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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

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Significance of the external policy of John Vatatzes. With the death of John Asen II, in 1241, the brilliant epoch of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom passed away, and Asen's weak and inexperienced successors could not maintain his conquests. With his death collapsed the second attempt of the Bulgars to found in the Balkan peninsula a great Greco-Slavonic Empire with its center at Constantinople; for both Simeon in the tenth century, and the Asens, Kalojan and John II, in the thirteenth century, this task proved to be too great. The last attempt of this kind conceived and organized on a larger scale by Slavs, that is, by the Serbs, was to be made in the fourteenth century.

Taking advantage of the decline of Bulgaria, John Vatatzes crossed with his army to the European coast and in a few months took away from Bulgaria all the regions of Macedonia and Thrace which had been conquered by Asen II. Pursuing his march, Vatatzes advanced towards Thessalonica, where anarchy prevailed, and in 1246, without difficulty, took possession of this city. The state of Thessalonica ceased to exist. In the ensuing year Vatatzes seized some Thracian cities which were still under Latin rule. The Emperor of Nicaea drew near Constantinople. The Despotat of Epirus submitted to Vatatzes suzerainty. There were no more rivals in Vatatzes' aspiration for the shores of the Bosporus.

Towards the end of Vatatzes reign his dominions, both direct and vassal, extended from the Black Sea to the Adriatic. Leaving out of the question middle Greece and the Peloponnesus, nothing but Constantinople was lacking for the restoration of the Empire.

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Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/vasilief/mongols.asp?pg=3