John and Irene Comnenus
On the death of his father, Alexius I, the founder of the Imperial Comneni
dynasty, John Comnenus II ascended the throne of the Byzantine Empire and ruled
for 25 years - from 1118-1143. He was born during his father's reign, that is,
after Alexius had actually ascended the throne, and hence held the title
"porphyrogennitos" - "born into the purple". This word in Greek can be
seen running vertically down to the right of John's figure on the mosaic.
Similarly, his empress's name "Eirene" can be seen across the top of her head as
can be the title "Augusta", just to the right of her head.
This mosaic graces
one of the walls of the south gallery in the Hagia Sophia.
John was detested
by his sister Anna Comnena, Alexius' biographer, for having deprived her of the opportunity to rule through their father's direct choice and decision.
Perhaps posterity may be grateful for that fact. Had she ruled she may not have
retired to a monastery and not had the time or inclination to write her
biography of Alexius' life - "The Alexiad" - and we would have lost one of our
major and most detailed sources of events and descriptions of court-life, during
the reign of Alexius and afterwards, and also of events leading up to the First
Crusades, as seen from the perspective of the East.
Back to The Byzantine Empire Back
to Home Page