What ruler in history had the greatest responsibility upon his ascension?

Kookaburra Jack

Ad Honorem
May 2011
2,941
Rural Australia
Emperor Julian. Part of his responsibility to the pagan/Hellenic majority (as it appears to me in reading his surviving literary works) was to take steps to stem, and possibly reverse, the surging tide of (his Uncle) Constantine's Christianisation program.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,939
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
British history is replete with examples, but Churchill isn't one of them, he didnt have a very high bar to match his predecessor. ;)

Richard II after the Black Prince
Henry VI after Henry V
Richard Cromwell after Oliver
Edward II following Edward Longshanks

Examples of the successor failing to fill the boots of the former.

Yes they are examples of successors failing to be as successful, bloody, and destructive as their predecessors.

I think I slightly misinterpeted the question too! In that case.

1) Alexander III Makedonia - Matched and superceded his predecessor

2)Edward II of England - failed miserably

3) Napoleon III France - Good start failed miserably

4) Charles I England, Scotland, Ireland and France - Failed Miserably

5) Henry VI England, Ireland and France - A total and utter kick the ball out the stadium failure.
1) Yes, Alexander III really out did his predecessor in spreading death and destruction over a much vaster area.

Yes 2), 3) & 5) failed to inflict as much horror and suffering, death and destruction as their predecessors.

Yes, 4) was a big failure.
 
Last edited:
Oct 2010
404
Glasgow
Yes they are examples of successors failing to be as successful, bloody, and destructive as their predecessors.



1) Yes, Alexander III really out did his predecessor in spreading death and destruction over a much vaster area.

Yes 2), 3) & 5) failed to inflict as much horror and suffering, death and destruction as their predecessors.

Yes, 4) was a big failure.
I guess it depends on your perspective you can argue the 2), 3) and 5) failed to inflict as much horror and suffering , death and destruction as their predecessors. You could also argue that due to their inadequacies as rulers they actually caused more of the above albeit non intentionally than their more aggressive predecessors? This was certainly the case with number 5) Henry VI whose ineffectual reign not only saw more bloodshed in France but also saw over half a century of brutal civil war in England. Number 2) Edward II clearly was not in the mould of his father was ineffectual both as a war leader and a King. Whereas his father Edward I had been an expansionist he also maintained a hard won dominance over the Barons preventing England from falling into another destructive bout of Civil wars which had plagued his own fathers reign. Edward II came very close to opening up that old wound and causing another round of deabilitating civil wars. Being Scottish I think Edward II was a great English King I wish his son Edward III had been more like his da and not like his Granda! lol. Unfortunately in the Ancient and Medieval worlds especially in Europe being a great war leader was in most cases was also the mark of a great ruler. A King or Emperor was not only expected to defeat his enemies abroad but also to hold a firm leash on his own senators , barons or other nobles who may threaten his or his families domination. Being a weak or ineffectual ruler regardless of how kind and benevolent you may be at this time can be just as damaging as being an aggressive despot. The most abelest rulers of the past knew how to balance both stick and carrot. Its not nice but they were not nice times. As the old saying goes: If you are not fast yer last! lol I think some Italian bloke from Florence wrote a book about it during the Rennaissance?
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,827
SoCal
I think there are many rulers throughout history who were faced by awesome dilemmas when acending to power. Harold Godwinson of Saxon England immediately springs to mind, as does Baldwin IV of Outremer, William Prince of Orange in the 17th century and Robert Bruce of Scotland amongst many others.

However I think I am going to pluck for Alexius Kommenos I of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. Alexius had an extremely difficult task when ascending the Imperial throne in 1081. The previous 100 hundred years had been an era of glory for the old Empire, seeing a renaissance in Byzantine fortunes both militarily, culturally and economic. Under the great Emperor Basil II known to history as the "Bulgar Slayer" great campaigns had been successfully undertaken. The frontier had been restored at the Danube and the Empires numerous enemies had either been vanquished or humbled. However, lacking a direct heir the years following Basil's death had seen many of his successes being slowly undone. This culminated during the reign of Romanos IV were due to court intrigues and outright treason on the battlefield saw the cream of the Byzantine army defeated at the battle of Manzikert in 1071. This defeat which is often overstated had great repercussions for the Empire which could have been nullified to an extent had the state not immediately plunged into a civil war.

By 1081 Alexius a prominent and capable general helped greatly by the intrigues and machinations of two women his mother "Anna Dalassene" and the Empress Maria of Alania whom between them actively orchestrated a political coup had somehow found himself elevated to the esteemed position of Alexius I Emperor of the Romans and God's Vice Garant on Earth.
This however would prove to be the easy part as Alexius now found himself as the ruler of an Empire which was broken, divided internally, bankrupt and beset on all sides by enemies who could smell the decay of a wounded giant and vyied to be the first to carve up choicest joints of the the carcass for themselves.

Alexius therefore had to set about the Herculean task of reuniting this once proud behemoth of an Empire containing 12 million souls and defending it from the ambitious and treacherous enemies both at home and on the frontiers. Feeling the weight of the legacy of not only nearly 800 years as Christendom's spirtual head but also millenia as ancient Greece and Rome's literal and spiritual successor Alexius set about his task.

That Alexius was mostly successfull in preserving the Empire and even regaining territory lost is an achievement that cannot be underestimated. Difficult choices and compromises had to be made in order to achieve this but they were born out of necessity and although some may criticise Alexius for perhaps instigating reforms that changed the Empire's traditional outlook and even perhaps sowed the seeds of its eventual fall? I would say that without Alexius the Empire would have fallen before 1100CE nevermind 1453 and had only his direct decendents though brave had been as prudent and tactful as Alexius then history may have been very different.
Alexius also got a lot of help from the Crusaders starting from the late 1090s, no? After all, the Crusaders' entry into the Middle East relieved Muslim pressure on the Byzantine Empire for a while, no?

Also, it's sad that the Byzantine Empire never managed to reconquer the interior of Anatolia after its loss at Manzikert in 1071. :( In other words, the Byzantine Empire's strategic depth in the east was gone forever. :(
 
Jan 2016
1,139
Victoria, Canada
Alexius also got a lot of help from the Crusaders starting from the late 1090s, no? After all, the Crusaders' entry into the Middle East relieved Muslim pressure on the Byzantine Empire for a while, no?
It depends on what you mean by "a lot". The First Crusade was a useful tool -- a sort of sledgehammer -- employed by Alexios in his efforts to restore the Roman position in the east, but it wasn't a pivotal saving grace which brought a teetering Empire on its last legs from the brink of destruction, as seems to be a commonly sentiment in popular histories. Before the Crusade was even called Alexios had crushed the Pechenegs, warded off the Normans, crushed revolts on Crete and Cyprus, reformed the bureaucracy and title system, reformed the currency, reorganized and expanded the army and navy, retaken Chios and Lesbos, and already began the reconquest of Anatolia, having retaken Chalcedon and Nikemedia from the Turks in the early 1090's.

When the (noble) Crusaders arrived they were made to swear oaths of loyalty, plugged into the Roman logistical network, given Roman advisors, and (almost certainly) briefed on their specific roles (as a single force and as multiple armies) in the restoration of imperial authority in Asia Minor and the upper Levant -- namely, that they were to secure the western and southern Anatolian plateau, as well as Cappadocia, before marching into Cilicia along the same routes taken by Nikephoros Phokas and company 130 years earlier. Roman armies, meanwhile, were to retake the far more densely populated (and fortified) west; the two groups were then to meet up in Syria at Antioch. This all went remarkably according to plan, with each force successfully performing its designated task, until it came to the siege of Antioch. The Crusaders arrived at the city first, and, while the Romans supplied them as best they could from Cyprus throughout, Alexios was informed while marching towards the city by deserters -- in Philomelion, specifically -- that the siege was about to fail and all was lost, and so he decided to turn back. The siege ended up succeeding, and Bohemond, an old enemy of the Emperor (and with whom he would come into major conflict again), took the opportunity to seize the city and its environs for himself, after which the Crusader force scattered, aside from a smaller contingent which struck out south and managed to take Jerusalem. Alexios, after the Crusade was done, would go on to recover the coastal regions of southern Anatolia, most of Cilicia (again), and a number of cities in Paphlagonia and Bithynia, defeat Bohemond and force him into vassalage, and defeat the Turks again in his 1116 campaign, recovering a number of border forts, evacuating large numbers of Roman locals west, and temporarily forcing the Sultan of Ikonion into vassalage.

How important one might call the Crusader contribution to Alexios's success in Asia Minor is thus quite subjective. It was not minor, certainly -- the Crusaders formed a great distraction, at least for the Turks of the Anatolian plateau -- but it constituted neither the beginning nor end of the Emperor's Anatolian reconquest. Additionally, though the Crusade did end up temporarily recovering a number of important cities in central Anatolia -- unsustainably, after their post-Antioch departure from Roman service -- the vast majority of what would become Komnenian Anatolia (essentially all of it, minus Nicaea), and thus the vast majority of the Anatolian population, was in fact recovered without Crusader assistance by Roman armies, led most notably by John Doukas and Manuel Boutoumites, and solidified through Roman battles and campaigns, particularly the 1116 Battle of Philomelion. One of the Crusaders, Bohemond, also turned around and made himself a massive pain in Alexios's side for a decade, diverting Roman resources away from the more isolated Christian cities on the Anatolian plateau and thus ensuring their fall, again, to Islamic forces, effectively undoing much of what he and the other Crusaders had previously accomplished in the region.

Most of this is coming from Beihammer's Byzantium and the Emergence of Muslim-Turkish Anatolia and the epilogue of Kaldellis's Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood, by the way, with some original research, smaller scale articles, and the like thrown in.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,827
SoCal
Excellent summary and analysis; thank you! :)

BTW, what exactly was Bohemond's beef with Alexios?