Theodore I Laskaris
|Theodore I Laskaris
Θεόδωρος Α΄ Λάσκαρις
|Emperor of Nicaea
(Byzantine Emperor in exile)
Portrait of Theodore I from a 15th-century manuscript
|Successor||John III Doukas Vatatzes|
|Wives||Anna Komnena Angelina
Philippa of Armenia
Marie de Courtenay
Theodore Laskaris was born to the Laskaris, a noble but not particularly renowned Byzantine family of Constantinople. He was the son of Manuel Laskaris (b. c. 1140) and wife Ioanna Karatzaina (b. c. 1148). He had four older brothers: Manuel Laskaris (d. aft. 1256), Michael Laskaris (d. 1261/1271), Georgios Laskaris and Constantine Laskaris (d. aft. March 19, 1205), Emperor of Byzantium (1204–1205); and two younger brothers: Alexios Laskaris, Latin military leader against the Bulgars who fought with the French against John III Doukas Vatatzes and was imprisoned and blinded, and Isaakios Laskaris.
According to "The Latins in the Levant. A History of Frankish Greece (1204–1566)" (1908) by William Miller, the seven brothers may also have had a sister. Miller identified said sister with the wife of Marco I Sanudo and mother of Angelo Sanudo. He based this theory on his own interpretation of Italian chronicles. The "Dictionnaire historique et Généalogique des grandes familles de Grèce, d'Albanie et de Constantinople" (1983) by Mihail-Dimitri Sturdza rejected the theory based on the silence of Byzantine primary sources.
Theodore later distinguished himself during the sieges of Constantinople by the Latins of the Fourth Crusade (1203–1204). He remained in Constantinople until the Latins actually penetrated into the city, at which point he fled across Bosphorus together with his wife. At about the same time his brother Constantine Laskaris was unsuccessfully proclaimed emperor by some of the defenders of Constantinople. In Bithynia Theodore established himself in Nicaea, which became the chief rallying-point for his countrymen.
At first Theodore did not claim the imperial title, perhaps because his father-in-law and his brother were both still living, perhaps because of the imminent Latin invasion, or perhaps because there was no Patriarch of Constantinople to crown him Emperor. In addition, his own control over the Anatolian domains of the Byzantine Empire was challenged, by David Komnenos in Paphlagonia and Manuel Maurozomes in Phrygia. It was only after defeating the latter two in 1205 that he was proclaimed Emperor and invited Patriarch John Kamateros to Nicaea. But John died in 1206 before crowning Theodore. Theodore appointed Michael IV as the new Patriarch and was crowned by him in March 1208.
In the meantime Theodore had been defeated by the Latins at Adramyttion (Edremit), but soon afterwards the Latins were themselves defeated by Kaloyan of Bulgaria at the Battle of Adrianople. This temporarily stalled the Latin advance, but it was renewed by Emperor Henry of Flanders in 1206. Theodore entered into an alliance with Kaloyan and took the offensive in 1209. The situation was complicated by the invasion of Sultan Kaykhusraw I of Rum at the instigation of the deposed Alexios III in 1211; however, the Nicaeans defeated the Seljuk army at the Battle of Antioch on the Meander where Theodore Laskaris killed the sultan in combat.
Although the danger from Rum and Alexios III was thus neutralized, Emperor Henry defeated Theodore in the same year, and established his control over the southern shores of the Sea of Marmara. In spite of this defeat, Theodore was able to take advantage of the death of David Megaskomnenos, the brother of Emperor Alexios I of Trebizond in 1212 and to extend his own control over Paphlagonia.
In 1214 Theodore concluded a peace treaty with the Latin Empire at Nymphaion, and in 1219 he married a niece of Emperor Henry. In spite of predominantly peaceful relations, Theodore attacked the Latin Empire again in 1220, but peace was restored. Theodore died in November 1221 and was succeeded by his son-in-law John III Doukas Vatatzes.
At the end of his reign he ruled over a territory roughly coterminous with the old Roman provinces of Asia and Bithynia. Though there is no proof of higher qualities of statesmanship in him, by his courage and military skill he enabled the Byzantine nation not merely to survive, but ultimately to beat back the Latin invasion.
Marriages and children 
By his first wife Anna Komnena Angelina (b. c. 1176), married in 1199, Theodore had three daughters and two sons who died young:
- Nikolaos Laskaris (d. c. 1212)
- Iōannēs Laskaris (d. c. 1212)
- Eirene Dukaina Komnene Laskarina, who married first the general Andronikos Palaiologos and then John III Doukas Vatatzes
- Maria Laskarina, who married King Béla IV of Hungary
- Eudokia Laskarina, engaged to Robert de Courtenay, married bef. 1230 Anseau de Cayeux, Governor of Asia Minor
After Anna Angelina died in 1212, Theodore married secondly Philippa of Armenia (1183-aft. 1219), a daughter of King Ruben III of Armenia. This marriage was annulled a year later for religious reasons and they divorced in 1216, and the son born to them, Konstantinos Laskaris, born in 1214, was disinherited, being created Duke of Thrace afterwards.
- The New Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. V, Cambridge University Press (1995). ISBN 0-521-36289-X, 9780521362894
- The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.
- A Dictionary of First Names, Oxford University Press
- Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Theodore I Laskaris
Laskarid dynastyBorn: unknown 1174 Died: unknown 1222
|Emperor of Nicaea
John III Doukas Vatatzes