Alexios III Angelos

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


Early life

Alexios III Angelos was the second son of Andronikos Angelos and Euphrosyne Kastamonitissa. Andronicus was himself a son of Theodora Komnene, the youngest daughter of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and Irene Doukaina. Thus Alexios Angelos 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 was threatened with execution under orders of their first-cousin once-removed Andronikos I Komnenos on September 11, 1185. Isaac made a desperate attack on the imperial agents and killed their leader Stephen 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 Andronikos I and the proclamation of Isaac as emperor. Alexios was now closer to the imperial throne than ever before.


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, Alexios was acclaimed as emperor by the troops with the conniving of Alexios' wife Euphrosyne Doukaina Kamatera. 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 thus 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 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 Alexios 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.

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