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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Empire of Nicaea (1204-1261)

Beginnings of the Empire of Nicaea and the Lascarids 

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Having thus provoked the anger of the Bulgarian king, the Latins at the same time also irritated the Greek population of Thrace and Macedonia by insulting Greek religious beliefs and rites. The secret relations of the Greeks with King Kalojan prepared in the Balkan peninsula an insurrection in favor of the Bulgars. It may be supposed that the former patriarch of Constantinople, John Camaterus, who is known to have lived in Bulgaria, played an important part in the formation of the Byzantine-Bulgarian alliance in 1204-5. This alliance, Th. Uspensky said, put an end to Kalojans hesitations and fixed the plan of his future actions. To come out as a protector of orthodoxy and of the Greco-Bulgarian population against the Catholic Latin predominance and therewith to take upon himself the task of reviving the weakened imperial power in Byzantium became thereafter the chief motive of Kalojan's undertakings against the crusaders. The tsar of Bulgaria longed for the crown of the Byzantine basileus.

The Greco-Bulgarian insurrection which had broken out in the Balkan peninsula, compelled the crusaders to recall to Europe the troops that had been sent to Asia Minor to fight against Theodore Lascaris. In the battle of Hadrianople, on the fifteenth of April, 1205, Kalojan, supported by the Cuman (Polovtzi) cavalry in his army, dealt a decisive defeat to the crusaders. In this battle fell the flower of Western chivalry, and the Emperor Baldwin himself was taken prisoner by the Bulgars. The fate of the captured emperor is not known; but, apparently, by order of the Bulgarian king, Baldwin was slain in some manner. Because of the lack of information on Baldwin's end, his brother Henry was elected regent of the Latin Empire for the time of Baldwin's absence. More than eight hundred years before, in 378, another Roman emperor, Valens, had been killed near Hadrianople in his conflict with the Goths.

The old doge, Enrico Dandolo, who had also taken part in the battle and conducted the hard night retreat of the remains of the defeated troops, died shortly after this disaster and was buried in St. Sophia. As a widespread tradition states, his corpse remained there till the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, when the Sultan Muhammed II commanded the body of the Venetian hero to be destroyed.

The defeat of Hadrianople placed the crusaders in a desperate situation. It was a blow to the Latin Empire that, at the very beginning of its political existence, undermined its whole future. The dominion of the Franks over Romania ended on this terrible day, declared Gelzer, and it is true that the destiny of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, for a certain period of time, was entirely in the hands of the Bulgarian king. The battle of Hadrianople had the greatest significance both for the Bulgarian kingdom and for the Empire of Nicaea. The Greeks of Macedonia and Thrace, lacking a national center in Europe and not foreseeing Nicaea's future significance in that connection, considered it possible to come to an agreement and to make common cause with the Bulgars against the Latins; the best possible opportunity was open to Kalojan to carry out his ambitious plan, namely, to establish on the site of the hostile Frankish realm a great Greco-Slavonic state in the Balkan peninsula with its center at Constantinople. But, as V. G. Vasilievsky wrote, the Slavonic rulers could not succeed in making a representative of the Greco-Slavonic world play an imperial world role. Kalojan's ambition to found a Greco-Bulgarian kingdom in the Balkan peninsula, with the capital at Constantinople, remained in the realm of dreams.

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