2020-03-10 04:52:53 UTC
It will save my time and flagging energy if I don't relate full details
of the lives and careers of Ioannes Axouchos and his son Alexios,
instead posting these links to two unexceptionable Wikipedia articles:
Both of these have some omissions but no outright errors that I am aware
of, though they fail to take account of the most notable literature on
the two men, especially the joint biography by Konstantinos Mekios
(1932), the work of Barzos (1984) already mentioned in this thread and
an study by Giorgios Charizanis (2011) on Alexios and his blinded
Komnenos namesake, mentioned before, who were both forcibly tonsured in
the same monastery on Mount Papikion.
Anyway, the Wikipedia biographies give a fair summary. Alexios would
have come to notice in the papal court not only from his mission in
Italy outlined there, but also from his outreach on Manuel's behalf to
the Armenian Apostolic Church. Alexios met with St Nerses the Gracious,
at the time brother of the katholikos Grigor III (whom he later
succeeded), to open discussions on a possible union with the Greek
Orthodox Church. In the context of the great schism, Rome would very
probably have been alert to this effort.
A more relevant omission for the purpose of this thread is a more
detailed coverage of Alexios Axouchos' disappointed propects of becoming
Apart from the AIMA prophecy by which the successor to Manuel should
have the initial A, applicable to him but equally to some Komnenoi by
birth, Alexios had been chosen for his marriage with Maria Komnene on
the full understanding that he was likely to succeed to the imperial
throne as a result.
Ioannes II had made his eldest son Alexios co-emperor (i.e. with the
supreme Byzantine title basileios) in 1122 following the Byzantine
victory over the Pechenegs at Beroia (now Stara Zagora in Bulgaria),
where incidentally Ioannes Axouchos was wounded. Alexios Komnenos was a
porphyrogenete because he was born after Ioannes II had been made
co-emperor by his own father, on the occasion of an earlier victory over
the Pechenegs, and Maria was also a porphyrogenete (they were
subsequently hailed together with this honorific by a court poet).
Alexios Komnenos was married to his wife from Kiev (named Eirene in
Constantinople) in the same year as his elevation to the imperial title.
Although it is not known exactly when Maria was born, this was probably
a few years before 1130 as she appears to have been married to Alexios
Axouchos in the lifetime of her father, who died unexpectedly from a
fever in 1142, or else by her grandfather shortly afterwards (Ioannes II
died in 1143; his successor Manuel I would have had no interest in
bringing about this union risky to himself). We don't know how old she
was at the time of her wedding, or when she had her children - if she
was a young bride, born say ca 1128 and married at 14, she may have
given birth from the mid-1140s to 1160s. A dating towards the middle of
this range, from ca 1155 on, seems likely enough because her sons were
described as "children" at the time of their father's disgrace in 1167.
This is the point that has perhaps caused Alexios Axouchos and Maria
Komnene to be disregarded until now in the search for Eudokia's parents.
Barzos and others have contented themselves with noting that the couple
had two sons living in 1167, without heeding a faint hint in the passage
from which we learn this that there was probably at least one daughter
Barzos attributed three sons to them, but the third (who allegedly died
before 1167) is highly dubious, relying on verses about the death of the
son of a protostrator by a poet (Kallikles) who is not known to have
written or survived after 1142. The protostrator in question was more
probably not Alexios but one of his recent predecessors in office.
Choniates, a source well-placed source for knowledge of the family, says
that when Alexios was sent to a monastery (in 1167) his wife Maria
became unhinged, crazily begging Manuel for mercy and devoting the
resources left to to her, after the confiscation of her husband's
immense wealth, to her two sons.
From the opening sentences of the history written by Choniates we know
his unqualified terms for son, daughter and child, as he started by
saying that Ioannes II's father Alexios I Komnenos had three sons and
two daughters, adding that Ioannes was favoured by him above the other
children. When he narrated the insanity of Maria he used the locution
"her male children" rather than straightforwardly saying "her sons". She
would not have been the first or last deranged and suicidal mother to
focus on her sons after being parted from her husband, and to neglect
any daughter/s by comparison. It is only a faint hint that such
daughter/s existed, and it may have been just a kind of elegant
variation by the author, but nonetheless it may be a direct implication
that Alexios and Maria had other children including female/s and not
just the two sons.
One of these sons, presumably the elder, was Ioannes "the Fat" who used
the surname Komnenos rather than Axouchos (making it a bit questionable
that he was the genealogical link to the grand Komnenos of Trebizond who
was surnamed Axouchos). Even if he was in his 20s to early 30s by the
time of Eudokia's marriage in 1178/79 (though probably younger if he was
still a "child" in terms of age by 1167), he would have been in no
position to have a say in the marriage of his sister. Maria Komnene is
said to have died within a year of her husband's removal to life as a
monk at Papikion, and Barzos placed the death of Alexios ca 1170 (Mekios
left the date as unknown, which I think preferable). The family was
ruined, but not deprived of their claim to the imperial inheritance that
Maria and her husband had in prospect before the sudden death of her
father and the subsequent choice by Ioannes II of his youngest son
Manuel as heir. At the beginning of the 13th century Ioannes "the Fat"
took part in an abortive revolt against Emperor Alexios III (Angelos),
and was himself crowned emperor. He lasted only a day before he was
summarily eliminated, as befitted an upstart with his preferred surname
In the decades before this failed attempt, Ioannes "the Fat" and any
other Axouchoi living in Constantinople on the charity of their
relatives would not have had the temerity to express their residual
claim to the imperial throne. But a sister living as far away as
Montpellier might have felt free to express her longing for the glory
that had once been their due, and to put forward to her circles a
pretense that she wished her brothers could make real.
If she was of Turkish extraction through her paternal grandfather, with
a father who had befriended and complimented the sultan Kilij Arslan II,
Eudokia's rather disrespectful - if not actually derisive - treatment
from Rome may be easier to account for. When her daughter Maria was
later in the process of being repudiated by her third husband, Pere "the
Catholic" of Aragon, her cause was taken up in a big way by the papal
court, yet when the same had been happening to Eudokia the pope's legate
held a council in Montpellier while the pope himself repeatedly extended
apostolic protection to Guillem VIII and his illegitimate son.
It can be reasonably objected that no-one ever said Eudokia was a
Turkish woman as opposed to a Greek, and that prejudice of this kind was
hardly rife in the Midi or in Italy during her troubles. But the
difference in regard for her is stark, from her troubadour admirers who
extolled her beauty and rank to the Church authorities who behaved as if
she was an anonymous nuisance and any relatives left in Constantinople
who were evidently uninformed, unable to help, or uninterested in her
plight from 1178/79 until she died.