Basil of Trebizond

Basil of Trebizond

Basil Megas Komnenos (Greek: Βασίλειος Μέγας Κομνηνός, "Basileios Megas Komnēnos"), (died April 6, 1340), Emperor of Trebizond from August 1332 to his death in 1340. Basil was a younger son of Emperor Alexios II of Trebizond and his wife Djiadjak Jaqeli. When his elder brother Andronikos III assumed the throne in 1330 and killed two of his brothers (Michael and George), Basil managed to escape to Constantinople.

After the death of Andronikos III, during the reign of his infant son, Manuel II, the pro-Byzantine party at Trebizond called Basil from Constantinople to take the throne. In August 1332 Manuel was deposed and intended for a monastery, while Basil was crowned emperor. Basil purged the court from his brother and nephew's supporters, but his new appointment of a "megas doux", a certain John, revolted in favor of the deposed Manuel. The revolt was crushed and to prevent further trouble the child was murdered in 1333, probably on Basil's order.

Instead of ending the factional strife, he actually encouraged it. Nobles throughout the Empire began to act as little princes, lording over their own estates, rapidly reducing the countryside to anarchy, while Basil himself continued apace making himself hated. The Scholarioi, the militia of capital, became so disaffected that he had to hire foreign bodyguards to protect his person, who rapidly made themselves and their master hated for their arrogance and corruption. Such was his unpopularity with the people of the city, that when a solar eclipse took place they took it for a sign of divine wrath and forced the emperor to seek refuge in the citadel and tried to pelt him with stones.

In 1335 Basil formed a marriage alliance with the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos, whose illegitimate daughter Irene he married. Shortly afterwards relations between the two rapidly deteriorated. Basil took a mistress also named Irene, by whom he fathered four illegitimate children. Whether or not he was actually divorced from his wife remains uncertain, but there is an interesting letter from the Patriarch of Constantinople, John IV Calecas, to the metropolitan of the city at the time, probably the same Gregory that Andrew Libadenos makes note of circa 1336-1340 in his traveling narrative, reprimanding him and all the other ordained men at Trebizond for the wicked out of place act that they had allowed to take place to the injury of the holy canons. Calecas upbraids them and then at the end of his letter lays it upon them to fix this problem on the pain of alienating the main body of the Church. The local clergy, however, contented themselves with the pretence that they were actually honoring the legitimate empress in their services since they were honoring an Irene.

The uneasy situation at the capital was exploited by the Turkmen, who attacked Trebizond but were repulsed. Basil died on April 6, 1340, apparently, poisoned by his legitimate wife, Irene Palaiologina, who quickly seized the throne.

The children of Basil and his second wife, Irene of Trebizond, were:
# Alexios (1337–c. 1349)
# John, later renamed Alexios III (1338–1390)
# Maria (1328–1408), who married Fahreddin Kutlug beg, Emir of Aq Qoyunlu.
# Theodora, who married Hajji 'Umar, Emir of Chalybia.

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