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European Kingdoms

Eastern Mediterranean


Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire
Rival Eastern Emperors in Epirus (Thessalonica) (AD 1204-1340)

In AD 395, the Roman empire finally split permanently, creating formal Eastern Roman and Western Roman empires, acknowledging what had existed in practise for many years.

Claimants to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) throne set up rival powerbases, including this one in the territory of the former Greek kingdom of Epirus. Its territory also included the principality of Arbanon (Arbër in Albanian), centred on Croia (Kruja) in the central northern section of modern Albania.

For members of the Jewish Diaspora who were citizens of the fractured empire, especially the long-term resident Romaniote Jews, conditions abruptly worsened. Anti-Semitic legislation was now more easy to pass in smaller states, and the Jews seemed to bear the brunt of it. Theodore Ducas especially targeted them, but only after his declaration of imperial status in 1227. The suspicion is that he needed to confiscate Jewish property in order to meet a desperate shortfall in his funds.

Eastern Roman Emperor Basil II in iconography

(Information by Peter Kessler, and from External Links: Encyclopædia Britannica, and Jewish Encyclopaedia, and History of the Byzantine Empire (Live Science).)

1204 - 1215

Michael I Ducas

Descendant of the Ducas dynasty emperors.

1215 - 1230

Theodore Ducas

Emperor in Thessalonica 1227-30. Captured by Ivan II Asen.


The Crusader kingdom of Thessalonica is gained, and the Epirians move their court there. From 1231, Michael II rules Epirus as a subsidiary state.


Ivan II Asen wins the Battle of Klokotnitsa, crushing the forces of Theodore Komnenos Doukas (Ducas) of the empire of Thessalonica. Theodore's empire soon collapses, allowing Ivan Asen to take possession of great swathes of Macedonia, Thessaly, and Thrace. Theodore himself is captured and held for the next seven years while his brother, Michael, takes command of his remaining territories.

1230 - 1237


Emperor in Thessalonica.

1237 - 1242


Emperor in Thessalonica.


John is defeated by John III Ducas Vatatzes of Nicæa, and is reduced to a despot.

1242 - 1244



1244 - 1246




Thessalonica falls to John III Ducas Vatatze of Nicæa. Epirus is isolated.

Byzantine icon
An icon showing four episodes from the life of Christ probably painted in Thessalonica, which was the most important artistic centre in the crumbling empire after Constantinople

1231 - 1271

Michael II

Granted title of despot of Epirus by John III in 1249.

1271 - 1296

Nicephoras I

1296 - 1318


1213 - 1323

Nicholas Orsini

1323 - 1335

John Orsini

1335 - 1337

Nicephoras II

Re-established his claim in 1340.

1337 & 1340

Epirus absorbed by Byzantine Emperor Andronicus III.

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