List of Trapezuntine emperors

Summary

The Trapezuntine emperors were the rulers of the Empire of Trebizond, one of the successor states of the Byzantine Empire founded after the Fourth Crusade in 1204, until its fall to the Ottoman Empire in 1461. All but two of the Trapezuntine rulers belonged to the Komnenos dynasty, which had previously ruled the Byzantine Empire from 1081 to 1185, and they initially claimed to represent the legitimate line of Roman emperors, in opposition to the Latin Empire in Constantinople, the Laskaris dynasty of the Nicene Empire, and the Komnenos Doukas family of Epirus and Thessalonica. To emphasize their dynastic claim, Trapezuntine emperors from the late 13th century onwards styled themselves as Megas Komnenos (Μέγας Κομνηνός, lit.'Grand Komnenos').[1]

Alexios III Megas Komnenos (r. 1349–1390), the longest-reigning Trapezuntine emperor, and his wife Theodora Kantakouzene

Out of the Byzantine claimants that emerged in 1204 and thereafter, the Trapezuntine emperors, despite their illustrious descent, had perhaps the worst position. Not only were they far away from Constantinople in a peripheral province of the empire, but the reputation of the Komnenoi had been severely damaged by the detested last emperor of the dynasty, Andronikos I Komnenos (r. 1183–1185), grandfather of the first Trapezuntine emperor Alexios I (r. 1204–1222).[2] Though they continued to claim to be the legitimate rulers of the entire former Byzantine Empire for decades thereafter, conflict with the Nicene Empire and the Sultanate of Rum in the early 13th century reduced the power of the Trapezuntine emperors. After the fall of Sinope to Sultan Kaykaus I in 1214, the Empire of Trebizond ceased to be a major contender for restoring the Byzantine Empire and became reduced to a small and local power.[3]

After the Nicene Empire under Michael VIII Palaiologos retook Constantinople in 1261, the rulers of Trebizond continued to style themselves as 'Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans' (βασιλεὺς καὶ αὐτοκράτωρ Ῥωμαῖων), viewing the Palaiologos dynasty as just another family of usurpers. The Trapezuntine title was altered in 1282, 21 years later, to 'Emperor and Autocrat of all the East, the Iberians, and the Transmarine Provinces' (βασιλεὺς καὶ αὐτοκράτωρ πάσης Ἀνατολῆς, Ἰβήρων καὶ Περατείας) in order to placate Michael VIII Palaiologos after John II Megas Komnenos (r. 1280–1297) of Trebizond married his daughter, Eudokia Palaiologina.[4] The Palaiologoi emperors in Constantinople did not consider the Trapezuntine emperors to be emperors at all, instead typically referring to them as "princes of the Lazes".[5]

Although the Nicene emperors are generally regarded by modern historians to have been the legitimate Byzantine emperors from 1204 to the recapture of Constantinople in 1261, this is only because it was their successor state that eventually retook the city. The emperors in Trebizond and Thessalonica were no less legitimate emperors than those in Nicaea,[3] the distinction only having been made retroactively as the Trapezuntines never succeeded in taking Constantinople and eventually gave up their claim to the Roman title. The line of Komnenos emperors in Trebizond lasted for more than 250 years, far longer than their dynasty had ruled from Constantinople, and outlasted the restored Byzantine Empire under the Palaiologos dynasty by eight years, before it too fell to the Ottoman Empire.

List of emperorsEdit

Portrait Name Reign Succession Life details
Alexios I Megas Komnenos
Ἀλέξιος Κομνηνός
March/April 1204 – 1 February 1222
(17 years and 10/11 months)
with David Komnenos (1204–1212)
Grandson of Andronikos I Komnenos (Byzantine emperor 1183–1185). Captured Trebizond with the aid of Tamar of Georgia. c. 1182 – 1 February 1222
(aged 40)
Died of natural causes[6]
  Andronikos I Gidos
Ἀνδρόνικος Κομνηνός Γίδος
1 February 1222 – 1235
(13 years)
Son-in-law of Alexios I, possibly became emperor due to Alexios I's sons all being minors Unknown – 1235
Died of unrecorded causes[7]
  John I Axouchos
Ἰωάννης Κομνηνός Ἀξούχος[a]
1235 – 1237/1238
(2 or 3 years)
Son of Alexios I Unknown – 1237/1238
Died while playing polo[10]
  Manuel I Megas Komnenos
"the Most Fortunate"
Μανουήλ Κομνηνός
1237/1238 – March 1263
(25 or 26 years)
Son of Alexios I Unknown – March 1263
Died of natural causes[11]
Andronikos II Megas Komnenos
Ἀνδρόνικος Κομνηνός
March 1263 – 1266
(3 years)
Son of Manuel I Shortly before 1240/1242 – 1266
(aged approx. 26)
Died of unrecorded causes[12]
  George Megas Komnenos
"the Vagabond"
Γεώργιος Μέγας Κομνηνός[b]
1266 – June 1280
(4 years)
Son of Manuel I After 1253 – after 1284
Deposed by the Trapezuntine nobility in favor of John II and imprisoned. Later released, attempted to retake the throne in 1284.[14]
  John II Megas Komnenos
Ἰωάννης Μέγας Κομνηνός
June 1280 – 16 August 1297
(17 years and 2 months)
Son of Manuel I c. 1262/1263 – 16 August 1297
(aged approx. 35)
Died of natural causes[15]
  Theodora Megale Komnene
Θεοδώρα Μεγάλη Κομνηνή
Autumn 1284 – 1285
(less than a year)
Daughter of Manuel I, briefly usurped the throne from John II Between 1242 and 1253 – unknown
Fled Trebizond in 1285 and disappears from history thereafter, might have gone into exile in Georgia[13]
  Alexios II Megas Komnenos
Ἀλέξιος Μέγας Κομνηνός Παλαιολόγος[c]
16 August 1297 – 3 May 1330
(32 years, 8 months and 17 days)
Son of John II Late 1283 – 3 May 1330
(aged 46)
Died of the bubonic plague[16]
  Andronikos III Megas Komnenos
Ἀνδρόνικος Μέγας Κομνηνός
3 May 1330 – 8 January 1332
(1 year, 8 months and 5 days)
Son of Alexios II Unknown – 8 January 1332
Murdered two of his brothers upon his accession to the throne. Died of the bubonic plague like his father.[17]
  Manuel II Megas Komnenos
Μανουήλ Μέγας Κομνηνός
8 January – 23 September 1332
(8 months and 15 days)
Son of Andronikos III 1323/1324 – 21 February 1333
(aged approx. 9)
Deposed by his uncle Basil and murdered a few months later[18]
  Basil Megas Komnenos
Βασίλειος Μέγας Κομνηνός
23 September 1332 – 6 April 1340
(7 years, 6 months and 14 days)
Son of Alexios II, usurped the throne from Manuel II Unknown – 6 April 1340
Possibly poisoned by his first wife, Irene Palaiologina[19]
Irene Palaiologina
Εἰρήνη Παλαιολογίνα
6 April 1340 – 17 July 1341
(1 year, 3 months and 11 days)
Widow of Basil, illegitimate daughter of Byzantine emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos. Seized control of the government after Basil's death. Unknown lifespan
Deposed in favor of Anna and sent back to her family in Constantinople, fate thereafter unknown[20]
Anna Anachoutlou
Ἀννα Μεγάλη Κομνηνή Ἀναχουτλού[d]
17 July 1341 – August/September 1342
(1 year and 1/2 months)
Daughter of Alexios II. Confined to a monastery as a nun, but escaped in 1341 and seized the throne with the aid of the Lazes. Unknown – 3 September 1342
Deposed in favor of John III and then strangled to death[22]
  John III Megas Komnenos
Ἰωάννης Μέγας Κομνηνός
4 September 1342 – 3 May 1344
(1 year, 7 months and 29 days)
Grandson of John II. Supported as emperor by the army and the Republic of Genoa. 1321/1322 – March 1362
(aged approx. 40)
Deposed in favor of his father Michael. Died nearly twenty years later, possibly of the plague.[23]
  Michael Megas Komnenos
Μιχαήλ Μέγας Κομνηνός
3 May 1344 – 13 December 1349
(5 years, 7 months and 10 days)
Son of John II and father of John III, proclaimed emperor after a palace coup against John III 1288/1289 – unknown
Forced to abdicate and become a monk. Last attested in 1351 as an exile in Constantinople.[23]
  Alexios III Megas Komnenos
Ἀλέξιος Μέγας Κομνηνός
13 December 1349 – 20 March 1390
(40 years, 3 months and 7 days)
Son of Basil. Exiled to Constantinople after his father's death in 1340. Proclaimed emperor with the support of the Byzantine emperor John VI Kantakouzenos after Michael's deposition. 5 October 1338 – 20 March 1390
(aged 51)
The longest-reigning emperor. Died of natural causes.[24]
  Manuel III Megas Komnenos
Μανουήλ Μέγας Κομνηνός
20 March 1390 – 5 March 1417
(26 years, 11 months and 13 days)
Son of Alexios III 16 December 1364 – 5 March 1417
(aged 52)
Possibly murdered by his son Alexios IV[25]
Alexios IV Megas Komnenos
Ἀλέξιος Μέγας Κομνηνός
5 March 1417 – 26 April 1429
(11 years, 11 months and 23 days)
Son of Manuel III; co-emperor since 1395 c. 1379 – 26 April 1429
(aged approx. 50)
Assassinated by his son John IV[26]
  John IV Megas Komnenos
Ἰωάννης Μέγας Κομνηνός
26 April 1429 – April 1460
(31 years)
with Alexander Megas Komnenos (c. 1451–1459)
Son of Alexios IV Before 1403 – April 1460
Died of natural causes[27]
Alexios V Megas Komnenos
Ἀλέξιος Σκαντάριος Μέγας Κομνηνός
April 1460
(very briefly)
Son of the co-emperor Alexander, a son of Alexios IV 1454 – 1 November 1463
(aged approx. 9)
Deposed by his uncle David. Later executed by the Ottomans alongside him.[28]
David Megas Komnenos
Δαβίδ Μέγας Κομνηνός
April 1460 – 15 August 1461
(1 year and 3 months)
Son of Alexios IV c. 1408 – 1 November 1463
(aged approx. 55)
Settled in Adrianople in exile after the conquest of Trebizond by the Ottoman Empire. Later accused of treachery and executed.[29]

Family tree of the Trapezuntine emperorsEdit

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ John I used the surname Komnenos Axouchos,[8] possibly to stress matrilineal ancestry from the prominent 12th-century general Alexios Axouch.[9]
  2. ^ George was the first emperor to officially and formally use the name Megas Komnenos (Μέγας Κομνηνός; "grand Komnenos"), previously only a nickname.[13]
  3. ^ Alexios II used the full surname Megas Komnenos Palaiologos (Μέγας Κομνηνός Παλαιολόγος), stressing both his patrilineal descent from the Komnenoi and his matrilineal descent from the Palaiologoi.[8]
  4. ^ For unknown reasons, Anna used the surname Anachoutlou, seemingly of Turkish origin. Perhaps it derived in some way from her Georgian mother, Jiajak Jaqeli.[21]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Macrides 1979, pp. 238–245.
  2. ^ Treadgold 1997, p. 710.
  3. ^ a b Treadgold 1997, p. 718.
  4. ^ ODB, p. 1047.
  5. ^ Miller 1926, p. 343.
  6. ^ ODB, pp. 63–64; Jackson Williams 2007, pp. 172–174.
  7. ^ Jackson Williams 2007, p. 174; Miller 1923, p. 19.
  8. ^ a b ODB, p. 64.
  9. ^ Jackson Williams 2007, pp. 173–174.
  10. ^ Jackson Williams 2007, p. 174.
  11. ^ ODB, pp. 1290–1291; Jackson Williams 2007, pp. 174–176; Miller 1923, p. 515.
  12. ^ Jackson Williams 2007, pp. 174–175.
  13. ^ a b Jackson Williams 2007, p. 175.
  14. ^ ODB, pp. 836–837; Jackson Williams 2007, p. 175.
  15. ^ ODB, p. 1047; Jackson Williams 2007, p. 176.
  16. ^ ODB, pp. 63–64; Jackson Williams 2007, pp. 172–174; Zehiroglu 2016, p. 155.
  17. ^ Jackson Williams 2007, p. 177; Zehiroglu 2016, p. 155.
  18. ^ Jackson Williams 2007, p. 177.
  19. ^ Jackson Williams 2007, pp. 177–178; Miller 1923, p. 48.
  20. ^ Jackson Williams 2007, p. 177; Miller 1923, p. 49.
  21. ^ Jackson Williams 2007, p. 176.
  22. ^ Jackson Williams 2007, pp. 176–177.
  23. ^ a b Jackson Williams 2007, p. 178.
  24. ^ ODB, p. 65; Jackson Williams 2007, p. 178.
  25. ^ ODB, p. 1292; Jackson Williams 2007, p. 181.
  26. ^ ODB, p. 66; Jackson Williams 2007, pp. 181, 183.
  27. ^ Jackson Williams 2007, p. 183; Kuršanskis 1979, p. 242.
  28. ^ Jackson Williams 2007, p. 184; Kuršanskis 1979, pp. 242–244.
  29. ^ ODB, p. 589; Jackson Williams 2007, p. 185.
  30. ^ Jackson Williams 2007, pp. 171–189.

BibliographyEdit

  • Jackson Williams, Kelsey (2007). "A Genealogy of the Grand Komnenoi of Trebizond". Foundations: The Journal of the Foundation for Mediaeval Genealogy. 2 (3): 171–189. ISSN 1479-5078.
  • Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991). Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6. (see ODB)
  • Kuršanskis, Michel (1979). "La descendance d'Alexis IV, empereur de Trébizonde. Contribution à la prosopographie des Grands Comnènes". Revue des études byzantines. 37: 239–247. doi:10.3406/rebyz.1979.2098.
  • Macrides, Ruth (1979). "What's in the name 'Megas Komnenos'?". Archeion Pontou. 35: 238–245.
  • Miller, William (1923). "The Empire of Nicaea and the Recovery of Constantinople". In Bury, J. B. (ed.). The Cambridge Medieval History: Volume IV: The Eastern Roman Empire (717–1453). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. OCLC 716982674.
  • Miller, William (1926). Trebizond: The Last Greek Empire. New York: MacMillan. OCLC 1546756.
  • Treadgold, Warren (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0804726306.
  • Zehiroglu, Ahmet M. (2016). Trabzon Imparatorlugu (in Turkish). Vol. 2. Lazika Yayın Kollektifi. ISBN 978-6054567522.