The capture of Constantinople by the armies of the Fourth Crusade in 1204 accelerated the disintegration of the Byzantine Empire, and was followed by a period of intense political fragmentation and military conﬂicts between the small political entities that were established on the territories that had belonged to the Byzantine Empire.
The empire of Nicaea, which was established by Theodore I (r. 1204–1221) in western Asia Minor proved to be the most successful of the Greek* successor states to Byzantium. By the 1250s, the Nicaeans had captured substantial territories in the Balkans, which before 1204 had belonged to the Byzantine Empire, and paved the way for the recovery of Constantinople and the restoration of the Byzantine Empire by Michael VIII Palaiologos (r. 1259–1282) in 1261.
*[NovoScriptorium: The term ‘Greek’ is a modern invention. The historically correct term is ‘Roman’. And, of course, no ‘Byzantine’ Empire ever existed; the name of the Empire was ‘Roman’ until its very end in 1453]
Military conﬂicts dominate the History of George Akropolites, which is the main source for the history of the empire of Nicaea. Akropolites was an eye witness to many of the military operations he describes, since he accompanied the emperors John III (r. 1221–1254) and Theodore II (r. 1254–1258) on their campaigns in the west.
During the ﬁrst years of his reign, Theodore I was involved in continuous conﬂicts on all fronts against the Latin empire of Constantinople, the Seljuk sultanate of Rum and various independent magnates in Asia Minor such as Theodore Mankaphas, Savvas Asidenos, Manuel Maurozomes and David Komnenos, the last of whom, together with his brother Alexios, had established the empire of Trebizond. Akropolites comments that Laskaris had engaged in many ﬁerce battles against these enemies. However, he says nothing about the nature of these military operations or of Theodore I’s army.
It may be speculated that the Nicaean army was composed of Anatolian soldiers who had previously served the Byzantine Empire, retinues of Laskaris’ followers and mercenaries of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Evidence that west-European mercenaries were part of Theodore I’s army in the ﬁrst decade of the thirteenth century can be found in a letter Pope Innocent III sent to the Latin patriarch of Constantinople, Thomas Morosini, in December 1210. The pope writes that Laskaris had in his service Latin men ‘who had neglected the fear of God‘. They despised the salaries provided by the Latin emperor (Henry of Flanders), and received higher payments from the enemy. Innocent III states that if the Byzantines recovered the territories of the Latin empire of Constantinople, it could be difﬁcult for reinforcements to be sent to the Holy Land. In addition, he reminds the Latins of Constantinople that not long ago the Byzantine emperor Isaak II Angelos (r.1185–1195) had allied with Saladin. After pointing out the danger of Constantinople being recaptured by the Nicaeans, the pope declared that the Latins who served the Nicaeans against Henry of Flanders should be excommunicated. Innocent III concluded his letter by exhorting the Latin emperor to pay his soldiers the appropriate salaries so that poverty would not induce them to join the enemy.
Bans imposed by religious authorities had a limited effect on the motivation and activities of mercenaries. Since the second half of the twelfth century, mercenaries had begun to play an increasingly important role in the military operations of the crusader states.
The papal excommunication of 1210 did not deter west-European soldiers from reinforcing the ranks of the Nicaean army. The sources point out the signiﬁcant role of Latin mercenaries in the battle of Antioch-on-the-Maeander (June 1211), where the Nicaeans under Theodore I defeated the Seljuks, who were led by Kaykhushraw I (r. 1192–1196, 1205–1211).
Akropolites relates that the Nicaean army was composed of 2,000 soldiers, 800 of whom were ‘Italians’. He calls them noble men and strong of arm. He remarks that the westerners were the ﬁrst to attack the enemy and that they exhibited deeds of great prowess and noble soul. However, they were overpowered by the huge numbers of the Seljuks.
Writing in the middle of the fourteenth century, Nikephoros Gregoras ascertains that among the 2,000 soldiers of Theodore I, there were 800 Latins. In his rather detailed account of the battle, Gregoras comments that the Latin mercenaries attacked and broke the centre of the Seljuk army. They killed anyone who resisted them, and reached the rear of the enemy ranks. They neutralized the enemy slingers and archers, preventing them from reacting ﬂexibly and use their bows. Eventually, being vastly outnumbered by the enemy, the Latins were encircled and most of them perished.
Akropolites sees the heavy losses of Theodore I’s Latin soldiers at the battle of Antioch-on-the-Maeander as the main reason for the success of the expedition of Henry of Flanders in north-western Asia Minor. Roughly three months after Theodore I’s victory over the Seljuks, the Latin emperor of Constantinople defeated the Nicaeans at Rhyndakos (15 October 1211) and captured Pegai, Lentiana and Poimamenon. Akropolites attributes the Nicaean defeat to the decimation of Laskaris’s Latin mercenaries at the battle of Antioch-on-the-Maeander. As he comments, ‘Henry saw that the Roman affairs had been humbled, especially from the time when the emperor Theodore killed the sultan; it was then that the army of Franks which was attached to Theodore had been destroyed.’ Akropolites adds that Henry of Flanders feared these soldiers. When the Latin emperor heard about Theodore I’s victory over the Seljuks, he allegedly remarked, ‘Laskaris was vanquished, not victorious.’
Indeed, in a letter he compiled in January 1212, which was addressed to ‘all his friends’, Henry of Flanders remarked on the presence of Latin soldiers in the army of Theodore I. Commenting on the battle of Antioch-on-the-Maeander, the Latin emperor writes that the Seljuk sultan invaded the land of Laskaris. Leading a large army of Greeks and being reinforced by a large number of Latins, who had been excommunicated by the pope, Laskaris defeated the Turks. Encouraged by this victory, Laskaris sent letters to every Greek province, announcing his victory and declaring that he would “liberate the whole of Greece from the Latin dogs“.
Unlike Akropolites, who comments that Henry of Flanders invaded the Nicaean possessions wishing to exploit the weakening of Laskaris’s army that resulted from the elimination of the latter’s mercenaries, the Latin emperor relates that Laskaris had grown very strong after his victory over the Seljuks and he therefore decided to invade the Nicaean possessions before the Nicaeans attacked Constantinople.
Hoping to attract military aid from western Europe, he exaggerated the size of Theodore I’s army at Rhyndakos. He writes that it was composed of ninety squadrons, eight of which were made up of Latin soldiers who had been excommunicated by the pope. Henry claimed that he had at his disposal ﬁfteen squadrons of ﬁfteen men each, one of which stayed behind to guard the camp, and his own squadron of less than ﬁfty men.
While there is no doubt that the ﬁgures provided by the Latin emperor of Constantinople are unreliable, he nevertheless makes the point that the Nicaean army included a substantial number of Latin mercenaries. Henry of Flanders concludes his account of the battle of Rhyndakos by stating that many of Theodore I’s Latin soldiers were killed and others were taken prisoner.
Nonetheless, it seems that westerners did not cease to join Theodore I’s armies after 1212, although the lack of sources prevents us from reaching safe conclusions about their numbers and organization.
Theodore I’s policy of recruiting large numbers of west-European soldiers does not mark any break with the past. The massive employment of Latin mercenaries had begun in the eleventh century and soon many of these soldiers and their leaders established a reputation as competent soldiers who were able to take on the Seljuks and defeat them.
Like many of his Byzantine predecessors, Laskaris had good reasons to employ soldiers from outside the empire, who were less likely to get involved in politics. When Kaykhushraw I invaded the Nicaean territories in 1211, he was accompanied by the deposed Byzantine emperor Alexios III Angelos (r. 1195–1203). Akropolites’ statement that, before marching to encounter the sultan, Theodore I assembled his men and asked them whether they would stand with him or with Alexios III, implies that he had doubted the loyalty of his most inﬂuential subjects. If that was so, the employment of foreign troops would provide the emperor with greater control over his army.
Very little is known about the identity, organization and origins of the Latin soldiers recruited by Theodore I. It is not known whether they were a pre-organized group of soldiers employed by the Nicaean emperor, or recruited as individuals. Nor do the sources specify their status before they joined the Nicaeans. Pope Innocent III calls them ‘Latin men paid by Laskaris’. Henry of Flanders identiﬁes them merely as Latins. Describing the battle of Antioch, Akropolites calls them ‘800 Italian brave men’.
It is difﬁcult to believe that all of the 800 Latins (provided that this is an accurate ﬁgure) in Theodore I’s army in 1211 were knights; the sources show that the military forces of the leaders of the Latin empire of Constantinople did not include more than a few hundred knights at any given time.
Nonetheless, it is plausible that at least some of these soldiers had served as mercenaries in the armies of the Latin empire of Constantinople before joining the Nicaeans. There are indications that there was a signiﬁcant mercenary element in the armies of the Fourth Crusade, and it seems that wealthy crusaders were expected to hire mercenary sergeants.
The extensive recruitment of west-European soldiers raises the question of the impact the presence of these troops had on the military organization and military ideology of Nicaea. In the imperial oration that he compiled on the occasion of Theodore I’s victory over the Seljuks in 1211, Niketas Choniates depicts the battle of Antioch-on-the-Maeanderas a clash between Christianity and Islam. Choniates remarks that Laskaris, by defeating the Seljuks, imitated Christ who ‘clashed with the enemy of the human nature’. He also comments that ‘the outcome of the battle was worthy of the emperor loving Christ and of the Christ loving emperor’ and adds that the emperor achieved his victories by the sign of the cross, which he enjoined his soldiers to wear as an ensign. He comments that the emperor imitated Constantine, who at the battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 had the symbol ‘In this sign conquer’ marked on his soldiers’ shields.
That the Nicaean soldiers wore the sign of Christ is also implied by Akropolites, who writes in his description of Theodore I’s preparations for the battle: ‘staking the battle on the throw of a dice, or rather, to speak truthfully, in the Lord Christ whose name we pious people bear as an ensign or seal, he quickened his march’.
While the battle of Antioch-on-the-Maeander was not the ﬁrst conﬂict in which the Byzantines employed a large number of west-European troops against an Islamic power, the sources do not report any other instance in which Byzantine troops wore the sign of the cross. By comparing Theodore I to Constantine, Choniates implies that the emperor wished to promote the religious character of the battle against the Seljuks, although it is likely that the emperor’s decision to have his troops wear the sign of the cross is explained by the fact that a large part of his army was composed of Latin mercenaries.
These Latin mercenaries, together with the native Nicaean soldiers, were defending the Christian Byzantine Empire against the Seljuks, who had formed an alliance with the Latin empire of Constantinople. In his aforementioned letter, compiled in 1212, Henry of Flanders is very critical of the Latin soldiers of Theodore I, who had been excommunicated for joining the Nicaeans. However, the Seljuk sultan is spoken of as someone who had conﬁrmed his friendship with the Latins of Constantinople by oath and agreed to provide them with military aid against Theodore I.
Furthermore, a letter of Pope Innocent III to Theodore I in 1208 indicates that the latter had requested the pope to impose peace between the Latins and the Nicaeans so that they could unite against the ‘Ismailites’.
Consequently, the rejection of Theodore I’s alliance proposal by the pope, and the alliance between Henry of Flanders and Kaykhushraw I, might have provided the Nicaean ruler with the opportunity to promote himself as a defender of Christianity against the Seljuk invaders. To demonstrate this, Theodore I would have his soldiers bearing the sign of the cross on the battleﬁeld. Wearing the sign of the cross could also have provided the Latin soldiers with an ideological incentive to ﬁght for Nicaea. It cannot be ruled out that many of Laskaris’s mercenaries did not ﬁght exclusively for their salaries, but were genuinely motivated by crusading ideals.
The fact that the Nicaeans were willing to give their west-European soldiers ideological incentives and to facilitate communication with them is reﬂected in a letter compiled by the Nicaean patriarch, Michael Autoreianos, between 1208 and 1210, which was addressed to the soldiers of Nicaea. Autoreianos writes that the soldiers of Theodore I were expected, by the grace of God, to prove their valour and bravery for the defence of the faith and the inheritance of Christ, for which they had been ordered to ﬁght on the frontlines. They should also ﬁght with great zeal against unjust and arrogant enemies for the freedom of their race, the good reputation of their fathers and the existence and honour of their women and children. It is interesting that Autoreianos, praising the military skills of Theodore I, comments that the emperor was a most generous ruler and rewarded military achievements in a manner beﬁtting an emperor. This statement may be seen as an indirect reference to the ability of the emperor to attract mercenaries. It also shows the awareness of the signiﬁcant impact material proﬁt had on the motivation of soldiers. The patriarch closes his letter by calling the soldiers to serve the emperor faithfully and concludes:
“Let the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen. Receiving the Grace of Christ we forgive all the trespasses committed by those of you who defended the people of God and happened to suffer death and bore the brunt of battle for their homes, and for the common salvation and redemption of the people.”
If the conclusion of Autoreianos’s letter is authentic, it contradicts canon law and adopts one of the fundamental principles of Holy War: forgiveness of sins for soldiers who died ﬁghting against the inﬁdel. It is beyond the interests of this study to examine the question of Holy War in Byzantium. Sufﬁce it to say that leading scholars of Byzantine military history agree that no theory of Holy War evolved in Byzantium. The Byzantines fought under the symbol of the Cross and saw themselves as soldiers of Christ ﬁghting to preserve God’s kingdom on earth. However, ideas such as remission of sins for those dying in wars against enemies who were of a different religion were not adopted by the Byzantines, who did not view war as a religious tool to be used against inﬁdels and heretics.
[NovoScriptorium: We firmly suggest a good read of the paper titled “Jihād and Crusade: Byzantine positions towards the notions of ‘holy war’ “, by Yannis Stouraitis, 2011. Selected parts of this very analytic paper can be found in our following article: https://novoscriptorium.com/2019/09/26/the-negative-eastern-roman-byzantine-attitude-towards-a-conception-of-warfare-as-a-divinely-ordained-means-of-religion/%5D
Instead, the Byzantines had developed a concept of Just War that focused on ﬁghting for the restoration of justice and imperial rule over territories that the Byzantines claimed as legitimate parts of their empire. God leads the Byzantines because they ﬁght for the territorial integrity of their empire and for the restoration of imperial rule over territories they believed were legitimately theirs.
Nonetheless, Autoreianos’s letter is reminiscent of the well-known suggestion of Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (r. 963–969) that all soldiers who fall in battle should be declared martyrs. However, while Nikephoros Phokas’ proposal had been rejected by the patriarch of the time, remission in the thirteenth century was granted by the patriarch.
Furthermore, a tenth-century document at St Catherine’s Monastery on Mountain Sinai contains a unique version of the Triodion,the liturgical book for the Easter Cycle, which includes a service for those who died in battle or as prisoners of war. In his examination and translation of this document P. Stephenson concludes that this text makes clear reference to the remission of sins. However, this service failed to become established in the Orthodox calendar*.
*[NovoScriptorium: Of course it failed, as it was in direct contradiction with the Orthodox Christian doctrines and beliefs. It must be noted that even today, in the various different Monastic communities of the East, there are still some local-only practices, e.g. the Typikon of a Monastery and the veneration of local-only Saints. As long as a heresy does not appear, then all these local practices are hardly ever faught by Patriarchates and Synods]
Pope Innocent III attributes the desertion of western soldiers to the Nicaean army to the higher salaries offered by Laskaris.This implies that these were soldiers of fortune who sold their services to the highest bidder. However, documentary sources indicate that cash payments were not the exclusive means through which Latin troops were maintained. It seems that there were Latin soldiers who held pronoiai, which were grants by the emperor of the state’s ﬁscal rights over revenue resources to an individual or groups of individuals. In 1209 syr Theodore Gylielmos (Guillaume) appears to have held paroikoi (dependent peasants),which indicates that he was a pronoia holder.
It is possible that he was among the Latin soldiers excommunicated in 1210. Theodore Gylielmos appears, together with another Latin, Alexios Teires, as witness in an act compiled in 1216 by Andronikos Mauropous regarding the request of the monastery of St John of Patmos for a metochion in the area of Miletos in the theme of Thrakesion.
The form of the names of these soldiers could be seen as indication that they had been assimilated long before the compilation of this document. It is impossible to assess the degree of assimilation to Byzantine society and culture of each individual soldier, but it is well-known that ofﬁcials of Latin origin had entered Byzantine service during Manuel I’s reign and perhaps earlier. Therefore, it is likely that there were Latin mercenaries who were assimilated during the twelfth century.
The lack of sources prevents us from reaching any conclusions concerning the presence of Latin mercenaries on the battleﬁeld during the reign of Theodore I’s successor, John III Vatatzes. However, Vatatzes was almost constantly at war with the Latins. After 1235 he was able to repeatedly besiege Constantinople and, in the 1240s, he succeeded in capturing large territories in the Balkans. Under Vatatzes, the wars against the Latins continued to be promoted as wars for the liberation of Byzantine cities, and as just punishment for the injustices committed by the Latins against the Byzantines.
However, the gloriﬁcation of war as a holy activity disappeared from Nicaean military propaganda. It is probable that John III found it unnecessary to provide his Latin troops with any form of religious motivation. Unlike Theodore I, John III was not engaged in any major conﬂict against the Seljuks, and almost all his military campaigns were against Christian enemies in the Balkans. The fact that war was no longer gloriﬁed as a holy activity may also reﬂect John III’s adoption of a more modest style of rule than his predecessor.
Although we know next to nothing about their presence in military campaigns, Latin mercenaries continued to receive pronoia grants under John III. Writing shortly after Michael VIII Palaiologos’s recovery of Constantinople, the author of the work often attributed to Theodore Skoutariotes remarks that under John III all the tax payers became wealthy, and those on the military lists and the magnates had many times more than the incomes from the pronoiai.
It seems that a substantial number of Latin soldiers under Vatatzes held the title of
kavallarios, a term used by Byzantine authors to refer to horsemen and to west-European knights. In the thirteenth century, it acquired an additional technical meaning, becoming a title that was granted to Latin soldiers.
The lizios kavallarios Syrgares, who was active in the 1230s and died before 1251, appears in a series of documents regarding land disputes. Syrgares is identiﬁed as, ‘the bravest, most loyal, most courteous lizios kavallarios of my majesty.’ In two other documents, Syrgares is called, ‘paneugenestatos [most well-born] lizios kavallarios’.
Another such westerner was the kavallarios syr Adam. It is interesting that in a document regarding a land dispute between the monasteries of Stylos and Lemvos, the ‘bravest kavallarios’ Syrialates appears as a witness alongside the stratiotes (soldier) Constantine Avalantos, who must have been a Byzantine Greek. The Byzantines used the term stratiotes to refer to soldiers who were pronoia holders, and they seem to have been similar to the western miles.
Therefore, it is likely that, while the native soldiers who were remunerated through
pronoiai were identiﬁed as stratiotai, the title kavallarioi was reserved exclusively for western pronoiars.
By conferring upon them the title of kavallarioi, the Nicaean rulers wished to reward distinguished Latin mercenaries for their services and to facilitate communication between the Byzantine state and its western troops. It might be supposed that the title kavallarios was one that the Latins would understand in terms of rank. The fact that they received their title from the emperor implies that they entered the hierarchical system of the Byzantine aristocracy and had political and personal ties with the Empire.
Consequently, the military service they provided was a social duty and a legal obligation. They were expected to defend the land that was the source of their income and – at least theoretically– they were vassals (lizioi) of the emperor. The desire to gain higher salaries and proﬁt through booty and ransoms was no longer their sole incentive to risk their lives on the battleﬁeld. The use of epithets such as ‘the bravest’, ‘the most loyal’ and ‘the most well-born’ to characterize the kavallarioi may be seen as a response to the criticism that foreign soldiers were disloyal and unreliable. By being identiﬁed as proud and loyal kavallarioi, these westerners wished to dissociate themselves from the stereotypical image of the mercenary soldier as a greedy and rootless individual who lacked any sense of social responsibility and duty. Moreover, that the west-European kavallarioi were not identiﬁed by any ethnic label, and the fact that at least some of them seem to have served in Byzantium for more than a decade, indicates that long service blurred the distinction between foreign and native soldiers.
The granting of pronoiai can be expected to have made a signiﬁcant impact on the identity and motivation of these west-European soldiers. They became property owners, and were provided with an extra incentive to ﬁght for Nicaea because they had acquired a bond with the Nicaean society and an interest in its well-being. Consequently, they cannot be seen as adventurers interested only in salaries and plunder and indifferent to whose money they received and whose properties they looted.
Another development related to the presence of west-European mercenaries in the Nicaean army under John III was the establishment of the ofﬁce of megas konostaulos, the holder of which was in charge of the Frankish mercenaries.
It is certain that the creation of this ofﬁce reﬂects the important role of Latin mercenaries in the Nicaean army. However, although the inﬂuence of western soldiers on the Byzantine military had been rather important since the eleventh century, the sources do not mention any speciﬁc ofﬁcer being in charge of these troops.
It has been suggested that the ofﬁce of megas konostaulos had its origins in the role of komes staulou (comes stabuli), the holder of which was responsible for the imperial stables. This ofﬁce is attested for the last time in tenth-century sources.
It is also possible that the creation of the ofﬁce reveals the inﬂuence of contemporary developments in western Europe. Units of mercenaries serving in Italy in the middle of the thirteenth century started to be called conestabilia or conestabileria, and their commanders conestabili.
It is not known when exactly the ofﬁce of megas konostaulos was established. Its ﬁrst-known holder was the future emperor Michael Palaiologos, son of Andronikos Palaiologos, who was one of John III’s leading generals.
Nonetheless, Pachymeres, whose history covers the period 1250–1307 and complements the information provided by Akropolites, implies that there might have been other megaloi konostauloi before Michael Palaiologos. Pachymeres comments that it was an old custom for the megas konostaulos to be in charge of the ‘Italian’ forces and subjects.
In a treatise he compiled in the 1250s, before his accession to the throne, John III’s son and successor Theodore II Laskaris remarked that it was the emperor’s duty to hire soldiers from wherever possible for the defence of the Empire.
However, after his succession Theodore II appears to question the need of employing mercenaries. In a letter addressed to his former mentor Nikephoros Blemmydes, Theodore II points out the high cost of maintaining a large army and remarks that he could reduce neither its size nor the amount of money required for its maintenance. He concludes by stating that neither the Turks nor the Bulgarians, Italians or Serbians would ever help the Byzantines: instead, the Byzantines needed to rely exclusively on their own strength and resources.
While the sources indicate that Theodore II did strengthen the Nicaean army, there is no concrete evidence that he reduced the number of Latin mercenaries. Describing Theodore’s campaign against the Bulgarians in 1255, Akropolites divides the army into three distinct ethnic groups: Romans, Cumans and Latins. Like the Cumans, the Latins were ﬁghting under their own commanders. Moreover, it seems that Theodore II did not terminate the pronoia grants to the Latin kavallarioi, since many of them were active in the second half of the thirteenth century.
Nevertheless, the events that led to the usurpation of the throne by Michael Palaiologos have been seen as a consequence of Theodore II’s decision to reduce the presence of Latin mercenaries in his army. During a memorial service for Theodore II shortly after his death in 1258, a mob that included many soldiers gathered outside the church and demanded to see his ten-year old son and successor, John IV. Pachymeres reports that among the crowd were many west-European soldiers who blamed the regent George Mouzalon for discontinuing their salaries. Eventually, the Latin mercenaries broke into the church and murdered Mouzalon and his brothers, paving the way for their leader, the megas konostaulos Michael Palaiologos, to usurp the throne. One wonders whether the complaints of the Latin mercenaries were genuine or merely a pretext to kill and remove the Mouzalon brothers from power. Consequently, irrespective of whether Theodore II had plans to create a native army, Latin soldiers participated in his campaigns, and seem to have exerted a signiﬁcant inﬂuence on the events that followed his death.
To sum up: The presence of Latin soldiers in the armies of the Laskarid rulers seems to have inﬂuenced the military ideology and administration of Nicaea. These changes were the result of the economic, political and military circumstances of the time. Under Theodore I, crusading ideas seem to have been incorporated into the military ideology of Nicaea. This reﬂects the adoption of an ideology of relentless militarism in response to the capture of Constantinople by the armies of the Fourth Crusade, as well as the large number of Latin troops in the army of Theodore I. The fact that Theodore I’s soldiers wore the sign of the cross in the battle of Antioch-on-the-Maeander seems to indicate an attempt by the emperor to promote himself as a champion of Christianity. It is also likely that this was a response to the excommunication of his Latin mercenaries by the Catholic Church. The inﬂuence of Holy War ideas was nonetheless only temporary, and seems to have disappeared during the ensuing reigns of John III Vatatzes and Theodore II Laskaris. This does not mean that the presence of Latin mercenaries was reduced. Under John III, the ﬁrst western holders of the title of kavallarios appeared, and the ofﬁce of
megas konostaulos was established. These developments indicate the willingness of the Nicaean rulers to facilitate communication with their Latin troops, and to reward their distinguished foreign soldiers by conferring upon them titles that would be easy for them to understand in terms of rank and prestige. Moreover, the practice of granting pronoiai to foreign soldiers saved the state from the burden of collecting taxes and raising cash to pay their wages, and it would also have affected the mercenaries’ identity and motivation. These soldiers became permanent residents of the Empire, acquired ties with the society of the state they served, and an additional incentive to become eager defenders of the lands that provided their incomes. They were not landless and rootless soldiers of fortune, ready to sell their services to the highest bidder. Theodore II seems to have questioned the expediency of recruiting foreign mercenaries, and apparently tried to increase the size of the army by recruiting more native soldiers. Nevertheless, Latin mercenaries participated in his campaigns and played a leading role in the events that followed his death and in the usurpation of the throne by Michael Palaiologos.
(Source: “Crusaders and mercenaries: the west-European soldiers of the Laskarids of Nicaea (1204–1258)”, by Savvas Kyriakidis)
Research-Selection-Comments for NovoScriptorium: Anastasius Philoponus