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The victories of the Imperial arms in the

age of the Comneni partook of the nature of

personal triumphs. They resulted more from

individual prowess than from strategic skill.

It was the peculiarity of the crusading times

that man struggled with man. The fanatic,

unable to generalize, makes a personal enemy

of his foe. The Emperors of the Comnenian

dynasty, and notably Manuel I., imbibed

something of the adventurous and heroic spirit

of the times, even to the extent perhaps of neglecting to gather the political fruits of victories won in the field. After gaining so many

successes over the Turks as to entitle him to

the name of conqueror, the Emperor finally

lost all in a great disaster which befell his

arms in the mountains of Pisidia. His army

was ruined, and himself a prisoner was obliged

to accept the gift of his life at the merciful

hands of the Sultan of the Turks.

It has been remarked by the profound Gibbon that the character of Manuel presents

in its military and civil aspects one of the

strangest contrasts in history. While in the

field he made war with all the vehement ferocity of Godfrey of Bouillon or the Lionheart of England. He seemed unmindful

alike of the cares of state and the beauties

of peace. But when his campaigns were

ended, and he had returned to Constantinople,

one might discover in his bearing no further

trace of the military hero. He then devoted

himself with assiduity to the business of the

government and the smaller cares of life in

the palace. He even indulged in refined luxuries and pleasures, giving his winter hours to

games, and his summer days to the delightful

relaxation of his villa on one of the isles of

the Propontis. In the year 1181, he died

after a successful and glorious reign, and the

crown descended to his son Alexius II., then

a youth but ten years of age.

In less than two years the government of

this stripling was overthrown by Andronicus,

son of Isaac Comnenus, whose previous life had

been filled with romance and adventure. During the reign of Manuel he had been imprisoned for twelve years under suspicion of disloyalty. He had lived as an exile, both at

the palace of the sultan and the court of the

Duke of Russia. When Manuel died, the

youth and inexperience of his successor, and

the disorders which immediately ensued in the

government, gave excellent opportunities to

the ambitious Andronicus to lay hold on the

scepter. An insurrection opened the gates of

the city; the people were clamorous for a

change from the foolish boy who occupied the

throne, and Andronicus was crowned in the

midst of acclamations. Alexius was degraded

and presently strangled with a bowstring,

while his mother Maria was executed on a

charge of treason.

The government of the new Emperor was

a compound of vicious vigor, and virtuous energy. The spites and animosities which had

been nursed during his exile found free vent

on his accession to power. The assassination

of Alexius was followed by the murder of his

adherents. Many of the nobles fled into distant parts, and scattered the seeds of insurrection. In the third year of the reign of Andronicus, his government was subverted by

Isaac Angelus, descended from the great

Alexius through the female line. The people

gladly espoused his claims, and in 1185 he was

seated on the throne. The miserable Andronicus was abandoned by his friends, seized by

his enemies, suspended by his feet between two

pillars, and brutally beaten and stabbed to

death by the infuriated multitude.

The change of sovereigns was hardly for

the better. Isaac, the Angel, would have been

more appropriately surnamed from one of the

other worlds. His government proved to be as

weak as his character was despicable. He was

precisely the kind of a prince to accelerate the

ruin of the Empire. On all sides the evidences

of disintegration became alarmingly evident.

The island of Cyprus was seized by a kinsman

of the Emperor, and was recovered by Richard

Coeur de Lion, only to be bestowed on the

House of Lusignan. The Bulgarians and Wallachians rose in revolt and achieved their

independence. A Bulgarian prince named

Joannices obtained the throne of the new kingdom and was recognized by Pope Innocent III.

In the year 1195 Isaac Angelus was deposed by his brother, Alexius, also surnamed

Angelus. Fraternal affection put out the eyes