John I Doukas of Thessaly

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"John the Bastard" redirects here. It can also refer to John I of Portugal. For the 1967 western film, see John the Bastard (film).

John I Doukas, Johannes Doukas or Dukas (Latinized as Ducas) (Greek: Ιωάννης Α' Δούκας, Iōannēs I Doukas) (c. 1240–1289) was ruler of Thessaly from c. 1268 to his death in 1289. By his father's family he is also inaccurately known as John Angelos. He was a descendant of John Doukas (c. 1126 – c. 1200) son of Constantine Angelos by Theodora Komnene, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and Irene Doukaina, hence the combination of family names, "Angelos Komnenos Doukas".

John Doukas was the illegitimate son of Michael II Komnenos Doukas of the Despotate of Epirus by his mistress Gangrene, hence sometimes called John the bastard. He was probably older than his father's other children, and he participated as a military commander in the events that led up to the Battle of Pelagonia in 1259. Married to the daughter of the Thessalian Vlach Taronas, John relied on a force composed largely of Vlachs. John's desertion from the coalition composed by his father, Prince William II Villehardouin of Achaea, and King Manfred of Sicily, contributed to the defeat of the allies by John Palaiologos, the brother of Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos. Soon afterwards, however, John Doukas repented of his actions and rejoined his father.

When his father died in c. 1268, John succeeded to his possessions in Thessaly and Central Greece, reigning from Neopatras. A new attempt at alliance with the Byzantine Empire followed, and John received the title of sebastokratōr from Michael VIII when the latter married his nephew to John's daughter in 1272. Nevertheless, John remained opposed to the Byzantines. When an army under the Despot John Palaiologos and Alexios Kaballarios surprised him at Neopatras and besieged his fortress in 1275, he saved himself by sneaking through enemy lines disguised as a lowly groom seeking a stray horse and making his way to the Duke of Athens, from whom he secured 300 horsemen; with these troops he returned to Neopatras and scattered the enemy army.[1]

Not long after this time he joined the coalition of powers (including Epirus, Serbia, and Bulgaria) that supported the plans of Charles of Anjou, the King of Naples and Sicily, for the restoration of the Latin Empire. When Michael VIII tried to counter the efforts of Charles of Anjou by attempting a "Union of the Churches" at the Council of Lyons, John convoked a synod at Neopatras on 1 May 1277 which anathematized Emperor, Patriarch John XI Bekkos and Pope as heretics.[2] In response, a synod was convoked at the Hagia Sophia on 16 July where both Nikephoros and John were anathematized in return. John in turn convoked another synod at Neopatras in December 1277, where an anti-unionist council of eight bishops, a few abbots, and one hundred monks, again anathematized Emperor, Patriarch and Pope.[3]

The Byzantines launched another invasion of Thessaly in 1277, but John repelled it at Pharsalos. The Byzantines' Mongol allies belonging to the horde of Nogai Khan met with some more success, plundering Thessaly shortly afterwards. Michael VIII died in 1282 while preparing to invade Thessaly again. The triumph of the anti-Unionists with the accession of Andronikos II Palaiologos created the potential for improving relations, but this possibility was ruined by John's half-brother, Nikephoros I Komnenos Doukas of Epirus. In 1283 or 1284 Nikephoros and his wife Anna Palaiologina Kantakouzene (the niece of Michael VIII) invited John's son Michael to Epirus to marry their daughter and become the heir to their state. When Michael took the bait, he was arrested and shipped off to Constantinople, where he died in prison in 1307. John took his revenge by invading Epirus and seizing several coastal fortresses. He died in or shortly before 1289.


By his wife, whose monastic name was Hypomone ("Patience"), John had several children, including:


  1. ^ Deno John Geanakoplos, Emperor Michael Palaeologus and the West (Harvard University Press, 1959), p. 283
  2. ^ Geanakoplos, Emperor Michael, p. 275
  3. ^ Geanakoplos, Emperor Michael, p. 309
  • John V.A. Fine Jr., The Late Medieval Balkans, Ann Arbor, 1987.
  • Nicolas Cheetham, Mediaeval Greece, Yale University Press, 1981.
  • D.I. Polemis, The Doukai, London, 1968.
Preceded by
Ruler of Thessaly
Succeeded by