John II Comnenus (1118-1143)


John II Comnenus (b. 1088--d. April 8, 1143), Byzantine emperor whose reign was characterized by unremitting attempts to reconquer all important Byzantine territory lost to the Arabs, Turks, and Christian crusaders. A fuller, although far from complete picture of John's reign is painted by the two principal historians of the twelfth century, John Kinnamos and Niketas Choniates.

A son of Emperor Alexius I Comnenus and Irene Ducas, John kept an austere court and spent most of his reign with his troops. He sought to strengthen Byzantine finances by ending Venetian trading privileges in the empire. A great mistake of Comnenoi was that they neglected the Byzantine fleet, and could not face the raids by Venetians to Aegean islands, Corfu, Cefallenia, Evia. So in 1126 he was forced to restore the venetian privileges. But on the north he was more succesfull and he managed to defeat Pechenegs, Hungarians, and Serbs during the 1120s.

John or Ioannes took personal command of the imperial forces, and campaigned extensively in Minor Asia and lands further east, capitalizing on his father's successes. He fought wars against the Danishmendids (turkish tribe) and liberated the cities of Kastamone and Ankyra after 1134. He restored Byzantine authority in Cilicia in 1137. Later forced Raymond of Poitiers, prince of Antioch, to recognize Byzantine suverainty. John and Raymond formed an alliance against turks, but in 1143 John died following a hunting accident after naming his fourth son, Manuel I, to succeed him. If Latins and Greeks had created a strong alliance in Syria, they would have thrown out the turkish hordes from Minor Asia.

John was buried, with his wife, in the Pantokrator monastery in Constantinople, his own monastic complex, for which the foundation charter (typikon), dated October 1136, survives. The three parallel church buildings stand today, with the Turkish name Zerek Kilise Camii.