Emperor Manuel I Comnenos===
Manuel was born the fourth son of the previous Emperor John, who was planned to give the throne away to Manuel's oldest brother Issac. However, Manuel had proven himself worthy on the field of battle against the Turks in his fathers war. Upon his fathers death, the armies approved him as Emperor but he was no way completly recognized. To secure his power he arrested Issac and was crowned Emperor in Constantinople. With his position secured and no pretender, he released Issac, who accepted him as his leader. He inheirted a crumbling Empire, intent on rebuilding the great Roman Empire.
It was early on that the crusader states called out for help against the Islamic threat. After losing the County of Edessa to a Jihadic Army under Imad ad-Din Atabeg Zengi, Prince Raymond of Antioch cried out for help and Manuel replied quickly. Manuel raised his army and marched against his Islamic neighbor, the Sultan of Rum. His campaign was not very strategic but his armies were able to defeat the turks at the Battle of Acroenus. From there his army marched to Philomelion where he evacuated the chrisitians from the city and burned it. He marched to the Sultans capital where he razed the ground around it before leaving in triumph (though unable to assualt the city walls). The King of France, Louis, then expressed his gratitude and intention of aiding the crusader states.
When the Crusaders arrived, Manuel was unable to continue the siege of the capital and was forced to move east, where he policed and marched the crusaders through his lands. Relationships soured between Conrad III of Germany and the Crusaders after several acts of assualt and vandalism against the Emperors towns. However, Conrad was able to convince the Emperor of his true doings and forged a alliance with Manuel. Conrad died before reaching the Holy Lands and the new Emperor, Fredrick Barborrosa, refused the alliance.
In 1156, the new Prince of Antioch, Raynald, invaded Cyprus after Manuel refuesed to pay him money that Manuel "apparently promised". Manuel was unable to react quickly, while a serious of inhumane acts of murder were commited against the citizens of the island. Angered by the event, Manuel rose a enourmas army and invaded his old province. He descievely reconquered all of the lands that Raynalds Generals had seized. His victory gave himself a name to the world. Reynald, abanondend by his allies came to Manuels court. Manuel forgave the Prince but forced his annexation of Antioch under the Princes protection. Manuel arrived in the city and paraded through the streets in victory. Manuel would aid the Crusaders for a small period of time, eventually returning to Constantinople (after defeating a ambushing Turkish army.) In Italy, years earlier (1147), Manuel was faced with war against King Roger II of Sicily. Rogers fleet had taken several small Byzantine islands and raided Athens and Corinth. Manuel was distracted by war in the east, and so enlisted the help of his allies, Conrad and the venetians. They were able to easily defeat the Sicilian fleet and recapture several of the lost islands.
Following the death of Roger, and the crowining of the debated King William, Manuel saw the perfect oppurtunity to strike. He ordered to of his generals to invade Apuila with a Byzantine fleet and army in 1155. With a invasion and a new king, massive rebellions erupted against Sicily and the Byzantines siezed early success. Finally, the Emperor himself and his army took the city of Bari, the ancient capital of Byzantine power in South Italy. William attempted to recapture it with 2,000 knights but was descively defeated. Visioning a new Roman power in Italy, Manuel applied to the pope who was over joyed at the defeat of the Normans. Together the two nations set asside their religious differences and joined together in a alliance.
Suddenly however, the war changed. Manuel was called back to Consantinople and his loss was a great morale blow to his armies. Seeing the oppurtunity to change the tide, the Sicilians counter attacked at the Battle of Brindisi. At the eve of battle, with morale low, many of the vassals and mercanaries deserted the Byzantine Army. Now, the army was outnumbered. The army and navy were easily defeated, and Manuel was furious. In a attempt to retake the lands again, he invaded a second time, but his allies had now been rooted out by King William. Manuel's armies left Italy, and would never see it again. With the breakdown of the war, the union with the Pope broke down. Manuel then enstated the policy: if I can't have it, no one will. When Germany under Barborossa was invaded, Manuel denied the Germans help and sent aid to the Northern Italians who eventually drove out the Emperor. Defeated in Italy, Manuel turned his armies to the Balkans.
First, in the wars against Hungry (1151-1153 and 1163-1168), Manuel led his armies to loot and glory taking massive sums of money against the enemy. In 1167, Manuel sent his trusted General Kontostephanos to Hungary with 15,000 men against a equal force. At the Battle of Sirmium, Kontostephanos was nearly defeated until his men regrouped and counter attacked, routing the Hungarian army. His victory allowed the territories of Syrmia, Bosnia, and Dalmatia to be annexed by the Empire. By the following year, nearly the entire Adriatic Coast lay in Manuels hands.
Manuel would continue proxy wars against Balkan and Russian countries for many years, until the stage turned to the Middle East once again. King Amalric I of Jerusalem was preparing a invasion of Egypt, and required all the military and economic help he could recieve. After a series of marriages, the two countries were tied in a alliance to capture Egypt. In 1169, the combined military forces of the countries added up to a full army. The armies sieged Damietta in October, but bad communication and cooperation forced the siege to be called off.
Finally, there was Manuels struggle with the Turks which began in 1158. For the next three years, Manuel led succsessful campaigns against the turks in the Sultanate of Rum. The Islams sued for peace, but desired not to keep it. Angered by the deception, Manuel rose a full Imperial Army to deal with his enemy. It would be here that the Byzantine Empire would finally make its stand. It was here that war began, and would continue for a long time.