After the accursed Fourth Crusade, the treacherous Latin barbarians founded their own perverse abomination of a state in 1204. This Crusader naught was but a pale imitation of the glory and splendor of Imperial Rome. With the city fallen to these so called Crusaders, they proclaimed their own Empire as the successor of Rome usurping the title from the Romaioi who were now forced to live in a long period of chaos and anarchy where the future of the Empire looked uncertain.
The coat of arms of the Latin Empire.
The Crusader State commonly referred to as the Latin Empire by historiographers was also referred to, by the Romans themselves, as Frankokratia or even as Latinokratia. This directly translates into rule by the French and rule by the Latins due to the fact that this “empire’s” aristocracy was largely made up by French and Latin noblemen aside from the few traitors nobles that decided to cooperate with the barbarians to maintain their wealth. It should be noted that the Latins themselves never referred to their pathetic excuse of an Empire as the Latin Empire, but rather as the Imperium Romanae which directly translates to the Empire of the Romans: a title which rightfully belongs to the heirs of the great Augustus and Constantine rather than the barbarians who invaded and took over the Empire in the west in the 5th and 6th centuries.
While the Latins may have officially called themselves the Empire of the Romans, they also referred to their state as the Imperium Constantinopolitanum which means the Empire of Constantinople. Though this was only really done in official correspondence with the Pope. The Roman Curia only recognized the Western, Germanic Holy Roman Emperor as the sole Emperor of the Roman in accordance with the concept of Translatio Imperii going back to Frankish Emperor Charlemagne. The fact that they referred to themselves as the Empire of Constantinople only highlights the illegitimacy of their poor imitation of the grandeur and Imperial dignity of the Empire of the Romans.
A non-contemporary 16th Century painting of Emperor Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor.
Following the looting and burning of the Imperial City, the Crusaders, stunned at their success in conquering the premier city in Christendom, were unsure of how to proceed. Going back to the previous precedent established by their predecessors during the First Crusade, a new Crusader State was proclaimed giving birth to the Latin Empire. And with the creation of this new Empire, a new Emperor had to be crowned, but the choice of who should take the throne was unclear as there were three claimants. The first of these claimants was the aged and now blind Doge of Venice, Enrico Dandolo. Dandolo was one of the main architects behind the nature of the disgraceful Fourth Crusade which did nothing but enrich the coffers of the Venetians while attacking fellow Christian cities like Zara, and Constantinople, eliminating the Most Serine Republic's economic rivals in the Adriatic and Eastern Mediterranean. Although Dandolo was first offered the Crown, he refused it with the next two rival contenders being Count Baldwin of Flanders and Boniface of Montferrat.
A non-contemporary painting depicting Boniface of Montferat's ascension as leader of the Fourth Crusade in 1201.
Boniface of Montferrat was a strong contender for the throne due to his family's own distinguished reputation in prior Crusades. He was also favored by Emperor Heinrich VI von Hohenstaufen of the Holy Roman Empire, and after his death in 1197 his brother and Boniface's cousin, Philip of Swabia was elected King of the Germans and was poised to become the next Emperor if not regent in the name of Emperor Heinrich's son Frederick who was the boy King of Sicily. This dynastic connection would offer legitimacy to Boniface, and it would have helped shore up the Latin Empire's already dubious legal standing, as the purpose of the Fourth Crusade was to reclaim the Holy Land rather than attack one of Christendom's most hallowed and important cities. This connection with the Hohenstaufens would later be key in defending against Basileus Alexios' unrelenting onslaught in the wars of Roman Restoration later down the line. Boniface who had also been quite popular with the other Crusader Knights was already assumed by many Crusaders to be the one to take the Imperial title, after all he was officially made the leader of the Fourth Crusade in 1201. But as historical hindsight shows us, things are not always as they appear.
A non-contemporary portrait depicting Emperor Baldwin I of the Latin Empire depicting him as a more idealized and heroic fashion.
Boniface who had some connections with some of the Roman aristocracy was the more favored choice to become Emperor however his Imperial Ambitions were thwarted by the Venetians whom the Crusaders had been indebted to. The Venetians vetoed Boniface's election as Emperor by his fellow Crusaders because they saw him as someone they could not influence or gain concessions from as Boniface's more headstrong personality would have made him push for the Latin to be more independent of Venice, and possibly becoming a rival to Venice itself. Constantinople despite its ruined state, was still the jewel of the East, and one of the most lucrative cities in all of Christendom, and Boniface were to fully utilize its resources at its disposal, it would likely displace the new Venetian monopoly and dominance over the Mediterranean trade. For Enrico Dandolo, the man who finally eliminated Venice's main economic rivals such a situation was intolerable, and as such the Crown was offered to Baldwin I of Flanders much to the anger of Boniface and his supporters. But Baldwin as compared to the more unscrupulous Boniface was held as the ideal of a Crusading Knight who was noted for his piety, gallantry, and his dedication for his vows. And because the Venetians controlled the Crusader's purse strings, Baldwin was acclaimed as Emperor and was crowned on the 16th of May 1204 in an elaborate ceremony that mirrored the traditional coronation of Roman Emperors. Adding to this, it was noted that the Latin Emperor Baldwin had worn a large and expensive pieces of jewelry that had belonged to notable Emperors such as Emperor Manuel I Komennos which illustrated the Latin Emperor's intentions to to portray themselves as successors of past Emperors of the Romans, and their government as political continuation of the Empire under a Western frame work under a re-unified Church.
The Imperial Seal of Baldwin I where he presented himself in the Royal/Imperial Fashion in the Latin West while also featuring his claim to the Roman Empire in his use of the full Latin translation of the titles used by the Greek Eastern Roman Emperors.
Despite the pretensions of these Roman Impostors to the legacy of Caesar and Constantine, the nature and structure of the Latin Empire was fundamentally different from that of the Eastern Roman Empire much like the framework of the old Carolingian Empire when compared to the Western Roman Empire. Following the collapse of the Roman world and the state as an institution in the West, many peasants turned to local aristocrats and other warlords for protection. This arrangement formed the basis for the decentralized feudal system that evolved in Western Europe in the aftermath of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire. While the state as an institution collapsed in the West, in the East it survived with the Empire maintaining its centralized government and professionalized bureaucracy that helped the Empire reorganize itself throughout the many long periods of renewal and crisis in the Roman world. In terms of the scale and complexity of this system, it can be said that its only equal was the bureaucratic apparatus used in the Chinese Empire in the Far East.
A map showing the territorial extent of the Latin Empire and its feudal subdivisions in accordance with the Latin partition of the Empire.
After the Crusader sacked the Imperial City and established their control over most of Greece, the Latin Empire was organized along feudal lines as seen in the West with its contemporary states like the Capetian Kingdom of France, the Kingdom of Sicily, or the Holy Roman Empire. In accordance with these feudal principles, the barbarians partitioned the Empire into various vassal fiefs such as the Kingdom of Thessalonica, the Principality of Achaea, Duchy of Athens, Duchy of the Archipelago, and the Duchy of Philippopolis in Thrace. And as a reward to the treacherous Ventetians, they awarded 3/8 of the territory under Latin control granting them new colonies and trading outposts to dominate the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Sea. Though fortunately, the Venetians were not really able to gain a foothold into the Black Sea thanks to the efforts of the Komnenoi, though not for lack of trying during the Wars of Restoration. While the feudal system worked well in the West providing a means of stability, and even centralization and organization in places such as the Norman Kingdoms of England and Sicily, in the portions of Rhomania under Latin rule, the effects were disastrous.
The Latins ever distrustful of the professional and centralized administration of the Empire, systematically dismantled it which threw the economy of the wider provinces in Latin ruled mainland Greece and Thrace into chaos. The economies of these provinces which had been reliant on these administrative structures, the oldest of which had been in place since Diocletian's institution of the Roman Dominate, were suddenly abolished. The collapse of the Latin economy proved though would later prove to the advantage of the other Roman warring states in the Crisis of the 13th Century which were better organized and more economically stable when compared to the financially crippled Latin Empire. Though these economic woes would have many cultural scars on the Roman world as notable holy relics looted from the city such as the Roman fragments of the Crown of Thorns were sold off to raise funds. In addition to this, many decorative edifices and jeweled sections of Roman churches were stripped and melted down to pay for the shortage of food within the city and account for the near empty treasury which had been liquidated by the Angeloi. In addition to these economic and administrative woes, the Latins had alienated much of the native Romaioi under their rule with the forced imposition of the union of the Eastern and Western Churches that asserted the supremacy of the Latin rite and the supremacy of the Roman curia over the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The hierarchical structure of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople was replaced by Latin prelates
Despite all these internal and structural problems, the Latin Empire was quite large in size when compared to the other Roman successor states which allowed it to rival other powers like the Empire in Trebizond, Empire in Nicaea, Despotate of Epirus, and the Second Bulgarian Empire. But thanks to the new feudal division of the Empire, the authority of the Latin Emperor was weakened with the individual princes seeking to assert their independence, or at least autonomy from the Emperor, a common feature that other such feudal realms such as the Capetian Kingdom of France which had begun to centralize under Philippe Auguste after centuries of fragmentation, or the Hohenstaufen ruled Holy Roman Empire with the Imperial Authority being resisted by subordinate princes such as Ottokar I of Bohemia.
Boniface of Montferrat was one such Imperial Prince who began to move against the authority of the the Latin Emperor. He himself was a rival of the new Emperor Baldwin of Flanders, and to him and his supporters, Boniface should have been made Emperor because of his position as the leader of the Crusade that saw them take Constantinople in the First place and conquer swathes of the Empire of the Romans. To account for this slight, the Venetians and the new Latin government hoped to arrange for a compromise where Boniface would be given the large fiefdom of Thessalonica which was raised to a kingdom. This territory was large and gave Boniface control over the second largest city in the Empire with a realm that contained the old Roman themes of Thessalonika, Strymon, and most of the old Theme of Hellas. Boniface also claimed Thessalonica based on the fact that his younger brother Reiner of Montferrat had been granted a Pronoia over Thessalonika by the Emperor Manuel I Komnenos as dowry following his marriage to the Emperor's daughter Maria Komnene. This connection to the Komnenians gave Boniface a stronger claim to throne making him a dangerous rival to Emperor Baldwin I. This internal squabbling would prove to be quite detrimental to the Latin Empire making it stillborn from its inception, a fact that all the other ambitious players in the Crisis of the 13th Century would take advantage of to great effect.
Here's the long awaited update to this timeline. Sorry about not posting this earlier, but I was busy with schoolwork and exams. I also accidentally deleted my original draft, so I had to rewrite this from scratch, so its a tad bit shorter than the original draft.
I hope you guys enjoyed reading this update, and please feel free to comment below. Any form of feedback is welcome.