GEN-MEDIEVAL-L Archives

Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2006-12 > 1166234429


From: "Peter Stewart" <>
Subject: Re: first wife of Isaac II, Byzantine emperor
Date: Sat, 16 Dec 2006 02:09:13 GMT
References: <mailman.435.1166067098.6313.gen-medieval@rootsweb.com>


"Paul K Davis" <> wrote in message
news:...
> This subject has been discussed before, without conclusive resolution. I
> am submitting this message as a further study of the chronological
> plausibility of one hypothesis.
>
> Background: The Byzantine emperor Isaac Angelos is known to have had at
> least two wives. The first was the mother of his daughter Irene (later
> renamed Maria), who married the German emperor Philip of Swabia, and is
> the
> identified ancestress of a large number of people. This first wife is
> named only in a Western document written after the death of the daughter,
> and the name given is "Irene". Skepticism has been expressed of the
> reliability of this document, and I know of no direct evidence of the
> woman's origin. She presumably died by 1185, when Isaac married
> Marguerite, daughter of king Bela II of Hungary.
>
> Notation: I will call these two women "Irene the mother" and "Irene the
> daughter".
>
> Hypotheses: (1) According to Moriarty, Isenburg listed Irene the mother as
> a daughter of the Byzantine emperor Andronikos I. I have been unable to
> determine what evidence, if any, lies behind this claim. (2) According to
> Don Stone, Rudolf Hiestand suggested Irene the mother was a daughter of
> Georgios Palaiologos Komnenodoukas, megas hetaireiarches. This was based
> on a document of 1191 saying Andronikos Palaiologos was gambros of emperor
> Isaac II. Sturdza, on the other hand, uses this to conclude Andronikos
> Palaiologos married a sister of Isaac. (3) It has been suggested that the
> very unusual circumstance of a daughter having the same name as her mother
> indicates that Irene the mother was not Greek.
>
> Nothing to my knowledge limits us to choose only these options. The truth
> may not have been guessed yet, and may never be.
>
> Purpose: My purpose is to present option 1 chronologically. This may
> result either in disproving it as chronologically impossible, or in
> pointing a direction in the search for further evidence.
>
> Sources: I have relied primarily on Sturdza's "Grandes Familles de Grece"
> [1983], the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium [1991], Treadgold's "A History
> of the Byzantine State and Society" [1997], and Harris's "Byzantium and
> the
> Crusades" [2003].
>
> Andronikos Komnenos, who became the Byzantine emperor Andronikos I, led a
> complex life. According to Sturdza, he was born about 1123. He was the
> son of one of the several Isaac Komneni who held the title sebastocrator.
> This Isaac's wife, and presumed mother of Andronikos, has been recently
> demonstrated by Rafal Prinke to have been a Georgian princess, which
> heightens the interest in this possibility. Her Byzantine name was
> "Irene"! Sturdza also lists two daughters of Andronikos named "Irene"!
>
> According to Sturdza, Andronikos' first wife was also a Georgian princess.
> After this marriage, Andronikos had, as a mistress, his cousin once
> removed, Eudoxia Komnene. This relationship is dated 1145 - 1152. Among
> other children, this relationship produced a daughter name "Irene", who
> married Alexios, an illegitimate son of the emperor Manuel Komnenos.
> According to Treadgold, shortly after Andronikos became emperor in 1185,
> this Alexios was blinded for conspiring to rebel. Treadgold's wording
> implies Alexios was son-in-law to Andronikos at the time. If so, it would
> be difficult for this Irene also to be Irene the mother.
>
> According to Treadgold, Andronikos was arrested in 1155. He escaped once,
> and was returned by the Russians to whom he had fled. In 1166 he was
> freed
> and sent to Cilicia as governor. I assume that during the time-frame 1155
> to 1166 he was not able to accomplish any seduction leading to any
> children. In 1166 Andronikos seduced Philippa of Antioch, sister-in-law
> of
> then emperor Manuel. Sturdza lists no children to this relationship
> (though there is an unnamed daughter, who, by 1184, married a Romanos,
> governor of Dyrrhakeion, identified either as a child of the first wife,
> or
> a bastard, in different charts).
>
> I propose that: if Irene the mother was indeed a daughter of Andronikos,
> it
> was most likely by Philippa. Irene the mother would then have been born
> 1166-7.
>
> Andronikos then seduced his niece Theodora, widow of the crusader king of
> Jerusalem. Among the children Sturdza lists for this relationship is
> another "Irene", born 1169, who married Nikephoros Palaiologos. She seems
> to have been born too late to be identified with Irene the mother.
>
> Andronikos and Theodora fled to Moslem lands for the time being. I would
> presume that any children of Andronikos and Philippa were left behind with
> Philippa, and raised in her home with her later husband, Humphrey of
> Toron,
> a Norman crusader from Italy.
>
> The emperor Manuel died in 1180, and a regency governed in the name of his
> young son Alexios. According to Treadgold, Andronikos rebelled against
> this regency. In early 1182 the regency council sent an army against him,
> under the command of Andronikos Angelos, but Andronikos Komnenos won the
> battle, and then Andronikos Angelos joined the rebellion.
>
> I propose that: it would have been at this moment, in 1182 when the two
> Andronikoses joined forces, that they would have arranged a marriage
> between their children, Isaac Angelos and Irene (the mother). Philippa
> would presumably have honored Irene (the daughter)'s father's choice of a
> husband for her.
>
> This would give the time frame from 1182 to 1185 for Isaac Angleos and
> Irene to have their three known children: Alexios who became emperor
> Alexios IV, Euphrosyne who is called the elder sister, and Irene (the
> daughter). Treadgold calls Alexios "about 21" when he became emperor in
> 1203, which is consistent, though tight. I presume Alexios was born about
> 1183, Euphrosyne about 1184, and Irene about 1185.
>
> Andronikos Komnenos' rebellion was successful, and he became regent
> sometime in late 1182 or early 1183, but then Andronikos Angelos changed
> sides again, was defeated, and fled with his sons to the crusader kingdom.
>
> Andronikos Komnenos now proclaimed himself emperor, murdered the young
> emperor he had pledged to protect, and married his widow. Due to her
> youth, there were no children of this marriage.
>
> The Angelos rebellion was now dealt with. Isaac Angelos surrendered Nicea
> on condition of amnesty, but the emperor later changed his mind and
> ordered
> Isaac arrested in 1185. Isaac, learning of this, fled to the cathedral,
> where the patriarch crowned him emperor, and the populace lynched
> Andronikos.
>
> For over a century the empire had been mostly at war with the Norman
> rulers
> of southern Italy and Sicily. In 1192, in an apparent effort to settle
> this, Irene (the daughter) was married to Roger, heir to and associate
> king
> of Sicily. He died before his father, in 1193, and there seems to be no
> notice of any children to this marriage. Irene the daughter's birth date
> is often given as 1180, which I believe is based on the assumption she was
> twelve at the marriage. I think this is very shaky reasoning, since
> diplomatic marriages did not respect age. The lack of children to the
> marriage would tend to indicate she was prepubescent.
>
> If Irene (the mother)'s mother really was Philippa of Antioch, then Roger
> and Irene were fourth cousins once removed, being both descended from
> Tancred de Hauteville, founder of the Norman dynasty in southern Italy.
>
> Irene the daughter apparently remained in the West, after being widowed.
> The same year as her husband's death, 1193, her uncle Alexios overthrew
> and
> blinded her father, becoming emperor Alexios III. In 1197 Irene was
> married to Philip, son of German emperor, Frederick Barbarosa. In 1198
> they became the Western emperor and empress, and then were murdered in
> 1208, having produced at least five children. At least one child seems to
> have a birth date of 1198, so Irene was fertile by then.
>
> Based on this information, Irene the daughter reached puberty sometime
> between 1193 and 1198. Assuming for this an age between 13 and 15, I
> conclude her birth could have been any time between 1178 and 1185. The
> chronology is thus tight, but not impossible.
>
> (And now we also know why the word "byzantine" has come to mean very
> complex duplicitous political machinations -- and I haven't even mentioned
> how these events led to the perversion of the Fourth Crusade.)
>
> Comments: Since Andronikos definitely had two daughters named "Irene", by
> two different women, I see no problem in proposing he had a third
> homonymous daughter by yet another woman. They all would have been named
> after his mother. Since I presume the woman I call Irene the mother to
> have been raised in a non-Greek home, I see no reason why she would have
> adhered to the Byzantine Greek aversion to naming a child after a parent,
> thus allowing Irene the daughter to share her name. Since I propose Irene
> the daughter to have been part Norman and to have been raised in a Norman
> crusader home, she would have been an appropriate diplomatic match for a
> Norman Italian prince.
>
> Conclusion: The hypothesis, that Irene, first wife of the Byzantine
> emperor
> Isaac II, was an illegitimate daughter of the Byzantine emperor Andronikos
> I and Philippa of Antioch, is chronologically, politically and culturally
> plausible, but otherwise unsupported. It therefore remains an interesting
> hypothesis.
>
> Questions: Can this scenario be disproved, perhaps by explicit birth dates
> of which I am unaware? Would Roger and Irene have needed a dispensation
> to
> marry? Would such a dispensation survive? Is the original source of this
> hypothesis known to anyone? Is there any other relevant evidence?

The obvious trouble with all of this is the unsupported presumption that a
Byzantine mother, whatever her own family and cultural background, got to
choose the name of her daughter without reference to her husband or to his
family and cultural traditions.

There is no solid reason to believe the necrology of Speyer cathedral about
the name of Empress Eirene's mother in the first place, assuming that
"Herina" is meant for Eirene. There is consequently no reason at all to
suppose that Isaakios Angelos decided to flout Byzantine custom by naming
his second daughter after the child's mother. The theory proposed by
Hiestand has at least the advantage of giving the child a maternal
grandmother named Eirene, fitting with Byzantine convention.

Of course, this consideration doesn't rule out her having been a daughter of
Andronikos I, with another name, but circumstantially that is a long shot
anyway. Connecting her also to Philippa of Antioch is stretching things a
lot further, when there is no evidence that she had a child to Andronikos.

Peter Stewart



This thread: