Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

Alexios III: Not Someone To Invite to the Family Holiday

   In my research on Byzantine intrigue for the entry I just posted I came across countless tangles of shocking intrigue. I think a movie could probably be made about any one of the Byzantine emperors ... but the problem is where does one plot end and another begin??
   But I think I found a story arc I can shake free enough from the other tangles to share. This is just going to be the bare bones version

   Once upon a time there was a Byzantine noble by the name of Alexios Angelos. In 1184 or so he conspired against the new Emperor, his cousin, Andronikos I Komnenos (who had only recently ascended after having his predecessor strangled in 1183) and was therefore exiled to the Muslim lands.
   Now Andronikos had a henchman named Stephen Hagiochristophorites, nicknamed "bearer of the anti-christ" because apparently he was a particularly evil fellow who delighted in killing people. Sometime in 1185 Andronikos stepped out of town for a moment, and Stephen thought he'd take the opportunity to kill Alexios' brother Isaac, who had also been a conspirin.
   As it happens, however, when Stephen came for Isaac, it was Isaac who emerged victorious, killing Stephen. Isaac then took refuge in the Hagia Sophia basilica and the populace rose up in support of him, being unhappy with Andronikos' cruel rule.
   When Andronikos returned, much to his shock and dismay Isaac had been declared Emperor, and Andronikos was killed by angry mobs.

   Being now the Emperor Isaac II, Isaac had his brother Alexios ransomed from the Muslims, returning in 1190, and given the high ranking title of "Sebastokrator."
   In 1195 when Isaac had stepped out himself for a hunting expedition, Alexios declared himself Emperor Alexios III. He had Isaac captured and to reward him for his kindness naturally he had Isaac's eyes put out.
   Alexios had a rather strong willed wife who is said to have practically run the empire herself. However in 1196 her own brother and son-in-law accused her of adultery with a certain minister. Alexios had the minister assassinated and his wife sent to a convent. But after about six months he decided he rather missed her and had her reinstated.

   Isaac had a son, however. And this son was none too pleased with his uncle turning on his father and having his eyes put out, and what's more, this son had managed to escape the takeover and flee to Western Europe. At this time (1202) the Fourth Crusade was assembling in Venice, and Isaac's son (whose name also happens to be Alexios Angelos!) convinced them come unseat Alexios III in Constantinople in exchange for great promises of support for their crusade by the reinstated Isaac dynasty.
   The crusaders showed up and though Alexios III vastly outnumbered them and was occupying an extremely defensible fortress (Constantinople itself) he hid while the crusaders scaled the walls, and then he fled in the night in a boat loaded with as much gold as he could fit in it, but leaving his wife and all but one of his daughters behind.

   Isaac was woken up in his prison cell in the middle of the night and led into the palace, clothed in the imperial robes, and probably much to his surprise suddenly found himself declared Emperor again. His son was declared co-Emperor with him, as Alexios IV, in July 2003.

   Unfortunately the local populace and the crusaders didn't get along too well and in January, 1204, they rebelled, forcing Isaac II and Alexios IV to barricade themselves in the palace. This cove named Alexios Doukas, who apparently had noteably bushy eyebrows, and was a lover of one of Alexios III's daughters, volunteered to negotiate between the two sides... but instead when let in to the palace he strangled Alexios IV, and Isaac II is said to have subsequently died of sorrow. A candidate to replace the Emperor was then declared Emperor against his will, but knowing the mortality rate of Emperors this wise fellow refused to have anything to do with it and wouldn't even leave the Hagia Sophia. Unfortunately that didn't do him any good and on February 5th 1204 Alexios Doukas had him strangled and had himself declared Emperor Alexios V.
   Unfortunately there were still crusaders and they were still unhappy. In April, 1204 they took over the city of Constantinople themselves and Alexios V fled with Alexios III's daughter.
   The Byzantine Empire was once again facing a lack of an emperor and once again the person nominated refused to to acknowledge the position.

   Alexios Doukas fled to where Alexios III was hanging out in exile. Initially he was well received and permitted to marry the daughter. Within a few months, however, Alexios III decided to have Alexios Doukas blinded and cast out. Shortly Doukas was picked up and executed for treason in Constantinople.

   But wait! There's MORE treachery!

   Alexios III was captured in 1205 by the crusaders but ransomed by the Michael I Komnenos Doukas (to whom I'm assuming he's somehow related), the ruler of Epirus, in 1209. Michael had Alexios sent to his (Alexios') son-in-law in Nicaea.
   And guess what? You guessed it! He soon turned against his son-in-law, allying himself with the Sultan of Rûm, then at war with his son-in-law. Unfortunately for him the Sultan was soundly defeated and the son-in-law had Alexios confined to a monastery, where Alexios died within the year (probably after plotting against the abbot). Said son-in-law was subsequently declared emperor himself and appears to have ruled for 17 years without having to assassinate people left and right.

Tags: byzantine history, history

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