The aspron, from Latin asper, was a late Byzantine name for silver or silver-alloy coins. The Latin word asper meant "rough", but had acquired the connotation of "fresh" or "freshly minted", i.e. not worn smooth by use, when referring to silver, "white", by the imperial period. It acquired a technical meaning in the 12th century, when the Byzantines began to refer to the billon trachy coin, issued in a blanched state, as an aspron; the same name was sometimes applied to the contemporary electrum trachy as well. The name re-appears in the 14th–15th centuries as a generic name for silver coinage, such as the Byzantine doukatopoulon or the Turkish akçe; the 15th century account books of the Venetian merchant-banker Giacomo Badoer lists several cities and governments that coined aspers, which included Trebizond, Simisso and Rhodes. Grierson, Philip. "Asper". In Kazhdan, Alexander; the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. P. 211. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6
John Komnenos (Domestic of the Schools)
John Komnenos was a Byzantine aristocrat and military leader. The younger brother of Emperor Isaac I Komnenos, he served as Domestic of the Schools during Isaac's brief reign; when Isaac I abdicated, Constantine X Doukas became emperor and John withdrew from public life until his death in 1067. Through his son Alexios I Komnenos, who became emperor in 1081, he was the progenitor of the Komnenian dynasty that ruled the Byzantine Empire from 1081 until 1185, the Empire of Trebizond from 1204 until 1461. John Komnenos was born c. 1015 as the younger son of the patrikios Manuel Erotikos Komnenos, a senior military commander in the late reign of Basil II. He is first mentioned in 1057, the year his elder brother Isaac I Komnenos, at the head of a group of generals, rebelled against Michael VI and forced him off the throne. At the time of the revolt, John held the post of doux, but after his brother's victory, he was raised to the rank of kouropalates and appointed as Domestic of the Schools of the West.
Nothing is known of John's activities during his brother's reign, although Nikephoros Bryennios the Younger, who married John's granddaughter Anna Komnene, says that in his capacity as Domestic of the West he left his acts as an "immortal monument" to the people of the Balkan provinces. Isaac's reign was cut short by his clash with the powerful Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Keroularios, instrumental in securing Michael VI's abdication, the powerful civil aristocracy of the capital. Keroularios and his supporters led the opposition against Isaac's stringent economizing policies, forcing him to resign on 22 November 1059, after which he withdrew to the Stoudios Monastery; the crown passed to Constantine X Doukas, although Bryennios asserts that it was first offered to John, who refused it, despite the pressure of his wife, Anna Dalassene, to accept. According to the historian Konstantinos Varzos, this version is suspect, may well be a post-fact attempt at legitimizing the eventual usurpation of the throne by John's son, Alexios I Komnenos.
John is not mentioned in the sources during the reign of Constantine X indicating, according to Konstantinos Varzos, that he was in imperial disfavour, despite Bryennios' assertion that both he and his brother remained much honoured by the new emperor. The late 12th-century typikon of the Monastery of Christ Philanthropos, founded by Alexios I's wife Irene Doukaina, is the only source to record that John Komnenos retired to a monastery at the same time as his wife, Anna Dalassene, he died as a monk on 12 July 1067. John Komnenos married Anna Dalassene, the daughter of Alexios Charon, most in 1044. Anna, born c. 1028, long after his death ran the family as its undisputed matriarch. Anna became involved in conspiracies against the Doukas family, whom she never forgave for taking the throne in 1059, she played a major role in the successful overthrow of Nikephoros III Botaneiates and the rise of her son Alexios to the throne. After that, for about fifteen years, she served as the virtual co-ruler of the empire alongside her son.
She retired to a monastery, where she died in 1100 or 1102. With Anna, John had eight children, five boys and three girls: Manuel Komnenos and protostrator, married a relative of Romanos IV Diogenes Maria Komnene, married the panhypersebastos Michael Taronites Isaac Komnenos, married Irene, daughter of the ruler of Alania Eudokia Komnene, married Nikephoros Melissenos Theodora Komnene, married the kouropalates Constantine Diogenes, son of Romanos IV Alexios Komnenos, the future emperor, married Irene Doukaina Adrianos Komnenos, married Zoe Doukaina Nikephoros Komnenos and droungarios of the fleet Kazhdan, Alexander, ed.. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504652-8. Kouroupou, Matoula. "Commémoraisons des Comnènes dans le typikon liturgique du monastère du Christ Philanthrope". Revue des études byzantines. 63: 41–69. Doi:10.3406/rebyz.2005.2305. Varzos, Konstantinos. Η Γενεαλογία των Κομνηνών. A. Thessaloniki: Centre for Byzantine Studies, University of Thessaloniki.
Siege of Sinope
The Siege of Sinope in 1214 was a successful siege and capture of Sinope by the Seljuq Turks under their Sultan, Kaykaus I. Sinope was an important port city on the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey, at the time held by the Empire of Trebizond, one of the Byzantine Greek successor states formed after the Fourth Crusade; the siege is described in some detail by the near-contemporary Seljuq chronicler Ibn Bibi. The Trapezuntine emperor Alexios I led an army to break the siege, but he was defeated and captured, the city surrendered on 1 November. According to Ibn Bibi's account, Kaykaus I decided to embark on the conquest after receiving reports from the frontier that Alexios' troops had been violating Seljuq territory. Upon this, he and his beys gathered those, to Sinope and drew up a plan for the conquest, deciding that a long siege would be required. However, a group of scouts captured Alexios. Upon receiving the captured emperor, Kaykaus I asked for the city's surrender in the name of the emperor, but received a negative response.
According to Selçuk-nâme, 1000 troops led by a commander named Behram cut off the city from the sea, burning ships and killing a number of Greeks and Western Europeans in the process. Upon this, the city surrendered. Although the primary sources named the leader of the Trapezuntine forces as Alexios, beginning with Fallmerayer earlier scholars used to place the death of David Komnenos, Alexios' younger brother and co-founder of the Trapezuntine empire, during the siege of Sinope. For example, Alexander Vasiliev wrote in 1936, "the name of Alexius, the first emperor of Trebizond, was of course more familiar... than the name of his brother David, the real ruler of Sinope at that time. But since the name of David never occurs in the sources after 1214, we may positively conclude that it was David, slain at the first Turkish capture of Sinope." Modern research, has shown that he died in exile as a monk in Mount Athos in 1212/3. The Seljuq capture of Sinope had important consequences: apart from a short period of Trapezuntine recovery in 1254–1265, the city henceforth remained in Turkish hands, cutting the small Trapezuntine state off from overland contact with the metropolitan Byzantine lands of the Empire of Nicaea in western Asia Minor.
At the same time, the capture of its ruler forced the Trapezuntines to accept tributary status to the Seljuqs, which lasted until the failure of a Sejuq assault on Trebizond itself in 1222/1223. According to the Byzantinist Warren Treadgold, the loss of Sinope on the one hand "shielded Trebizond from further attacks from Nicaea", but meant that "henceforth Alexios' claim to be Byzantine emperor rang hollow, the Empire of Trebizond ceased to be of more than local importance."The Russian Byzantinist Rustam Shukurov argues that the consequences were more severe for the Byzantine successor states. The loss of that part of northwestern Anatolia, writes Shukurov, "meant in fact that the Byzantine Greeks lost forever the possibility of a strategic initiative in the northern part of the Byzantine front." The sphere of Byzantine control was split into two enclaves, each blockaded by the ujs: a western Anatolian enclave, destroyed and completely assimilated by the 14th century, an eastern enclave consolidated by the Empire of Trebizond that survived much longer, into the 15th century.
Further, the capture of Sinope provided the Seljuks access to new strategic routes of conquest, one aimed at Constantinople and the other at Crimea and the south Russian steppes. Savvides, Alexios G. K.. Ιστορία της Αυτοκρατορίας των Μεγάλων Κομνηνών της Τραπεζούντας. 2η Έκδοση με προσθήκες. Thessaloniki: Kyriakidis Brothers S. A. ISBN 978-960-467-121-2. Treadgold, Warren. A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804726302. Turan, Osman. Selçuklular Zamanında Türkiye. Istanbul: Ötüken Neşriyat. ISBN 9786051552330
Adrianos Komnenos was a Byzantine aristocrat and general, a younger brother of the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos. Born in c. 1060–1065, Adrianos Komnenos was the fourth and second-to-last son of the domestikos ton scholon John Komnenos, the younger brother of Emperor Isaac I Komnenos and Anna Dalassene. According to the historian Nikephoros Bryennios, after John's death, Anna entrusted Adrianos and his younger brother Nikephoros to tutors, gave them an encyclopedic education. After Alexios's rise to power in 1081, Adrianos was raised to the new dignity of protosebastos, which he shared, for a time, with his brother-in-law Michael Taronites and with the Doge of Venice. According to Zonaras, he was entrusted with military commands in the campaigns of 1082–1083 against the Normans of Robert Guiscard and Bohemund in Thessaly. Zonaras reports that Alexios gave his brother the imperial regalia, had him pretend to retreat with his army, so that Alexios himself could strike the pursuing Normans from the rear.
However, in the Alexiad, Anna Komnene credits Nikephoros Melissenos with this role, while the Italian chronicler William of Apulia refers to the two persons as one. As a reward for his service, in August 1084 Adrianos was given the proceeds of the entire Kassandra peninsula in Chalcidice for life. In late 1086 or spring 1087, he succeeded Gregory Pakourianos as domestikos ton scholon of the West, in 1087, he fought in the Battle of Dristra against the Pechenegs, commanding the Frankish mercenary contingent in the Byzantine centre; the battle ended in a disastrous defeat, Adrianos escaped being captured. Adrianos is mentioned in the Alexiad as having participated in the 1091 campaign against the Pechenegs, but is not recorded in the final Battle of Levounion. Shortly after that, at Philippopolis, Adrianos had a major falling-out with his elder brother, the sebastokrator Isaac: the sebastokrator held Adrianos responsible for the accusations of conspiring against the emperor that were raised against his son John, governor of Dyrrhachium.
In June 1094, at Serres, Adrianos presided over the court that tried Nikephoros Diogenes, the son of former Emperor Romanos IV, who had tried to assassinate Alexios. Adrianos failed to overcome the obstinacy of Diogenes. In the same year, he is recorded as having participated in the Council of Blachernae that condemned Leo of Chalcedon, his date of death is disputed: the accepted date stems from a manuscript which records him retiring to a monastery under the monastic name John, dying on 19 April 1105. Basil Skoulatos, doubts this information, since Adrianos' name is absent from the dead listed in the Kecharitomene typikon, but is present in the Pantokrator typikon of 1136. Hence, Skoulatos has placed Adrianos' death some time between 1118 and 1136. Adrianos married the porphyrogennete princess Zoe Doukaina, the third daughter of Emperor Constantine X Doukas and Eudokia Makrembolitissa. A number of scholars, including Paul Magdalino, Jean-Claude Cheynet, Konstantinos Varzos, identify Adrianos and Zoe with a John Komnenos and Anna "of the Doukai" who are mentioned in tomb inscriptions in the Pammakaristos Church in Constantinople as the church's founders, along with their descendants.
Adrianos and Zoe had at least three children: Alexios Komnenos, his life is obscure. He married and had at least one daughter. Unnamed firstborn daughter, otherwise unknown. Varzos suggests the name Anna for her. Unnamed daughter married Grimaldo II, the lord of Monoecum in c. 1102, but died with her husband shortly after. Varzos suggests the name Alexia for her. Cheynet, Jean-Claude. Études Prosopographiques. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne. ISBN 978-2-85944-110-4. Gautier, Paul. "Le synode des Blachernes. Étude prosopographique". Revue des études byzantines. 29: 213–284. Doi:10.3406/rebyz.1971.1445. Polemis, Demetrios I.. The Doukai: A Contribution to Byzantine Prosopography. London: The Athlone Press. Skoulatos, Basile. Les personnages byzantins de l'Alexiade: Analyse synthèse. Louvain-la-Neuve: Nauwelaerts. Varzos, Konstantinos. Η Γενεαλογία των Κομνηνών. A. Thessaloniki: Centre for Byzantine Studies, University of Thessaloniki. OCLC 834784634
Alexios Komnenos (governor of Dyrrhachium)
Alexios Komnenos was a Byzantine aristocrat and nephew of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos. Promoted to the rank of sebastos, he served as doux of Dyrrhachium from 1106 until after 1108. During this time, he led the successful resistance to a siege of Dyrrhachium by Bohemond I of Antioch, leading to the Treaty of Devol. Born c. 1077, Alexios was the second son and third child of the sebastokrator Isaac Komnenos, older brother of Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos, his wife Irene of Alania. As an imperial relative, he bore the title of sebastos; the only details about his life come from the Alexiad, written by his cousin, Anna Komnene. He is first mentioned in the spring of 1106, when he was appointed by his uncle as the military governor of Dyrrhachium, replacing his older brother John, his earlier life and career are unknown, but it is that he had held other public posts, just like John, who held his first office at the age of 19. At some point around 1094, he married a certain Zoe, whose family is unknown.
The post of governor of Dyrrhachium was of major importance. The city was of great importance to the Byzantine Empire, as the "key of Albania" and the main point of entry from Italy into the Balkans, a fact illustrated by the role it played in the Norman invasion in the early years of Alexios I's reign. John had proven himself unreliable, having been accused of plotting against the emperor and suffering a defeat at the hands of the Dalmatians. With the threat of another Norman invasion looming, Emperor Alexios confided this crucial post to Alexios instead, in whom he evidently placed greater trust. At the same time, the emperor continued sending letters to his nephew, impressing upon him the need to keep constant watch on the coasts for the first sign of a Norman invasion. Indeed, in October 1107, Bohemond I of Antioch, emulating his father Robert Guiscard, landed with a strong army at Avlona. Alexios, who had diligently implemented his uncle's instructions sent news to him. Bohemond laid siege to Dyrrhachium in November 1107.
The Normans employed a large number of siege engines, but the defenders held firm, using Greek fire to destroy them. Anna Komnene praises Alexios' leadership, both for his bravery and for the inspiration he provided to his men. In the meantime, the situation of the besiegers worsened as Emperor Alexios sent detachments to occupy the various passes and prevent the Normans from foraging, while he moved with his army to Devol to await an opportunity to strike against them; as famine and desertions plagued the Norman army, Bohemond sent envoys to Alexios to negotiate. On instructions from his uncle, Alexios forwarded the envoys to the Emperor, leading to the conclusion of the Treaty of Devol in which Bohemond acknowledged the Emperor's suzerainty and became his vassal. Alexios' subsequent life and career are unknown. According to Theodore Balsamon, his wife fell ill shortly after 1130 to a disease deemed incurable by her physicians. In desperation, her family turned to foreign charlatans, who claimed that her illness was due to spells, proceeded to discover clay poppets, blaming her servants and entourage.
The latter were interrogated and tortured, but to no avail, as the charlatans were responsible for planting these dolls themselves. In the end, as they proved unable to improve her condition, they fled the palace; some of her relatives and servants who participated in these events were punished for believing in and abetting sorcery by Patriarch Leo Styppes. The couple had a son, named John, known from a single funerary poem, a distinguished military commander. Angold, Michael; the Byzantine Empire, 1025–1204: A Political History. London and New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-29468-1. Skoulatos, Basile. Les personnages byzantins de l'Alexiade: Analyse synthèse. Louvain-la-Neuve: Nauwelaerts. OCLC 1014518471. Varzos, Konstantinos. Η Γενεαλογία των Κομνηνών. A. Thessaloniki: Centre for Byzantine Studies, University of Thessaloniki. OCLC 834784634
Isaac Komnenos (brother of Alexios I)
Isaac Komnenos or Comnenus was a notable Byzantine aristocrat and military commander in the 1070s. Isaac played a major role in the rise to the throne of his younger brother, the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, remained a leading figure in his brother's administration until his death. Isaac was born to the highest aristocracy of mid-11th century Byzantium, a position reinforced through marriage ties to the imperial Doukas dynasty. Well educated and brave, in 1073–1078 Isaac occupied two of the highest military positions in the Byzantine Empire, as Domestic of the Schools and doux of Antioch, his military record against the Seljuk Turks was not distinguished, but on his return to Constantinople in 1078 he gained the favour of Emperor Nikephoros III Botaneiates, of Empress Maria of Alania. Isaac and Alexios used imperial favour to further their own designs on the throne, launching a revolt in early 1081 that saw Alexios crowned emperor; as a reward, Alexios created the title of sebastokrator for Isaac, which put him on par with the emperor.
During Alexios' reign and until his death, Isaac played an important role in domestic affairs in matters of public order and justice, being called to examine several cases of conspiracy or heretical teachings. Isaac was the second-eldest son and third child of the domestikos ton scholon John Komnenos, his wife Anna Dalassene; the exact date of his birth is unknown, but was around 1050. According to his niece, the historian-princess Anna Komnene, he was physically similar to his younger brother, the future emperor Alexios, though he was paler and his beard was less bushy. According to Anna, he enjoyed hunting and war, where he would put himself in the vanguard during battle. Anna and other contemporaries, like Theophylact of Ohrid, underline Isaac's virtue and his capability of befriending people, although Anna mentions that he was short-tempered, that he could explode on account of a single word. According to all sources, Isaac was well educated. Only a handful of his writings survive: three treatises on philosophy, directed against the Neoplatonist philosopher Proclus, a theological compilation against Leo of Chalcedon.
As a result of his parentage, he belonged to the highest aristocracy of mid-11th century Byzantium, being the nephew of Emperor Isaac I Komnenos. Following the trial and exile of his mother in late 1071 or early 1072, he was exiled to the island of Prinkipo alongside her. In order to reconcile the powerful Komnenos clan to himself, the Emperor Michael VII Doukas soon recalled him and married him to Irene, a Georgian princess, the daughter of the ruler of Alania, first cousin to Michael's wife, Maria of Alania. Shortly after in 1073, he was appointed as domestikos ton scholon of the East, sent as commander-in-chief to campaign in Anatolia against the Seljuk Turks, who had invaded the area following the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. At the first battle, near Caesarea, he was captured by the Turks, was released only after a ransom was paid, he returned to Constantinople, via Ancyra, with his younger brother Alexios. In the next year, he was sent east again, this time as doux of Antioch, his predecessor, Joseph Tarchaneiotes, had died, his son Katakalon, was unable to control the unrest sweeping the city, orchestrated by the Patriarch of Antioch Aemilian, suspected of collusion with the Armenian warlord Philaretos Brachamios, who in the aftermath of Manzikert had established a semi-independent domain in the Taurus Mountains north of the city.
Isaac used a ruse to remove the patriarch from the city, but his partisans rose in revolt, had to be suppressed by force. While confronting a Turkish raid in the spring of 1075, he was again captured by the Turks, had to be ransomed by the citizens of Antioch for 20,000 gold pieces; the same battle saw the death of his brother-in-law Constantine Diogenes, son of Romanos IV Diogenes. Isaac remained in Antioch until the first half of 1078. Once back in the capital, he gained the favour of the new emperor, the elderly Nikephoros III Botaneiates due to the latter's fondness for Syrian textiles, which Isaac gave him as gifts. Accordingly, Botaneiates called Isaac to dine at his table, gave him the high title of sebastos and the right to reside in the imperial palace. Despite the favour shown to them by Botaneiates and Alexios plotted to advance the position of the Komnenos clan by deposing the emperor and seizing the throne; when Botaneiates' Bulgarian confidantes and Germanos, learned of their intentions, the brothers sought the protection of Empress Maria, who adopted Alexios.
The empress feared for status of her son by Michael VII, Constantine Doukas, whom Botaneiates intended to sideline in favour of a certain Synadenos. According to Anna Komnene, the brothers used the opportunity to reveal their plans to the empress, pledging to safeguard Constantine's rights to the succession. Thus, through Alexios' marriage to Irene Doukaina, the Komnenos brothers secured the support of the still powerful Doukas family; the brothers found an opportune moment in late January 1081, when the sack of Cyzicus by the Seljuks led to a concentration of troops in Thrace, close to the capital. On Sunday, 14 February, the brothers and their partisans met, on the next day they secretly left Constantinople and made fo