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Index persons are Arthur E King Sr (AK) and Olga Wykert (OW)
Modern-day Turkey (Istanbul) was the home of the Byzantine Empire (Constantinople). It was a focal point of the Crusades, drawing many of my European ancestors there. It began as the city of Byzantium, which had grown from an ancient Greek colony founded on the European side of the Bosporus. The city was taken in 330 BC by Constantine I, who refounded it as Constantinople. The area at this time was generally termed the Eastern Roman Empire. The fall of Rome in 476 ended the western half of the Roman Empire, and the eastern half continued as the Byzantine Empire, with Constantinople as its capital. The eastern realm differed from the west in many respects: heir to the civilization of the Hellenistic era, it was more commercial and more urban. Its greatest emperor, Justinian (r. 527–565), reconquered some of western Europe, built the Hagia Sophia, and issued the basic codification of Roman law. After his death the empire weakened. Though its rulers continued to style themselves “Roman” long after Justinian’s death, “Byzantine” more accurately describes the medieval empire. The long controversy over iconoclasm within the eastern church prepared it for the break with the Roman church. During the controversy, Arabs and Seljuq Turks increased their power in the area. In the late 11th century, Alexius I Comnenus (27th GGF of AK) sought help from Venice and the pope; these allies turned the ensuing Crusades into plundering expeditions. In the Fourth Crusade the Venetians took over Constantinople and established a line of Latin emperors. Recaptured by Byzantine exiles in 1261, the empire was now little more than a large city-state. In the 14th century the Ottoman Turks began to encroach. Their extended siege of Constantinople ended in 1453, when the last emperor died fighting on the city walls and the area came under Ottoman control.
Theodosius I the Great (53rd GGF of AK) was Emperor of both the Eastern and Western Roman Empire from 379 until 395. He is known for making Nicene Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire. Also, he fostered the destruction of some prominent pagan temples, at Alexandria (the Serapeum with the Great Library), at Delphi (the Temple of Apollo), at Rome (the Vestal Virgins). After his death, his sons Arcadius and Honorius inherited the East and West halves respectively, and the Roman Empire was never again re-united.
Theodosius was not a descendant of the previous Byzantine Emperors. From 364 to 375, the Roman Empire was governed by two co-emperors, the brothers Valentinian I and Valens; when Valentinian died in 375, his sons, Valentinian II and Gratian, succeeded him as rulers of the Western Roman Empire. In 378, after Valens was killed in the Battle of Adrianople, Gratian invited Theodosius to take command of the Balkan army. As Valens had no successor, Gratian's appointment of Theodosius amounted to a de facto invitation for Theodosius to become co-augustus for the East. Gratian was killed in a rebellion in 383, Theodosius then appointed his elder son, Arcadius, his co-ruler for the East. After the death in 392 of Valentinian II, whom Theodosius had supported against a variety of usurpations, Theodosius ruled as sole emperor.
Theodosius oversaw the removal in 390 of an Egyptian obelisk from Alexandria to Constantinople. It is now known as the obelisk of Theodosius and still stands in the Hippodrome, the long racetrack that was the center of Constantinople's public life and scene of political turmoil. Re-erecting the monolith was a challenge for the technology that had been honed in the construction of siege engines. The obelisk, still recognizably a solar symbol, had been moved from Karnak to Alexandria with what is now the Lateran obelisk by Constantius II). The Lateran obelisk was shipped to Rome soon afterwards, but the other one then spent a generation lying at the docks due to the difficulty involved in attempting to ship it to Constantinople. Eventually, the obelisk was cracked in transit. The white marble base is entirely covered with bas-reliefs documenting the Imperial household and the engineering feat of removing it to Constantinople. The Forum Tauri in Constantinople was renamed and redecorated as the Forum of Theodosius, including a column and a triumphal arch in his honoor.
On 26 November 380, two days after he had arrived in Constantinople, Theodosius expelled the non-Nicene bishop, Demophilus of Constantinople, and appointed Meletius patriarch of Antioch, and Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the Cappadocian Fathers from Antioch (today in Turkey), patriarch of Constantinople. Theodosius had just been baptized, by bishop Acholius of Thessalonica, during a severe illness, as was common in the early Christian world.
On 27 February 380 he, Gratian and Valentinian II published the so called "Edict of Thessalonica" (decree "Cunctos populos", Codex Theodosianus xvi.1.2) in order that all their subjects should profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria (i.e., the Nicene faith). The move was mainly a thrust at the various beliefs that had arisen out of Arianism, but smaller dissident sects, such as the Macedonians, were also prohibited. In May 381, Theodosius summoned a new ecumenical council at Constantinople to repair the schism between East and West on the basis of Nicean orthodoxy. "The council went on to define orthodoxy, including the mysterious Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost who, though equal to the Father, 'proceeded' from Him, whereas the Son was 'begotten' of Him."
By decree in 391, Theodosius ended the subsidies that had still trickled to some remnants of Greco-Roman civic Paganism too. The eternal fire in the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum was extinguished, and the Vestal Virgins were disbanded. Taking the auspices and practicing witchcraft were to be punished. Pagan members of the Senate in Rome appealed to him to restore the Altar of Victory in the Senate House; he refused. After the last Olympic Games in 393, it is believed that Theodosius cancelled the games although there is no proof of that in the official records of the Roman Empire, and the reckoning of dates by Olympiads soon came to an end.
Theodosius was the first ruler to outlaw homosexuality. On May 14, 390, an imperial decree was posted at the Roman hall of Minerva, a gathering place for actors, writers and artists, which criminalized for the first time the sexual practice of those whom we call "homosexual" men-this had never happened before in the history of law. The prescribed penalty was death by burning.
Theodosius died in Milan on 17 January 395. His funeral was performed by Saint Ambrose. He was finally laid to rest in Constantinople on 8 November 395.
Theodosius was followed by his son Arcadius (47th GGF of AK) as Eastern Roman Emperor. Arcadius was a weak ruler, and his reign was dominated by his wife, Aelia Eudoxia of the Franks. A new forum was built in the name of Arcadius, on the seventh hill of Constantinople, the Xērolophos, in which a column was begun to commemorate his 'victory' over Gainas (although the column was only completed after Arcadius' death by Theodosius II). The Pentelic marble portrait head of Arcadius was discovered in Istanbul close to the Forum Tauri, in June 1949, in excavating foundations for new buildings of the University at Beyazit. The neck was designed to be inserted in a torso, but no statue, base or inscription was found. The diadem is a fillet with rows of pearls along its edges and a rectangular stone set about with pearls over the young emperor's forehead.
Theodosius II (Theodosius the Younger) (46th GGF of AK) succeeded Arcadius. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople. He also presided over the outbreak of two great christological controversies, Nestorianism and Eutychianism. In 425, Theodosius founded the University of Constantinople with 31 chairs (15 in Latin and 16 in Greek). Among subjects were law, philosophy, medicine, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music and rhetoric.
Theodosius II’s reign was plagued short raiding attacks by the Atilla the Hun. The Huns arrived at Athyra in 447, but an agreement was reached with the Eastern Roman Empire, negotiated by Anatolius. The Emperor chose to pay tribute which amounted to 350 Roman pounds (ca. 114.5 kg) of gold until 435 and 700 Roman pounds after that.
During a visit to Syria, Theodosius met the preacher Nestorius and appointed him Patriarch of Constantinople in 428. Nestorius quickly became involved in the disputes of two theological factions, which differed in their Christology. Nestorius tried to find a middle ground between those that, emphasizing the fact that in Christ God had been born as a man, insisted on calling the Virgin Mary Theotokos ("birth-giver of God"), and those that rejected that title because God as an eternal being could not have been born. Nestorius suggested the title Christotokos ("birth-giver to Christ"), but did not find acceptance by either faction and was accused of detaching Christ's divine and human natures from each other, a heresy later called Nestorianism. Though initially supported by the Emperor, Nestorius found a forceful opponent in Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria. With the consent of the Emperor and Pope Celestine I, an Ecumenical Council convened in Ephesus in 431, which affirmed the title Theotokos and condemned Nestorius, who was then exiled by the Emperor.
Theodosius died in 450 as the result of a riding accident. In the ensuing power struggle, his sister Pulcheria, who had recently returned to court, won out against the eunuch Chrysaphius. She married the general Marcian, thereby making him Emperor.
With the death of Theodosius the connection of the King Family to the early Byzantine Emperors ended. A link to later emperors would emerge later through a different line. Theodosius II’s daughter, Licinia Eudoxia, married Genserik, King of the Vandals (45th GGF of AK). Her descendants married Vikings, who in turn married into the Stewart family of Scotland, continuing the line to the Pollocks and then the King family.
If the Fathers of the 4th century quarreled over the relations between God the Father and God the Son, those of the 5th century faced the problem of defining the relationship of the two natures—the human and the divine—within God the Son, Christ Jesus. The theologians of Alexandria generally held that the divine and human natures were united indistinguishably, whereas those of Antioch taught that two natures coexisted separately in Christ, the latter being “the chosen vessel of the Godhead . . . the man born of Mary.” In the course of the 5th century, these two contrasting theological positions became the subject of a struggle for supremacy among the rival sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Rome. Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople in 428, adopted the Antiochene formula, which, in his hands, came to stress the human nature of Christ to the neglect of the divine. His opponents (first the Alexandrian patriarch, Cyril, and later Cyril’s followers, Dioscorus and Eutyches) in reaction emphasized the single divine nature of Christ, the result of the Incarnation. Their belief in Monophysitism, or the one nature of Christ as God the Son, became extraordinarily popular throughout the provinces of Egypt and Syria. Rome, in the person of Pope Leo I, declared in contrast for Dyophysitism, a creed teaching that two natures, perfect and perfectly distinct, existed in the single person of Christ. At the Council of Chalcedon (451), the latter view triumphed thanks to the support of Constantinople, which changed its position and condemned both Nestorianism, or the emphasis on the human nature of Christ, and Monophysitism, or the belief in the single divine nature.
This religious conflict receded, and iconoclasm rose to the top. Iconoclasm (the destruction of religious idols) was promoted by the Eastern Church, holding that religious icons such as relic bones and clothing represented the craven images forbidden in the Ten Commandments. Under Byzantine rule chuches were virtually looted and relics removed, leading to another split between the Eastern (Byzantine) and Western (Roman) Catholic Churches.
When Italy fell to the Lombards the papacy had to seek a new protector. This was found in the person of the Frankish leader Pippin III the Short (27th GGF of AK) who sought some form of sanction to legitimize his seizure of the crown from the feeble hands of the last representative of the Merovingian dynasty. Thus Pope Stephen II (or III) anointed Pippin as king of the Franks in 754, and the latter entered Italy to take arms against the Lombard king. Even the restoration of icon veneration in 787 failed to bridge the differences between Orthodox Byzantium and Catholic Europe, for the advisers of Pippin’s son and successor, Charlemagne (26th GGF of AK), condemned the iconodule position as heartily as an earlier generation had rejected the iconoclast decrees of Leo III. Nor could the men of Charlemagne’s time admit that a woman—the empress Irene—might properly assume the dignity of emperor of the Romans. For all these reasons, Charlemagne, king of the Franks and Lombards by right of conquest, assented to his coronation as emperor of the Romans on Christmas Day, 800, by Pope Leo III.
No longer a barbarian king, Charlemagne became, by virtue of the symbolism of the age, a new Constantine. This the Byzantine chancery could not accept, for, if there were one God, one faith, and one truth, then there could be but one empire and one emperor; surely that emperor ruled in Constantinople, not in Charlemagne’s Aachen. Subsequent disputes between Rome and Constantinople seemed often to center upon matters of ecclesiastical discipline; underlying these differences were two more powerful considerations, neither of which could be ignored. According to theory there could be but one empire; clearly, there were two.
Although imperial territory in the East could be reclaimed only by military conquest, in the Balkans and in Greece the work of reclamation could be assisted by the diplomatic weapon of evangelization. The Slavs and the Bulgars could be brought within the Byzantine orbit by conversion to Christianity. The conversion of the Slavs was instigated by the patriarch Photius and carried out by the monks Cyril and Methodius from Thessalonica. Their invention of the Slavonic alphabet (Cyrillic and Glagolitic) made possible the translation of the Bible and the Greek liturgy and brought literacy as well as the Christian faith to the Slavic peoples. The work began in the Slavic Kingdom of Moravia and spread to Serbia and Bulgaria. Latin missionaries resented what they considered to be Byzantine interference among the northern Slavs, and there were repeated clashes of interest that further damaged relations between the sees of Rome and Constantinople. The conversion of the Bulgars became a competition between the two churches and was ably exploited by the Bulgar king Boris until, in 870, he opted for Orthodox Christianity on condition of having an archbishop of his own.
In 867 the existing line of Byzantine Emperors was displaced by Basil I the Macedonian (34th GGF of AK), creating another tie of Byzantine Emperors to the King family. Basil had been born a simple peasant in Thrace by Armenian parents. He was a servant of the Emperor Michael III’s uncle. After winning a wrestling match he became the emperor’s bodyguard, following which he assassinated the emperor and became Emperor of Byzantium, patriarch of the Macedonian Emperors of Constantinople.
Basil I was followed by his son, Leo VI the Wise (33rd GGF of AK). Leo was succeeded by an illegitimate son, again ending the connection of the King family to the byzantine rules. The connection to the family passed through his daughter, Anna of Byzantium (32nd GGM of AK) who married Louis, Duke of Provence (32nd GGF of AK) and carried on the line.
The Russians lay far outside the Roman jurisdiction. Their warships, sailing down the Dnepr from Kiev to the Black Sea, first attacked Constantinople in 860. They were beaten off, and almost at once Byzantine missionaries were sent into Russia. The Russians were granted trading rights in Constantinople in 911, but in 941 and 944, led by Prince Igor (30th GGF of AK), they returned to the attack. Both assaults were repelled, and Romanus I set about breaking down the hostility and isolationism of the Russians by diplomatic and commercial contacts. In 957 Igor’s widow, Olga (30th GGF of AK), was baptized and paid a state visit to Constantinople during the reign of Constantine VII; her influence enabled Byzantine missionaries to work with greater security in Russia, thus spreading Christianity and Byzantine culture. For that she became Saint Olga.
Olga’s son Svyatoslav (29th GGF of AK) was pleased to serve the empire as an ally against the Bulgars from 968 to 969, though his ambition to occupy Bulgaria led to war with Byzantium in which he was defeated and killed. In 971 John Tzimisces (37th GGF of AK) accomplished the double feat of humiliating the Russians and reducing Bulgaria to the status of a client kingdom. Byzantine influence over Russia reached its climax when Vladimir of Kiev, who had helped Basil II to gain his throne, received as his reward the hand of the Emperor’s sister in marriage and was baptized in 989. The mass conversion of the Russian people followed, with the establishment of an official Russian Church subordinate to the patriarch of Constantinople.
The state of the Byzantine Empire in the 11th century may be compared to that of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century, when, after a long period of secure prosperity, new pressures from beyond the frontiers aggravated the latent tensions in society. In the latter part of the 11th century it became ever clearer that the empire’s military strength was no longer sufficient to hold back its enemies. The landowners in the provinces appreciated the dangers more readily than the government in Constantinople, and they made those dangers an excuse to enlarge their estates in defiance of all the laws passed in the 10th century. The theme system in Anatolia, which had been the basis of the empire’s defensive and offensive power, was rapidly breaking down at the very moment when its new enemies were gathering their strength.
The reign of the Macedonian Emperors ended in 1057 when Isaac Komnenos (32nd GGF of AK) became the first of the Komnenos Dynasty. The son of a distinguished military officer, Isaac was able to gain the confidence and support of the Byzantine army at a time the current emperor could not. With the support of the army and the nobility of Constantinople he deposed the emperor. Isaac did not have male heirs. His brother turned down the opportunity to follow him, and the Byzantine rule fell to Isaac’s nephew, . Instead he was replaced by his nephew, Alexios I Komnenos (27th GGF of AK).
Alexius was tactful in his dealings with the pope and ready to discuss the differences between the churches. But neither party foresaw the consequences of Pope Urban II’s appeal in 1095 for recruits to fight a Holy War. The response in western Europe was overwhelming. The motives of those who took the cross as Crusaders ranged from religious enthusiasm to a mere spirit of adventure or a hope of gain, and it was no comfort to Alexius to learn that four of the eight leaders of the First Crusade were Normans—among them Bohemond Guiscard (26th GGF of AK), the son of Robert Guiscard. Since the Crusade had to pass through Constantinople, however, the Emperor had some control over it. He required its leaders to swear to restore to the empire any towns or territories they might conquer from the Turks on their way to the Holy Land. In return he gave them guides and a military escort. Still, the cost was enormous, for the Crusaders had to be supplied with food or live off the land as they went.
Nicaea fell to them in 1097 and was duly handed over to the Emperor in accord with the agreement. In 1098 they reached and captured Antioch. There the trouble started. Bohemond refused to turn over the city and instead set up his own principality of Antioch. His example was imitated in the establishment of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem (1100), which had fallen to the Crusaders the year before, and of the counties of Edessa and Tripoli. The Crusaders settled down to colonize and defend the coast of Palestine and Syria and to quarrel among themselves. A Crusade that began with Normans and other Europeans battling the Muslims ended with them battling their fellow Christians of Byzantium.
The First Crusade thus brought some benefits to Byzantium. But nothing could reconcile the emperor to Bohemond of Antioch. In 1107 Bohemond mounted a new invasion of the empire from Italy. Alexius was ready and defeated him at Dyrrhachium in 1108. Byzantine prestige was higher than it had been for many years, but the empire could barely afford to sustain the cost of being a great power.
The policies of Alexius I were continued by his son John II Comnenus (26th GGF of AK) (reigned 1118–43) and his grandson Manuel I Comnenus (25th GGF of AK) (reigned 1143–80). In an effort to demonstrate the Byzantine emperor's role as the leader of the Christian world, John marched into the Holy Land at the head of the combined forces of Byzantium and the Crusader states; yet despite the great vigor with which he pressed the campaign, John's hopes were disappointed by the treachery of his Crusader allies, who deliberately failed to fight against the Muslim enemy at the crucial moment.
In 1119-1121 John defeated the Seljuk Turks, establishing his control over southwestern Anatolia. However, immediately afterwards, in 1122, John quickly transferred his troops to Europe to fight off a Pecheneg invasion into Moesia. These invaders had been auxiliaries of the Prince of Kiev. John surrounded the Pechenegs as they burst into Thrace, tricked them into believing that he would grant them a favorable treaty, and then launched a devastating surprise attack upon their larger camp. The ensuing Battle of Beroia was hard fought, but by the end of the day John's army of 20,000 men had won a crushing victory. This put an end to Pecheneg incursions into Byzantine territory, and many of the captives were settled as foederati within the Byzantine frontier.
The emperor then directed his attention to the Levant, where he sought to reinforce Byzantium's suzerainty over the Crusader States. In 1137 he conquered Tarsus, Adana, and Mopsuestia from the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, and in 1138 Prince Levon I of Armenia and most of his family were brought as captives to Constantinople. This opened the route to the Principality of Antioch, where Prince Raymond of Poitiers recognized himself the emperor's vassal in 1137, and John arrived there in triumph in 1138. There followed a joint campaign as John led the armies of Byzantium, Antioch and Edessa against Muslim Syria. Although John fought hard for the Christian cause in the campaign in Syria, his allies Prince Raymond of Antioch and Count Joscelin II of Edessa sat around playing dice instead of helping John to press the siege of Shaizar. These Crusader Princes were suspicious of each other and of John, and neither wanted the other to gain from participating in the campaign, while Raymond also wanted to hold on to Antioch, which he had agreed to hand over to John if the campaign was successful in capturing Aleppo, Shaizar, Homs, and Hama. While the emperor was distracted by his attempts to secure a German alliance against the Normans of Sicily, Joscelin and Raymond conspired to delay the promised handover of Antioch's citadel to the emperor.
John planned a new expedition to the East, including a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on which he planned to take his army with him. King Fulk of Jerusalem (26th GGF of AK); Fulk V d Anjou), fearing an invasion, begged the emperor to only bring an army of 10,000 men with him. This resulted in John II deciding not to go. However, on Mount Taurus in Cilicia, on April 8, 1143, he was accidentally infected by a poisoned arrow while out hunting. The poison set in, and shortly afterwards he died. John's final action as emperor was to choose his youngest son Manuel I Komnenos to be his successor.
In the 12th century, there was growing involvement of the Western powers in the affairs of the East as well as an increasingly complex political situation in Europe. John II tried and failed to break what was becoming the Venetian monopoly of Byzantine trade, and he sought to come to terms with the new kingdom of Hungary (Ladislaus of Hungary; 27th GGF of AK), to whose ruler he was related by marriage. Alexius I had seen the importance of Hungary, lying between the Western and Byzantine empires, a neighbor of the Venetians and the Serbs. More ominous still was the establishment of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily under Roger II (29th GGF of AK) in 1130. But John II astutely allied himself with the Western emperor against it.
Manuel I realized even more clearly that Byzantium could not presume to ignore or offend the new powers in the West, and he went out of his way to understand and to appease them. Certain aspects of the Western way of life appealed to Manuel. His first and second wives were both Westerners, and Latins were welcomed at his court and even granted estates and official appointments. This policy was distasteful to most of his subjects, and it was unfortunate for his intentions that the Second Crusade occurred early in his reign (1147), for it aggravated the bitterness between Greeks and Latins and brought Byzantium deeper than ever into the tangled politics of western Europe. Its leaders were Louis VII of France and the emperor Conrad III, and its failure was blamed on Byzantine treachery. The French king discussed with Roger of Sicily the prospect of attacking Constantinople, and in 1147 Roger invaded Greece. But Manuel retained the personal friendship of and the alliance with Conrad III against the Normans and even planned a joint Byzantine-German campaign against them in Italy.
No such cooperation was possible with Conrad’s successor, Frederick I Barbarossa (25th GGF of AK; Holy Roman Emperor) (after 1152). To Frederick the alliance between the Holy Roman Empire and what he called “the kingdom of the Greeks” was not one between equals. Manuel launched a vain invasion of the Norman kingdom on his own account in 1154, but it was too late for a revival of Byzantine imperialism in the West. It was hard for the Byzantines to accept the fact that their empire might soon become simply one among a number of Christian principalities.
In the Balkans and in the Latin East Manuel was more successful. His armies won back much of the northwest Balkans and almost conquered Hungary, reducing it to a client kingdom of Byzantium. The Serbs, too, under their leader Stefan Nemanja, were kept under control, while Manuel’s dramatic recovery of Antioch in 1159 caused the Crusaders to treat the Emperor with a new respect. But in Anatolia he overreached himself. To forestall the formation of a single Turkish sultanate, Manuel invaded the Seljuq territory of Rūm in 1176. His army was surrounded and annihilated at Myriocephalon. The battle marked the end of the Byzantine counteroffensive against the Turks begun by Alexius I. Its outcome delighted the Western emperor, Frederick I Barbarossa, who had supported the Seljuq sultan of Rūm against Manuel and who now openly threatened to take over the Byzantine Empire by force.
Manuel’s personal relationships with the Crusaders and with other Westerners remained cordial to the end. But his policies had antagonized the Holy Roman Empire, the papacy, the Normans, and, not least, the Venetians. His effort to revive Byzantine prestige in Italy and the Balkans and his treaties with Genoa (1169) and Pisa (1170) roused the suspicions of Venice, and in 1171, following an anti-Latin demonstration in Constantinople, all Venetians in the empire were arrested and their property was confiscated. The Venetians did not forget this episode. They, too, began to think in terms of putting Constantinople under Western control as the only means of securing their interest in Byzantine trade.
Manuel’s policies antagonized many of his own people as well. His favouritism to the Latins was unpopular, as was his lavish granting of estates in pronoia. A reaction set in shortly after his death in 1180, originated by his cousin Andronicus I Comnenus, who ascended to the throne after another anti-Latin riot in Constantinople. Andronicus murdered Manuel’s widow and son Alexius II. He posed as the champion of Byzantine patriotism and of the oppressed peasantry. But to enforce his reforms he behaved like a tyrant. By undermining the power of the aristocracy he weakened the empire’s defenses and undid much of Manuel’s work. The King of Hungary broke his treaty, and Stephen Nemanja of Serbia declared his independence from Byzantium and founded a new Serbian kingdom. Within the empire, too, disintegration proceeded. In 1185 Isaac Comnenus, governor of Cyprus, set himself up as independent ruler of the island. In the same year the Normans again invaded Greece and captured Thessalonica. The news prompted a counterrevolution in Constantinople, and Andronicus was murdered.
He was the last of the Comnenian family to wear the crown. His successor, Isaac II Angelus, was brought to power by the aristocracy. His reign, and, still more, that of his brother Alexius III Angelos (25th GGF of AK), saw the collapse of what remained of the centralized machinery of Byzantine government and defense. Alexius III had become emperor by blinding his brother Isaac and imprisoning him in Antioch. Alexios then squandered the Byzantine treasury while the Seljuk Turks and the Bulgarians advanced on Constantinople. Isaac tried at least to keep his foreign enemies in check. The Normans were driven out of Greece in 1185. But in 1186 the Bulgars began a rebellion that was to lead to the formation of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Matters were not made easier by the arrival of the Fourth Crusade, provoked by the loss of Jerusalem to the Muslim leader Saladin in 1187. One of its leaders was Frederick I Barbarossa (25th GGF of AK), whose avowed intention was to conquer Constantinople. He died on his way to Syria. But Richard I the Lion-Heart of England appropriated Cyprus from Isaac Comnenus, and the island never again reverted to Byzantine rule. During the occupation by the crusaders Baldwin of Flanders (23rd GGF of AK) became king of Constantinople. Baldwin was later captured by Bulgarians and executed, his skull turned into a drinking chalice. Baldwin was followed by his son, Henry, who died without children. Henry was to be followed by Peter II of Courtenay (24th GGF of AK), but Peter died while traveling to Constantinople. His wife, Yolanda of Flanders (24th GGF of AK; who was the sister of Baldwin of Flanders), did arrive in Constantinople, and ruled as Empress for a short while. Her son, Robert, inherited the throne, but was driven out by the Byzantines, who resumed the rule of Constantinople.
The new emperor, John V, hoped that the Western world would sense the danger, and in 1355 he addressed an appeal for help to the Pope. The popes were concerned for the fate of the Christian East but guarded in their offers to Constantinople so long as the Byzantine Church remained in schism from Rome. In 1366 John V visited Hungary to beg for help, but in vain. In the same year his cousin Amadeus III, Count of Savoy (26th GGF of AK), brought a small force to Constantinople and recaptured Gallipoli from the Turks, who had by then advanced far into Thrace. Amadeus persuaded the Emperor to go to Rome and make his personal submission to the Holy See in 1369. On his way home, John was detained at Venice as an insolvent debtor; during his absence the Turks scored their first victory over the successors of Stefan Dušan on the Marica River near Adrianople in 1371. The whole of Macedonia was open to them. The remaining Serbian princes and the ruler of Bulgaria became their vassals, and in 1373 the Emperor was forced to do the same.
Byzantium became a vassal state of the Turks, pledged to pay tribute and to provide military assistance to the Ottoman sultan. The possession of Constantinople thereafter was disputed by the Emperor’s sons and grandsons in a series of revolutions, which were encouraged and sometimes instigated by the Turks, the Genoese, or the Venetians. John V’s son Andronicus IV, aided by the Genoese and the sultan Murad I, mastered the city for three years (1376–79). He rewarded the Turks by giving back Gallipoli to them, and Murad made his first European capital at Adrianople. The Venetians helped John V to regain his throne in 1379, and the empire was once again divided into appanages under his sons. Only his second son, Manuel, showed any independence of action. For nearly five years, from 1382 to 1387, Manuel reigned as emperor at Thessalonica and labored to make it a rallying point for resistance against the encroaching Turks. But the city fell to Murad’s army in April 1387. When the Turks then drove deeper into Macedonia, the Serbs again organized a counteroffensive but were overwhelmed at Kossovo in 1389.
The Byzantine collapse and the Ottoman triumph followed swiftly thereafter. In 1448 Constantine XI (or XII), the last emperor, left Mistra for Constantinople when his brother John VIII died without issue. His two other brothers, Thomas and Demetrius, continued to govern the Morea, the last surviving Byzantine province. In 1449 Mehmed II (sultan 1444–46 and 1451–81) began to prepare for the final assault on Constantinople. No further substantial help came from the West, and the formal celebration of the union of the churches in Hagia Sophia in 1452 was greeted with a storm of protest. Even in their extremity, the Byzantines would not buy their freedom at the expense of their Orthodox faith. They found the prospect of being ruled by the Turks less odious than that of being indebted to the Latins. When the crisis came, however, the Venetians in Constantinople, and a Genoese contingent commanded by Giovanni Giustiniani, wholeheartedly cooperated in the defense of the city. Mehmed II laid siege to the walls in April 1453. His ships were obstructed by a chain that the Byzantines had thrown across the mouth of the Golden Horn. The ships were therefore dragged overland to the harbour from the seaward side, bypassing the defenses. The Sultan’s heavy artillery continually bombarded the land walls until, on May 29, some of his soldiers forced their way in. Giustiniani was mortally wounded. The emperor Constantine was last seen fighting on foot at one of the gates.
The Sultan allowed his victorious troops three days and nights of plunder before he took possession of his new capital. The Ottoman Empire had now superseded the Byzantine Empire; and some Greeks, like the contemporary historian Critobulus of Imbros, recognized the logic of the change by bestowing on the Sultan all the attributes of the emperor. The material structure of the empire, which had long been crumbling, was now under the management of the sultan-basileus. But the Orthodox faith was less susceptible to change. The Sultan acknowledged the fact that the church had proved to be the most enduring element in the Byzantine world, and he gave the Patriarch of Constantinople an unprecedented measure of temporal authority by making him answerable for all Christians living under Ottoman rule.
The last scattered pockets of Byzantine resistance were eliminated within a decade after 1453. Athens fell to the Turks in 1456–58, and in 1460 the two despots of Morea surrendered. Thomas fled to Italy, Demetrius to the Sultan’s court. In 1461 Trebizond, capital of the last remnant of Greek empire, which had maintained its precarious independence by paying court to Turks and Mongols alike, finally succumbed; the transformation of the Byzantine world into the Ottoman world was at last complete.

Istanbul (Constantinople)

The Obelisk of Theodosius in the HippodromeTheodosius the Great (53rd GGF of AK) oversaw the removal in 390 of an Egyptian obelisk from Alexandria to Constantinople. It is now known as the obelisk of Theodosius and still stands in the Hippodrome, the long racetrack that was the center of Constantinople's public life and scene of political turmoil. Re-erecting the monolith was a challenge for the technology that had been honed in the construction of siege engines. The obelisk, still recognizably a solar symbol, had been moved from Karnak to Alexandria with what is now the Lateran obelisk by Constantius II). The Lateran obelisk was shipped to Rome soon afterwards, but the other one then spent a generation lying at the docks due to the difficulty involved in attempting to ship it to Constantinople. Eventually, the obelisk was cracked in transit. The white marble base is entirely covered with bas-reliefs documenting the Imperial household and the engineering feat of removing it to Constantinople.
Forum of Theodosius – named after Theodosius the Great (53rd GGF of AK). Much of it was has been destroyed in earthquakes.
Forum of Arcadius – on the seventh hill of Istanbul (the Xērolophos). Built in honor of Arcadius (47th GGF of AK) as Eastern Roman Emperor. A column was begun to commemorate his 'victory' over Gainas (although the column was only completed after Arcadius' death by Theodosius II).
Istanbul Archeology Museum – bust of Arcadius (47th GGF of AK). The Pentelic marble portrait head of Arcadius was discovered in Istanbul close to the Forum Tauri, in June 1949, in excavating foundations for new buildings of the University at Beyazit. The neck was designed to be inserted in a torso, but no statue, base or inscription was found. The diadem is a fillet with rows of pearls along its edges and a rectangular stone set about with pearls over the young emperor's forehead.
The Theodosian Wall located about 1,500 m to the west of the old wall, was erected during the early reign of Emperor Theodosius II (46th GGF of AK) (r. 408–450), after whom it was named. An inscription discovered in 1993 records that the work lasted for nine years. New Rome now enclosed seven hills and justified the appellation Heptalophos (Ἑπτάλοφος, "seven hills"), in imitation of Elder Rome. On 26 January 447 a powerful earthquake destroyed large parts of the wall, including 57 towers. Subsequent earthquakes, including another major one in January 448, compounded the damage. Theodosius II ordered the praetorian prefect Constantine to supervise the repairs, made all the more urgent as the city was threatened by the presence of Attila the Hun in the Balkans. Employing the city's dēmoi (the "Circus factions") in the work, the walls were restored in a record 60 days. Throughout their history, the walls were damaged by earthquakes, and repairs were undertaken on numerous occasions, as testified by the numerous inscriptions commemorating the emperors or their servants who undertook to restore them.
University of Constantinople – founded by Theodosius II (Theodosius the Younger) (46th GGF of AK)
Hagia Sophia -- a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as the cathedral of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople of the Western Crusader established Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1934, when it was secularized. It was opened as a museum on 1 February 1935. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have "changed the history of architecture." It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and was the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site, the previous two having both been destroyed by rioters. It was designed by Isidore of Miletus, a physicist, and Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician. In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II, who subsequently ordered the building converted into a mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed and many of the mosaics were plastered over. Islamic features — such as the mihrab, minbar, and four minarets — were added while in the possession of the Ottomans. It remained a mosque until 1935, when it was converted into a museum by the Republic of Turkey. Within the museum is a mosaic of John II Komnenos (26th GGF of AK).
ANTAKYA – site of ancient Antioch, one of the major Turkish cities during the Crusades. In the late-middle ages it was abandoned due to repeated earthquakes, and is now an area of archeological interest north of the modern city of Antakya. Many of my ancestors were in Antioch during the Crusades, artifacts related to them now reside in museums throughout the world.
Bohemond I of Antioch (27th GGF of AK). Prince of Antioch, leader of the First Crusade, and founder of a Crusader dynasty in Syria. The eldest son of Robert Guiscard, Norman duke of Apulia and Calabria in southern Italy, Bohemond distinguished himself in a war (1081-85) against the Byzantine Empire. After Robert Guiscard's death (1085), the Norman domain was divided between Bohemond and his brother. Bohemond joined the First Crusade to try to extend his possessions. As long as he remained with the Crusaders, Bohemond was their leader, although he was not officially recognized as such. Antioch was captured in June 1098, and Bohemond received it as a principality. He was captured by the Muslims in 1100 and held prisoner until 1103. After suffering a great defeat the following year, he returned to western Europe to seek help. During his stay in France, he married the daughter of King Philip I of France. By 1107 he was head of a large army of adventurers who had been attracted by his military renown, but instead of returning to Antioch, he led his forces against the Byzantine Empire, which had restricted the expansion of his principality after 1098. His attack was unsuccessful, and Bohemond was forced to accept a peace that made him a vassal of the Byzantine emperor. Bohemond's descendants ruled Antioch until 1268 and Tripoli from 1187 to 1289.
Bohemond II (26th GGF of AK) (1108 - 1131) was the Prince of Taranto and Prince of Antioch from 1111. He was the son of the founder of the principalities, Bohemond I, and Constance, daughter of Philip I of France. Taranto was lost to Roger II of Sicily in 1128. When his father Bohemond I died, absent from Antioch, Bohemond II was a child living in Apulia. His cousin Tancred took over the regency of Antioch until he died in 1112; it then passed to Roger of Salerno, with the understanding that he would relinquish it to Bohemond whenever the latter arrived. Roger, however, was killed at the Battle of Ager Sanguinis in 1119, and the nobles of Antioch invited King Baldwin II of Jerusalem to govern the Principality.
In 1124, at the age of sixteen, he reached his majority. He spent the next two years attending to affairs of state in the Mezzogiorno. Finally, in October 1126, after his eighteenth birthday, he left Apulia for Antioch.
In 1127, Bohemond besieged and captured Kafartab, killing all the inhabitants. He also attacked Shaizar, and Usamah ibn-Munqidh supposedly met the prince himself in battle (and frightened him off, if Usamah is to be believed). The next years of his rule were marked by conflicts with Joscelin I of Edessa and skirmishes in the northern border. Both Bohemond and Joscelin attacked Aleppo individually, but refused to cooperate in a larger siege against the city. Roger of Salerno had given away territory to Joscelin, but Bohemond did not consider these donations legitimate as they had been made without his authority, even though he had been a minor at the time. The dispute came to open conflict between Antioch and Edessa, with Joscelin allying with the Muslims against Bohemond. The Latin Patriarch of Antioch placed an interdict over the County of Edessa.
In 1128, his cousin Roger II invaded and conquered Taranto, claiming it as the heir of William II of Apulia. Being away, Bohemond could do nothing to prevent this. That year, Baldwin II marched north to mediate in the dispute, and Joscelin abandoned his claims. Meanwhile, the atabeg Zengi consolidated his power over Aleppo and Mosul and the crusaders would never again have a chance to impose their authority over Aleppo.
After the dispute was settled, Bohemond joined Baldwin II in attacking Damascus but the crusaders were defeated at the Battle of Marj es-Suffar. Bohemond then turned to the north to recover Anazarbus and other territories lost to the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. Leo I of Armenia allied with the Danishmend Emir Gazi Gümüshtigin against him, and Bohemond's army was lured into an ambush in February of 1131. Bohemond died in the struggle, and his blond head was embalmed, placed in a silver box, and sent as a gift to the caliph.
From his marriage to Alice, only one daughter, Constance of Antioch survived. Alice took over the regency of Antioch for two-year-old Constance, until Baldwin II forced her to relinquish it to Joscelin. Both Baldwin II and Joscelin died some months later.
Constance of Antioch (25th GGM of AK) (1127 - 1163) was the Princess regnant of the principality of Antioch (a crusader state) from 1130 to her death. Constance was the only daughter of Bohemund II of Antioch by his wife Alice, princess of Jerusalem. She became princess of Antioch when she was only four-years-old, under the regency of Baldwin II of Jerusalem (1130-1131) and Fulk of Jerusalem (1131-1136). Her mother Alice did not want the principality to pass to Constance, preferring to rule in her own name. Alice attempted to ally with the Muslim atabeg of Mosul, Zengi, offering to marry Constance to a Muslim prince, but the plan was foiled by Alice's father Baldwin, who exiled her from Antioch. In 1135 Alice attempted once again to take control of the principality, and sought a husband for Constance in Manuel Comnenus, at that time the heir to the Byzantine throne. Fulk exiled her again and re-established the regency for Constance. In 1136, while still a child, Constance was married to Raymond of Poitiers, whom the noble supporters of the regency had secretly summoned from Europe; Alice was tricked into believing Raymond was going to marry her, and, humiliated, left Antioch for good when the marriage was performed. From this union three children were born:

Bohemund III of Antioch, who succeeded her in 1163

Maria of Antioch (1145-1182), married (rechristened as "Xena") to Manuel I Comnenus

Philippa of Antioch, mistress to Andronicus I Comnenus

In 1149, Raymond died in the battle of Inab and Constance remarried in 1153 to Raynald of Chatillon, who also became co-ruler of Antioch. Constance had one daughter from Raynald:

Agnes of Antioch (1154-1184), married king Bela III of Hungary

Raynald was captured in 1160 and spent the next sixteen years in a prison in Aleppo. A dispute arose between Constance and her son, Bohemund, when Bohemund tried to seize power in Antioch. A riot broke out, and Constance was exiled from the city. She died in 1163.
Constance’s daughter connected to the royal line of Hungary, then connecting to the royal line of France, ultimately to the Stewarts of Scotland and then to the Pollock family.
On 10 June 1190, Emperor Frederick I Barbarosa (25th GGF of AK), while on Crusade, drowned in the Saleph River as his army was approaching Antioch from Armenia; Arab historians report that his army had encamped before the river, and that the Emperor had gone to the river to bathe when he was carried away by the current and drowned in it. He was buried at the Church of St Peter in Antioch, which is now a museum.
Ernulf de Hesdin (25th GGF of AK) died while on Crusade in Antioch in 1091.
Floris III, Count of Holland (24th GGF of AK) died in Antioch while on Crusade in 1190.

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