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The Palaiologos dynasty pl Palaiologoi; Greek: Παλαιολόγος, -οι, also romanized as Palaeologus or Palaeologue, was the name of a Byzantine Greek12 family, which rose to nobility and ultimately produced the last ruling dynasty of the Byzantine Empire

Founded by the 11th-century general Nikephoros Palaiologos and his son George, the family rose to the highest aristocratic circles through its marriage into the Doukas and Komnenos dynasties After the Fourth Crusade, members of the family fled to the neighboring Empire of Nicaea, where Michael VIII Palaiologos became co-emperor in 1259, recaptured Constantinople and was crowned sole emperor of the Byzantine Empire in 12613 His descendants ruled the empire until the Fall of Constantinople at the hands of the Ottoman Turks on May 29, 1453, becoming the longest-lived dynasty in Byzantine history; some continued to be prominent in Ottoman society long afterwards A branch of the Palaiologos became the feudal lords of Montferrat, Italy This inheritance was eventually incorporated by marriage to the Gonzaga family, rulers of the Duchy of Mantua, who are descendants of the Palaiologoi of Montferrat


  • 1 Dynastic genealogy
    • 11 Palaiologoi emperors
    • 12 Montferrat cadet branch
  • 2 Dynastic relations
  • 3 Political history
  • 4 Emblems
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links

Dynastic genealogyedit

The origins of the Palaiologoi lit "old word", sometimes glossed as "ragman"4 or "antique collector"5 are unknown Later traditions sometimes tied them to the Italian city of Viterbo the Latin vetus verbus having the same meaning as the family's name or to the Romans who immigrated east with Constantine the Great during the founding of his new capital5 Both were probably fabrications created to help legitimize the dynasty6 The family are first attested as local lords in Asia Minor, particularly Anatolikon,5 with Nikephoros Palaiologos rising to command over Mesopotamia under Michael VII Doukas He supported the revolt of Nikephoros Botaneiates, while his son George married Anna Doukaina and therefore supported his sister-in-law's husband Alexios Komnenos during his rise to power6 As commander doux of Dyrrhachium, George faced the Norman Duke Robert Guiscard in an 1081 battle

The Palaiologoi held military offices and further united their family to the Doukai and Komnenoi during the 12th century6 They followed Theodore Laskaris to Nicaea and began to assume high-ranking political offices as well6 Alexios Palaiologos, whose wife was a granddaughter of Zoe Doukaina youngest daughter of Constantine X Doukas and her husband Adrianos Komnenos younger brother of Emperor Alexios Iclarification needed Another Alexios Palaiologos married Irene Angelina, eldest daughter of Alexios III Angelos and Euphrosyne Doukaina Kamatera The latter couple's daughter Theodora Palaiologina married her cousin Andronikos Palaiologos, who was descended from Zoe The couple were the progenitors of the imperial dynasty Their son was Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos 1223–1282

Michael VIII's son Andronikos II Palaiologos 1259–1332 married Anne of Hungary and fathered Michael Palaiologos 1277–1320, sometimes numbered the ninth Michael IX married Rita of Armenia Their son, the grandson of Andronikos II, was Andronikos III Palaiologos 1297–1341

Andronikos III married Anna of Savoy Their son was John V Palaiologos 1332–1391 John V married Helena Kantakouzene, a daughter of his co-ruler John VI Kantakuzenos Their sons included Andronikos IV Palaiologos 1348–1385 and Manuel II Palaiologos 1350–1425

Manuel II married Helena Dragaš They were the parents of John VIII Palaiologos 1392–1448 and Constantine XI Palaiologos 1404–1453, the last Byzantine emperor, as well as the despots of Morea Demetrios Palaiologos 1407–1470 and Thomas Palaiologos 1409–1465

Demetrios, after giving Mehmed II a pretext to invade Morea, was kept from his throne and remained in captivity His daughter Helen was a member of the sultan's harem for a time Thomas, in exile in Venice, sold the imperial title to Charles VIII of France, who however never used it for formal purposes

The double-headed eagle was adopted as a symbol for high-ranking members of the imperial family including the Emperor, during the Palaiologos dynasty period

Thomas' daughter Zoe died 1503 married Ivan III of Russia and, on rejoining the Orthodox faith, returned to her earlier name Sophia Her influence on the court curtailed the power of the boyars and eventually led to the proclamation of the Grand Prince of Muscovy as the Tsar of all the Russias Though Thomas's male-line descendants soon became extinct, his descent lives on through a daughter and the family of Castriota Dukes of san Pietro di Galatina in south-Italian aristocracy

One such female descendant, Princess d'Arenberg, married at the beginning of the 19th century a Pfalzgraf of Zweibrücken, whereby the Dukes of Bavaria descend from Byzantine emperors Also Queen Anne, consort of former king Michael of Romania descends from these Arenbergs, thus being a descendant of Byzantine emperors of Constantinople

Reportedly Herina, the first wife of Emperor Isaac II Angelos who reigned from 1185 to 1195, was of the Palaiologos family

Palaiologoi emperorsedit

  1. Michael VIII Palaiologos
  2. Andronikos II Palaiologos, son of Michael VIII
  3. Michael IX Palaiologos, co-emperor, son of Andronikos II
  4. Andronikos III Palaiologos, son of Michael IX
  5. John V Palaiologos, son of Andronicus III disputed by John VI Kantakuzenos, a maternal relative of the Palaiologoi
  6. Andronikos IV Palaiologos, eldest son of John V
  7. John VII Palaiologos, son of Andronikos IV
  8. Andronikos V Palaiologos, co-emperor, son of John VII
  9. Manuel II Palaiologos, younger son of John V
  10. John VIII Palaiologos, eldest son of Manuel II
  11. Constantine XI Palaiologos, a younger son of Manuel II

Montferrat cadet branchedit

Further information: List of rulers of Montferrat § Palaeologus dynasty

A younger son of Andronikos II became lord of Montferrat as heir of his mother His feudal dynasty ruled in Montferrat, longer than the imperial branch did in Constantinople This inheritance was eventually incorporated by marriage to the Gonzaga family, rulers of the Duchy of Mantua, who descend from the Palaiologoi of Montferrat Later, that succession passed to the Dukes of Lorraine, whose later head became the progenitor of the Habsburg-Lorraine emperors of Austria

The Paleologo-Oriundi, an extant line, descends from Flaminio, an illegitimate son of the last Palaiologos marquess John George7

Dynastic relationsedit

The reconstituted realm was very weak compared with the pre-1204 Empire The Palaiologoi emperors were not granted the earlier luxury of isolation Imperial marriages became increasingly mercenary and royal princesses regarded as little more than merchandise The future Michael VIII married Theodora Palaiologina, a kinswoman of the Vatatzes Laskaris family, in order to solidify his position in the Nicean Empire

Michael VIII's sister, Andronikos and Theodora's daughter Irene Palaiologina, was the mother of Maria Kantakuzenos, who married Constantine Tikh and Ivailo of Bulgaria in turn

Michael VIII was the father of Constantine, who in turn fathered John, who became the father-in-law of Stefan Dečanski of Serbia

Michael's daughter Irene married Ivan Asen III of Bulgaria, and another daughter, Eudokia Palaiologina, married John II Komnenos of Trebizond, and another daughter, Theodora, married David VI of Georgia

Andronikos II Palaiologos married Anna of Hungary, daughter of Stephen V of Hungary and Elizabeth the Cuman They were parents of Michael IX Palaiologos, who predeceased his father but was a co-regent, as such sometimes numbered the ninth This Michael married Rita of Armenia, a princess of Cilician Armenia as daughter of Leo III of Armenia and Queen Keran of Armenia

His son, the grandson of Andronikos II, was Andronikos III Palaiologos Michael's daughter Theodora Palaiologina married Theodore Svetoslav and Michael Shishman, rulers of Bulgaria, in turn A daughter Anna Palaiologina married first Thomas I Komnenos Doukas, Ruler of Epirus and then his successor Nicholas Orsini, already count of Kefalonia

By his second wife, Irene of Montferrat, Andronikos II had Simonis, later the wife of Stefan Milutin of Serbia His son, Theodore I, Marquess of Montferrat, became lord of Montferrat as heir of his mother Theodore' inheritance was eventually incorporated by marriage to the Gonzaga family, rulers of the Duchy of Mantua

Andronikos III married firstly Irene of Brunswick, who died without surviving issue, and secondly Anna of Savoy who was descended from Baldwin I of Constantinople They were the parents of John V Palaiologos John V was compelled to marry Helena Kantakouzene, a daughter of John VI Kantakouzenos

In order to obtain support to remove John VI, John V gave his sister Maria to Francesco I Gattilusio, who received the Duchy of Lesbos, an island which remained under the control of the Genoese until 1462 They founded the noble family who continued into Italian Genoese aristocracy, being ancestors of the princes of Monaco

Andronikos IV Palaiologos married Keratsa of Bulgaria She was a daughter of Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria

Manuel II Palaiologos married Helena Dragaš, daughter of Constantine Dragaš who was a regional lord of the dissolved Serbian realm

Demetrios Palaiologos's daughter Helen was a member of the harem of Mehmed II for a period of time

Thomas Palaiologos' daughter Zoe married Ivan III of Russia

In 1446, Zoe's elder sister Helena Palaiologina was married to Lazar Branković, a Serbian prince Their descendants continued for some time in the Balkans Thomas's male-line descendants shortly became extinct

Political historyedit

Main article: Byzantium under the Palaiologoi Medal of John VIII Palaeologus, on a Renaissance medal by Pisanello who saw the Emperor at Ferrara

Under the rule of the Palaiologoi 1261 - 1453, the fragmented Byzantine Empire still considered themselves to be the Roman Empire, but began to focus more on the empire's Greek heritage The word "Hellene" began to be used again to describe themselves, after having been a synonym for "pagan" for many centuries The dynasty was a patron of literature and the arts; among others, George Gemistos Plethon came to prominence The hesychasm controversy also took place during the rule of the Palaiologoi dynasty

At the later days of their empire the Peloponnese was the largest and wealthiest part of the empire, and was ruled as the Despotate of Morea by members of the Palaiologos family, often two or three younger brothers simultaneously Although they often squabbled amongst themselves they were usually fiercely loyal to the emperor in Constantinople though sometimes they sought to supplant the emperor and rise to the throne, while their land was surrounded by hostile Venetians and Turks The capital of the despotate was Mystras, a large fortress built by the Palaiologoi near Sparta

The Palaiologoi frequently attempted to reunite the Eastern Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church, hoping this would lead the West to give them aid against the Turks Every attempt at reunification was strongly opposed by the general population

The family had connections throughout Europe They married into the Bulgarian, Georgian and Serbian royal families, as well as the noble families of Trebizond, Epirus, the Republic of Genoa, Montferrat, and Muscovy

Some of the dynasty remained and prospered, to an extent in Constantinople long after the Ottoman conquest; 15th- and 16th-century Ottoman documents identify tax-farmers and merchants called Comnenus bin Palaeologus, Yorgi bin Palaeologus, and Manuel Palaeologus8


See also: Byzantine heraldry

The "tetragrammic cross" emblem of the Palaiologos dynasty was used under the Palaiologoi to represent the Empire, as attested in several sources of the 14th and 15th centuries It is a cross between four firesteels Greek: πυρέκβολα, each representing the letter B beta The firesteels have been interpreted as the initials of the imperial motto Βασιλεὺς Βασιλέων Βασιλεύων Βασιλευόντων Basileus Basileon Basileuon Basileuonton or Βασιλεὺς Βασιλέων Βασιλεύων Βασιλεῦσι Basileus Basileon Basileuon Basileusi, translated as "king of kings, ruling over rulers"12 Another common emblem used by the Palaiologoi to represent the Emperor and high-ranking members of the Imperial family, was the double-headed eagle, occasionally displayed bearing the family's sympilema, or dynastic cypher, on the breast This is the only recorded instance of the double-headed eagle in actual imperial use


  1. ^ a b History of the Byzantine Empire volume 2 Aleksandr A Vasiliev page 583 “The dynasty of the Palaeologi belonged to a very well known Greek family which, beginning with the first Comneni, gave Byzantium many energetic and gifted men, especially in the military field”
  2. ^ Edward Gibbon 1862 Gibbon's History of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire Volume 5 Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green Retrieved 24 June 2011 
  3. ^ Gill, Joseph 1980 "Family feuds in fourteenth century Byzantium: Palaeologi and Cantacuzeni" Conspectus of History 1 5: 64 
  4. ^ Kazhdan, A "Palaiologos" in the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Vol III, p 1557 Oxford University Press Oxford, 1991
  5. ^ a b c Vannier, J-F "Les premiers Paléologues Étude généalogique et prosopographique" in J-C Cheynet's Études prosopographiques, pp 129 ff Paris, 1986
  6. ^ a b c d "Palaeologan Dynasty 1259-1453" in the Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World: Asia Minor Foundation of the Hellenic World, 2008 Accessed 15 Oct 2014
  7. ^ "I Paleologi di Monferrato dopo il 1533" PDF wwwmarchesimonferratocom 
  8. ^ Vryonis, Speros 1969 "The Byzantine Legacy and Ottoman Forms" Dumbarton Oaks Papers 23/24: 251–308 
  9. ^ Ottfried Neubecker, Heraldry - Sources, Symbols and Meaning, pp106, Tiger Books International Twickenham, 1997
  10. ^ "Other Byzantine flags shown in the "Book of All Kingdoms" 14th century" Flags of the World Retrieved 07-08-2010  Check date values in: |access-date= help
  11. ^ "Flag of the Byzantine Empire shown in the "Book of All Kingdoms" 14th century" Flags of the World Retrieved 07-08-2010  Check date values in: |access-date= help
  12. ^ Byzantine Heraldry, from Heraldicaorg

External linksedit

  • Marek, Miroslav "Genealogy of the Palaiologos dynasty from Genealogyeu" GenealogyEU 
— Imperial house — Palaiologos dynasty Founding year: 11th century
Preceded by
Laskaris dynasty
Ruling house of Constantinople
1 January 1259 – 29 May 1453
Succeeded by
Ottoman dynasty

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