Alexios IV of Trebizond

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Alexios IV of Trebizond
Emperor of Trebizond
Reign 1417–1429
Died 1429
Spouse Theodora Kantakouzene
Dynasty Komnenos
Father Manuel III Megas Komnenos
Mother Gulkhan-Eudokia of Georgia

Alexios IV Megas Komnenos or Alexius IV (Greek: Αλέξιος Δ΄ Μέγας Κομνηνός, Alexios IV Megas Komnēnos), (1382–1429), Emperor of Trebizond from March 5, 1417 to October 1429.[1] He was the son of Emperor Manuel III and Gulkhan-Eudokia of Georgia.


Alexios IV had been associated in authority and given the title of despotes by his father as early as 1395. Nevertheless, the two quarreled as Alexios was impatient to assume supreme power; William Miller compared this to "the first three sovereigns of the House of Hanover" for whom "the heir-apparent always quarrelled with his father."[2] When his father died in 1417, Alexios was accused by some of having expedited his death.[citation needed] Alexios inherited a conflict with the Genoese, who defeated the fleet of Trebizond and seized a local monastery, which they converted into a fortress. By 1418 he had signed a peace agreement and paid reparations to the Genoese until 1422. A new dispute arose over the emperor's obligations in 1425 and was not resolved until 1428. Relations with the Republic of Venice were generally better.[3]

After the death of Tamerlane, most of Asia Minor descended into chaos. Kara Yusuf, ruler of the Kara Koyunlu or "Black Sheep" Turks, devastated much of Armenia and defeated the Emir of Arsinga and the chieftain of the Ak Koyunlu or White Sheep Turks. Alexios sought to avoid hostility by marrying off daughters to his powerful Muslim neighbors. One daughter was married to Kara Yusuf's son Jihan Shah in c.1420, and Alexios agreed to pay his son-in-law the same amount of tribute that had previously been due to Tamerlane.[4] Another daughter was possibly married to Ali, son of Kara Yülük Osman, the ruler of Ak Koyunlu, though Osman himself was likely the groom. Alexios' marital policy also extended to his Christian neighbors, and his daughter Maria of Trebizond was married off to the Byzantine Emperor John VIII Palaiologos in 1428.[4]

According to George Finlay, Alexios IV spent much of his time in pursuit of pleasure and accomplished relatively little,[5] although there is no evidence in contemporary sources for this claim. Following tradition, he granted his eldest son, John IV, the courtly title of despotes in 1417. Despite this, relations deteriorated between father and son, and in 1426 John murdered Alexios' Treasurer, alleging an affair between him and the Empress Theodora Kantakouzene. He also attempted to kill his parents but the nobles intervened and prevented him, and John fled to Georgia.[6]

When Alexios IV's wife Theodora died in 1426, he was so distraught that Bessarion wrote him no less than three monodias, which help to shed some light on this otherwise dark period lacking in sources.[6]

Due to John's disloyalty and usurpation, Alexios IV made his younger son Alexander of Trebizond despotes. Eventually John left Georgia for the Genoese colony at Caffa, where he enlisted a galley and its crew to help him recover his position in Trebizond. One day in October 1429, the galley and its crew landed John near Trebizond; Alexios IV marched out to meet his son, only to be murdered during the night by nobles who had been won over by John.[7] Alexander fled Trebizond; the Venetian traveller Pero Tafur encountered him in Constantinople around October of that year, living with his sister Maria.[8]


According to Anthony Bryer, John IV felt remorse for his father's death and one of the three indications Bryer provides is a free-standing tomb he had constructed outside of the Chrysokephalos cathedral, into which he moved his father's remains from its burial spot inside the cathedral.[9] Due to a Turkish tradition that the tomb housed the body of a Turkish hero of the last siege of Trebizond, it was spared until 1918. In 1916, during the Russian occupation of Trebizond, Fyodor Uspensky excavated the tomb, finding one skeleton facing face, and a second one interred afterwards. The older skeleton Bryer, following Uspenskij's report, identified as Alexios'.[10]

On the Russian withdrawal from Trebizond, the older skeleton was entrusted to Chrysanthos Philippides, then Metropolitan of Trebizond; the tomb outside the Chrysokephalos was destroyed by the Turks. During the 1923 Exchange of Populations, Chaldian antiquary George Kandilaptes collected as much of these bones and brought them to Greece, where they were stored in the Byzantine Museum in Athens. Then in 1980 the remains of Alexios IV Megas Komnenos were taken with much ceremony to a final resting place in New Soumela, near Kastania in Imathia. Bryer comments that "Alexios IV's is probably the only surviving skeleton of a Byzantine emperor", only to correct himself in a footnote that the remains of St Theodora, John Tzimiskes, and the thirteenth-century Dukai of the Despotate of Epirus might also survive.[11]

Marriage and children

In 1395, Alexios married Theodora Kantakouzene. They would have at least five children:[12]

Two further daughters have been attributed to Alexios by later genealogists; however, both have also been attributed to John IV by other genealogists. Michel Kuršanskis has argued these marriages never really happened, and their existence is based on a misreading of an interpolation to Chalcondyles.[13] These daughters are:

  • Theodora of Trebizond, wife of Ali Beyg of the Ak Koyunlu.
  • Eudokia-Valenza of Trebizond, wife of Niccolò Crispo, Lord of Syros.


  1. Although some secondary sources date Alexios' death to 1449, William Miller ("The Chronology of Trebizond", The English Historical Review, 38 (1923), pp. 408f) provides the primary sources showing that 1429 is the correct date. More recently, V. Laurent ("L'Assassinat d'Alexis IV, empereur de Trebizonde", Archeion Pontou, 20 (1955), pp. 131-143) has narrowed the date of his death to September/October 1429.
  2. William Miller, Trebizond: The last Greek Empire of the Byzantine Era: 1204-1461, 1926 (Chicago: Argonaut, 1969), p. 73
  3. Miller, Trebizond, p. 79
  4. 4.0 4.1 Miller, Trebizond, p. 80
  5. Finlay, The History of Greece and the Empire of Trebizond, (1204-1461) (Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1851), p. 398
  6. 6.0 6.1 Miller, Trebizond, p. 81
  7. Miller, Trebizond, p. 82
  8. A. Vasiliev, "Pero Tafur, a Spanish Traveler of the Fifteenth Century and his Visit to Constantinople, Trebizond, and Italy", Byzantion, 7 (1932), p. 98
  9. Bryer, "'The faithless Kabazitai and Scholarioi'", in Maistor: Classical, Byzantine and Renaissance Studies for Robert Browning, Ann Moffatt editor Byzantina Australiensa, 5 (1984), p. 324
  10. Bryer, "'The faithless Kabazitai'", p. 325
  11. Bryer, "'The faithless Kabazitai'", p. 326 and n. 58
  12. Michel Kuršanskis, "La descendance d'Alexis IV, empereur de Trébizonde. Contribution à la prosopographie des Grands Comnènes", Revue des études byzantines, 37 (1979), p. 247
  13. Kuršanskis, "La descendance d'Alexis IV", pp. 244f

External links

Alexios IV of Trebizond
Komnenid dynasty
Born: 1382 Died: 1429
Regnal titles
Preceded by Emperor of Trebizond
Succeeded by
John IV