Theodore I Laskaris (Laskar)  ( Greek Θεόδωρος Α 'Λάσκαρις ; 1174 - November 1222 ) - Emperor of the Nicene Empire in 1208–1221 / 1222.
|Theodore I Laskaris|
|Θεόδωρος Α 'Λάσκαρις|
|Successor||John III Duca of Watac|
|Death||November or December 1221 or 1222|
|Spouse||1. Anna Angelina |
2. Philippa Armenian
3. Marie de Courtenay
|Children||from 1st marriage : |
Irina Laskarina ,
Maria Laskarina ,
from 2nd marriage :
Theodore was from a noble but little-known Laskaris family from Constantinople. His parents were Manuel Laskaris and John Karazin.
In 1199, Theodore married Anna Angelina , daughter of Emperor Alexei III Angel and Euphrosyne Ducena Camaterina. In 1203 received the title of despot. He was one of the organizers of the defense of Constantinople in 1203 - 1204 .
Creation of the Nicene Empire
When Constantinople fell, Theodore and his wife fled through the Bosphorus to Bithynia and tried to take refuge in Nicaea , where his brother Constantine was already. But the inhabitants of the city refused to recognize his authority and allowed only his wife, he himself went to the Prus region, lying at the foot of the Bethynian Olympus , and there, in southern Bithynia and Mysia , adjacent to the impregnable Olympus, he began to gather troops.
Violence and extortion of the crusaders soon showed the Nicene people that they were in danger of not only political, but also religious enslavement, if they did not unite under the authority of one of the leaders. Theodore Laskaris was the most prominent contender because he was related to the dynasty of Angels, he received the title of despot from Alexei III. However, Theodore did not immediately accept the title of Emperor Nicaea. In addition, there was no patriarch in Nicaea: John X Kamatir, after the capture of Constantinople, left for Didimotica and did not want to come to Nicaea, sending a written resignation. Thus, Theodore the first years of his reign used the title of despot.  The region of Smyrna , famous for its natural wealth, in which there were many imperial lands and possessions of St. Sophia, represented for Theodore a material supply base and a source of replenishment for his troops.
In the fall of 1204, the crusaders crossed to Asia Minor. A detachment of Pierre de Brachet landed in Pigach (now Biga), where there was a Latin merchant colony before the crusade, on December 6 defeated Theodore's army at Pimanion , occupied Lopadius , Apollonia and Caesarea, but failed in the siege of Prussia. The brother of Emperor Baudouin, Henry de Hainaut, took Adramity , and on March 19, 1205 he defeated the army of Konstantin Laskaris and Theodore Mankafa under this city. The defeat at Adramitia put the Greeks in a critical position. Theodore, not daring to attack the Latins with his insignificant forces, went for help to the Koni Sultan Kei-Khosrov I, who had just taken the throne. The Seljuks willingly agreed to conclude a treaty, because they also feared the Latins and did not want to see them as their neighbors, and therefore they gave Theodore an allied army.
However, in late March - early April 1205, Latin troops were hastily withdrawn from Asia Minor, since the war with the king of Bulgaria Kaloyan began in the Balkans. In May 1205, a truce was concluded with the Latins. With the exception of Pig, they left all previously captured territories. Theodore, with the help of the Seljuk army, subjugated the cities left by the Latins, and then repelled the attack of tycoon Manuel Mavrozom, father-in-law Kei-Khosrov I, who also received troops from the Seljuks and began to devastate the valley of the lower Meander .
While the Latins were recovering from the defeat inflicted upon them by the Bulgarians at Adrianople, Theodore strengthened his position. On March 25, 1207, Michael IV Avtorian was elected Patriarch in Nikaia , who crowned Theodore in the spring or summer of 1208  .
The Nicene emperor was faced with the task of subjugating the small usurpers who took advantage of the collapse of the Byzantine Empire: Theodore Mankafa, who captured Lydia , and Savva Asiden, who captured the city of Sampson (ancient Priene ) and the mouth of Meander. Their possessions were subordinated either in 1205-1206 during the campaign against Manuel Mavrozom, or in 1208-1209 during the second campaign against Meander, and these magnates apparently joined the ranks of the Nicene nobility. Mavroz was defeated twice, but it was unsafe to quarrel with his Turkish patron, and therefore Theodore lost to him Khona  and Laodicea in the upper part of the Meander valley.
The Fight against David Komnin and the Nicene-Latin War 1206 - 1207
Theodore’s battle with David Komnin began in 1205 , when the Trebizond troops reached the border of the Sangary River, after which Bithynia began. In the early fall of 1205, the vanguard of David’s troops advancing on Nicomedia under the command of the young military commander Sinadin was attacked from the rear by the troops of Laskaris, partly chopped up, partly fled, partly captured with the commander. The trappers were expelled from Bithynia and thrown back to Paphlagonia . In the summer of the following year, David, fearing a retaliatory strike, concluded an agreement with the crusaders, recognizing himself as Henry's vassal and promising to supply Constantinople with food in exchange for military assistance. He himself began to hastily strengthen his bases - Hercules of Pontus and Amastrida .
In October - December 1206, Theodore Laskaris undertook a campaign in Paflagonia. He drew to his side the population of the border Plusiada, which covered the crossing over Sangary, and, having overturned the barriers of the trapezunts, he went to Heracles.
Emperor Henry reacted immediately and in November 1206 again sent crusader troops to Asia Minor under the command of Pierre de Brachet, Peyan Orleans, Anso de Cayo and his brother Eustache. The Latins again landed in Pigy, then captured Kyzik , given to Flax to Pierre de Brache, and Nicomedia . Theodore had to abandon the assault on Heracles and return to protect his possessions. In winter or early spring of 1207, the Latins and David launched a joint attack on the Nicene Empire. David, crossing the Sangarii, again captured Plusiada, and 300 knights moved from Nicomedia east, but were ambushed by the commander Laskaris Andronicus Guide, and for the most part were killed.
In response to the Latin aggression, Theodore made an alliance with Kaloyan, and in the spring of 1207 he besieged Adrianople, which forced the Latin emperor to withdraw most of the troops from the east, leaving only Pierre de Brache in Kizik and the squad of Thierry de Loos in Nicomedia. The Latins had to go on the defensive and take up the fortification of castles on the coast of the Gulf of Nicomedia: Haraks and Tsevitota. In the spring of 1207, Theodore attacked Kizik and besieged Zevitot from the sea and land, whose garrison consisted of only 40 knights. Villardouin writes that in the battle of March 31, the knights repulsed the attackers, but by the end of the day only five of the knights were not injured, and one was killed. Henry rushed to the rescue with 17 ships and on April 1 drove away the Greeks, although they had 60 ships. The fortress was unlocked, the people of Theodore burned their ships and retreated. Henry, seeing that the castle was weakly fortified and could not stand a serious siege, the garrison evacuated from there.
In May 1207, the Nicene army besieged Kisik, and the fleet under the command of John Stirion  blocked the city from the sea. At the same time, the inhabitants of the environs of Kizik and the island of Marmor rebelled. Henry directed 14 Venetian galleys against the Greeks, which housed the entire color of the crusade: Conon of Bethune , Geoffrey de Villardouin , Milon le Breban, Anso de Cayo, Thierry de Loos and Estas de Hainaut, brother of the emperor. Upon learning of the approach of the Latin fleet, the experienced pirate Stirion anchored and sailed through the Hellespont; the crusaders chased him 40 miles, but could not overtake.
Having retreated from Kyzik, the Nicene people attacked Nicomedia, and Henry, who was about to speak to Adrianople, was forced to postpone the campaign and land with troops in Asia Minor. When he appeared, the Greeks retreated to Nicaea. The Latin emperor left Thierry de Loos, Seneschal of Romagna, to defend Nicomedia's defense, ordered the other two lords to guard Haraks and Kizik, and he returned to the Balkans. Soon, the Nicene forces in the vicinity of Nicomedia took the unit of Thierry de Loos by surprise, defeated him, and captured the seneschal. Henry immediately crossed over the Bosphorus again, stood on the plain in front of the city and dismissed detachments to plunder the neighborhood, since the inhabitants of those places, having learned about the capture of the Seneschal, immediately rebelled against the Franks.
At the suggestion of Theodore in June 1207 , a two-year truce was concluded, according to which Kizik and Nicomedia were transferred to the Nicets, the fortifications built there by the Franks were torn down, and the captive Latins returned to Henry. The possessions of the Latin Empire in Asia Minor were limited to the strip of the southern coast of Propontis with the Pigs and Lopadius  . Not having the strength to wage war at the same time against the Bulgarians and Nicene people, the Latin emperor was forced to accept these conditions.
In the fall of 1208, Laskaris again invaded Paphlagonia and besieged Heracles. Henry in October - November 1208 crossed the Bosphorus, and moved east, hoping to cut off the Nicene path to retreat. Apparently, the Franks attack was such a surprise that the troops of Theodore, having removed the siege, hastily fled, and more than a thousand people drowned in the rivers during the retreat. Only four days were not enough for the Latins to surround Theodore. It was useless to chase him because of the winter floods of the rivers and the early cold weather, besides he quickly got to Nicaea and took refuge behind its walls.
The war in Paflagonia was waged fiercely by the Nicene people. Ephesian Metropolitan Nikolai Mesarit, recalling the campaigns of his sovereign, writes that Theodore I was returning from Paflagonia
“As if not having achieved success, but not empty-handed, for he went through the entire neighboring country of paflagons, and devastated its towns and turned villages into wastelands, and not only took away a lot of captured cattle, but also captivated selected people”- Cit. by: Shukurov R. M. The Great Comnines and the East (1204-1461). S. 81
In the spring of 1211, Theodore I Laskaris finished preparations for the operation against Constantinople, and intended with his ally, Bulgarian Tsar Boris , to attack the city. But before he could begin to act, the ambassador from the Sultan arrived in Nicaea, reporting on the return of Emperor Alexei III and that Theodore illegally retained someone else's power. Following this, Kay-Khosrov I at the head of 20 thousand. armies invaded the southern regions of the empire and besieged Antioch, the main city of the Meander valley.
Along with the Seljuks was the former Emperor Alexei III, a peppy old man who did not tire of weaving intrigues and harming Greek affairs wherever possible. This time, with the help of the Turks, he set out to take power from his own son-in-law.
Theodore, with an army of only 2 thousand people (of which 800 Frankish mercenaries) rushed to the rescue of the besieged city, attacked the Turks, and although he barely escaped defeat and captivity, he still won the battle of Antioch on Meander (June 1211), decapitating with his own hands the sultan.
With the new Sultan at the end of 1211 or the beginning of 1212 , a peace was concluded in which, however, the empire did not receive territorial increments. However, a considerable benefit was the establishment of a stable border with the Seljuks, who abandoned attempts to conquer Nicene lands.
The Nicene-Latin War of 1211-1212
The victory over the Turks inspired not only the Nicene people, but also the other Greeks, who henceforth linked hopes for liberation from foreign domination with the name of Theodore Laskaris. Using these moods, the Nicaean emperor sent letters to all Greek regions, including Constantinople, demanding help to expel the “Latin dogs”. The Greeks of Constantinople promised him to start an uprising as soon as the Nicene army approached the city.
Emperor Henry de Hainaut did not wait for the attack of Theodore, especially since many Latins wanted to go to the service of Laskaris, who paid well  . As soon as he received news of the battle on Meander, he himself went on the offensive. The Greek army, despite its numerical superiority, was defeated in July near Pig, and on October 15, 1211 on the Rindak River near Lopadia. This victory opened the way to Prusa and Nicaea, but Henry had too few troops to siege such powerful fortresses, and he moved south, where the resistance promised to be minimal, as the population went into the mountains, and Theodore still had to recruit new troops. In January 1212, Henry reached Nymphaeum , after which he turned back, fearing, it is believed, to face the detachments assembled in the Smyrna region by Theodore’s brother Georgy Laskaris, a fook of the Thrace of Thrace . In addition, in the rear he had two impassable fortresses: Lentiana and Pimanion. After a long siege, they were captured, and during the defense of Lentiana, one of the brothers Theodore Laskaris (possibly Konstantin ) was killed.
By the summer of 1212, Theodore managed to assemble a new army with which he attacked Henry at Pig and this time won. A truce was concluded at the end of the year, and in December 1214 a peace treaty drew a line under the ten-year period of wars. Peace was a compromise that was not very beneficial to the Nicene Empire, which was losing Troas and Mysia  . However, it retained the strategically important Lopadius and the eastern coast of Propontis, and in addition, the Latins ceased to support Trebizond.
The Conquest of Attalia and Paphlagonia
In 1213, Theodore began negotiations on an alliance with the powerful king of Cilicia, Levon II , urging him to jointly oppose the Iconic Sultanate, torn by civil wars. At the same time, negotiations were held on the marriage of Theodore with the daughter of Levon II - Rita, which lasted more than a year and ended at the very end of 1214 with the marriage of the Nicene emperor and the Armenian princess. But, as it soon turned out, it was not Rita, and not even Levon's daughter, but his niece - 32-year-old Philip .
In 1214 Theodore captured Attalia from the Seljuks, but already in 1216 he was driven out by the Turks. The alliance with the Armenians was also upset by 1216, and Theodore sent Philip back to his relatives.
In the north, he was more fortunate. David Comnenus died in December 1212 and Paphlagonia most likely came under the direct control of Trebizond. In the summer of 1214, the Koni Sultan Kay-Kavus I suddenly attacked the possessions of the Trebizond emperor Alexei I and captured him with his retinue during the hunt, and then in exchange for release forced him to surrender Sinop . As a result, Paflagonia was isolated and Theodore immediately took advantage of this, taking a campaign in late September - early October  . By the end of October, the main fortresses were taken. True, already at the beginning of winter 1214/1215 the campaign had to be repeated, due to the fact that in Paflagonia, according to Nikolai Mesarit, "the snake creature was still moving its tail." Apparently, having made peace with the Turks, Alexei Komnin tried to continue the struggle with Theodore, but after the loss of key fortresses and Sinop as a base, it was hopeless.
The last years of Theodore Laskaris were mostly calm. With the Latin Empire, which began to weaken after the death of Emperor Henry, relations remained, for the most part, peaceful, sealed in a 1217/1218 dynastic marriage.
In 1219, he entered into an unequal trade agreement with Venice, according to which the Venetians received the right to duty-free trade not only in ports, but also inside the empire, and Greek merchants in Constantinople and the Venetian possessions in Romans were required to pay customs duty (commercial).
In 1220 he prepared a surprise attack on Constantinople, deciding to take advantage of the absence of the emperor ( Robert de Courtenay had not yet arrived from Europe), but the regent of the Latin Empire, Konon Bethune, preempted Theodore's intentions by sending a detachment to Asia Minor. Things did not get to the present war, and in 1221 , with the arrival of Robert, a peace treaty was concluded, which they decided to seal with the marriage of the new Latin emperor to the daughter of Theodore. The emperor died in November or December 1221, leaving the throne to the husband of the eldest daughter Irina - the military leader John Duke Vatats . He was buried next to his wife Anna Angelina in the monastery of Iakinf in Nicaea.
The most important achievement of Theodore Laskaris was the creation of a viable state on one of the fragments of the Byzantine Empire, which was able not only to repel enemies and secure its borders, but also to begin the struggle for the revival of Byzantium. Despite a number of defeats, he still managed to stop the Latins from moving deeper into Asia Minor, although at the cost of concessions to the strategic bridgehead on the southern coast of Propontis . But the defeat of the Seljuk Turks near Antioch for several decades (up to the occurrence of the Ottoman threat) stabilized the eastern border and untied the hands of Theodore's successors to continue the struggle in the west. Reflecting the attack of David Komnin and conquering Paphlagonia , Theodore got rid of a dangerous rival in the person of the Trapezunian empire , and thereby won the first round of the struggle for the Byzantine inheritance.
The election of a new patriarch precisely in Nicaea also increased the foreign policy weight and moral authority of the empire (although, of course, not all did not immediately recognize the authority of the Nicaean patriarch).
Contemporaries and descendants paid tribute to the success of Theodore:
... he was a swift and unstoppable warrior. He exposed himself to dangers in many battles, rebuilt many cities, sparing no money for beautiful buildings and fortifications to stop and restrain the onslaught of the Latins. But often he harmed his fame by acting inadvertently.- Nicephorus Grigor . History 2, 1.
He was small in stature, although not very, rather dark, had a long beard, bifurcated below, slightly cross-eyed, impetuous in battles, prone to anger and love pleasures, generous with gifts. To those whom he liked, he gave so much gold that in an instant they became rich. He experienced many failures in battles with the Italians and Persians. It was he who laid the foundation for the restoration of the Romance power, for which the Romans should give him great gratitude.- George the Acropolitan . Story. 18.
This emperor should be revered as the father and ancestor by all emperors after him, because, as they said, when, after the capture of the queen of the cities, a whirlpool swept the Universe and, like during the flood, Romanic greatness and glory were destroyed (...) it was he who restored the imperial authority and priesthood. (...) He returned to the Romans the power over the regions and cities, strengthened and adorned himself with bishops and synclites, the best commanders and tagmas, as well as parts of stratiotic troops. With God's help and his labors, he did such a thing that he showed himself to be almost a superman.- Theodore Scutariot . Chronicle Cit. by: Theodore Scutariot . Chronicle (extracts) // George Acropolitan. Story. St. Petersburg, 2005.S. 319.
Marriages and children
The first marriage (1199) was married to Anna Angelina (1171/1173 - 1212), daughter of Emperor Alexei III Angel .
In this marriage two sons and three daughters were born:
- Nikolay Laskaris (d. Earlier 1212), since April 1208 co-ruler of his father
- John Laskaris (d. 1212)
- Irina Laskarina , married to: 1) the military commander Andronik Paleolog 2) John III , emperor of the Nicene Empire.
- Maria Laskarina , married to White IV Hungarian .
- Evdokia Laskarina , in 1221 the bride of the emperor of the Latin Empire Robert de Courtenay ; married to Anso de Cayo , regent of the Latin Empire.
The second marriage (December 25, 1214) was married to Philip (1183 - previously 1219), daughter of Ruben III , king of Cilician Armenia. Around 1216, divorced her and sent back to Cilicia.
In this marriage were born:
- Konstantin Laskaris (b. 1215), removed from inheritance at the behest of his father and because of infancy. The further fate is unknown; it is possible that he and Konstantin Laskaris, a fook of the Thrace of Thrace in 1249, are one and the same person.
- Sophia Laskarina, married to Frederick II , Duke of Austria.
By a third marriage (1217 or 1218) he married Maria de Courtenay (1204 - 1228), daughter of the Emperor of the Latin Empire Pierre II de Courtenay and Empress Iolanta de Hainaut ; there were no children in this marriage.
- Byzantine emperors
- Skazkin S. D. "History of Byzantium"
- According to the rules of Russian transcription, he really should be called Laskar, not Laskaris, just like his successor we call Vatats, not Vatadzis or Vatatsis (Βατάτζης)
- There are different coronation dates in the literature (like the election of a new patriarch): the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, for example, gives March 1208 (Kazhdan (1991), p. 2040). The patriarch was elected either in 1206  or in 1208 (Kazhdan (1991), p. 1365).
- Hometown of the historian Nikita Choniates .
- Calabrian pirate who commanded the fleet back with Isaac II and Alexei III.
- The contract provided for David's immunity as a vassal of the emperor.
- Ouspensky, referring to the letters of the emperor Henry 1212-1213 to the pope, wrote that even Pierre de Brachet, one of the bravest French knights, offended by the fact that Henry gave his fief, Kizik, to the Greeks, was ready to go to the side of Laskaris and support him in a campaign against Constantinople. However, the friendship between them did not last long, Theodore grabbed de Brachet, and the Greeks tore off the skin of the illustrious knight ( Assumption F.I. History of the Byzantine Empire of the XI-XV centuries. Eastern Question. M: Thought, 1997. S. 435).
- Most of the Opsician theme, right up to the theme of Neocastra, the fortresses of Pergamum and Kalam in the south and Ahirai and Lopadia in the east.
- There is an assumption, not shared by all historians, that Theodore and Kay-Kavus acted in 1214 as allies.
- George the Acropolitan. History / Transl. with Greek and comm. P.I. Zhavoronkova. - SPb. : Aletheia, 2005 .-- 415 p. - (Byzantine library. Sources). - 1,000 copies. - ISBN 5-89329-754-7 .
- Geoffroy de Villardouin . Conquest of Constantinople / Translation and commentary by M. A. Zaborov. - M .: Nauka, 1993.
- Nikita Choniat . A story beginning with the reign of John Komnin // Byzantine historians translated from Greek at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy / Translation edited by V. I. Dolotsky. - SPb., 1860.
- Vasiliev A. A. History of the Byzantine Empire. - T. 2: Byzantium and the Crusaders. The era of the Comnenos (1081-1185) and the Angels (1185-1204). - SPb., Aleteia, 1995. - ISBN 978-5-403-01726-8
- Zhavoronkov P. I. Nicene-Latin and Nicene-Seljuk relations in 1211–1216 // Byzantine temporary. 1976. 37.S. 48–61.
- Karpov S.P. History of the Trebizond Empire. - SPb .: Aleteyya, 2007. - ISBN 978-5-903354-07-8
- Uspensky F.I. History of the Byzantine Empire of the 11th — 15th centuries Eastern question. M.: Thought, 1997.
- Shukurov R.M. Great Commons and the East (1204-1461). - St. Petersburg: Aletheya, 2001.
- Shukurov R. M. "The New Manzikert" by Emperor Theodore I // Byzantium between the West and the East. - St. Petersburg: Aletheya, 2001.S. 409-427.