The Palaiologos or Palaeologus (Greek: Παλαιολόγος, pl. Παλαιολόγοι) was a Byzantine Greek noble family and the last ruling Dynasty of the Byzantine Empire. After the Fourth Crusade members of the family escaped to Nicaea and eventually gained control of the empire-in-exile there. Michael VIII Palaiologos became emperor in 1259 and recaptured Constantinople in 1261. Michael's descendants ruled until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, becoming the longest-lived dynasty in Byzantine history.


The Palaiologoi were originally petty rulers from Macedonia (theme). The family was an old one. George Palaiologos was a friend of Alexios I Komnenos and commanded the garrison of Dyrrhachium during the Battle of Dyrrhachium against the Normans in 1081, but its earliest generations are unknown. The first to marry into an imperial family was one Alexios Palaiologos, whose wife was a granddaughter of Zoe Dukaina, youngest daughter of Constantine X, and her husband Adrianos Komnenos, younger brother of Emperor Alexios I. Another Alexios Palaiologos married Irene Angelina, eldest daughter of Alexios III and Euphrosyne Camatera. 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.

Michael VIII's son Andronikos II married Anna of Hungary and fathered Michael Palaiologos, sometimes numbered the ninth. His son, the grandson of Andronikos II, was Andronikos III Palaiologos.

John V was the father, with Helena, a daughter of John VI Kantakuzenos, of Andronikos IV Palaiologos and Manuel II Palaiologos.

Manuel II was the father of John VIII Palaiologos and Constantine XI, the last Byzantine emperor (Constantine XI Palaiologos), as well as the despots of Morea Demetrios Palaiologos and Thomas Palaiologos.

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.

Thomas' daughter Zoe 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. Thomas's male-line descendants soon went extinct, and 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 Hernia, first wife of Emperor Isaac II Angelos (reign 1185-1195) was of the Palaiologos family.

A cadet branch

A younger son of Andronikos II became lord of Montferrat as heir of his mother. His feudal dynasty lived in north Italy, longer than the imperial branch 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.

Palaiologoi emperors

# Michael VIII Palaiologos
# Andronikos II Palaiologos, son of Michael VIII
# Michael IX Palaiologos, co-emperor, son of Andronikos II
# Andronikos III Palaiologos, son of Michael IX
# John V Palaiologos, son of Andronicus III (disputed by John VI Kantakuzenos, a maternal relative of the Palaiologoi)
# Andronikos IV Palaiologos, eldest son of John V
# John VII Palaiologos, son of Andronikos IV
# Andronikos V Palaiologos, co-emperor, son of John VII
# Manuel II Palaiologos, younger son of John V
# John VIII Palaiologos, eldest son of Manuel II
# Constantine XI Palaiologos, a younger son of Manuel II

Dynastic relations

The reconstituted realm was very weak compared with the pre-1204 Empire. The Palaiologoi emperors cannot have afforded the earlier luxury of isolation. Imperial marriages and princesses became like traded goods. The future Michael VIII married Theodora Doukaina Vatatzina, a kinswoman of the Batatzes Lascaris 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 Decansky 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, 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, Yolanda 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 first Adelheid of Brunswick, who died without surviving issue, and second Anna of Savoy who was descended from Baldwin I of Constantinople. They were 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. They founded the noble family who continued into Italian Genovese 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 Dragas who was a regional lord of the dissolved Serbian realm.

Demetrios Palaiologos daughter Helen was a member of the harem of Mehmed II for a time.

Thomas Palaiologos' daughter Zoe married Ivan III of Russia.

In 1446, Sofia'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 soon went extinct.

Political history

Under the rule of the Palaiologoi, the fragmented empire still claimed descent from 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.


Due to their relations and intermarriage with Western dynastic families, the Palaiologoi were the first Imperial family to use crests and coats of arms in the Western sense. Originally, the family's dynastic arms consisted of a gold cross on a red field. After his ascent to the imperial throne and subsequent recapture of Constantinople in 1261, Michael VIII Palaiologos added four outward-facing gold 'B's or Fire Steles (Greek: Πυρεκβόλα - Pyrekvola) in the quarters. Known as the "tetragrammatic cross", the stylised 'B's were interpreted as the initials of the imperial motto "King of Kings, Ruling Over Rulers" (Greek: Βασιλεύς Βασιλέων, Βασιλεύων Βασιλευόντων - "Basileus Basileōn, Basileuōn Basileuontōn"). [ [ Byzantine Heraldry, from ""] ] Another common emblem used by the Palaiologoi was the Imperial double-headed eagle, occasionally displayed bearing the family's "sympilema", or dynastic cypher, on the breast.


External links

* [ Genealogy of the Palaiologos dynasty from]

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