The "megas doux" ( _el. μέγας δούξ, "
Grand Duke") was one of the highest positions in the hierarchy of the later Byzantine Empire. It is sometimes also given by the half-Latinizations "Megaduke" or "Megadux".
History and functions
The title was created by
Alexios I Komnenos, in 1092, for his brother-in-law John Doukas, and was the equivalent of the Lord High Admiral of the Byzantine navy. [Angold (1997), p. 128; Haldon (1999), p. 96] John Doukas was responsible for the re-establishment of firm Byzantine control over the Aegean and the islands of Crete and Cyprus in the years 1092-1093. From this time the "megas doux" was given overall control of the provinces of Hellas, the Peloponneseand Crete, which chiefly provided the manpower and resources for the fleet. [Angold (1997), p. 128-129] However, since the "megas doux" was one of the Empire's senior officials, and mostly involved with the central government and various military campaigns, "de factο" governance of these provinces rested with the local "praetor" and the various local leaders. [Magdalino (2002), p. 234] Among the early holders of this office, Andronikos Kontostephanoswas of the most important, assisting Emperor Manuel I Komnenosin achieving many land and naval victories.
With the virtual disappearance of the Byzantine fleet after the
Fourth Crusade, the title was retained as a honorific in the Empire of Nicaea, where Michael VIII Palaiologosassumed the title when he became regent for John IV Laskaris. [Bartusis (1997), p. 274] After the recovery of Constantinople in 1261, it reverted to its old function as commander-in-chief of the navy, and remained a high rank for the remainder of the empire, its holder ranking sixth after the emperor. [Bartusis (1997), p. 381] As such, it was also sometimes conferred upon foreigners in imperial service, the most notable among these being the Italian Licario, who recovered many Aegean islands for Emperor Michael VIII, [Bartusis (1997), p. 60] and Roger de Flor, head of the Catalan Company. After the mid-14th century, the office was often held together with the office of "mesazōn", the chief of the imperial secretariat, making the "megas doux" effectively the Emperor's prime minister. In this capacity, Alexios Apokaukosserved as one of the leading members of the imperial government during the Civil War of 1341-1347, supporting John V Palaiologosagainst John VI Kantakouzenos. The last and perhaps most famous "megas doux" was Loukas Notaras, who served under Constantine XI Palaiologosuntil the Fall of Constantinople.
*Angold, Michael (1997). The Byzantine Empire, 1025–1204. Longman. ISBN 0-582-29468-1.
*cite book |first = John F. |last = Haldon |title = Warfare, state and society in the Byzantine world, 565-1204 |year = 1999 |publisher = Routledge |isbn = 1857284941
*cite book | last=Magdalino | first=Paul| title=The Empire of Manuel I Komnenos, 1143–1180 | publisher=Cambridge University Press | year=2002 | isbn= 0-521-52653-1
* "The Immortal Emperor", by
* "The Fall of Constantinople 1453", by
* "Byzantium: Decline and Fall" & "A Short History of Byzantium", by
John Julius Norwich.
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