Isaac Komnenos of Cyprus
Isaac Komnenos or Comnenus , was the ruler of Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 from 1184 to 1191, before Richard I's conquest during the Third Crusade
Third Crusade
The Third Crusade , also known as the Kings' Crusade, was an attempt by European leaders to reconquer the Holy Land from Saladin...



He was a minor member of the Komnenos family. He was son of an unnamed Doukas Kamateros and Irene Komnene. His maternal grandparents were sebastokratōr
Sebastokratōr was a senior court title in the late Byzantine Empire. It was also used by other rulers whose states bordered the Empire or were within its sphere of influence. The word is a compound of "sebastos" Sebastokratōr was a senior court title in the late Byzantine Empire. It was also used...

Isaac Komnenos
Isaac Komnenos (d. 1154)
Isaac Komnenos or Comnenus , was the third son of Byzantine Emperor John II Komnenos by Piroska of Hungary.-Life:Shortly before his death in 1143, John II Komnenos designated his fourth son Manuel as his heir, although the third son, Isaac, was still alive...

 and his first wife Theodora.

His namesake maternal grandfather was the third son of John II Komnenos
John II Komnenos
John II Komnenos was Byzantine Emperor from 1118 to 1143. Also known as Kaloïōannēs , he was the eldest son of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and Irene Doukaina...

 and Piroska of Hungary
Piroska of Hungary
Saint Irene of Hungary, born Piroska, was a daughter of Ladislaus I of Hungary and Adelaide of Swabia. Her maternal grandparents were Rudolf of Rheinfeld and his second wife Adelheid of Savoy. Adelheid was a daughter of Otto of Savoy and Adelaide of Turin. She was the mother of the future emperor...

. He was the senior surviving son of John II at his death but his younger brother Manuel I Komnenos
Manuel I Komnenos
Manuel I Komnenos was a Byzantine Emperor of the 12th century who reigned over a crucial turning point in the history of Byzantium and the Mediterranean....

 successfully claimed the throne for himself.

Both Isaacs should not be confused with the Byzantine emperor Isaac I Komnenos
Isaac I Komnenos
Isaac I Komnenos was Byzantine Emperor from 1057 to 1059, and the first reigning member of the Komnenos dynasty...

 (1057–1059). He was an uncle of Alexios I Komnenos
Alexios I Komnenos
Alexios I Komnenos, Latinized as Alexius I Comnenus , was Byzantine emperor from 1081 to 1118, and although he was not the founder of the Komnenian dynasty, it was during his reign that the Komnenos family came to full power. The title 'Nobilissimus' was given to senior army commanders,...

 and great-uncle of John II.


The following account of his life is mainly based on the Byzantine historian Niketas Choniates.

Emperor Manuel made Isaac governor of Isauria
Isauria , in ancient geography, is a rugged isolated district in the interior of South Asia Minor, of very different extent at different periods, but generally covering what is now the district of Bozkır and its surroundings in the Konya province of Turkey, or the core of the Taurus Mountains. In...

 and the town of Tarsus in present-day eastern Turkey, where he started a war with the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia
Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia
The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia , also known as the Cilician Armenia, Kingdom of Cilician Armenia or New Armenia, was an independent principality formed during the High Middle Ages by Armenian refugees fleeing the Seljuk invasion of Armenia...

 and was subsequently captured by the enemy. As Emperor Manuel had died in the meantime (1180), nobody seems to have greatly cared about Isaac's fate, and he remained a prisoner for a long time, which seems to have done nothing for improving his disposition in general. As he was married to an Armenian princess when on Cyprus, his terms of captivity may not have been too harsh.

Finally his aunt Theodora Komnene
Theodora Komnene
Theodora Komnene or Comnena was a niece of Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus, and wife of King Baldwin III of Jerusalem.-Family:Theodora was a daughter of the sebastokratōr Isaac Komnenos by his second wife, Eirene Synadene...

, who had an affair with the new Emperor Andronikos I Komnenos
Andronikos I Komnenos
Andronikos I Komnenos was Byzantine Emperor from 1183 to 1185). He was the son of Isaac Komnenos and grandson of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos.-Early years:...

 (1183–1185) convinced the Emperor to contribute to his ransom, as did his stepfather Constantine Makrodoukas and Andronikos Doukas, another relative and a childhood friend, a sodomite and debaucher, as Niketas tells us. Strangely enough, the Templars
Knights Templar
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon , commonly known as the Knights Templar, the Order of the Temple or simply as Templars, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders...

 (the Phreri, as Niketas Choniates calls them) contributed as well.

When Isaac was released in 1185, it was clear he had tired of the Imperial service. He used the rest of the money to hire a troop of mercenaries and sailed to Cyprus. He presented falsified imperial letters that ordered the local administration to obey him in everything and established himself as ruler of the island.
Constantine Makrodoukas and Andronikos Doukas had had to stand surety for Isaac's fealty to the Emperor. When he failed to return, Andronikos I Komnenos had them arrested for treason, although Constantine had been his loyal supporter so far. Andronikos I was afraid that Isaac would try to usurp the throne, as a water-oracle conducted by the courtier Stephen Hagiochristophorites had given I (iota) as the initial of the next Emperor. When the prisoners were led out of prison to face the charges, Hagiochristophorites started to stone them and forced the others to join him. Both prisoners were then impaled at the front of the Mangana
Mangana is a settlement in the municipality Topeiros in the Xanthi peripheral unit of Greece....


Another oracle gave the date when the next Emperor would start to rule, and Andronikos I was greatly relieved, as the time was much too short for Isaac to make the crossing from Cyprus.

Meanwhile Isaac had taken many other Romans into his service. He created an independent patriarch of Cyprus, who crowned him as emperor in 1185. According to Niketas Choniates, he soon started to plunder Cyprus, raping women and defiling virgins, imposing overly cruel punishments for crimes and stealing the possessions of the citizens. "Cypriots of high esteem, comparable to Job in riches now were seen begging in the streets, naked and hungry, if they were not put to the sword by this irascible tyrant." Furthermore, he had the foot of his old teacher Basil Pentakenos hacked off, which Niketas finds even more despicable.

In 1185 Isaac II Angelos
Isaac II Angelos
Isaac II Angelos was Byzantine emperor from 1185 to 1195, and again from 1203 to 1204....

 became Emperor after a popular uprising at Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. He raised a fleet of 70 ships to take back Cyprus. The fleet was under the command of John Kontostephanos and Alexios Komnenos, a nephew once removed of the Emperor. Neither seems to have been very fit, as John was quite old, and Alexios had been blinded by order of Andronikos I.

They landed in Cyprus, but Margaritone of Brindisi
Margaritus of Brindisi
Margaritus of Brindisi , called the new Neptune, was the last great ammiratus ammiratorum of Sicily...

, a pirate in the service of King William II of Sicily
William II of Sicily
William II , called the Good, was king of Sicily from 1166 to 1189. William's character is very indistinct. Lacking in military enterprise, secluded and pleasure-loving, he seldom emerged from his palace life at Palermo. Yet his reign is marked by an ambitious foreign policy and a vigorous diplomacy...

 (1166–1189) captured the ships after the troops had left them. Isaac, or more likely Margaritone, won a victory over the Byzantine troops and captured the captains, whom he took off to Sicily, while the rest of the sailors remained on Cyprus, to fend for themselves as best they could. "Only much later did they return home, if they had not perished altogether."

In 1191 the fiancée and the sister of the English King Richard I Lionheart
Richard I of England
Richard I was King of England from 6 July 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes, and Overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period...

 were shipwrecked on Cyprus and were taken captive by Isaac. In retaliation Richard (whom Niketas calls "King of the Inglines") conquered the island while on his way to Tyre. Isaac was taken prisoner near Cape St. Andreas
Cape Apostolos Andreas
Cape Apostolos Andreas is the north-easternmost point of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus . It lies at the tip of the finger-like Karpass Peninsula.The famous Apostolos Andreas Monastery is located just south of the promontory itself....

 on the Karpass Peninsula
Karpass Peninsula
The Karpass Peninsula , also known as Karpasia or Kırpaşa is a long, finger-like peninsula that is one of the most prominent geographical features of the island of Cyprus. Its farthest extent is Cape Apostolos Andreas, and its major population centre is the town of Rizokarpaso...

, the northernmost tip of the island. According to tradition, Richard had promised Isaac not to put him into irons, so he kept him prisoner in chains of silver. Isaac was turned over to the Knights of St. John, who kept him imprisoned in Margat
Margat, also known as Marqab from the Arabic Qalaat al-Marqab is a castle near Baniyas, Syria, which was a Crusader fortress and one of the major strongholds of the Knights Hospitaller...

 near Tripoli
Tripoli, Lebanon
Tripoli is the largest city in northern Lebanon and the second-largest city in Lebanon. Situated 85 km north of the capital Beirut, Tripoli is the capital of the North Governorate and the Tripoli District. Geographically located on the east of the Mediterranean, the city's history dates back...

. Upon Richard I's return to Europe from the Third Crusade, he was imprisoned by Leopold V, Duke of Austria
Leopold V, Duke of Austria
Leopold V , the Virtuous, was a Babenberg duke of Austria from 1177 and of Styria from 1192 until his death...

 and Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor
Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor
Henry VI was King of Germany from 1190 to 1197, Holy Roman Emperor from 1191 to 1197 and King of Sicily from 1194 to 1197.-Early years:Born in Nijmegen,...

. As part of Richard I's ransom agreement, Isaac and his daughter were freed into the care of Leopold V, Duke of Austria
Leopold V, Duke of Austria
Leopold V , the Virtuous, was a Babenberg duke of Austria from 1177 and of Styria from 1192 until his death...

, for Leopold was the son of Theodora Comnena, Isaac's aunt.

Isaac now traveled to the Sultanate of Rum
Sultanate of Rûm
The Sultanate of Rum , also known as the Anatolian Seljuk State , was a Turkic state centered in in Anatolia, with capitals first at İznik and then at Konya. Since the court of the sultanate was highly mobile, cities like Kayseri and Sivas also functioned at times as capitals...

, where he attempted to gain support against the new Byzantine Emperor Alexios III Angelos
Alexios III Angelos
Alexios III Angelos was Byzantine Emperor from 1195 to 1203.- Early life:Alexios III Angelos was the second son of Andronikos Angelos and Euphrosyne Kastamonitissa. Andronicus was himself a son of Theodora Komnene, the youngest daughter of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and Irene Doukaina. Thus...

 (1195–1203). However, Isaac's ambitions came to nothing, as he died by poisoning in 1195 or 1196.

Isaac is described as an irascible and violent man, "boiling with anger like a kettle on the fire", but Niketas clearly is not very partial to him. The cruelties attributed to him pale somewhat in comparison with Emperor Andronikos I. He seems to have been in league with William II of Sicily, who was a powerful thorn in the side of the Empire, which helped him to hold the island as long as he did, and had close connections to sultan Saladin
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb , better known in the Western world as Saladin, was an Arabized Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim and Arab opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant...

 as well.

His daughter

Isaac's daughter, whose name seems to be unrecorded (she is usually called the "Damsel of Cyprus" in the sources), joined Richard I's court when her father was deposed. She traveled to the Kingdom of England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

 by sea with other ladies of this court, including Richard's sister Joan Plantagenet, former Queen Consort of Sicily, and his wife, Berengaria of Navarre
Berengaria of Navarre
Berengaria of Navarre was Queen of the English as the wife of King Richard I of England. She was the eldest daughter of King Sancho VI of Navarre and Sancha of Castile. As is the case with many of the medieval queens consort of the Kingdom of England, relatively little is known of her life...

. In 1194, as part of Richard I's ransom agreement, the Cypriot Princess was released into the care of Leopold V, Duke of Austria
Leopold V, Duke of Austria
Leopold V , the Virtuous, was a Babenberg duke of Austria from 1177 and of Styria from 1192 until his death...

, a distant relative.

Later she lived in Provence
Provence ; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm) is a region of south eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur...

, where in 1199 she encountered Count Raymond VI of Toulouse
Raymond VI of Toulouse
Raymond VI was count of Toulouse and marquis of Provence from 1194 to 1222. He was also count of Melgueil from 1173 to 1190.-Early life:...

 and, once again, Joan Plantagenet, who was now Raymond's wife and pregnant with his second child. The couple split up suddenly and Raymond began a relationship (a marriage, some say) with Isaac's daughter. This was over by about 1202, when she married Thierry, an illegitimate son of Baldwin
Baldwin I of Constantinople
Baldwin I , the first emperor of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, as Baldwin IX Count of Flanders and as Baldwin VI Count of Hainaut, was one of the most prominent leaders of the Fourth Crusade, which resulted in the capture of Constantinople, the conquest of the greater part of the Byzantine...

, Count of Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

. These two sailed from Marseille in 1204, with a convoy of warriors who intended to join the Fourth Crusade
Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was originally intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem by means of an invasion through Egypt. Instead, in April 1204, the Crusaders of Western Europe invaded and conquered the Christian city of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire...

and did not turn aside to Constantinople. On reaching Cyprus, the couple attempted to claim the island as inheritors of Isaac. The attempt failed, and they fled to Armenia.

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