Arguably the greatest emperor the Byzantine empire ever had, he was nevertheless rather unpopular during his reign. To his long list of achievements may first be mentioned his glorious recapture of Constantinople from the Latin rulers. Ever since Theodore had founded a government in exile in Nicaea, over half a century before, it was for the sole purpose of eventually retaking the capital. Under generally careful preparations and skilled guidance it would be under his rule that the Greeks would finally be in a position to undertake this enormous military project.
The moment of truth, as it were, was a bit anticlimactic. The Latins, in an ill-advised pre-emptive move had sailed out of town in attempt to capture a Nicaean island and left Constantinople practically undefended. As Michael was made aware of this he seized the moment by having a few spies secretly enter the city with the purpose of inciting a riot to overthrow the Latin sympathizers who were left behind. In concert, he marched at the head of his own army towards Constantinople and the city was retaken almost without bloodshed. As soon as the Latin fleet heard of the news they returned only to find the city retaken, their possessions confiscated and their living quarters burned down. They had no will to fight and left back to western Europe with their tails between their legs.
Michael spent the next twenty years simultaneously (and successfully) sabotaging efforts out West for any efforts to retake Constantinople and tirelessly rebuilding the empire inasmuch as was possible. Still, his subjects resented above all his willingness to negotiate a peace with the Pope in Rome who demanded the Orthodox ways be phased out as heresy and instead re-adopt the Vatican's unconditional ecclesiastical mandates. Even though it was for the most part all just lip service meant to keep Europe divided, and therefore unable to mount a unified expedition against the Byzantines, his people still deeply resented the subjugation of its religious principles. Michael died after a brief illness contracted on his way to stamping out the last pockets of resistance from the old Epirus rivals and the throne then passed to his son Andronicus.
SB 2242, DOC V 14 AU Hyperpyron Obv: Bust of Mary, orans, within city walls.
Rev: Archangel Michael presenting Michael, kneeling before Christ, who holds a scroll. (Constantinople). $325 5/21/03.
Unlisted AR Aspron Trachy Obv: St. Demetrius standing, facing, holding spear and shield; star in left field.
Rev: Michael VIII standing, facing, holding sword; Hand of God above. (Constantinople).
SB 2269 AE Trachy Obv: Bust of archangel Michael facing.
Rev: Half-length figures of Michael and St. George, holding patriarchal cross between them. (Constantinople). $121 4/1/01.