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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 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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