Komnenós or Comnenus was the name of a ruling family of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

), who halted the political decline of the Empire from c.1081 to c.1185.


The Komnenoi, or Comnenians, originated in the village of Komne, near Philippopolis, 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...

 (now Plovdiv
Plovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia with a population of 338,153 inhabitants according to Census 2011. Plovdiv's history spans some 6,000 years, with traces of a Neolithic settlement dating to roughly 4000 BC; it is one of the oldest cities in Europe...

, in Bulgaria), but by the mid-11th century, the family and its estates were concentrated in Paphlagonia
Paphlagonia was an ancient area on the Black Sea coast of north central Anatolia, situated between Bithynia to the west and Pontus to the east, and separated from Phrygia by a prolongation to the east of the Bithynian Olympus...

, around Kastamon (near the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey).

Founding the dynasty

The Komnenos dynasty of Byzantine emperors was founded by 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...

, a Stratopedarch of the East under Michael VI
Michael VI
Michael VI Bringas , called Stratiotikos or Stratioticus or Gerontas , was Byzantine emperor from 1056 to 1057.-Career:...

. In 1057 Isaac led a coup against Michael and was proclaimed emperor. However, the dynasty did not come to full power until the accession 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,...

, Isaac I's nephew, in 1081. By this time, descendants of all the previous dynasties of Byzantium seem to have disappeared from the realm, such as the important Scleros and Argyros
Argyros (Byzantine family)
Argyros , latinized as Argyrus, was the name of a prominent Byzantine family. They produced one Emperor, Romanos III, as well as other notables, including Pothos Argyros, Catepan of Italy....

 families. Descendants of those emperors lived abroad, having married into the royal families of Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, 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...

, Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 and Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

; thus it was easier for the Komnenos family to ascend to the throne.

The Komnenoi were related to the Doukas
Doukas, latinized as Ducas , from the Latin tile dux , is the name of a Byzantine Greek noble family, whose branches provided several notable generals and rulers to the Byzantine Empire...

 family, whereby the clan often was referred as "Komnenodoukai" (or "Comnenoducae") and both surnames were used together by several individuals. Alexios I married Irene Doukaina
Irene Doukaina
Irene Doukaina or Ducaena was the wife of the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos, and the mother of the emperor John II Komnenos and of the historian Anna Komnene.-Succession of Alexios and Irene:...

, the grandniece of Constantine X
Constantine X
Constantine X Doukas was emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 1059 to 1067.-Reign:Constantine Doukas was the son of Andronikos Doukas, a Paphlagonian nobleman who may have served as governor of the theme of Moesia...

 Doukas, a general who had succeeded Isaac I in 1059. Several families descended from the Komnenodoukai, such as Palaiologos
Palaiologos , often latinized as Palaeologus, was a Byzantine Greek noble family, which produced the last ruling dynasty of the Byzantine Empire. After the Fourth Crusade, members of the family fled to the neighboring Empire of Nicaea, where Michael VIII Palaiologos became co-emperor in 1259,...

, Angelos
The Angelos family , feminine form Angelina , plural Angeloi , was a noble Byzantine lineage which gave rise to three Byzantine emperors from 1185 to 1204...

, Vatatzes and Laskaris
The Laskaris or Lascaris family was a Byzantine Greek noble family whose members formed the ruling dynasty of the Empire of Nicaea from 1204 to 1261 and remained among the senior nobility up to the dissolution of the Byzantine Empire, whereupon many emigrated to Italy and then to Smyrna...

. Alexios and Irene's youngest daughter Theodora ensured the future success of the Angelos family by marrying into it: Theodora's grandsons were 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 Komnenoi as Emperors

Under Alexios I and his successors the Empire was fairly prosperous and stable. Alexios moved the imperial palace to the Blachernae
Blachernae was a suburb in the northwestern section of Constantinople, the capital city of the Byzantine Empire. It was the site of a spring and a number of prominent churches were built there, most notably the great Church of St. Mary of Blachernae , built by Empress Pulcheria in circa 450,...

 section 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:...

. Much of Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 was recovered from the Seljuk Turks, who had captured it just prior to Alexios' reign. Alexios also saw the First Crusade
First Crusade
The First Crusade was a military expedition by Western Christianity to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquest of the Levant, ultimately resulting in the recapture of Jerusalem...

 pass through Byzantine territory, leading to the establishment of the Crusader states
Crusader states
The Crusader states were a number of mostly 12th- and 13th-century feudal states created by Western European crusaders in Asia Minor, Greece and the Holy Land , and during the Northern Crusades in the eastern Baltic area...

 in the east. The Komnenos dynasty was very much involved in crusader affairs, and also intermarried with the reigning families of the Principality of Antioch
Principality of Antioch
The Principality of Antioch, including parts of modern-day Turkey and Syria, was one of the crusader states created during the First Crusade.-Foundation:...

 and the Kingdom of Jerusalem
Kingdom of Jerusalem
The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a Catholic kingdom established in the Levant in 1099 after the First Crusade. The kingdom lasted nearly two hundred years, from 1099 until 1291 when the last remaining possession, Acre, was destroyed by the Mamluks, but its history is divided into two distinct periods....

 - 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...

, niece of 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....

, married Baldwin III of Jerusalem
Baldwin III of Jerusalem
Baldwin III was king of Jerusalem from 1143 to 1163. He was the eldest son of Melisende and Fulk of Jerusalem, and the grandson of Baldwin II of Jerusalem.-Succession:...

, and Maria, grandniece of Manuel, married Amalric I of Jerusalem
Amalric I of Jerusalem
Amalric I of Jerusalem was King of Jerusalem 1163–1174, and Count of Jaffa and Ascalon before his accession. Amalric was the second son of Melisende of Jerusalem and Fulk of Jerusalem...


Remarkably, Alexios ruled for 37 years, and his son John II
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...

 ruled for 25, after uncovering a conspiracy against him by his sister, the chronicler Anna Komnene
Anna Komnene
Anna Komnene, Latinized as Comnena was a Greek princess and scholar and the daughter of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos of Byzantium and Irene Doukaina...

, and her husband Nikephoros Bryennios. John's son Manuel ruled for another 37 years.

The Komnenos dynasty produced a number of branches. As imperial succession was not in a determined order but rather depended on personal power and the wishes of one's predecessor, within a few generations several relatives were able to present themselves as claimants. After Manuel I's reign the Komnenos dynasty fell into conspiracies and plots like many of their ancestors (and the various contenders within the family sought power and often succeeded in overthrowing the preceding kinsman); Alexios II
Alexios II Komnenos
Alexios II Komnenos or Alexius II Comnenus , Byzantine emperor , was the son of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos and Maria, daughter of Raymond, prince of Antioch...

, the first Komnenos to ascend as a minor, ruled for three years and his conqueror and successor Andronikos I
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:...

 ruled for two, overthrown by the Angelos family under Isaac II who was dethroned and blinded by his own brother Alexios III. The Angeloi were overthrown during 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...

 in 1204, by Alexios Doukas, a relative from the Doukas family.

The later family

Several weeks before the occupation of Constantinople by crusaders in 1204, one branch of the Komnenoi fled back to their homelands in Paphlagonia, on the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

, and set up an Empire of Trebizond
Empire of Trebizond
The Empire of Trebizond, founded in April 1204, was one of three Byzantine successor states of the Byzantine Empire. However, the creation of the Empire of Trebizond was not directly related to the capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, rather it had broken away from the Byzantine Empire...

. Their first 'emperor', named Alexios I
Alexios I of Trebizond
Alexios I Megas Komnenos or Alexius I Comnenus was Emperor of Trebizond from 1204 to 1222. He was the eldest son of Manuel Komnenos and of Rusudan, daughter of George III of Georgia. He was thus a grandson of the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos I. Andronikos was dethroned and killed in 1185...

, was the grandson of Emperor Andronikos I. These emperors - the "Grand Komnenoi" (Megaloi Komnenoi or Megalokomnenoi) as they were known - ruled in Trebizond for over 250 years, until 1461, when David Komnenos
David of Trebizond
David Megas Komnenos was the last Emperor of Trebizond from 1459 to 1461. He was the third son of Emperor Alexios IV of Trebizond and Theodora Kantakouzene....

 was defeated and executed by the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II
Mehmed II
Mehmed II , was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire for a short time from 1444 to September 1446, and later from...

. A princess of the Trebizond branch married an Ottoman Sultan and was the mother of prince Jahja
Sultan Jahja was born in 1585, and was the third son of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet III . His mother was a princess from the Byzantine Comnenus or Komnenus dynasty of Trebizond, a branch of the Imperial Family of the same name from Constantinople...

 (born 1585), who reportedly became a Christian yet spent much of his life attempting to gain the Ottoman throne.

Another branch of the family founded in 1204 a Despotate 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...

, under Michael I Komnenos Doukas
Michael I Komnenos Doukas
Michael I Komnenos Doukas or Comnenus Ducas , often inaccurately called Michael Angelos , was the founder and first ruler of the principality of Epirus from 1205 until his death in 1215.-Life:...

, great-grandson of Emperor Alexios I.

One renegade member of the family, also named Isaac
Isaac Komnenos of Cyprus
Isaac Komnenos or Comnenus , was the ruler of Cyprus from 1184 to 1191, before Richard I's conquest during the Third Crusade.-Family:He was a minor member of the Komnenos family. He was son of an unnamed Doukas Kamateros and Irene Komnene...

, established a separate "empire" on 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...

 in 1184, which lasted until 1191, when the island was taken from him by Richard I of England
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...

 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...


When the eastern Empire was restored in 1261 at Constantinople, it was a family closely related to the Comneni, the Palaiologos
Palaiologos , often latinized as Palaeologus, was a Byzantine Greek noble family, which produced the last ruling dynasty of the Byzantine Empire. After the Fourth Crusade, members of the family fled to the neighboring Empire of Nicaea, where Michael VIII Palaiologos became co-emperor in 1259,...

 family, who were the imperial house. The Paleologi ruled until the fall of Constantinople
Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

 to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.
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