Manuel III of Trebizond

Manuel III Megas Komnenos (Greek: Μανουήλ Γ΄ Μέγας Κομνηνός, Manouēl III Megas Komnēnos) (December 16, 1364 – March 5, 1417) was Emperor of Trebizond from March 20, 1390 to his death in 1417. He was the son of Emperor Alexios III of Trebizond by Theodora Kantakouzene.

Manuel became the heir of his father in 1377, after the death of his elder brother Basil. In the same year he married Gulkhan-Eudokia of Georgia, the widow of his elder half-brother Andronikos, and a daughter of King David IX of Georgia. His second wife, whom he married in 1395, was Anna Philanthropene of the Byzantine Doukas family.

Manuel III became emperor in 1390. In 1391 and 1396, he confirmed the privileges of the Venetians, though his relations with the Genoese were more strained, and he came into conflict with them in 1416. Manuel came under the overlordship of the Central Asian conqueror Tamerlane by 1402, while the Ottoman Turks were encroaching on his western frontier. Tamerlane demanded that Manuel and his army join him in the coming war with the Ottoman Turks, but somehow the Emperor avoided this demand, although he did contribute twenty galleys to Tamerlane's general effort. The Battle of Ankara in 1402 and defeat of Sultan Bayezid I was a considerable benefit to Empire of Trebizond, since the expanding Ottomans were a serious threat to it.

When Tamerlane left Asia Minor in 1403, part of his army detached from the whole to visit the city of Kerasous and it was presumably by their ravages that the rule of Melissenos at Oinaion was destroyed. Only the mountains around Kerasous prevented them from venturing any further, much to the relief of the people of Trebizond. Tamerlane also put his son Mirza Halil in charge of the affairs of Armenia, Trebizond, and Georgia, but with his father's death in 1405 Halil rushed off to assume the throne at Samarkand leaving Trebizond and the local Turkmen princes of the region effectively free.

The last years of Manuel's reign were clouded by discord with his own son Alexios IV, although he had been associated in authority as despotes. Manuel had for a time taken into his service a young man as his page. The favor shown to him, however, aroused the anger of the native aristocracy because of his humble birth so they poisoned the minds of the people against the page. At the same time, Alexios, covetous of the throne, raised the flag of revolt and demanded that the favorite be banished. The nobles joined him and besieged Manuel in the upper citadel, finally forcing him to concede and banish the favorite from the palace. The people then dispersed, but Alexios, who was still seeking the crown, was forced to reconcile with his father. Ironically, the price of reconciliation was that Alexios take the young page into his service. Manuel III died in March 1417, and was succeeded by Alexios IV.

The ambassador to Tamerlane Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo was received by Manuel while passing through Trebizond in April 1404 and wrote the following of him:

The Emperor and his son were dressed in imperial robes. They wore on their heads tall hats surmounted by golden cords, on the top of which were cranes' feathers; and the hats were bound with the skins of martens ... This Emperor pays tribute to Timur Beg, and to other Turks, who are his neighbours. He is married to a relation of the Emperor of Constantinople, and his son is married to the daughter of a knight of Constantinople, and has two little daughters.1

Manuel, "like his father, took an active interest in buildings of a religious nature. In the year of his succession he presented an ornate cross believed to contain a holy relic (stavrotek), in this case a piece of the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified, to the Soumela Monastery."2



  1. Clavijo's Embassy, translated by C. R. Markham (1859), quoted in The Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261–1453, by Donald M. Nicol (1972).
  2. From an article on the website of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism about the Sumela Monastery, retrieved December 28, 2004.
Manuel III of Trebizond
Komnenid dynasty
Born: 16 December 1364 Died: 5 March 1417
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Alexios III
Emperor of Trebizond
Succeeded by
Alexios IV

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