Theodora Kantakouzene, wife of Alexios IV of Trebizond

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Theodora Kantakouzene Megale Komnene (died 12 November 1426) was the Empress consort of Alexios IV of Trebizond.


Theodora's parentage is described by Donald Nicol as "obscure". The Ecthesis Chronica implies she was the daughter of a protostrator, and Nicol notes there are chronological grounds against identifying her father with one Manuel Kantakouzenos who was sent on a diplomatic mission to Sultan Mehmet I in the winter of 1420-1421.[1]


Born in Constantinople around 1382, Theodora was only thirteen when she became in 1395, the consort of the co-emperor Alexios IV of Trebizond, who was approximately the same age. She became ruling empress when her husband became sole emperor in Trebizond at the death of her father-in-law the emperor Manuel III of Trebizond, in 1417. Celebrated for her great beauty, she died in 1426.

In the chronicle of Laonikos Chalkokondyles appears the story that Theodora became the mistress of the protovestiarios of the court of Trebizond, an act of adultery which provoked her son, John IV, to murder the gentleman, after which he imprisoned his parents in the palace. His parents were rescued by the archons of the city who sent John into exile in Georgia. But this gossip is contradicted by the chronology and the other sources. Further, this story appears only in a passage inserted by another hand into Chalkokondyles' manuscript by another hand.[2] It may be the writer of this story has confused with an earlier affair between a member of the imperial dynasty of Trebizond and a protovestiarios, namely Manuel III, the father-in-law of Theodora. This event is reported by the Spanish traveller Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo, who visited Trebizond in 1404 not much after the facts. He adds that this scandalous relationship induced the young Alexios IV, Theodora's husband, to rebel against his father Manuel. In fact, John IV rebelled against his father Alexios IV only after the death of Theodora (1426), at the end of 1427, certainly because his late mother couldn't now prevent the increasing rivalry between father and son to break out. On the contrary, the virtue, the piety, and the fidelity of Theodora are celebrated by his compatriot, the scholar Basilios Bessarion, in the three monodies he dedicated to his benefactress, and in a special discourse of consolation addressed to Alexios IV, really desperate by the death of his beloved empress. Last but not least, John IV himself, after his accession of the throne in 1429, paid homage to the virtues of his deceased mother in a chrysobull benefiting the convent she founded.[3]


Wife of Alexios IV of Trebizond, with whom she had six known children:[4]


Manuel III died on 5 March 1417. Alexios IV succeeded him with Theodora as his Empress consort. She remained Empress for nearly a decade to her own death at the third hour of the night. Theodora was buried in the Church of Theotokos Chrysokephalos in the cemetery of Gidon with the other Emperors of Trebizond. Basilios Bessarion composed three monodies on her death, and a consolation addressed to her husband Alexios IV, who survived her by three years.[5]


  1. ^ Donald M. Nicol, The Byzantine family of Kantakouzenos (Cantacuzenus) ca. 1100-1460: a genealogical and prosopographical study (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1968), p. 168
  2. ^ Nicol, Byzantine Family, p. 170 n. 22
  3. ^ Th. Ganchou, "Théodôra Kantakouzènè Komnènè de Trébizonde (°~ 1382/†1426) ou la vertu calomniée", Geschehenes und Getriebenes: Studien zu Ehren von G. S. Einrich und K.-P. Matschke (Leipzig, 2005), pp. 337-350
  4. ^ George Finlay, The History of Greece and the Empire of Trebizond, (1204-1461) (Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1851), p. 438
  5. ^ Nicol, Byzantine Family, p. 169
Royal titles
Preceded by
Anna Philanthropene
Empress consort of Trebizond
with Maria Gattilusio as co-empress consort

1417 – c. 1426
Succeeded by