Michael VIII Palaiologos (1223 – 11 December 1282) was the Emperor of Nicaea from 1259 to 1261, then the Byzantine Emperor from 1261 to his death, and founder of the Imperial Palaiologos dynasty.

In 1204, Constantinople was captured by crusaders and became the capital of the Latin Empire, a Crusader state. Michael's general, Alexios Strategopoulos, marched on Constantinople and entered through an unguarded gate in 1261, reclaiming the city from its Latin occupiers and restoring the Byzantine Empire.

By this point however, Constantinople was already in disrepair. The Hippodrome of Constantinople, once a proud symbol of the Empire's Greek origins was in a poor state, and Michael made no attempt to restore it. Michael's Empire only held a fraction of its former territory and influence, and began to decline over the next two hundred years.