Alexius IV

1203-1204

Alexius IV's rise to power was one of the most shameful moments in Byzantine history. He had been imprisoned as a youth along with his father, Isaac II, by orders of Alexius III. Lucky for him, unlike his father, his vision was spared. Then, several years later, he somehow managed to escape and headed out west in search of someone sympathetic to his cause. He landed right in the thicket of preparations for the fourth and final Crusade. Seeing that the leaders putting the whole scheme together could benefit by having Alexius in their corner, they offered to return him to Constantinople and crown him emperor by deposing Alexius III who had, after all, been the usurper who had imprisoned them both. In return, they could have demanded almost anything should their plan work out as expected. And almost anything they did get. Among other things, Alexius promised not only safe passage for the crusaders but also generous manpower, supplies and a blank check to finance the whole thing. The bargain sealed Alexius was pretty much by now just an idle imperial puppet hopeful.

After a few months passed the armies of the Crusade arrived at Constantinople. But this time they weren't merely passing through but meant to engage the great city in combat, ostensibly on Alexius's behalf. For his part, Alexius III had no desire to fight and fled at the onset of the invasion. The imperial staff that was left behind at once recalled Isaac II, blind and all, from his prison cell and replaced him on the throne. Knowing what was good for him he in turn announced that he would make his son co-emperor. In theory, this should have instantly defused the hostilities once the objectives were met. Instead, the crusaders true intentions were revealed shortly after. Everyone knew that they wanted Constantinople for themselves and Alexius was just the right excuse to get them there. Following an endless string of accusations, pretexts and a good deal of unprovoked violence, the two sides again engaged each other in all-out war. Alexius now having outlived his usefulness, Alexius V, his successor, tricked him into leaving the palace under the pretext of helping him escape a mutiny and instead was shown the way to a waiting squad of archers.

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