Theodore I Laskaris

Theodore I Laskaris

Infobox Monarch
name =Theodore I Laskaris
Θεόδωρος Α΄ Λάσκαρις
title =Emperor of Nicaea
(Byzantine Emperor in exile)

caption =
reign =1204 – 1222
predecessor ="de jure" Alexios V Doukas
successor =John III Doukas Vatatzes
spouse 1 =Anna Komnena Angelina
spouse 2 =Philippa of Armenia
spouse 3 =Marie de Courtenay
issue =Nikolaos Laskaris,
Ioannes Laskaris,
Eirene Laskarina,
Maria Laskarina,
Eudokia Laskarina,
Konstantinos Laskaris
father =Manuel Laskaris
mother =Ioanna Karatzaina
date of birth =c. 1175
place of birth =Constantinople
date of death =1222|

Theodoros I Komnenos Laskaris ( _el. Θεόδωρος Α' Λάσκαρις, "Theodōros I Laskaris") (c. 1174/1175 – 1221/August, 1222) was emperor of Nicaea (1204–1221 or 1205–1222).


Theodore Laskaris was born of a noble but not particularly renowned Byzantine Greek family of Constantinople. He was the son of Manuel Laskaris (b. c. 1140) and wife Ioanna Karatzaina (b. c. 1148). He had four older brothers: Manuel Laskaris (d. aft. 1256), Michael Laskaris (d. 1261/1271), Georgios Laskaris and Constantine Laskaris (d. aft. March 19, 1205), Emperor of Byzantium (1204-1205); and two younger brothers: Alexios Laskaris, Latin Military leader against the Bulgars who fought with the French against John III Doukas Vatatzes and was imprisoned and blinded, and Isaakios Laskaris. [ [ The Laskaris family] ]

According to "The Latins in the Levant. A History of Frankish Greece (1204-1566)" (1908) by William Miller, the seven brothers may also have had a sister. Miller identified said sister with the wife of Marco I Sanudo and mother of Angelo Sanudo. He based this theory on his own interpretation of Italian chronicles. The "Dictionnaire historique et Généalogique des grandes familles de Grèce, d'Albanie et de Constantinople" (1983) by Mihail-Dimitri Sturdza rejected the theory based on the silence of Byzantine primary sources. [ [ Profile of "Laskaraina" in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley] ]


In 1199, Theodore married Anna Angelina, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios III Angelos and Euphrosyne Doukaina Kamaterina. By this marriage he was brother-in-law of Eudokia Angelina.

Theodore later distinguished himself during the sieges of Constantinople by the Latins of the Fourth Crusade (1203-1204). He remained in Constantinople until the Latins actually penetrated into the city, at which point he fled across Bosphorus together with his wife. At about the same time his brother Constantine Laskaris was unsuccessfully proclaimed emperor by some of the defenders of Constantinople. In Bithynia Theodore established himself in Nicaea, which became the chief rallying-point for his countrymen.

At first Theodore did not claim the imperial title, perhaps because his father-in-law and his brother were both still living, perhaps because of the imminent Latin invasion, or perhaps because there was no Patriarch of Constantinople to crown him emperor. He was proclaimed emperor in 1205 and invited Patriarch John Kamateros to Nicaea. But John died in 1206 before crowning Theodore. Theodore appointed Michael IV as the new Patriarch and was crowned by him in March 1208.

In the meantime Theodore had been defeated by the Latins at Adramyttion (Edremit), but soon afterwards the Latins were themselves defeated by Kaloyan of Bulgaria at the Battle of Adrianople. This temporarily stalled the Latin advance, but it was renewed by Emperor Henry of Flanders in 1206. Theodore entered into an alliance with Kaloyan and took the offensive in 1209. The situation was complicated by the invasion of Kaykhusraw I of Rum at the instigation of the deposed Alexios III in 1211, but the Nicaeans defeated and killed the invader in the valley of the Maeander River near Pisidian Antioch. Although the danger from Rum and Alexios III was thus neutralized, Emperor Henry defeated Theodore in the same year, and established his control over the southern shores of the Sea of Marmara. In spite of this defeat, Theodore was able to take advantage of the death of David Megaskomnenos, the brother of Emperor Alexios I of Trebizond in 1212 and to extend his own control over Paphlagonia.

In 1214 Theodore concluded a peace treaty with the Latin Empire at Nymphaion, and in 1219 he married a niece of Emperor Henry. In spite of predominantly peaceful relations, Theodore attacked the Latin Empire again in 1220, but peace was restored. Theodore died in November 1221 and was succeeded by his son-in-law John III Doukas Vatatzes.

At the end of his reign he ruled over a territory roughly coterminous with the old Roman provinces of Asia and Bithynia. Though there is no proof of higher qualities of statesmanship in him, by his courage and military skill he enabled the Byzantine nation not merely to survive, but ultimately to beat back the Latin invasion.

Marriages and children

By his first wife Anna Komnena Angelina (b. c. 1176), married in 1199, Theodore had three daughters and two sons who died young:
* Nikolaos Laskaris (d. c. 1212)
* Iōannēs Laskaris (d. c. 1212)
* Eirene Dukaina Komnene Laskarina, who married first the general Andronikos Palaiologos and then John III Doukas Vatatzes
* Maria Laskarina, who married King Béla IV of Hungary
* Eudokia Laskarina, engaged to Robert de Courtenay, married bef. 1230 Anseau de Cayeux, Governor of Asia Minor

After Anna Angelina died in 1212, Theodore married secondly Philippa of Armenia (1183-aft. 1219), a daughter of King Ruben III of Armenia. This marriage was annulled a year later for religious reasons and they divorced in 1216, and the son born to them, Konstantinos Laskaris, born in 1214, was disinherited, being created Duke of Thrace afterwards.

Theodore married thirdly in 1219 Marie de Courtenay (1204-September, 1222), a daughter of Emperor Peter II of Courtenay and Empress Yolanda of Flanders, but they had no children.


*"The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium", Oxford University Press, 1991.
*"A Dictionary of First Names", Oxford University Press
*"Dictionary of American Family Names", Oxford University Press

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