Manuel I of Trebizond

Manuel I of Trebizond
Silver asper of Manuel I Komnenos of Trebizond, 1237–1263.

Manuel I Megas Komnenos (Greek: Μανουήλ Α΄ Μέγας Κομνηνός, Manouēl I Megas Komnēnos) (c. 1218 – March 1263), Emperor of Trebizond from 1238 to 1263, surnamed the "Great Captain", was the second son of Alexios I, the first emperor of Trebizond, and Theodora Axuchina. He succeeded his brother, John I Axouchos. In spite of his alleged military abilities, Trebizond became or remained a vassal to the Seljuk Turks and, after the Battle of Köse Dag in 1243, to the Mongols of Persia. Trapezuntine forces served in the battle as Seljuk tributaries. The Seljuk forces were shattered in the defeat and the Sultanate of Iconium began to decline.

In 1253, Manuel negotiated for a dynastic alliance with King Louis IX of France, by which he hoped to secure the help of the Crusaders against the Seljuks and Laskarids of Nicaea, but Louis advised him to seek a wife from the Latin Empire of Constantinople. Jean de Joinville testifies to Manuel's wealth, saying he sent Louis: "various precious things as a gift; amongst others, bows made of the wood of the service tree, whose arrow-notches screwed into the bow, and when they were released, one saw that they were very sharp and well made."

The destruction of Baghdad by Hulagu Khan in 1258 revived the trade route running north from Armenia and the upper Euphrates valley to Erzerum and then through the Zigana Pass to Trebizond. This trade route caused the beginnings of Trebizond's commercial prosperity, because goods from the Silk Road were now transported to Trebizond and the Black Sea, instead of to the Mediterranean. Although some bronze coins have been attributed to Alexios I, and silver aspers were certainly coined by John I, Manuel struck both bronze coins and a large silver currency. Trapezuntine coins circulated widely outside the empire, especially in Georgia.

Manuel rebuilt the Hagia Sophia monastery in Trebizond between 1250 and 1260. Eastmond describes Manuel's church as 'the finest surviving Byzantine imperial monument of its period.' 1 When Michael VIII Palaiologos recaptured Constantinople from the Latin Empire in 1261 he unsuccessfully demanded that Manuel abandon his claim to the Byzantine succession.

Manuel married three times and left several children, four of whom reigned after him. By his first wife, Anna Xylaloe, a Trapezuntine noblewoman he had:

By his second wife, Rusudan of Georgia, he had:

By his third wife, Irene Syrikaina, another Trapezuntine noblewoman, he had four children:


  • Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • W. Miller, Trebizond: The Last Greek Empire of the Byzantine Era, Chicago, 1926.
  • A. Eastmond, Art and identity in thirteenth-century Byzantium: Hagia Sophia and the empire of Trebizond, Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

Online References

Manuel I of Trebizond
Komnenid dynasty
Born: c. 1218 Died: March 1263
Regnal titles
Preceded by
John I
Emperor of Trebizond
Succeeded by
Andronikos II

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