|"Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown"
If you can keep your head while all those about you are losing their's then you probably do not understand the situation.
Rule #1 - Never, ever travel without your bodyguards.
- In the first part of the 14th century what was left of the Byzantine Empire was leveled by Civil Wars.
- The Byzantines were more interested in killing each other than facing the rising power of the Turks.
- Leader of the Regency Grand Duke Alexios Apokaukos lost his head when he visited a prison filled with his political enemies without his bodyguards.
Alexios Apokaukos (died 1345) was a leading Byzantine statesman and high-ranking military officer.
Apokaukos served during the reigns of emperors Andronikos III Palaiologos (r. 1328–1341) and John V Palaiologos (r. 1341–1357). Although he owed his rise to high state offices to the patronage of John VI Kantakouzenos (r. 1347–1354), he became a leader in a civil war along with Patriarch John XIV Kalekas against his patron.
When Andronikos III became sole emperor in 1328, his close friend Kantakouzenos became his chief minister. Apokaukos was rewarded with the positions that Kantakouzenos himself had formerly held: head of the imperial secretariat (mesazōn) and in charge of the state's finances.
With these positions he was able to amass a considerable personal fortune which he used to construct a personal refuge, a fortified tower-house at the site of Epibatai near Selymbria, at the coast of the Sea of Marmara.
Andronikos finally reached the high office of megas doux, giving him the high command over the Byzantine navy. He re-equipped the fleet, paying from his own pocket 100,000 hyperpyra.
At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the Byzantine Empire went into dramatic decline. There was a major civil war in the 1320s, accompanied with invasions from almost all sides.
As the Empire became weaker and more impoverished, the misery of the great masses in the countryside and in the cities became almost unbearable. Both in the country and in the towns all wealth was concentrated in the hands of a small aristocratic class, and against them was directed the bitterness of the destitute masses.
The leader of the all-powerful aristocratic class was John Kantakouzenos, who after the death of Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos was the effective regent for the latter's infant son, John V.
A faction in Constantinople, formed around the powerful megas doux Alexios Apokaukos, plotted against him, and managed to enlist the support of dowager empress Anna of Savoy and the Patriarch John Kalekas. The Civil War between the new regency and Kantakouzenos broke out openly in October 1341.
This political and dynastic dispute was quickly transformed into a class-based, social conflict: while the aristocratic land-holders of Macedonia and Thrace, and the propertied classes in general supported Kantakouzenos, the lower and middle classes, both in the countryside and the cities, supported the Regency.
|Empress Anna of Savoy
In 1343 Anna pawned the
Byzantine crown jewels
to the Republic of Venice
for 30,000 ducats as part of an
attempt to secure more
finances for the civil war.
Losing His Head
In the first years of the war, the tide was in favour of the regency. Then in the summer of 1342, Kantakouzenos was forced to flee to the court of Stefan Dušan of Serbia.
From 1343 onwards, with the aid of his friend, Umur Beg of Aydin, Kantakouzenos began to reverse the situation. With the initial support of Stefan Dušan, Kantakouzenos regained much of Macedonia, and despite his failure to take Thessalonica, his Turkish allies enabled him to return to his old stronghold of Didymoteicho in Thrace.
Gradually, Apokaukos's supporters abandoned him, including his son Manuel, who deserted his post at Adrianople and went over to the Kantakouzenos camp.
Trying to bolster his waning power, Apokaukos began a series of proscriptions in the capital, and even ordered a new prison constructed for political prisoners. On 11 June 1345, Apokaukos suddenly decided to inspect the new prison, without being escorted by his bodyguard.
The prisoners immediately rose up, lynched him, and his head was severed and stuck on a pole.
The prisoners believed that by getting rid of the hated Apokaukos, they would be rewarded by the Empress Anna. She, however, was so shocked and dismayed at the loss of her principal minister, that she gave Apokaukos's supporters, who were joined by the Gasmouloi, the fleet's marines, free rein to avenge their leader's death. As a result, all prisoners, some 200 in total, were massacred, even though some attempted to seek refuge in a nearby monastery.
Although the death of Apokaukos did not bring about the immediate collapse of the regency, it removed the main instigator of the civil war and one of its chief protagonists, and resulted in dissension and defections in the regency's camp. As such, it marked the beginning of the war's end, which would come with Kantakouzenos's entry into Constantinople on 3 February 1347. (Wikipedia)
|Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos (r. 1347–1354).
The Emperor was Apokaukos's patron and at the same time
the victim of his protégé's ambition.
|An Empire in Major Decline.
Byzantine Empire and surrounding territory in 1307,
shortly before the First Palaiologan Civil War.