to the supreme power over all Frankish dominions in the former Latin Empire, reserving to himself only Constantinople and several islands in the Archipelago, which Charles was to help him reconquer from the Greeks. The Norman claims to Byzantium thus revived again in full measure under the French sway in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

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