1023 ROME-THE LATIN DYNASTY.
the establishment of the Latin dynasty, dropped
away, leaving the new Emperor to his own resources. He proved not unequal to the tasks
imposed on the imperiled crown. In the mean
time the conduct of King John, of Bulgaria,
had led the Greeks again to prefer a refined
despot to a zealous savage. They supplicated
the Emperor's favor, and being forgiven, left
their barbarous ally to retire in disgrace towards his own kingdom. He was presently
stabbed in his tent, and the Empire was freed
from the menace of his sword.
In the year 1216, Henry died, and was succeeded by his sister Yolande, wife of the Count
of Auxerre. Her husband sailed to the East
to join her at the coronation, but he was seized
by the Epirotes, and died in prison. While
the proclamation was suspended awaiting his
arrival, a son was born to the Empress, who
received the name of Baldwin. But to avoid
a long minority, an elder son of Yolande,
named Robert, was called to the throne, who
from 1221 to 1228 supported as well as he
might the tottering fabric of the Empire. It
was during his reign that the remaining Asiatic provinces of the Imperial dominions were
swept away by the conquests of John Vataces,
the successor of Theodore Lascaris.
When the Emperor Robert died, Baldwin
was as yet but seven years of age. The Latin
barons considered it unsafe to entrust the scepter to hands so feeble, and called upon the distinguished crusader, John OF Brienne, to assume the government. It was provided, however, that his second daughter should be married to Baldwin, and that the latter should, on
reaching his majority, be raised to the throne.
Soon after the settlement of the government
an alliance was made between Vataces and
Azan, the king of Bulgaria, with a view to
the capture of Constantinople. They attacked
the city by land and sea, but the Emperor
John went forth and scattered their forces.
In 1236, the sovereign who had so ably supported the Latin dynasty died, and his son-in-law came to the throne with the title of Baldwin II.
On all sides the limits of the Empire were
narrowed and narrowing. Between Vataces
on the east and Azan on the west it appeared
that the Imperial dominions would be crushed
out of existence. During the twenty-five years
in which the throne was held by Baldwin II.
the menaces of the neighboring states were
constant and angry. In 1255 Vataces was
succeeded by his son Theodore, who, after a
busy reign of four years, left his boyish heir,
the Prince John, to the care of Michael Paiaeologus as regent. The latter was one of the most able and farsighted statesman of his
time, a Greek by birth, and in rank a nobleman. It was agreed by the council of the
late king that both John and Michael should
be proclaimed; but on the day of coronation
the first place was given to the latter, while
the former was reduced to a subordinate relation, with Palaeologus as his guardian.
The new sovereign, as soon as he found
himself in possession of ample power, began to
mature his plans for the capture of Constantinople and the restoration of the Greeks to
their lost dominion. In the spring of 1261 a
division of troops under command of Alexius
Strategopulus was sent across the Hellespont
into Thrace to attack the Latins. The people
of the country, sympathizing with the invader,
joined his standard until the army was swelled
to twenty-five thousand men. With a chosen
body of troops Alexius pressed on to Constantinople, reached the capital in the night,
gained possession of the Golden Gate, and
before the Latins were aware of the danger,
rose in the midst of the city. Baldwin fled to
the sea-shore and boarded a Venetian galley.
The Latin Empire perished more suddenly
than it had arisen. Within twenty days Michael Palaeologus entered the city. The Frankish barons followed in the flight of Baldwin,
but the great mass of the Latins remained in
the city and were undisturbed.