Alexander of Trebizond

Alexander Komnenos or Skantarios Komnenos (Greek: Ἀλέξανδρος/Σκαντάριος Κομνηνός) was a co-emperor of the Empire of Trebizond, first with his father Alexios IV of Trebizond then, after several years in exile, with his brother John IV.

Alexander Megas Komnenos
Co-emperor of Trebizond
Reign1429 (with Alexios IV)
c. 1451 – c. 1459 (with John IV)
PredecessorJohn IV
SuccessorJohn IV
DiedBefore 1460
SpouseMaria Gattilusio
IssueAlexios Megas Komnenos
FatherAlexios IV Megas Komnenos
MotherTheodora Kantakouzene


Alexander was the second son of Emperor Alexios (reigned 1417–29) and of his wife, Theodora Kantakouzene.[1] During his father's reign his older brother John attempted to depose Alexios, and failing fled to Georgia; Alexios appointed Alexander co-emperor.[2] However, in 1429 John returned to Trebizond and seized control of the Empire. Alexios was assassinated by John's supporters, and Alexander was banished from Trebizond; he went to Constantinople to live with his sister Maria. When the Castilian traveller Pero Tafur met him in October 1429 at Constantinople, he recorded the gossip "they say that his [Alexander] relations with her are dishonest."[3][4]

From Constantinople, Pero Tafur traveled to Trebizond (where he met Alexander's brother the Emperor John), then traveled to Kaffa before beginning retracing his steps to Venice. On his return trip, Tafur stopped at Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, where he encountered Alexander again. At this visit he found Alexander had married Maria, a daughter of the Genoese lord of Lesbos, Dorino I Gattilusio; according to Tafur Alexander "was preparing ships to set out for Trebizond against his brother." Tafur shared with him the news to Alexander that John had concluded an alliance with "the Turk", which had been sealed with John's marriage to "a daughter of a Turk", and that it would be detrimental to all to make war.[5][6]

That Alexander was planning to overthrow his brother is confirmed by other reports. The Genoese archives contain a copy of a letter sent to Dorino Gattilusio urging that he do what he could to bring peace between Alexander and his brother the emperor, and offering Alexander a pension if he did allowing him to live where ever he wanted to, Mytilene, or Constantinople. The Republic of Genoa had business interests in Trebizond that might be harmed in a civil war between the brothers.[5]

Genoese interests changed a decade later. Following Alexander's younger brother David's raid on Kaffa in 1447, Genoa made an offer to support Alexander's efforts to recover the throne. However, by the time the letter was written (1451) Alexander and John apparently had reconciled: Alexander, Maria and their son were now living in Trebizond. Michel Kuršanskis even suggests that John, mistrustful of their youngest brother, had made Alexander co-Emperor, and later made the young Alexios his heir.[7]

Alexander died sometime before the death of his brother John in 1459.[1]


Alexander and Maria had one known son, Alexios. After the fall of Trebizond, according to Laonikos Chalkokondyles, Maria was taken into Sultan Mehmet's seraglio for a while for "she was said to be one of the most beautiful and comely of women."[8] But it is doubtful that young sultan would marry a woman who was almost 50 years old at that time, moreover a widow. It is known that many women who lived in the imperial harem were not sultan's wives, neither concubines. The Sultan took Alexios and made him a page at the Porte, "second in status to the brother of Murad, a child from Byzantion."[8] It is unclear whether Alexios was executed with his uncle David in 1463.


  1. PLP, 12122. <Kομνηνὸς> Σκαντάριος.
  2. Kuršanskis 1979, p. 240.
  3. Kuršanskis 1979, pp. 240, 243.
  4. Vasiliev 1932, p. 98.
  5. Kuršanskis 1979, p. 241.
  6. Vasiliev 1932, pp. 99, 117.
  7. Kuršanskis 1979, pp. 242ff..
  8. Chalkokondyles 10.13; translated by Anthony Kaldellis, The Histories (Cambridge: Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, 2014), vol. 2 p. 415


  • Kuršanskis, Michel (1979). "La descendance d'Alexis IV, empereur de Trébizonde. Contribution à la prosopographie des Grands Comnènes". Revue des études byzantines. 37: 239–247. doi:10.3406/rebyz.1979.2098.
  • Trapp, Erich; Beyer, Hans-Veit; Walther, Rainer; Sturm-Schnabl, Katja; Kislinger, Ewald; Leontiadis, Ioannis; Kaplaneres, Sokrates (1976–1996). Prosopographisches Lexikon der Palaiologenzeit (in German). Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. ISBN 3-7001-3003-1. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • Vasiliev, A (1932). "Pero Tafur, a Spanish Traveler of the Fifteenth Century and his Visit to Constantinople, Trebizond, and Italy". Byzantion. 7: 75–122.
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