Michael I Komnenos Doukas

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Michael I Komnenos Doukas or Dukas, Latinized as Comnenus Ducas (Greek: Μιχαήλ Κομνηνός Δούκας, Mikhaēl Komnēnos Doukas), often inaccurately called Michael Angelos (a name he never used), was the founder and first ruler of the Despotate of Epirus from 1205 until his death in 1215.


Michael was the illegitimate son of the sebastokrator John Doukas. He was thus a first cousin of the emperors Isaac II Angelos and Alexios III Angelos.

Before 1204, he was governor of the Theme of Mylasa and Melanoudion in Asia Minor. After the fall of Constantinople to the forces of the Fourth Crusade, Michael briefly entered into the service of Boniface of Montferrat, who received the Kingdom of Thessalonica and overlordship over Greece in the division of the spoils. Michael abandoned Boniface and may have attempted to resist the Crusaders in the Peloponnese, perhaps fighting at the Battle of the Olive Grove of Koundouros.

Losing the battle, he fled to Epirus. There he founded a Byzantine successor state, inaccurately called the Despotate of Epirus, with his capital in Arta, in the area of the old Theme of Nicopolis. Epirus became the new home of many Greek refugees from Constantinople, Thessaly, and the Peloponnese, and Michael was described as a second Noah, rescuing men from the Latin flood. John X Kamateros, the Patriarch of Constantinople, did not consider Michael a legitimate ruler and instead joined Theodore I Laskaris in Nicaea; Michael recognized the ecclesiastical authority of Pope Innocent III over Epirus, cutting his ties to the Orthodox Church at Nicaea.

In Epirus, Michael resisted the attempts of Boniface of Montferrat to subdue him. The Latin Emperor Henry of Flanders demanded that Michael submit to the Latin Empire, and accepted an alliance, allowing his daughter to marry Henry's brother Eustace in 1209. Michael did not honour this alliance, assuming that mountainous Epirus would be mostly impenetrable by any Latins with whom he made and broke alliances. Meanwhile Boniface's relatives from Montferrat made claims to Epirus as well, and in 1210 Michael allied with the Republic of Venice and attacked Thessalonica. He is alleged to have been excessively cruel to his prisoners, in some cases crucifying Latin priests. Innocent III excommunicated him in response. Henry relieved the city later that year and forced Michael into a new nominal alliance.

However, Michael turned his attention to capturing other strategically important towns, including Larissa in Thessaly from the Latins in 1212, and Dyrrhachium and Corfu from the Venetians in 1214. He also took control of the ports on the Gulf of Corinth. Drawn into a war against Serbia as an ally of the Latin Empire and Bulgaria, Michael was murdered by one of his servants in 1215 and was succeeded by his half-brother Theodore Komnenos Doukas.


Michael I married the daughter of an Epirote magnate, by whom he had:

  • Constantine Komnenos Doukas, who died young
  • Theodora Komnene Doukaina
  • Maria Komnene Doukaina, who married Constantine Maliassenos

By an unnamed mistress, Michael I had at least one more son:


Preceded by
new establishment
Ruler of Epirus
Succeeded by