Byzantine - Alexius III Angelus - Emperor: 8 April 1195 -
17 July 1203 A.D.
Billon Aspron Trachy 26mm (2.17 grams) Struck 1195-1203 A.D.
Reference: Sear 2011
Bust of Christ facing, beardless, wearing nimbus crown, pallium and colobium,
and raising right hand in benediction; in left scroll; to left, IC; to right, XC.
AΛЄȜΙΟС ΔЄСΠ Θ ΚWNᶜTANTI, Alexius on left and St. Constantine, bearded and
nimbate on right both standing facing, holding between them globe cross; each
wears crown, divitision and loros, and holds labarum.
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The Chi Rho is one of the earliest
christograms used by Christians. It is formed by superimposing the
first two letters in the Greek spelling of the word
Greek : "Χριστός" ), chi = ch and rho = r, in such a way to produce
monogram ☧. The Chi-Rho symbol was also used by pagan Greek scribes to
mark, in the margin, a particularly valuable or relevant passage; the
letters Chi and Rho standing for chrēston, meaning "good."
Although not technically a cross, the Chi Rho invokes the crucifixion
of Jesus as well as symbolizing his status as the Christ. There is early
evidence of the Chi Rho symbol on Christian Rings of the third century.
The labarum (Greek:
λάβαρον) was a
vexillum (military standard) that displayed the "Chi-Rho"
symbol, formed from the first two
Greek letters of the word "Christ"
ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, or Χριστός) — Chi (χ)
and Rho (ρ).
It was first used by the
Constantine I. Since the vexillum consisted of a flag suspended from
the crossbar of a cross, it was ideally suited to symbolize
crucifixion. The Chi-Rho symbol was also used by Greek scribes to
mark, in the margin, a particularly valuable or relevant passage; the
combined letters Chi and Rho standing for chrēston, meaning
Alexios III Angelos (Greek:
Αλέξιος Γ' Άγγελος) (c. 1153 – 1211) was
Byzantine emperor from 1195 to 1203.
Alexios III Angelos was the second son of Andronicos Angelos
and Euphrosyne Castamonitissa. Andronicus was himself a son of Theodora Comnene,
the youngest daughter of Emperor
Alexios I Komnenos and
Irene Ducaena. Thus Alexius Angelus was a member of the extended imperial
family. Together with his father and brothers, Alexios had conspired against
Andronikos I Komnenos (c. 1183), and thus he spent several years in exile in
Muslim courts, including that of
His younger brother
Isaac II Angelos, was threatened with execution under orders of their first
cousin once removed Andronicos I Comnenos on
made a desperate attack on the imperial agents and killed their leader
Stephanus Hagiochristophorites. He then took refuge in the church of
Sophia and from there appealed to the populace. His actions provoked a riot,
which resulted in the deposition of Andronicus I, and the proclamation of Isaac
II Angelus as emperor. Alexius was now closer to the imperial throne than ever
By 1190 Alexios Angelos had returned to the court of his
younger brother, from whom he received the elevated title of
sebastokratōr. In 1195, while Isaac II was away hunting in
was acclaimed as emperor by the troops with the conniving of Alexios' wife
Euphrosyne Ducaena Camatera. Alexios captured Isaac at
Macedonia, put out his eyes, and thenceforth kept him a close prisoner,
though he had been redeemed by him from captivity at
loaded with honours.
To compensate for this crime and to solidify his position as
emperor, Alexios had to scatter money so lavishly as to empty his treasury, and
to allow such licence to the officers of the army as to leave the Empire
practically defenceless. He consummated the financial ruin of the state. In
1195, Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI forced Alexios III to pay him a tribute of
1,000 pounds of gold (originally 5,000 pounds of gold). The able and forceful
empress Euphrosyne Ducaena Camatera tried in vain to sustain his credit and his
court; Vatatzes, the favourite instrument of her attempts at reform, was
assassinated by the emperor's orders.
In the east the Empire was overrun by the
Seljuk Turks; from the north
descended unchecked to ravage the plains of Macedonia and Thrace, and
Kaloyan of Bulgaria annexed several important cities, while Alexius
squandered the public treasure on his palaces and gardens and attempted to deal
with the crisis through diplomatic means. The emperor's attempts to bolster the
empire's defenses by special concessions to Byzantine and Bulgarian notables in
the frontier zone backfired, as the latter built up regional autonomy. Byzantine
authority survived, but in a much weakened state.
Soon Alexios was threatened by a new and yet more formidable
danger. In 1202 the Western princes assembled at
Alexios IV Angelos, the son of the deposed Isaac II, had recently escaped
Constantinople and now appealed to the crusaders, promising to end the
West, to pay for their transport, and to provide military support to the
crusaders if they helped him to depose his uncle and sit on his father's throne.
The crusaders, whose objective had been
persuaded to set their course for Constantinople before which they appeared in
June 1203, proclaiming Alexios as emperor and inviting the populace of the
capital to depose his uncle. Alexius III took no efficient measures to resist,
and his attempts to bribe the crusaders failed. His son-in-law,
Theodore Lascaris, who was the only one to attempt anything significant, was
Scutari, and the siege of Constantinople began. Unfortunately for
Constantinople, Alexius III's misgovernment had left the Byzantine navy with
only 20 worm-eaten hulks by the time the Crusaders arrived.
In July, the crusaders, led by the aged
Enrico Dandolo, scaled the walls and took control of a major section. In the
ensuing fighting, the crusaders set the city on fire, ultimately leaving 20,000
people homeless. Alexios III finally took action, and led 17 divisions from the
St. Romanus Gate, vastly outnumbering the crusaders. But his courage failed, and
the Byzantine army returned to the city without a fight. His courtiers demanded
action, and Alexius promised to fight. Instead, that night (July 17/18), Alexios
III hid in the palace, and finally, with one of his daughters, Eirene, and such
treasures (1,000 pounds of gold) as he could collect, got into a boat and
Thrace, leaving his wife and his other daughters behind. Isaac II, drawn
from his prison and robed once more in the imperial purple, received his son in
Alexius attempted to organize a resistance to the new regime
Adrianople and then
Mosynopolis, where he was joined by the later usurper
Alexius V Ducas Murtzuphlus in April 1204, after the definitive fall
of Constantinople to the crusaders and the establishment of the
At first Alexios III received Alexius V well, even allowing
him to marry his daughter
Eudocia Angelina. Later Alexios V was blinded and deserted by his
father-in-law, who fled from the crusaders into
Here Alexius III eventually surrendered, with Euphrosyne, to Marquis
Boniface of Montferrat, who was establishing himself as ruler of the
Kingdom of Thessalonica.
Trying to escape Boniface's "protection", Alexius III
attempted to seek shelter with
Michael I Ducas, the ruler of
Epirus, in 1205. Captured by Boniface, Alexius III and his retinue were sent
Montferrat, before being brought back to
Thessalonica c. 1209. At that point the deposed emperor was ransomed by
Michael I of Epirus, who sent him to
Asia Minor, where Alexios' son-in-law
Theodore I Lascaris of the
Empire of Nicaea was holding his own against the Latins.
Here Alexios III conspired against his son-in-law after the
latter refused to recognize Alexius' authority, and received the support of
Kay Khusrau I, the
Rüm. In the battle of
Antioch on the
Maeander in 1211, the sultan was defeated and killed, and Alexius III was
captured by Theodore Lascaris. Alexius III was relegated to a
he died later in 1211.
By his marriage to
Euphrosyne Doucaena Camaterina Alexios had three daughters:
Eirene Angelina, who married (1) Andronicus
Contostephanus, and (2) Alexius Palaeologus, by whom she was the grandmother
Michael VIII Palaeologus.
Anna Angelina, who married (1) the sebastokrator Isaac Komnenos,
great-nephew of emperor
Manuel I Comnenus, and (2)
Theodore Lascaris, emperor of Nicaea.
Eudocia Angelina, who married (1) King
Stefan I Prvovenčani of
then (2) Emperor
Alexius V, and (3)
Sgouros, ruler of