The story

Byzantine Empire


The decline

The Empire's tide of luck, however, seemed to be over. In 1071, the Byzantine Emperor Diogenes IV was defeated and captured by the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert. This battle marked the disintegration of the defensive system that for centuries protected Asia Minor and the entry of the Turks into the Anatolian peninsula. As a result, the Empire lost up to one third of its population and resources.

As much as the subsequent dynasty, that of the Comneni, tried to regain the empire, attacks from the west and the north and the very fate of the emperors prevented it. The Italic Peninsula was definitely lost. The decline of the Empire was accompanied by a commercial subservience to the interests now of the Republic of Venice (with which Basil II himself signed a treaty), now of the Republic of Genoa, until finally Venice diverted the Fourth Crusade to Constantinople, which collapsed. to the crusaders in 1204.

Three states with Byzantine rulers emerged after the first "fall" of Constantinople:

  • The Nicaea Empire
  • The Despot of Epirus
  • The Trebizonda Empire

Of these, it is the Empire of Nicaea that is considered the true successor. Ruled by strong and good emperors, it became the first territorial power in Asia Minor. Agriculture developed, as well as commerce, and several cities in Europe were recovered. The Paleologists, failing their oath of loyalty, murdered the rightful emperor and deposed the Vatatzes-Laskaris dynasty. Michael VIII Palaeologus made an alliance with Genoa and managed to regain the former capital of the Byzantine Empire on July 25, 1261.

However, the Palaeologian dynasty failed to regain its former imperial glory. The withdrawal of troops from Asia for the defense and reconquest of Europe paved the way for the various Turkish emirates, including that of the Ottomans, to settle in former territories of the Nicaea Empire.

Without the Asian territories and with the commercial colonization of Venice and Genoa, the fate of the Empire was sealed. Especially harmful was the Peruvian Genoese colony, which, set up in front of Constantinople, dominated local trade, important to the Byzantines. Despite several attempts to gain Western support, culminating in the promise of unity between the Rome-based Roman Catholic Church and the Constantinople-based Orthodox Catholic Church in the Council of Ferrara / Florence, there have been few results. The crusade preached by the papacy to the rescue of New Rome was won by the Ottomans. Emperor John VIII's trip to the West bore no fruit, though he was well treated in the Western kingdoms.

The fall of Constantinople

The fall of Constantinople meant the loss of a strategic post of Christianity, which ensured access for European merchants to trade routes to India and China, especially to Venetian and Genoese merchants. With Turkish domination, the route between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea was, if not blocked to Christian ships, at least hindered. This spurred a naval race in search of another route to India across the Atlantic Ocean, bypassing Africa,. Spain and Portugal quickly took advantage of the geographical position to dominate the new routes, causing the declining maritime republics of Venice and Genoa. At the end of the fifteenth century, funded by the kings of Spain, Christopher Columbus set out on a bold attempt to reach Asia on a new westward ocean route, discovering a new continent, America, unveiling a new world for Europeans. This same process of closing trade in the Mediterranean Sea, in which the Ottoman Turks prevented European advancement, made the entire Balkan region more dependent on its own production, along with the Italian peninsula. The various economic and political transformations that followed the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire led historians to make the year 1453 the landmark of the late Middle Ages and the end of feudalism in Europe, making the Byzantine Empire a great landmark for discoveries of new lands, and for the development of capitalism in the world.