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Medieval and Byzantine History Medieval and Byzantine History Forum - Period of History between classical antiquity and modern times, roughly the 5th through 16th Centuries


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Old December 4th, 2012, 01:40 PM   #1

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Question The Death of John II Komnenos...Suspicious?


So John who had a few issues with the Principality of Antioch, and had a Latins within his army, he died while out hunting having got septicaemia from accidentally wounding himself, and then chose his younger son Manuel as his successor over his older sibling Isaac. Manuel being considered relatively pro-western.

A series of unfortunate events, or something more, an Antiochene conspiracy,cui bono?

Any particular thoughts on this matter from the Byzantine Scholars here?
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Old December 4th, 2012, 01:43 PM   #2

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DreamWeaver View Post
So John who had a few issues with the Principality of Antioch, and had a Latins within his army, he died while out hunting having got septicaemia from accidentally wounding himself, and then chose his younger son Manuel as his successor over his older sibling Isaac. Manuel being considered relatively pro-western.

A series of unfortunate events, or something more, an Antiochene conspiracy,cui bono?

Any particular thoughts on this matter from the Byzantine Scholars here?
I'm afraid I don't know enough to answer your question, though I look forward to answers from our more knowledgeable Byzantinists...

However I am ALWAYS highly suspicious of deaths while "out hunting" in the medieval world. Hunting trip assassinations seem to have been one of the preferred methods of dealing with unwanted rivals back then.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 04:47 PM   #3

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If nothing else its certainly one of those events that shapes up all quite nicely for a bit of cloak and dagger.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 07:20 PM   #4

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I've never found it to be particularly suspicious. The sources are poor (both Kinnamos and Choniates are more interested in later rulers and events, and only begin with John as a sort of prelude) but they do agree, as I recall, in John wounding himself and taking a little while to die from infection. I find it rather curious that John seems to have imprisoned or executed no one, and doesn't even seem to have been terribly bothered by his wound at first. John had been a successful military emperor up to this point and I find it hard to believe he felt completely unable to move against conspirators when he was with his army. No one seems placed to take over, John doesn't appear to have done anything that indicated conspiracy between his wound and his death, and the transition of power lacked the typical Byzantine blood-letting. While hunting accidents immediately look suspicious, they were good choices for conspiracies because they were naturally dangerous.

As for Manuel being pro-western, isn't that largely a later attitude in the sources? He seems to have handled the Second Crusade even more belligerently than Alexios did the First, and I was under the impression that Manuel only started becoming more friendly towards the west after his role in that debacle.

I recall Timothy Dawson saying something about how John cutting himself on poisoned arrows makes perfect sense given what we know of Byzantine quivers, which were kept around the waits with the arrow points facing up (assuming I'm remembering the details right).
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Old December 4th, 2012, 08:09 PM   #5

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Did any sources report Vice President Cheney being questioned after John II Komnenos' hunting accident? I'd like to know where he was.
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Old December 8th, 2012, 12:56 PM   #6

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Just one of those situations where his untimely death on hunting accident was beneficial or convenient for other persons. One of those strange happen-stances of history.

Manuel succeeding his older brother, Antioch, Zengi with Edessa etc.
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Old December 8th, 2012, 02:52 PM   #7

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Died hunting? That's a dead giveaway, mate.
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Old December 8th, 2012, 05:15 PM   #8

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In the spring of 1143, near Mopsuestia, John supposedly pricked himself with a poisoned arrow while out hunting. Most of the native Byzantines in the camp wanted his older son Isaac to ascend to the throne, but the western mercenaries preferred Manuel. Shortly before his death, John chose Manuel; it is important to note that Isaac was not presently at the camp. Paraphrased from Treadgold's A History of the Byzantine State and Society, pg. 636.

The whole affair is a murky one. The mercenaries and supporters of Manuel could have fabricated his rise to the throne, but we really just don't know enough to make decisive statements.
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Old December 9th, 2012, 05:47 AM   #9

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A hunting accident is the most cliché way of assassinating a medieval king.
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Old December 9th, 2012, 08:55 AM   #10

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It is cliche, which is why it is a bit suspicious, especially given the results.


However there does remain the possibility that it could have been just that and nothing more and sheer opportunism by others.
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