QUESTION: You have written about the collapse of the Byzantine monetary system. I also believe it fell to the Europeans in 1204 and the story was that the Germans were being aggressive back then demanding tribute. Was this also another monetary crisis at that time?
Alexius III AV Hyperpyron
ANSWER: Yes, there was the Great Monetary Crisis of 1092. But nearly 100 years later, there was another monetary crisis sparked by a tax rebellion. The tax imposed was by the Byzantine emperor Alexius III in 1197 in order to pay the German Emperor Henry VI (1165 – 1197) a tribute of 1,600 pounds of gold.
Henry had originally demanded 5,000 pounds from Alexius in 1195. In order to get support for taxing Constantinople, Alexius called a meeting of the Senate, the clergy, and the members of the trade guilds. He proposed property taxes, but they rejected it as being contrary to custom. The assembly then began to revolt, accusing Alexius of wasting public money. Alexius was forced to abandon the tax. Alexius then tried confiscate gold and silver objects from the churches. The clergy then revolted and he abandoned that idea. He then confiscated all gold and silver from the tombs of his predecessors but he spared that of Constantine the Great.
Alexius managed to gather 7,000 pounds of silver and some gold. To his great fortune, Henry VI died on September 28th, 1197, and the tribute was never sent.