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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)

Page 130

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). 

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