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)
Ch. IV BYZANTIUM AND THE CRUSADES 147 and Asen, who successfully reestablished an independent kingdom and called themselves the imperatores (tsars) of the whole of Bulgaria and Vlachia. Fierce controversy has raged around the question of their own ethnic origins, whether Bulgar, Vlach, or Kuman, for in the foundation of the Second Bulgarian empire all three racial groups took part,32 and the Kumans, for instance, were an important element in the new kingdom. Isaac had already tried to win the support of Hungary by the treaty of 1185 and by his marriage to the Hungarian princess Margaret. He now struggled against centrifugal forces in the Balkans, and after the treachery of his general Alexius Branas, himself led military expeditions during 1186-1187. But he had to accept the situation, and in 1186 Asen was crowned tsar by Basil, the newly established archbishop of Tirnovo. Stephen Nemanya of Rascia made himself "grand zupan" of Serbia in 1186, and continued to build up his power at Byzantine expense; he supported the Bulgarian rebels. Imperial authority in the Balkans was therefore being constantly undermined, a situation which the western leaders of the Third Crusade were quick to exploit. Thus weakened by civil war and campaigns in the Balkans, and without strong military leadership, Byzantium was in no position to control the new crusade or to counter Hohenstaufen ambitions.33 With the continual deterioration of the crusading position in Syria and Palestine and the comparative failure of the Third Crusade, attention was more and more focussed on the Byzantine empire. Political hostility, keen commercial rivalries, and even the schism between the two churches created a situation in which a concerted western attack on the empire seemed only a question of time. The Third Crusade was a convenient cloak for the ambitions of Frederick Barbarossa, whose son was betrothed to the heiress of the Sicilian kingdom. Frederick traveled through Hungary and the Balkans. He had in 1188 negotiated with Byzantium on the subject of his passage through its territory,34 but he was also in touch with the sultan at Iconium, and was regarded by both Serbia and Bulgaria as a desirable ally, particularly in view of the understanding between Hungary and Constantinople. Both the "grand zupan" and the Bulgarian tsar were willing to submit to Frederick and to attack Constantinople. Isaac could hardly afford to support the Latin crusading cause, 32 Cf. Ostrogorsky, Byzantine State, p. 358, note 4, and see in general R. L. Wolff, "The Second Bulgarian Empire: Its Origin and History to 1204," Speculum, XXIV (1949), 167-206. 33 See above, chapters II and III, for details of the Third Crusade. 34 Dölger, Regesten, no. 1581; cf. above, chapter III, pp. 90-91.
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