Episode 198 – Heavy Lifting

Komnenos Family Tree

Komnenos Family Tree

Doukas Family Tree

Doukas Family Tree

Alexios Komnenos leads a revolt and quickly captures the throne from Nicephorus Botaneiates. But to truly understand this coup we need to explore the dynastic dual of Doukas and Komnenos.

Period: 1081

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Categories: Podcast | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Episode 198 – Heavy Lifting

  1. V.A.

    Hi Robin,

    About Alexios’ birth year, online research gives his birth year to 1048 or 1057. I did some math and turns out at the time he was commanding troops against Roussel de Bailleul (around 1076), if he was born in 1057, that would make him around 19 years old. It’s really bugging me.

    Also if you can shed a little light as to why he, being younger was preferred as general to Isaac, it’s never really made clear, especially if we take his birth year as 1057.

    Otherwise, great episode as usual, keep it up.

    • Hey, yes there does seem to be confusion online. 1057 is closer to the truth but there seems to be some guesswork going on. He definitely was young when he went to pick up Roussel. The gist of that story is young aristocrat turns up to receive prisoner. So his feats of cunning may have been exaggerated. But he certainly was leading troops in his early 20s. Obviously he would have had experienced men around him giving advice. Norman sources refer to him as “young” so I don’t think we need to correct his birth to 1048.

      In the episode I mentioned some of the conjecture that scholars have for why Alexius became Emperor. But let me summarise.
      1) Alexios had recently led the Western armies so their loyalty was to him.
      2) The Empire needed an Emperor who would lead the armies in person to avoid further civil war and so Alexius was the logical choice as he was already in charge of the Western armies.
      3) It was a job share. Isaac would be Emperor at home, Alexius away. Isaac had more experience as an administrator.
      4) Alexios was married to a Doukas so had the support of the Doukas clan.
      5) And (this may be key) Alexios had no children. Meaning young Constantine Doukas (Michael VII’s son) would remain the unopposed heir. Of course Alexius might have sons of his own but he might not. Whereas Issac already had two sons which could create dynastic confusion.

      We also have to consider the possibility that Alexius really wanted it or Isaac didn’t etc.

  2. R.C.

    It’s very surprising and, heck, wholesome to see all these kinsmen helping each other to hold power rather than compete for it. It gives me hope for humanity.
    With such a large number of people on this coalition – the Komnenos and the Doukas, and then the Palaiologos and even Nikephoros Melissenos – it feels to me this large power base is why Alexios managed to hold on to power and stabilize the empire. I could be totally wrong, of course: I’m neither a professional nor am I doing any research here.

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