What is the Komnenian Restoration?

The Byzantine Empire has a long and interesting history. Originally the Eastern Roman Empire, over time it became clear that as Rome and the Western part of the empire was in decline, the Eastern Empire and it’s capital city would carry on as their own strong empire, but they weren’t without their own struggles.

After a long period of struggles, Albany-like levels of corruption, and decline, The Byzantine Empire was at a place where it needed guidance and leadership to help rebuild back to a stronger and more stable empire. This is where the Komnenian Restoration comes into play, which spanned over three emperors and took place from around 1081 to about 1185.

Wholesale Recovery

Historians view the Komnenian Restoration as a time of major reformation and recovery in financial and military ways. This also led to a stronger economy along with the ability to reclaim lost territory and secure both old and new borders. Many of these changes started with many small important steps, or “minding the details,” that helped shore up a bad situation, and started building a strong foundation. This sometimes meant taking informal provincial properties that were working and formally codifying them while at other times new changes had to be made.

Alexios I 1081-1118

The empire had just suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of the Seljuk Turks, and the Empire was facing threats from every direction. Alexios started by stopping the habit of hiring expensive mercenaries, bankrupting the treasury, who then often failed to accomplish security on the borders while emptying the treasury.

Alexios reformed the practices of the Byzantine armies to create better soldiers, officers, and more discipline. While this was happening he was able to recognize when tribal threats were too great and he created alliances with other nomadic tribes to help defend the borders successfully. He re-established relationships with the West and successfully convinced the Pope to send Western European forces via crusades which helped the Empire capture lost over the past few centuries and would never have had a chance at capturing otherwise.

Alexios was willing to take desperate measures such as melting down church artifacts and selling church land to resurrect the treasury to a healthy state.

John II Komnenos 1118-1143

John continued the wise policies of Alexios and slowly re-gained more territory by using sieges, guerrilla warfare, and tactics that emphasized a slow steady pressure, avoiding large battles that could result in catastrophe and thus slowly wearing down Turkish held lands. He further encouraged professional training and arms for the army, helping to move them from heavy local militia based to professional soldiers able to hold their own. These slow incremental changes were the steady hand needed until his death.

Manuel Komnenos 1143-1180

Steady work continued as Manuel used the lessons from Alexios and John II to continue improving the Empire. Results were sometimes mixed as a crushing surprise victory over the Kingdom of Hungary made them a vassal state but then a major loss to the Turks made movement into the Middle East slower and more in doubt. However all in all this was a successful continuation of the Komnenian Restoration.

After a succession issue, Andronikos I would end up emperor, and mark the end of the Komnenian Restoration. Hated by the aristocracy, nobility, and alienating the West, a full out revolt and instability followed, leading to the end of Byzantine’s resurgence.

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