Massacre of the Latins
|Massacre of the Latins|
Map of Constantinople in the Byzantine period. The Latin quarters are captioned in purple.
|Location||Constantinople, Byzantine Empire|
|Target||Roman Catholics ("Latins")|
|Perpetrators||Andronikos Komnenos, Greek mob|
The Massacre of the Latins (Italian: Massacro dei Latini; Greek: Σφαγή των Λατίνων) was a massacre of the Catholic (called "Latin") inhabitants of Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, by an assorted mob (the supporters of the usurper Andronikos Komnenos) in April 1182. 
The Latins, before Komnenos' take-over, had dominated the city's maritime trade and financial sector. Although precise numbers are unavailable, the bulk of the Latin community had fled before this political act, though many were massacred. Remaining merchants were captured by Turks to be sold as slaves 
Since the late 11th century, Western merchants, primarily from the Italian city-states of Venice, Genoa and Pisa, had started appearing in the East. The first had been the Venetians, who had secured large-scale trading concessions from Roman emperor Alexios I Komnenos. Subsequent extensions of these privileges and the Empire's own naval impotence at the time resulted in a virtual maritime monopoly and stranglehold over the Empire by the Venetians.
Alexios' grandson, Manuel I Komnenos, wishing to reduce their influence, began to reduce the privileges of Venice while concluding agreements with her rivals: Pisa, Genoa and Amalfi. Gradually, all four Italian cities were also allowed to establish their own quarters in the northern part of Constantinople itself, towards the Golden Horn.
The predominance of the Italian merchants caused economic and social upheaval in the Empire: it accelerated the decline of the independent native merchants in favour of big exporters, who became tied to the landed aristocracy, who in turn increasingly amassed large estates. Together with the perceived arrogance of the Italians, it fueled popular resentment amongst the middle and lower classes both in the countryside and in the cities.
The Latins proved uncontrollable by imperial authority: in 1162, for instance, the Pisans together with a few Venetians raided the Genoese quarter in Constantinople, causing much damage. Emperor Manuel subsequently expelled most of the Genoese and Pisans from the city, thus giving the Venetians a free hand for several years.
In early 1171, however, when the Venetians attacked and largely destroyed the Genoese quarter in Constantinople, the Emperor retaliated by ordering the mass arrest of all Venetians throughout the Empire and the confiscation of their property. A subsequent Venetian expedition in the Aegean failed: a direct assault was impossible due to the strength of the imperial forces, and the Venetians agreed to negotiations, which the Emperor stalled intentionally. As talks dragged on through the winter, the Venetian fleet waited at Chios, until an outbreak of the plague forced them to withdraw.
The Venetians and the Empire remained at war, with the Venetians prudently avoiding direct confrontation but sponsoring Serb uprisings, besieging Ancona, the Roman Empire's last stronghold in Italy, and signing a treaty with the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. Relations were only gradually normalized: there is evidence of a treaty in 1179, although a full restoration of relations would only be reached in the mid-1180s. Meanwhile, the Genoese and Pisans profited from the dispute with Venice, and by 1180, it is estimated that up to 60,000 Latins lived in Constantinople.
Death of Manuel I and massacre
Following the death of Manuel I in 1180, his widow, the Latin princess Maria of Antioch, acted as regent to her infant son Alexios II Komnenos. Her regency was notorious for the favoritism shown to Latin merchants and the big aristocratic land-owners, and was overthrown in April 1182 by Andronikos I Komnenos, who seized the crown. Almost immediately, his actions spilled over into violence towards the Latins, and after entering the city's Latin quarter a mob of his supporters began attacking the inhabitants.
A few years later, Andronikos I was deposed, handed over to a mob, tortured, and summarily executed in the Hippodrome by Latin soldiers.
Although regular trade agreements were soon resumed between Roman and Latin states, problems still continued: a Norman expedition under William II of Sicily in 1185 sacked Thessalonica, the Empire's second largest city, and the German emperors Frederick Barbarossa and Henry VI both threatened to attack Constantinople.
Eventually there would be the sack of the city of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 and its culmination in the establishment of the Latinokratia. This Latinokratia was varied in its longevity. Some captured lands continued under this reign into the 1800's, other lands would come back into their original Roman hands, while many fell to the Ottomans.
- Venetian–Genoese Wars
- Battle of Demetritzes
- Sack of Thessalonica (1185)
- Sack of Constantinople
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