Tarchaneiotes family

1. The Family

The Tarchaneiotes family, whose name probably derives from their birthplace, the settlement of Tarchaneion near Kypsela, Thrace,1 emerged in the historical scene during the reign of Basil II (963/976-1025). They held senior offices in the administration and at times served as military commanders, thus playing an active role in the political and military matters of the Byzantine state. They were active mainly in the western part of the Empire, especially Macedonia and Italy.

2. Famous Members in the Battlefield (10th-11th c.)

In 999 Gregory Tarchaneiotes, in his capacity as the katepano of Italy, turned the Saracens successfully out of the country, while shortly later Basil Tarchaneiotes was awarded the title of magister militum of the West. Other members of the family activated in the East, such as Joseph Tarchaneiotes, who in 1071 accompanied Romanos IV (Diogenes) (1068-1071) in his campaign against the Seljuks in Armenia and later became doukas of Antioch.

3. Intermarriages

In the 11th century the social position of the Tarchaneiotes family improved thanks to intermarriages with the Bryennios and later the Komnenos families. However, during the reign of the Komnenos family (1081-1183) they were not given key positions, with the exception of John Tarchaneiotes, who was awarded the title of the protos of the Athonite, the highest ecclesiastical office a member of the family had ever been awarded, and another John Tarchaneiotes, who was awarded the title of protoproedros.

The family thrived in the 13th century after the intermarriage with the Palaiologos family, when the megas domestikos Nikephoros Tarchaneiotes by order of John III Doukas Vatatzes (1222-1254) got married to Maria Palaiologina, the elder sister of Michael Palaiologos, the subsequent Michael VIII (1258-1261: Nicaea / 1261-1282: Constantinople). The Tarchaneiotes family was going to be among the most eminent aristocratic families and possessed vast landed properties in the region of Smyrna.2 In the same period the protostrator Michael Doukas Glabas Tarchaneiotes got married to Maria Doukaina Komnene Branaina Palaiologina.

4. Famous Members in the Battlefield (13th-14th c.)

In the years of the Palaiologos dynasty (1261-1453) the Tarchaneiotes family still held senior positions and titles, thus offering their services to the empire. Michael Doukas Glabas Tarchaneiotes fought under Michael VIII Palaiologos (1261-1282) and Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282-1328) against the Bulgarians, the Serbs and the Anjou. John Tarchaneiotes, the son of the megas domestikos Nikephoros Tarchaneiotes, although a leading figure of the Arsenite movement, led a campaign against the Ottomans in Asia Minor in 1298. Asia Minor was the territory where the pinkernesAlexios Doukas Philanthropenos activated later; he was John’s nephew and the usurper to the throne of Andronikos II Palaiologos.

5. Relations with the Imperial Power

In the years of Michael VIII and Andronikos II some members of the Tarchaneiotes family, who belonged to the Arsenite party, disputed with the central administration, faced serious accusations and were imprisoned.

In 1347 John VI Kantakouzenos (1347-1354), the great-grandson of Nikephoros Tarchaneiotes, ascended the throne of the Byzantine Empire following a hard struggle. He was joined by several members of the Tarchaneiotes family, such as Manuel Kourtikes Tarchaneiotes, one of his loyal companions during the turbulent period of the civil war (1341-1347), and protostrator Constantine Tarchaneiotes, who led the Byzantine troops during the battle against the Genoese of Galata on July 28, 1351.

When John VI Kantakouzenos lost his throne the Tarchaneiotes family continued playing a key role in the Empire, still holding senior positions.

6. Notable Members in Italy and Russia

After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 some members of the Tarchaneiotes family fled to the West. The scholar Paulos Tarchaneiotes and his nephew Michael Maroullos Tarchaneiotes, who excelled as a poet, as well as the historian John Tarchaneiotes activated in Italy shortly later. In the same period other members of the family went to Russia, where they held key positions. George Tarchaneiotes was a distinguished diplomat under the sovereign of Russia John III (1458-1505), while his brother Demetrios and his nephew George were awarded the title of boyar under Zoe-Sophia Palaiologina, John III’s wife. Their descendants held senior positions in the Russian court until the 17th century, but from then onwards no further information is provided about the family.

1. Moravcsik believes that the name Tarchaneiotes comes from the Türkmen word tarquan (blacksmith) or the Bulgarian office of tarkanos; see Moravcsik, G., Byzantinoturkika II (Berlin 1958), pp. 299-300. According to Cahen, the Tarchaneiotes family was descended from Georgia; see Cahen, C., “La campagne de Mantzikert d’après les sources musulmanes”, Byzantion 9 (1934), pp. 630-631; see also Άμαντος, Κ., “Σύμμεικτα: Πόθεν το όνομα Ταρχανειώτης”, Ελληνικά 2 (1929), pp. 435-436.

2. The Tarchaneiotes family is mentioned in the historical work of George Pachymeres: Bekker, Ι. (ed.), Georgii Pachymeres de Michaele et Andronico Palaeologis libri trecedim 1 (CSHB, Bonn 1835), p. 21.