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Alexios III Angelos (Greek: Αλέξιος Γ' Άγγελος) (c. 1153 – 1211) was Byzantine emperor from 1195 to 1203.

Contents

Early life

Alexios III Angelos was the second son of Andronicos Angelos and Euphrosyne Castamonitissa. Andronicus was himself a son of Theodora Comnene, the youngest daughter of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and Irene Ducaena. Thus Alexius Angelus was a member of the extended imperial family. Together with his father and brothers, Alexios had conspired against Emperor Andronikos I Komnenos (c. 1183), and thus he spent several years in exile in Muslim courts, including that of Saladin.

His younger brother Isaac II Angelos, was threatened with execution under orders of their first cousin once removed Andronicos I Comnenos on September 11, 1185. Isaac made a desperate attack on the imperial agents and killed their leader Stephanus Hagiochristophorites. He then took refuge in the church of Hagia Sophia and from there appealed to the populace. His actions provoked a riot, which resulted in the deposition of Andronicus I, and the proclamation of Isaac II Angelus as emperor. Alexius was now closer to the imperial throne than ever before.

Reign

By 1190 Alexios Angelos had returned to the court of his younger brother, from whom he received the elevated title of sebastokratōr. In 1195, while Isaac II was away hunting in Thrace, Alexius was acclaimed as emperor by the troops with the conniving of Alexios' wife Euphrosyne Ducaena Camatera. Alexios captured Isaac at Stagira in Macedonia, put out his eyes, and thenceforth kept him a close prisoner, though he had been redeemed by him from captivity at Antioch and loaded with honours.

To compensate for this crime and to solidify his position as emperor, Alexios had to scatter money so lavishly as to empty his treasury, and to allow such licence to the officers of the army as to leave the Empire practically defenceless. He consummated the financial ruin of the state. In 1195, Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI forced Alexios III to pay him a tribute of 1,000 pounds of gold (originally 5,000 pounds of gold). The able and forceful empress Euphrosyne Ducaena Camatera tried in vain to sustain his credit and his court; Vatatzes, the favourite instrument of her attempts at reform, was assassinated by the emperor's orders.

In the east the Empire was overrun by the Seljuk Turks; from the north Bulgarians and Vlachs descended unchecked to ravage the plains of Macedonia and Thrace, and Kaloyan of Bulgaria annexed several important cities, while Alexius squandered the public treasure on his palaces and gardens and attempted to deal with the crisis through diplomatic means. The emperor's attempts to bolster the empire's defenses by special concessions to Byzantine and Bulgarian notables in the frontier zone backfired, as the latter built up regional autonomy. Byzantine authority survived, but in a much weakened state.

Fourth Crusade

Soon Alexios was threatened by a new and yet more formidable danger. In 1202 the Western princes assembled at Venice launched the Fourth Crusade. Alexios IV Angelos, the son of the deposed Isaac II, had recently escaped from Constantinople and now appealed to the crusaders, promising to end the schism of East and West, to pay for their transport, and to provide military support to the crusaders if they helped him to depose his uncle and sit on his father's throne.

The crusaders, whose objective had been Egypt, were persuaded to set their course for Constantinople before which they appeared in June 1203, proclaiming Alexios as emperor and inviting the populace of the capital to depose his uncle. Alexius III took no efficient measures to resist, and his attempts to bribe the crusaders failed. His son-in-law, Theodore Lascaris, who was the only one to attempt anything significant, was defeated at Scutari, and the siege of Constantinople began. Unfortunately for Constantinople, Alexius III's misgovernment had left the Byzantine navy with only 20 worm-eaten hulks by the time the Crusaders arrived.

In July, the crusaders, led by the aged Doge Enrico Dandolo, scaled the walls and took control of a major section. In the ensuing fighting, the crusaders set the city on fire, ultimately leaving 20,000 people homeless. Alexios III finally took action, and led 17 divisions from the St. Romanus Gate, vastly outnumbering the crusaders. But his courage failed, and the Byzantine army returned to the city without a fight. His courtiers demanded action, and Alexius promised to fight. Instead, that night (July 17/18), Alexios III hid in the palace, and finally, with one of his daughters, Eirene, and such treasures (1,000 pounds of gold) as he could collect, got into a boat and escaped to Develton in Thrace, leaving his wife and his other daughters behind. Isaac II, drawn from his prison and robed once more in the imperial purple, received his son in state.

Life in exile

Alexius attempted to organize a resistance to the new regime from Adrianople and then Mosynopolis, where he was joined by the later usurper Alexius V Ducas Murtzuphlus in April 1204, after the definitive fall of Constantinople to the crusaders and the establishment of the Latin Empire.

At first Alexios III received Alexius V well, even allowing him to marry his daughter Eudocia Angelina. Later Alexios V was blinded and deserted by his father-in-law, who fled from the crusaders into Thessaly. Here Alexius III eventually surrendered, with Euphrosyne, to Marquis Boniface of Montferrat, who was establishing himself as ruler of the Kingdom of Thessalonica.

Trying to escape Boniface's "protection", Alexius III attempted to seek shelter with Michael I Ducas, the ruler of Epirus, in 1205. Captured by Boniface, Alexius III and his retinue were sent to Montferrat, before being brought back to Thessalonica c. 1209. At that point the deposed emperor was ransomed by Michael I of Epirus, who sent him to Asia Minor, where Alexios' son-in-law Theodore I Lascaris of the Empire of Nicaea was holding his own against the Latins.

Here Alexios III conspired against his son-in-law after the latter refused to recognize Alexius' authority, and received the support of Kay Khusrau I, the sultan of Rüm. In the battle of Antioch on the Maeander in 1211, the sultan was defeated and killed, and Alexius III was captured by Theodore Lascaris. Alexius III was relegated to a monastery at Nicaea, where he died later in 1211.

Family

By his marriage to Euphrosyne Doucaena Camaterina Alexios had three daughters:

References

Alexios III Angelos
Angelid dynasty
Born: 1153 Died: 1211[aged 58]
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Isaac II Angelos
Byzantine Emperor
1195–1203
Succeeded by
Isaac II Angelos and Alexios IV Angelos
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