John III Doukas Vatatzes
John III Doukas Vatatzes, Latinized as Ducas Vatatzes ' onMouseout='HidePop("33802")' href="/topics/Didymoteicho">Didymoteicho
Didymóteicho is a town located in the eastern part of the Evros peripheral unit of Thrace, Greece. It is the seat of the municipality of the same name. The town sits on a plain and located south east of Svilengrad, south of Edirne, Turkey and Orestiada, west of Uzunköprü, about 20 km north...

 – 3 November 1254, Nymphaion) was emperor of Nicaea
Empire of Nicaea
The Empire of Nicaea was the largest of the three Byzantine Greek successor states founded by the aristocracy of the Byzantine Empire that fled after Constantinople was occupied by Western European and Venetian forces during the Fourth Crusade...



John Doukas Vatatzes was probably the son of the general Basileios Vatatzes, Duke of Thrace, who died in 1193, and his wife, an unnamed daughter of Isaakios Angelos and cousin of the Emperors Isaac II Angelos
Isaac II Angelos
Isaac II Angelos was Byzantine emperor from 1185 to 1195, and again from 1203 to 1204....

 and 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...

. The Vatatzes family had first become prominent in Byzantine society in the Komnenian period and had forged early imperial connections when Theodore Vatatzes married the porphyrogenete
Porphyrogénnētos, Latinized as Porphyrogenitus was an honorific title given to a son, or daughter , of a reigning emperor in the Byzantine Empire. However, not every imperial prince or princess was accorded this distinction...

 princess Eudokia Komnene, daughter of Emperor 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...

. John Doukas Vatatzes had two older brothers. The eldest was Isaakios Doukas Vatatzes (died 1261), who married and had two children: Ioannes Vatatzes (born 1215), who married to Eudokia Angelina and had two daughters Theodora Doukaina Vatatzaina, wife of Michael VIII Palaiologos
Michael VIII Palaiologos
Michael VIII Palaiologos or Palaeologus reigned as Byzantine Emperor 1259–1282. Michael VIII was the founder of the Palaiologan dynasty that would rule the Byzantine Empire until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453...

, and Maria Vatatzaina, married to Michael Doukas Glabas Tarchaneiotes
Michael Doukas Glabas Tarchaneiotes
Michael Doukas Glabas Tarchaneiotes or Michael Tarchaneiotes Glabas was a notable Byzantine aristocrat and general.- Life :He is first mentioned in ca. 1260, when he was assigned to capture the city of Mesembria on the Black Sea coast from the deposed Bulgarian tsar Mitso Asen...

, Military Goveror of Thrace; and a daughter, married to Konstantinos Strategopoulos. His other older brother was the father in law of Alexios Raul (died 1258).

A successful soldier from a military family, in 1212, John was chosen by Emperor Theodore I Laskaris
Theodore I Laskaris
Theodoros I Komnenos Laskaris was emperor of Nicaea .-Family:Theodore Laskaris was born to the Laskaris, a noble but not particularly renowned Byzantine family of Constantinople. He was the son of Manuel Laskaris and wife Ioanna Karatzaina . He had four older brothers: Manuel Laskaris Theodoros...

 as husband for his daughter Irene Laskarina and as heir to the throne. This arrangement excluded members of the Laskarid family from the succession, and when John III Doukas Vatatzes became emperor in mid-December 1221, he had to suppress opposition to his rule. The struggle ended with a battle in 1224, in which his opponents were defeated in spite of the support they had acquired from the Latin Empire
Latin Empire
The Latin Empire or Latin Empire of Constantinople is the name given by historians to the feudal Crusader state founded by the leaders of the Fourth Crusade on lands captured from the Byzantine Empire. It was established after the capture of Constantinople in 1204 and lasted until 1261...

 of 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:...

. John III's victory led to territorial concessions by the Latin Empire in 1225, but was followed by John's incursion into Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, where he seized Adrianople.

John III's possession of Adrianople was terminated by Theodore Komnenos Doukas of Epirus
Despotate of Epirus
The Despotate or Principality of Epirus was one of the Byzantine Greek successor states of the Byzantine Empire that emerged in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. It claimed to be the legitimate successor of the Byzantine Empire, along with the Empire of Nicaea, and the Empire of Trebizond...

 and Thessalonica, who drove the Nicaean garrison out of Adrianople and annexed much of Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 in 1227. The elimination of Theodore by Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria
Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria
-Early rule:He was a son of Ivan Asen I of Bulgaria and Elena . Elena, who survived until after 1235, is sometimes alleged to be a daughter of Stefan Nemanja of Serbia, but this relationship is questionable and would have caused various canonical impediments to marriages between various descendants...

 in 1230 put an end to the danger posed by Thessalonica, and John III made an alliance with Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 against the Latin Empire. In 1235 this alliance resulted in the restoration of the Bulgarian patriarchate
A patriarchate is the office or jurisdiction of a patriarch. A patriarch, as the term is used here, is either* one of the highest-ranking bishops in Eastern Orthodoxy, earlier, the five that were included in the Pentarchy: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, but now nine,...

 and the marriage between Elena of Bulgaria
Elena of Bulgaria
-Biography:She was daughter of Bulgarian Emperor Ivan Asen II and Empress Anna Maria of Hungary. Anna was originally named Mária.Elena was a Bulgarian princess and Empress of Nicaea...

 and Theodore II, respectively Ivan Asen II's daughter and John III's son. In the same year the Bulgarians and Nicaeans campaigned against the Latin Empire, and in 1236, they attempted a siege of Constantinople. Subsequently, Ivan Asen II adopted an ambivalent policy, effectively becoming neutral, and leaving John III to his own devices.

In spite of some reverses against the Latin Empire in 1240, John III was able to take advantage of Ivan Asen II's death in 1241 to impose his own suzerainty over Thessalonica (in 1242), and later to annex this city, as well as much of Bulgarian Thrace in 1246. Immediately afterwards, John III was able to establish an effective stranglehold on Constantinople in 1247. The last years of his reign saw the extension of Nicaean authority far to the west, where John III attempted to contain the expansion of Epirus
Despotate of Epirus
The Despotate or Principality of Epirus was one of the Byzantine Greek successor states of the Byzantine Empire that emerged in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. It claimed to be the legitimate successor of the Byzantine Empire, along with the Empire of Nicaea, and the Empire of Trebizond...


John III Doukas Vatatzes was a successful ruler who laid the groundwork for Nicaea's recovery of Constantinople. He was successful in maintaining generally peaceful relations with his most powerful neighbors, Bulgaria and the Sultanate of Rüm
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...

, and his network of diplomatic relations extended to the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 and the Papacy, while his armed forces included Frankish mercenaries.

John III effected Nicaean expansion into Europe, where by the end of his reign he had annexed his former rival Thessalonica and had expanded at the expense of Bulgaria and Epirus. He also expanded Nicaean control over much of the Aegean
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

 and annexed the important island of Rhodes
Rhodes is an island in Greece, located in the eastern Aegean Sea. It is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of both land area and population, with a population of 117,007, and also the island group's historical capital. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within...


Moreover, John III is credited with carefully developing the internal prosperity and economy of his realm, encouraging justice and charity. In spite of his epilepsy
Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms of abnormal, excessive or hypersynchronous neuronal activity in the brain.About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, and nearly two out of every three new cases...

, John III had provided active leadership in both peace and war. A half-century after his death, John III was canonized as a saint, under the name John the Merciful and was still commemorated annually until recent times.


John III Doukas Vatatzes married first Irene Lascarina
Irene Lascarina
Irene Lascarina was a daughter of Theodore I Laskaris, emperor of Nicaea and Anna Angelina. Her maternal grandparents were Emperor Alexios III Angelos and Euphrosyne Doukaina Kamaterina...

, the daughter of his predecessor Theodore I Laskaris in 1212. They had one son, the future Theodore II Doukas Laskaris, but Irene fell from a horse and was so badly injured that she was unable to have any more children. She retired to a convent, taking the monastic name Eugenia, and died there in 1239. John III married as his second wife Constance II of Hohenstaufen
Constance II of Hohenstaufen
Anna of Hohenstaufen , born Constance, was the daughter of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and Bianca Lancia.-Byzantine Empress:...

, an illegitimate daughter of Emperor Frederick II
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II , was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily and stretching through Italy to Germany, and even to Jerusalem, were enormous...

 by his mistress Bianca Lancia
Bianca Lancia
Bianca Lancia d'Agliano was an Italian noblewoman, who was the mistress and later wife of emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, although the marriage, conducted while she was on her deathbed, was considered non-canonical.- Family :Born ca...

. They had no children.

Further reading

  • "John Vatatzes" entry in The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
    Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
    The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium is a three volume historical dictionary published by the English Oxford University Press. It contains comprehensive information in English on topics relating to the Byzantine Empire. It was edited by the late Dr. Alexander Kazhdan, and was first published in 1991...

    . Alexander Kazhdan
    Alexander Kazhdan
    - Soviet :Born in Moscow, Kazhdan was educated at the Pedagogical Institute of Ufa and the University of Moscow, where he studied with the historian of medieval England, Evgenii Kosminskii...

     (ed.) Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • John V.A. Fine Jr., The Late Medieval Balkans. Ann Arbor, 1987.
  • John S. Langdon. Byzantium’s Last Imperial Offensive in Asia Minor: The Documentary Evidence for and Hagiographical Lore About John III Ducas Vatatzes’ Crusade Against the Turks, 1222 or 1225 to 1231. New Rochelle, N.Y.: A.D. Caratzas, 1992.
  • George Ostrogorsky
    George Ostrogorsky
    George Alexandrovič Ostrogorsky was a Russian-born Yugoslavian historian and Byzantinist who acquired worldwide reputations in Byzantine studies.-Biography:...

    . History of the Byzantine State. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 1969.

External links

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