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Tornikios family

Author(s) : Stouraitis Ioannis (7/25/2005)
Translation : Velentzas Georgios

For citation: Stouraitis Ioannis, "Tornikios family ",
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Asia Minor
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=9386>

Τορνίκιοι (Τορνίκες) (3/7/2007 v.1) Tornikios family  (1/15/2007 v.1) 

1. General Information about the Family

The Tornikios family1 was of Armenian origin, a branch of the Armenian aristocratic lineage of Taron.2 However, it has been suggested that a family branch was of Georgian origin.3 A descendant of the Armenian prince family of Taronites (of Taron) is considered the patriarch of the family. The Armenian prince Abu Ghanim or Apoganem, brother of the Prince of Taron, who was accepted in Constantinople in the early 10th century and was awarded at first the title of protospatharios and later the title of patrikios,4 had a son called T‘ornik, who was also awarded the title of patrician. After he died, his wife and son Nikolaos, urged by Emperor Romanos I Lakapenos (920-944), settled in Constantinople and, thus, the family assumed its role in the political scene of the Byzantine aristocracy. The name T‘ornik, a nickname of the Armenian word 't‘orn', meaning grandson, was rendered as Tornikios (Τορνίκιος) or Tornikes/Tornikis (Τορνίκης).5

From the mid-10th century some members of the family acquired a role of growing importance in the political affairs of the Empire, while from the late 10th century as well as in the 11th century they held senior military offices and played a leading part in crucial military and political events. From the 12th century on and during the Late Byzantine period the Tornikios family held mainly political offices, while in the 13th century the family grew even more in importance because of intermarriages with members of other important aristocratic families, mainly the Palaiologos family.

2. The Tornikios Family in the Middle Byzantine Period

The first members of the family to play an important role in the empire were Nikolaos Tornikios, son of the patrician Tornik, and some Leo Tornikios, an alleged son of Tornik as well.6 Both Nikolaos an Leo are mentioned as supporters of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, when the latter elbowed the two sons of co-Emperor Romanos I Lakapenos in 945 and assumed power.7 The next Tornikios mentioned is John, who played a key role in 976-979, during the suppression of the revolt of the doukas of Mesopotamia Βardas Skleros against Emperor Basil II (976-1025).

John was a liege of the prince of Iberia David of Tayk'/Tao and may have been of Georgian origin, while it is unclear whether he had any relation with the abovementioned Tornikios family.8 John seems to have retrieved for some time into Mt. Athos, but then, towards the end of 978, he was summoned by Emperor Basil II to intervene with David of Tayk'/Tao and secure his military support on behalf of the emperor. His diplomatic mission was entirely successful. In the spring of 979 he returned to the Byzantine territories leading 12,000 Iberian riders and contributed vitally to the defeat of the rebel by the imperial forces under Bardas Fokas, the domestikos ton scholon of the East, on 24 March 979.9

The relatives of John Tornikios became military officials under the Byzantine emperor. A stamp preserved at the Hermitage reports some strategos Tornikios Varazvače, who has the same name as the brother of John Tornikios.10 The Byzantine historian Skylitzes also reports some ‘Iberian’ Varazvače, who ruled Edessa in the east of Asia Minor around 1038.11 Another Tornikios called Kontoleon is also reported as the katepano of Italy in 1017.12

The most important member of the family in the 11th century was the nephew of Constantine IX Monomachus (1042-1055) Leo Tornikios, who came from Adrianople and even claimed the imperial throne. There is little and mixed information about his career. It is certain that he distinguished himself in senior military posts, while he was awarded the grand title of patrician. According to the Byzantine historian Michael Attaleiates, before he revolted against the Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus, he had become strategos of Melitene. However, according to the scholar Μichael Psellos, who describes Leo as a strong, proud and ambitious man, he ruled Iberia.13 Moreover, it has been suggested that he was a domestikos ton scholon of the West.14 While he was a ruler, some of his supporters in his birthplace Macedonia were organised and revolted against Constantine IX Monomachus. In September 1047, in the region of Adrianople, the revolters caused big trouble and almost captured Constantinople. Finally, the revolt failed and Leo Tornikios was punished by being blinded on Christmas day of 1047 in Constantinople; he probably died shortly later.

Tornikios Kotertzis is reported to have taken part in the battle of Mantzikert in 1071, leading a number of Uzes. In 1078, during the conflict among the strategoi of the empire about the throne, someone called Petros Tornikios appeared to be fighting under strategos Alexios Komnenos, supporter of the subsequent Emperor Nikephoros III Botaneiates, against the latter’s opponent strategos Basilakes.15 He was probably a member of the family of Leo Tornikios, for he is also reported as ‘Macedonian’, which proves that he belonged to the branch of the Tornikios family that had settled in the region of Adrianople.

In the first half of the 12th century the family temporarily disappears from the forefront and returns towards the end of the century, when it starts to prosper surviving until the Late Byzantine period. The most known member at the time was Georgios Tornikios,16 who was a teacher of psalms and gospels in Constantinople and held the ecclesiastical posts of the annotator at the patriarchal secretariat at first and the metropolitan of Ephesus (1155) later. Georgios Tornikios was a very active clergyman who supported the Union of the Churches, on condition that Constantinople would be at the head, and was an active scholar and a prolific writer in whose work, especially in his letters, we find plenty of information about life and the people in Ephesus at his time.17

3. The Tornikios Family in the Late Byzantine Period

From the late 12th century on the members of the Tornikios family returned to holding senior political posts and being actively involved in political developments.

In the last third of the century lived Demetrios Tornikios, who assumed the posts of the logothetes tou dromou and the krites tou velum, and his son Constantine, who became eparch of Constantinople in the years of Alexios III Angelos (1195-1203) and, after his father died (probably in 1201), he became logothetes tou dromou.18 His second son Euthymios was a deacon and a writer of poems and rhetorical speeches.19 After Constantinople was captured by the Crusaders in 1204, the family moved to Νicaea, the capital of the namesake Empire. The son of Constantine, Demetrios Tornikios, was a mesazon in the court of Nicaea in the years of Theodore I Laskaris (1204-1222), where he played an important role, and married the niece of the megas domestikos Andronikos Palaiologos.

The son of Demetrios, Constantine Tornikios, became megas primikerios in the years of John III Vatatzes (1222-1254), a post he lost in the years of Theodore II Laskaris (1254-1258), when he temporarily fell into disgrace because of his kinship with the Palaiologos family.20 However, he returned to the forefront after the death of that emperor, when his daughter married John Palaiologos, the megas domestikos and brother of Michael VIII (1259-1282), while in 1259 he was awarded the title of sebastokrator. His second daughter married Ioannes Angelos, son of Michael II (1231-1271) of Epirus. After Constantinople was recaptured by the Byzantines (1261), the Tornikios family returned to the capital, where Constantine appeared in 1264 as the eparch of the city,21 while in 1266 he appeared as kephalatikeuon (head) in Thessaloniki.22

John Tornikios, mentioned in 1258 as doux of the Theme of Thrakesion, is considered brother of the sebastokrator Constantine,23 while it has been suggested that he may have been his son.24 Somebody called Andronikos Tornikios Komnenos, who was a mediator in 1259 and died during an epidemic of plague, was brother of the sebastokrator Constantine as well.25

Among the important members of the family were Constantine Tornikios Palaiologos in the 14th century, who is reported in 1326 in the post of the megas droungarios tes viglas and his alleged son Demetrios Tornikios Palaiologos, who was a megas droungarios tes viglas and kephalatikeuon in Constantinople between 1337 and 1339.26 Andronikos Tornikios Komnenos Doukas Palaiologos was a parakoimomenos in the years of Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282-1328) and a particularly active diplomat. In 1325 he is supposed to have played a leading part in the negotiations over the marriage between Andronikos III and Princess Anne of Savoy, while shortly later he visited Serbia as a delegate of the emperor. Towards the end of his life (after 1328) he became a monk. Finally, megas konostaulos Michael Tornikios, who served as a counselor of Andronikos II during his conflict with his grandson Andronikos II, is also reported to have lived during the same period (1320).27

1. PLP 12 = (Prosopographisches Lexikon der Palaiologenzeit 12, ed. Trapp E., Wien 1992), no. 29114 - 29140.

2. Adontz, N., ‘Les Taronites à Byzance’, Byzantion 11 (1936), p. 31; Akinean, N., Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der armenischen Literatur IV (azgayin matenadaran 145) (Wien 1938), pp. 49-88.

3. Peeters, P., ‘Un colophon géorgien de Tornik le Moine’, Analecta Bollendiana 50 (1932), pp. 358-371, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De adminstrando Imperio, Jenkins, R.J.H. (edit.) (London 1962), chap. 175.

4. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De adminstrando Imperio, Jenkins, R.J.H. (edit.) (London 1962), chap. 43, 54-177.

5. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De adminstrando Imperio, Jenkins, R.J.H. (edit.) (London 1962), chap. 43, 100 and 43, 136.

6. Adontz, N., ‘Les Taronites à Byzance’, Byzantion 11 (1936), p. 31.

7. Ioannis Scylitzae, Synopsis Historiarum, Thurn, I. (edit.) (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae, series Berolinensis, Berlin 1973), chap. 236. 80-89, Theophanus Continuatus, Bekker, I. (edit.) (Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae, Bonnae 1838), pp. 437. 1-10.

8. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium 3 (1991), pp. 2096-2097, see entry ‘Tornikios’, ‘Tornikios Euthymios’ and ‘Tornikios George’ (Al. Kazhdan).

9. Peeters, P., ‘Un colophon géorgien de Tornik le Moine’, Analecta Bollendiana 50 (1932), pp. 20-22; Histoire de la Gèorgie, trn from Georgian Brosset, Μ., vol. I (St. Petersburg 1849-1850), p. 293.

10. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium 3 (1991), p. 2096, see entry ‘Tornikios’ (Al. Kazhdan).

11. Ioannis Scylitzae, Synopsis Historiarum, Thurn, I. (edit.) (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae, series Berolinensis, Berlin 1973), p. 403. 33. In the section describing the events in the years of Romanos Argyros.

12. Adontz, N., ‘Les Taronites à Byzance’, Byzantion 11 (1936), p. 32.

13. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium 3 (1991), pp. 2097-2098, see entry ‘Tornikios Leo’ (Brand, C.M.), Adontz, N., ‘Les Taronites à Byzance’, Byzantion 11 (1936), pp. 33-34.

14. Cheynet, J.-C., ‘Nouvelle hypothèse à propos du domestique d’Occident citè sur une croix du Musée de Genève’, ByzSlav 42 (1981), pp. 196-202.

15. Adontz, N., ‘Les Taronites à Byzance’, Byzantion 11 (1936), p. 35.

16. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium 3 (1991), p. 2097, see entry ‘Tornikios George’ (Al. Kazhdan).

17. Darrouzès, J., Georges et Dèmètrios Tornikes, Lettre set discours (Paris 1970); Browning, R., ‘The Patriarchal School at Constantinople in the twelfth Century’, Byzantion 32 (1962), pp. 34-37.

18. Schmalzbauer, G., ‘Die Tornikioi in der Palaiologenzeit’, JÖB 18 (1969), p. 117.

19. Darrouzès, J., ‘Les discours d’Euthyme Tornikès’, REB 26 (1968), pp. 53-117.

20. Georgii Acropolitae, Annales, in Heisenberg, A. (edit,), Opera, vol. I (Lipsiae 1903), p. 114.

21. Georgii Pachymeris de Michaele et Adronico Palaeologis libri XIII, Bekkerus, I. (edit.), vol. I. (Bonnae 1835), p. 226.

22. In this capacity he dealt with matters of the Zografou Monastery of Mt Athos and signed two documents included in the archive of the monastery as, ‘συμπέθερος’ (relative whith the emperor) and ‘sebastokrator’,   See. PLP, no. 29129 (Tornikes Konstantinos).

23. Schmalzbauer, G., ‘Die Tornikioi in der Palaiologenzeit’, JÖB 18 (1969), pp. 121-122, see PLP no. 29126 (Tornikes Ioannes), keleustes (κελευστής) and doulos (δούλος) of Micael VIII Palailogos.

24. Arweihler, H., ‘L’Histoire et la Géographie de la Région de Smyrne’, TM 1 (1965), p. 149.

25. Schmalzbauer, G., ‘Die Tornikioi in der Palaiologenzeit’, JÖB 18 (1969), pp. 122-123.

26. Schmalzbauer, G., ‘Die Tornikioi in der Palaiologenzeit’, JÖB 18 (1969), pp. 124-125.

27. Schmalzbauer, G., ‘Die Tornikioi in der Palaiologenzeit’, JÖB 18 (1969), pp. 126-127, 131. See PLP, no. 29132 (Tornikes Michael).


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