Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282–1328)
The reign of Andronikos II marks the point at which Byzantium truly declined to the rank of a second-rate power. One of Andronikos’s first actions was to save money by scrapping his father’s successful fleet, a mistake that would leave Byzantium at the mercy of the maritime powers of Italy. The shortsightedness of Andronikos's cutbacks was demonstrated when Byzantium was drawn into a war with Venice and found itself unable to resist the Italian fleet's attacks. Under Andronikos II, Byzantium’s Asian territory, which had formed the core of the successful Empire of Nicaea, was reduced to a coastal strip opposite Constantinople. By 1326 the Ottoman Turks were firmly established in northwestern Asia Minor, and Andronikos’s attempt to remove them by hiring the Catalan Grand Company failed. The Catalans soon demanded more money than Andronikos was able to pay. When their wages failed to appear they pillaged their way across the empire, causing widespread destruction and famine, until they travelled from Constantinople to Athens where they founded a Catalan Duchy. Andronikos failed to contain the rising power of Serbia and had to accept the advancement of their border in Macedonia at the expense of Byzantium. In 1310 Andronikos became estranged from his wife Irene who withdrew to Thessaloniki, which, until her death in 1317, she ran as a virtually independent state.
In the realm of Orthodoxy, Andronikos repudiated his father’s union of the Greek Church with that of Rome, yet took twenty-eightyears to resolve the Arsenite Schism within his own church that the union had caused. The last seven years of Andronikos’s reign were spent fighting a ruinous civil war against his grandson Andronikos III, who deposed his grandfather in 1328 and forced him to become a monk. Despite the disasters associated with his rule, Andronikos’s reign saw a flowering of scholarly activity, art, and architecture.
On his seals Andronikos is shown standing, wearing a crown and a loros, and holding a larbarum and an akakia. A Manus Dei blesses the emperor. Andronikos is identified by his family name of Palaiologos. The obverse shows a standing Christ similar to that seen on the seals of Michael VIII.
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