Year 1 of the @CryforByzantium Cycle

How time passes so quickly!  A year ago, on Orthodox Assumption day (August 15th) we kicked off the cycle of @CryForByzantium.  Since then, we’ve garnered 4.51 Million Impressions and grown to 8,800 followers.  I did work for a while on memes for new emperors and will try to pick that up again somewhat.  The images makes this fun and really brings history alive.

So watching engagements, your favorite emperor by far is Justinian.  Conquest is a good business in making your place in history.

top tweet2

In second place, Constantine is another fan favorite.  Something about this whole Christianity business is something you really reacted to.

top tweet

Other emperors which had high levels of engagement are Julian the Apostate, Heraclius, and Leo.

The emperor I’ve enjoyed playing the most has been Justinian II.  Such a twisted and misguided character was an absolute joy on the replies.

Our Audience

We have a very international following.  It especially warms my heart to see we have so many Turkish followers recognizing that Byzantine history is your heritage as well as Seljuk and Ottoman history.

byz history

With that, thank you for following and I look forward to bringing you the next 300+ years of the cycle over the next 12 months.


Byzantine-Venetian Relations prior to the 4th Crusade

I‘ve been thinking a lot recently about several issues around the Kommenian restoration and the international politcal scene prior to the 4th crusade, particularly around Byzantine-Venetian relations.  The standard histories detail the 1054 schism, some problems during the Crusades and relative peace until the 1204 Siege of Constantinople.  If anything, there was a series of low level conflicts and tension during the majority of the previous century.

A Bad Marriage

In the late 11th century, the Normans took the remainder of Byzantine possessions in Italy and Sicily and were threatening Byzantine possessions in the Balkans.  In a desperate act to gain naval support, Alexios Komnenos granted special trade rights to the Venetians through the Chrysobull of 1082.  They were granted Byzantine tax exemptions and received their own special trading district in the capital.  In exchange, the Venetians were to provide naval intervention on behalf of the Byzantine state.

Arguably one of the worst deals in history, this had profound consequences for Venice as it kicked their economic and state development into high gear.  Over the next 100 years Venetian trading power eventually choked off competition of Byzantine merchants.  Venice really had no love for Byzantium or motivation to protect them beyond their new source of income.

This situation created an interesting paradox of Byzantine leaders unable to undo or reduce these privileges.  They lacked the naval forces to change the balance of power so continued to depend on an unreliable Venice for this support.  Byzantium really needed the support of Venice in her conflicts against her enemies, but this relationship was toxic to the empire.  Common sense dictates a large revenue source diverted to a foreign nation for protection undermines their own national security.

Untying the Knot

As a result, Byzantine leaders were motivated to undo the agreement.  Upon the ascension of John Komnenos, he refused to confirm the Chrysobull of 1082 and remove their special tax free status.  Soon after, the Venetians attacked Corfu on their way to Crusade.  In retaliation, John exiled the Venetians in the capital which only escalated the conflict.  Doge Domenico Michele leveled the city of Methoni and pillaging continued until 1126.  John Komnenos finally confirmed and extended their trading privileges.  Doge Michele’s tomb reads the “Greek Terror, Praise of the Venetians.”

As an effort to undermine Venice’s position in the capital, Manuel Komnenos cultivated relationships with her rivals Genoa and Pisa.  Similar agreements were created, in the thought that they could get similar protections without the attitude.

Once Manuel felt comfortable with cutting ties with Venice, he imprisoned some 10,000 Venetians in Constantinople in 1171.  Public opinion turned decisively against the Byzantines in Venice and the people clamored for war.  After several rather indecisive battles, plague set in the Venetian camp while waiting for negotiations.  Manuel stalled in negotiations while letting the plague set in with the Venetian navy.  As time passed, the Venice’s navy was decisively destroyed.

Of course, things came to a head in 1182 with the Massacre of the Latins.  Tens of thousands of westerners were massacred in the capital and Cardinal John was beheaded.

Ironic Twist

The Massacre of the Latins event has been pointed to as a sort of casus belli for the Venetians attack in the 4th crusade.  Obscured by modern nationalist rhetoric, Enrico Dandolo never took it personally and was back to the previous status quo settling several new trading agreements shortly thereafter.

A Cautionary Tale

We last wrapped with the healing of the Greek Orthodox churches from the schismatic royalist efforts in the 1930’s.  Characters like Vasilios Komvopoulos of Chaldea were nothing more than political pariah and Venizelos was swept back into power with an overwhelming majority.

One could be forgiven for thinking this was headed towards a happy ending.  Royalist political parties were on the fringes, the church was healing and Venizelos style liberalism had won.

How was I wrong!  Little had changed, and tensions remained high between the liberals and conservatives.  In 1932, the conservative people’s party came to power in a split election and Venizelos escaped yet another assassination attempt.  The liberals tried to nullify the results via a coup route twice but failed.  Venizelos fled the country and the continued escalation finally resulted in the Metaxas dictatorship by the late 1930’s.

Similar Patterns

What shocked me was that this pattern of escalation between the conservatives and liberals mirrored the political landscape of early 20th century Spain.  Liberals wanted to reform a government and economy dominated by very established interests.  Those who benefited from the status quo were going to resist any attempts at reform which might undermine their established position.

There was a longstanding antagonism between these two sides, which resulted in multiple attempts at starting and stopping democracy in that country.

In 1931, a republic was established a second time around however divisions were too great for any real progress to be made.  Coups and violence defined the short republic before the country erupted into a full civil war in 1936 resulting in the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Other nations defined by extreme political polarization in a democratic type government include Weimar Germany, Early 20th Century Portugal, Poland, and Albania.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does Rhyme

There is a very similar erosion of governmental legitimacy and hyper-escalation of fighting between the right and left in the United States.  We are currently seeing a level of political polarization which mirrors the time just before the Civil War.  The following examples demonstrate the new bitter political reality:

  •  Turf battles on college campuses between the Alt-Right and Antifa that mirror gang warfare
  • Mass protests of both the Tea Party and Anti-Trump coalitions
  • The recent assassination attempts on Steve Scalise and Gabrielle Giffords highlight

Both far left and right leaning press only add partisan acrimony to a populace looking to reaffirm previously existing beliefs.

Several major correlations to the Greek and Spanish situation can be observed:

Erosion of Governmental Legitimacy

Legitimacy is always something we’ve taken for granted in the United States.  The losing parties accept the outcome, adjust their tactics for the next round in a couple of years. However, a core condition of any dysfunctional republic is this lack of acceptance by the minority party and their supporters of the elected government.

Political legitimacy of the elected government in the United States really took a shock due to the perceptions that congress acts to the interests of lobbyists more than the voters. This isn’t something new, most notably reflected in the rise of the tea party during the previous administration.

Reconciliation is Unlikely

A partisan press is only adding fuel to the fire as a non-stop stream of opinion pieces.  It’s difficult to find reliable news sources, much less separating political beliefs, fake news and real events.

Those who are on the edges of the political spectrum are committed to their ideologies, and won’t accept defeat easily, much less that they are wrong.  This ideology mirrors fanatical religious movements.

Escalation is Likely

Historically, the problem with a change in government is that the supporters of the new minority party get to play by the same rules (and many times worse) that were established under the previous regime.

It should be no surprise at the end of the Trump presidency (and assuming a Democrat
takes office), that tensions should be at a minimum as bad as they are now. The main difference will have the Republicans pulling the levers of undermining the government.

The End Game

Without careful action by this government or one of the next, these divisions are unlikely to heal.  Given that there are a number of beneficiaries of the status quo, they need to be managed before any sort of real change can happen.  If our republic is to survive, it will require a serious intervention from a very strong leader in the future against the fringe elements.

Immigrant Proxy Battlefield of Greek Political Rivalries

Political Rivalries Escalate in Greece

Eleftherios Venizelos

Personal tensions between Prince Constantine and Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos began around military objectives of the army during the Balkan Wars. They developed into full political camps around the role of the monarchy, republicanism and with which nations to ally.  Venizelos was a British favoring liberal, while Constantine was a German oriented Monarchist.

During the peace talks after World War I, Greece did obtain some territorial concessions but felt they deserved more.  Disaffected royalist soldiers tried to assassinate Venizelos at the Paris Peace Conference, which escalated violence between the two political camps back in Greece.  Disappointed in the status quo, public opinion swung towards the monarchist camp.

The 1920 plebiscite is one of the strangest elections in history.  The Greeks were given the decision whether or not to reinstate the monarchy.  This election saw Constantine returned to power and Venizelos sacked.

King Constantine 

It was under these conditions that the Turkish War of Independence began. The war went poorly, which resulted in the rout of Greek forces from Anatolia. After the war there was bitter population exchanges of Turks and Greeks occurred with hundreds of thousands of refugees on both sides.  Public opinion swung back towards the liberals.

Back in the U.S.

Greek men went to places such as coffee shops to talk about news and politics.  As in the old country, political alliances were forged around the political camps of Venizelos and the Monarchy in the immigrant communities.

As with the most recent American election, as politics became toxic in Greece they also did so in the American immigrant communities.  People who were previously friends and neighbors stopped talking with each other altogether.

The Lowell Greeks

It was under these circumstances that the liberal camp elected to leave the royalist supporting Holy Trinity parish and start their own church down the street.  A work of art in itself, Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church required 40 years to complete the mosaic tiles inside.

The Lowell Plot Twist

After the Turkish war of Independence, King Constantine abdicated and Venizelos represented Greece in the peace negotiations.  Venizelos would eventually return to power.

It was under these circumstances that Vasilios Komvopoulos of Chaldea, a fervent royalist, came to the United States and established himself as monarchy oriented Bishop in Holy Trinity in 1923.  Eventually defrocked and deposed, he doubled down by starting a schismatic royalist aligned Greek Orthodox Church and quickly gained a number of other churches to pledge to his new order.

Things were not to last.  In 1928, Holy Trinity Parish elections returned the Venizelos camp back to power and self appointed Metropolitan Komvopoulos was told not to return.  

This wasn’t enough to deter him.  Accompanied by his monarchist supporters the Bishop attempted to enter the church facility.  The police tried to prevent his entry which in turn developed into a 1200 person riot.  The Bishop was stabbed in the melee.

It wasn’t until a later court order demanding that the bishop not return before the situation deescalated.  The church schism was not healed until the 1930s with the appointment of a new archbishop.


Greek Immigration to the United States

An Invasive Species leads to a new Economy

The set of dominos starts with an unanticipated culprit about 1863- a small winged insect

Phylloxera Insect
called phylloxera.  This little creature was brought over with American vines by English botanists.  However unlike the American vines, European ones has almost no resistance to this pest.  This insect decimated the European wine industry, destroying between 75-90% of all European vineyards.  French wine production decreased 71% between 1875 and 1889.  France went from the leading exporter of wine to a net importer and raisin based wines became one of the solutions to solve this dilemma.

While currants accounted for over half of Greek exports previous to this blight, the new French demand provided a new prosperity for Greek farmers.  French currant imports from Greece increased 700% from 1878-1881.  Greek currant exports as a whole tripled and income generated quadrupled from 1870-1890.  Rural Greeks rushed to fill the many jobs available on these estates and living standards increased.

However, things were not to last.  By using grafting and hybridization techniques of joining European vines with blight resistant American ones, the French finally figured out how to fight back against the Phylloxera blight by the early 1890s.

As an effort to restore domestic French vineyards- tariffs against currants, a raisin wine tax and mandatory raisin wine labeling were introduced.  In a single year(1889), French currant demand fell 30%.  After the 1893 tariff was introduced, a quarter of all Greek currants were left unsold.  Currant prices fell 85%.

The large producers needed to cut costs to service their debts.  They laid off Greek laborers and reduced the quality of their product.  Shortly, thousands of Greek workers found themselves unemployed.

The State Balance Sheets

Even prior to the 1890’s crisis, Greek balance sheets were already maxed out on their credit lines.  Receiving nearly 700 million francs since settling their debts a previous time in 1878, a third of the state tax revenue was needed just to service interest on the debt during the boom times.

The lack of state revenues from the currant export collapse only made it more difficult to pay debts.  The state of affairs is summed up by the Prime Minister Charilaos Trikoupis 1893 announcement to parliament: “Regretfully, Gentlemen, we are bankrupt.”

Given this toxic situation, 1894 was the 4th time that Greece defaulted on its debt since independence.

Lets Go to War

Apparently, the current fiscal situation was not enough to deter them from the expensive adventure called war.  Greek naval domination, press sensationalism and an excitable public made for a perfect formula for war mongering.  The tinderbox in Crete was all that was necessary to motivate a public that they were ready for war in 1897.

After the disastrous 1897 Greco-Turkish war, part of the settlement required included war reparations to Turkey of the tune of $4,000,000 Ottoman Lira.  This was the straw that broke the camel’s back- Greece declared bankruptcy in 1897 and the finances came under international control through Société de régie des revenus affectés au service de la Dette publique hellénique, or “International Financial Control”.  Greece lost bargaining power with her creditors, and lost currency control.  Combined with a whole new set of taxes, the average person bore the brunt of repayment.

The Migration Starts

Meanwhile letters started arriving from America telling of available jobs.  The average American laborer had take home pay 5 times that of a Greek.  This was enough to entice a wave of immigration.

The Greek American population numbered just total 10,000 in 1890, settling around New Orleans.  During the time period of 1900-1920, there was 350,000 Greek immigrants into the United states.  60% of Greek immigrants came from inside Greece itself, with the balance coming from Turkish lands.

By the mid-1920s, immigration slowed considerably as jobs dried up and moved south.

Zooming In

The new Greek immigrant wave had several additional destinations- Colorado and Utah for mining, California for railroads, Detroit, New York and Chicago for manufacturing.

I’m going to focus on a particularly large community settled in the Lowell, MA area to work the mills.  The size of this community during this wave grew to 12,000 accounting for the highest percentage of any place in the country (of a city of 100,000).  They all settled together in the same geographic area and this provides the perfect petri dish of large expatriate communities and their relation back to home base.

One of the remaining institutions which pay homage to this community is the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, dedicated in 1908.  The first Byzantine Greek edifice, this provides a very early example of neo-byzantine architecture.  Highlighting this church is particularly useful, as it becomes the center point of this “Little Greece” and a proxy battleground of Greek political battles here in the United States.

That story will be covered in the next posting.



The Greco-Turkish War of 1897

The Greco-Turkish War of 1897 is shown as a footnote of history and often overlooked.  There were no significant territory changes and the duration was such a brief period so it is easy to minimize the impact.  However, the implications for the future of the Greek state were dramatic both internally and internationally.

The Political Climate

The Megali Idea of the 19th and early 20th Century was a political concept which Map_Greece_Megali_Idea-fr.pngsupported a restored Byzantine Empire including most of modern Greece, Macedonia, Constantinople and the western portions of Anatolia centered around Smyrna.

Meanwhile, other Balkan states all had their own irredentist goals.  Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia all competed for their own visions of a completed state.  Everyone claimed Macedonia.  All the Balkan states were increasing in size while the Ottoman state was in decline.  Supported by Russia, Bulgaria was likely the best positioned power to expand and Greece didn’t want to lose out.

Much like the American press prior to Spanish American war, Yellow Journalism and press sensationalism was at a fever pitch.  Nationalistic Tendencies were further escalated after the Athens 1896 Olympics, and the Greek public was quite supportive of going to war in support of expansion.

Balance of Power

The disastrous performance of the Turkish army in the 1878 Russo-Turkish war was still fresh in everyone’s mind.  Sultan Abdülhamid II feared the empire was not ready to face a serious military threat, and aggressively pursued a policy of appeasement to keep the peace.  After shedding significant territories because of the 1878 war, the Ottomans gave up more lands in the years that followed (Tunisia, Egypt, Eastern Rumelia, and Thessaly).

It’s not a stretch to conclude that the Greek military viewed these developments and assessed the balance of power might be in their favor in a conflict against the Turks.

The Cretan Question

Macedonian_Rebel_Band_Kalambaka_1897Crete was promised a level of autonomy after the Russian war, which never quite came to full fruition.  Antagonism between the Turks and Greeks on the island was high resulting in 1885, 1888 and 1889 rebellions.  The Ottomans sent military reinforcements while Greece sent additional irregulars escalating the conflict.  The Great Powers offered a weak solution to deescalate the situation, but the time for talking had passed.  Both countries mobilized.


Thirty Days War

What Greece did not consider were the major reforms by the Turkish army in the years preceding the 1897 war.  The Germans sent a military expert, Baron von der Goltz, as part of a mission to whip their army in shape.  Given a good 12 years to do the job, he put out an entire generation of hardened Turkish officers.  As part of the reforms, they upgraded their armaments with new 1890 German rifles.

Greeks had significant irregulars both in Greece and behind enemy lines.  Th783px-Velestino1897e training of the Greek army was nowhere close to that of the recent German trained Turks.  In addition, their rifles were a previous generation single shot rifle.

The war itself was anti-climatic.  It was over before it began for the Greeks.  Lasting just 30 days, the Turkish army invaded and took significant portions of Thessaly.

The Aftermath

This conflict led to the rise of Eleftherios Venizelos.  Born in Crete, this conflict both defined him and made him as a Politician.  His economic and military reforms set the path for Greek modernization.

The military reforms are of note, as Greek performance in this conflict echoed that of the Turks in 1878.  The reputation of the Greek army suffered significantly, reflected by a 1910 quote that “the only thing Greek officers can do besides talking is run away”.  Little did the other allies expect was that the significant reforms would have an impact on their army’s performance in the Balkan Wars.

As part of the international settlement, significant war reparations were assigned to Greece which crippled its economy.  This had implications of the 1909 Goudi coup and emigration, particularly to America.

My next piece will touch upon the first major Greek migration to America.

After the 4th Crusade, what happened to the leaders?

 After building the leaders of the 4th Crusade into Game of Thrones characters, it seemed appropriate to continue their stories.  Like the end of a movie where you see what happens to the characters after the story ends, I wanted to give the same treatment to the leaders of the 4th Crusade.  It should be no surprise that the vast majority suffered violent deaths.

This list only occupies those leaders who survived the conquest of the city.

Alexios III Angelos

Alexios III

After his continued refusal to face and fight the Crusaders, support for his reign collapsed.  Collecting as much gold as he could, he fled in a ship near midnight with a few family members.  He spent the rest of his life plotting to regain the throne.


He eventually allied with the Turks a few years later.  He was captured as a prisoner of war in 1211 after the Battle of Antioch on the Meander.  He died later that same year confined to a monastery.  It could probably be assumed that he was murdered.

Alexios V Doukas
Alexius_VOnce the Crusaders were in the city, he escaped the city in a small fishing boat with the wife of Alexios III and her daughter Eudocia.  This was going to be the political capital for future legitimacy.

The bid for regaining his crown did not last long, as he was captured in Thrace shortly thereafter.  He was thrown from the column of Theodosius under charges of treason against Alexios IV.

Arguably the one character who has been treated the most kindly by history…well depending on which side you are on.  Kaloyan was a definite opportunist, taking advantage of the unstable situation to greatly expand the Bulgarian state.

After crushing the Crusaders in 1205 in Adrianople, he laid siege to Thessaloniki in 1207.  However, he was murdered there by someone in his own camp.

Greek legends and iconography shows Saint Demetrios, patron saint of Thessaloniki, appearing in the Bulgarian camp and killing Kaloyan.  In Bulgaria he is celebrated as a national hero.  He is on the Bulgarian 2 lev banknote.

Buried in the 40 Martyr’s Church, his tomb is overlooked by Tsarevets fortress in Veliko Tarnovo.

Ironically his final resting place is quite close to the unmarked burial spot of the next character…

Baldwin of Flanders
The first emperor of the Latin Empire, his armies were decimated trying to put down a revolt in Adrianople in 1205.  He was captured on Catholic Easter day by Bulgarians.

Baldwin’s Tower in Tsarvets Fortress

He later was imprisoned in Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria by Kaloyan.  He died there- some say executed by an axe while in prison.



Still today at Veliko Tarnovo in the Tsarvets fortress, exists Baldwin’s tower.

His grave site is unknown, most likely an unmarked spot.

Boniface I
After being passed over for the Latin crown, he left Constantinople to found the Kingdom of Thessalonica.  As part of the Bulgarian siege of the city in 1207, he was killed in an ambush and beheaded.  His head was sent to Kaloyan.

Enrico Dandolo
EnricoDandoloEnrico Dandolo refused the crown as he felt he was too old for it.  Dandolo died comfortably in bed in 1205, after an exhausting expedition against the Bulgarians.  While his reputation more than any other Crusader will always be linked to the fall of the Byzantine empire, his leadership defined Venice as a Mediterranean power for the next couple hundred years.1280px-Enrico_Dandolo_gravestone

He is now buried in the Hagia Sofia.


After Baldwin was captured, he led the retreat from Adrianople.  He was given the city of Messiopolis, but this was leveled by Kaloyan. Lombards_Library_022

A few years later, he wrote his memoirs of the Crusade which remains the primary Catholic point of view of the 4th Crusade.  Relentlessly unapologetic about the conquest, he died peacefully on his own terms about 1209.

His memoirs can now be found on Amazon for those interested.


Constantine Lacaris
So once Alexios V vacated the throne, the city needed someone to lead the defense of the city.  The eventual candidate, Constantine Lacaris, he initially refused the purple knowing what future lied ahead for the claimant.  He finally accepted the crown, sent the Varangian Guard off to fight the Latins and slipped out of town via a small boat with Theodore Lacaris to found the Empire of Nicea.



Enrico Tomb: By Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Photos from 40 Martyrs Church are my own.

The 4th Crusade Personified as Game of Thrones

Building on the previous post on the 4th Crusade, leveraging modern cinema seemed like a great opportunity to make this episode a bit more accessible.  I’ll admit that I’m a Game of Thrones fan.  The power grabs in this series is the closest rudimentary representation to the Byzantine republic, especially with struggles of legitimacy.  And spoiler, there are no heroes in this episode of history.

Alexios III Angelos

Tommen LannisterTommen_Baratheon
After taking power from Isaac, he spent his time lavishing monies to stay in power instead of working on the army.  The magnates continued their power grab at the cost of the central government.  These decisions gave local nobles additional power and had a disastrous effect on the eastern frontier, as it did nothing to halt the Turkification of these provinces.

Alexios’ weak nature really became evident in the showdown when he dispatched from the St. Romanos Gate vastly outnumbering the Crusaders.  He could have ended the Crusade right there had he attacked them, but instead he turned back without a fight.  He finally fled the city in a boat to Thrace.

Alexios IV

Joffrey Baratheon.joffrey
This Alexios was a child playing a adult’s game.  He arguably deserves the most ire of all characters as he was making promises he knew the empire could not keep.  He didn’t care as the ends justified the means.  His personal prestige was more important than the well being of the Byzantine state.  Once on the throne, reality struck that he could not meet his promises.  His answer to stay there was to play the Crusaders leadership against Byzantines nobles in a sort of chess game without actually taking sides.  He wouldn’t fight the crusaders, nor would he fully pay them.   While this would buy him time in the short term it was only slowly tightening the noose around his neck.

If anyone in this episode of history requires to have their reputation reworked, it is Alexios IV.


Alexios V Doukas (Mourtzouphlos)

Samwell Tarlysamwelltarley.jpb.jpg
So as support for Alexios IV is crumbling, this was the best and brightest the empire could muster to replace him in the empire’s time of need?  When you roll the tape he just never managed to inspire any confidence in his soldiers to fight hard.

Consider the evidence:  He set up an ambush of Henry on the road from Philia to Constantinople and his group could not dismount a single crusader.  When it failed, he ran away throwing down the Icon of the Virgin knowing that the Crusaders would go for the loot to save his own skin.

Instead of fighting alongside his soldiers along the sea wall, he watched the battle from the Palace of Blacharnae.  All it took was a single Crusader making it through the wall (Aleaumes) to spook the Byzantines into fleeing.  Like a true coward, he left in a small fishing boat in the night.

I’m not sure how this leader could have been any more the opposite of Constantine XI Palaiologos in Byzantium’s time of need.



Khal Drogo
Who else to represent the descendants of horse archers!  Kaloyan is the one ruler who came out of the best from this situation.  He managed to play both the Latins and Byzantines off each other to increase his state significantly.

My main criticism would be his savagery in several situations might have been excessive which is consistent with this character.  He might have been able to expand the Bulgarian state further into areas like Thessaloniki had he dialed the violence back a little bit.

George Akropolites reports that Kaloyan made this next fellow’s head into a drinking cup.



Baldwin of Flanders

Ramsay Bolton.Ramsay_Bolton
He was a famous knight in the West, well connected and reputed to be quite popular.  He was initially not elected leader of the Crusade because he had previously humiliated the King of France.  However, he played the political game well enough to gain the throne over Boniface as he gained the Venetian electors.  They thought he would honor his commitments to them better than the alternative.

After taking the throne, he never quite understood how to leverage the relationships with the Bulgarians or existing locale magnates.  Instead, he goes out to attack the Bulgarians with disastrous consequences.

Boniface I

CS 65 Friday 22nd October 2010Tyrion Lannister
I chose this candidate as Boniface constantly juggled competing interests throughout the Crusade- the pope, Alexius IV, as well as the other Crusader leaders to keep the enterprise going.  He had no problem hiding information from the rank and file like excommunications when appropriate.  The enterprise should have folded at multiple points, but Boniface did just enough to keep it alive.

On paper, he was tied to the previous dynasty and was accepted by the local Greeks as the future emperor just after Conquest.  It was commonly believed that he would take the throne as he had already set up shop in the Great Palace.  However, when put to a vote he had a shocking loss to Baldwin.   While his election might have resulted in a Latin Empire which would have been far stronger, his ties to the local peoples and aristocracy did him in.

Enrico Dandolo

Petyr_BaelishPetyr Baelish.
I know that popular opinion wants him as the personification of evil as Night King, but this misses some obvious facts.  Enrico was the consummate businessman.  While some modern sources paint him as seeking revenge for the Massacre of the Latins in 1182, his business dealings with the Byzantines between this episode and 4th crusade show a more calculating leader.  I mean, why wait 20+ years for revenge and set up new economic ties if revenge is what you’re after?

By keeping the Crusaders in hock to him for the fleet and heading to Zara, he managed to extract ever bit of value out of the enterprise and get repayment for his fleet.  The diversion to Constantinople?  Not personal, it was a business decision.  Enrico would have even owned a few brothels if the business case was strong enough.






Note: Images published under non-commercial Fair Use law.  HBO is the copyright owner, and may request to have them taken down.

News Sources for Critical Thinkers

In my last posting, I addressed some polarization of history  and I promised to find a collection of sources for current events.  It was an interesting journey in researching to determine what I consider the best analysis of current day events.  The majority of what we call news today is nothing more clickbait for political sycophants (Young Turks, HuffPost, Breitbart, Fox) and Hollywood type entertainment.  There are only so many hours in the day- let’s maximize the only the very best material available from multiple viewpoints.

The finalists here aggregated around sources that analyze our current day events without being afraid criticize of their own party lines where appropriate.  The podcasts identified reflect the left, right and “other”.  Furthermore, I worked to find the presentation of facts in a way which wouldn’t be offensive for anyone on the political scale, assuming they are reasonably open minded.

Drumroll….the list:

Rubin Report
Formerly under the production company of the Young Turks, this show has nothing in common with their style.  Dave Rubin constantly refers to himself as a classical liberal, however is not afraid to be critical of the more radical elements of his own political party.  His justification of these attacks on his own side is to bring about the better liberalism.  He calls identity politics by the name “Regressive Left”, and has a number of politically conservative guests on his show.  His interview style is such that instead of battling guests, he drives probing questions to determine their paradigm for deeper understanding.

Gold Episode: Glenn Bleck.  The discovery of common ground between Dave Rubin and Beck here should bring some sense of hope to the most cynical persons.

Renegade Report
Coming from South Africa, this Right-wing leaning show attempts to duplicate a similar interview type style as the Rubin Report.  Their guests seem to be a little less mainstream than Dave Rubin, but still quite engaging.  While not as consistent as Rubin, their best work has come in towards the more recent releases.

Gold Episode: Jordan Peterson.  He defines psychological difference between liberal and conservatives in a way no one will see coming.

Dan Carlin’s Common Sense
This is the same Dan Carlin from Hardcore History who fronts this podcast.  Seemingly critical of everyone in the world right now, his voice comes off sometimes sounds a bit similar to Alex Jones.  Don’t let that stop you because his analysis is quite deep in regards to constitutional issues and where things have become derailed.

Gold Episode: Disengaging the Lizard Brain. His opinion that even if Trump was stopped, that the ideas would manifest themselves again in 2020 is a theme no one else seems to be thinking about right now.

The Economist Magazine
Arguably the best source for international news right now.  It’s a dense read, and a single issue can take a couple of hours to sort through.

PBS Frontline
A slow methodical deep dive into a number of social and current events.  They take their time on these issues and really get to the root, without spinning it to allow the viewer to make their own conclusions.  Some of the best journalism out there today.

Lies my Teacher Told Me

Building upon Sean Munger’s excellent Fake History blog entry from a few weeks back, I wanted to run a sort of “Lies my Teacher Told Me” in the same vein of the 1990s book.  I wanted to highlight a few as part of a larger thread that we as a society are losing our ability in critical thinking:

Gold, Glory and God….but mostly Gold.
This was the explanation given about the Spanish Conquistador’s motivations.  It is popular to downplay the religiosity of persons who lived during the medieval time period.  We have an arrogance about our modern moral superiority compared to those who come before us, which ironically places us no better than those we judge.  I won’t delve into this significantly, but the 20th-21st century has exceeded all previous in war death toll, global slavery, ethnic cleansing and environmental devastation.

The American Civil War was about Slavery.
Yes it was!  But the American Civil war was additionally caused by a complex set of circumstances including Sectionalism, cultural and economic differences, and State’s Rights.  The reasons for this war are economic driven.  But we are taught it was a moral battle between an abolitionist Lincoln and Confederate slaveholders.

The issue I take with such reductionist explanations is while it makes things easier to understand, it also removes the complexities of the world we live.  By dumbing things down we are preventing our children from being able to consume more sophisticated information.

Democrats bring War and Economic growth, Republicans bring Foreign Policy Stability and Recession.
This one targets that World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam were all started on Democrat watches (Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson), plus the economic recessions are brought on by Republican administrations (Depression, 1970s).  It continues to rear its ugly head:

Events on the world stage and the economy happen in interdependence of who is in power.  That is not to say that presidential policies have an effect on the direction of economy or world geopolitics, but many times these are trailing indicators.  Furthermore, there are wise and poor leaders which come from both political parties.

The evidence shows plenty of bull markets under Republican watches and times of peace with the Democrats.

The Crusades
The common explanation is a colonial adventure driven by power hungry popes against a non aggressive people.  Political writers, catholic apologetics and anti-religious radicals like to cherry picking facts to further agendas.  The reality is the situation was a highly complex set of economic, cultural and religious phenomena escalating into war.

I wanted to create a an infographic, leveraging writers in this topic in terms of complexity and political lean.  Ironically, the most cited resources we see in the public sphere(Runciman, Political Op-Eds) are at the bottom of the graphic.  As a result, what continues to get propagated on twitter, message boards and the public are the dumbed down reductionist archetypes.


Thinking Further
When one is consuming only one point of view, they are only reinforcing their own biases.  They are not consuming information, but rather propaganda.

There is a meme floating out on the internet referring to the quality of news sources and political lean.

It’s important to consume a variety of sources, both conservative and liberal as it allows for a holistic view of the world, in both current and historical context. Truth elevates itself out of examining all possible angles.

Look at all your sources across the spectrum, understanding your own biases.

Current Events
My next step will be to try to create out a full view of the best current thinkers across the political sphere.  I’m looking for suggestions of conservative scholars who can be consumed by Liberals, such as Jordan Peterson…and liberal intellectuals like Kevin Drum.  Really, I’m looking for high thinkers here- the antithesis of Breitbart and Young Turks anti-intellectual type of tripe.  I welcome all suggestions into this list.