“Going through all the emperors of the Byzantine Empire is the same as driving through the small unfamiliar roads to get to a far away destination without a big highway leading there.” -Powee Celdran, reflections on the Byzantine Genealogy project
Welcome back to another article by the Byzantium Blogger! This article will be our 2nd special edition article after the “Ravenna Mosaics and What to Expect”. Unlike the previous special edition article, this is not a travel documentation but a personal project which I have made tracing the lineage of all the Byzantine dynasties and how they are connected to each other. Before reading everything, I am warning you readers that this will be an EXTREMELY LONG ARTICLE but hopefully and enjoyable one. First of all, a few days ago I posted this genealogy on the Roman and Byzantine History FB page and it was an overnight hit, and I would like to thank Brilliant Byzantine Memes and Byzantine Military History for sharing the genealogy even if it so impossible to read for some especially because it was so large to fit into one photo but at least the complete genealogy was able to fit within one large sheet, now this article will explain in detail with more close-up pictures of the genealogy. In this article, I will show the massive chart I made where I connected the dots resulting with all the dynasties of the Byzantine rulers in one way or another all related to each other. The Byzantine Empire ruled for over 1,100 years (330-1453) and had over 90 emperors which would make you think that because their history was long, the imperial families may not be linked to one another unless all emperors of Byzantium came from the same unbroken dynasty. True enough, the Byzantine Empire was not like the Ottoman Empire where all their emperors came from one unbroken dynasty, rather for the Byzantines, a dynasty rose up out of nowhere and was dissolved usually in less than a century. The popular saying “From rags to riches and back again” very much attributes to the Byzantine Empire because sometimes people with a simple background rise up to becoming emperor and forming a dynasty which would come to its end after 3 generations in less than a century. This system where dynasties were never stable in Byzantium and emperors always being overthrown by generals beginning a new dynasty shows that their predecessors, the Romans still continued in them with their dynastic systems with the survival of the Eastern Roman Empire, which was Byzantium. Overall, there were 15 dynasties in the history of Byzantium, the longest ones being the Macedonian and Palaiologos lasting for nearly 200 years while the shortest ones being the Valentinian Dynasty only being 14 years and Nikephorian only being 11 years. Even though the imperial dynasties of Byzantium rose up through different means without being directly related to the previous ones, these dynasties were still indirectly related to each other. The word “byzantine” meaning overall confusing is very much the best way to describe Byzantium’s genealogy as it goes through one complete maze with dead ends to get from the first to the last emperor. The chart I made will show the family trees of the extended families of the emperor to point out how the previous dynasty or other dynasties before them are related to them, even though very indirectly related such as by marriage to a cousin or in-law of the emperor. Other than showing how the dynasties were linked to each other indirectly, the chart I made and this article will also point out to where these Byzantine imperial descendants ended up in as well as other dynasties in Europe and the world around them that were linked to the Byzantine imperial families through marriage. Some Byzantine princesses from the imperial families happened to be married into various ruling families across Europe but many women from these dynasties in Europe were married into Byzantine imperial families too integrating foreign blood into the empire while Byzantine blood was also at some points integrated into other dynasties. Some of my findings in the genealogy chart I made are very surprising, especially since some of the most well-known ruling families in Europe had some familiar connections to Byzantium and even more surprising that some famous rulers of Europe turn out to be descended from an imperial dynasty in Byzantium. One of the most recognizable rulers to be a direct descendant of the Byzantine Empire is Ivan IV Terrible, the 1st Tsar of Russia. The genealogy chart I made begins with Constantine the Great’s dynasty or the Constantinian Dynasty of the Roman Empire going all the way down and ending with the 1st Tsar of Russia. The chart as well as this article will cover the complete lineage of 47 generations all the way back from the Imperial Rome down to the Renaissance era (4th to 16th centuries). With so many names and intersecting lines, the whole genealogy of the emperors is very confusing that it took so much hard work to connect the dots but at the end, the results aside from being confusing are also fascinating especially when finding out that so many emperors were married to their cousins or nieces and some generational gaps are too big or too small, but also some people happen to be from the same generation as others who can be a generation below them, which is a result of how big the extended families were. Since this article is more of a personal project I worked on with extensive research and with the help of so many videos and podcasts, rather than a research on topic in Byzantine history, it will be a special edition article; also note that this was based on extensive research on all the dynasties. You may all think this article may be similar to the one I did before on the “94 Emperors”, but this one will mention only the relations and not facts on the emperors and their lives. Meanwhile, in the fragmented pictures of the complete genealogy, take note that names of Byzantine emperors will be in bold letters and underlined in purple while foreign rulers are underlined in dark green; also several coats of arms of Byzantine and other royal families were added to the chart, but also the familial lines may look confusing so look carefully.
Note: This article is based on my intensive research while the genealogy chart is based on multiple drafts. Names of Byzantine emperors will be in bold letters.
Warning: THIS IS A VERY LONG ARTICLE!!
Other Related Articles from The Byzantium Blogger:
7 Reasons to be Interested in Byzantium
The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire
Foreign Lands and People According to the Byzantine Part1
Foreign Lands and People According to the Byzantines Part2
The Art of War in the Byzantine World
The Ravenna Mosaics and What to Expect
History of the Eastern Roman Empire – Epimetheus
All the Byzantine Emperors – Eastern Roman History
All Byzantine Empresses – Eastern Roman History
All the Emperors of Trebizond– Eastern Roman History
On the Macedonian Dynasty– Lecture by Billy Chrissochos and Porphyra Foundation
Constantinian, Valentinian, and Theodosian Dynasties (305-457)
Alright, so the whole genealogy of the Byzantine emperors I’ve worked will begin no earlier than the beginning of the 4th century as this was the point when the Roman Empire fell into the confusion of the Tetrarchy and the shift of the imperial capital to Constantinople in the east. Of course, the whole genealogy does not go all the way back to Augustus, the first Roman emperor (r. 27BC-14AD) as it will be too long and the lineage of the Roman emperors were not direct having many dead ends. The first name and ruler to be mentioned in the whole genealogy is the Roman Emperor Constantius I Chlorus (r. 305-306) who began as a soldier from the province of Dardania in the Balkans and became the first Caesar in the west of the Roman Tetrarchy in 293 and eventually emperor or Augustus for only 1 year from 305 to his death in 306; together with Diocletian, Maximian, and Galerius, Constantius I was one of the original tetrarchs. Constantius I was first married to Helena until 293 with whom he had a son, Constantine I the Great (r. 306-337) who started out as a staff officer eventually became the first Byzantine emperor in 324. In his 2nd marriage with Theodora, Constantius I’s children were Julius Constantius who was married to Basilina, Constantia who was married to Licinius the co-emperor and rival of Constantine the Great from 308-313 in the west and in 313-324 in the east. Meanwhile Constantine I with his 1st wife Minervina had 1 son named Crispus who was eventually executed in 326 and with his 2nd wife Fausta, he had 5 children which will be mentioned. Fausta was the daughter of Maximian the emperor in the west until 310 and his wife Eutropia as well as the sister of Maxentius, Constantine’s rival in the west defeated in 312, though in 326 Fausta was also executed by Constantine. Constantine I’s and Fausta’s sons include Constantine II who was only a Caesar in the west and co-emperor (337-340) with his brothers Constans I (emperor, 337-350) and Constantius II (r. 337-361) who was the actual emperor in the east and 2nd Byzantine emperor after his father. Constantine I’s daughter Helena named after her grandmother was married to her cousin Julian, the son of Constantine I’s half-brother Julius Constantius and the Greek Basilina; Julian known as “the Apostate” whose older brother Gallus was a Caesar from 351-54 with Constantius II was chosen as his cousin’s successor after his death in 361 until his own death in 363 as the only Pagan Byzantine emperor and died without any successor leaving Jovian, his general to succeed him until his death in 364 where he was succeeded by Valentinian I, another general who began the Valentinian Dynasty. Valentinian I (r. 364-375), son of the soldier Gratian the Elder from modern day Croatia ruled the full Roman Empire for a few weeks until he took the western half which he ruled until his death in 375 while the eastern half was ruled by his brother Valens until his death in battle in 378. Valentinian I’s son Gratian ruled the western empire as Augustus or senior-emperor from 375-383, first with his uncle Valens until his death in 378, then emperor of the full empire from 378-79 and then with his younger half-brother Valentinian II; Gratian was eventually assassinated in 383 but as it turns out he was married to Constantia, the daughter of Constantius II and granddaughter of Constantine I. On the other hand, Valentinian I’s 2nd wife was Justina, another granddaughter of Constantine I being the daughter of another daughter of his with a man named Justus. With Justina, Valentinian I’s children was the Western Emperor Valentinian II and Flavia Galla who was married to Theodosius I a Spanish-Roman general, who was appointed emperor in the east in 379 ruling together with his brothers-in-law Gratian until 383 and Valentinian II until 392 after which Theodosius I the Great became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire with the Valentinian Dynasty ending and the Theodosian taking over it. Theodosius would eventually die in 395 dividing the empire east and west between his sons Arcadius and Honorius; Arcadius and Honorius were Theodosius’ sons with his first wife Aelia Flacilla who also came from Spain while Galla Placidia was his daughter with his 2nd wife Galla. After 395, the Roman Empire was completely divided between east and west even if both east and west were at first ruled by the same dynasty, the Theodosian; at the east the empire continued on but in the west, Roman authority declined. In the west, Honorius was emperor until his death in 323 but at the earlier part of his reign, his regent was the general Stilicho, his father-in-law. Honorius’ half-sister Galla Placidia, the wife of the western emperor Constantius III was the regent of her son Valentinian III who later ruled the west until 455 ending the Theodosian Dynasty there. Meanwhile in the east, the Theodosian dynasty didn’t also last long, Arcadius was emperor from 395 until his death in 408 and succeeded by the child Theodosius II, his son with his Romanized Frankish wife Aelia Eudoxia. Theodosius II ruled for a long time until his death in 450 and was married to the Greek Aelia Eudocia but together they had no sons and only one daughter, Licinia who was married to the western emperor Valentinian III. With no male heir, Theodosius II was succeeded by his brother-in-law Marcian– who of course does not come from Mars- the husband of the empress Pulcheria, Theodosius II’s sister but together they also had no children, thus the Theodosian line ended in 457.
Leonid and Justinian Dynasties (457-610)
After 395, the Roman Empire was fully divided with the east becoming the Byzantine Empire based in Constantinople and the west with its capital in Ravenna gradually declining in power. The Theodosian Dynasty ended with the death of Marcian in 457 and unlike the previous 3 dynasties (Constantinian, Valentinian, and Theodosian) which were directly connected to each other through marriage, the Leonid Dynasty which followed the Theodosian has no direct relation to it as Marcian was succeeded by the Thracian military commander Leo I who ruled until 474; he was married to Verina and had 2 daughters, Ariadne and Leontia, the latter being married to another Marcian which shows how the Theodosian dynasty is indirectly related to the Leonid as Marcian, the husband of Leo I’s daughter Leontia was a daughter of the western emperor Anthemius (r. 467-472) and Marcia Euphemia, the daughter of the eastern emperor Marcian in a previous marriage, before Pulcheria. Leo I’s other daughter Ariadne was married to the Isaurian military leader Tarasis Kodisa renamed Zeno and had one son, who became Emperor Leo II in 474 after the death of his grandfather. It is not clear if the 7-year-old Leo II really died by the end of the year but he was still succeeded by his father and co-emperor Zeno who would be overthrown a year later by Basiliscus, the brother of Leo I’s wife Verina. In 476, Zeno would return to power overthrowing Basiliscus while at the same time the Western Roman Empire collapsed replaced by the Ostrogoth Kingdom based in Ravenna. After Zeno’s death in 491, his wife Ariadne married Anastasius I Dicorus, who became the next emperor although Ariadne would die ahead of him in 515 as Anastasius died at the very old age of 87 in 518 without any direct male heirs. As Anastasius had no heirs, the commander of his palace guard force or Excubitors, the Illyrian peasant Justin I was chosen to succeeded him. Justin I was also very old and at his death in 527 also without a son was succeeded by his nephew Justinian I the Great. Justinian I, being Byzantium’s most influential emperor was born Flavius Petrus Sabbatius, a peasant in modern day Republic of Macedonia to Vigilantia, Justin I’s sister and Sabbatius but rose up to power becoming emperor at age 44. Justinian I was married to the Greek-Cypriot Theodora, the daughter of Acacius, a circus performer and bear trainer, although before marrying Justinian, little known to us was that Theodora had another husband who probably died earlier and with him, they had a daughter also named Theodora. The daughter of Theodora with the same name was married to Anastasius, the son of Magna, a daughter of Flavius Paulus, the brother of the previous emperor Anastasius I which shows an indirect link from the Leonid to the Justinian Dynasty. However, Justinian I and Theodora had no children and the empress Theodora died in 548 several years before Justinian’s death in 565 and here, Justinian I without any sons made his nephew Justin II– the son of his sister Vigilantia and Dulcidius. Also, the great generals of this time, Belisarius and Narses do not happen to be in the dynasty as they had no marriage connections to it. Justin II was married to Sophia who happened to be the niece of Empress Theodora being either the daughter of Theodora’s older sister Comito or younger sister Anastasia. Justin II also had no sons or direct male heirs so instead he adopted his friend, the commander of the palace guard who was the same age as him as his son who succeeded him as Tiberius II Constantine after Justin II’s abdication in 574. Unlike the previous emperors, Tiberius II had a child, although a daughter named Constantia who was married to the general Maurice who succeeded Tiberius II as emperor in 582 after the latter’s death. Maurice the Cappadocian, son of the senator Paul had a brother named Peter who was married to Anastasia Aerobinda, the daughter of Aerobindus, who was the son of Theodora, the lesser-known daughter of Empress Theodora and Anastasius, the grandnephew of the emperor Anastasius I. Maurice was emperor from 582 until he was overthrown by the military commander and rebel Phokas in 602 ending the Justinian Dynasty, although his daughter with Constantia named Maria or Maryam was married to the Sassanid Persian king Chosroes II (r. 591-628). The period of the Justinian Dynasty was a golden age for Byzantium but it was not at all a dynasty of direct hereditary succession rather one by adoptions and marriages.
Heraclian Dynasty and the 20-years’-Anarchy (610-717)
After the takeover of Phokas in 602 ending the Justinian Dynasty, Byzantium was on the verge of collapsing with the ongoing war against the Sassanid Persians and invading Avars and Slavs in the north. To resolve the conflict, it had to take another takeover from a more capable emperor, which was Heraclius (r. 610-641) who overthrew Phokas in 610 and was crowned emperor beginning the new Heraclian Dynasty. At this point, the history of the empire would have a complete cultural shift which will be seen in my genealogy as Greek replaced Latin as the official language, which also meant that the names would gradually change from Latin to Greek, and the titles for emperors were no longer the Roman Imperator or Augustus but the Greek Basileios. Heraclius was the son of the Byzantine Exarch of Africa, the Armenian Heraclius the Elder and his wife Epiphania; the younger Heraclius was married at the time of his coronation to Fabia Eudokia having the next emperor Constantine III (r. 641) as their son. The first wife however died in 612 so the emperor took his niece Martina, the daughter of his sister Maria and her husband Martinus as his wife and together their children were Heraklonas who was emperor also in 641 and another one named Theodosius who was a deaf-mute. It was through Heraclius’ son Theodosius that the Justinian Dynasty had a very distant indirect connection to the Heraclian which even went through the Sassanid Dynasty of Persia. In this case, Maria the daughter of Emperor Maurice and Constantia was married to the Sassanid Persian king Chosroes II who’s sister was married to the general Shahrbaraz who would become king in 630 and the daughter of Shahrbaraz and the former king’s sister named Nike was married to Heraclius’ son Theodosius. Now to continue the line of Heraclius, his older son Constantine III who was married to his 2nd cousin Gregoria- the daughter of Niketas who was Heraclius’ cousin and son of the elder Heraclius’ brother Gregoras- followed his father as emperor in 641 but died probably poisoned by Martina a few months later to make her son and the former’s half-brother Heraklonas emperor who was eventually deposed by Constantine III’s supporters making the latter’s son Constans II emperor. Constans II, the son of Constantine III and Gregoria began his rule as a child in 641 as the last emperor in the “Year of the 4 Emperors” (641) until his assassination in 668, after which he was succeeded by his son with his wife Fausta, Constantine IV after having to fight to gain the throne. The children of Constantine IV and his wife Anastasia were another Heraclius and the next emperor Justinian II who ruled after his father’s death in 685 until he was deposed in 695 beginning the 20-years’-Anarchy taken over by Leontios who was overthrown by Tiberius III in 698. Justinian II who was previously married to Eudokia had one daughter named Anastasia but when he returned to power in 705, he came in with his new wife, a Khazar this time who he renamed Theodora and together their son Tiberius was made co-emperor. Justinian II always thought he would live up to Justinian I to who he was named after that he even renamed his wife Theodora but at the end Justinian II was overthrown again and executed in 711 by Philippikos Bardanes who would also end up killing the young co-emperor Tiberius, thus ending the Heraclian Dynasty. Although Philippikos would only rule for 2 years after being overthrown by Anastasius II in 713 who was then replaced by the reluctant Theodosius III in 715. However, the line of Heraclius was not fully dissolved as their descendants lived on through the line of Emperor Heraclius’ sister Maria whose unnamed son would be the direct ancestor to the 9th century empress Eudokia Ingerina, the wife of Emperor Basil I 8 generations later.
Isaurian, Nikephorian, and Amorian Dynasties (717-867)
In my genealogy chart, one thing that may look so misleading are the generation levels of the Isaurian emperors being at the same place as the Heraclian ones such as Emperor Leo III (r. 717-741) being in the same generation level as Constantine IV (r. 668-685) even if they lived around 50 years apart from each other. The reason why it is quite a mess in this part is to keep the 9 generations from Heraclius to Eudokia Ingerina, the wife of the 1st Macedonian emperor Basil I in line with the other generations of emperors. Anyway, this confusion where people of the same generation lived at different time periods for each other was just to keep the table synchronized, it could also mean that the descendants of Heraclius’ sister Maria beginning with Andreas had children at a much older age while Byzantine emperors usually had children at a younger age. Following the 20-years’-Anarchy, Leo III the Isaurian claimed the throne in 717 once again restoring stability and founding the Isaurian Dynasty. There was no way that the Isaurian and Heraclian dynasties were connected as Justinian II and all those from the line of Heraclius were finished off in 20-years’-Anarchy while the descendants of Maria have been married off to other families thus changing their names, which is probably why they were not identified as part of the imperial family then. Leo III’s children with his wife Maria were the next emperor Constantine V and Anna who was married to the Armenian usurper Artavasdos who ousted Constantine V from power from 742 to Constantine V’s return in 743. Constantine V was married to the Khazar princess Tzitzak with who his son was the next emperor Leo IV (r. 775-780). Leo IV was married to Irene of the Sarantapechos family of Athens and their son was Constantine VI (r. 780-797). Irene at first was regent for her son but when he was old enough becoming a weak ruler, Irene seized the throne by blinding Constantine VI and was proclaimed the first full-time female ruler of Byzantium not as “empress” but “emperor”. It was during Irene’s reign from 797-802 when Charlemagne was crowned the Roman emperor in the west but in 802, Irene herself was overthrown by the finance minister Nikephoros I beginning the Nikephorian dynasty. The Nikephorian Dynasty has one but a very indirect link to the previous Isaurian one as Nikephoros I’s son Staurakios was married to Theophano, a relative probably 1st cousin but not a sister of Empress Irene. After Nikephoros I died in battle in 811, Staurakios became emperor for only a few months abdicating and passing the throne to his brother-in-law Michael I Rangabe, the husband of Staurakios’ sister Prokopia and the son of the admiral Theophylaktos. Michael I only ruled until 813 when he was overthrown by the general Leo V the Armenian ending the short-lived Nikephorian Dynasty. Leo V who came from no dynasty himself was overthrown in 820 by Michael II of Phrygia beginning the new but also short-lived Amorian Dynasty which was at least was one of hereditary succession. The Amorian Dynasty shows quite a direct link to the Isaurian Dynasty before them as Michael II’s 2nd wife was Euphrosyne, the daughter of Irene and Leo IV’s son Constantine VI. Although the Isaurian blood does not flow through the Amorian emperors because Michael II’s son and successor Theophilos (r. 829-842) was his son with his 1st wife Thekla and the Isaurian Euphrosyne was only his stepmother. Theophilos was married to Theodora and their son was the last Amorian emperor Michael III (r. 842-867) known as “the drunkard” while their daughter Anna known in the Arab world as Narjis was married to Hasan Al-Askari, the Imam of Samara in Iraq. Michael III’s mistress at last was Eudokia Ingerina, the descendant of Heraclius’ line through Heraclius’ sister Maria, although Eudokia was not married to Michael but to the much older Macedonian peasant of Armenian descent, Basil who assassinated the emperor Michael and was then proclaimed Emperor Basil I beginning the long-lived Macedonian Dynasty.
Macedonian Dynasty (867-1057)
The Macedonian Dynasty ruled Byzantium for almost 200 years but it still had many gaps wherein some of its rulers were not directly from the dynasty but married into it. This dynasty begins with Basil I from the Theme of Macedonia who made his way from peasant to emperor by assassinating Michael III of the Amorian Dynasty to take the throne; although it is said the Basil’s ancestors were not all peasants as a genealogy made for him in his time traces his ancestry to the Arsacid kings of Armenia in the 1st century. The other previous dynasties the Macedonians have a link to is the Heraclian in which Eudokia Ingerina, the wife of Basil I is descended from and the Amorian since Eudokia was Michael III’s mistress. After Basil I’s death in 886, he was succeeded by his son Leo VI the Wise (r. 886-912) who is disputed to not be his son but the son of Michael III “the Drunkard” while Eudokia was his mistress as Leo VI was born in 866 when Michael III was still alive. If the rumor was actually true, then Leo VI and all his descendants which we all know as the Macedonian emperors would actually still be part of the Amorian Dynasty as they are descended from Michael III. However, Leo VI’s younger brother and successor Alexander (r. 912-913) and their other brother the Patriarch of Constantinople Stephen I are sure to be the sons of Basil I and Eudokia, which also means if the rumor of Leo VI’s paternity was true, then the Macedonian emperors would have only been Basil I and Alexander. Leo VI was a strong ruler who had quite a long reign but his marriages were a disaster and only his 4th one to Zoe Karbonopsina produced him a son and heir, the future Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, but after Leo’s death in 912, his brother Alexander took the throne for a year and after his eventual death, he was succeeded by his young nephew Constantine VII. Since Constantine VII was too young, he ruled with many regents until the admiral Romanos Lekapenos who’s background was that of an Armenian peasant took over from the young Constantine VII putting him aside while Romanos I Lekapenos made himself senior emperor from 920-944. With Romanos I, there was an overlap in the dynasty with the Lekapenos family in power for a while but the Macedonian Dynasty still stayed alive with Constantine VII only as co-emperor while married to Romanos I’s daughter Helena. Romanos I’s children with his wife Theodora included the co-emperor Christopher (921-931) whose daughter Maria was later married to Tsar Peter I of Bulgaria, then the Patriarch of Constantinople Theophylaktos (933-956), a daughter named Agathe married to Romanos Argyros, and the 2 brothers Stephen and Constantine who overthrew their father in 944 but were overthrown by Constantine VII in early 945. Romanos I’s efforts to establish his own dynasty failed as he was overthrown and so were his son while his daughter Helena supported her husband Constantine VII against her own family and so did Romanos’ son the patriarch Theophylaktos and his other son with a Scythian mistress named Basil who became the chief court eunuch for the next emperors. Constantine VII ruled again until his death in 959 and was succeeded by his son Romanos II who was named after his maternal grandfather Romanos I. With Helena, Constantine VII’s named children included the next emperor Romanos II (r. 959-963) and Theodora who was married to the later emperor John I Tzimiskes (r. 969-976). Romanos II was first married to the Italian princess Bertha renamed Eudokia then to Theophano who was said to be the Laconian Greek innkeeper Craterus’ daughter but after Romanos II’s death in 963- which said he was poisoned by Theophano- his widow was then married to the general Nikephoros II Phokas who was emperor from 963-969 succeeding Romanos II as the latter’s children were too young. Another interesting fact here is that Nikephoros II and his successor John I were related to each other; Nikephoros II, the son of Bardas Phokas had an unnamed sister married to a man named Kourkouas and their son was John I Tzimiskes. Meanwhile Nikephoros II’s brother Leo Phokas was the father of the rebel Bardas Phokas and of Sophia who was married to a man named Skleros whose daughter named Theophano married the Holy Roman emperor Otto II (r. 973-983) thus introducing the fork and other Byzantine luxuries to Germany and their son was the Holy Roman emperor Otto III (r. 996-1002). While the Phokas family showed a far related link from the Byzantine imperial family to the Ottonian ruling family in Germany, the Macedonian Dynasty had an even more direct link to the Rurik Dynasty of the Kievan Rus as the daughter of Emperor Romanos II and Theophano, Anna was married to Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev (r. 980-1015), the son of Grand Prince Sviatoslav I (r. 945-972) and Malusha, although Anna was one of Vladimir’s many wives but together, Vladimir and Anna’s children were Boris and Gleb. Anna’s older brothers were the emperors Basil II “the Bulgar-Slayer” who succeeded John I in 976 and ruled as the longest Byzantine ruler until his death in 1025 and the other one was Constantine VIII (r. 1025-1028) but was co-emperor for a much longer period under his brother’s reign. Surprisingly Basil II was never married having no children so he was succeeded by his brother who was married to a certain Helena but only had daughters and no sons. Before Constantine VIII died in 1028, he married his daughter Zoe Porphyrogenita- who was previously supposed to marry Holy Roman Emperor Otto III- to Romanos III Argyros who came next as emperor, Romanos III was the grandson of Romanos I’s daughter Agathe who married into the Argyros noble family. Zoe however was not a full-time empress like Irene but only at the level of co-emperor first with Romanos III until his assassination in 1034 where Zoe married the Paphlagonian Michael IV who reigned as emperor from 1034 to 1041. Through Michael IV who also began as a peasant in Asia Minor until working at the imperial court, the Paphlagonian family was incorporated into the ruling Macedonian family. Michael IV’s nephew was adopted by Zoe and after Michael IV’s death in 1041, his nephew Michael V became emperor until his own death in 1042, here for 2 months Zoe and her sister Theodora would be joint rulers of the empire until Zoe’s marriage to Constantine IX Monomachos (r. 1042-1055) that same year. Zoe eventually died in 1050 while Constantine IX died in 1055 leaving Zoe’s sister Theodora Porphyrogenita to be Byzantium’s 2nd full time female ruler since Irene, though Theodora died a year later (1056) passing the throne to Michael VI Bringas, and here the long-lived Macedonian Dynasty came to an end.
Click here for the link to the musical “Porphyra”, story of Vladimir I of Kiev and Anna, sister of Basil II.
Doukas and Komnenos Dynasties (1057-1185)
The dynasties following the long-lived Macedonian Dynasty which are namely the Doukas, Komnenos, Angelos, Laskaris, and lastly the Palaiologos are now apparently more directly related to each other. In 1057, the non-dynastic emperor Michael VI who succeeded the last Macedonian ruler Theodora was overthrown by Isaac I Komnenos, the 1st Komnenos emperor whose wife was Catherine, the daughter of the last Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Vladislav (r. 1015-1018); although in 1059, Isaac I abdicated and passed the title of emperor to his general Constantine X Doukas, the first ruler of the Doukas dynasty. Constantine X was the son of the Paphlagonian noble Andronikos Doukas whose other children included John Doukas who would usurp the throne in 1174 and Sophia who was married to Isaac I’s father Manuel Komnenos. Constantine X (r. 1059-1067) was married to Eudokia Makrembolitissa and together their son was the future emperor Michael VII (r. 1071-1078); after Constantine X’s death in 1067, his wife was regent for their young son for 1 year until marrying the next emperor Romanos IV Diogenes (r. 1068-1071). Romanos IV was a general from Cappadocia and the son of Constantine Diogenes and a daughter of Vasileios Argyros, a brother of Romanos III, a member of the Macedonian Dynasty and the 1st husband of the empress Zoe; Romanos IV’s relation to the Argyros family shows a slight relation from the Doukas to the previous Macedonian Dynasty. Michael VII, the son of Constantine X would become emperor in 1071 was married to Maria of Alania and their son Constantine was co-emperor; although Michael VII resigned from power in 1078 to be overthrown by the general Nikephoros III Botaneiates (r. 1078-1081) who then married Michael VII’s wife while Michael went into exile in a monastery later becoming the Metropolitan of Ephesus. Nikephoros III would be overthrown in 1081 by the general Alexios Komnenos, the son of John Komnenos and Anna Dalassene; John Komnenos was the younger brother of Isaac I. Alexios I (r. 1081-1118) was the 2nd Komnenid emperor after his uncle and the first one to start the dynasty, he was married to Irene Doukaina, the daughter of Andronikos, a son of Constantine X Doukas’ brother John Doukas, thus showing the direct link from the Doukas to Komnenos dynasties; Alexios I too would not only be the father of the Komnenos bloodline but the progenitor of the succeeding dynasties as well. The children of Alexios I and Irene Doukaina I would name here include the historian Anna Komnene married to Nikephoros Bryennios, Theodora married to the general Constantine Angelos, another son named Isaac, and the next emperor John II Komnenos known as “John the Good or Beautiful” (r. 1118-1143) who was married to Irene of Hungary originally Piroska from the Arpad ruling family of Hungary. Irene would be the first member of the House of Arpad to be married into a Byzantine imperial family and with John II their children I would name include the co-emperor Alexios (r. 1122-1142), another son of Isaac who would have many children, and the youngest of their children was John II’s heir Manuel I Komnenos (r. 1143-1180). John II’s son Isaac was bypassed by his father and not made emperor but his daughters would marry into other foreign rulers of their day; first Maria married to Stephen IV of Hungary also from the House of Arpad, then Theodora to the crusader king Baldwin II of Jerusalem, and Eudokia to the William VIII Lord of Montpellier whose daughter Maria was married to King Peter II of Aragon in 1204; meanwhile Isaac’s other daughter Irene was married to Doukas Kamateros and their son was Isaac Komnenos, the usurper Byzantine Emperor of Cyrpus from 1184 to 1191. The emperor Manuel I on the other hand was first married to the German Bertha of Sulzbach and after her death to Maria from the crusader kingdom of Antioch, showing now that the Komnenos rulers preferred to marry western women, the son of Manuel I and Maria was the young emperor Alexios II (r. 1180-1183). Alexios II would be married to the 12-year-old Agnes of France, daughter of King Louis VII of France (r. 1137-1180) from the House of Capet. Alexios II though was usurped and executed by the old Andronikos I Komnenos– cousin of Manuel I and son of Alexios I’s son Isaac- who would marry the young widowed Agnes but in 1185 would be executed by his relative Isaac Angelos. Andronikos reign would end after only 2 years and was taken over by Isaac II Angelos (r. 1185-1195) who would start the short-lived Angelos Dynasty; Isaac II was the son of Andronikos Angelos who was the son of Constantine Angelos and Theodora Komnene, the daughter of Alexios I. On the other hand, prior to marrying the young Agnes of France, Andronikos I in a previous marriage had a son named Manuel who would be married to Rusudan of Georgia, a sister of the Georgian queen Tamar the Great (r. 1184-1213); Manuel and Rusudan’s sons were Alexios I Megas Komnenos and his brother David who founded the separatist Byzantine Empire of Trebizond in 1204. The Komnenos Dynasty would never return to ruling Byzantium instead ruling their own empire in which the dynasty would not be dissolved until Trebizond’s fall in 1461.
Angelos and Laskaris Dynasties (1185-1261)
The Komnenos Dynasty was dissolved in Byzantium but when ruling the successor state of Trebizond, it was an unbroken line with direct hereditary succession. In the actual Byzantine Empire, Isaac II began the Angelos Dynasty in 1185 but at the same time Bulgaria separated from Byzantium and declared a new Bulgarian Empire under the Asen Dynasty and Isaac was overthrown by his older brother Alexios III Angelos in 1195; Isaac and Alexios’ eldest brother John would be the father of Michael I Doukas Komnenos, the first of the despots of the Byzantine successor state of Epirus in 1205 which is located in today’s Albania and northwest Greece. Alexios III would be overthrown in 1202 with Isaac II returning to the throne with the help of the army of the 4th Crusade; however, Isaac II was blinded and could not handle ruling by himself so instead he ruled with his son Alexios IV from Isaac II’s first marriage as he was later married to Margaret of Hungary, another member of the House of Arpad when he ascended the throne in 1185. Alexios IV and his father Isaac II ended up as usual being overthrown, this time by Alexios V Doukas in 1204, who despite his last name was not from the Byzantine imperial Doukas family more than a century before him. Alexios V would be married to Alexios III’s daughter Eudokia, though when the 4th Crusade took over Constantinople in April 1204, Alexios V fled but was later executed in December of that year. Even with the Byzantine Empire going in exile, there was still no chance for it to be dissolved as the extended family grew very large. Alexios III and Euphrosyne’s other daughter Irene was married to Alexios from the Palaiologos family while their other daughter Anna was married to Theodore I Laskaris (r. 1205-1222), the 1st ruler of the exiled Byzantine Empire in Nicaea connecting the Angelos and Laskaris families. Theodore I and his brother Constantine, the unofficial first Nicaean emperor were sons of the lesser known Byzantine noble Manuel Laskaris; meanwhile Theodore I with Alexios III’s daughter Anna had 3 daughters I would name here including Maria married to King Bela IV of Hungary also from the House of Arpad, Sophia married to the Duke of Austria Frederick II of House Babenberg, and Irene Laskarina married to Theodore I’s successor John III Doukas Vatatzes. After Theodore I Laskaris’ death in 1222, his son-in-law John III Doukas Vatatzes son of Basil Vatatzes succeeded him, which turned the ruling family from the Laskaris to the Vatatzes, although the ruling family still kept Laskaris as their official name. Irene Laskarina would die ahead of John III who would later be married to the German Anna of Hohenstaufen, the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and at his death in 1254, John III was succeeded by his son Theodore II (r. 1254-1258) using Laskaris for his family name; John III would later on become a saint. Theodore was married to the Bulgarian princess Elena Asenina, the daughter of the Bulgarian emperor Ivan Asen II and their son was the young John IV Laskaris (r. 1258-1261), the last ruler of Nicaea. With Constantinople retaken for the Byzantines in 1261, Michael VIII Palaiologos was crowned as the restored Byzantine emperor putting away John IV by having him blinded. Michael VIII came from the noble family of Palaiologos, he was the son of Theodora and Andronikos, the son of Alexios Palaiologos and Irene, the daughter of Alexios III Angelos while Michael VIII’s wife also named Theodora was a grandniece of John III as she was the daughter of John Vatatzes, the son of John III’s brother Isaac Doukas Vatatzes. Meanwhile, Theodore I Laskaris’ daughter Maria and King Bela IV of Hungary’s son King Stefan V of Hungary was married to Elizabeth the Cuman and their daughter Anna would later be the wife of Andronikos II Palaiologos, Michael VIII’s son and successor.
Palaiologos Dynasty (1261-1453)
The first emperor of the Palaiologos Dynasty, Michael VIII (r. 1261-1282) had the blood of 3 other Byzantine imperial families, the Doukas, Komnenos, and Angelos aside from Palaiologos. Michael VIII too was related to the previous emperor in Nicaea, John IV Laskaris as the Byzantine emperor Alexios III Angelos (r. 1195-1202) was Michael’s great-grandfather and John IV’s great-great grandfather and also Michael was married to Theodora, the grandniece of John III Doukas Vatatzes, who was John IV’s paternal grandfather, thus linking the Vatatzes and Laskaris families to the Palaiologos. The Laskaris family despite John IV being deposed would live on with some members having powerful positions around the empire, though by the 15th century, some of the Laskaris members would flee to Italy, eventually settling in Nice in today’s Southern France. Now with the Palaiologos bloodline, things get even more complicated, more “byzantine”. With Theodora, Michael VIII’s children I would include are his heir the emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (r. 1282-1328), Constantine whose son John the ruler of Thessalonike was married to the daughter of the statesman Theodore Metochites, Eudokia who was married to Trebizond emperor John II Megas Komnenos (r. 1280-1297), and Irene Palaiologina who would marry the Bulgarian tsar Ivan Asen III (r. 1279-1280) whose son Andronikos Asen was the ruler of Morea and daughter Maria was married to the leader of the Grand Catalan Company, the Italian Roger de Flor. Andronikos II meanwhile was first married to Anna of Hungary, another member of the Arpad Dynasty and their son was his co-emperor Michael IX (r. 1295-1320) but after Anna’s death, Andronikos II married Irene of Montferrat and their children were Simonis married to King Stefan Uroš II Milutin of Serbia (r. 1282-1321), and Theodore I who would be the marquess of Montferrat in Piedmont (northwest) Italy creating a branch of the family that would rule a part in Italy. Michael IX however did not live to become emperor himself as he died in 1320 before his father but his cousin, John the ruler of Thessalonike’s daughter Maria would marry Serbian king Stefan Uroš III Dečanski, the son of Stefan II with his first wife Jelena, thus the Palaiologos blood would descend through the Serbian nobility while a great-granddaughter (Helena Dragaš) of this Serbian king would later marry a Palaiologos emperor less than a century later. Andronikos II would be overthrown in 1328 by his grandson Andronikos III Palaiologos, the son of Michael IX and Rita of Armenia, the daughter of the Armenian king Levon II (r. 1270-1289); Andronikos III was allegedly said to have caused the death of his brother and father and before overthrowing his grandfather, he married Anna of Savoy, the daughter of the count Amadeus V of Savoy (r. 1285-1323) and in 1332, their son who would be Emperor John V was born, and after him their next son Michael, as well as a daughter named Maria who would be married to the 1st Genoese lord of Lesbos Francesco I Gattilusio; although Andronikos III had an illegitimate daughter named Irene who would marry Basil, the Komnenos emperor of Trebizond (r. 1332-1340). It would be too much to mention all the emperors of Trebizond here and their genealogy, but at least I am mentioning some of them, especially those who have marriages to the main Byzantine imperial family. Andronikos III died suddenly in 1341 and his son John V was only 9, so his mother Anna of Savoy ruled as one of his regents, although a civil war broke out with the nobility supporting the aristocrat John Kantakouzenos, the close friend and financial and military advisor of Andronikos III. In 1347, John Kantakouzenos was crowned as the senior emperor John VI while John V was brought down to co-emperor; John VI was from the noble Kantakouzenos family although as he was an only child, it was said that his father Michael died before he was born in 1292. John VI’s wife was Irene Asenina, the daughter of the ruler of Morea Andronikos Asen making her also related to the Palaiologi; the children of John VI and Irene included Matthew who was co-emperor from 1353-1357, Theodora who would be married to the 2nd Ottoman sultan Orhan (r. 1324-1362), and Helena who was the wife of John V. The Kantakouzenos family would then blend in with the ruling Palaiologos as well as with the Turkish Ottoman Dynasty with Theodora’s marriage to Orhan, the son of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman; although Orhan who was much older than Theodora had other wives and his son and successor Murad I (r. 1362-1389) was his son with another Byzantine woman named Nilufer. At this point, the Ottomans would already rapidly grow stronger and make their way into Europe as well as have direct hereditary succession while in Byzantium things were more confusing as John V Palaiologos was in and out of power several times, even after his return to power as full-time emperor in 1354. With Helena Kantakouzene, John V’s sons would include Andronikos IV– emperor from 1376-1379 overthrowing his father, then Theodore I lord of Morea (1383-1407), and Manuel who would be John V’s actual successor after the latter’s death in 1391. Andronikos IV was married to the Bulgarian princess Keratsa-Maria from the new dynasty of Shishman of the 2nd Bulgarian Empire and their son was John VII who was emperor for a few months in 1390 overthrowing his grandfather who would eventually come back but die shortly after. Manuel II Palaiologos (r. 1391-1425) succeeded his father and was married to the Serbian princess Helena Dragaš who is actually a relative of his and a generation younger than him as she was born in 1372; Helena was the daughter of the Serbian prince Konstantin Dejanović who was the 6th generation descendant of Michael VIII Palaiologos through his son Constantine, as I have mentioned earlier. With Manuel II absent from Constantinople from 1399-1403, John VII now married to Irene Gattilusio- the daughter of Francesco II of Lesbos, son of Francesco I- would return again though appointed in charge of the capital, this time John VII’s young son Andronikos V would be co-emperor with his father and Manuel II from 1403 until his early death in 1407, although John VII is said to have died in 1408 of unknown reasons. Manuel II’s children with Helena Dragaš were born much later on (1390’s-1400’s) but were still John VII’s cousins despite being 20-30 years younger than him. Manuel and Helena’s children whose names are recorded were all male and their eldest was Manuel II’s successor and 2nd to the last Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaiologos (r. 1425-1448), Andronikos who was lord (despot) of Thessalonike from 1408-1423, Theodore II who was despot of Morea from 1407-1443, Constantine XI named after his maternal grandfather who was at first despot of Morea and from 1449-1453 the last Byzantine emperor, and lastly the brothers Demetrios and Thomas who were the last despots of Morea. John VIII before becoming emperor was married to the Russian princess and Anna of Moscow, the daughter of Prince Vasily I of the Rurik Dynasty from 1414 to her death in 1417; then while he was crowned emperor, John was married to his distant cousin Sophia of Montferrat who was also a Palaiologos being the great-granddaughter of Emperor Andronikos II’s son Count Theodore I of Montferrat although she was married to John only until 1426, while John’s 3rd and final wife was Maria Komnene of Trebizond who died in 1439 and with all 3 wives, John VIII had no children to succeed him. John VIII’s final wife Maria Komnene was the daughter of the Trebizond emperor Alexios IV (r. 1417-1429) and the sister of the Trebizond emperors John IV (r. 1429-1460) and David Megas Komnenos (r. 1460-1461) who would be the last of their emperors; Maria, John IV, and David were 8th generation descendants of Alexios I Megas Komnenos, the first ruler of Trebizond in 1204. Maria and John VIII however had no children and she died in 1439, while John VIII without an heir died in 1448 passing the throne to his younger brother Constantine XI, who was crowned the last Byzantine emperor in 1449. For the meantime before Constantine XI’s coronation, their mother Helena Dragaš who already in old age would be the regent of the empire being the last of the Roman empresses ever since Livia Augusta, the wife of the 1st Roman emperor Augustus (r. 27BC-14AD). Constantine XI’s wife was Caterina Gattilusio, the niece of John VII’s wife Irene Gattilusio and daughter of the lord of Lesbos Dorino I, who was a son of Francesco II of Lesbos and related to the Palaiologos family, although Caterina died when Constantine XI was still despot of Morea before becoming emperor and together, just like John VIII, they had no children. Constantine XI- the last of the emperors had the same name as the first Byzantine emperor- would die as the last of the Roman emperors in the final siege of Constantinople in 1453 without any sons, neither did his brother Demetrios the despot of Morea have children, although their youngest brother Thomas married to the Genoese Caterina Zaccaria had 3 children: Andreas, Manuel, and Zoe. Constantinople would then become the capital of the Ottoman Empire beginning 1453 under Sultan Mehmed II, the great-great-great-grandson of Orhan and would continue the unbroken line of the Ottoman sultans. Meanwhile, Constantine XI’s nephews Andreas and Manuel were born after Constantinople fell and lived most of their life in Italy and would never reconquer the old capital as their sister Zoe (renamed Sophia) would be married to the Grand Prince of Moscow Ivan III of the Rurik Dynasty in 1472. Ivan III and Sophia’s son, the Grand Prince of Moscow Vasily III (r. 1505-1533) whose son was Ivan IV who was Grand Prince of Moscow (1533-1547) until becoming the first Tsar of Russia in 1547 as Ivan the Terrible. The Palaiologos bloodline had then been integrated into the Rurik Dynasty of Russia, which would form the Russian Empire in 1547 with Ivan IV as the first Russian tsar, but the Rurik Dynasty would end with his son Fyodor I in 1598 starting the succession crisis in Russia. The continuation of the bloodline through the tsars of Russia would be another story for another time but more importantly, as the first tsars of Russia had Palaiologos blood, Moscow had the right to call their city the “New Constantinople” and the successors of Byzantium.
Now this completes the long and very confusing genealogy of all the Byzantine emperors and related families from Constantine the Great’s father in the early 4th century all the way down to Ivan the Terrible of Moscow in the 16th century. Of course, it would already be going over what I’m supposed to have done if I mentioned the genealogy of the Roman emperors prior to Constantine the Great all the way back to the first emperor, Augustus or the line of Ivan the Terrible and the rest of the tsars in Russia. While working on this project, I have made so many new discoveries that I have never read about in books or websites such as which other royal families in Europe the Byzantines had married or that at one point the Byzantine imperial family did not only rule the empire but had a branch ruling different places such as the Empire of Trebizond and Montferrat all the way in Italy. At the end, all the dynasties of the Byzantine Empire were related to each other in an indirect way similar to passing numerous small side streets to get to a faraway destination rather than by the main highways as I have quoted at the beginning of the article. At the earlier part of Byzantium’s history, the first 3 ruling families of Constantine, Valentinian, and Theodosius were all related to each other in one big dynasty but from the Theodosian Dynasty to the Leonid, there is only an indirect link same thing with the last Leonid emperor Anastasius I to Justinian’s dynasty, and from the Justinian to the Heraclian even a more indirect link. The succeeding dynasties of the Isaurians, Nikephorians, and Amorians would also be indirectly linked to each other but would have to connection to the Heraclian, although the Heraclian Dynasty would make a far connection to the Macedonian Dynasty bypassing the 3 dynasties between them. However, from the Macedonian Dynasty, there would be no direct link to the succeeding Doukas Dynasty but from the Doukas to Komnenos there would be one and from the Komnenos Dynasty to the succeeding Angelos, Laskaris, and Palaiologos, the families would once again all be connected to each other making one big dynasty again. Because the last 4 dynasties of Byzantium were now all directly related to each other, Alexios I would be the ancestor to almost all the Byzantine emperors after him including the emperors of Trebizond; and because of this, the Palaiologos emperors would use Doukas Angelos Komnenos Palaiologos as their complete last name. It was also from that point when the Komnenos Dynasty rules Byzantium that more Byzantine princesses would be married to foreign rulers all over Europe, more than it was before and also when more Byzantine emperors would marry foreign princesses. It then turns out that 19 Byzantine emperors had foreign wives, 7 succeeded the former emperor’s widow, 9 succeeded their father/brother-in-laws, 5 succeeded their children or son-in-laws, 9 succeeded their siblings, 10 succeeded their uncles or step-fathers, only 2 were adopted successors, 14 seized the throne creating a new dynasty, while 9 were non-dynastic take-overs, and lastly 28 of the emperors were sons who succeeded their fathers and 2 succeeded their grandfathers. On the other hand, Byzantium had 13 co-emperors or unofficial emperors mentioned here, 9 empress regents, and about 13 foreign rulers were married to Byzantine imperial princesses.
Also, because not much was recorded in the earlier centuries of Byzantium, names of the relatives of earlier rulers were unclear and so were familial relations but from doing this genealogy, another discovery I made is that from the reign of Heraclius (610-641) that the names would completely change from Roman to Greek and up until the fall of the empire would people’s names be Greek. After all, Byzantium’s 1,100 years of history would definitely be a factor for not having an unbroken line of emperors such as with the Ottoman sultans and emperors of Japan but also this was because commoners could rise up and take over the throne, but despite lasting for 1,100 years, all the emperors and dynasties from Constantine I to Constantine XI- except for the non-dynastic ones would be related indirectly like a maze without any dead ends unlike in Imperial Rome where the indirect dynastic links would come to a dead end at some points. Doing this whole project was quite tiring and confusing especially when the lines interest but I hope the guide to the genealogy helped you understand it. At the end however, this is one project I will never forget especially because I made many new discoveries on Byzantium from it. And because of doing this genealogy, I conclude that the best way to understand more about Byzantium is by seeing how all its rulers were in one way or another related to each other. Well, this is all for now for this special edition article, and possibly the longest one I made, so I hope you all learned something and kept reading despite its extraordinary long length. Up next, my upcoming article will be another special edition piece on the new frescos I made in my bathroom walls, which will be somewhat a break from all my Byzantine articles even if some of the artworks are Byzantine related. Anyway, thanks for viewing!
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