Heaven On Earth
Emperor Michael VII: Fields Of Gold
Indeed, the fortress of Palermo would be too much for the Orthodox army. And Michael VII wasnít up to the job of sieging the great castle. So he didnít. He was one of the few reasonable men in the Orthodox army to realize that to attack Palermo was suicide. It was quite possibly, the strongest fortress in all of Europe, second only to Constantinople. In fact, its walls were only a fraction smaller than Constantinopleís. The difference is that Palermo was a full blown military castle, filled with defenses throughout the city, while Constantinople was a metropolis.
So on January 12th 1082, Robert Guiscard and his men met Michael VII at the Strait of Messina to discuss terms. Of course, all of Serbia and Croatia would fall into Orthodox hands. And after heavy negotiations, it was agreed that all the territory the Orthodox currently controlled, southern Italy, would fall into their hands. Both men put their seals upon the parchment and the treaty was set.
Orthodox gains in the Adriatic War, 1080-1082 AD.
Thousands had died on either side. Indeed the Adriatic War was a bloody one, truly a brutal beginning to Michael VIIís reign. But Michael VII was still determined to raise his popularity. So, upon his return to Constantinople, he gave himself one of the most elaborate triumphs ever seen. Thousands of flower petals were thrown from rooftops as Michael VII and his army marched through the city. The same streets that, two years before, erupted into chaos during Romanos IVís funeral, now celebrated a victory in war and praised their Emperor. Michael VII was finally accepted by the people of the Empire.
A mosaic depicting high-ranking Orthodox citizens bringing gifts to the Emperor, during the victory procession.
From 1082 to 1090, Michael VII took a policy of peace and economic growth. He consolidated the lands gained in Serbia and Italy. Serbia was easier to bring into the Empire, as it was already heavily Orthodox. However, southern Italy, with an Orthodox minority, was much harder. Some minor peasant revolts broke out in 1085 and 1086; however these were easily quelled by the local Orthodox militias. By 1090, the Orthodox Empire had been stabilized. Its economy had recovered from the fickle years it had before and there was no sign of war from the east. For now, the Empire was safe. However, there was a hawk coming from the west.