the name of an illustrious Byzantine family, which in all probability was of Italian origin, and migrated to the East in the time of Constantine the Great or his immediate successors. Several of the other great Byzantine families were likewise of Italian origin, as for instance the Ducae.
That the name Comnenus was not unknown in Italy in early times, is proved by an inscription on a marble discovered in the walls of the church of St. Secundus, at Ameria in Italy, and which stands thus:--
L. COMNENO. O. L. FELICI.
COMNENAE. O. L. NYMPHE.
ET. COMNENO. O. L. FELIONI.
C. SERVILIO. ALBANO.
Six emperors of the East,--Isaac I., Alexis I., Calo-Joannes (John II.), Manuel I., Alexis II., and Andronicus I.,--all the emperors of Trebizond, and a vast number of generals, statesmen, and authors, were descended from the family of the Comneni; but while almost all of them were distinguished by the choicest natural gifts both of mind and of body, many of them were notorious for a laxity of morals, in which they were excelled by none of their frivolous countrymen. Imperial families, such as the Ducae, the Angeli, the Palaeologi, several royal houses in Europe, and even the reigning dynasty of the sultans in Turkey, boasted, and still boast, of being descended from the Comneni; and down to this very day the pretensions of a noble family in France to be entitled by descent to the name of Princes de Comnène have attracted the attention of historians of repute.
A history of that family would be a most valuable contribution to our knowledge of the Greeks during the middle ages. When the Comneni first became known in history, in the tenth century, they belonged to the Greek nobility in Asia, and their family seat was at Castamone, a town in Paphlagonia, near the Black Sea, where Alexis Comnenus, afterwards emperor, visited the palace of his ancestors during the reign of Michael VII. Ducas Parapinaces. Towards the close of the tenth century two Comneni, Manuel and Nicephorus, became conspicuous, who were probably brothers, and who are generally called the ancestors of the Comnenian family.
The following table exhibits the genealogy of this family, as far as it can be traced, together with a brief account of each individual of it.
I. ISAAC, the excellent elder brother of Alexis I., died before 1118, in a convent to which he retired when old ; married Irene, daughter of a prince of the Alani, and a relative of Maria, wife of the emperor Michael VII. Ducas Parapinaces, and, after his death, of the emperor Romanus Diogenes.
II. ALEXIS I., Emperor [ALEXIS I.], born probably in 1048; began to reign in 1081; died in 1118; married 1. a daughter of Argyrus, of the noble family of the Argyri; 2. Irene, daughter of Andronicus Ducas, the brother of Constantine X. Ducas.
III. Further Issue of the Emperor CALO-JOANNES.
IV. Further Issue of the Emperor Calo-Joannes. Manuel, Emperor [MANUEL] ; born about 1120, began to reign 1143, died 1180; married
1. Bertha (in 1143), afterwards called Irene, daughter of Berengar, Count of Sulzbach, and niece, of Konrad III., Emperor of Germany, who died about 1158; 2. Maria, afterwards called Xene, daughter of Raymond, prince of Antioch; put to death by Andronicus I. in 1183; 3. Concubine, Theodora Comnena (Calusina).
V. Issue of ISAAC SEBASTOCRATOR, founder of the Imperial branch of the COMNENI OF TREBIZOD.
The history of the Emperors of Trebizond was almost entirely unknown till the publication of Professor Fallmerayer's Geschichte des Kaiserthums von Trapezunt,
one of the most important historical productions of our days.
The accounts which Du Cange and Gibbon give of these emperors is in many respects quite erroneous; but these writers are to be excused, since they could not avail themselves of several Oriental works perused by Fallmerayer, and especially of two Greek MSS. which the German professor discovered at Venice, viz., A Chronicle of the imperial palace at Trebizond, by Panaretus, and a work on Trebizond by the celebrated Cardinal Bessarion.
It would not be compatible with the plan of the present work to give the lives of the Emperors of Trebizond, but it has been thought advisable to give at least their genealogy, and thus to assist those who should wish to investigate the history and tragical fall (in 1462) of the last independent remnant of Greek and Roman power.
As there are no genealogical tables in Fallmerayer's work, the writer has brought together all his separate statements respecting the genealogy of the family, and the following genealogical table of the Comneni of Trebizond is thus the first that has yet been printed.
V. Isaac Sebastocrator, Caesar, third son of Alexis I., and third brother and favourite of the Emperor Calo-Joannes.
In consequence of some slanders against his character, he fled to the Sultan of Iconium, with his son Joannes, returned, enjoyed again the confidence of Calo-Joannes, lost it once more, was imprisoned, but released by the emperor Manuel, and died in possession of the highest civil and military honours, leaving behind him the reputation of having been one of the most virtuous and able men of his time. Died after 1143.
A branch of the Comnenian family became extinct at Rome in 1551; another branch flourished in Savoy, and became extinct in 1784. Demetrius Comnenus, a captain in the French army, whose descendants are still alive, pretended to be descended from Nicephorus, one of the sons of the last emperor of Trebizond, David, whose life, according to him was spared by Mohammed, and his parentage and name were recognized by letterspatent of Louis XVI., king of France.
But his claims will hardly stand a critical examination, notwithstanding many so-called authentic documents which he published in a rather curious work, " Précis historique de la Maison Impériale des Comnènes, avec Filiation directe et reconnue par Lettres-Patentes du Roi dumoisd'Avril, 1782, depuis David, dernier empereur de Trébizonde, jusqu' à Demétrius Comnène," Amsterdam, 1784, 8vo. (Fallmerayer, Geschichte des Kaiserthums von Trapezunt.