Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume II: The later Crusades, 1189-1311
IV: Byzantium and the Crusades, 1081-1204, pp. [unnumbered]-151 PDF (14.1 MB)
130 A HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES II which the strongest rulers of the middle Byzantine period had tried to check. He was as statesmanlike and as capable an emperor as Romanus Lecapenus or Basil II, but he was sufficiently realistic to accept the fact that in changing circumstances he could only recognize and use the landed families. Such a development at a time when Latin feudal states were established in the east, when western crusaders thronged to and fro through the empire, and when the Byzantine court was so often linked by marriage and friendship to Frankish families, has sometimes given rise to the view that it owed much to western feudalism. Recent research has shown, however, that Byzantine feudalism was in many ways the product of its own internal forces and was not a Frankish import,8 though naturally the influx of Latin crusaders familiarized the Byzantines with many of the customs of western feudalism. Thus Alexius' domestic and foreign policy was characterized by the growing ascendancy of the military aristocracy. The success with which he maintained Byzantine prestige abroad in the face of major threats on all fronts, particularly from the Normans, and upheld the imperial tradition in church and state, should not blind the historian to those fundamental changes at work within the polity which were ultimately to undermine the imperial authority and to strengthen local and separatist elements. In essentials the situation remained unaltered throughout the reigns of Alexius' son John II (1118-1143) and his grandson Manuel I (1143-1180). Thus to some extent the policies of John and Manuel were predetermined for them. The main concern of the Comnenian house was the problem of finding some modus vivendi with the Normans of Sicily, and then, after the failure of direct male heirs in the Norman house, with the German emperors, Frederick Barbarossa and his son Henry VI, who married the heiress of the Sicilian kingdom and planned the conquest of Constantinople. Generally speaking, the policies of John and Manuel Comnenus were distinguished by variations in emphasis and orientation rather than by fundamental differences. John concentrated more on the east, but was unexpectedly cut short in the midst of his career; Manuel had a more original western policy and a longer reign, but was inevitably alive to eastern problems, if only because Mediterranean politics were now an inescapable factor in European diplomacy. Indeed, events during the sixty-odd years 8 See G. Ostrogorsky, Pour l'histoire de la féodalite byzantine (Brussels, cf. A. A. Vasiliev, History of the Byzantine Empire (Madison, 1952), pp. 563 if. (on Byzantine feudalism).
Copyright 1969 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved. Use of this material falling outside the purview of "fair use" requires the permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. To buy the paperback book, see: http://www.wisc.edu/wisconsinpress/books/1733.htm