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The future Andronicus I was a grandson of the Emperor Alexios I and a cousin of Emperor Manuel. He was a handsome and a charismatic figure and was a capable general. However, he led a scandalous life and was quite irresistible to women. Andronicus was a great favorite of the public in Byzantium despite his many affairs and the seduction of countless noblewomen, including his own niece <ref>Norwich, John Julius, A history of Byzantium (volume iii, London, Penguin, 1996), p 116</ref>. He was forced into exile several times to avoid the wrath of the husbands and the families of the women he seduced and jilted. While in exile in Jerusalem he seduced the widow of the king and was forced to flee to Georgia. He became involved in a plot against Manuel and when it was detected he was lucky to escape with his life and was sentenced to exile on the Black Coast. However, his fortunes changed with the death of his cousin Emperor Manuel. His French wife became regent to his son and heir Alexios II. Manuel had been seen as too close to the West and many in Byzantium hated the Latin Christians, whom they viewed as barbarians. Moreover, they suspected that Maria was going to run the Empire in the interests of the West and the Italian city-states such as Venice. Andronicus saw an opportunity and he raised a rebellion and claimed to be saving the Empire and the Orthodox faith. He was able to become co-Emperor and dominated the Imperial government. He forced Alexios II to sign the death warrant for his own mother, Empress Maria and Andronicus later had the child-Emperor murdered<ref> Norwich, p 228</ref>.
==The reign of Andronicus I==
Andronicus began a reign of terror in the city of Constantinople and throughout the entire Empire. He was very suspicious and ordered any potential rivals to be killed. Andronicus also had many officials killed on charges of corruption. The Emperor executed a great many aristocrats. Andronicus sought to make himself popular with the ordinary people and he presented himself as their protector. He also made himself popular by styling himself as the defender of the Empire against the threats from the Latin West. Andronicus soon won the support of the mob and he encouraged them to attack Italian merchants who lived in the Latin Quarter in Constantinople in April (1182). The mostly Genoese and Pisan merchants and their families were murdered, and the survivors sold into slavery to the Turks. The massacre caused outrage in Western Europe. It is estimated that up to 60,000 mainly Italians were murdered, during what came to be known as ‘the Massacre of the Latins’ at the instigation of Andronicus. The Emperor became increasingly paranoid and he ordered more officials and aristocrats to be summarily and cruelly executed. Soon the Empire was in chaos and the Norman King William of Sicily invaded and aimed to conquer the Empire with a huge army. William advanced to the great city of Thessalonica and captured it and then proceeded to advance to Constantinople. Andronicus who did not trust anyone assembled an army to defend the city but placed it under five different commanders<ref> Norwich, p 229</ref>. However, Andronicus I was more concerned with persecuting his real and imagined enemies and he ordered the arrest of Isaac Angelos, but he evaded arrest and raised a rebellion in the city. Andronicus was deposed and captured and handed over to the city’s mob and was tortured for three days before he was finally publicly executed. His body was left unburied at the side of the road for years<ref> Norwich, p 227</ref>.
==Andronicus and the reform of the Empire==
Andronicus was an able general and had proven himself to be a competent administrator. He was aware that the great Byzantine magnates had grown too powerful and were acting like independent lords especially in Asia Minor. They were subverting the power of the state and exploiting the peasantry. Furthermore, they were not paying tax, seizing public land and creating a feudal system. Then the bureaucracy had become very corrupt and often extorted money and goods from the common people. Andronicus did improve the government and ended many abuses, despite his cruelty. His reign according to the great British historian Gibbon, ‘exhibited a singular contrast of vice and virtue. When he listened to his passions, he was the scourge; when he consulted his reason, the father, of his people’ <ref> Gibbon, Edward, Decline, and Fall of the Roman Empire (London, Penguin, 1968), chapter 48</ref>. It does seem that Andronicus wanted to reform the state and end the growing feudalism in Asia Minor and extend central control over the localities. However, his death ended any hopes of change and the Byzantine nobility, increasingly became feudal lords and this weakened the Byzantine state.