John VI Kantakouzenos

Infobox Monarch
name =John VI Kantakouzenos
Polytonic|Ίωάννης ΣΤ΄ Καντακουζηνός
title =Emperor of the Byzantine Empire

caption =John VI presiding over a synod
reign =1347 – 1353 with John V Palaiologos and his son, Matthew Kantakouzenos, from 1353.
predecessor =John V Palaiologos
successor =John V Palaiologos
spouse =Irene Asanina
issue =Matthew Kantakouzenos
Manuel Kantakouzenos
Maria Kantakouzene
Theodora Kantakouzene
Helena Kantakouzene
Andronikos Kantakouzenos
father =Michael Kantakouzenos
mother =Angelina Kantakouzene
date of birth =c. 1292
place of birth =Constantinople
date of death =death date|1383|6|15|df=y
place of burial=Mistra, Peloponnese, Greece|

John VI Kantakouzenos or Cantacuzene (Greek: Ιωάννης ΣΤ΄ Καντακουζηνός, "Iōannēs VI Kantakouzēnos") (c. 1292 – June 15, 1383), Byzantine emperor from 1347 to 1354, was born at Constantinople.


John Kantakouzenos was the son of a Michael Kantakouzenos who was appointed governor of the Morea by Theodora Palaiologina and Angelina Kantakouzene, a descendant of the house of the Palaiologos. He was also related to the imperial dynasty through his wife Eirene Asanina, a second cousin of Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos. On the accession of Andronikos III in 1328, he was entrusted with the supreme administration of affairs. On the death of the emperor in 1341, John Kantakouzenos was left as the designated regent, and guardian of his son John V Palaiologos, who was nine years old.

Being suspected by the empress Anna of Savoy and opposed by a powerful party at court (including Kantakouzenos' one-time protege Alexios Apokaukos), he rebelled, and had himself crowned emperor at Didymoteichos in Thrace, while John V Palaiologos and his supporters maintained themselves at Constantinople.

The civil war which ensued lasted six years, during which the rival parties called in the aid of the Serbians, Bulgarians, and the Ottoman Turks, and engaged mercenaries of every description. It was only by the aid of the Ottoman Turks, with whom he made a bargain, that John VI Kantakouzenos brought the war to an end favourable to himself.

In 1347, he entered Constantinople in triumph with an army of 1,000 men, and forced his opponents to an arrangement by which he became joint emperor with John V Palaiologos and sole administrator during the minority of his colleague.

He made his own son Matthew Kantakouzenos a co-emperor in 1353.

During this period, the empire, already broken up and reduced to narrow limits, was assailed on every side. There were wars with the Genoese, who had a colony at Galata and had money transactions with the court; and with the Serbians, who were at that time establishing an extensive empire on the north-western frontiers; and there was a hazardous alliance with the Turks, who made their first permanent settlement in Europe, at Gallipoli in Thrace, towards the end of his reign. In 1349, he sent a newly-built fleet of 9 fair-sized ships and about 100 smaller ones against the Genoese, but it is completely captured by the Genoese. Then in 1351, he sent 12 ships to help Venice against Genoa, but the fleet was defeated.

Kantakouzenos was far too ready to invoke the aid of foreigners in his European quarrels; and as he had no money to pay them, this gave them a ready pretext for seizing upon a European town. The financial burdens imposed by him had long been displeasing to his subjects, and a strong party had always favoured John V Palaiologos. Hence, when the latter entered Constantinople at the end of 1354, his success was easy.

Kantakouzenos retired to a monastery (where he assumed the name of Joasaph Christodoulos) and occupied himself in literary labours.

He died in the Peloponnese and was buried by his sons at Mistra in Laconia.

In 1367 Joasaph (as he was now known) was appointed the representative of the Eastern Orthodox Church to negotiate with Paul of Smyrna then the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople to attempt a reconciliation of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. They agreed to call a grand ecumenical council to be attended by the Pope, all the Patriarchs and bishops and archbishops of both the eastern and western churches. [Norwich, John Julius. "Byzantium: The Decline and Fall" (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996) p. 332] This plan was subsequently refused by Pope Urban V and so nothing came of it.


His "History" in four books deals with the years 1320 - 1356. An apologia for his own actions, it needs to be read with caution; fortunately it can be supplemented and corrected by the work of a contemporary, Nikephoros Gregoras. It possesses the merit of being well arranged and homogenous, the incidents being grouped round the chief actor in the person of the author, but the information is defective on matters with which he is not directly concerned. Cantacuzenus also wrote a defence of Hesychasm, a Greek mystical doctrine.


By his wife Irene Asanina, a daughter of Andronikos Asan (son of Emperor Ivan Asen III of Bulgaria by Eirene Palaiologina, herself daughter of Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos), John VI Kantakouzenos had several children, including:
# Matthew Kantakouzenos, co-emperor 1353–1357, later "despotēs" in Morea
# Manuel Kantakouzenos, "despotēs" in Morea
# Andronikos Kantakouzenos
# Maria Kantakouzene, who married Nikephoros II Orsini of Epirus
# Theodora Kantakouzene, who married Sultan Orhan of the Ottoman Empire
# Helena Kantakouzene, who married Emperor John V Palaiologos

ee also

*Nicolaus Cabasilas


*"The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium", Oxford University Press, 1991.

s-ttl|title=Byzantine Emperor|years=1347–1353
regent1=John V Palaiologos|years1=1341–1376
regent2=Matthew Kantakouzenos|years2=1353–1357

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