Michael VIII Palaiologos
Michael VIII Palaiologos
Μιχαῆλ Η΄ Παλαιολόγος
Emperor of Nicaea and Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Painting of Michael VIII
(as Emperor of Nicaea, with John IV Laskaris)
1261–1282 (with Andronikos II Palaiologos from 1272)
Born 1223 Died 11 December 1282(aged 58) Place of death Pachomion, near Lysimachia Predecessor John IV Laskaris Successor Andronikos II Palaiologos Consort Theodora Doukaina Vatatzina Offspring Manuel Palaiologos
Andronikos II Palaiologos
Dynasty Palaiologos dynasty Father Andronikos Doukas Komnenos Palaiologos Mother Theodora Angelina Palaiologina
Michael VIII Palaiologos or Palaeologus (Greek: Μιχαήλ Η΄ Παλαιολόγος, Mikhaēl VIII Palaiologos) (1223 – 11 December 1282) reigned as Byzantine Emperor 1259–1282. Michael VIII was the founder of the Palaiologan dynasty that would rule the Byzantine Empire until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. He recovered Constantinople from the Latin Empire in 1261 and transformed the Empire of Nicaea into a restored Byzantine Empire.
Road to the throne
Michael VIII Palaiologos was the son of the megas domestikos Andronikos Doukas Komnenos Palaiologos by Theodora Angelina Palaiologina, the granddaughter of Emperor Alexios III Angelos and Euphrosyne Doukaina Kamaterina. Even with our imperfect knowledge of Byzantine genealogy, no less than eleven emperors may be traced among his ancestors. He was one of the noblest men among the Byzantine aristocracy, and might have succeeded to the throne in regular fashion if the Fourth Crusade had not been diverted to Constantinople in 1203. At an early age he rose to distinction, and ultimately became commander of the Latin mercenaries in the employment of the emperors of Nicaea. A few days after the death of Emperor Theodore II Doukas Laskaris in 1258, Michael Palaiologos instigated a coup against the influential bureaucrat George Mouzalon, becoming joint guardian for the eight-year old Emperor John IV Doukas Laskaris together with the patriarch Arsenios. Michael was invested with the titles of megas doux and, in November 1258, of despotēs. On 1 January 1259 Michael VIII Palaiologos was proclaimed co-emperor at Nymphaion with the help of the Republic of Genoa.
On 25 July 1261, Michael VIII's general Alexios Strategopoulos captured Constantinople from its last Latin Emperor, Baldwin II. Michael VIII entered the city on 15 August and had himself crowned together with his infant son Andronikos II Palaiologos. When Michael VIII entered the city, its population was 35,000 people, but he succeeded in increasing it to 70,000 people by the end of his reign. In December John IV, who had been left behind at Nicaea, was blinded and relegated to a monastery. Patriarch Arsenios excommunicated Michael VIII, and the ban was not removed until six years later (1268) on the appointment of new patriarch Joseph I. After rendering John IV ineligible for the throne, Michael VIII quickly married off John's sisters to foreigners, so their descendants could not threaten his own children's claim to the imperial succession. On his entrance in Constantinople, Michael VIII Palaiologos abolished all Latin customs and reinstated most Byzantine ceremonies and institutions as they had existed before the Fourth Crusade, repopulating the capital and restoring damaged churches, monasteries, and public buildings. He was acutely aware of the danger posed by the possibility that the Latin West, particularly his neighbors in Italy (Charles I of Sicily, Pope Martin IV, and the Venetians) would unite against him and attempt the restoration of Latin rule in Constantinople.
In 1259 Michael VIII defeated the alliance of William II Villehardouin, Prince of Achaea, and Michael II Komnenos Doukas of Epirus at the Battle of Pelagonia. In 1263, the emperor sent 15,000 men (which included 5,000 Seljuk mercenaries) to conquer the Principality of Achaea, but this expedition failed in the battles of Prinitza and Makryplagi, and a mixed imperial and Genoese fleet of 48 ships was defeated by a smaller Venetian force at the Battle of Settepozzi.
After Settepozzi, Michael VIII dismissed the 60 Genoese galleys that he had hired earlier, and began a rapprochement with Venice. With the help of Pope Urban IV Michael VIII concluded peace with his former enemies. By the terms of the treaties, William II was obliged to cede Mystras, Monemvasia and Maina in the Morea to the Byzantines. He also signed a treaty in 1263 with the Egyptian Mamluk sultan Baibars, and the Mongol Khan of Kipchak.
To drive a wedge between the pope and supporters of the Latin Empire, Michael VIII decided to unify the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. A tenuous union between the Greek and Latin church was signed at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274. Michael VIII's concession was met with determined opposition at home, and prisons filled with many opponents to the union. At the same time the unionist controversy helped drive Byzantium's Orthodox neighbors Bulgaria and Serbia into the camp of Michael VIII's opponents. This threat did not materialise in a significant way during Michael VIII's reign, and the Emperor tried to take advantage of a civil war in Bulgaria in the late 1270s but the Byzantine armies suffered several major defeats at the hands of the peasant Emperor Ivaylo. He managed to temporarily impose his son-in-law Ivan Asen III on the Bulgarian throne but after the Byzantine defeat at Devina he had to flee. However, later Michael VIII managed to conquer the Bulgarian portion of Thrace while the internal situation of the Bulgarian Empire remained unstable. For a while the diplomatic intent of the union worked out in the West, but in the end Pope Martin IV, an ally of Charles of Anjou, excommunicated Michael VIII. In 1275, Michael VIII sent an army against Thessaly and fleet of 73 ships to harass the Latin states in Greece. The army was crushingly defeated at the Battle of Neopatras, but the fleet won a similarly comprehensive victory at the Battle of Demetrias.
As a rare manifestation of truly "Byzantine" diplomacy, Michael VIII secretly incited the Sicilian Vespers, a rebellion against Charles of Anjou in Palermo, and the invasion of the Sicily by the Catalans of King Peter III of Aragon. Michael VIII was forced to drain the treasury to pay the enormous bribe of 60,000 gold coins to King Peter III. This halved the kingdom of Charles of Anjou, who was forced to spend the remainder of his life unsuccessfully trying to reassert his control over Sicily.
In reconstituting the Byzantine Empire Michael VIII restored the old administration without endeavouring to correct its failures. In recovering Constantinople and investing in the defence of his European provinces, Michael VIII began to denude the Anatolian frontier of its troops and was forced to lower their pay or cancel their tax exemptions. This policy led to the gradual collapse of the frontier, which was infiltrated by Turkish bands even before the death of Michael VIII in Pachomios village, Thrace in December 1282. The Palaiologan dynasty he established ruled the Byzantine Empire for almost two centuries, longer than any other in Roman history. Also, during his reign there was a temporary naval revival in which the Byzantine navy consisted of 80 ships.
In 1253, Michael VIII Palaiologos married Theodora Doukaina Vatatzina, a grandniece of John III Doukas Vatatzes, Emperor of Nicaea. Orphaned in childhood, she was raised by her great-uncle John III, who was said to have "loved her like a daughter", and who arranged for her marriage to Michael. Their children were:
- Manuel Palaiologos (c. 1254–1259)
- Andronikos II Palaiologos (1259–1332)
- Constantine Palaiologos (1261–1306)
- Irene Palaiologina, who married emperor Ivan Asen III of Bulgaria
- Anna Palaiologina, who married Demetrios/Michael Komnenos Doukas, third son of Michael II of Epirus
- Eudokia Palaiologina, who married Emperor John II of Trebizond
- Theodora Palaiologina, who married King David VI Narin of Georgia and Imereti
By a mistress, a Diplovatatzina, Michael VIII also had two illegitimate daughters:
- Euphrosyne Palaiologina, who married Nogai Khan of the Golden Horde
- Maria Palaiologina, who married Abaqa Khan of Ilkhanid Persia
Ancestors of Michael VIII Palaiologos 8. ?Michael Doukas Palaiologos, sebastos? 4. Alexios Doukas Palaiologos, megas doux
2. Andronikos Doukas Komnenos Palaiologos, megas domestikos
10. John Kantakouzenos, pansebastos sebastos
5. Irene Komnene 22. Andronikos Komnenos, sebastokrator
11. Maria Komnene
23. Irene Aineiadissa
1. Michael VIII Palaiologos 24. Andronikos Doukas Palaiologos 12. George Komnenodoukas Palaiologos
25. Unknown Komnene 6. Alexios Palaiologos, despotes
26. 13. ?Irene Komnene Kantakouzene? 27. 3. Theodora Angelina Palaiologina
28. Andronikos Doukas Angelos
14. Emperor Alexios III Angelos
29. Euphrosyne Kastamonitissa
7. Irene Komnene Angelina
30. Andronikos Doukas Kamateros, megas droungarios and pansebastos
15. Empress Euphrosyne Doukaina Kamatera
31. Unknown Kantakouzene
- Bowman, Steven. The Jews of Byzantium 1204–1453 (University of Alabama Press, 1985).
- Charanis, Peter. “The Jews in the Byzantine Empire under the First Palaeologi.” Speculum, 22(1947): 75–77.
- Geanakoplos, Deno J., Emperor Michael Palaeologus and the West (Harvard University Press, 1959)
- Heath, Ian, Byzantine Armies, AD 1118–1461 (Osprey Publishing, 1995). ISBN 1 85532 347 8
- Nicol, Donald. The Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261–1453 (Cambridge University Press, 1993). ISBN 0521 43991 4
- Harris, Jonathan, Byzantium and the Crusades (Hambledon and London, 2003). ISBN 1 85285 298 4
- Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991
- Vannier, J-F. Les premiers Paléologues (Etudes prosopographiques), 1989
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Michael VIII PalaiologosPalaiologos dynastyBorn: Unknown 1224 Died: 11 December 1282
- Michael coinage: http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/byz/michael_VIII/t.html
Regnal titles Preceded by
John IV Doukas Laskaris
Emperor of Nicaea
with John IV Doukas Laskaris (1258–1261)
Restoration of the Byzantine Empire
Baldwin II of the Latin Empire
with Andronikos II Palaiologos (1272–1328)
Andronikos II Palaiologos
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