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Conflict Reigns
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  Home >> The Crusades >> The Fourth Crusade >> Conflict Reigns

The Comnenus family was ruling Byzantium in 1095, when the First Crusade began, and they were still ruling ninety years later. The last of the Comneni was Andronicus Comnenus, a man with a extraordinary history long before he ever ascended the throne, in 1182. He ruled with a heavy hand, was widely hated, and when the provinces rebelled, the people of Constantinople rioted and killed Andronicus in 1185. He was succeeded by Isaac II Angelus.

Isaac had his hands full also. Bulgaria rebelled successfully, as did Serbia. A few years later, Frederick Hohenstaufen marched through his lands with a vast army; Isaac was unable to prevent the Emperor from capturing both Adrianople and Philippopolis. In the end, Frederick continued on, but only after Isaac virtually granted him everything he wanted. He managed to regain some lost ground in the years that followed, but lost control within the palace itself. In April of 1195, his brother Alexius III usurped the throne and had Isaac blinded.

Alexius III Angelus was even less successful than Isaac and was exceptionally corrupt. When Emperor Henry VI pressured him, he levied a special tax upon the citizenry to bribe him. When the Bulgarians rebelled again, Alexius was unable to control them. When Serbia granted its allegiance to Hungary, Alexius was powerless to do anything except to continue to drain the treasury.

As the Fourth Crusade became imminent, Alexius put on a show of resistance, while seizing all the money in the treasury and fleeing.
 

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