Principality of Theodoro

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Lordship of the city of Theodoro and the Maritime Region
Αὐθεντία πόλεως Θεοδωροῦς καὶ παραθαλασσίας
early 14th century–1475
Coat of arms
Coat of arms
Crimea in the middle of the 15th century.
  Theodoro shown in green
Capital Mangup (Doros, Theodoro)
Languages Greek (official), also Crimean Gothic, Kipchak and others
Religion Orthodox Christianity
Government Monarchy
 •  1475 Alexander of Theodoro
Historical era Late Middle Ages
 •  First mention of the principality early 14th century
 •  Ottoman conquest 1475
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Empire of Trebizond
Ottoman Empire
Today part of Russia/Ukraine[1]

The Principality of Theodoro, also known as Gothia (Greek: Γοτθία) or the Principality of Theodoro-Mangup,[2] was a small principality in the south-west of Crimea and both the final rump state of the Byzantine Empire and vestige of the Crimean Goths until its conquest by the Ottoman Turks in 1475. Its capital was Doros, which was also sometimes called Theodoro and is now known as Mangup. The state was closely allied with the Empire of Trebizond and was distinctive for its East Germanic (albeit heavily Hellenized) population.


Its population was a mixture of Greeks, Crimean Goths, Alans, Bulgars, Cumans, Kipchaks and other ethnic groups, most of whom were adherents to Orthodox Christianity. The principality's official language was Greek. The territory was initially under the control of Trebizond as part of its Crimean possessions, the Gazarian Perateia.

The Principality of Gothia is first mentioned in the early 14th century, with the earliest date offered by the post-Byzantine historian Theodore Spandounes, who records the existence of a "Prince of Gothia" in the reign of Andronikos III Palaiologos (1328–1341). Further references occur over the course of the 14th century, with several scholars identifying the "Dmitry", one of the three Tartar princes in the Battle of Blue Waters (c. 1362/3), with a Prince of Gothia. The name in this case may possibly be the baptismal name of a Tartar lord of Mangup, named Khuitani (see below).[3] The name "Theodoro" (in the corrupted form Θεοδωραω) appears for the first time in a Greek inscription also dated to c. 1361/2, and then again as "Theodoro Mangop" in a Genoese document of 1374.[4] It was suggested by A. Mercati that the form is a corruption of the Greek plural "Theodoroi", "the Theodores", meaning Saints Theodore Stratelates and Theodore Tiro, but N. Bănescu proposed the alternative explanation that it resulted from the definitive Greek name τὸ Δόρος (to Doros) or τὸ Δόρυ (to Dory),[5] after the early medieval name of the region.[6] Whatever its provenance, the name stuck: by the 1420s the official titelature of the prince read "Lord of the city of Theodoro and the Maritime Region" (αὐθέντης πόλεως Θεοδωροῦς καὶ παραθαλασσίας),[7] while colloquially it was called "Theodoritsi" (Θεοδωρίτσι, "little Theodoro") by its inhabitants.[8]

The principality had peaceful relations with the Golden Horde to its north, paying an annual tribute as vassals, but was in constant strife with Genoese Gazaria colonies to the south over access to the coasts and the trade that went through the Crimean harbours. A narrow strip of the coastal land from Yamboli (Balaklava) in the west to Aluston (Alushta) in the east initially part of the principality soon fell under Genoese control. Local Greeks called this region Parathalassia (Greek: Παραθαλασσια, "sea shore"), while under Genoese rule it was known as Captainship of Gothia. After they had lost harbours on the southern coast Theodorites built a new port called Avlita at the mouth of the Chernaya River and fortified it with the fortress of Kalamita (modern Inkerman).

On 6 June 1475, the Ottoman commander Gedik Ahmet Pasha conquered Caffa and at the end of the year, after six months of besieging Mangup, the city fell to the assailants. While much of the rest of Crimea remained part of the Crimean Khanate, now an Ottoman vassal, the former lands of Theodoro and southern Crimea were administered directly by the Sublime Porte.

Princes of Theodoro[edit]

Stone inscription of the Principality at the fortress of Funa

The first named prince is Demetrios, attested c. 1362/3 at the Battle of Blue Waters.[dubious ] He is possibly to be identified with the hekatontarches Khuitani, who erected the stone inscription mentioning the name "Theodoro" on the walls of Mangup at about the same time.[9]

The princes following after Demetrios are known solely through Russian sources. The prince Stephen ("Stepan Vasilyevich Khovra"), emigrated to Moscow in 1391 or 1402 along with his son Gregory. His patronymic implies the existence of a father named Basil, who possibly preceded him as prince (and was in turn possibly Demetrios' son). Stephen and Gregory became monks, and Gregory later founded the Simonov Monastery in Moscow. The Russian noble families of Khovrin and Golovin claimed descent from them.[10][11] In Gothia, Stephen was succeeded by another son, Alexios I, who ruled until his death in 1444–45 or 1447. Alexios' heir was his eldest son John, who was married to Maria Asanina, a lady connected to the Byzantine imperial dynasty of the Palaiologoi and the noble lines of Asanes and Tzamplakon. The couple had a son, also named Alexios, who died young c. 1446/7, probably at Trebizond. His epitaph, titled "To the Prince's son" (τῷ Αὐθεντοπούλῳ), was composed by John Eugenikos and offers unique genealogical data on the family.[10][12] John's reign appears to have been very short, or he may indeed not have reigned at all – A. Vasiliev speculates that he left Gothia for Trebizond as soon as Alexios I died[13] – so another son of Alexios I, Olubei, succeeded as prince in c. 1447 and ruled until c. 1458.[14] A daughter of Alexios I, Maria of Gothia, became in 1426 the first wife of the last Trebizondian emperor, David.[10][15]

Olubei is no longer mentioned after c. 1458, and no princes are known by name for some while; Genoese documents only mention "the lord of Theodoro and his brothers" (dominus Tedori et fratres ejus).[16] In 1465, prince Isaac is mentioned, probably Olubei's son and hence possibly reigning already since c. 1458.[17] In the face of the mounting Ottoman danger, he engaged in a rapprochement with the Genoese at Caffa and wed his sister Maria Asanina Palaiologina to Stephen the Great, ruler of Moldavia.[18] His increasingly pro-Ottoman stance in later years, however, led to his overthrow by his brother Alexander, with Stephen the Great's backing.[19] This came too late to save Theodoro: in December 1475, after conquering the other Christian strongholds along the Crimean coast, the Ottomans captured the city after a three-month siege. Alexander and his family were taken captive to Constantinople, where the prince was beheaded, his son was forcibly converted to Islam, and his wife and daughters became part of the Sultan's harem, thus brutally extinguishing the last remnant of the Roman Empire, after 2228 years of Roman civilisation.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This place is located on the Crimean Peninsula, most of which is the subject of a territorial dispute between Russia and Ukraine. According to the political division of Russia, there are federal subjects of the Russian Federation (the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol) located on the peninsula. According to the administrative-territorial division of Ukraine, there are the Ukrainian divisions (the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city with special status of Sevastopol) located on the peninsula.
  2. ^ Kołodziejczyk 2011, p. 21.
  3. ^ Vasiliev (1936), pp. 183–186
  4. ^ Vasiliev (1936), pp. 185–187
  5. ^ Vasiliev (1936), p. 191
  6. ^ Pritsak (1991), pp. 654–655
  7. ^ Vasiliev (1936), p. 215
  8. ^ Vasiliev (1936), p. 218
  9. ^ Vasiliev (1936), pp. 183–186, 198
  10. ^ a b c Bryer (1970), p. 184
  11. ^ Vasiliev (1936), pp. 198–200
  12. ^ Vasiliev (1936), pp. 194–198, 222
  13. ^ Vasiliev (1936), pp. 222–223
  14. ^ Vasiliev (1936), pp. 222, 224ff., 235
  15. ^ Vasiliev (1936), p. 214
  16. ^ Vasiliev (1936), p. 235
  17. ^ Vasiliev (1936), pp. 236–237
  18. ^ Vasiliev (1936), pp. 238–239
  19. ^ Vasiliev (1936), p. 244
  20. ^ Vasiliev (1936), pp. 249–265


External links[edit]