7 – Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282-1328)
He was another emperor who perhaps was a victim of poor circumstances. When he gained the throne, the empire had almost been bankrupted by the wars fought by his predecessor Michael VIII. However, Andronikos II severely lacked the strategic vision to deal with these issues and during his reign, the empire endured a sequence of disasters.
He became sole emperor in 1282 and proceeded to raise taxes and reduced exemptions as a means of raising money. Yet he made the shocking error of effectively disbanding the Byzantine navy in 1285 which had consisted of around 80 ships. The lack of naval power cost him dearly during two wars with Venice and his attempt to resurrect the navy in 1320 was a complete failure. The Venetians and Genoese warred on Byzantine waters and the Genoese had a trading colony at Galata which apparently earned 15 times the tax revenue of Constantinople. Worst of all, the emperor saw none of this money!
While he managed to use a marriage alliance to prevent war with Serbia in Macedonia, he was unable to prevent the collapse of the Byzantine frontier in Asia Minor. His co-emperor Michael IX (given the title in 1294/95) couldn’t prevent the Turks from advancing in Asia Minor and the government hired Catalonian adventurers to help them deal with the threat. Once their leader was murdered in 1305, the Catalans turned on the Byzantines and assisted a party of Turks in the devastation of the heartland of the empire including Thessaly, Macedonia and Thrace.
Meanwhile, the Turks took yet more Byzantine territory including Prusa in 1326. While the Byzantine empire was on the rocks by the time Andronikos came to power, his complete ineptitude caused utter destruction. He had to abdicate his throne in 1328 when his grandson Andronikos III defeated him in a civil war and marched into Constantinople. The failed emperor died as a monk in the empire’s capital in 1332.