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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Empire of Nicaea (1204-1261)

Theodore and John Lascaris and the restoration of the Byzantine Empire 


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The battle of Castoria had a decisive significance for the restoration of the Byzantine Empire. The dominions of the Despot of Epirus were reduced to his hereditary land in Epirus. The Latin Empire could not rely on the defeated Principality of Achaia, and was itself under the direction of the feeble and apathetic Baldwin II. Meanwhile, in order to make still more sure the success of the final attack on Constantinople, Michael Palaeologus concluded a treaty with the Genoese. The commercial interests of Genoa and Venice conflicted everywhere in the Levant. After the Fourth Crusade and the formation of the Latin Empire, Venice had gained quite exceptional trade power in the Latin dominions of the Levant, and Genoa could not reconcile herself to this state of affairs. Realizing this, Michael came to an agreement with the Genoese; although they knew that an understanding with the schismatic Greeks would evoke the severe censure of the pope and the West in general, they were so desirous of driving out their Venetian rivals from the East that they concluded the treaty with Michael.

In March, 1261, at Nymphaeum, was signed the very important treaty which granted to the Genoese the commercial supremacy in the Levant so long enjoyed by the Venetians. This was a real offensive and defensive alliance against Venice. Free trade forever was granted the Genoese throughout the present and future provinces of the Empire. Very important grants at Constantinople and in the islands of Crete and Euboea, if Michael by the mercy of God should recover them, were included in the treaty; Smyrna, a city fit for commercial use, having a good port and abounding in all goods, was assigned to the absolute control of the Genoese; commercial stations with churches and consuls were to be established in the islands of Chios and Lesbos, and in some other places; the Black Sea (majus mare) was to be closed to all foreign merchants except the Genoese and Pisans, the faithful subjects of Michael. On their side the Genoese pledged themselves to grant free trade to the Emperor's subjects, and to support him with their fleet, provided that the ships were not employed against the pope and the friends of Genoa. The Genoese fleet was extremely important in Michael Palaeologus' plans to reconquer Constantinople. This treaty was ratified at Genoa a few days before Constantinople was taken by Michael's troops. This was a brilliant victory for Genoa which, after Saladin's victories in Syria, had suffered grievous losses. It was a new page in their economic history. The vigor of the thirteenth century colonial life offers a sharp contrast with the halting, tentative character of that of the twelfth. Naturally this is the result of wide experience, of better organization, and especially of the amazing developments of trade.

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