Basil Grand Komnenos

1. Βiography

Basil Grand Komnenos was the son of the emperor of Trebizond, Alexios II Grand Komnenos (1297-1330), and of the daughter of the Laz ruler Bekha Jaqeli, («Πεκάι» in the Greek sources), a subject to the king of Georgia. He was a consanguine brother of Eudokia Grand Komnene and Andronikos III Grand Komnenos (1330-1332). He also had three half-siblings, Michael Anachoutlou, Anna Anachoutlou (1341-1342) and George Achpougas. Basil got married twice: in 13361 he got married to Eirene Palaiologina, the illegitimate daughter of Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos (1328-1341), in order to improve the relations with the government of Constantinople, while in 1339 he married Eirene of Trebizond, a descendant of a local aristocratic family. Basil, although being married to Eirene Palaiologina, was cohabiting with Eirene of Trebizond, who had two sons with, Alexios and John; the second was the future emperor Alexios III Grand Komnenos (1349-1390).2 Arter their marriage Eirene of Trebizond gave birth to two daughters, Theodora and Maria.

In September 1332 Basil overthrew his nephew, Manuel II Grand Komnenos (January-September 1332), and ascended to the throne of Trebizond. He died on April 6, 1340.3 He was a commissioner of the Soumela Monastery and he is considered to have been the donor of the church of St. Basil in Trebizond.4

2. Ascension to the Throne

On September 22, 1332, Basil Grand Komnenos, amidst the internal turmoil that prevailed after the death of the Emperor Alexios II, ascended to the throne, having overthrowed the legal heir Manuel II Grand Komnenos, whom he held in detention and later assassinated. The overthrow of Manuel II was directly supported by the powerful Scholarios family of Trebizond and the court of Constantinople, where Basil had escaped during the reign of his brother, Andronikos III Grand Komnenos (1330-1332).

3. The Reign

There is scant information on the reign of Basil Grand Komnenos (1332-1340). At first, he tried to restore the internal balance of the Empire of Trebizond, previously achieved by Alexios II, by taking strict measures against the members of local aristocracy. He ordered the assassination of the megas doux Lekes Tzatzintzaios and his son, the megas domestikos Tzamba, and convicted his wife, the megale doukaina Syrikaina to be stoned to death.

In July of 1336 he successfully repelled the Türkmen raid under Sheikh Hassan. On March 3 of the following year the people of Trebizond revolted on the occasion of the solar eclipse. However, the main reasons for the revolt were the tough rule of Basil and his attitude towards Empress Eirene Palaiologina. On the other hand, his cohabitation with Eirene of Trebizond while he was still married to Eirene Palaiologina as well as their subsequent wedding caused the intensive reaction in Constantinople, particularly on the part of the patriarch of Constantinople, Isaiah (1332-1347), and the historian Nikephoros Gregoras.

1.  The compilers of the Εγκυκλοπαίδεια του Ποντιακού Ελληνισμού (Encyclopaedia of the Pontic Hellenism) suggest that Basil was first married in 1335; see Γεωργιάδης, Θ. (ed.), Εγκυκλοπαίδεια του Ποντιακού Ελληνισμού. Ο Πόντος. Ιστορία, Λαογραφία και Πολιτισμός 1 (Thessaloniki 1991), p. 123.

2. John took the name “Alexios” by his ascension to the throne of Trebizond. Thus, he is known as Alexios III Grand Komnenos; see Miller, W., Trebizond. The Last Greek Empire (London 1926), p. 55.

3. It is believed that Basil’s death was caused by his first wife, Eirene Palaiologina; see Miller, W., Trebizond. The Last Greek Empire (London 1926), p. 46.

4. Bryer, A. – Winfield, D., The Byzantine Monuments and Topography of the Pontos I (Dumbarton Oaks Studies 20, Washington D.C. 1985), p. 220.