Around the World in the Byzantine Era Part2 (1000-1461)

Posted by Powee Celdran


Part1: Around the World in the Byzantine Era (300-1000)


Welcome now to part2 of the Around the World in the Byzantine Era article! In the previous article I have discussed the events in the Byzantine Empire from the 4th to 10th centuries, how the empire was formed and how it survived all those years with all the constant wars, invasions, plagues, and political crisis but other than it had focused on what was going on in the rest of the world as the Byzantine Empire was existing. Basically, we all know now the Byzantine Empire was born out of the original Roman Empire that had been divided but in 324 it was reunited and by 330 it got a new capital, Constantinople and this would mark the start of Byzantine history. However, the real event that marked the start of Byzantium or the Eastern Roman Empire was in the year 395 when the empire was fully divided east and west as separate independent empires, the west though had fallen in 476 and the rest of Europe that was under its control formed into several kingdoms formed by the barbarian tribes that had settled in the empire such as the Visigoths establishing their kingdom in Spain, the Vandals in North Africa, Ostrogoths in Italy, the Franks in France, and Saxons in England. Meanwhile, Byzantium had stayed strong as the west fell and in the 6th century it retook parts of the west that had fallen such as Italy from the Ostrogoths and North Africa from the Vandals but in the east Byzantium was in an on and off perpetual war with the Sassanid Persian Empire but winning it in the 7th century only to enter a new perpetual war with an unexpected force that rose from the south, the Arabs wherein Byzantium would permanently lose Egypt and Syria to them then in the north another new force would attack and form another new force to war with Byzantium, the Bulgarians who at the 9th century would create an empire to rival Byzantium forcing Byzantium to change from being a Roman world power in the Mediterranean to a downsized militarized Greek Empire. In Western Europe, everything is unstable until the 8th century when the Franks conquer the surviving Germanic tribes and in 800 form an empire, yet another one to rival Byzantium which was the Frankish Empire and in the 10th century had evolved into the Holy Roman Empire in Germany, a new Roman empire in the west while France which once part of the Frankish kingdom becomes the medieval Kingdom of France in 987. In the rest of Europe as Byzantium rules as one empire, several Germanic, Slavic, and Baltic tribes still live in the northeast and only become united to form their own kingdoms by the 9th and 10th centuries but in the north, the biggest story would be the Norsemen known as the Vikings who come in at the end of the 8th century, become a threat in the 9th, and start settling in forming their own states in the 10th such as the Norman state in Northern France and the Kievan Rus in Eastern Europe which had though been born in the 9th century. In Britain ever since it had been abandoned by the Romans in the early 5th century, Saxons from across the North Sea begin to settle and form their own kingdoms but end up uniting against Viking invasions in the 9th and 10th centuries while Scotland and Ireland still remain as smaller and less united. While Europe forms between the 5th and 10th centuries and Byzantium rules as one empire, in the south and east the new force known as the Arabs unexpectedly rise from the Arabian deserts in the 7th century and rapidly grow an empire defeating Byzantium and destroying the Sassanid Persian Empire and the territorial extent of the Arabs extends all the way to Spain in the west and to Central Asia in the east but power is not stable among them and between 632 and 909, the Arabs have had 4 large empires or Caliphates: the Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, and Fatimid. As the Arabs conquer vast amounts of territory, they spread their religion of Islam with them while the Byzantines too spread Christianity to Europe, although they become in conflict over the Christian faith with the pope in Rome but it still Christianity that had turned Europe from scattered tribes to unified states. Between the 4th and 10th centuries, Byzantium may have been the only empire that had been standing all this time as all others around it have risen and fallen but in the far east like Byzantium, China was its parallel as it stayed as the same empire throughout Byzantium’s entire existence except having different names for its empire due to the many changes of dynasties, although Byzantium between 330 and 1000 had been ruled by 10 dynasties and several usurpers but still the same empire, but like China and Byzantium the other empire that had been constantly existing the whole time was Japan. In the rest of Asia like in India and Indonesia between the 4th and 11th centuries, the story was confusing as kingdoms kept on rising and falling the same way ancient kingdoms and empire rise and soon enough fall to another one, though in Central Asia Nomadic people like the Huns, Turks, Avars, and Magyars spread quickly going as far west into Europe as well as east all the way to China and south to India. In the Americas on the other hand, progress moves slow as for all these centuries the Mayans of Central America still remain the dominant force but would soon enough fade out, though there is not much recorded evidence on the events in the Americas between the 4th and 11th centuries. Now this article being part of this 2-part article on around the world in the existence of Byzantium will focus on the Byzantium from the 11th to 15th centuries and the happenings around the worlds within this time and as the 11th century begins so does the 2nd millennium AD, the Byzantine Empire has returned as a dominant force winning over their neighbor the Bulgarians becoming once again the power it was in the 6th century although no longer a Roman Mediterranean force but an eastern Greek empire. In Western Europe, the German Holy Roman Empire is now the major empire that extends all the way down to Italy while France too rises as a powerful kingdom and England is a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Meanwhile in the Arab world, the Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad is weakened with many new Islamic forces rising like the Turkic Ghaznavid Empire in Iran and the Fatimid Caliphate in North Africa while in Spain the Christians at the north grow stronger to fight the Islamic caliphate in the south. In Asia, China is now united under the Song Dynasty and Korea under the Goryeo Dynasty and this is the situation of the world where we left off in part one of this series, and now part 2 of it begins this way. Although as the 11the century progresses, Byzantium which had reached its height of power once again will once again rapidly decline as the Normans rise in the west and the Seljuk Turks in the east crushing the Byzantines heavily at Manzikert in 1071 marking the start of a new decline, and at the end of the century the era of the Crusades begin. In the next 5 centuries, Byzantium will see the Crusades rising and going on until eventually dying out, the Arab empires weaken and the Nomadic Turks rise forming powerful states, the unknown Mongols rapidly rising and building an empire almost conquering the entire world, and Western Europe evolving into powerful kingdoms even surpassing Byzantium in power. At the beginning of the 13th century Byzantium sees its temporary fall to the Crusaders in 1204 resulting in new separate Byzantine states to form like Trebizond but its return 57 years later in 1261 but from here on, its future is no longer bright as the new Turkish power of the Ottomans rise in Asia Minor which would later on bring the end of Byzantium capturing Constantinople in 1453 and the last Byzantine state of Trebizond in 1461; now if 1453 is when Byzantium ended it is just the end of Byzantine Constantinople while the real end of the Byzantine story would be the fall of the separate breakaway Byzantine Empire of Trebizond to the Ottomans in 1461, and in other words, if Byzantium was a movie 1453 would be its end while 1461 would be the post-credits ending. This here will be the second and last part of this series and will begin with Byzantium as a powerful empire in 1000 under Emperor Basil II of the Macedonian Dynasty and will end at the middle of the 15th century. Now, in this article I will try my best to explain the history of every part of the world even if I do not know them as well as I know Byzantine history as this article will cover a time in history where so much is already happening around the world wherein there is so much information about and so much happening in so little time such as the rapid expansion of the Mongols in the 13th century, the Spanish Reconquista, the whole story of the Crusades, the Hundred-Years’-War between France and England, the rise of the Russian states, and the happenings and political tensions in England, France, Italy, and the Holy Roman Empire which will be one of the biggest stories from the 11th to 15th centuries. On the other hand as this article will be divided into 2 sections per century, the first section will be all on Byzantium and its surroundings including the Seljuk Empire, Bulgaria, Serbia, and the Ottoman Empire then in the 12th century part the section on Byzantium will be on both the happenings in the Byzantine Empire and the new Crusader states and the same for the 13th century wherein the Byzantium section will be on the happenings in the Balkans and Asia Minor as in most of the century Byzantium disappeared, while the last parts which will be on the 14th and 15th century the section of Byzantium will focus on the story of the Ottomans as well while the second section will focus on the rest of the world.

Now for all of you reading, please do also like and follow The History of Byzantium and listen to their podcasts as this article I’m doing is similar to it. Also like their Facebook page.

Also, in the time period of this article (13th century), this is where No Budget Films’ most recent Lego epic War of the Sicilian Vespers is set in, please watch it too!

The Byzantine Empire in 1025 with all its Themes


Constantinople, the “capital of the world”

Related Articles from The Byzantium Blogger:

War of the Sicilian Vespers: A Byzantine Epic

12 Turning Points in Byzantine History

The Complete Genealogy of the Byzantine emperors and dynasties

Foreign Lands and People According to the Byzantines Part1

Foreign Lands and People According to the Byzantines Part2

Constantinople: The Queen of Cities and its Byzantine Secrets

The Ravenna Mosaics and What to Expect

The Byzantine Emperors

Byzantine Science and Technology

The Art of War in the Byzantine World

A Guide to the Byzantine Empire’s Themes

15 Byzantine Related States Outside Byzantium Part1 (1-7)

15 Byzantine Related States Outside Byzantium Part2 (8-15)

Byzantine Imperial Personalities Part2

Byzantine Imperial Personalities Part3

Natural Disasters in Byzantine History

Ethnic Origins of the Byzantine emperors

The Sieges of Constantinople

The Story of 3 Plagues across centuries

Roman and Byzantine Imperial Systems Compared

Roman and Byzantine Imperial Cultures Compared

Imperial Women in the Roman and Byzantine Empires


Related Videos on World History and Byzantium:

Rulers of Europe Every Year (from Cottereau).

History of the World Every Year (from Ollie Bye).

History of the Byzantine Empire Part2 (from Fire of Learning).


The 11th Century


In the Byzantium:

In the Byzantine Empire as the 2nd millennium begins, Emperor Basil II concludes a truce with the Fatimid Caliphate in order to resume his war with the Bulgarian Empire north now ruled by Tsar Samuil which Basil II failed in the previous years loosing heavily to them in 986 although in 1009 in Byzantine Southern Italy, a Lombard lord revolts against the Byzantines but is defeated and killed in battle in 1010. In 1014, Basil II leading the Byzantine army himself with the help of his new Varangian Guard mercenaries win a large victory over the Bulgarian army at the Battle of Kleidion, here Basil II has the defeated Bulgarians blinded with 1 out of every 100 men left with one eye to lead them home, and in the same year Tsar Samuil dies seeing his men blinded. By 1018, the Bulgarian Empire was wiped off the map with the whole Balkans except for Croatia annexed to the Byzantine Empire although Basil II now called the “Bulgar-Slayer” keeps taxes for the Bulgarians low to integrate them. At this time as well, the Georgian Kingdom of Abkhazia at the northeast border of Byzantium dies as its unified with other kingdoms in the area forming the Kingdom of Georgia in 1008, then by 1020 Basil II had annexed the Armenian sub-kingdoms of this area into Byzantium not by force but by having their kings adopt him as their successor making him inherit their kingdoms after their deaths. Basil II too thought of launching a campaign to take back Sicily for Byzantium from the Arabs but dies in 1025 before he is able to do so, though at his death the Byzantine Empire is at its largest extent again spanning west to east from Italy to Armenia and north to south from the Crimea in Ukraine and the Danube River to the Levant. Basil II ruling for almost 50 years as the senior emperor spent most of his reign in the battlefield therefore having never been married and no children, he was then succeeded by his brother and long-time co-emperor Constantine VIII and at this point it all goes downhill for Byzantium, and with no sons Constantine VIII marries his daughter Zoe to the senator Romanos Argyros; Constantine VIII dies in 1028 succeeded by Romanos III Argyros who tries to ambitiously restore the Byzantium of Justinian I’s days in the 6th century but his reign begins military failure for Byzantium with a failed siege on Arab controlled Aleppo in 1030. In 1034, Romanos III’s wife Zoe plots with her lover Michael the Paphlagonian and assassinates Romanos III making Michael the new emperor. With Michael IV as emperor, the Byzantines have practically taken back Sicily from the Arabs in 1038 but their general George Maniakes faces a rebellion from his troops and he is recalled to Constantinople being charged for treason; also in 1040 the Serbs and Bulgarians in the Balkans rebel but their rebellion is crushed by Michael IV with the help of the Varangian Guards including the future King of Norway Harald Hardrada, Michael IV however dies of epilepsy in 1041 and is succeeded by his nephew Michael V. In the next year (1042) the people rebel and overthrow Michael V putting Michael IV’s widow Empress Zoe back in power for a few months until marrying the senator Constantine Monomachos who becomes Emperor Constantine IX. As emperor Constantine IX defeats the same rebel general George Maniakes in battle in 1043, defeats an invading Kievan Rus’ fleet in the Black Sea in the same year and marries off is daughter to the Kievan Rus prince Vsevolod I of Kiev and their son who later became Prince Vladimir II of Kiev had the title of “Monomakh” named after his grandfather Constantine IX; in 1045 Constantine IX annexes the Armenian Kingdom of Ani to Byzantium, and in 1047 crushes the rebellion of the general Leo Tornikios. The biggest event in Constantine IX reign though happens to be the Great Schism of 1054 wherein he saw the Byzantine Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church formally split and now permanently as the Pope in Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicate each other, he then dies the next year (1055) while his wife Zoe had died back in 1050; Constantine IX is succeeded by Zoe’s younger sister Theodora being the 2nd sole empress Byzantium had after Empress Irene (r. 797-802). Theodora dies the following year (1056) being the last of the Macedonian Dynasty founded by Basil I in 867 and without any children, she appoints her secretary Michael VI Bringas the next emperor but in 1057 the general Isaac Komnenos being disappointed with the new emperor rebels and overthrows Michael VI in a military takeover becoming Emperor Isaac I, the first emperor of the Komnenos Dynasty. As emperor Isaac I tries to restore the effectiveness of the Byzantine army to how it was under Basil II by raising taxes but after falling ill in 1059 abdicates passing the throne to his friend who becomes Emperor Constantine X Doukas. The reign of Constantine X would be one of the most disastrous for Byzantium as he disbands most of the army in the worst times to do so as Norman adventurers from France begin their conquests in Italy in 1061 and the newly converted Muslim Seljuk Turks led by their sultan Alp Arslan for the first time come out of their homeland in Central Asia invading Georgia for the first time in 1065 coming closer to Byzantine territory. Constantine X dies in 1067 without naming a successor so his wife Eudokia marries the general Romanos Diogenes who becomes Emperor Romanos IV in 1068, the same year Alp Arslan and the Seljuks attack Georgia for the second time, although the Seljuks’ intentions were to invade the Arab Abbasid and Fatimid Caliphates. In 1071, Romanos IV leads a large Byzantine army confronting Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan’s forces at Manzikert in Eastern Asia Minor and here the Byzantines lose a crushing defeat with Romanos IV captured by Alp Arslan but immediately released finding out he lost the throne to Constantine X and Eudokia’s son Michael VII Doukas leading to a civil war between them in which Romanos IV is defeated and executed in 1072. Also in 1071, the Byzantines face another great defeat as all their territory in Italy falls to the Norman adventurers. In Michael VII’s reign, the Seljuks freely invade Byzantine territory in Asia Minor freely destroying the Byzantine Themes or military provinces that had been there since the 7th century, and in 1073 go as far as capturing Ankara from the Byzantines, while in 1074 the Seljuks capture Jerusalem blocking off pilgrims. In 1078 the general Nikephoros Bryennios and Nikephoros Botaneiates rebel against Michael VII and force him to abdicate with Botaneiates becoming Emperor Nikephoros III, although before abdicating Michael VII sent an embassy to the Song Empire of China; Michael VII later becomes the bishop of Ephesus and dies in 1090. In 1081, the young general Alexios Komnenos, nephew of the former emperor Isaac I Komnenos leads a rebellion against Nikephoros III capturing Constantinople and becomes Emperor Alexios I Komnenos restoring the Komnenos Dynasty and sending Nikephoros III to a monastery while at the same year, the Normans from Italy invade Byzantine Albania leading to the Battle of Dyrrhachion (1081) where the Normans led by the Norman duke of Italy Robert Guiscard and Alexios I leading the Byzantine army with Varangian Guards this time being Anglo-Saxons from England defeated by the Normans in 1066 meet in battle, although here in 1081 the Normans beat the Byzantines and occupy Albania although Robert Guiscard has to return to Italy to deal with a rebellion while Alexios I allies himself with the Italian maritime Republic of Venice and in 1083 defeats the Normans in Greece driving them away from Byzantine territory, here Venice once again comes into the picture and becomes an ally to Byzantium. As the Norman problem is taken care of, Alexios I turns to the problem of the invading Pecheneg tribes in the Danube frontier by allying with the Cuman tribes; the Pecheneg hordes however go as far south as Thrace but at the Battle of Levounion in 1091, Alexios I leading the allied Byzantine and Cuman armies defeat the Pechenegs with a genocide but completely taking care of the Pecheneg threat. Alexios I then turns to taking back Asia Minor from the Seljuks but in 1095, Pope Urban II organizes the Council of Clermont in France beginning the First Crusade not to help Byzantium against the Seljuks but to take Jerusalem back and the first wave of Crusaders that arrive in Byzantium is a disorganized army of peasants in 1096. In 1097, the army of Crusaders knights from Western Europe Alexios I asked for arrives in Constantinople and besiege the Seljuk held city of Nicaea although as Byzantine forces come in, they take it back for the empire. As the Crusaders travel south, they besiege Antioch from the Seljuks in 1098 and capture it with the Norman prince Bohemond, the son of Robert Guiscard becoming its ruler. The remaining Crusaders head further south in 1099 succeed in taking back Jerusalem from the Seljuks wherein they kill its inhabitants, the Crusader general Godfrey of Bouillon becomes its ruler and the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem is established. Also in 1099, the Kingdom of Georgia which had been paying tribute to the Seljuks to stay alive stops paying it as they have gained strength while the Byzantines take back most of what was lost in Asia Minor, on the other hand the Byzantine illustration set in which many scenes of it are shown in this article known as the Madrid Skylitzes was made by John Skylitzes in Alexios I’s court in Constantinople.

b 1025
The Byzantine Empire in 1025 (red)
Map of the aftermath of the Schism of 1054, final division of the Roman Catholic and Byzantine Orthodox Churches

Watch this to learn more about Emperor Basil II (from Tooky History).

Watch this to learn more about the Great Schism of Christianity (from Kings and Generals).

Watch this to learn about the Byzantine defeat to the Seljuks at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 (from Kings and Generals).

Watch this to learn more about the Byzantine-Norman War of 1081 (from Kings and Generals).


In the Rest of the World: 

The 11th century was not only a big one for Byzantium seeing its height of military power and rapid decline but a very eventful one for the wider world as well and at the turn of the millennium in the rest of Europe, Bulgaria outside Byzantium is still a large empire until its ultimate defeat to Byzantium in 1018 while Croatia remains its own kingdom and so does Hungary which had evolved from the territory of the Magyar hordes as in 1000 St. Stephen I the Great of the Arpad Dynasty becomes the first King of Hungary. Poland which had already converted to Christianity in the previous century meanwhile evolves from a duchy to a kingdom in 1025 when Duke Boleslaw I the Brave becomes its first king, though dies that same year.

The Kievan Rus ruling Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus are at their height of power in the 11th century under Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise (r. 1019-1054) but after his death, the Kievan Rus Empire begins to fragment, then in 1093 the Kievan Rus lose against the Nomadic Kypchaks in Ukraine while the southern territories of the Kievan Rus in Russia and Ukraine are lost to the Cumans.

Germany as well as Austria, the Netherlands, and Northern Italy is under the Holy Roman Empire in 1000 ruled by Otto III who dies in 1002 and is succeeded by his cousin Henry II or Heinrich II who stabilizes the empire and its relations to the Catholic Church, he then dies in 1024 and later becomes St. Henry. After Henry II’s death without any children, the Holy Roman Empire changes hands to the Salian dynasty under Conrad II (r. 1024-1039), and his son and successor Henry III defeats the Kingdom of Hungary in battle in 1044 making Hungary a vassal of the Holy Roman Empire. Later in the 1090s, a number of dukes and counts of the states within the Holy Roman Empire join the Crusades and head to Byzantium, and to the Middle East.

France at 1000 is already the medieval Kingdom of France we know of ruled by the Capetian Dynasty and in 1003 King Robert II of France attempts to annex the Duchy of Burgundy (Kingdom of Arles) but fails, though in 1016 succeeds with the help of the Catholic Church, in the 1030s Southern France experiences a 3-year famine, and at the end of the century (1090s) many French nobles support the First Crusade and join it. Among the powers in Western Europe, it is the Normans who had settled in Northern France since 911 coming from Scandinavia that have a major moment in 11th century being adventurers and knights looking for land and wealth and in the 1035 the Norman adventurer William Hauteville known as “Iron Arm” from France looking for more land comes into Italy beginning to conquer land in the south from the Lombards and Byzantines and in 1053 defeat the Lombard and Papal armies at the Battle of Civitate ending the last Lombard Duchy of Benevento in Southern Italy and making the Normans begin their major conquests of Italy making the pope acknowledge the Normans’ holding of Southern Italy and making Robert Guiscard its duke; in 1063 the Normans proceeded to conquer Arab held Sicily and all of Byzantine Italy in 1071 and in 1081, Robert Guiscard confronts the Byzantine forces of Alexios I when invading Albania but dies in 1085 as the Normans are defeated by Byzantium and Venice, at this point the Republic of Venice too starts expanding in the Adriatic Sea while their main cathedral St. Marks is rebuilt in 1063 based on Byzantine style and back in 1005 Genoa in Northwest Italy becomes its own self-governing commune declaring independence from the Holy Roman Empire becoming the Republic of Genoa and in 1087 Genoa with the other Italian Republic of Pisa and the Papacy join forces in the Mahdia Campaign against an Islamic state in North Africa.

Also in 11th century Italy, the astrolabe is introduced to Europe by Pope Sylvester II before his death in 1003, the University of Bologna in the city of Bologna in the Papal States is established in 1088 being Europe’s oldest university though the biggest events for the Catholic Church in the 11th century was the final split with the Byzantine Church in 1054- same year in which a large supernova is observed by astronomers- and in 1075 the Investiture Controversy sparked by Pope Gregory VII resulting in civil war within the Holy Roman Empire.

Most of Spain at the beginning of the 11th century is still under the last remnant of the Umayyad Caliphate or Caliphate of Cordoba except for the north which starts growing as the Christian Kingdom of Leon stating the Reconquista to take back the rest of Spain from the Muslims. In 1035, the northeast of Spain forms the Kingdom of Aragon and in 1037, Ferdinand I becomes King of Leon and conquers its neighboring small Kingdom of Galicia in Northwest Spain and since he had also inherited the County of Castile, in 1056 he is the first and only Spanish king to be crowned “Emperor of Spain” as he rules both Castile and Leon, this event now marks the beginning of Castile and Leon as a united kingdom that would campaign against the caliphate in the south. However, in 1065 Castile and Leon was split between Ferdinand I’s sons upon his death  and Galicia which includes what is Northern Portugal separates from Leon making their own state that would later evolve into the Kingdom of Portugal but as for Leon they start growing powerful defeating the Caliphate several times in battle including in 1085 when their king Alfonso VI captures Toledo from the Caliphate; at this point the south of Spain shifts hands from the Caliphate of Cordoba or Al-Andalus to the new power of the Islamic Almoravid Dynasty that had begun in Morocco in 1040 and in 1086 Al-Andalus integrates into it in order to protect itself from the growing powers of Castile and Leon in which the Almoravids defeat in a battle in 1086. In that time one warrior that won many victories for the Christian Spanish was the general Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar known to the Moors (Muslims) as “El Cid” or “El Cid Campeador”- who had also fought for the Moors against the Christian Spanish at times- but he captured Valencia from the Moors in 1094, he then died in 1099, also back in 1075 the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (northwest Spain) begins construction.

Meanwhile England by 1000 is united and the Vikings pushed away however Ireland is unstable with civil wars ongoing while in the Kingdom of Scotland founded 2 centuries earlier, the king Duncan I is slain in battle in 1040 and is succeeded by the nobleman Macbeth who reigns a peaceful reign until the English invade in 1054 and in 1057 Macbeth is slain in battle by the forces of the English and Duncan I’s son who becomes King Malcolm III in 1058. England however returns to Viking rule in 1016 when the Christian Danish prince Cnut, son of the King of Denmark Sweyn Forkbeard (r. 986-1014) wins the English throne and as he succeeds his brother Harald II as King of Denmark in 1018, Cnut becomes king of both England and Denmark and in 1028 takes the throne of Norway forming a short-lived North Sea Empire and would be known as Cnut the Great but with his death in 1035 his empire is split as his son Harthacnut rules Denmark and Harold I rules England while Norway returns to its rightful ruler Magnus the Good of the previous dynasty. In Norway, the king Olav I Tryggvason (r. 995-1000) had started Norway’s conversion from the old Viking Pagan religion to Christianity but dies in battle against the Danish and Swedish Vikings at the Battle of Svolder in 1000; Denmark and Sweden too by 1000 had been starting to convert to Christianity which was a chaotic process and in 1030 this led to the king of Norway Olav II to be killed in battle by his Pagan vassals making him become St. Olaf. In 1042, the king of Norway Magnus, the son of St. Olaf becomes King of Denmark following the death of Harthacnut and the Saxons’ rule England again as Edward the Confessor becomes king also in 1042 and rules until his death in 1066 succeeded by his brother-in-law Harold II Godwinson who defeats a rival claimant to England, the King of Norway and former Varangian Guard under Byzantine emperor Michael IV, Harald III Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on September of that year, this event would mark the end of the Viking Age. Although after Harold II was successful in defeating his brother Tostig and Harald III of Norway in October of 1066, the Norman duke of Normandy in France William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings where Harold II is killed making this a major turning point in English history as the Anglo-Saxon rule ends and the Normans come in starting the medieval Kingdom of England; Duke William is then crowned King William I of England following the battle and the surviving Anglo-Saxon army flees England finding themselves in Byzantium to serve in the Varangian Guard under Emperor Alexios I. As the first Norman king of England, William I sees the Canterbury Cathedral completed in 1077, the Tower of London complete in 1078, and compiles the Domesday Book in 1086 which a census documenting every property to England so that they could be taxed and in 1087 William I dies succeeded by his son William II who faces a revolt in 1088 and defeats the same Scottish king who took over from Macbeth Malcolm III in battle in 1093 while William I’s other son Robert II remains Duke of Normandy and takes part in the First Crusade as an important commander.

Down in Egypt, the power of the Fatimid Caliphate grows stronger and in 1008 relations between the Fatimids and Song China is solidified as the Egyptian captain Domiyat travels to Shandong in China to give gifts to the emperor and between 1011 and 1021, the Iraqi scientist Ibn al-Haytham who was living in Fatimid Egypt wrote his influential Book of Optics while under house arrest and at the same time as he wrote that, his contemporary the Persian scholar Avicenna or Ibn Sina living in Iran wrote the Book of Healing (1014-1020) and the Canon of Medicine afterwards. In 1021 in Fatimid Egypt, the caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah disappears suddenly making the Islamic sect of the Druze people believe he will return as their savior then in 1045, the Berbers of Morocco and Algeria break away from the Fatimids creating their own Zirid dynasty acknowledging the Abbasids in Baghdad as the true Caliphate, in 1057 the Banu Hilal tribes of the Sahara invade and destroy the city of Kairouan in Tunisia under the Zirids reducing them to small Bedouin emirates, and in 1094 the death of the Fatimid Caliph Ma’ad al-Mustansir Billah sparks a rebellion leading to the split and creation of the Nizari religious branch of Islam, in which the Fidai or Assassin’s Order of Masyaf and Alamut was part of.

In Iraq the Buyid Dynasty rules the southern part but in 1055 as the Seljuk Empire from Central Asia that had recently converted to Islam begins to expand, they capture the Buyid emir Al-Malik al-Rahim and capture Baghdad too in that year, in 1062 the Buyid Dynasty’s territory falls to the Seljuks who later take over Iran and in 1079, the Seljuk sultan Malik Shah I, the son of Sultan Alp Arslan reforms the Iranian calendar. Though the Seljuk Empire conquers a vast amount of territory, it destabilizes very quickly and breaks a part with the Seljuks that had taken over Byzantine Asia Minor after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 creating the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in Asia Minor with Nicaea as their capital until the Byzantines take it back in 1097 moving the Seljuk capital to Konya while also in 1077 the Seljuk territories of Iran and Central Asia form into the Khwarazmian Empire and back in Asia Minor another group of Seljuks form smaller Turkish states or Beyliks including the Danishmends in Northern Asia Minor while also within Asia Minor, the Armenians after losing their homeland to the Seljuks establish their kingdom in the southern coast of Asia Minor known as Cilicia in 1080 which would be known as the Kingdom of Cilician Armenia.

In Africa, the Kingdom of Nri in what is now Nigeria was said to have started in 1043 while the Ghana Empire of West Africa is invaded by the Almoravids of North Africa in 1076 with their capital Koumbi Saleh sacked; also within the century the Kanem-Bornu Empire of Chad that had been existing since 700 expands southwards to Nigeria while in Nigeria itself the first of the 7 Hausa city-states is founded though year not mentioned.

To the east in India, Muslims from the state of Ghazni in Afghanistan begin raiding into Northern India in 1001 while in Southern India, the Chola Empire of Tamil Nadu continues expanding making expeditions down to Indonesia defeating the Srivijaya maritime empire in 1025 making it a vassal, the Cholas then conquer parts of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula including Thailand. In Western India, the Western Chalukya Empire that had been around since 973 faces a civil war from 1075 to 1076 between its king Someshvara II and his bother Vikramaditya though Someshvara II who allied with their enemy the Chola Empire of the south is defeated and imprisoned by his brother who becomes King Vikramaditya VI who in 1093 defeats the Chola army.

Meanwhile in the area of Indonesia, King Dharmawangsa’s kingdom of Medang in Java falls under the invasion of the Srivijaya ally of the Java Kingdom of Lwaram though in 1019 the prince Airlangga of Bali, nephew of King Dharmawangsa of Medang establishes the Kingdom of Kahuripan in Java being its only king as in 1041 he abdicates and divides his kingdom into the smaller states of Janggala and Kediri. Since the maritime Srivijaya kingdom in Sumatra had become a vassal of the Indian Chola Empire, their king appeals to the Chinese Song Empire for help to liberate them from the Cholas in 1028, then in 1030 the Kingdom of Sunda in Java and its sacred forest is first mentioned.

Over in Vietnam, the Le Dynasty is overthrown in 1009 by Ly Thai To beginning the Ly Dynasty also known as the Kingdom of Dai Viet which fights a border war with Song China from 1075-1077 resulting with the Song Chinese to ally with the Vietnamese Champa kingdom in the south and the Cambodian Chenla kingdom to attack the Ly capital of Hanoi but in a peace treaty in 1082 territories between the Ly and Song China are exchanged while in Myanmar, the king of the Bagan kingdom Anawrahta coquers the city of Thaton in 1057 uniting the country into one empire, also he makes a pilgrimage to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) which makes him convert his empire to Theravada Buddhism.

In Song Dynasty China, the Baitoushan volcano at the border erupts in 1001, in 1005 the Treaty of Shanyuan is signed between the Song and the Khitan Liao Dynasty giving the north to the Khitan Liao, between 1041 and 1048 the Chinese artisan Bi Sheng invents the ceramic moveable style printing machine, then between 1069 and 1076, the court chancellor Wang Anshi with the support of the emperor Shenzong introduces new policies on economic reform for the empire which includes government monopoly on tea, salt, wine, and Sulphur so that merchants won’t sell it to their enemies, and in 1075 the rightful border lines are set between he Song Empire and the Liao Dynasty at the north. Between 1080 and 1081, the Song Empire goes to war with the neighboring state of Xia at the west putting the scientist Shen Kuo in charge of the army which halts the Xia invasion but the campaign becomes a failure because an officer disobeys imperial orders although in 1088 Shen Kuo made the world’s first reference to a magnetic compass in his book Dream Pool Essays while in the south the seaport of Quanzhou in Fujian, China opens in 1087 wherein goods from Africa, Arabia, India, Sri Lanka, Persia, and Southeast Asia come in to China. At the end of the century in China, war is resumed with the enemy, the Tibetan Tangut led Western Xia state in 1093 and the astronomical clock tower of Kaifeng is completed in 1094. Meanwhile in the north in China’s border with the Goryeo Kingdom of Korea, war breaks out between Goryeo and the Northern Chinese Khitan Liao Dynasty in 1010 in which the Goryeo king has to abandon the capital of Kaesong until beating the Liao forces in 1011, then in 1018 the war resumes but this time Goryeo pushes the Liao forces out of Korea afterwards signing a peace treaty.

Japan in the 11th century is still in the Heian period with Kyoto as its capital and between 1001 and 1008 the female writer Murasaki Shikibu writes the Tale of Genji although the emperors of Japan in this century came to be dominated by the Fujiwara that had dominated central politics.

Meanwhile in the Americas, the Mayan civilization is in decline but the Toltec and Mixtec civilizations of Central America begin to flourish and so does the Mississippian culture of North America while the Tiwanaku Empire in South America found around Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia collapses in the middle of the 11th century but perhaps the biggest turning point in the history of the Americas happened early on in the 11th century when the Vikings from Greenland led by Leif Erikson, son of the Norwegian Erik the Red who happened to be a Christian sails west across the Atlantic from Greenland in 1000 and in 1001 tries to establish a settlement in Vinland which is today’s Newfoundland in Canada but eventually fail although they would be the first Europeans to discover the Americas.

Map of Europe in 1054
Map of the Great Seljuk Empire, after 1071

Watch this to learn more about the story of Leif Erikson’s discovery of America in 1000 (from Voices of the Past).

Watch this to learn more about the 11th century Norman conquests of Italy (from Kings and Generals).

Watch this to learn more about the Norman conquest of Sicily in 1063 (from Kings and Generals).

Watch this to get to know about the world in 1066 (from Kings and Generals). 


The 12th Century


In Byzantium (and the Crusader States of Outremer):

The 12th century would be better known in Europe as the “High Middle Ages” and “Age of the Cistercians” and this was when the kingdoms of Europe had be emerging and the Crusades in the Levant at its height, and as the century began the Crusades have already successfully taken back most of the Levant which they called Outremer including Antioch and Jerusalem from Muslim rule while Byzantium regains strength under Emperor Alexios I Komnenos. In 1100 the Crusader conqueror of Jerusalem Godfrey of Bouillon dies and his brother Baldwin of Bouillon becomes King Baldwin I of Jerusalem, the first king of Crusader Jerusalem which would be the stongest of the new Crusader kingdoms expanding all the way down to the Red Sea while the Crusader prince of Antioch the Norman Bohemond plans on attacking Alexios I’s Byzantium, however Alexios I makes Bohemond submit to Byzantium as a vassal in the Treaty of Devol in 1108, then in 1109 the Crusader Count Bertrand of Toulouse captures Tripoli in Lebanon from the Fatimid Caliphate establishing the County of Tripoli. Ruling Byzantium, Alexios I continues fighting the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in Asia Minor and in 1116 he defeats the Turks at the Battle of Philomelion before his death comes in 1118, though before he dies his wife Irene plots to make their daughter Anna Komnene succeeded him but instead Alexios I makes his son John become emperor who exiles his older sister Anna to a monastery where she would write the biography of her father known as the Alexiad. In 1119 while John II rules Byzantium, the Knights Templar Order is established to protect pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem and in 1122 John II defeats the Pechenegs at the Battle of Beroia in Bulgaria wiping out the Pechenegs completely from the map, he would then spend the most of his reign at war against the Seljuks, Crusaders, and the Kingdom of Hungary all while starting hostilities between Byzantium and the Republic of Venice, though back in Constantinople one of his achievements was the construction of the Pantokrator Monastery. In Asia Minor, John II pushed east reconquering Byzantine territory lost to the Turks then in 1137 he captured Tarsus, Adana, and Mopsusestia in Cilicia from the Armenian Kingdom in order to make his way to conquer Antioch from the Crusaders but in 1143 before launching an invasion on Antioch, John II the Good died in Cilicia during a hunt by stabbing himself with a poisoned arrow and was succeeded by his youngest son Manuel I inheriting an empire from Serbia up north down to the Levant, though he cancelled the Antioch campaign to secure his position but with the help of his father’s general and closest advisor John Axouch, Manuel was quickly made emperor. One of the earliest events Manuel I faces as emperor is the loss of the Crusaders’ County of Edessa that had been established in 1098 to the Seljuk Empire’s successor Turkic Zengid Dynasty in 1144, this leads to Western Europe launching the 2nd Crusade in 1145 which ends up a failure in 1148 wherein Manuel I is blamed by the west for it by having the Turks attack the Crusaders; the Second Crusade however was not only fought in Outremer as 2 other crusades happened at the same time in Europe, one in Poland and one in Spain. In 1153, Holy Roman emperor Frederick I Barbarossa and Pope Eugene III signed an alliance to prevent Manuel I from invading Italy although being an energetic ruler Manuel I attempted to invade Norman Sicily and in 1159 he put Norman Antioch under Byzantine protection by making Antioch’s prince Reynald de Chatillon submit to him making Byzantium the major power in the Crusader States of Outremer and in 1161 the Seljuk sultan of Rum Kilij Arslan II makes peace with Byzantium recognizing Manuel I as his superior. In 1169, Manuel I allying himself with the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem launches an invasion of Fatimid Egypt but does not succeed due to lack of cooperation between the Byzantines and Crusaders at the Siege of the port of Damietta then in 1171 Byzantium cuts ties with their ally Venice leading to a short war between them. At this point time back in Constantinople, Manuel I began to host joust tournaments as a practice borrowed from the Latin Crusaders of the west but at this time as well (1166) the state of Raska in Serbia becomes its own principality within Byzantium with Stefan Nemanja as its first Grand Prince and in 1176 after the peace with the Seljuk sultan Kilij Arslan II is broken, Manuel I’s Byzantine army loses to the Seljuks at the Battle of Myriokephalon ending Byzantium’s reconquests of Asia Minor from the Seljuks, Manuel I dies in 1180 with the Byzantine Empire for the last time at its largest and is succeeded by his young son Alexios II. In 1182, the Byzantines of Constantinople revolt and massacre the Latins particularly Italian inhabitants of the city and make Manuel I’s cousin Andronikos I Komnenos co-emperor also making the Republic of Venice angry, then in 1183 Andronikos I executes Alexios II by strangling becoming the sole emperor while in 1185 the Normans of Sicily invade Byzantium and sack Thessaloniki coming close to invading Constantinople. At the same time the Normans have invaded the Byzantine Empire, Andronikos I is deposed and beaten to death by the same people that put him in power in 1182 making Andronikos I’s second cousin Isaac II Angelos their new emperor who takes care of the Norman problem driving the Normans away but at the same time, the Bulgarians rebel and with Isaac II unable to solve the conflict, the Bulgarians led by the Asen brothers Theodore, Ivan, and Kaloyan in the same year declare independence from Byzantium establishing the 2nd Bulgarian Empire also known as the Vlach-Bulgarian Empire making Theodore Asen renamed Peter its ruler, and once again Bulgaria is its own empire after almost 200 years under Byzantium since it was conquered by Basil II in 1018. While Isaac II rules Byzantium, the Crusader army of the Kingdom of Jerusalem is defeated by the sultan of the new Ayyubid Dynasty Saladin at the Battle of Hattin in 1187 afterwards Jerusalem itself falls to Saladin leading to Western Europe to launch the 3rd Crusade in 1189 to take back Jerusalem and this time 3 kings of Europe head to the Levant which include King Richard I of England, Philippe II of France, and Holy Roman emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. However when heading for Jerusalem, Emperor Frederick I who was at odds with Isaac II drowns in a river in Asia Minor part of Byzantine territory which puts the blame on Byzantium as Isaac II even allied himself with Saladin while Richard I captures Byzantine Cyprus in 1191 before he defeats Saladin in the Battle of Arsuf in 1191 and at the Battle of Jaffa in 1192 taking back the coast of today’s Israel for the Crusaders but fails to take back Jerusalem while Cyprus in 1192 is passed to the rule of Guy de Lusignan the former Crusader king of Jerusalem. Back in Byzantium in 1195, while Isaac II was out hunting during a military campaign against the Bulgarians, his older brother Alexios suddenly usurps the title of emperor, blinds and imprisons Isaac II and becomes Emperor Alexios III Angelos who faces a near invasion of Byzantium by Holy Roman emperor Henry VI the son of Frederick I in 1197 which fails as Henry VI dies that same year while in 1198 the Crusader Knights Hospitaller in charge of the hospital in the Crusader port city of Acre in Outremer from the German order of knights or the Teutonic Knights. At the end of the 12th century, Byzantium at least remains intact but Bulgaria had already separated from it but still a small kingdom though ready to expand if ever Byzantium would collapse and in only a few years it would.

Map of the 2nd Crusade, 1147-1149

Watch this to learn more about Anna Komnene and Alexios I of Byzantium (from Overly Sarcastic Productions).

Watch this to learn the full story of the 3rd Crusade from 1189-1192 (from Kings and Generals).

Watch this to learn more about 12th century Byzantium and the road to the 4th Crusade (from Eastern Roman History).


In the Rest of the World: 

Outside Byzantium, the Kingdom of Georgia under King David IV the Builder (r. 1089-1125) grows defeating the Seljuk army in 1104, liberates the rest of Georgia from the Muslims in 1115, and in 1121 wins the greatest battle in Georgian history with only a few Georgians and French Crusaders against 400,000 Seljuks then makes Tbilisi Georgia’s capital in 1122.

Croatia is then united into the Hungarian Crown by the Hungarian king Coloman 1102 making the Croatian king a vassal. For the Kingdom of Poland, in 1109 they defeat the Pomeranian tribes in battle and establish access to the Black Sea at the same time defeating the armies of the German Holy Roman Empire stopping them from expanding eastwards, then in 1147 the Holy Roman Empire launched the Wendish Crusade against the Pagan Pomeranian Slavs or Wends in Northern Germany and Poland as part of the 2nd Crusade- as the German nobility of the Holy Roman Empire wanted to annex the northern tribes along the Baltic Sea and convert them to Catholicism- which succeeds and those Slavs converted. The 12th century in Europe saw the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire in conflict with each other at some points and this includes the long-time political conflict in Italy between the faction of the Guelphs supporting the pope and the Ghibellines supporting the Holy Roman emperor which starts in 1125 when the Duke of Saxony Lothair III is elected Holy Roman emperor and between 1130 and 1138 a Papal Schism broke out between Pope Innocent II and Antipope Anacletus II resulting from a double election following the death of Pope Honorius II in 1130, the antipope on the other hand is the one to crown the Norman king of Sicily in 1130 and the schism only solved with the Second Lateran Council 1139 and even if crowned by the antipope, Roger II of Sicily is still acknowledged king by the real pope Innocent II; later on in 1173 a big moment happens for the Catholic Church when the Christian definition of Purgatory is defined. In 1155, Frederick I Barbarossa of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty becomes Holy Roman emperor with the intention to rule over all of Italy including the Papacy but in 1176 he is defeated at the Battle of Legano by the Italian Lombard League supported by the pope making Frederick I acknowledge the pope’s rule over the Papal states and in 1183 the Peace of Constance is signed in which makes the Papacy, Frederick I, and the Lombard cities of Northern Italy allies, yet it so happens that Frederick I was still Holy Roman emperor when the 3rd Crusade was launched in 1189 which he joined but died drowning in Byzantine territory, his son and successor Henry VI in 1194 conquers the Norman kingdom of Sicily making Sicily part of the Holy Roman Empire due to his claim to Sicily being married to its former Norman king Roger II’s daughter Constance.

Among the republics in Italy, Venice becomes the most influential in the 12th century and because of the Crusades need for ships to be transported from Europe to Outremer, Venice becomes rich; in 1104 the Venice Arsenal was founded employing 16,000 people for the mass production of ships in large assembly lines long before the Industrial Revolution.

In 12th century France under the Capetian Dynasty, the first Piedfort coins are minted, in 1121 the German bishop St. Norbert and 29 companions make their solemn vows in Premontre, France establishing the Premonstratensian religious order, then in 1136 the Abbey of St. Denis which houses the tombs of the French kings outside Paris is rebuilt making it the first major building using Gothic architecture, and in 1137 Louis VII of the Capetian House marries the duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine and becomes King of France in which in his reign France becomes a European superpower next to the Holy Roman Empire at the time of the Crusades and at his death in 1180 he is succeeded by his son Philippe II Auguste who leads the French armies in the 3rd Crusade.

Meanwhile the kingdom in Europe that has a major moment in the 12th century is England now under the Normans; in 1100 the king William II son of the Norman conqueror William I is killed hunting in the New Forest and is succeeded by his younger brother Henry I who gets into conflict with his older brother the Duke of Normandy in France Robert II who had taken part in the 1st Crusade but Henry I’s forces win at the Battle of Tinchebray in Normandy and Robert II is imprisoned in Cardiff Castle while Normandy is fully absorbed into England; however in 1120 Henry I’s only legitimate son William dies in the White Ship disaster in the English Channel beginning a succession crisis after Henry I’s death in 1135 and this succession crisis would be known as “The Anarchy” which was a civil war from 1135 to 1154 between Henry I’s daughter known as Empress Maude and his nephew Stephen of Blois who takes the throne as King of England till he dies in 1154 which results in Stephen losing and having to proclaim Maude’s son Henry Plantagenet as his successor and with Stephen’s death in 1154, Henry II is crowned King of England beginning the Plantagenet Dynasty wherein England rules the Angevin Empire having not only England but Henry II’s lands in Western France as well. In Henry II’s reign, the Normans of France invade Ireland in 1169 to help the exiled Irish chief Dermot MacMurrough recover his Kingdom of Leinster which is successful although in 1175 Henry II of England and the Irish high king Roderic O’Connor sign the Treaty of Windsor that sets the new layout of Ireland in which also Henry II uses to claim lordship over Ireland and back in 1174 he defeated and captured the Scottish king William I making him acknowledge Henry II’s feudal overlordship over Scotland. In 1189, Henry II dies now most of Ireland and half of France under his Angevin Empire and is succeeded by his son Richard I the Lionheart who immediately began his reign setting off for the 3rd Crusade and after taking back the coast of the Levant from Saladin in 1192 he heads back to Europe where he escapes a conflict with Byzantine emperor Isaac II but is captured in Austria by orders of the Holy Roman emperor Henry VI though is released in 1194 with the payment of a large ransom but in 1199 he is killed in battle in France when fighting a war against his former ally, Philippe II of France; Richard I is then succeeded by his brother John; also it was in the 12th century when the Middle English language in England was developed and that people in Europe outside the Church had started become more literate.

Meanwhile Spain in the 12th century too was the story of the century as the Christians kingdoms of Castile, Leon, and Aragon in the north fought their own Crusade known as the Reconquista against the Muslim Almoravids in the south and before the century began the Christian general El Cid who had captured Valencia from the Moors in 1094 dies in 1099 leaving his wife Doña Jimena Diaz in charge of Valencia until the Almoravid Moors take in back in 1102 although if Castile, Leon, and Aragon was not fighting the Moors, a county under them known as Portugal first found in northwest Spain rebelled against them and won at a battle in 1128 gaining their independence, and in 1139 the independent Portugal led by their count Afonso Henriques defeated the Almoravids led by the governor of Cordoba at the Battle of Ourique in today’s Southern Portugal and here Afonso I Henriques is made the first king of Portugal by his soldiers, then only in 1143 do the other kingdoms of Spain recognize Portugal as a kingdom. In 1147 as part of the 2nd Crusade, King Afonso I of Portugal with his army aided by English Crusader knights capture the port city of Lisbon from the Almoravids making it the capital of Portugal while the kingdoms of Castile and Leon still fight between each other until it is settled with the Treaty of Sahagun in 1158 which in 1170 the Kingdom of Aragon joins the treaty as well and in 1179 Castile and Aragon make an agreement to divide Andalusia (Southern Spain) when taking it back from the Moors whereas Portugal in 1180 defeats a Moorish fleet continuing their reconquests from the Moors, their king Afonso I dies in 1185 succeeded by his son Sancho I. The south of Spain known as Andalusia for most of the 12th century was still under the Almoravid Dynasty which also ruled North Africa including Morocco and Algeria until a new Berber dynasty rises in Morocco in 1121 known as the Almohads which in 1147 takes Marrakesh making it their capital building the Kasbah, city gate, and Koutoubia Mosque then in 1172 had already conquered all of Almoravid territory in Southern Spain.

Over in Scandinavia Denmark, Sweden, and Norway from Vikings have already turned to Christian kingdoms before the Baltic states of Europe had converted and in Norway their king Sigurd I becomes the first king of Norway to join the Crusades in 1107 even passing by the court of Alexios I in Constantinople before returning to Norway in 1111 and his death in 1130 brings Norway into civil war which would alter lead to the Law of Succession of Norway to be enacted in 1163 which ruled that succession in Norway is only done by primogeniture while in the Kingdom of Denmark its king Valdemar I conquers the Pagan stronghold island of Rugen in 1168; and in Sweden on the other hand the first university in Northern Europe is established in Lund in 1185 but their royal and commercial capital of Sigtuna is attacked by raiders from Karelia in Russia or Curonia in the Baltics in 1187, though also the blast furnace for smelting cast iron imported from China first appeared in Sweden by 1150, then in Iceland within the 12th century the first outbreak of influenza occurs and so does the first fire and plague insurance become available while at the same time the first merchant guilds are introduced in Europe.

Christian missionaries from Europe too start coveting the last Pagans in Karelia, Estonia, and Finland while in Russia the grand principality or the empire of the Kievan Rus’ breaks apart into smaller principalities including the Principlaity of Kiev formed in 1132 formed the ruins of the Kievan Rus’ Empire, the Novgorod Republic in the north formed in 1136 which rebelled against Kiev, and the Grand Duchy of Vladimir in 1157 in which Moscow was part of while the south of Russia would be under the Cuman Khanate; also in 1185, windmills were first recorded.

Back in the Middle East, the Fatimid Caliphate that had been around since 909 ends when the general Saladin deposes the last Fatimid caliph Al-Adid in 1171 making Saladin establish his own Ayyubid dynasty with him as its sultan ruling Egypt, the Levant, and Syria and it is he who captures Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187 but when losing the coast of Outremer including Acre to Richard I of England, Saladin keeps Jerusalem but has to allow the pilgrim transit, he then died in 1193. The Abbasid Caliphate on the other hand was in fact actually still alive in the 12th century except holding very little territory in Iraq as the Great Seljuk Empire had taken over its surroundings in the previous centuries although the remains of the Great Seljuk Turkic Empire which was ruling Iran and Iraq declined in 1140s and in 1194 it had completely fallen to and was replaced by the Turkic Khwarazmian Empire.

Sub-Saharan Africa in 12th century hadn’t really undergone much changes from the previous century except there had been more discoveries on faraway places in Africa like the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar which the Chinese customs officer Zhou Qufei documents in 1178 saying that Arab merchants purchase slaves there.

In India, the Western Chalukya Empire that had been around since 973 had ended in 1189 dissolving into 3 smaller kingdoms including the Hoysala Kingdom which develops their architecture at this time, the Chola Empire in Tamil Nadu begins to decline, and the Muslim Ghurid Sultanate, which was previously Buddhist a century earlier expands in the north expanding into Northern India after defeating the kingdom of Prithviraj Chauhan in 1192. Just nearby in what is now Cambodia the Khmer Empire expands and in 1113 King Suryavarman II is crowned, it is he who expands the empire and has the large temple complex of Angkor Wat constructed during his reign (1113-1145), he too establishes relations with Song China.

Down in Java, the Kingdoms of Kediri and Janggala have united in 1115 with Janggala falling under Kediri domination which also controlled neighboring islands like Bali while the Sumatra naval empire of Srivijaya continues to exist in the 12th century with the Malay Peninsula and parts of Thailand under its control.

Most of China in the 12th century is still under the Song Empire except for the north which is under the control of the Liao Dynasty which dissolves in 1125 as the rebel dynasty of the Jin or Jurchen which had emerged in 1115 takes over the Liao Dynasty and when having taken over the Liao Dynasty in 1125, the Jurchens force the Kingdom of Goryeo (Korea) to acknowledge them as their overlords and declare war on the Song Empire which leads in the Northern Song to lose power to the Jurchens in 1127 though in 1141 the Song and Jurchens sign a peace treaty forcing the Song to renounce all their territories north of the Huai River giving it to the Jurchens. As for the Southern Song Empire due to facing conflict with the Jurchens in the north, they establish China’s first permanent standing navy in 1132 making the port of Dinghai as the main admiral’s main office though back in 1107 the Chinese engineer of the Song Empire Wu Deren combines a mechanical compass with the distance measuring odometer device and in 1111 the Donglin Academy of Wuxi is founded, then in 1165 the Liuhe Pagoda of Hangzhou is built. For the Song Chinese navy, by 1183 a total of 52,000 marine soldiers have been recruited stationed in 20 different squadrons with hundreds of treadmill paddle wheel crafts assembled for the navy and with a navy this powerful back in 1161 it was able to defeat a massive Jurchen navy at the Battles of Tangdao off the coast of China and Caishi on the Yangtze River by launching gunpowder bombs from trebuchets attached to the Song ships.

Now in Japan, for most of the century the Heian Period continues with Kyoto still as the capital and at this time in 1175 Honen Shonin also known as Genku founds the Jodo Shu sect of Buddhism but between 1180 and 1185 the clans of Taira and Minamoto clash in a civil war known as the Genpei War in which the Minamoto clan win and claim their authority over all of Japan making the emperor a puppet thus establishing the Kamakura Shogunate, the first Shogunate of Japan where the military or Samurai have control of the country whereas the emperor is puppet and here in 1185 the Heian Period ends while in 1192 the general Minamoto Yoritomo become the first shogun or military dictator of Japan. Northeast Asia at this time where Mongolia is located was still inhabited by a series of tribes but in 1162 the future leader Temujin who would later unite the tribes becoming Genghis Khan was born somewhere in Mongolia while Central Asia itself was already organized into the Uyghur and Khitai Khaganates.

In Oceania the Tu’i Tonga Empire continues to expand across the Pacific Islands and as for the Americas there is not much recorded for this century except that the area of which is now Southwest USA experiences a 50-year drought (1130-1180) while the Mayan Civilization of Central America was on its decline still.

Map of Europe in 1100

Watch this to learn more about the 12th century Anarchy of England (from Jabzy).

Watch this to learn more about the 2nd Crusade (from Jabzy).


The 13th Century


In Byzantium (Latin Empire, Nicaea, Trebizond, Seljuk Sultanate, and the Balkans):

If there would be one century that was very crucial in world history, it was the 13th century and yet it was at the same very crucial for the existence of Byzantium as this was the beginning of their end while this century also saw the Balkans rise through Bulgaria and Serbia as well as Venice but also saw the decline of Asia Minor’s Seljuk Empire as in 1202 the forces of the Kingdom of Georgia’s ruler Queen Tamar the Great defeats the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum at the Battle of Basian. Byzantium in 1200 was ruled by Alexios III Angelos who had overthrown his younger brother Isaac II in 1195 keeping him a prisoner but in 1201, Isaac II’s son Alexios was smuggled out of prison finding himself in Venice in 1202 wherein he asks the Doge of Venice Enrico Dandolo to assist him in taking power back for him and his blinded father which leads to the 4th Crusade being launched. Previously in the 1190s the 3rd Crusade failed in taking back Jerusalem which fell to Saladin’s Ayyubid Sultanate in 1187 making Pope Innocent III in Rome to call for another Crusade against the Ayubbids in control of Egypt and Syria but because of the Byzantine prince Alexios Angelos intervening, the 95-year-old Enrico Dandolo changed the Crusade’s objective to attacking Constantinople out of revenge for the Venetians being chased out of the Byzantine Empire by Emperor Manuel I in the 1170s wherein Dandolo was blinded. In 1202, several counts of Europe including Louis I of Blois and Baldwin IX of Flanders with his brother Henry come to Venice ready for a Crusade but Dandolo only agrees to provide them ships if they attack the port of Zara in Croatia belonging to the Kingdom of Hungary in which the Crusaders do and capture it for Venice, the following year the Venetian fleet carrying Crusader French, Venetian, and German armies set off to Constantinople with the young prince Alexios Angelos with them. Also within 1203, the Venetian fleet arrives outside Constantinople besieging it causing the emperor Alexios III to flee with the treasury and without an emperor, the Crusaders install the young Byzantine prince with them as Emperor Alexios IV while his father Isaac II is released from prison and made co-emperor with his son. Alexios IV however is only emperor because he promised to pay off the Crusaders 200,000 silver marks and army for their Crusade against Egypt as well as for the Byzantine Church to submit to the pope so as Alexios IV rules from Constantinople, the Crusader army was camped outside for months waiting for their pay and without reaching that amount, Alexios IV orders religious icons melted down to mint coins which makes the people of the city rebel. One of Alexios IV’s court advisors named Mourtzouphlos convinces Alexios IV to give up on the large sum but as the people were heading to the palace to depose the co-emperors, both father and son barricaded themselves while Mourtzouphlos betrayed them by bribing the Varangian Guards to his side and in one night in January of 1204, Mourtzouphlos dragged Alexios IV to prison executing him there while his blind father Isaac II died shortly after hearing of his son’s death, and now Mourtzouphlos was made Emperor Alexios V. On the same day Alexios IV was killed, Alexios V headed out to negotiate with Dandolo to cancel the payment offered by Alexios IV but Dandolo ordered an attack on Alexios V beginning the Crusaders’ siege on the city in which in so little time, Alexios V ordered the city’s defences to be strengthened but on April 12 of 1204, the army sent by the Crusaders had severely outnumbered the few Byzantines defending the city causing Alexios V to flee leaving only a few brave Byzantines including Varangian Guards to make their last stand until they were completely defeated by the Crusaders who proceeded to loot the city including the Hagia Sophia and the tomb of Justinian I, kill its inhabitants, destroy buildings, and all while the attack had happened, a nobleman named Constantine Laskaris was unofficially crowned in the Hagia Sophia but without any support he also fled the next day. On April 13, the Crusaders had captured Constantinople while Constantine’s brother Theodore Laskaris led the people out establishing themselves in Nicaea making it their base in order to take back Constantinople; now in Constantinople, territory around it including Thrace fell under control of the new Latin Empire based in Constantinople with Baldwin of Flanders elected as the first Latin emperor Baldwin I, Crete then fell to Venice, Thessaloniki and its surroundings to Montferrat, Southern Greece or the Peloponnese to the new Latin Principality of Achaea, Athens to the new Latin Duchy of Athens, and the Aegean islands to the Latin Duchy of the Archipelago, and all these new Latin territories in the former Byzantine Empire would be known as the Frankokratia. Also in 1204, the grandsons of the former emperor Andronikos I Komnenos, Alexios I and David who were also nephews of Queen Tamar of Georgia established the breakaway Byzantine Empire based in Trebizond in the southeast corner of the Black Sea wherein their empire included those regions and the remaining Byzantine territory in the Crimea above the Black Sea as Constantinople was lost and in 1205 Theodore I Laskaris was proclaimed Emperor of Nicaea, the first Byzantine emperor in exile while in Western Greece the unofficial rebel Byzantine state of Epirus was established with Isaac II and Alexios III’s cousin Michael I Angelos as its ruler or despot who ended up assassinated in 1215 and succeeded by his half-brother Theodore while the former emperor of Byzantium that fled in 1203 Alexios III was still out there in Thrace as a renegade plotting to take back the throne, though the other former emperor Alexios V was captured by the Crusaders and executed in December of 1204 being thrown off a column in Constantinople. In addition, 1205 was the same year the 97 year old Doge of Venice Enrico Dandolo died and the Latin Empire only being around for a year faced a rebellion by local Greeks supported by the Bulgarian tsar Kaloyan and when Baldwin I led his forces to battle against the Bulgarians they were severely defeated by the new Bulgarian Empire under Tsar Kaloyan at the Battle of Adrianople wherein the general Count Louis I de Blois was killed and Latin emperor Baldwin I was captured and later executed leaving no emperor in Constantinople for a year until his brother Henry who took part in besieging Constantinople in 1204 is crowned emperor in 1206. The former emperor Alexios III however still remained alive and turned out to be Theodore I of Nicaea’s father-in-law and wanting to claim the exiled empire at Nicaea, he made a deal with the Seljuk sultan Kaykhusraw I and Latin emperor Henry while Theodore allied with the Bulgarian tsar Boril who succeeded his uncle Kaloyan in 1207 and in 1211 Theodore I’s forces met with the Seljuks at the Battle of Antioch on the Meander in which Theodore I though almost killed is victorious as his forces kill the Seljuk sultan in battle and afterwards Theodore I and the new Seljuk sultan Kykaus I signed a peace treaty, although Henry tried to attack the Nicaean Empire but without enough troops Henry was forced to sign a peace treaty with Nicaea or be beaten back, although this gave the Latins possession of the Troad region in Asia Minor. Also in 1214, Theodore I with his Seljuk allies captured the Black Sea coast region of Paphlagonia from the Byzantines of Trebizond, then in 1216 Latin emperor Henry died suddenly on his way to launch an attack on Byzantine Epirus making the Latin barons of the empire elect Henry’s brother-in-law Peter Courtenay as their new emperor who was in France at that time but before reaching Constantinople he was captured in Greece by the despot of Epirus Theodore in 1217 and imprisoned wherein he died in 1219 leaving Constantinople with no ruler but his wife who was Henry and Baldwin I’s sister Yolande as regent until her sudden death in 1219 with her son Robert still in France only coming to Constantinople in 1221 while the younger son Baldwin who was still a young child was left alone for 2 years with both parents dead and his brother not there yet making a French Crusader general and then an Italian cardinal the acting rulers of the empire within the 2 years, at the same year (1221) Theodore I also died in Nicaea leaving behind an empire from the Black Sea down to the Aegean leaving the part of Asia Minor along the Marmara still under the Latins. Now to the north of Byzantine Epirus and the Latin Empire, the absence of Byzantine rule gave the opportunity to expand and Serbia takes advantage of the situation by becoming a kingdom in 1217 with their grand prince Stefan Nemanjic crowned its first king. The Latin Empire without a legitimate ruler until 1221 put the empire in chaos while Theodore I’s death left Nicaea in a succession crisis and small civil war between his brothers and son-in-law the successful general John Vatatzes in which the latter won exiling the brothers and became Emperor John III Doukas Vatatzes in 1222 who in 1224 won a major victory against the Latins and Theodore I’s brothers at the Battle of Poimanenon in which most of the Latins’ territories in Asia Minor were ceded to Nicaea changing the tide of war on the side of Nicaea putting them on the road to take back Constantinople. It also happened that in 1224, the Latin held Kingdom of Thessaloniki in Northern Greece fell to the Byzantines of Epirus and in 1225 Adrianople was captured by John III of Nicaea, and the Latin emperor Robert Courtenay traveled to Rome to get help from the pope but failed and when returning to Constantinople, he died in 1228 in the Morea (Southern Greece) and was succeeded by his 11-year-old brother Baldwin II who ruled under the regency of the Crusader general Jean of Brienne, the former king of Jerusalem (1210-1225) based in Acre. Also back in 1218, Bulgarian tsar Boril died and was succeeded by his cousin Ivan Asen II who in 1235 concluded an alliance with John III of Nicaea who by this time had already annexed the Nicaean Empire into Europe surrounding Constantinople therefore being strong enough to bring the end of Latin rule especially with the Bulgarians as his ally, then to seal the alliance John III’s son Theodore and Ivan II’s daughter Elena were married also in 1235 the same year both Nicaean Byzantines and Bulgarians tried to besiege Constantinople which failed as a Venetian fleet arrived to defend Constantinople, the Bulgarians then gave up making John III have to abandon the siege without any means to break open the walls. If not for almost coming to take back Constantinople from the Latins, John III used the death of Ivan II of Bulgaria in 1241 to return Thessaloniki- which fell under the Latins, Epirus, and then Bulgaria- back to Byzantine rule in 1242 to focus on crushing the rebel Byzantines of Epirus even making Epirus’ allies like the Albanian nobleman Golem defect to him while back in Constantinople the regent emperor Jean retired in 1237 making the legitimate emperor Baldwin II rule alone. At home in Nicaea, John III succeeded in maintaining peace and economic stability that Nicaea could sustain itself without having to import anything, he then died in 1254 due to his epilepsy and was succeeded by his only son the philosophical Theodore II Laskaris who like his father was also an energetic ruler having expanded the army, made an alliance with the Seljuk sultan Kykaus II to push the Mongols out of Asia Minor, stopped a Bulgarian invasion of Bulgaria’s new emperor Konstantin Tih Asen (1257) in Thrace, and reconquered territory from Epirus and Serbia all the way to the Ionian Sea. Meanwhile in Constantinople, Baldwin II was left with just the city and completely short of funds that he had to keep travelling to Europe to seek help that he even had to sell off the relic of the Crown of Thorns in Constantinople to France. However, back in Nicaea civil instability rose due to Theodore II’s unstable temper caused by epilepsy and appointment of commoners into powerful positions threatening the Byzantine elite causing the nobleman Michael Palaiologos his childhood friend and long-time rival to hatch a plot on the emperor and in 1258 Theodore II suddenly died either due to having chronic epilepsy like his father or by being poisoned by Michael Palaiologos, but either way Michael Palaiologos quickly usurped power in 1258 by assassinating Theodore II’s named successor the commoner George Mouzalon assigned to Theodore II’s young son John IV Laskaris during Theodore II’s funeral. The boy emperor John IV Laskaris was then only a puppet emperor to his regent general and co-emperor Michael Palaiologos in 1259 who led ambitious campaigns against the Latins as in 1259 his army led by his brother John and the general Alexios Strategopoulos defeated the rebel Byzantine Despotate of Epirus and pushed the Latins out of Greece at the Battle of Pelagonia taking back most of Greece which would be the last time the Varangian Guard appeared in battle then in 1260 Michael himself led an attack to take back Constantinople which did not succeed again, so instead Michael had his men in 1261 survey the area to see a possible way to take back the city but unexpectedly the Latin emperor Baldwin II sent most of his army out on a naval raid leaving the city exposed for Michael’s army led by Alexios Strategopoulos to quickly sneak in and drive the Latins away from Constantinople liberating it on July 25, 1261 forcing Baldwin II to flee leaving behind his crown and sword and Michael was then crowned Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos and his young son Andronikos as his co-emperor with Constantinople falling back to Byzantine hands ending the 57 year existence of the Latin Empire and later that year Michael VIII secured his claim by deposing, blinding, and imprisoning the young John IV, and as the restored emperor Michael VIII rebuilt Constantinople from the ruin the 4th Crusade brought which had brought the population down to only 35,000 and seals a permanent alliance with the Italian Republic of Genoa. Although Constantinople and most of Greece fell back to Byzantine hands, Crete was still under Venice, most of the Aegean islands and Athens still under the Latins, and the separatist Byzantine states of Trebizond in the eastern edge of the Black Sea and Epirus now controlling the region of Thessaly in Greece refused to unite with the empire but the biggest threat Michael VIII had to face was from the west as in 1266 the French ruler Charles of Anjou captured Sicily from the Holy Roman Empire with the intention of taking Byzantium back for the Latins but without much of an army to fight of Charles, Michael VIII had to turn to diplomacy by signing a union with the Catholic Church in 1273 at the Council of Lyon promising to submit Byzantium to the pope which angered the people who began to threaten to depose Michael VIII. Now Charles of Anjou in 1281 invades Byzantine Albania from Sicily but his army is stopped and defeated by Byzantine forces, although this still did not stop Charles from wanting to take back Constantinople and restore the Byzantine Empire so in 1282 Michael VIII turned to diplomacy again this time bribing the rebellious people of Sicily and making an alliance with King Peter III of Aragon in the event known as the “Sicilian Vespers” which succeeds and also in 1282 Aragon acquires Sicily from Charles of Anjou’s Angevin French kingdom though 1282 was also the same year Michael VIII died somewhere in Thrace leaving the Byzantine Empire once and for all safe from the western Latin threat but leaving Byzantine Asia Minor exposed to raids by the Turkish states known as Beyliks. After Michael VIII’s death, it’s all downhill for Byzantium with his son Andronikos II as emperor who decides to dismantle the Byzantine navy and instead hire ships when needed to cut costs though at least he decided to turn Byzantium’s focus east to deal with the Turks, then in 1287 he receives diplomats from China, in 1290 he releases the former blinded emperor John IV Laskaris from prison, in 1295 the Italian adventurer Marco Polo had passed Constantinople, but in 1299 the end for Byzantium begins as the Turkish Beylik lord in Asia Minor Osman declared the birth of a new empire, the Ottoman Empire.

Map of the 4th Crusade, 1202-1204
Division of the Byzantine Empire after 1204 (Constantinople under the Latin Empire, Byzantines transferred to Nicaea, Epirus, and Trebizond, Crete under Venice, the rest of Asia Minor under the Seljuks, and the south under the Kingdom of Cilician Armenia)
The Byzantine Empire restored in 1261 (yellow)

Watch this for the full story of the 4th Crusade (from Kings and Generals).

Watch this to know more about the fragmentation of the Byzantine Empire after 1204 (from Eastern Roman History).

Watch “Summer of 1261: A Byzantine Epic” to see the story of the 1261 Byzantine reconquest of Constantinople in Lego (from No Budget Films). 


In the rest of the world: 

In Europe itself the 13th century was as crucial for them as it was for Byzantium for some of its kingdoms would face near extinction as the Mongol Empire was founded in 1206 as a leader named Temujin united the Mongol tribes establishing an empire with himself as its emperor known as Genghis Khan but it would takes years before he would reach Europe. Of course the major event most of Europe went through in the 13th century was the Crusades which at this time was failing as most of what they had in the Levant or Outremer was lost falling back to Muslim control and from 1202-1204 the Crusade launched by Western Europe was in a way a failure as it resulted in temporarily destroying the Byzantine Empire and not attacking the Ayyubid Sultanate in Egypt and Syria. In 1204, the same year Constantinople fell to the 4th Crusade and the Latin Empire established, the Duchy of Normandy in Northern France that was established by Vikings in 911 which at this time was under the English completely fell to the Kingdom of France ruled by Philippe II Auguste of the Capetian Dynasty, the same king who led the French in the 3rd Crusade. As king of France, Philippe II ruled energetically fighting wars on all sides including taking part in the Albigensian Crusade of 1209 against the Cathar heretics based in the Occitan region of Southern France that have originated as the Bogomil heretics in the Byzantine Balkans during the reign of Alexios I (r. 1081-1118); and as part of this Crusade Philippe II won a victory against the Aragonese and Cathars in 1213 at the Battle of Muret which annexed the Occitan region to France, then in 1214 he defeated the Holy Roman Empire and the English at the Battle of Bouvines, and in 1217 he helped his former enemy the Holy Roman Empire, together with Hungary, and the Papal States in the 5th Crusade which was launched to complete the initial objective of the 4th Crusade to capture Egypt from the Ayyubid Sultanate which succeeded as the Crusades took the Egyptian port of Damietta but the Crusade was a failure when failing to capture Cairo in 1221. Philippe II died in 1223 leaving the Albigensian Crusade unresolved in which his son and successor Louis VIII continued fighting and almost succeeding in crushing it although this Crusade was finished off in 1229 when Louis VIII’s son Louis IX was already King of France since his father’s death in 1226 and as king Louis IX’s main focus was on the main Crusades against the Muslim states like the Ayyubids. However in the 6th Crusade was not led by Louis IX of France but by the Teutonic knights and Holy Roman emperor Frederick II who was at odds with the pope, although the 6th Crusade from 1228-1229 against the Ayyubids resulted in getting Jerusalem back to Crusader hands through Frederick II’s diplomacy in 1229. While the Crusades still went on, 2 major Catholic religious orders were formed in Europe first the Franciscans or Order of Friars formed in 1209 by the Italian St. Francis of Assisi and the Dominicans or Order of Preachers in 1216 by the Spanish St. Dominic de Guzman and one of the most famous members of the Dominican Order the priest, philosopher, and theologian St. Thomas Aquinas also lived in this century in Italy who in 1265 wrote his famous work Summa Theologica but also when mentioning Italy, the famous arithmetic manuscript Liber Abaci was made by the Pisan Leonardo Fibonacci back in 1202.

Back to the Crusades, since the Mongol Empire displaced the Khwarezmian Empire of Iran back in 1231, the Khwarezmians lost their home and allied with the Ayyubid Sultanate and in 1244 both forces defeated the Crusaders at the Battle of La Forbie and captured Jerusalem from the Crusaders and razed the city pushing the Crusaders back to Acre which led to King Louis IX of France to launch the 7th Crusade in 1248 together with the Templar Knights against the Ayyubids and their Mamluk allies but this Crusade was a long one fought in Egypt which only led to Louis IX being captured by the Ayyubids in Egypt in 1250 but when released with a large ransom, Louis IX allied with the Mamluk people turning them against the Ayyubids and with the Crusade over in 1254 as a failure for Louis IX who had to return to France, the Mamluks in 1260 after pushing the Mongols out of Syria overthrew the Ayyubid Sultanate founded by Saladin 1171 and established the Mamluk Sultanate that would hold both Egypt and Syria. In the western side of North Africa, the new dynasty of the Hafsids overthrew the current rule of the Almohad Dynasty there back in 1229 but in 1270 Louis IX of France launched the 8th Crusade against the Hafsids to protect the Christians of North Africa however like the 7th the 8th Crusade was a failure and in the same year it was launched it ended as Louis IX died from the outbreak of a dysentery plague in Tunis that also affected his army, he then later became St. Louis IX. Louis IX though ambitiously fighting the Crusades against the Muslims responded to the return of the Byzantine Empire in 1261 more fairly than all other Latin rulers of Europe did and instead of planning to launch a Crusade against it, Louis IX instead promised its emperor Michael VIII that Byzantium will be left untouched but with Louis IX’s death in 1270 realizing the Crusades was a failure, his younger brother Charles of Anjou who had ruled Sicily since 1266 used his brother’s death as the moment to take back Byzantium since no one was there to stop him. Charles of Anjou however never made it to take back Byzantium as his rule in Sicily ended in 1282 with the Sicilian Vespers and he died in 1285 in Italy, same year Louis IX’s son and successor Philippe III of France died. Charles of Anjou though after Louis IX’s death in 1270 joined the future king Edward I of England in the 9th Crusade of 1271 in Acre against the Mamluks which never really resulted in anything, although Charles’ intention for the 9th Crusade was to reconquer Byzantium for the Latins. The Crusades on the other hand never really succeeded as the Principality of Antioch that had been vassalized by the Byzantines and Cilician Armenia fell to the Mamluks in 1268, the Crusader County of Tripoli in Lebanon that had been around since 1109 also fell to the Mamluks in 1289, and in 1291 the Mamluks capture Acre the last Crusader stronghold in Outremer ending the Kingdom of Jerusalem once and for all which marked the end of the Crusader age. The remaining Hospitaller Knights of Acre later found themselves in Rhodes establishing their base there.

Now in the 12th century the Crusades did not only mean the movement of the Europeans to fight the Muslims in the Levant or North Africa but other Christian holy wars in Europe most notably the Reconquista of Spain to drive away the Muslim Moors and restore Christian rule and this was the reason why the Spanish kingdoms of Aragon, Castile, and Leon did not join the Crusades as they fought their own war against the Muslims in Spain. This conflict known as the Reconquista had existed ever since the Muslim Umayyad Caliphate conquered Christian Visigoth Spain in 711 in which the Christian Spanish kingdoms began with defeat but in 1212 the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in Andalusia (Southern Spain) marks the beginning of the rapid Christian reconquest of the south as the Christian kingdoms of Castile, Leon, and Aragon turn the tide of war and beat the Almohad Moors in which their Almohad Empire based in North Africa had disintegrated in 1269. In 1230 Christian Spain became even more powerful with Castile and Leon fully uniting when the King of Castile Ferdinand III, the son of Queen Berengaria of Castile and King Alfonso IX of Leon inherited Leon after his father’s death and it was Ferdinand III also known as St. Ferdinand who pushed Castile-Leon’s territory further south taking back the longtime capital of the Moors Cordoba in 1236 and Seville in 1248 leaving the Moors only to control Granada and its surroundings under the Nasrid Kingdom. To the west, the new kingdom of Portugal was also focused on their Reconquista against the Moors to grow the Portuguese kingdom and in 1249 the Portuguese Reconquista concludes when their king Afonso III conquered the Algarve region fully setting the territory of Portugal while the Kingdom of Aragon in Eastern Spain also rises especially after taking over Sicily from the French in 1282 in an alliance with the Byzantines.

Other than in the Levant and Spain, the Crusades also operated in Northern Europe which was known as the Livonian Crusade of the 13th century against the last Pagan tribes of Europe in the Baltics; here the German Teutonic Knights Order (Livonian Order) established in Acre back in 1198 establish their own territory known as the Terra Mariana or Livonia in today’s Latvia and Estonia and allied with the Danish and Swedish, the Crusader knights subjugate the Estonian people to German rule in 1227 converting them to Christianity however it is not only the Pagans that they were against but the Novgorod Republic of Russia, a successor of the Kievan Rus’ Empire. In 1240, the Swedish Kingdom attempts to invade Novgorod Russia but at the Battle of the Neva the Novgorod prince Alexander Nevsky defeats the Swedish and again in 1242 Alexander Nevsky repels the Teutonic Knights’ invasion of Russia at the Battle of the Ice in Lake Peipus between Russia and Estonia. Iceland meanwhile falls under the rule of Norway in 1262 in the agreement called the Old Covenant and in Sweden, the city of Stockholm is founded by the duke Birger Jarl in 1252 which would become Sweden’s capital at this point.

Back in the Germany and Italy, the Holy Roman Empire for most of the century was ruled by Emperor Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty (1220-1250) who was the same emperor that led the 5th and 6th Crusades who was also king of Sicily but was at many times in conflict with pope again part of the chronic Guelph vs Ghibelline wars of Italy wherein cities and states on the side of the Guelphs allied with the pope and the Ghibellines with Frederick II but in 1266 the Hohenstaufen Dynasty loses Sicily to Charles of Anjou who since allied with the pope was a Guelph but with his forces driven out of Sicily in 1282. Within the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg family first gains their rulership as the dukes of Austria in 1282 which they held until 1918 while in 1291 the Swiss Confederation of the cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden forms. Among the republics of Italy, it is Venice that becomes at its height of power in the 13th century as not only did it help destroy and weaken the Byzantine Empire and take Crete but in 1221 it signed a trade treaty with the Mongol Empire, got its governing council or Signoria in 1223, become rivals with the Republic of Genoa which was a Byzantine ally, yet also the Venetians invented eyeglasses in 1280, and within the century Venetian traders due to their trade alliance with the Mongols travelled the Silk Road all the way to Mongol held China one of these traders and explorers being Marco Polo as well as his father and uncle Niccolò and Maffeo and between 1271 and 1295 Marco Polo travelled the Silk Road to China to meet with its ruler Kublai Khan and within that time had even visited faraway places including Vietnam, Burma, Sumatra, Sri Lanka, and India before returning to Constantinople and Italy having documented all the exotic finds such as plants and animals in Asia while the whole Sicilian Vespers conflict happened the whole time he was away, he would then be the first European to have first seen places like Vietnam and Indonesia.

Now in the Kingdom of England which controlled the Angevin Empire consisting of the eastern half of Ireland and parts of France, throughout the 13th century it was ruled by the Angevin or Plantagenet kings which began with Henry II in the previous century and by 1200 England was under his son John “Lackland” who saw England lose Normandy to the French in 1204, the barons rebel against him in 1214 leading him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215 to give power to Barons and establish the Parliament, then in 1216 he died and was succeeded by his son Henry III who was only 9-years-old, this time the Baron’s War broke out supporting the French prince and future King of France Louis VIII as King of England, although the war ended in 1217 with the rebel barons defeated and Louis driven out of England then years later in 1259 Henry III signed the peace treaty of Paris with King Louis IX of France but in 1264 a second baron’s war broke out against Henry III in which the baron Simon de Montfort took over the country from 1264-65 but at the end the king won the war in 1267. Henry III being one of the longest ruling English kings died in 1272 succeeded by his son Edward I who in is reign saw Oxford University in England established in 1284, then in 1290 he ordered all Jews to leave England and in 1296 invaded a chaotic Scotland leading to the First Scottish War of independence to break out that same year.

Now the biggest story of the 13th century if not the Crusades, the fall and restoration of the Byzantine Empire and the explorations of Marco Polo in Asia, was the unexpected but quick expansion of the Mongol Empire coming from some unknown tribes in Mongolia but since the leader Temujin in 1206 was proclaimed emperor or “Great Khan” with the title Genghis Khan after uniting the Mongol tribes, their cavalry skills, brute force, and discipline helped them grow an empire so large and during his lifetime he led his armies with hi sons in which he divided into division led by respective commanders; he then besieged Beijing in 1215, conquered the Chinese Western Liao Dynasty’s territories in 1218, defeated the Turkic Khwarezmian Empire of Iran by 1221 committing genocide on the empire’s inhabitants, had crushed the Cuman’s Khanate in Southern Russia in 1223 defeating many Russian principalities as well at the Battle of the Kalka River in Ukraine but in the same year the Volga Bulgars defeated the Mongols at Samara Bend, then in 1227 Genghis Khan died with his empire spanning from the Pacific Ocean in the east to the Caspian Sea in Russia to the west. Though Genghis Khan died, his successors would continue Mongol expansion which may have brought ruin to many existing kingdoms and empires but it still established a power that would protect the silk road trade between Europe and China which is why the Venetians signed an agreement with the Mongols; Genghis Khan after bis death at first was initially succeeded by his son Tolui as regent until his other son Ogedei was elected the 2nd great khan who’s forces captured Kaifeng, the capital of the Northern Chinese Jin or Jurchen Empire in 1232 and by 1234 had conquered the Jurchen Empire, then in 1236 the Mongol division in the west invaded the Kingdom of Georgia in 1236 and into Russia in 1237 attacking the remaining Kievan Rus’ state fully conquering it in 1240, and in 1241 the Mongols’ division under Genghis Khan’s grandson Batu Khan reached Hungary defeating the Hungarian Kingdom at the Battle of Mohi and Batu’s brother Orda reached Poland defeating the Polish Kingdom at the Battle of Legnica though not conquering Poland and Hungary but leaving them in ruins; 1242 the western half of the Mongol Empire which includes Russia and Ukraine becomes the Golden Horde with the Russian principalities including Novgorod ruled by Alexander Nevsky submitting to Batu Khan’s Golden Horde, however the Golden Horde was divided into the Blue Horde under Batu Khan and the White Horde under his brother Orda while the Mongol homeland in the east was under the Great Khanate ruled by Genghis Khan’s son Ogedei who died in 1241 while his successors were his son Guyuk Khan (r. 1246-1248) and nephew Mongke Khan (r. 1251-1259) and it is the army of Mongke Khan led by his brother Hulagu Khan that attacks Baghdad in 1258 destroying the Abbasid Caliphate that had been there since 750 although the Abbasid caliph re-establishes himself in the Mamluk capital of Cairo but only symbolically without any political power; the Mongols in the Middle East (Iran and Iraq) would then make this division the Ilkhanate under Hulagu and would then move west into Asia Minor in 1259 but did not continue further as the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum ended up becoming a vassal of the Ilkhanate and so did the Kingdom of Cilician Armenia and Georgia, then in 1275 the Mongol invasions result in the Assassin Order of Masyaf in Syria and Alamut in Iran founded in the late 11th century to be destroyed. Earlier on when the Mongols had conquered the Persian Khwarezmian Empire in 1231, one of its inhabitants fled from his Persian homeland to the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in Asia Minor where he became the poet known as Rumi. Between 1260 and 1264, the Mongol Empire in its homeland fell into a civil war between who will rule among Genghis Khan’s grandsons Kublai and Ariq Boke, the sons of Genghis Khan’s son Tolui Khan (died in 1232) and brothers of Mongke and Hulagu, this war ended with Kublai Khan victorious in 1264 imprisoning his younger brother Ariq Boke thus Kublai Khan was the sole ruler of the empire. In 1270 he had the Kingdom of Goryeo (Korea) swear their allegiance to him, then in 1271 Kublai since the Mongols have already conquered Northern China back in Kublai Khan’s grandfather Genghis Khan’s rule, he established the Yuan Dynasty of China becoming China’s first Mongol ruler ruling in the Chinese style, in 1274 Kublai Khan’s Mongol navy tried to invade Japan which was under the Kamakura Shogunate but had failed due to the strong winds the counter attack of the Samurai and again in 1281 the Mongols of China tried to invade Japan but failed again; back at the naval Battle of Yamen in 1279 in Southern China, the Yuan Mongols fully defeat the Chinese Song Empire founded in 960 while the last Song emperor Zhao Bing after the defeat of his fleet jumps off his ship committing suicide by drowning. For the Mongols in the west, in 1285 the Mongol general of the Golden Horde Nogai Khan leads another Mongol raid into the Kingdom of Hungary which had been rebuilt from the first Mongol invasion in 1241 by their king Bela IV who had died in 1270. Back in Mongol China, Kublai Khan as ruler of China based in Beijing had previously met the Venetian explorer Marco Polo who even worked for him as a diplomat and in 1294 Kublai Khan had died at age 78 leaving the Mongols to continue ruling China. China before being under Mongol rule in 1279 though when still under the Song Dynasty had begun using the first rockets, landmines, and handguns in battle and had adopted the use of the windmill from the Islamic world though with China under the Mongols the first wooden movable type printing press was invented in 1298 while the university cities of Italy at this time had only still invented the Pecia system for reproducing books. Whatever the information is on the Mongols in this article is not all as there is more to the story of how the Mongols quickly expanded to an empire that conquered almost the entire world in the 13th century but why they expanded so fast was because Genghis Khan back in the 1220s divided his armies to conquer all parts of the world under his sons. Before his death in 1226 the Mongol Empire was to be divided in 4 parts like how Diocletian divided the Roman Empire in to 4 parts almost a thousand years earlier, and like in Diocletian’s Tetrarchy wherein his eastern division of the empire was the superior power of all 4 divisions, the Mongol Empire’s eastern division known as the Great Khanate that controlled China, Korea, and Mongolia by 1279 was the dominant division of the others in the empire; the other 3 divisions by 1279 included the Ilkhanate that controlled most of the Middle East including Iran, Iraq, Georgia, and Armenia, the Golden Horde controlling Russia, and the lesser known Chagatai Khanate which controlled Central Asia. To know more about the complete story of the Mongols of the 13th century, watch this video from Kings and Generals.

While most of Asia, and the Middle East was facing the threat of the Mongols, India was facing the rapid growth of Islam as the Ghurid Sultanate in the north which in 1204, the same year Constantinople fell to the 4th Crusade, conquered the regions of Bihar and Bengal extending their territory down to the Bay of Bengal bringing Islam to what is now Bangladesh thus suppressing Buddhism in East India then in 1206 the Ghurid Sultanate was replaced by the Sultanate of Delhi still controlling the same area as the Ghurids while in Hindu Western India in around 1290 the poet Sant Dnyaneshwar writes his famous commentary on the Hindu scripture epic Bhagavad Gita. Other than Eastern India in which Islam rapidly spreads in, the northern islands of Indonesia above Java like Celebes and Maluku had somewhat converted to Islam as in 1257 the Sultanate of Ternate is established which would rule those islands from then onwards.

In Java, the Buddhist-Hindu Kingdom of Kediri ruled by the Isyana Dynasty is defeated in 1233 at the Battle of Ganter by the new Rajasa Dynasty under Ken Arok establishing the new Singhasari Kingdom of East Java which is the same kingdom in Java which their king Kertanegara launches a military expedition to conquer the Buddhist Melayu Kingdom in Sumatra in 1275 which succeeds in conquering it in 1292 while in 1284 the Singhasari Kingdom too had conquered Bali. Kertanegara had also refused to pay tribute to the Mongols provoking the Mongol ruler of China Kublai Khan to invade Java in 1293 after insulting the Mongol envoy although when the Mongols landed in Java in 1293 Kertanegara had died the previous year killed by the rebel duke Jayakatwang while his son-in-law Raden Vijaya at first allied with the Mongols to defeating Jayakatwang before suddenly turning against them driving them off from Java that same year (1293) proclaiming a new dynasty and kingdom that would rule Java known as the Majapahit Kingdom.

In Thailand on the other hand, the Sukhothai Kingdom is born in 1238 and in West Africa the Mali Empire is formed in 1235 as the Mandinka tribes unite in which in 1280 conquer the Takrur state.

In the Americas meanwhile there is not much recorded for the Central American Mayan civilization but in Mexico, the Mexica people which were the predecessors of the Aztecs are given permission by the Tepanec people to settle in the islet known as the “eagle’s place between the clouds” in 1274.