9 – Alexios II Komnenos (1183)
Alexios II was just 11 years old when he became emperor in 1180 after his father, Manuel I, died. His mother, Maria, decided that Alexios was too young to rule, so she became regent along with one of the new emperor’s cousins who was also called Alexios. The young emperor’s friends attempted to start a coup to ensure he gained the throne and soon, there were riots in the streets of Constantinople.
Alexios’ friends failed in their quest but on May 2, 1182, Andronikos Komnenos, Emperor Manuel’s first cousin, took advantage of the chaos and tried to place himself on the throne. He entered Constantinople and quickly overthrew the government. Almost as soon as he entered the city, there was a massacre of the Latins, the Roman Catholic inhabitants of the city. An estimated 80,000 people died, and Andronikos didn’t try to stop the purge.
Although Andronikos was happy to allow Alexios II to become emperor, he ensured that everyone close to the young man died. Maria, the other Alexios, and the emperor’s older sister Maria were all executed; apparently, Emperor Alexios was forced to sign the death warrants. It was surely just a matter of time before Andronikos made his move and sure enough, he became co-emperor in September 1183. Rather than wait for Alexios to become old enough to gain sense, Andronikos acted almost immediately.
In October 1183, Andronikos ordered the assassination of his co-emperor and the unfortunate Alexios was strangled by a bowstring. During his brief reign, the Empire’s enemies used the discord in Constantinople to make incursions into Byzantine territory. The Kingdom of Hungary took Bosnia and Syrmia in 1181 and the following year, the Empire lost Sozopolis and Cotyaeum to Kilij Arslan II. Andronikos was now the sole leader of the Byzantine Empire, but he didn’t live long enough to enjoy it.