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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Empire of Nicaea (1204-1261)

Foreign policy of the Lascarids and the restoration of the Byzantine empire 

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After the defeat of the Latins at Hadrianople, Theodore's situation became temporarily a little easier. Baldwin's successor on the Constantinopolitan throne, however, his brother Henry, an energetic and talented leader and ruler, after his coronation in St. Sophia somewhat recovered from the reverse with the Bulgars and again opened hostilities against Theodore, having it in mind to annex the possessions of Nicaea to the Latin Empire. The Emperor of Nicaea could not, by force of arms, check the successes of the Latins. But the Bulgarian danger to the Latins and the Seljuq danger to Theodore compelled both of them to come to an agreement and to conclude a truce, by the terms of which Theodore had to pull down several fortresses.

 

The Seljuq Turks. Theodore's war with the Seljuq Sultan, to whom belonged the greater part of Asia Minor, had great importance for the new Empire of Nicaea. The appearance of a new state, the Empire of Nicaea, was, undoubtedly, exceedingly disagreeable to the Turkish Sultanate of Iconium or Rum, for it hindered the Turks in their further advance to the West toward the coast of the Aegean Sea. To this main cause of the strained relations between the two states must be added the fact that Theodore Lascaris' father-in-law, Alexius III Angelus, fled to the sultan and besought him for help to regain his lost throne. Availing himself of the opportunity of Alexius' arrival, the sultan sent to Theodore a threatening demand to deliver the throne to him, concealing under this pretext his real aim of taking possession of the whole of Asia Minor.

Hostilities began; they took place particularly at Antioch, on the Maeander river, in Carla. The chief force of Theodore was the eight hundred brave western mercenaries. In their fight with the Turks, they displayed great heroism and inflicted enormous losses on the enemy, but almost all of them were left dead on the field of battle. By his personal courage and great presence of mind, however, Theodore Lascaris regained control of the situation. In the following clash the sultan was slain, perhaps by Theodore himself. A contemporary source said, the sultan fell as from a tower, i.e. from the mare on which he was mounted. In the same battle the former emperor, Alexius III, who had taken refuge with the Turks, was captured. He put on the cowl and ended his life in one of the monasteries of Nicaea.

This war seems to have brought about no great territorial changes for Theodore. But the moral significance of the victory of the Greek Christian Emperor of Nicaea over the Muslims was very great: it confirmed the new Empire, revived the former Byzantine traditions of the struggle against Islam, and filled with joy and vigor the hearts of the Greeks, not only the Asiatics, but also the Europeans, who, for the first time, saw in Nicaea a possible center of their future unification. Nicetas Choniates wrote in honor of Theodore's victory a long and bombastic panegyric. Nicetas brother, Michael Acominatus, the former metropolitan of Athens, from the island of Ceos, where he was spending the last years of his life, sent Theodore a letter of congratulation in which he expressed his wish that Theodore might take possession of the throne of Constantine the Great in the place which our Lord had originally chosen, that is to say, in Constantinople.

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