Theodore II Laskaris

Theodore II Doukas Laskaris
Θεόδωρος Β΄ Δούκας Λάσκαρις

Portrait of Theodore II from a 15th-century manuscript
Emperor of Nicaea
Reign 1254–1258[1]
Predecessor John III Doukas Vatatzes
Successor John IV Laskaris
Born c. 1222
Nicaea, modern Bursa, Turkey
Died 18 August 1258(1258-08-18)
Magnesia,[2] modern Turkey
Spouse Elena of Bulgaria
Issue John IV Doukas Laskaris
Irene Doukaina Laskarina
Maria Doukaina Laskarina
Eudoxia Laskarina
Father John III Doukas Vatatzes
Mother Irene Lascarina

Theodore II Doukas Laskaris or Ducas Lascaris (Greek: Θεόδωρος Β΄ Δούκας Λάσκαρις, Theodōros II Doukas Laskaris) (1221/1222 – August 16, 1258) was Emperor of Nicaea from 1254 to 1258.


Theodore II Doukas Laskaris was the only son of Emperor John III Doukas Vatatzes and Eirene Laskarina, the daughter of Emperor Theodore I Laskaris and Anna Angelina, a daughter of Emperor Alexios III Angelos and Euphrosyne Doukaina Kamaterina. Theodore was born in late 1221 or early 1222, reportedly on the very day his father ascended the throne.

Theodore II received a scholarly education by George Akropolites[1] and Nicephorus Blemmydes the latter who would become a tutor to him,[3] and remained devoted to science and art throughout his life. In contrast with earlier practice, Theodore II was not crowned co-emperor with his father, though he assisted in the government since c. 1241. On the death of John III on November 4, 1254, Theodore II was acclaimed emperor by the army and the court, but was crowned only after the appointment of a new patriarch, Arsenios Autoreianos, in 1255.

The succession of Theodore was exploited by the Bulgarians, who invaded Thrace under the leadership of the young and inexperienced Michael Asen I of Bulgaria in 1255. In spite of his own scholarly predisposition, Theodore immediately marched against the Bulgarians and inflicted a crushing defeat on them. During his second expedition in 1256, he managed to conclude a favorable peace with Bulgaria, which may have plunged the latter into a crisis of leadership. Theodore followed up his victory against Bulgaria by expanding his control in the west, where he annexed Durazzo and Servia, effectively outflanking his rivals in Epirus.

Internally, Theodore favored bureaucrats from the middle classes instead of members of the great aristocratic families. Michael Angold explains this as in part, a matter of his temperament:

He [Theodore] was happier in the company of a cultivated circle of friends, some of whom had been his childhood companions (paidopoula). He clearly disliked what he considered the philistinism prevalent among a section of the young men at his father's court.[4]

Theodore's favoring of commoners faced considerable opposition by the nobility to the Emperor and his chief minister, the megas domestikos George Mouzalon, who grew up with Theodore II as his childhood companion.[1] The conflict led to the exile of one of the leaders of the aristocratic faction, the future Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus, who was accused of conspiring with the Seljuks of Rum. In the midst of this crisis, Theodore's epileptic condition worsened, and the Emperor died on August 16, 1258,[5] leaving George Mouzalon as the regent for his minor son John IV Laskaris who was seven years old at the time.[1]


Theodore II Doukas Laskaris married Elena of Bulgaria, daughter of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria in 1235, by whom he had several children including:[6]

Having taken the imperial throne and made the 11-year-old John IV ineligible for the emperorship by blinding him, Michael VIII Palaiologos had Theodore's three other daughters married off to Italian and Bulgarian foreigners,[8] so their descendants could not threaten his own children's claim to the imperial succession. These have been:

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 Rosser 2011, p. 460.
  2. Finlay, George, History of the Byzantine and Greek Empires, Vol 2, p. 411
  3. Michael Angold "The Fourth Crusade: Event and Context" Longman (originally published by the University of Michigan), 2003 ISBN 0582356105 p 209
  4. Angold, A Byzantine Government in Exile: Government and Society Under the Laskarids of Nicaea (1204-1261) (Oxford: University Press, 1975), p. 76
  5. For this date, see Albert Failler, "Chronologie et composition dans l'Histoire de Georges Pachymère", Revue des études byzantines, 38 (1980), pp. 20-23
  6. Failler, "Chronologie et composition", pp. 65-77
  7. Failler, "Chronologie et composition", p. 68
  8. Nicol, Donald M. (1993). "The price of survival". The Last Centuries of Byzantium (1261–1453). New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43991-4.
  9. Failler, "Chronologie et composition", pp. 68-71
  10. Failler, "Chronologie et composition", pp. 72f


Further reading

Theodore II Laskaris
Laskarid dynasty
Born: unknown 1221 Died: 18 August 1258
Regnal titles
Preceded by
John III Doukas Vatatzes
Emperor of Nicaea
Succeeded by
John IV Doukas Laskaris
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