Constantinople, Latin Empire of

Constantinople, Latin Empire of, 1204–61, feudal empire established in the S Balkan Peninsula and the Greek archipelago by the leaders of the Fourth Crusade (see Crusades) after they had sacked (1204) Constantinople; also known as the empire of Romania (not to be confused with the modern nation Romania). Its secular and ecclesiastic governments were carefully divided among the Crusaders and their Venetian creditors. It was on both sides of the Dardanelles; its rulers were also suzerains of the kingdom of Thessalonica, the principality of Achaia, and other fiefs. Baldwin I, Henry of Flanders, Peter of Courtenay and his wife, Yolande, Robert of Courtenay, John of Brienne, and Baldwin II were rulers. The empire declined immediately after its creation, being beset by the Greek emperors of Nicaea (see Nicaea, empire of) and despots of Epirus (see Epirus, despotate of), by the Bulgars under Ivan II (Ivan Asen), by the Turks, by discord among the Westerners, and by Greek resistance. In 1222, Thessalonica fell to the despot of Epirus. By 1224 the Nicaean Emperor John III had recovered Asia Minor. Constantinople, nearly captured by Ivan Asen in 1234, fell to Emperor Michael VIII in 1261. Venice, however, retained possession of most of the Greek isles, the duchy of Athens passed under Catalan rule, and Achaia stayed in the hands of the Villehardouin family until 1278.

See W. Miller, The Latins in the Levant (1908, repr. 1964); D. E. Queller, ed., The Latin Conquest of Constantinople (1971).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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