Doukas, Latinized as Ducas (Greek: Δούκας; feminine:
Doukaina/Ducaena, Δούκαινα; plural: Doukai/Ducae,
Δοῦκαι), from the Latin tile dux ("leader", "general",
Hellenized as δοὺξ [ðouks]), is the name of a Byzantine Greek
noble family, whose branches provided several notable generals and
rulers to the
Byzantine Empire in the 9th–11th centuries. A
maternally-descended line, the Komnenodoukai, founded the Despotate of
Epirus in the 13th century, with another branch ruling over Thessaly.
After the 12th century, the name "Doukas" and other variants
proliferated across the Byzantine world, and were sometimes presented
as signifying a direct genealogical relationship with the original
family or the later branch based in the Despotate of Epirus.
The continuity of descent amongst the various branches of the
original, middle Byzantine family is not clear, and historians
generally recognize several distinct groups of Doukai based on their
occurrence in the contemporary sources. According to Demetrios I.
Polemis, who compiled the only overview work on the bearers of the
Doukas name, in view of this lack of genealogical continuity "it would
be a mistake to view the groups of people designated by the cognomen
Doukas as forming one large family".
1.2 Doukai of the early 10th century
1.3 Lydoi-Doukai under Basil II
Doukas imperial dynasty
1.5 Under the Komnenoi
1.6 Later branches
4 External links
Nothing is known for certain about the family's origin. Later
tradition, mentioned by the historian Nikephoros Bryennios, held that
they descended from a cousin of the
Roman emperor Constantine I who
had migrated to
Constantinople in the 4th century and allegedly became
the city's governor with the title of doux. This tradition is,
however, evidently an invention meant to glorify the family, at the
time the Empire's ruling dynasty, by 11th-century court
chroniclers. In fact, it is more likely that the surname derives
from the relatively common military rank of doux. Nothing is known
about the family's origin. Some authors have raised the possibility of
an Armenian descent, but it is almost certain that the Doukai were in
fact native-born Greeks, probably from
Paphlagonia in north-central
Anatolia, where their estates were located.
Doukai of the early 10th century
Doukas escapes from Arab captivity, throwing gold coins
behind him to delay his pursuers. Miniature from the Madrid Skylitzes
The first representative of the family appears in the mid-9th century,
during the regency of Empress Theodora (r. 842–855), when he was
sent to forcibly convert the
Paulicians to Orthodoxy. He is only known
as "the son of Doux", although
Skylitzes interpolates the name of
Andronikos, probably in confusion with Andronikos
Doukas (see next).
This name is also used by some modern sources, e.g. in the
Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit (Andronikos #433).
The first branch of the family to achieve prominence was in the early
10th century (they are usually referred to with the archaic form Doux
Doukas in the sources), with Andronikos
Doukas and his son
Constantine Doukas. Both were senior generals during the reign of
Leo VI the Wise
Leo VI the Wise (r. 886–912). In circa 904, Andronikos
engaged in an unsuccessful rebellion and was forced to flee to Baghdad
where he was killed in circa 910. Constantine managed to escape and
was restored to high office, becoming Domestic of the Schools. He was
killed, however, along with his son Gregory and nephew Michael, in an
unsuccessful coup in June 913. These deaths, along with the
castration and exile of Constantine's younger son Stephen and the
death of a Nicholas
Doukas (of uncertain relation to the others) at
Battle of Katasyrtai in 917, mark the end of the first group of
Doukai recorded in Byzantine sources. It is likely, as the
12th-century historian Zonaras records, that the Doukai line died out,
and that the later bearers of the name were descendants through the
female line only.
Lydoi-Doukai under Basil II
Towards the end of the 10th century, there appeared a second family,
sometimes known as Lydoi ("the Lydians", likely indicating their
origin). Its members were Andronikos Doux Lydos and his sons,
Christopher and Bardas, the latter known with the sobriquet Mongos
("hoarse"). It is unclear whether the doux in Andronikos's name is a
surname or a military rank; some scholars consider them as belonging
Doukas clan, although the exact relation, if any, with the
earlier Doukai, is impossible to ascertain. The family was involved in
the 976–979 rebellion of
Bardas Skleros against Emperor
Basil II (r.
976–1025), but the sons were later pardoned and resumed their
careers. Bardas the Mongos is attested as late as 1017, when he led a
military expedition against the Khazars.
Doukas imperial dynasty
Further information: Byzantium under the Doukids
Gold histamenon of Emperor
Constantine X Doukas
Constantine X Doukas (r. 1059–1067).
The third group of the family, the Doukai of the 11th century, was the
more numerous and distinguished one, providing several generals,
governors, and founding the Doukid dynasty which ruled Byzantium from
1059 to 1081. These Doukai seem to have come from Paphlagonia, and
were exceedingly wealthy, possessing extensive estates in Anatolia.
Again, the relationship of this group with the Doukai of the 9th and
10th centuries is unclear; the contemporary writers Michael Psellos
Nicholas Kallikles affirm such a relationship, but Zonaras openly
The most famous members of this group were the dynasty's founder,
Constantine X Doukas
Constantine X Doukas (r. 1059–1067), his brother John
Doukas, katepano and later Caesar, Constantine's son Michael VII
Doukas (r. 1071–1078), Michael's younger brothers, Konstantios and
Andronikos Doukas, Michael's son and co-emperor Constantine
John's son, the general Andronikos Doukas.
During this period, the family intermarried with other aristocratic
clans: before becoming emperor, Constantine X had married into the
powerful Dalassenoi family, and took as a second wife Eudokia
Makrembolitissa, niece of the Patriarch Michael Keroularios. Further
dynastic matches were made with the clans of the Anatolian military
aristocracy, including the Palaiologoi and the Pegonitai. The most
important connection, however, was to the Komnenoi: in 1077, Alexios
Komnenos, then a general and later emperor (r. 1081–1118), married
Irene Doukaina, the great-niece of Constantine X; thereafter, the
family name Komnenodoukas was often used. This marriage alliance
crucial for Alexios's own rise to the purple: his marriage to a
Doukaina made him senior to his elder brother Isaac, and it was Doukai
financial and political support that largely facilitated the
successful and bloodless coup that brought him to the throne.
Under the Komnenoi
Their association with the Komnenoi helped ensure the continued
prominence and prestige of the
Doukas name at the apex of the
Byzantine aristocracy into the Komnenian period, and the presence of
the family's members amongst the higher officials of the Byzantine
state. During the reign of Alexios I, the Doukai continued to play
an important role: Constantine
Doukas was recognized as heir-apparent
and affianced to
Anna Komnene (although he lost his title when the
future John II
Komnenos was born); and Irene Doukaina's brothers, the
Doukas and the megas doux John
Doukas were among
the most prominent military leaders of the late 11th century.
During the 12th century, the prestige of the
Doukas name meant that it
was often taken as a second surname by members of other families, even
if remotely (and usually matrilineally) linked to the actual Doukai,
who become relatively obscure after the turn of the century. It is
hence impossible to clearly distinguish the numerous holders of the
name or to discern their exact relationship with the 11th-century
Doukid dynasty. The actual bloodline of Constantine X died out
probably before 1100, and the last known descendants of his brother,
the Caesar John, lived in the first half of the 12th century. The
majority of the 12th-century bearers of the name were therefore most
likely members of other families, linked through marriage with the
Doukai, who chose to emphasize this relationship due to the prestige
the name conferred.
In this way, mingled with other noble families or adopted de novo even
by humble families unrelated to the original lineage, the Doukas
name survived into the last centuries of the Byzantine Empire. A
prominent example of the Late Byzantine period were the Komnenodoukai
Despotate of Epirus
Despotate of Epirus in northwestern Greece, founded by Michael
Doukas and other descendants of John Doukas, a grandson of
Komnenos and Irene Doukaina. From them the surname "Doukas"
was used by the Greek, and later Serbian, rulers of Epirus and
Thessaly until the 15th century. Other examples include John III
Doukas Vatatzes, Nicaean emperor (r. 1221–1254) and his
relatives, the late Byzantine historian Doukas, and the megas
Demetrios Doukas Kabasilas in the mid-14th century.
The name spread far and wide across the Greek-speaking world as well
as in Albania, and remains fairly common to this day. Among the more
notable bearers of the
Doukas name in the post-Byzantine period were
the 16th-century Cretan scholar Demetrius Ducas, the 17th-century
George Ducas and Constantine Ducas (their descent
is variously given as Greek,
Vlach or Albanian) or the 19th-century
scholar and educationalist Neophytos Doukas. Several variations
also developed, such as Doukakes (Δουκάκης) (cf. former
Massachusetts state governor Michael Dukakis), Doukopoulos
(Δουκόπουλος), Doukatos (Δουκάτος), Makrodoukas or
Makrydoukas (Μακροδούκας/Μακρυδούκας), etc.
Other variants like Doukaites (Δουκαΐτης) or Doukides
(Δουκίδης) seem to derive not from the surname, but from a
locality and a first name "Doukas" respectively.
^ Polemis 1968, pp. 1–2.
^ Polemis 1968, p. 3.
^ a b Krsmanović 2003, Chapter 2 Archived February 20, 2012, at the
^ Polemis 1968, p. 4.
^ Polemis 1968, pp. 5–6.
^ a b c d e f g Kazhdan 1991, p. 655.
^ Polemis 1968, pp. 2, 16.
^ a b Krsmanović 2003, Chapter 3.
^ Polemis 1968, pp. 2, 6–7, 16–25; Kazhdan 1991,
pp. 655, 657.
^ Polemis 1968, pp. 2, 6–8, 25–26.
^ Polemis 1968, pp. 2, 8, 26–27.
^ Krsmanović 2003, Chapter 4[permanent dead link].
^ a b Krsmanović 2003, Chapter 5.1.
^ Polemis 1968, pp. 8–11.
^ Krsmanović 2003, Chapter 5.2.
^ Krsmanović 2003, Chapter 5.4.
^ Polemis 1968, p. 10.
^ Kazhdan 1991, pp. 655, 657–658.
^ Polemis 1968, pp. 10–11, 189.
^ Krsmanović 2003, Chapter 6 Archived February 20, 2012, at the
^ Polemis 1968, p. 189.
^ cf. Polemis 1968, pp. 80–199.
^ Polemis 1968, pp. 85–100.
^ Polemis 1968, pp. 107ff.
^ Polemis 1968, pp. 198–199.
^ Polemis 1968, p. 123.
^ Polemis 1968, pp. 202–203.
^ Polemis 1968, pp. 202–211.
Cheynet, Jean-Claude (1996). Pouvoir et Contestations à Byzance
(963–1210) (in French). Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne.
Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991). The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium.
New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Krsmanović, Bojana (11 September 2003). "
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World,
Asia Minor. Athens: Foundation of
the Hellenic World. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011.
Retrieved 17 April 2012.
Polemis, Demetrios I. (1968). The Doukai: A Contribution to Byzantine
Prosopography. London: The Athlone Press.
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