6 – Alexios III Angelos (1195-1203)
Alexios III took the throne from his brother Isaac II in 1195 and had him blinded and imprisoned. He was known for his extravagant spending and imposed heavy taxes on the people of the empire while claiming that he was collecting money to fight off German emperor Henry VI who was apparently looking to launch an attack.
At this stage, what remained of the Byzantine empire was under threat from Seljuk Turks, Bulgarians, Vlachs and the Kingdom of Hungary. Alexios failed miserably to deal with crises via diplomacy and frivolously spent the empire’s money.
He really managed to excel in the incompetence stakes when trying to deal with the Fourth Crusade which attempted to install Alexios IV, son of Isaac II, as emperor. By neglecting the Byzantine navy during his reign, Alexios allowed the Crusaders to successfully attack Constantinople by sea; a feat that had never before been achieved. Additionally, the Byzantines outnumbered the Crusaders by up to 3:1 and also had the Varangian Guard to call upon.
Yet he really managed to outdo himself in terms of terrible leadership after the Varangian Guard helped to repel the initial Crusader assaults by land and sea. Alexios initially did the right thing by facing the numerically inferior attackers in the field in an attempt to drive them away from Constantinople. Instead of attacking however, he elected to withdraw his troops in a move that has baffled historians ever since. Alexios then showed his cowardice by fleeing to Thrace as Constantinople was ultimately taken by the Crusaders. He tried to organize resistance but once again failed and he died in 1211 at a monastery in Nicaea.