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Fall of Byzantium

Poster: David KUIJT <kuijt@umiacs.umd.edu>

On Thu, 10 Dec 1998 EoganOg@aol.com wrote:

> Now, later on the Turks would migrate in and take about 90% of that, making
> the Roman empire essentially the City of Constantinople.  Note that they still
> called this city "The Roman Empire."  Technichally this continued to exist
> until 1485?  I'm not sure on this date.  Someone mor up on Byzantine History
> please correct me.  We are getting out of my familiar realm here.  

In 1071 The Byzantines lost the battle of Manzikert to the Seljuk Turks; 
as a result of this they lost control of virtually all of Anatolia

Through the middle 12th century they struggled back up through reforms,
restructuring of their armies, and the like; they regained significant
portions of their lost turf and parity with the Seljuks.  Then in the late
12th century civil wars and other problems weakened the Byzantines. 

In 1204 the Doge of Venice convinced the leaders of the 4th Crusade that
the way to pay the Venetians for their passage was to take Constantinople. 
This may have been the best business move of all time.  The control of the
trade routes that came with control of the Greek islands, and the crushing
of their only real rival for trade, made Venice enormously wealthy for the
next five hundred years.

The 4th Crusade shattered the Byzantine Empire into four or five pieces:
the Empire of Trebizond, the Empire of Nicaea, and the despotate of Epirus
(Western Greece).  The center of what had once been the Byzantine Empire
became the "Latin" Empire (Western Crusaders keeping control of
Constantinople, Thessalonika, and a bunch of Greece).

Over the middle 13th century the Empire of Nicaea regained power and the
Latin Empire lost focus in internal feuds; finally Nicaea recaptured
Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire was back in business (although it
would never be more than a regional power again).

In the late 13th century the Osmanli (Ottoman) Turks grew gradually from
being one of a half-dozen Emirates in Western Anatolia into a power; they
gradually crushed the other Turkish Emirates and took Byzantine turf too.
By 1350 they had a foothold on Gallipoli (the other side of the Aegean).

The Byzantines spent the late 14th century in the traditional way -- civil
wars about succession, poisoning rivals, that sort of thing -- trying to
ensure that they lost any ground they might previously have gained.

1385 was the last time Byzantium fielded an army.  There were still two
independant Byzantine shards, pieces created when the Crusaders had
shattered the Byzantine punchbowl: the Despotate of the Morea, controlling
the southern part of Greece, and the "Empire" of Trebizond on the south
coast of the Black Sea.  Trebizond had proved quite adept at marriage
alliances with its neighbors, and survived by diplomacy and being
inoffensive and submissive.

Then came Bayezid, nicknamed "the Thunderbolt", ruler of the Ottoman
Turks.  He kicked ass on the last Crusader attempt to save Byzantium, a
combined Hungarian/French Crusader/Serbian army in 1396 at Nicopolis; he
also conquered all the remaining Turkish Emirates in Anatolia.  In 1400 or
1401 he had already started a siege of the city of Byzantium when they
were saved -- somebody else was invading Bayezid's domain in the East.

That somebody was Timur the Lame, (Tamerlane).  Bayezid was a brilliant
commander.  But there's always somebody better, and Tamerlane was the man. 
At Ankara in 1402 Tamerlane crushed Bayezid's army, as he had previously
crushed the Golden Horde, the Delhi Sultanate, Persia, and the Mamelukes
of Egypt.  Bayezid fought in the rearguard to let his son escape, and was
displayed in a cage in Samarkand for eight months until he died. 

It took another 30 years for the Ottomans to recover most of the turf of
Turkey they had lost at Ankara.  The end of Byzantium was only delayed for
a while, though.  When they turned their attention to Byzantium in 1453,
nobody was there to save it.  The streets were largely empty.  The last
Emperor of Byzantium died anonymously, defending its walls.

The Despotate of the Morea and the Empire of Trebizond were extinguished
in the next decade or two, and that was that.

who loves military history

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