St Mark’s Square – an imitation of a Byzantine forum. St Mark’s Basilica is prominent with the bronze horses taken from the Hippodrome.
The ‘Pillars of Acre’ (from the Church of St Polyeuktos) and the Porphyry statue of the Tetrachs. Both sit outside St Mark’s Basilica in Venice and both were taken from Constantinople.
We discuss what happened once the Latins started looting. How were the Byzantines treated? What was taken and what has survived?
Pic: The Colossus of Barletta. Most likely this is the Emperor Leo I (457-74 AD)
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I have to comment on a detail you missed.
The comment about St. Justinian the Great’s remains being undecayed would have actually meant something and would be intended to be taken literally. Embalming was not practiced, and is not considered Orthodox practice even today. The Emperor Justinian was and is venerated as a Saint, and this would have been meant to paint the Latins as ignoring the evidence of their own eyes that they were plundering the grave of a saint.
Incorruption is frequently attributed to Orthodox saints, even unto today.
First of all, I have been enjoying the podcast like always. I find these crisis episodes are always a little hard to listen to at first, but the analysis is first rate and once I get over the shock, I really enjoy figuring out what went wrong and exactly what happened. So, I have my end of the century questions ready so here we go. My first two come from earlier questions you asked me to revisit in 1204
1. I asked when Manuel re-kitted out the Germans in the Second Crusade with Byzantine gear how that might have been different than what they were already using. In essence, I’m wondering what weapons and armor looked like in the Roman army at this time. Do we know of any newer technologies or how the kit might have evolved in this time period? The trebuchet and projectile throwers seem to have improved and the Venetians seem to have new ship technology, but I was wondering if there are any updates to the army, gear or military technology that we know of.
2. Would it be possible to get a walking tour of recently lost and remaining Imperial territory at this point? There has been a lot of fragmentation, rebellion, and foreign conquest in the last run of episodes and I would find a review of imperial territory and neighbors helpful as a lot has changed in the last two decades. In an earlier post I asked about the state of the Balkans at this time especially I am curious about population, demography, who is in charge where, or how the Romans and their post Basil II subjects had been getting along in this period? Some of this was covered in the narrative, but in particular the sudden re-emergence of the Bulgarian Empire was fascinating. The whole area was quiet and dependable territory for a long time, and the Vlachs were denied pronoia and BOOM! Anyway any review or insights would be valuable and appreciated.
3. One thing that really struck me in the narrative was how quickly the Hungarians and the Turks took territory from the empire once Manuel was gone. Particularly in Anatolia, I don’t remember Sozopolis or the forts on the way to Attalia as being under threat since John Komnenos took them at the beginning of his reign but Kilij Arlsan II seemed to make very short work of them. Do we know why that is?
4. It seems to me that at the beginning of Alexious’ reign that Anna Dalassene’s connection of her family to as many of the important families she could manage and her negotiations may well have saved Byzantium in her day. I sometimes wonder if she was the unsung hero of the Roman state in many ways.
5.Would it also be fair to say that Andronicus is the most responsible person for the post Manuel collapse? He seems to have unraveled the coalition almost completely. (or at least fragmented it to the point that there was no natural obvious leader left.) I mean, somebody might have been able to put the pieces back together but is it fair to say it is mostly his fault?
6. How much blame do you think the Angeoli should be assigned for the disaster? It seems to me like Isaac II in particular very unwisely antagonized the Vlachs and the Barbarosa during the 3rd Crusade when he was not in a good position to do so, and neither group seemed too hostile at the time. Do you think he might have had better results if he had campaigned in person more and not left his army so much to other generals while he stayed behind? It seems to me that the Angeoli and Andronicus are more responsible for the collapse than any of the earlier Komnenoi. What do you think?
7. Do you think that if Andronicus had not massacred the Latins when he came to power, that the empire might have been able to keep it’s fleet stronger for when the Normans came using the Genoese and Pisan alliance, and have reinstated the Venetians and better controlled their aggressive tendencies within the empire using competition between the three city states? I feel like the Venetians had gotten out of hand during John and Manuel’s reigns and I went back and forth for a long time over Manuel’s actions in that he clearly needed to do something to get them in line, but that his arrest was seen as treacherous (although ironically I think it ended in less bloodshed for the Venetians than if he had tried to control them another way). I wonder if long term Manuel’s actions did more damage or if it was all the Latin horse switching in the subsequent reigns. Manuel arrests and releases them, Andronicus massacres the Pisans and Genoese, then pays the Venetians to come back, then Isaac restores all the privileges that allowed them to become too powerful in the first place. It is all a very complex issue. What do you think?
8. One thing I noticed about Roman government during this time, would it be fair to say that having a more centralized state is an advantage until it isn’t? What I mean by that is though Roman administration was slower moving, it seemed to have much better staying power than any contemporary state so far in the podcast. Did the Roman way of doing things make the empire more resilient and stronger until it was too thoroughly fractured to easily reunify? (i.e. loosing Constantinople?) At that point, did the centralization (or lack there of) start to damage it?
9. Finally, I am wondering about how the economy, life in the provinces and any interesting cultural, religious or daily life changes that have occurred lately. End of the centuries are always big projects, but whatever you uncover is always fascinating.
Anyway, thanks again, Robin, for all the excellent work and the great ride through Roman history. I’m looking forward to the end of the century tour, and the next chapter of the story. Though it will never be quite as strong again, the phoenix will rise yet again (man, the Byzantines are like watching a Rocky movie sometimes) and they will contribute more to the world and there is still a lot of great history to go.
The fall and sack of Constantinople certainly seem understandable, the way you describe them. And that seems to go for much of the high-level political world history: what goes on at the top has little impact on most people, at least not in the short run. If a new ruler does not drastically try to change the way the city/country/empire is governed, who is actually at the top, makes little difference to people. So what was life like in Contantinople – and in some other major cities ot the empire – at this point? (Is living In Constantinople really different from living in some other major city?)
What was actually traded to and from Constantinople, and where from/to? Was there a large difference in what the Venetians, the Genovese and the Pisans traded with and the range of their trading networks? And a large difference in what reached Constantinople and what reached lesser (but still substantial) major cities?
What was the actual level of masonry, other crafts, and art at this point? You state that it was (considerably?) less advanced than at the hight of the empire. Is it a matter of skill, or is it more a matter of top-level scale – that truly spectacular buildings and works of art are not commissioned any longer, but could hav been skillfully produced, if money had been directed towards such ends?
Were the poor(er?) masses in the city dependent on hand-outs and relief work, or were they self-sustaining? Were there any guilds around, and if so, which ones? And those working as weavers, tailors, sculptors and painters, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, bakers, brewers, scribes, etc, would they constitute some kind of middle class, leading rather comfortable lives, considerably more affluent than “workers” – and un(der)employed(?) – or would they, too, have been very far from the lifestyle enjoyed by the people who actually appear in your account? And if they were reasonably affluent, were there any attempts by them to organise and act to run society, at least at their level (if not aiming for self-rule at hgher levels in the city/cities)?
Really looking forward to your future episodes,
Forget about the sadness of the sack. I’m here for the story of how the Romans somehow managed to come back from this AGAIN.
I just discovered your podcast after finishing a whilrwind trip through the History of Rome and have to say I am thrilled that your humor and thoroughness are captivating! Thank You!!