David of Trebizond

David of Trebizond
For David, the brother of Emperor Alexios I of Trebizond, see David Komnenos.

David Megas Komnenos (Greek: Δαβίδ Μέγας Κομνηνός, Dabid Megas Komnēnos) (c. 1408 – November 1, 1463) was the last Emperor of Trebizond from 1459 to 1461. He was the third son of Emperor Alexios IV of Trebizond and Theodora Kantakouzene.

David had played an important role throughout the reign of his older brother and predecessor John IV. He had been given the courtly title of despotes, which in Trebizond designated the heir to the throne. David had participated in his brother's depredations against the Genoese, and also fulfilled various diplomatic tasks. In 1458 he ratified his brother's treaty with the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in Adrianople, and later the same year he conveyed his niece Theodora to her husband, Uzun Hassan of the Ak Koyunlu.

David ascended the throne on his brother's death, sometime before April 22, 1459. Although John IV had left behind a young son named Alexios, the precarious position of the Empire of Trebizond dictated that the crown should pass to a man of experience and David, already recognized as despotes, was the natural choice. David's accession proceeded without opposition.

David had married Maria of Gothia, the daughter of the semi-independent ruler of Theodoro (Mangup) in the Crimea, an area that had been under the control of Trebizond. After Maria's death (sometime before 1447), he married Helena Kantakouzene, a great-granddaughter of Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos. With the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 and the weakness of Crimean Gothia (overshadowed by the Genoese colonies and the remnants of the Golden Horde), these marital alliances provided little support for Trebizond after David's accession in 1459.

The connections established with the Georgian princes and Uzun Hassan of the Ak Koyunlu were slightly more viable, and David seems to have counted on their support. With this in mind, he tried to attract the attention of the Valois duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good in the hope of fostering an anti-Ottoman crusade. David's effort was supported by an appeal by Pope Pius II, who also sent envoys to the Burgundians as well as to the Christian princes in the East in an attempt to create a Christian league. The Muslim rulers of Sinope and Karaman appear to have been enlisted as allies by David or Uzun Hassan.

With Western support against the Ottomans still very far off, David prematurely asked the Sultan for a remission of the tribute paid by his predecessor, and even worse, sought the intercession of Uzun Hassan. The latter's envoys insulted Mehmed II's sensibilities with their own demands, and precipitated his attack in the summer of 1461. The Sultan sent out a large fleet from the Straits, and personally led his land forces across Anatolia, causing alarm to all his eastern neighbors, who were unsure of the immediate objective of this expedition, which was kept secret.

After pretending to be ready to negotiate with some of his neighbors, Mehmed II besieged Sinope and obtained its surrender, sending his fleet on to Trebizond. Meanwhile he led the land army against Uzun Hassan, whom he cowed into making an alliance. This deprived David of his most effective ally, and Mehmed II next headed to Trebizond. His fleet had already landed there, defeated David's army, and plundered the suburbs, besieging the city for more than a month. The Ottoman commander Mahmud Pasha had opened negotiations with David even before his master's arrival, and David's Treasurer, George Amiroutzes, advised the emperor to surrender on terms. Although Mehmed II was displeased with the negotiations, he allowed them to proceed. David was now persuaded to surrender, keeping his family, household, and wealth, and was promised a profitable retirement in Thrace.

David's submission in late August or early September marks the end of the Empire of Trebizond and of the Byzantine imperial tradition. The deposed emperor, his family, and courtiers were shipped off to Constantinople. The population was divided into groups, some being allocated to the service of the Sultan and his officers, others added to the population of Constantinople, and the remainder were allowed to inhabit the outskirts of Trebizond itself. Some local youths were duly enlisted into the corps of Janissaries, while the Ottoman admiral was left to garrison the city.

David was settled in Adrianople together with his family, and received the profits of estates in the Struma River valley, comprising an annual income of some 300,000 pieces of silver. The close family relations and continued exchange between David and Uzun Hassan were betrayed to the Sultan by George Amiroutzes (which involved an ambitious plan to send one of David's sons or Alexios to grow up at the court of Uzun Hassan in seeming opposition to Mehmed), furnished an excuse to imprison David and his sons in March 1463. On November 1, 1463 he was executed in Constantinople together with his nephew (the son of John IV) and three of his sons. Only one son, George, was spared due to his young age, and became a Muslim, before escaping to Georgia.

Other members of the family fared better. Maria Gattilusio, the widow of David's older brother Alexander, joined the Sultan's harem, as did David's daughter Anna (although she was later passed on to the general Zagan Pasha). Maria's son Alexios was also spared, becoming one of the Sultan's pages. However, the widowed Empress Helena Kantakouzene was heavily fined by the Sultan for burying her husband and her sons and spent the rest of her life in poverty.

One of David's daughters survived him as the wife of a Gurieli ruler from the Dadiani family. The later-day Gurieli thus claimed descent from David and from dozens of emperors who were his ancestors.

David apparently had no children by his first wife Maria of Gothia. By his second wife Helena Kantakouzene, he had:

  • Basil, beheaded 1463
  • Manuel, beheaded 1463
  • one or five other sons, beheaded 1463
  • George, (1460–after 1463)
  • Anna (1447–after 1463), who married Zagan Pasha and then Sinan
  • Unnamed daughter, who married Mamia Gurieli


16. Basil of Trebizond
8. Alexios III of Trebizond
17. Irene of Trebizond
4. Manuel III of Trebizond
18. Sebastokrator Nikephoros Kantakouzenos
9. Theodora Kantakouzene
2. Alexios IV of Trebizond
20. George V of Georgia
10. David IX of Georgia
5. Gulkhan-Eudokia of Georgia
22. Q’varq’vare II Jaq’eli, Prince of Samtskhe-Saatabago
11. Sindukhtar of Samtskhe-Saatabago
1. David of Trebizond
6. Theodoros Palaiologos Kantakouzenos
3. Theodora Kantakouzene

Patrilineal descent

  1. Manuel Erotikos Komnenos, d. 1020
  2. John Komnenos, 1015–1076
  3. Alexios I Komnenos, 1048/1056–1118
  4. Sebastokratōr Isaac Komnenos, d. 1152
  5. Andronikos I Komnenos, 1118–1185
  6. Manuel Komnenos, b. 1145
  7. Alexios I of Trebizond, 1182–1222
  8. Manuel I of Trebizond, 1218–1263
  9. John II of Trebizond, 1262–1297
  10. Alexios II of Trebizond, 1282–1330
  11. Basil of Trebizond, d. 1340
  12. Alexios III of Trebizond, 1338–1390
  13. Manuel III of Trebizond, 1364–1417
  14. Alexios IV of Trebizond, 1382–1429
  15. David of Trebizond, 1408–1463


David of Trebizond
Komnenid dynasty
Born: c. 1408 Died: 1 November 1463
Regnal titles
Preceded by
John IV
Emperor of Trebizond
Succeeded by

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