History Files

European Kingdoms

Eastern Mediterranean


Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire
Roman Emperors in Nicæa / Exiles / Laskarids (AD 1204-1261)

In AD 395, the Roman empire finally split permanently, creating formal Eastern Roman and Western Roman empires, acknowledging what had existed in practise for many years.

Nicæa (Nicaea) had been captured by Süleyman I of Rum around 1075, during the first wave of Turkic attacks following the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) defeat in 1071 which had also witnessed the capture of Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes of the Ducas dynasty. The sultan subsequently made Nicæa his capital, but it and much other peripheral territory was lost to Rum during the initial stages of the First Crusade in 1096.

For members of the Jewish Diaspora who were citizens of the fractured empire, especially the long-term resident Romaniote Jews, conditions abruptly worsened. Anti-Semitic legislation was now more easy to pass in smaller states, and the Jews seemed to bear the brunt of it. John III Ducas Vatatzes in 1253 enacted legal reforms which specifically targeted Jews. The reforms came into use shortly after his death in the following year, but they were followed by his son with some enthusiasm.

Eastern Roman Emperor Basil II in iconography

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World, Vol 2, André Wink (Brill, 2002), from The Turks in World History, Carter Vaughn Findley (Oxford University Press 2005), from The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade, Susan Wise Bauer (2010), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Encyclopaedia Iranica, and the Turkish Cultural Foundation, and Jewish Encyclopaedia, and History of the Byzantine Empire (Live Science).)

1204 - 1222

Theodorus I Lascaris


The Battle of Antioch on the Meander (also known as the Battle of Alaşehir) is fought between the forces of Theodorus I Lascaris and Sultan Kaikhosru of Rum. The sultanate's defeat and the sultan's death on the battlefield confirms Nicæan dominance of Anatolia's Aegean coast. The army of Lascaris is virtually destroyed itself, but the victory ends the Seljuq threat. Kaikhosru's successor (and son) concludes a truce with Nicæa on 14 June 1211 which solidifies the border between the two for the next half a century.

The Battle of Antioch on the Meander in 1211
The Battle of Antioch on the Meander in 1211 ended the threat to Eastern Romans that had been posed by the sultanate of Rum, with peace being agreed afterwards and good relations being maintained for over a generation

1222 - 1254

John III Ducas Vatatzes


Epirus is defeated by John III and its ruler is reduced to a despot.


Thessalonica falls to John III.


Members of the Jewish Diaspora within Nicæa are generally Romaniote Jews who have been present since the formation of the Eastern Roman empire. John Vatatzes now carries out legal reforms which specifically target his Jews subjects. The reforms come into use shortly after his death in the following year, but they are followed by his son with some enthusiasm.

1254 - 1258

Theodorus II Lascaris


1258 - 1261

John IV Lascaris

Aged 8 at accession. Blinded & imprisoned by Michael.

1259 - 1282

Michael VIII Palæologus

Returns to Constantinople as the Palaeologus capital.


The Nicæan-Latin Wars are not concluded when Michael VIII Palæologus recaptures Constantinople, as Achaia and Athens are still occupied by Latin rulers. The city falls during a surprise attack when much of the garrison is raiding Nicæan territory.

The Latins are helped in their largely successful evacuation by the Venetian fleet, but Michael VIII is able to claim Constantinople as his seat and the capital of the Palaeologus. Unfortunately the claim to the throne of John IV is sidelined when the boy, now aged eleven, is blinded and imprisoned.

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