Andronikos Komnenos

XII pageByzantiumPrincely times Kings and Queens

Andronikos Komnenos (ca 1120–12.09.1185) – Byzantine Emperor, the last Komnenos on the Byzantine throne, nephew of the Emperor Ioann II Komnenos, cousin of the Emperor Manuel I Komnenos.

Andronikos’s father – sebastokrator Isaac Komnenos, his mother – Irene Volodarivna, daughter of Prince Volodar Rostyslavych of Peremyshl; his uncle – the Emperor Ioann II Komnenos. Andronikos spent his early childhood in exile, but after the death of his father he was taken to the palace where he was brought up together with his cousin Manuel, the future Emperor Manuel I Komnenos. Onacharge of high treason but actually to remove him as a pretender to the throne, Andronikos was imprisoned for nine years. He escaped twice and both times was caught. At last, he managed to break out of prison and hid in Red Rus, at the court of Prince Yaroslav Osmomysl. He was going to take part in the war of Hungary against Byzantium but the Emperor Manuel demanded his return to Constantinople, promising him full rehabilitation and threatening to subject his family to repressions in case of refusal.

Took part in the war against Armenia, where he proved himself to be a hero but suffered a defeat. After that, he did not return to Constantinople and escaped to Antioch, to the Crusaders. He won the heart of Princess Philippa of Antioch, sister of the Empress Maria, and became engaged to her. Manuel sent envoys to Antioch with a protest against this marriage and though the Antioch court ignored the protest, Andronikos went to Jerusalem. The King Amalric of Jerusalem made Andronikos the ruler of Beirut, where he was visited by Theodora, a niece of Manuel and the widow of King Baldwin, the predecessor of Amalric.

Later on Andronikos with Theodora eloped to Damascus and from there to Bagdad. They had two children. Besides, Andronikos managed to convey to Asia his youngest son from his first marriage (his wife divorced him by the Emperor’s order). Andronikos moved to Erzurum and from there to Tbilisi, where he was hospitably received by the King George. However, Andronikos left Georgia as well, this time for the Seljuk lands, where he governed a fortress on the border with Byzantium and even made raids on his native land. Theodora and children were stolen and sent to the capital. Manuel delivered an ultimatum: the return of Andronikos or death of his relatives. Andronikos had to submit so he gave himself up. In hair-shirt, with a chain on his neck, he besought the Emperor’s pardon and was forgiven. The Emperor allowed him to retire to the town of Oenoe on the coast of the Sea of Marmora to live there his last years.

In 1180 the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I died. Eleven-year old Alexios II Komnenos came to the throne. His mother Maria became the regent for the underage Emperor. These events enabled Andronikos to quickly capture Constantinople: in 1182 he gathered a large army, which included the recruited Turks as well, seized the city, and caused a massacre of the Latins living in Constantinople. Gaining plenitude of the power, Andronikos decided to do away with his real opponents: growing up Alexios II and his mother Maria.

Andronikos I, now (in 1183) the sole Emperor, married Agnes of France, the thirteen-year-old daughter of King Lois VII of France.

Andronikos’ short rule was marked by drastic measures. He decided to extirpate abuse of power by the nobility, to restrict their power and power of feudal lords who were his rivals and pretenders to the throne. Andronikos’ government was characterized by a great number of executions and cruel repressions, especially during the last months of his rule. Thus, in 1185, without clarification of their fault, he ordered to murder all prisoners and execute some of their relatives.

In September 1185, a sudden uprising against the despotic regime of Andronikos broke out, as a result he was removed from power and with time executed.

Portrait (imaginary) of Andronikos Komnenos