Sunday 29 July 2018

Kenmu Restoration Period of Japan

The Kenmu Restoration (1333–1336) is the name given to both the three-year period of Japanese history between the Kamakura period and the Muromachi period, and the political events that took place in it. The restoration was an effort made by Emperor Go-Daigo to bring the Imperial House back into power, thus restoring a civilian government after almost a century and a half of military rule.

The Mahavira Hall of Eihō-ji

The Emperor's role had been usurped by the Minamoto and Hōjō families ever since Minamoto no Yoritomo had obtained from the Emperor the title of shōgun in 1192, ruling thereafter from Kamakura. He was the first shōgun  who ruled until his death in 1199 CE.

Grave of Yoritomo in Kamakura

For various reasons, the Kamakura shogunate decided to allow two contending imperial lines—known as the Southern Court or junior line, and the Northern Court or senior line—to alternate on the throne. The method worked for several successions until a member of the Southern Court ascended to the throne as Emperor Go-Daigo.

Emperor Go-Daigo

Emperor Go-Daigo wanted to overthrow the shogunate and openly defied Kamakura by naming his own son his heir. In 1331 the shogunate exiled Go-Daigo but loyalist forces, including Kusunoki Masashige, rebelled and came to his support. They were aided by, among others, future shōgun Ashikaga Takauji, a samurai who had turned against Kamakura when dispatched to put down Go-Daigo's rebellion.

Main hall of Tōji-in temple

When Emperor Go-Daigo ascended the throne in 1318, he immediately manifested his intention to rule without interference from the military in Kamakura. The Emperor reclaimed the property of some manors his family had previously lost control of, rewarding with them, among others, Buddhist temples like Tō-ji and Daitoku-ji in the hope to obtain their support.

Daitoku-ji Temple

Emperor Go-Daigo instead of giving rewards to his minor samurai, the warrior class, gave biggest of the rewards to Nitta Yoshisada, the man who had destroyed the Kamakura shogunate, and Ashikaga Takauji. In so doing, however, he failed to return control of the provinces to civilians. Samurai anger was made worse by the fact that Go-Daigo, wanting to build a palace for himself but having no funds, levied extra taxes from the samurai class. By the end of 1335 the Emperor and the nobility had lost all support of the warrior class.

Nitta Yoshisada in an image by Kikuchi Yōsai

Go-Daigo wanted to re-establish his rule in Kamakura and the east of the country, he sent his six-year-old son Prince Norinaga to Mutsu Province and nominated him Governor-General of the Mutsu and Dewa Provinces. In an reply to this move, General Ashikaga Takauji's younger brother Tadayoshi without an order from the Emperor escorted another of his sons, eleven-year-old Nariyoshi to Kamakura, where he installed him as Governor of the Kōzuke Province with himself as a deputy and de facto ruler.

Ashikaga Tadayoshi depicted in an Edo period print

Third son of Emperor Go-Daigo's, Prince Morinaga, was appointed sei-i taishōgun together with his brother Norinaga, a move that immediately aroused General Ashikaga Takauji's hostility. Takauji believed the military class had the right to rule. Prince Morinaga, with his prestige and his devotion to the civilian government cause, was Takauji's natural enemy and could count therefore on the support of his adversaries, among them Nitta Yoshisada, whom Takauji had offended.

Prince Moriyoshi's statue at Kamakura-gū in Kamakura

Kyoto by now was aware that Takauji had assumed wide powers without an imperial permission. By late 1335 several thousand of the emperor's men were ready to go to Kamakura, while a great army at the command of Kō no Moroyasu was rushing there to help it resist the attack. On November 17, 1335, Tadayoshi issued a message in his brother's name asking all samurai to join the Ashikaga and destroy Nitta Yoshisada, a high ranking samurai.

Main Hall of Hasedera in Kamakura

The war started with most samurai convinced that General Takauji was the man they needed to have their grievances redressed, and most peasants persuaded that they had been better off under the shogunate. The campaign was therefore enormously successful for the Ashikaga, with huge numbers of samurai rushing to join the two brothers. By February 23 of the following year Nitta Yoshisada and the Emperor had lost, and Kyoto itself had fallen. On February 25, 1336, Ashikaga Takauji entered the capital and the Kenmu Restoration ended.

Minatogawa Shrine, one of the shrines dedicated to individuals and events of the Kenmu Restoration.

Wednesday 11 July 2018

House of Plantagenet - Coronation of Richard II of England

Richard I (8 September 1157 – 6 April 1199) was King of England from 1189 until his death in 1199.  He was the third of five sons of King Henry II of England and Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine.  He was known as Richard Cœur de Lion or Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Poitiers, Anjou, Maine, and Nantes, and was overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period.

Ruins of Dürnstein Castle

Richard was born in England, where he spent his childhood; before becoming king, however, he lived most of his adult life in the Duchy of Aquitaine, in the southwest of France. Following his accession, he spent very little time, perhaps as little as six months, in England. Most of his life as king was spent on Crusade, in captivity, or actively defending his lands in France. He remains one of the few kings of England remembered by his epithet, rather than regnal number, and is an enduring iconic figure both in England and in France.

19th-century portrait of Richard the Lionheart by Merry-Joseph Blondel

According to Ralph of Coggeshall, Henry the Young King instigated rebellion against Henry II; he wanted to reign independently over at least part of the territory his father had promised him, and to break away from his dependence on Henry II, who controlled the purse strings. He abandoned his father and left for the French court, seeking the protection of Louis VII; his younger brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, soon followed him, while the five-year-old John remained in England.

Henry the Young King, Junior King of England

When Henry II and Louis VII made a truce on 8 September 1174, its terms specifically excluded Richard. Abandoned by Louis and wary of facing his father's army in battle, Richard went to Henry II's court at Poitiers on 23 September and begged for forgiveness, weeping and falling at the feet of Henry, who gave Richard the kiss of peace. Richard was given control of two castles in Poitou and half the income of Aquitaine. Being an accomplice in the rebellion, Eleanor remained Henry II's prisoner until his death, partly as insurance for Richard's good behaviour.

A silver denier of Richard, as count of Poitou

After the conclusion of the war, the process of pacifying the provinces that had rebelled against Henry II began. In January 1175 Richard was dispatched to Aquitaine to punish the barons who had fought for him. Richard concentrated on putting down internal revolts by the nobles of Aquitaine, especially in the territory of Gascony. The increasing cruelty of his rule led to a major revolt there in 1179. Hoping to dethrone Richard, the rebels sought the help of his brothers Henry and Geoffrey. 

Henry II of England

In 1181–1182 Richard faced a revolt over the succession to the county of Angoulême. His opponents turned to Philip II of France for support, and the fighting spread through the Limousin and Périgord. The excessive cruelty of Richard's punitive campaigns aroused even more hostility. However, with support from his father and from the Young King, Richard the Lionheart eventually succeeded in bringing the Viscount Aimar V of Limoges and Count Elie of Périgord to terms.

A 19th-century portrait of Philip II of France by Louis-Félix Amiel

In exchange for Philip's help against his father, Richard promised to concede to him his rights to both Normandy and Anjou. Richard paid homage to Philip in November 1187. With news arriving of the Battle of Hattin, a crusader battle, he took the cross at Tours in the company of other French nobles. In 1188 Henry II planned to concede Aquitaine to his youngest son John. But Richard objected. Henry II bring Queen Eleanor out of prison. He sent her to Aquitaine and demanded that Richard give up his lands to his mother who would once again rule over those lands.

Battle of Hattin

In 1189, Richard attempted to take the throne of England for himself by joining Philip' of France expedition against his father. On 4 July 1189, the forces of Richard and Philip defeated Henry's army at Ballans. Henry, with John's consent, agreed to name Richard his heir apparent. Two days later Henry II died in Chinon, and Richard the Lionheart succeeded him as King of England, Duke of Normandy, and Count of Anjou. Richard I was officially invested as Duke of Normandy on 20 July 1189 and crowned king in Westminster Abbey on 3 September 1189.

Richard I being anointed during his coronation in Westminster Abbey

Monday 2 July 2018

First Bulgarian Empire - Expansion

After the Internal instability and struggle for survival period of the First Bulgarian Empire and the death of Constantine V,  the devastation brought to the country by his nine campaigns firmly rallied the Slavs behind the Bulgars and greatly increased the dislike of the Byzantines, turning Bulgaria into a hostile neighbour. The hostilities continued until 792 when Khan Kardam (r. 777–803) achieved an important victory in the battle of Marcelae, forcing the Byzantines once again to pay tribute to the Khans. As a result of the victory, the crisis was finally overcome, and Bulgaria entered the new century stable, stronger, and consolidated.

 Church of St. Sophia, Ohrid

During the reign of Khan Krum (r. 803–814) Bulgaria doubled in size and expanded southward and to the northwest, occupying the lands along the middle Danube and Transylvania. Between 804 and 806 the Bulgarian armies thoroughly eliminated the Avar Khaganate, which had suffered a crippling blow by the Franks in 796, and a border with the Frankish Empire was established along the middle Danube or Tisza.

A 14th century depiction of Krum

In 808 they raided the valley of the Struma River, defeating a Byzantine army, and in 809 captured the important city Serdica. In 811 the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus I launched a massive offensive against Bulgaria, seized, plundered and burned down the capital Pliska but on the way back the Byzantine army was decisively defeated in the battle of the Varbitsa Pass. Nicephorus I himself was slain along with most of his troops and his skull was lined with silver and used as a drinking cup.

Khan Krum feasts while a servant brings the skull of Nikephoros I fashioned into a drinking cup

Khan Krum took the initiative and in 812 moved the war towards Thrace, capturing the key Black Sea port of Messembria and defeating the Byzantines once more at Versinikia in 813 before proposing a generous peace settlement. However, during the negotiations the Byzantines attempted to assassinate Krum and in response Bulgarians pillaged Eastern Thrace. He planned to capture Constantinople but due to his death on 14 April 814, the plan was not executed.

Makri Harbor, Messembria region

Khan Krum's successor Khan Omurtag (r. 814–831) concluded a 30-year peace treaty with the Byzantines. Omurtag started in 814 persecution of Christians, in particular against the Byzantine prisoners of war settled north of the Danube. The expansion to the south and south-west continued under Omurtag's successors under the guidance of the capable kavhan (First Minister) Isbul. During the short reign of Khan Malamir (r. 831–836), the important city of Philippopolis (Plovdiv) was incorporated into the country.

Bulgar soldiers slaughter Christians

Under Khan Presian (r. 836–852), the Bulgarians took most of Macedonia, and the borders of the country reached the Adriatic Sea near Valona and Aegean Sea. With this, Bulgaria had become the dominant power in the Balkans. The advances further west was blocked by the development of a new Slavic state under Byzantine patronage, the Principality of Serbia. Between 839 and 842 the Bulgarians waged war on the Serbs but did not make any progress.

Adriatic Sea, Croatia

The reign of Boris I (r. 852–889) began with numerous setbacks. For ten years the country fought against the Byzantine Empire, Eastern Francia, Great Moravia, the Croats and the Serbs forming several unsuccessful alliances and changing sides. Yet, despite all military setbacks and natural disasters the skilful diplomacy of Boris I prevented any territorial losses and kept the realm intact. Boris I converted to Christianity in 864.

Depiction in the Manases Chronicle of Boris I' baptism

Boris I dealt ruthlessly with the opposition to the Christianisation of Bulgaria, crushing a revolt of the nobility in 866 and overthrowing his own son Vladimir (r. 889–893) after he attempted to restore the traditional religion. In 893 he convened the Council of Preslav where it was decided that the capital of Bulgaria was to be moved from Pliska to Preslav, the Byzantine clergy was to be banished from the country and replaced with Bulgarian clerics. Bulgaria was to become the principle threat for the stability and security of the Byzantine Empire in the 10th century.

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