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After Constantinople fell to the Western invaders in 1204, the Byzantines fled and organized resistance centers. The one in Nicaea was ruled by a strong leader, Theodore Laskaris. Crowned Emperor by the patriarch in 1208, Theodore checked the Latins and the Turks and when he died in 1222, his state was a powerful empire. John III Ducas-Vatatzes, Theodore's son-in-law and successor, greatly increased the size, influence, and prosperity of the Nicaean Empire. He prepared the way for his successors to retake Constantinople and to rule the restored Byzantine Empire. John IV Lascaris succeeded his father, but was still a child, under the regency of the general Michael Palaeologus. Michael proclaimed himself co-emperor (as Michael VIII) in 1259, and soon defeated a combined invasion by Manfred, the Despot of Epirus, and the Latin Prince of Achaea at the Battle of Pelagonia. In 1260, Michael began the assault on Constantinople. He allied with Genoa, and his general Alexios Strategopoulos spent months observing Constantinople in order to plan his attack. In July 1261, as most of the Latin army was fighting elsewhere, Alexius was able to convince the guards to open the gates of the city. Once inside he burned the Venetian quarter (as Venice was an enemy of Genoa, and had been largely responsible for the capture of the city in 1204). Michael was recognized as emperor a few weeks later, restoring the Byzantine Empire.