1. The Doranites family
1.1. Background and evolution (13th century)
The noble family of the Doranites came from the countryside of Trebizond, probably Dryona (Kobata). Their first appearance is in 1204, during the foundation of the Empire of Trebizond. This family is considered to be one of the native families of the area of Pontos1 who supported the Grand Komnenoi in their effort to establish themselves in the area, providing both people and material help. However, there is not much information on the members of the family during that period.
1.2. Prime (14th century)
During the 14th century, the Doranites were considered among the wealthiest families of landowners in the Empire of Trebizond. They owned land in Mesochaldia, also the centre of their activities, while they ascended the hierarchy of the imperial court and of the Church by receiving titles such as , judges of the imperial court, of the Great Church. Their role in the political scene was also crucial, as they actively participated in the internal strife of the Empire in the 14th century.
At the time, the great noble families sparked the beginning of revolts, which often turned into civil wars fuelled also by the differences between them. The Doranites played a leading part in these revolts and have continuously worked with other noble families such as the Scholarios, the Kabasitai, the Kamachenoi, the Tzanichites, aiming to enhance their political power and establish a social and political balance. Information on the evolution of this family during the 15th century is scarce. We do not know anything about the family after the fall of the Empire of Trebizond to the Ottomans in 1461/3.
2. The Doranites and their involvement to the internal strife
2.1. The family during the reign of Eirene Palaiologina
The activities of the Doranites have been closely linked to the internal disputes in the Empire of Trebizond, which broke out during the reign of Eirene Palaiologina (1340-1341) and continued to divide the Empire until the first years of the reign of Alexios III Grand Komnenos. The Trebizondian aristocracy was, at the time, represented by two main groups: the Scholarioi, who were loyal to the Constantinopolitan traditions and the native Amytzantarios. These two groups revolted with the aim to establish a new social and political situation,2 taking advantage of the political void after the death of Basil Great Komnenos (1332-1340); he had no heir from his legal wife Eirene Palaiologina (1340-1341) and, furthermore, the empress was proving unable to establish herself as a ruler. The Doranites family sided with the Scholarioi, working closely with them.
In 1340, the Doranites, together with the families of Meizomates, Kabasites and Kamachenoi, supported the Scholarioi against Eirene Palaiologina, and they fortified themselves in the monastery of St Eugenios, which was the centre of expeditions against the empress. A member of the family mentioned by name is Constantine Doranites, without any other information. After the defeat of the rebels by the imperial army, everyone involved was arrested and led to the fortress of Limnion, while the monastery was burned to the ground.3
2.2. The revolt of the family during the reign of Anna Anachoutlou
After the suppression of the revolt in the monastery of St Eugeniou the Doranites are absent from the sources; they reappear to the political scene a year later with the fall of the empress Eirene 4 and the rise to the throne of Anna Anachoutlou (1341-1342), sister of the former Emperor of Trebizond Basil Grand Komnenos. After Anna’s rise to power, the prevalence of the native Amytzantarioi drove the Scholarioi to make several consecutive efforts to overthrow the new empress; other noble families, the Doranites included, supported their actions. The future emperor (1344-1349) Michael Grand Komnenos, brother of Alexios II Grand Komnenos (1297-1330), and later on his son John, the future John III (1342-1344) were in charge of the noble families’ efforts to remove Anna from the throne. The Doranites were once again active in the political events during the reign of Anna Anachoutlou (1341-1342), supporting the political choices of the Scholarioi.
2.3. The Doranites during the reign of John III and Michael
Constantine Doranitis and his son John fled to Constantinople after the first fruitless attempt of Michael Grand Komnenos to become Emperor in 1340. Together with other aristocrats they appear to accompany John Grand Komnenos, the future John III (1342-1344) in Trebizond, when he tried to overthrow Anna Anachoutlou and seize power. However, afterwards, the Doranites appear to be part of the group of nobles who recalled Michael Grand Komnenos, father of the Emperor John III. The latter’s insistence to keep his father in exile5 had turned some members of the Trebizondian aristocracy against him.6
After Michael ascended to the throne (1344-1349), the Doranites enjoyed the favour of the new emperor since they had played an important role to his rise to power. Therefore, when Michael honoured the nobles who had helped him, giving them the highest titles and offices of the empire, Constantine Doranites became protovestiarios, while his son John became .
2.4. The Doranites during the reign of Alexios III
During the reign of Alexios III Grand Komnenos (1349-1390) the family of the Doranites received several blows, which reduced their political influence. Alexios did not have the power to control the aristocratic families who were fighting each other. Therefore, he found himself allied with members of several families and arresting others, according to the occasion. Within this policy, at the beginning of June 1350,7 Constantine Doranitis and his bother, the , Theodore Doranites (Pilelis) were arrested. They were incarcerated for a short time, together with other members of their family, in a prison especially established to house the archontes. Later on, however, the relations of the family with the emperor appeared to have improved, since on January 1351, Theodore Doranites received the title of protovestiarios,8 while in September of the same year, Constantine was already of the area of Limnion.
However, this respite was temporary, since on that same year, the Doranites were once again involved in conspiracies against Alexios. Theodore, with his son, his son-in-law Xenites and his children occupied the castle of Koulas, that is the acropolis of Trebizond. In this process, they captured the ,Niketas Scholares. At the same time, Constantine had established his own power in the area of Limnion while the emperor appeared to send against him armies with his mother Eirene of Trebizond in the head.9 Alexios successfully confronted the rebels of Koulas, whom he punished severely. A year after their fruitless revolt and their imprisonment in the castle of Kegchrinas, he ordered for them to be killed. In July 1352, Theodore and the other members of his family were strangled to death. The Doranites’ execution also marked the severe reduction of their political power and influence.
3. Renewal of the Doranites’ relations with the throne
Almost twenty years later, the Emperor Alexios III, in an act of good will towards the Doranites, tried to put an end to the internal discords that had tormented the Empire for a long time. So, in 1371, he issued a , bestowing upon George Doranitis the right to inherit the village of Chorobe, given to George’s father at an unknown time by the emperor Basil Grand Komnenos (1332-1340). In this chrysobull, George is called oikeios, a person of the inner circle of the emperor, while he seems to have the title of amytzantarios (a higher military official of the court). At the same time, in a document of the monastery of Vazelon he appears as krites (judge) of the imperial court and megas oikonomos of the Great Church.
The high offices bestowed upon George Doranitis are indicative of the emperor’s attitude towards the family: The Doranites appear to have been forgiven for their consecutive efforts to overthrow the emperor, have returned to their land and were once again occupying positions of power, both political and ecclesiastical. Their good relations with the house of the Grand Komnenoi seem to have remained that way until the fall of their Empire to the Ottomans, as there is reference of another member of their family, John Doranitis, who was in 1432, under John IV Grand Komnenos (1429-1458).
1. Other aristocratic families, such as the Tzanichites, the Kabasites and the Kamachenoi, also contributed to the rise of the Grand Komnenoi in Pontos. See Χρύσανθος Φιλιππίδης, μητροπολίτης Τραπεζούντος, «Η Εκκλησία Τραπεζούντος», Αρχείον Πόντου 4-5 (1933), pp. 56, 234, and Janssens, E., Trébizonde en Colchide (Bruxelles 1969), p. 67.
2. See Λυμπερόπουλος, B., O Βυζαντινός Πόντος. H αυτοκρατορία της Τραπεζούντας (Athens 1999), p. 138.
3. The revolt came to an end when the eunuch and megas doux John arrived to Trebizond from Constantinople to support the Empress. See Bredenkamp, F., “The Doranites family of the 14th century Byzantine Empire of Trebizond”, Βυζαντιακά 19 (1999), p. 245. It is not clearly known how Constantine Doranitis was involved in this revolt or whether or not was among the people who were arrested at the time.
4. Irene Palaiologina was forced to leave the throne, after the opposition organised in Lazia by Anna and the people’s rage after the fire in Trebizond following the attack of the Turkomans on 4 July 1341. See Ahrweiler-Γλύκατζη, Ε., «Η αυτοκρατορία της Τραπεζούντας», in Iστορία του Εληνικού Έθνους Θ': Υστεροβυζαντινοί χρόνοι (1204-1453) (Athens 1980), pp. 325-364, 333.
5. The failed attempt of Michael Grand Komnenos to overthrow Anna Anachoutlou resulted in his arrest and was limited in the area of Oinaion and then at Limnia. See Βλ. Χρύσανθος Φιλιππίδης, μητροπολίτης Τραπεζούντος, «Η Εκκλησία Τραπεζούντος», Αρχείον Πόντου 4-5 (1933), p. 242.
6. Niketas Scholaris helped Michael escape in March 1344 and to return to Trebizond (3 May 1344) in order to overthrow his son John III Grand Komnenos, who was exiled to the cave-temple of St Sabbas. See Χρύσανθος Φιλιππίδης, μητροπολίτης Τραπεζούντος, «Η Εκκλησία Τραπεζούντος», Αρχείον Πόντου 4-5 (1933), pp. 243-244.
7. This opinion is expressed by A. Bryer· see. Bryer, A., “The Estates of the Empire of Trebizond. Evidence for their resources, products, agriculture, ownership and location”, Αρχείον Πόντου 35 (1979), pp. 370-477 [reprinted in Bryer, A., The empire of Trebizond and the Pontos (Variorum Reprints Collected Studies, London 1980)]. F. Bredenkamp places the arrest of members of the Doranites family in June 1351· see. Bredenkamp, F., “The Doranites family of the 14th century Byzantine Empire of Trebizond”, Βυζαντιακά 19 (1999), p. 246.
8. The emperor bestowed upon Theodore Doranitis the title of protobestiarios after the conspiracy of the former protobestiarios Leon Kabasitis. See Λυμπερόπουλος, B., O Βυζαντινός Πόντος. H αυτοκρατορία της Τραπεζούντας (Athens 1999), p. 165.
9. F. Bredenkamp believes that Alexios III’s mother Eirene of Trebizond remained in the house of Doranitis in Limnia for three months. See Bredenkamp, F., “The Doranites family of the 14th century Byzantine Empire of Trebizond”, Βυζαντιακά 19 (1999), p. 247.