Theodore I Laskaris

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Theodoros I Komnenos Laskaris (Greek: Θεόδωρος Α' Λάσκαρις, Theodōros I Laskaris) (c. 1174/1175 – 1221/August, 1222) was emperor of Nicaea (1204–1221 or 1205–1222).

Contents

Family

Theodore Laskaris was born to the Laskaris, a noble but not particularly renowned Byzantine family of Constantinople. He was the son of Manuel Laskaris (b. c. 1140) and wife Ioanna Karatzaina (b. c. 1148). He had four older brothers: Manuel Laskaris (d. aft. 1256), Michael Laskaris (d. 1261/1271), Georgios Laskaris and Constantine Laskaris (d. aft. March 19, 1205), Emperor of Byzantium (1204–1205); and two younger brothers: Alexios Laskaris, Latin military leader against the Bulgars who fought with the French against John III Doukas Vatatzes and was imprisoned and blinded, and Isaakios Laskaris.[1]

According to "The Latins in the Levant. A History of Frankish Greece (1204–1566)" (1908) by William Miller, the seven brothers may also have had a sister. Miller identified said sister with the wife of Marco I Sanudo and mother of Angelo Sanudo. He based this theory on his own interpretation of Italian chronicles. The "Dictionnaire historique et Généalogique des grandes familles de Grèce, d'Albanie et de Constantinople" (1983) by Mihail-Dimitri Sturdza rejected the theory based on the silence of Byzantine primary sources.[2]

Reign

In 1199, Theodore married Anna Angelina, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios III Angelos and Euphrosyne Doukaina Kamatera. By this marriage he was brother-in-law of Eudokia Angelina.

Theodore later distinguished himself during the sieges of Constantinople by the Latins of the Fourth Crusade (1203–1204). He remained in Constantinople until the Latins actually penetrated into the city, at which point he fled across Bosphorus together with his wife. At about the same time his brother Constantine Laskaris was unsuccessfully proclaimed emperor by some of the defenders of Constantinople. In Bithynia Theodore established himself in Nicaea, which became the chief rallying-point for his countrymen.

At first Theodore did not claim the imperial title, perhaps because his father-in-law and his brother were both still living, perhaps because of the imminent Latin invasion, or perhaps because there was no Patriarch of Constantinople to crown him emperor. He was proclaimed emperor in 1205 and invited Patriarch John Kamateros to Nicaea. But John died in 1206 before crowning Theodore. Theodore appointed Michael IV as the new Patriarch and was crowned by him in March 1208.

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