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1204: The Capture of Constantinople
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Nicetas Choniates

A Byzantine View of Manuel's Favours to the Latins

[From Historia, ed de Gruyter, translated by J. L. van Dieten, Berlin, 1975 vol. 1, pp. 203-5.]

Nevertheless it must be admitted that he [Manuel Ι] did not act so from a grand desire to undertake new enterprises, but from the knowledge he had of the power of the Latin peoples, and from his apprehension that, as he said, they might all join together in order completely to destroy the empire, just as a torrent formed of various rivulets can ravage the entire country. He desired to foresee this evil, or at least to scotch it at birth. ... But the prudence of his conduct was clearly revealed only after his death, when the vessel of the empire, deprived of so sage a pilot, was almost ready to be shipwrecked.

Ι would not know how to dissimulate the fact that he had an excessive passion for increasing taxes, for selling charges. But from these he gave generously to the monasteries, to the churches, and to the Greek poor, but especially to the foreign peoples, above all to the Latins. ... He was prodigal and benign also to the chamberlains and eunuchs of the bedchamber and indeed also to the servants who are of foreign races ... who are semi barbarous and who more easily sputter rather than speak [Greek]. And he gave them many riches so that they overflowed with piles of money and every kind of ornament. ... To these lacking any education and knowing only vestiges of the Greek language ... to these [the Latins], as if they were the most obedient and faithful of officials, he not only assigned the highest magistracies, but he appointed them as judges in the most difficult matters, when circumstances required a most expert knowledge of jurisprudence and of the laws. When it was a question of naming an appointee to a province (and this he did often), he would send with them a Byzantine by birth and speech and wisdom, but only the better to be able to collect the tax. But the foreigner, as the supervisor, was in charge and had to approve with seals the taxes collected which had to be sent to the emperor. ... In thus distrusting the Byzantines, as if there were among them only thieves and as if their birth and education had given them less probity than that of the foreigners, he lost their affection and drew upon himself rather the hatred of the Byzantines.

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