He is chiefly known for two brilliant campaigns by which he recovered Thrace from the Bulgarians (1255-1256). His ill-health and early death prevented his making full use of his ability as a ruler.
Theodore II Doukas Laskaris was the only son of Emperor John III Doukas Vatatzes and Eirene Laskarina, the daughter of Emperor Theodore I Laskaris and Anna Angelina. Anna was a daughter of Emperor Alexios III Angelos and Euphrosyne Doukaina Kamaterina.
Theodore II received a scholarly education and remained devoted to science and art throughout his life. In contrast with earlier practice, Theodore II was not crowned co-emperor with his father, though he assisted in the government since c. 1241. On the death of John III on November 4, 1254, Theodore II was acclaimed emperor by the army and the court, but was crowned only after the appointment of a new patriarch, Arsenios Autoreianos, in 1255.
The succession of Theodore II was exploited by the Bulgarians, who invaded Thrace under the leadership of the young and inexperienced Michael Asen I of Bulgaria in 1255. In spite of his own scholarly predisposition, Theodore II immediately marched against the Bulgarians and inflicted a crushing defeat on them. During his second expedition in 1256, he managed to conclude a favorable peace with Bulgaria, which may have plunged the latter into a crisis of leadership. Theodore II followed up his victory against Bulgaria by expanding his control in the west, where he annexed Durazzo and Servia, effectively outflanking his rivals in Epirus.
Internally, Theodore II favored bureaucrats from the middle classes, instead of members of the great aristocratic families. This caused considerable opposition by the nobility to the emperor and his chief minister, the megas domestikos George Mouzalon. The conflict led to the exile of one of the leaders of the aristocratic faction, the future Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus, who was accused of conspiring with the Seljuks of Rum. In the midst of this crisis, Theodore II's epileptic condition worsened, and the emperor died on August 18, 1258, leaving George Mouzalon as the regent for his minor son John IV Laskaris.
Theodore II Doukas Laskaris married Elena, daughter of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria in 1235, by whom he had several children including:
John IV Doukas Laskaris
Eirene Doukaina Laskarina, who married Constantine I of Bulgaria
Maria Doukaina Laskarina, who married Nikephoros I Komnenos Doukas of Epirus
Michael VIII Palaiologos, having taken the imperial throne and made the 11-year old John IV ineligible for the emperorship by blinding, had Theodore's daughters married off to foreigners, so their descendants could not threaten his own children's claim to the imperial succession.
The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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