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