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Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The later Crusades, 1189-1311

IV: Byzantium and the Crusades, 1081-1204,   pp. [unnumbered]-151 PDF (11.7 MB)

Page 125

redoubtable mother Anna Dalassena, he weathered "the stormy waters of
government" which threatened him. But the first ten years of his reign
revealed difficulties which were to recur throughout the twelfth century.
At home the treasury was short of money, while recruitment for the navy and
army slackened seriously. Abroad Alexius' authority was challenged on all
sides, for he was ringed by enemies in Asia Minor, in the Balkans and beyond,
and in Italy. Much of Anatolia was in the hands of the Selchükid Turks,
and the empire was thus deprived of an important source of man power and
wealth. The native recruitment of its army and of its navy suffered accordingly,
and, further, its trade, as well as its defense, was adversely affected by
the decline of its maritime strength, at a time when the Italian powers were
developing apace. 
 It was indeed from the west, from the Normans and later the growing Italian
maritime cities, that Alexius' most dangerous foes were to come. In the months
immediately succeeding his coronation, imperial defense and imperial diplomacy
were concentrated against the Norman Robert Guiscard, whose flagrant and
persistent attacks on Byzantine territory bore out Anna Comnena's belief
that he "desired to become Roman emperor".2 Between Alexius' ac
cession in April 1081 and the arrival of the First Crusade in 1096, the Comnenian
came to terms with the Selchükid ruler of Rum, Sulaimãn, thus
temporarily stabilizing the position in Anatolia. He made various diplomatic
moves in the west, seeking help against Guiscard. He enlisted the naval support
of Venice and obtained mercenaries from Sulaimãn. He kept a wary eye
on the Balkans and fomented revolts in the Norman lands in Italy. Though
Guiscard's unexpected death in 1085 was opportune for Alexius and was followed
by Norman withdrawal from Greek territory, it entailed no more than a truce
in the duel between Constantinople and the Latins; in the immediate future
Bohemond, the son of Guiscard, was to carry on his father's aggressive and
ambitious policy. 
 This early period of Alexius' reign revealed certain important factors,
which no Byzantine ruler could afford to neglect. In particular, the various
minor principalities in the Balkans were potential enemies whose defection
might turn the balance; overwhelming disaster might threaten from the roving
Pecheneg or Kuman tribes beyond the Danube; maritime help was required, even
at the cost of ever-increasing trading privileges, thus piling up economic
problems and the ill-will of the native Greeks towards the Italian cities,
first Venice, and then Pisa and Genoa. In the east, the 
 2 Anna Comnena, Alexiad, I, xii, (ed. Leib, I, 44).  

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