In one of his essays, Manuel II wrote: When I had passed my childhood and not yet reached the age of man, I was encompassed by a life full of tribulation and trouble; but according to many indications, it might have been foreseen that our future would cause us to look at the past as a time of clear tranquility. Manuel's presentiments did not deceive him.
Byzantium, or rather, Constantinople, was in a desperate and humiliating position in the last years of the reign of John V. At the moment of John's death, Manuel was at the court of Sultan Bayazid. When tidings of his father's death reached him, he succeeded in fleeing from the sultan and arrived in Constantinople, where he was crowned emperor. According to Ducas, Bayazid, feared the popularity of Manuel and regretted not having murdered him during his stay at his court. Bayazid's envoy sent to Constantinople to Manuel, as Ducas related, gave the new Emperor these words from the sultan: If you wish to execute my orders, close the gates of the city and reign within it; but all that lies outside belongs to me. Thereafter Constantinople was practically in a state of siege. The only relief for the capital lay in the unsatisfactory condition of the Turkish fleet; for that reason the Turks, though possessing both sides of the Dardanelles, were unable for the time being to cut off Byzantium from intercourse with the outside world through this strait. Especially terrible to the Christian East was the moment when Bayazid, by craftiness, gathered together in one place the representatives of the families of the Palaeologi with Manuel at their head, and the Slavonic princes; he seems to have intended to do away with them at once, in order that, to quote the Sultan's words given in a writing of Manuel, after the land had been cleared of thorns, by which he meant us (that is to say, the Christians), his sons might dance in the Christian land without fearing to scratch their feet. The representatives of the ruling families were spared, but the severe wrath of the sultan struck many nobles of their retinue.
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