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Demetrios Palaiologos

Demetrios Palaiologos
Reign Lemnos (1429–30, 1447–48), Mesembria (1441–42), Morea (1449–60)
Predecessor Constantine Palaiologos
Born 1407
Died 1470
  • Zoe Paraspondyle
  • Theodora Asanina
Issue Helena Palaiologina
Dynasty Palaiologos
Father Manuel II Palaiologos
Mother Helena Dragaš

Demetrios Palaiologos or Demetrius Palaeologus (Greek: Δημήτριος Παλαιολόγος, Dēmētrios Palaiologos; ca. 1407–1470) was a Byzantine prince and Despot. He ruled over Mesembria and Lemnos, before becoming Despot in the Morea in 1449. He remained co-ruler of the Morea along with his brother Thomas Palaiologos until he surrendered Mistras to the Ottomans in 1460. He was given lands in Thrace as an appanage by Sultan Mehmed II, which he ruled until his disgrace in 1467. Shortly after he was allowed to retire to Adrianople with his wife. He became a monk with the monastic name David after the death of his daughter Helena Palaiologina in 1469, and died in 1470.


  • Life 1
  • Family 2
  • Ancestry 3
  • References 4
  • Sources 5


Demetrios Palaiologos was born in ca. 1407 as the fifth son of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos (reigned 1391–1425) and his wife Helena Dragaš.[1] His maternal grandfather was Constantine Dragaš. His brothers included emperors John VIII Palaiologos (r. 1425–48) and Constantine XI Palaiologos (r. 1449–53), as well as Theodore II Palaiologos and Thomas Palaiologos, rulers of the Despotate of Morea, and Andronikos Palaiologos, despot in Thessalonica.

As a younger son Demetrios was not expected to rule, but was granted the court title of despot in accordance with standard practice. His ambition apparently led to conflict in the imperial family. Although he then received possession of the island of Lemnos from his father Emperor Manuel II in 1422, he refused to live there and fled to the court of King Sigismund of Hungary in 1423, requesting protection against his brothers.

He returned to Constantinople by 1427.[1] In November 1437 he accompanied his brother John VIII to the Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence, which sought to reunite the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, although he was a declared enemy of the Union. He returned to Constantinople in January 1440, via Venice.[1] Forced to surrender Lemnos as penalty for returning home without the Emperor's consent, Demetrios was compensated with a more distant appanage at Mesembria on the Black Sea in 1441.

On 23 April 1442 he launched an attack on Constantinople with the support of the Ottomans, but it failed, and Demetrios was briefly imprisoned.[1] The appanage of Selymbria, which he had sought, was turned over first to Constantine Palaiologos and then to Theodore II Palaiologos.

The division of the Despotate of the Morea between Thomas and Demetrios in 1450

On October 31, 1448, John VIII died, while his designated heir Constantine was in the Morea. Exploiting his location nearer Constantinople, Demetrios tried to stage a coup d'état and secure the throne for himself. His attempt failed, mostly due to the intervention of their mother, Helena Dragaš. In 1449, the new emperor, Constantine XI, gave Demetrios half of the Morea in order to remove him from the vicinity of Constantinople.

After the fall of Constantinople to the forces of Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire on May 29, 1453, the Morea remained one of the last surviving remnants of the Byzantine Empire, along with the Empire of Trebizond and the Principality of Theodoro. The fall of the capital became a sign for the last members of Kantakouzenos family to try take power from the Palaiologoi in this last free province, and Demetrios I Kantakouzenos's grandchild Manuel began a revolt. The following year the forces of the Palaiologos brothers, with Ottoman aid, destroyed the rebel forces. Not long after this victory, civil war erupted between Demetrios and his younger brother Thomas, who had ruled in the Morea alongside Constantine from 1428. As Thomas was threatening to dislodge Demetrios, the latter called on the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II for support.

Irritated by the brothers' antics, in mid-May 1460, Mehmed arrived at Corinth and demanded that Demetrios, his vassal, come and meet him. The latter was afraid, and sent his brother-in-law Matthew Palaiologos Asen instead. The Sultan was known to respect Matthew, but Demetrios' failure to appear enraged him, and he was not mollified by the sumptuous gifts that Matthew brought with him. Matthew was placed under arrest, and Mehmed marched against Mistras, the capital of the Morea. Demetrios surrendered the city on 29 May. On the Sultan's demand, he brought his wife and daughter from their refuge in Monemvasia, and accompanied the Sultan during his submission of what remained of the Despotate.[2] In recompense, Demetrios was given the town of Ainos in Thrace, as well as parts of the islands of Thasos and Samothrace, as an appanage. Along with his wife and her brother, Demetrios spent the next seven years at Ainos. At that point, they suddenly fell from the Sultan's favour and were dispossessed. According to Sphrantzes, admittedly a hostile source, that was because Matthew, who was in charge of the salt monopoly, allowed his subordinates to cheat the Sultan's tax officials.[3] Demetrios, Theodora, and Matthew left Ainos for Didymoteicho, where they lived in great poverty, and where Matthew died. After that the Sultan took pity on Demetrios and his wife, allowing them to settle in Adrianople, close to their daughter Helena, and provided them with a small stipend. Helena herself died young in 1469, whereupon both her parents, grief-stricken, retired to a monastery. Demetrios, now the monk David, died in 1470, with Theodora following him a few months later.[1][3]


Demetrios Palaiologos was married possibly as many as three times. His first wife was the daughter of Kantakouzenos Strabomytes, between 1430 and ca. 1435. His second wife, possibly identical with the first, is known only as the "basilissa Zoe", who died in March/April 1436.[1] His third (or second) wife was Theodora Asanina, daughter of Paul Asanes, whom he married in 1441. By her he had at least one daughter:[1]

  1. Helena Palaiologina (died before 1470). She was taken into the Sultan's harem.[4]

John Doukas Angelos Palaiologos Raoul Laskaris Tornikes Philanthropenos Asen, a child on a funerary icon from a monastery in the Peloponnese, is theorized to have been a son of Demetrios Palaiologos by Theodora Asanina.[5]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g PLP, 21454. Παλαιολόγος ∆ημήτριος.
  2. ^ Runciman 2009, pp. 82–83.
  3. ^ a b Runciman 2009, p. 83.
  4. ^  
  5. ^ Божилов, Иван (1994). Фамилията на Асеневци (1186–1460). Генеалогия и просопография [The Family of the Asens (1186–1460). Geneaology and Prosopography] (in Bulgarian). София: Издателство на Българската академия на науките. p. 372-374.  


Demetrios Palaiologos
Palaiologos dynasty
Born: 1407 Died: 1470
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Constantine Palaiologos
Despot of the Morea
With: Thomas Palaiologos
Ottoman conquest
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