Latin Empire

   The Latin Empire (1204-1261), called Romania by contemporaries, established after the Fourth Crusade (q.v.) conquered Constantinople (q.v.). The empire was immediately weakened by the terms of the Partitio Romaniae (q.v.), which divided the conquered territory of much of Greece (q.v.) into separate, virtually independent states that included the principality of Achaia, the duchy of Athens, and the kingdom of Thessalonike (qq.v.). When a Latin army was defeated by Kalojan near Adrianople (qq.v.) in 1205, the empire's future seemed in doubt. Latin emperor Baldwin of Flanders (q.v.) was captured in that battle, and he spent the rest of his life in captivity in Bulgaria (q.v.). Despite the threat from Bulgaria, the Latin Empire's greatest threat came from the Empire of Nicaea (q.v.). Once Baldwin's brother Henry of Hainault (1206-1216) had restored Latin rule over Thrace (q.v.), he attacked the Empire of Nicaea (q.v.), hoping to destroy it. But the Empire of Nicaea resisted Latin attacks, and a treaty of 1214 recognized something more like peaceful coexistence. After Henry's death, Peter of Courtenay, the husband of Henry's sister Yolande, was selected emperor (q.v.). Peter's capture in 1217 by the ruler of Epiros (q.v.), Theodore Komnenos Doukas (q.v.), left Yolande in charge until her death in 1219. Two years later her son, Robert of Courtenay (12211228), succeeded her, followed by Baldwin II (1228-1261). However, in 1231 the barons chose as co-emperor the titular king of Jerusalem (q.v.), John Brienne (died 1237). Baldwin II, who was the only Latin emperor born in Constantinople (and who adopted the Byzantine titleporphyrogenetos [q.v.]), reigned over an empire that by 1237 was confined chiefly to the city of Constantinople. In retrospect, it seems apparent that the fate of the Latin Empire was sealed after the battle of Adrianople, especially by its inability to destroy the Empire of Nicaea. Theodore Komnenos Doukas (q.v.) took Thessalonike in 1224 and Adrianople in 1225, but any hopes that the Despotate of Epiros had of recovering Constantinople collapsed in 1230 when Theodore was captured by Bulgarian Tsar John Asen II (qq.v.) at the battle of Klokotnitsa (q.v.). After 1243 the Seljuks (q.v.) were weakened by Mongol expansion in Asia Minor (qq.v.), allowing the Empire of Nicaea to turn its full energies westward, further isolating Latin Constantinople. The city fell to a sudden assault in 1261 by the forces of Michael VIII Palaiologos (q.v.).

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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