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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Empire of Nicaea (1204-1261)

Thessalonica and Nicaea 


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The two Greek Emperors, John Vatatzes and Theodore Angelus, had one common foe in the Emperor of Constantinople. But the Greek rulers could not come to an agreement concerning the Latin Emperor, for each of them wished at all costs to seize Constantinople for himself. In their opinion, only one of them could be the restorer of the Byzantine Empire. Therefore they had to fight separately against the Latin Empire, and finally clashed with each other.

Tidings of the growth of Nicaea and Epirus reached western Europe and aroused alarm on behalf of the Latin Empire. In a letter (May, 1224) to Blanche, the queen of France, the mother of Louis IX, Pope Honorius III, speaking of the powerful Empire of Romania and the fact that recently there has been created a sort of new France, warned the queen that the strength of the French (in the East) has decreased and is decreasing while their adversaries are growing considerably stronger, so that, unless speedy help is given the Emperor, it is to be feared that the Latins may be menaced by irreparable damage to both men and means. Honorius III proceeded to appeal to the king of France, asking him to help the Latin Emperor.

Soon after his ascension to the throne, John Vatatzes opened successful hostilities against the Latins in Asia Minor; then, by means of the fleet which was already at the disposal of the Emperor of Nicaea, he seized some islands of the Archipelago, Chios, Lesbos, Samos, and some others, and after that, having been asked by the inhabitants of Hadrianople to free them from the Latin yoke, he transferred hostilities to Europe. He sent towards Hadrianople an army which seems to have occupied this important point without a battle. To John Vatatzes the possession of Hadrianople might open the gates of Constantinople. One of the rivals seemed to be not far from his cherished goal.

But at the same time, Theodore Angelus set out from Thessalonica and conquered a major part of Thrace; then in 1225, approaching Hadrianople, he caused the army of John Vatatzes to withdraw. To the latter's plans, the loss of Hadrianople was a severe blow. Meanwhile, Theodore seized some other places and with his troops reached the very walls of Constantinople. It was a critical moment for the Latins. The Emperor of Thessalonica was on the point of becoming the real restorer of the Byzantine Empire. His dominions extended from the Adriatic almost to the Black Sea. But Theodore was compelled to give up hope of further successes in his fight against the Latins, for he himself began to be seriously menaced from the north by John Asen II of Bulgaria, who also had a claim upon Constantinople 

A History of the Byzantine Empire - Table of Contents

Next Chapter : The role of Bulgaria in the Christian East under Tsar John Asen II

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