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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantium and the Crusades

Foreign policy of the Angeli 


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Characteristics of the Emperors of the House of the Angeli. The dynasty of the Angeli, elevated to the throne by the revolution of 1185, sprang from a contemporary of Alexius Comnenus, Constantine Angelus, of the city of Philadelphia in Asia Minor, a man of low birth, who was married to a daughter of the Emperor Alexius; he was the grandfather of Isaac II Angelus, the first emperor from this house, who was therefore related by the female side to the Comneni.

One of the aims of the late Andronicus had been to establish a national government; obviously he had failed in this task and at the close of his reign he had begun to incline to the West. After his death, the need of a national government became thoroughly felt, so that, as a recent Italian historian of the rule of Isaac II Angelus, Cognasso, wrote: The revolution of the twelfth of September (1185) became especially nationalistic and aristocratic in its plans; thus, from the advantages derived from the revolution all classes were excluded except the Byzantine aristocracy.

Isaac II (1185-95) who represented, to quote Gelzer, the embodied evil conscience which sat now upon the rotten throne of the Caesars, possessed no administrative talents at all. The excessive luxury and foolish lavishness of the court together with arbitrary and unendurable extortions and violence, lack of will power and of any definite plan in ruling the state in its external relations, especially in the Balkan peninsula where a new danger to the Empire appeared in the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, and in Asia Minor, where the Turks continued their successful advance unchecked by the fruitless Third Crusade, all this created an atmosphere of discontent and agitation in the country. From time to time revolts broke out in favor of one or another claimant to the throne. But perhaps the chief cause of general discontent was the fatigue of the population at enduring the two evils well recognized by Andronicus: the insatiability of the fiscal administration and the arrogance of the rich. Finally, in 1195, a plot against Isaac was formed by his brother Alexius, who, with the help of a certain part of the nobility and troops, dethroned the Emperor. Isaac was blinded and imprisoned, and his brother Alexius became Emperor. He is known as Alexius III Angelus (1195-1203), or Angelus Comnenus, sometimes surnamed Bambacoratius (Βαμβακοραβδής).

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