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Andronikos I Komnenos

Andronikos I Komnenos or Andronicus I Comnenus (Greek: Ανδρόνικος Α’ Κομνηνός, Andronikos I Komninos; c. 1118 – September 12, 1185) was a Byzantine emperor (r. 1183-1185), son of prince Isaac Komnenos. His paternal grandparents were Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and Eirene Doukaina.

Biography

Early years

Andronikos Komnenos was born early in the twelfth century, around 1118. He was endowed by nature with the most remarkable gifts both of mind and body: he was handsome and eloquent, but licentious; and, at the same time, active, hardy, courageous, a great general and an able politician.

Andronikos' early years were spent in alternate pleasure and military service. In 1141 he was taken captive by the Seljuk Turks and remained in their hands for a year. On being ransomed he went to Constantinople, where was held the court of his cousin, the Emperor Manuel I Komnenos, with whom he was a great favourite. Here the charms of his niece, the princess Eudoxia, attracted him and she became his mistress.

In 1152, accompanied by Eudoxia, he set out for an important command in Cilicia. Failing in his principal enterprise, an attack upon Mopsuestia, he returned, but was again appointed to the command of a province. This second post he seems also to have left after a short interval, for he appeared again in Constantinople, and narrowly escaped death at the hands of the brothers of Eudoxia.

About this time (1153) a conspiracy against the emperor, in which Andronikos participated, was discovered and he was thrown into prison. There he remained for about twelve years, during which time he made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to escape.

Exile

At last, in 1165, he was successful in escaping. After passing through many dangers, he reached the court of Prince Yaroslav of Galicia (Ruthenia). While under the protection of the prince, Andronikos brought about an alliance between him and the emperor Manuel I, and so restored himself to the emperor's favour. With a Russian army he joined Manuel in the invasion of Hungary and assisted at the siege of Semlin.

After a successful campaign Manuel I and Andronikos returned together to Constantinople (1168); but a year later, Andronikos refused to take the oath of allegiance to the future king Béla III of Hungary, whom Manuel desired to become his successor. He was removed from court, but received the province of Cilicia.

Being still under the displeasure of the emperor, Andronikos fled to the court of Raymond, prince of Antioch. While residing here he captivated and seduced the beautiful daughter of the prince, Philippa, sister of the empress Maria. The anger of the emperor was again roused by this dishonour, and Andronikos was compelled to flee.

He took refuge with King Amalric I of Jerusalem, whose favour he gained, and who invested him with the Lordship of Beirut. In Jerusalem he saw Theodora Komnene, the beautiful widow of the late King Baldwin III and niece of the emperor Manuel. Although Andronikos was at that time fifty-six years old, age had not diminished his charms, and Theodora became the next victim of his artful seduction.

To avoid the vengeance of the Emperor, she fled with Andronikos to the court of Nur ad-Din, the Sultan of Damascus; but not deeming themselves safe there, they continued their perilous journey through Persia and Turkestan, round the Caspian Sea and across the Caucasus, until at length they settled in the ancestral lands of the Komnenoi at Oinaion, on the shores of the Black Sea, between Trebizond and Sinope.

While Andronikos was on one of his incursions, his castle was surprised by the governor of Trebizond, and Theodora and her two children were captured and sent to Constantinople. To obtain their release Andronikos in early 1180 made abject submission to the Emperor and, appearing in chains before him, besought pardon. This he obtained, and was allowed to retire with Theodora into banishment at Oinaion.

Emperor

In 1180 the Emperor Manuel died and was succeeded by his 10 year old son Alexios II, who was under the guardianship of his mother, Empress Maria. Her Latin origins and culture however led to creeping resentment from her Greek subjects (who felt insulted enough by the late Manuel's Western tastes, let alone being ruled by his Western wife), building up to an explosion of rioting that almost became a full civil war. This gave Andronikos the opportunity to seize the crown for himself, leaving his retirement in 1182 and marching to Constantinople with an army that (according to non-Byzantine sources) included Muslim contingents. The defection of the commander of the Byzantine navy, Grand Duke Andronikos Kontostephanos, and the general Andronikos Angelos, played a key role in allowing the rebellious forces to enter Constantinople. Andronikos Komnenos' arrival was soon followed by a massacre of the Latin inhabitants of the city, which was focused on the Venetian merchants who virtually controlled the economy of the city. The massacre resulted in the deaths of 80,000 "Latins". He was believed to have arranged the poisoning of Alexios II's elder sister Maria the Porphyrogenita and her husband Renier of Montferrat, although Maria herself had encouraged him to intervene. The poisoner was said to be the eunuch Pterygeonites. Soon afterwards he had the empress Maria imprisoned and then killed (forcing a signature from the child Emperor Alexius to put his mother to death), by Pterygeonites and the hetaireiarches Constantine Tripsychos. Alexios II was compelled to acknowledge Andronikos as colleague in the empire and was then quickly put to death in turn; the killing was carried out by Tripsychos, Theodore Dadibrenos and Stephen Hagiochristophorites.

Andronikos, now (1183) sole emperor, married Agnes of France, a child twelve years of age, formerly betrothed to Alexios II. Agnes was a daughter of King Louis VII of France and his third wife Adèle of Champagne. By November 1183, Andronikos associated his younger legitimate son John Komnenos on the throne. A Venetian embassy visited Constantinople in 1184 and an agreement was reached that compensation of 1,500 gold pieces would be paid for the losses incurred in 1171.

His short reign was characterized by strong and harsh measures. He resolved to suppress many abuses, but above all things, to check feudalism and limit the power of the nobles, who were rivals for his throne. The people, who felt the severity of his laws, at the same time acknowledged their justice and found themselves protected from the rapacity of their superiors who had grown corrupt under the opulent and mercurial rule of Manuel I. However, as Andronikos' rule went on, the Emperor became increasingly paranoid and violent - in September 1185, Andronikos ordered the execution of all prisoners, exiles and their families for collusion with the invaders - and the Byzantine Empire descended into a terror state. The aristocrats in turn were infuriated against him. There were several revolts, the stories of chaos leading to an invasion by King William of the Norman Sicilians. William (with a fleet of 200 ships) landed in Epirus with a strong force (80,000 men including 5,000 knights), and marched as far as Thessalonica, which he took and pillaged ruthlessly (7,000 Greeks died). Andronikos hastily assembled five different armies to stop the Sicilian army from reaching Constantinople, but none of these five smaller armies would stand against the Sicilian forces and retreated to the outlying hills. Andronikos also assembled a fleet of 100 ships to stop the Norman fleet from entering the Sea of Marmara. The invaders were finally driven out in 1186 by his successor, Isaac Angelos.

Death

Andronikos seems then to have resolved to exterminate the aristocracy, and his plans were nearly crowned with success. But on September 11, 1185, during his absence from the capital, Stephen Hagiochristophorites moved to arrest Isaac Angelos, whose loyalty was suspect. Isaac killed Hagiochristophorites and took refuge in the church of Hagia Sophia. He appealed to the populace, and a tumult arose which spread rapidly over the whole city.

When Andronikos arrived he found that his authority was overthrown: Isaac had been proclaimed Emperor. The deposed Emperor attempted to escape in a boat with his wife Agnes and his mistress, but was captured (note that by some, Andronikos not only survived, but also managed to escape to the then self-proclaimed Kingdom of Cyprus). Isaac handed him over to the city mob and for three days he was exposed to their fury and resentment, remaining for that period tied to a post and beaten. His right hand was cut off, his teeth and hair were pulled out, one of his eyes was gouged out, and, among many other sufferings, boiling water was thrown in his face, punishment probably associated to his handsomness and life of licentiosity. At last, led to the Hippodrome of Constantinople, he was hung up by the feet between two pillars, and two Latin soldiers competed as to whose sword would penetrate his body more deeply, and finally his body, according to the representation of his death, was torn apart. He died on September 12, 1185. At the news of the emperor's death, his son and co-emperor John was murdered by his own troops in Thrace.

Andronikos I was the last of the Komnenoi to rule Constantinople, although his grandsons Alexios and David founded the Empire of Trebizond in 1204. Their branch of the dynasty was known as the "Great Komnenoi" (Megaskomnenoi).

Family

Andronikos I Komnenos was married twice and had numerous mistresses. By his first wife, whose name is not known, he had three children:

By his mistress Theodora Komnene, Andronikos I had the following issue:

  • Alexios Komnenos, an alleged forefather of the Georgian noble family of Andronikashvili.
  • Eirene Komnene, who was briefly married to Alexios Komnenos, a son of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos by Theodora Batatzina.

Portrayal in fiction

Andronikos is said to be a character in Michael Arnold's Against the Fall of Night (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975). He is among the main characters of the historical novel Agnes of France (1980) by Greek writer Kostas Kyriazis (b. 1920). The novel describes the events of the reigns of Manuel I, Alexios II and Andronikos I through the eyes of Agnes. The novel ends with the death of Andronikos.

Andronikos was also portrayed in the novel Baudolino by Umberto Eco, with much detail being given to his grisly end.

Notes

References

  • Angold, Michael (1997). The Byzantine Empire, 1025–1204. Longman. ISBN 0-582-29468-1.
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • K. Varzos, Ē genealogia tōn Komnēnōn (Thessalonica, 1984) vol. 1 pp. 493-638.
  • Mihai Tiuliumeanu, Andronic I Comnenul, Iasi, 2000 (in Romanian)

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