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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantium and the Crusades

External relations under John II 


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The Norman danger had caused Alexius to draw closer to Venice, who had pledged herself to support Byzantium with her fleet; thereupon Alexius had granted the Republic of St. Mark quite exceptional trade privileges. The Venetians, who had gone in throngs to the Empire, especially to Constantinople, grew rich and soon formed in the capital a Venetian colony so numerous and wealthy that it began to be of predominant importance. Gradually, forgetting that they were neither in their native country nor in a conquered land, the Venetians began to behave so arrogantly and impertinently towards not only the lower classes of the Byzantine population, but also the high officials and nobility, that they aroused strong discontent in the Empire. The small commercial privileges granted Pisa by Alexius were not important enough to alarm Venice.

In Alexius' lifetime, relations between the Byzantines and Venetians were not yet particularly strained. But with his death, circumstances changed. Learning that Norman Apulia was having internal troubles and therefore considering the Norman danger to Byzantium already over, John decided to abrogate the commercial treaty that his father had made with Venice. At once, the irritated Venetians sent their fleet to raid the Byzantine islands of the Adriatic and Aegean. Judging an adequate resistance to the Venetian vessels impossible, John was forced, still in the first years of his reign, to enter into negotiations with Venice which led to the complete restoration of the commercial treaty of 1082. Under John, the other Italian maritime cities, like Pisa and Genoa, also enjoyed certain commercial privileges but these, of course, could not be compared with those of Venice.

In these same first years of John's reign, the Patzinak problem was definitely solved. The Patzinaks, who had been crushed under Alexius Comnenus by the Cumans (Polovtzi), thereafter did not harass the Empire for thirty years. But at the beginning of the reign of John, the Patzinaks, who had somewhat recovered from their defeat, crossed the Danube and invaded the Byzantine territory. The imperial troops inflicted a heavy and decisive defeat upon them. In memory of this victory, John even instituted a special Patzinak festivity, which, as the Byzantine historian Nicetas Choniates said, was still celebrated at the end of the twelfth century. After this defeat the Patzinaks had no importance at all in the external history of Byzantium. However, Patzinaks who were captured and who settled within the Empire constituted a separate group in the Byzantine troops and afterwards fought on the side of Byzantium.

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