Andronikos I of Trebizond

Andronikos I Gidos or Andronicus I Gidus (Ανδρόνικος Α΄ Γίδος), (ruled 1222–1235), Emperor of Trebizond


He married a Komnene, whose first name is unknown. He succeeded his father-in-law, Alexios I of Trebizond in 1222. His mother-in-law was Theodora Axuchina. Andronikos may be the same Andronikos Gidos who served as a general of Theodore I Laskaris. The first crisis of the reign came in 1224 when the capital had to face a serious attack.

The Seljuks

The Seljuk Turks occupied Sudak in the Crimea and constructed a fortress there between 1221 and 1223. In 1223 the Seljuk governor of Sinope sent ships to attack the coast of Trapezuntine Crimea (the so-called Perateia) in an effort to divert trade into his port. A ship carrying the annual tribute of Perateia, with the archon of the province and a number of notables from Cherson on board, was driven by a storm into Sinope's harbour. In violation of the treaty with Andronikos, the city's governor seized the vessel with its cargo, passengers, and crew and also sent a fleet to plunder Perateia.

Andronikos collected a fleet and dispatched it against Sinope. The fleet plundered up to the walls of the city and killed or captured the crews of the ships lying in the harbour. They rescued the captive archon, his ship and his money, as well as all the plunder carried off from Cherson.

Sultan Kay Ka'us I marched on Trebizond. Andronikos summoned all his troops and fortified the passes leading to the city. The emperor inflicted considerable loss upon the advance guard of the sultan before withdrawing within the walls, which were already accounted impregnable.

The sultan made camp near the St Eugenios monastery, set fire to the suburbs outside the walls, and after a survey of the fortifications, ordered an attack from the sea. A string of attacks and counter attacks (punctuated by a Seljuk embassy being shown the ample stores inside the city) ended in an attempt to storm the walls by night. The last attack failed when a sudden thunderstorm, accompanied by torrential rain and hail, terrified and scattered the besiegers. Some rode over the cliffs in the dark into the ravines, others were caught by swollen torrents from the mountains.

Kay Ka'us was brought a prisoner to Trebizond, where Andronikos received him with honour. A pact was made between them that in the future the tie of vassalage, which had previously bound Trebizond to Iconium, should cease, and that the Trapezuntines should no longer be obliged either to perform military service to the sultan or to send tribute or gifts. Kay Ka'us is reported to have been so impressed by this moderation that he performed more than the treaty required by sending an annual present of Arab horses to Andronikos and money to the St Eugenios monastery.

Cult of St Eugenios

The siege of 1224 is the source of two early legends of the St Eugenios cult. Fear of the army of Kay Ka'us is said to have driven many Trapezuntines to the sanctuaries of the Panagia Chrysokephalos and Saint Eugenios. In the first legend, the account of the siege compiled by John Lazaropoulos, who, under the name of Joseph, was Metropolitan of Trebizond in the second half of the fourteenth century, narrates the legend that a further ruse was perpetrated by the outraged St Eugenios, who appeared to Kay Ka'us I, the profaner of his shrine, in the guise of mayor of the city, who held its keys, and pretended to have been sent by the suffering citizens to invite him to enter. Kay Ka'us Is suspicions were calmed by his astrologers, who told him that his entry into the city was written in the stars. In the second, Kay Ka'us fled, only to fall into the hands of the mountaineers from Matzouka, and 150 years later a shrine erected to St Eugenios still marked the spot of his capture. Traditional accounts of the siege emphasise the sultan's threats to destroy churches, especially the monastery of St Eugenios, even though destroying churches was not usual Seljuk practice. The church of the Panagia Chrysokephalos and St Eugenios both grew richer from the spoils of the siege.

The Khwarizmshah and the Mongols

The independence of Trebizond lasted only until 1230. Jalal-ad-din, the Sultan of Khwarizm, invaded Anatolia in a direct challenge to the Sultanate of Iconium. Jalal-ad-din, who had conquered Georgia in the 1220s, was now a neighbour of Trebizond. Andronikos considered neutrality impossible and made an alliance with the Khwarizmshah, and agreed to war with the Seljuks. Many of Jalal-ad-din's troops, after their defeat at Aklat in 1230, sought refuge at Trebizond, that the Trapezuntine contingent had assisted the Shah in that battle.

The alliance with Jalal ad-Din cost Andronikos the loss of the privileges which he had gained in his treaty with Kay Ka'us. Trebizond once more became a vassal to the Sultan of Iconium. About 1240 Vincent de Beauvais reports the ruler of Trebizond used to send the sultan 200 lances (1,000 men). Nor was this the only loss of this reign.

The Mongols occupied a large part of Georgia. Iberia and Lazica, which had been subject to Trebizond, whose eastern frontier had been Soteropolis, separated themselves from the empire and formed an independent kingdom of Imereti under David VI Narin, son of the Georgian Queen Rusudan.


  • W. Miller, Trebizond: The Last Greek Empire of the Byzantine Era, Chicago 1926.

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