A born leader, Manuel II was the son of the late John V under whose reign the final collapse of the empire had begun. With a rare gift of diplomacy, scholarship and imperial charm, he was able to lift the spirits of Constantinople's inhabitants who, for long periods of time would now find themselves under siege and starving. The key part of his foreign policy lay in understanding that the nature of the Turks was such that regardless of whether they were currently in peace or war they would eventually swallow Constantinople. So it was best to defy them while they could than to serve them as humiliating subjects. He would be the first Byzantine emperor who went on a prolonged tour of Europe seeking help against them. Even though he returned with some money and promises he was unable to get what he really sought: a large-scale military commitment on the part of all Christian nations to drive the infidels back to Asia.
But he wouldn't be disappointed for too long. On the one hand he had finally won over the hearts of Europeans to his cause and made them realize that a healthy Byzantium would mean a buffer against the feared Turks. On the other, the Mongols, who were friends of no one on earth, just happened to swoop in from nowhere and annihilated most of the Turkish forces. With the captue of their leader, the hated Bayezit, came the welcome lifting of Constantinople's siege.
Manuel spent the rest of his reign dealing with the scattered and factious Turks who, although no longer an immediate threat to Constantinople, would continue to pose a grave and growing danger to the city. He suffered a stroke, died a few months later and was succeeded by his well-groomed son John VIII.
SB 2548, DOC V 1305 AR Stavraton Obv: Jesus Christ facing bust, raising hand and holding Gospels; IC/dot XC/fleur de lis across fields.
Rev: Manuel crowned facing bust. 1391-1395 (Constantinople). $450 5/19/04.
SB 2551, Bendall 20 AR Half Stavraton Obv: Facing bust of Christ.
Rev: Facing bust of Manuel. $220 9/19/01.
SB 2553 AR Sixteenth of Stavraton Obv: Facing bust of Christ.
Rev: Facing bust of Manuel.