John I Doukas of Thessaly

John I Doukas (Greek: Ἰωάννης Α' Δούκας, Iōannēs I Doukas; c. 1240–1289), Latinized as Ducas, was ruler of Thessaly from c. 1268 to his death in 1289. From his father's family he is also inaccurately known as John Angelos. He was a descendant of John Doukas (c. 1126 – c. 1200) son of Constantine Angelos by Theodora Komnene, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and Irene Doukaina, hence the combination of family names, "Angelos Komnenos Doukas".


Origin and family

John Doukas was an illegitimate (and apparently the eldest) son of Michael II Komnenos Doukas, the Despot of Epirus, possibly by his one known mistress, an unnamed lady of the Gangrenos family.[1][2] His full family name was Doukas Komnenos Angelos, but he is almost universally referred to in the sources simply by the first surname of "Doukas". This also led to a confusion among his Latin contemporaries, who mistook it for his title, and referred to him as the "Duke of Neopatras".[3] His actual title, which he received from the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos in ca. 1272, was sebastokrator.[2][4]

Early life

Nothing is known of his early life before 1259. By that time, he was already married to a daughter of the Thessalian Vlach chieftain Taronas. She is only known by the monastic name she assumed after his death, Hypomone ("Patience").[4] He participated as a military commander in the events that led up to the Battle of Pelagonia in 1259, leading a contingent of Vlachs.[5] John played a crucial role in the battle, as his desertion from the coalition composed by his father, Prince William II Villehardouin of Achaea, and King Manfred of Sicily, contributed to the defeat of the allies by John Palaiologos, Michael VIII's brother. The reason for the defection is unclear, as the various sources offer conflicting accounts. Both George Pachymeres and Marino Sanudo Torcello however report that during the march, John became incensed at some Achaean knights, who openly coveted his beautiful wife. Matters were made worse when William of Villehardouin not only did not punish his men, but also insulted John Doukas for his illegitimate birth, prompting the latter to defect before the battle, after receiving assurances that he would not have to fight his own father; thereupon the Epirotes too left, and the Latin troops were overwhelmed by the Byzantines.[6][7] John accompanied the Byzantines in their rapid occupation of the Epirote domains, but he quickly became alienated from them. He brought his own followers to Vonitsa, from where he contacted his father, who had taken refuge in the Ionian Islands. Michael accepted his son's apologies, and soon joined him on the mainland. Byzantine control over Epirus had not yet been consolidated, and father and son were quickly able to recapture the Epirote capital of Arta and then relieve the besieged city of Ioannina. Within a short time, the Nicaeans had been evicted from Epirus.[8] John's half-brother Nikephoros I Komnenos Doukas was then sent in spring 1260 to recover Thessaly, which he accomplished after defeating and capturing the Nicaean general Alexios Strategopoulos, although a Byzantine enclave possibly remained for some time in the east.[9] Despite John's association with Thessaly prior to Pelagonia, he is not mentioned as playing a role in these events or in the administration of the Thessalian territories in the early 1260s, which seem rather to have been under the control of Nikephoros.[10]

Ruler of Thessaly

When Michael II died in c. 1268, however, his realm was divided, with Nikephoros receiving the metropolitan territories of Epirus proper and John taking over the Epirote domains in Thessaly and Central Greece. According to Gregoras, his realm extended from Mount Olympus in the north to Parnassus in the south, with the Achelous River serving as his border with Epirus proper; his capital was at Neopatras.[4][11] A new attempt at alliance with the Byzantine Empire followed, and John received the title of sebastokratōr from Michael VIII when the latter married his nephew to John's daughter in 1272. Nevertheless, John remained opposed to the Byzantines. When an army under the Despot John Palaiologos and Alexios Kaballarios surprised him at Neopatras and besieged his fortress in 1275, he saved himself by sneaking through enemy lines disguised as a lowly groom seeking a stray horse and making his way to the Duke of Athens, John I de la Roche, from whom he secured 300 horsemen; with these troops he returned to Neopatras and scattered the enemy army.[12][13] In exchange for this aid, however, John gave his daughter to de la Roche's son, William de la Roche, with the towns of Zetounion, Gardiki, Gravia, and Siderokastron as a dowry.[13]

Not long after this time he joined the coalition of powers (including Epirus, Serbia, and Bulgaria) that supported the plans of Charles of Anjou, the King of Naples and Sicily, for the restoration of the Latin Empire. When Michael VIII tried to counter the efforts of Charles of Anjou by attempting a "Union of the Churches" at the Council of Lyons, John convoked a synod at Neopatras on 1 May 1277 which anathematized the Emperor, Patriarch John XI Bekkos and the Pope as heretics.[14] In response, a synod was convoked at the Hagia Sophia on 16 July where both Nikephoros and John were anathematized in return. John in turn convoked another synod at Neopatras in December 1277, where an anti-unionist council of eight bishops, a few abbots, and one hundred monks, again anathematized Emperor, Patriarch and Pope.[15]

The Byzantines launched another invasion of Thessaly in 1277, but John repelled it at Pharsalos. The Byzantines' Mongol allies belonging to the horde of Nogai Khan met with some more success, plundering Thessaly shortly afterwards. Michael VIII died in 1282 while preparing to invade Thessaly again. The triumph of the anti-Unionists with the accession of Andronikos II Palaiologos created the potential for improving relations, but this possibility was ruined by John's half-brother, Nikephoros I Komnenos Doukas of Epirus. In 1283 or 1284 Nikephoros and his wife Anna Palaiologina Kantakouzene (the niece of Michael VIII) invited John's son Michael to Epirus to marry their daughter and become the heir to their state. When Michael took the bait, he was arrested and shipped off to Constantinople, where he died in prison in 1307. John took his revenge by invading Epirus and seizing several coastal fortresses.

In 1283, John founded the monastery of Porta Panagia.[16] For many years, modern historians, following the 19th-century scholar Karl Hopf, erroneously held the year of his death to be 1296. It has since been established that John Doukas died in or shortly before March 1289.[17]


By his wife, whose monastic name was Hypomone ("Patience"), John had several children, including:[2][4]


  1. Polemis 1968, pp. 94, 97.
  2. 1 2 3 PLP, 208. ῎Αγγελος, ̓Ιωάννης Ι. ∆ούκας Κομνηνός.
  3. Polemis 1968, p. 97, esp. note 2.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Polemis 1968, p. 97.
  5. Geanakoplos 1953, p. 123.
  6. Geanakoplos 1953, pp. 127–132.
  7. Fine 1994, pp. 161–163.
  8. Fine 1994, p. 163.
  9. Fine 1994, p. 164.
  10. Fine 1994, pp. 164, 169.
  11. Fine 1994, p. 169.
  12. Geanakoplos 1959, p. 283.
  13. 1 2 Fine 1994, p. 188.
  14. Geanakoplos 1959, p. 275.
  15. Geanakoplos 1959, p. 309.
  16. Koder & Hild 1976, p. 246.
  17. Polemis 1968, p. 97, esp. note 4.


Preceded by
Michael II Komnenos Doukas
as Despot of Epirus
Ruler of Thessaly
Succeeded by
Constantine Doukas
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/3/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.