A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

(Ἀνδρονίκος Κομνηνός), emperor of CONSTANTINOPLE, son of Isaac, grandson of Alexis I. and first-cousin of the emperor Manuel Comnenus, was born in the beginning of the twelfth century after Christ. The life of this highly gifted man, who deserves the name of the Byzantine Alcibiades, presents a series of adventures of so extraordinary a description, as to appear more like a romance than a history. Nature had lavished upon him her choicest gifts. His manly beauty was unparalleled, and the vigour of his body was animated by an enterprising mind and an undaunted spirit. Endowed with great capacities, he received a careful education, and the persuasive power of his eloquence was so great, that he was equally dangerous to kings and queens : three royal princesses were his concubines. For love and war were his predominant passions, but they both degenerated into luxury and cruelty. In every deed or mischief, says Gibbon (ch. 48), he had a heart to resolve, a head to contrive, and a hand to execute.

In 1141 he was made prisoner by the Turks-Seljuks, and remained during a year in their captivity. After being released, he received the command in Cilicia, and he went there accompanied by Eudoxia Comnena, the niece of the emperor Manuel, who lived on a similar footing with her sister Theodora. At the close of this war he received the government of Naissus, Braniseba, and Castoria; but the emperor soon afterwards ordered him to be imprisoned in Constantinople. He escaped from captivity after having been confined twelve years, and fled to Jaroslav, grand duke of Russia, and at Kiev obtained the pardon of his offended sovereign. He contrived an alliance between Manuel and Jaroslav against Hungary, and at the head of a Russian army distinguished himself in the siege of Semlin. Still suspected by Manuel, he was again sent to Cilicia. He staid some time at Antioch, and there seduced Philippa, the daughter of Raymond of Poitou, prince of Antioch, and the sister-in-law of the emperor Manuel, who had married her sister Maria. To escape the resentment of the emperor, he fled to Jerusalem, and thence eloped with Theodora, the widow of Baldwin III. king of Jerusalem, a Comnenian princess who was renowned for her beauty. They first took refuge at the court of Nur-ed-din, sultan of Damascus; thence they went to Baghdád and Persia, and at length settled among the Turks. He then proceeded to make war upon the emperor of Constantinople, and invaded the province of Trebizond, but the governor of this town succeeded in taking queen Theodora and the two children she had borne to Andronicus, and sent them to Constantinople. To regain them Andronicus implored the mercy of his sovereign, and after prostrating himself laden with chains to the foot of the emperor's throne, he retired to Oenoe, now Unieh, a town on the Black Sea in the present eyalet of Trebizond. There he lived quietly till the death of the emperor Manuel in 1180.

Manuel was succeeded by Alexis II., whom Andronicus put to death in the month of October 1183, and thereupon he ascended the throne. [ALEXIS II.] Agnes or Anna, the widow of Alexis, and daughter of Louis VII. king of France, a child of eleven years, was compelled to marry Andronicus, who was then advanced in years. His reign was short. He was hated by the nobles, numbers of whom he put to death, but was beloved by the people. His administration was wise; and he remedied several abuses in civil and ecclesiastical matters. William II., the Good, king of Sicily, whom the fugitive Greek nobles had persuaded to invade Greece, was compelled by Andronicus to desist from his attack on Constantinople and to withdraw to his country, after he had destroyed Thessalonica. Thus Andronicus thought himself quite sure on the throne, when the imprudence of his lieutenant, the superstitious Hagiochristophorites, suddenly caused a dreadful rebellion. This officer resolved to put to death Isaac Angelus, a noble but not a dangerous man; the people of Constantinople, however, moved to pity, took arms for the rescue of the victim, and Isaac was proclaimed emperor. Andronicus was seized, and Isaac abandoned him to the revenge of his most implacable enemies. After having been carried through the streets of the city, he was hanged by the feet between the statues of a sow and a wolf, and in that position was put to death by the mob. (12th of September, 1185.) (Nicetas, Manuel Comnenus, 1.1, 3.4.1-5; Alexis Manuelis Comn. Fil. 100.2, 9, &c.; Andronicus Comnenus ; Guilielmus Tyrensis, 21.13.)