Ηε was the second son of Manuel Komnenos (born 1145) and of Rusudan, daughter of George III of Georgia. He was a grandson of the Emperor Andronikos I. Andronikos was dethroned and killed in 1185; his son Manuel was blinded and may well have died; at any rate he disappears from the historical record. He left two children, the Caesars Alexios and David. Their mother Rusundan fled either to Georgia or to the southern coast of the Black Sea.
Capture of Trebizond
In April 1204, while Constantinople was occupied with the landing of the Fourth Crusade, Komnenos, with the aid of the Georgian Alexios, who was then twenty two, David captured the city of Trebizond. While Alexios settled down in Trebizond to establish the empire earning himself the sneer of being "a proverbial Hylas, called after and not seen", David continued on as the "herald and forerunner" of his brother seizing the cities of Kerasus, Oinaion, Limnia, Samsun, Sinope, Kotyora, Amastris, and Pontic Herakleia. Without a doubt his march was aided by his family's popularity in the region since they had originally come from the city of Kastamonu and also by the news of the fall of Constantinople to the Latins.
David first started to cause trouble for the emperor of Nicaea around 1206 when he sent his young general, surnamed Synadenos, to seize the city of Nicomedia. However because Laskaris led his troops through a rough pass, he caught Synadenos at unawares and captured him, scatttering scattered his forces to the wind. Because of the defeat, in the words of Laskaris's panegyrist Niketas Choniates, he forcibly 'persuaded' David to venture no further than Pontic Herakleia. Later, after the failed Seljuk attempt on Attaleia, Laskaris attacked David in Pontic Herakleia and according to Choniates would have taken the city and forced David to flee from there, had not the Latins laid siege to Nicomedia. Because of this, Laskaris marched off to confront the Latins. They however, unwilling to risk an encounter, had already retreated to Constantinople.
For their temporary aid, David rewarded them with shiploads of corn and hams and also asked the Latin Emperor of Constantinople to include him as his subject in his treaties and correspondence with Laskaris, and to treat his land as Latin territory. David preferred a nominal Latin suzerainty to annexation by the Nicaean emperor. Having thus secured his position, he crossed the Sangarios with a body of about 300 Frankish auxiliaries, ravaged the villages subject to Laskaris, and took hostages from Plousias. David withdrew, but the Franks, incautiously advancing into the hilly country, were suddenly surprised by Andronikos Gidos, a general of Laskaris, in the Rough Passes of Nicomedia, and scarcely a man of them was left.
In 1208, Laskaris was back at it again laying siege to the Herakleia. However, this time David called for aid sending a messenger to the Latin emperor Henry of Flanders begging him to help and warning him that if he did not help him, he would suffer a serious defeat. Leaving his marshal in Adrianople to finish rebuilding the city, Henry then set off against Laskaris. When the latter heard that Henry's army was approaching, he quickly abandoned his operations against David and returned to Nicaea. Henry's army might have seized more land in Buthynia, had not an abominably cold winter swept in preventing his troops from advancing any further.
Finally however, Laskaris did succeed in prevailing over David, and the cities of Herakleia, Amastris, Neokastron, and Kotyora were taken from him. What exactly happened to David in the course of this battle is unknown because had Laskaris captured him, it would probably have been recorded in the histories. It seems likely that David might have fled to the Latin emperor, but whatever the case, he himself never saw his brother the emperor Alexios again. On December 12, 1212, David died a monk on Mount Athos under the monkish name Daniel.
- Ian Booth, "Theodore Laskaris and Paphlagonia, 1204-1214; towards a chronological description" in Archeion Pontou (2003/4) pp. 151-224.
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