Theodoro, Gothia
Θεοδόρο, Γοτθία
File:Flag of Palaeologus Emperor.svg

Coordinates : 44°35′N 33°48′E / 44.583, 33.8
Crimea in the middle of the 15th century.
  Theodoro shown in green
Capital Mangup (Doros, Theodoro)
Languages Greek (official), also Crimean Gothic, Kipchak and others
Religion Orthodox Christianity
Government Monarchy
 -  1475 Alexander of Theodoro
Historical era Late Middle Ages
 -  Fourth Crusade 1204
 -  Ottoman conquest 1475

The Principality of Theodoro (Greek: Θεοδόρο), also known as Gothia (Greek: Γοτθία), was a small principality in the south-west of Crimea from the 13th through 15th centuries. Its capital was Doros, which was also sometimes called Theodoro and is now known as Mangup. The state was closely allied with the Empire of Trebizond.


The Principality was formed after the Fourth Crusade out of parts of the Byzantine thema of Klimata which were not occupied by the Genoese. Its population was a mixture of Greeks, Crimean Goths, Alans, Bulgars, Kypchaks and other nations, which confessed Orthodox Christianity. The principality's official language was Greek. The territory was initially under the control of Trebizond, and possibly part of its Crimean possessions, the Perateia. Theodore II Gabras, a scion of the noble Gabras family (also called Chowra in Turkish) was appointed as the governor.

The Gabras family soon refortified Doros, and named the new citadel St. Theodore (Greek: Άγιος Θεόδωρος), after its patron saint.

1. BASILEIOS Gabras . m ---. The name of Basileios's wife is not known. Basileios & his wife had one child:

At the beginning of the XII-th century he was recognized as locally honored martyr, and in the XIV-th century he was canonized by the Orthodox Church.

The Gabras ruled in Trebizond till the middle of the XII-th century, but later they were superseded from their capital by the representatives of the Comnenus Emperor dynasty.

  • Some members of family settled in Constantinople.
  • Another branch of the family played the important role in the Trebizond Empire.
  • The third branch settled in Tavrida (Crimea).
  • At last, the members of the fourth branch, which started from the military leader Michail Gavras and princess Eudokia Comnenus, created the independent possession in Bulgaria, known as Koprivshtica despotate , that existed as autonomous Byzantine principality in the Ottoman Empire till the end of the XVII-Ith century.

The representatives of Crimean branch of the Gabras family were connected with the Emperor Dynasties of Comnenus and Palaiologus, noble families of the Asans (Bulgarian kings), the Dushans (Moldavia princes), the Tzimblaks and the Circassian princes. The Grand Prince Ivan III of Muscovy proposed Helena, the daughter of Theodoro prince Isaac, to his elder son Ivan as a wife. The sister of Alexander, the last despot of Theodoro, Maria, known as «despina of Moldovalachia» , was the wife of Moldovian prince Stephen III of Moldavia (1433-1504) Maria Gavras, the princess of Moldavia

View of the Mangup plateau

Actions Some members of the Gavras family emigrated to Muscovy became the progenitors of Russian noble families: the Golovins, the Hovrins, the Tretyakovs, the Gavrilovs and the Harlamovs. One of the Gavrades was canonized by Russian Orthodox Church as the Saint Cassian of Uglich.

This became the administrative center of the new principality, from which it took its name. The principality had peaceful relations with the Golden Horde to its north, paying an annual tribute as vassals, but was in constant strife with the Genoese colonies to the south over access to the coasts and the trade that went through the Crimean harbours.

A narrow strip of the coastal land from Cembalo (Balaklava) in the west to Aluston (Alushta) in the east initially part of the principality soon fell under Genoese control. Local Greeks called this region Parathalassia (Greek: Παραθαλασσια - sea shore), while under Genoese rule it was known as Captainship of Gothia.

The principality developed mostly under the rule of prince Alexios I who was able to secure an access of the principality to the Black Sea. In 1427, Alexios built a new port called Avlita at the mouth of the Chernaya River and fortified it with the fortress of Kalamita (modern Inkerman).

In 1431 a war broke out between Genoa and Venice. The following year, Alexios took the part of the Venetians and fighting with the Genoese and in 1433, was able to conquer the fortress of Cembalo, one of the most important fortresses of the colony. The Genoese reacted and, under commander Carlo Lomellina, recaptured Cembalo in 1434 and then plundered the settlements along the Crimean coast and forced the local landlords into submission. During this action, they also captured the fortress of Kalamita. A peace treaty between Theodoro and Genoa was signed in 1441 and control of Theodoro over its possessions on the Black Sea Shore was restored. The fortress of Kalamita was rebuilt.

The principality of Theodoro continued to prosper. However, in 1471, when Isaac of Theodoro became ruler of the country, the Turks, who had conquered the Empire of Trebizond in 1461, where preparing to extend their posessions towards the North. Feeling the inevitability of Turkish invasion Prince Isaac tried to establish friendly relations with Mohamed II (1432-1481). This move sweems to have been viewed negatively both by the citizens of Theodoro and by its allies. At the same time, Stephen III of Moldavia (1433-1504) who also felt threatened by the Turks was trying to create an anti-ottoman alliance including Moldavia, Theodoro and the Genoese colonies in Crimea, plans which were opposed by Isaac of Theodoro. Stephen therefore decided to overthrow Isaac and to replace him with Alexander of Theodoro (?-1475), his other brother-in-law. This is confirmed by an embassy report to Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus (1443-1490) dated June 1475. Acoording to this report, Stephen had sent Prince Alexander to Mangup with 300 Moldavian support troops. A Genoese ship conveyed him to the point named by Genoese sources "Yaspo", probably Laspi bay, 20 km south of Mangup. The area was part of Gothia Capitanate - the territorial division of Genoese Gazaria. It can be assumed that the Genoese administration, alarmed by pro-Turkish dispositions of the neighbouring ruler, assisted Stephen's the Third in removal of Isaac and his replacement by more radical Alexander. Most likely this mission met support from within the Principality, otherwise fast overthrow of Isaac is hardly explainable. According to Genoese source, it took only three days for Alexander "to seize the father's legacy" and to subdue it.

According to another version Prince Isaac, whose ruling started in 1471, died in spring of 1475. He was replaced by the ruler, whose name is unknown, probably the nephew of the late Prince. But soon he was overthrown by Isaac's younger brother Alexander.

Ruins of the fortress of Mangup

The Fall of Mangup[]

Soon after [[Alexander Gavras (?-1475) became prince of Thedoro, the principality was attacked by the Ottoman Turks, under the command of grand vezier Gedik Ahmed Pasha. A Turkish expeditionary corps landed in vicinity of Caffa on May 31, 1475. The garrison of Caffa surrendered on June 5, 1475 and the Turks continued their military operations by attacking the principality of Theodoro.

During the existence of Theodoro principality, the city of Mangup, its capital, had been strongly fortified. Besides the city walls, a second defence line had been created. It represented continuous belt of walls and towers and protected the developed part of the plateau cutting off the two largest in area capes - Chamnu-Burun and Chufut-Cheargan-Burun. A citadel was built at Teshkli-burun cape, used also as a fortified residence for the principality rulers. The total area of this fortification is 1.2 hectares.

A third line of defense had also been built. There was no other medieval fortress in Crimea with such a developed defence strengthened by natural conditions. Its siege became for the Turkish army one of the hardest military campaigns at the Northern Black Sea Coast. Open grounds surrounding the Mangup plateau made numerous troops necessary for a siege and required cavalry rather than infantry. Another problem for besiegers was choice of the site for the major strike. The course of events suggests that besiegers had precise information on strong and weak sections of the fortress, which is not surprising taking into account that members of the Theodoro ruling dynasty had defected to the Turkish camp.

Archaeological excavations and written sources made it clear that according to classic requirements of fortress war the siege took place at least at two sectors. This required the defendants to disperse their forces. However, at the beginning of the siege, the Turks launched an unsuccessful attack on the fortress from the South, losing many troops. This disaster was still remembered by the Turks after two centuries. Evliya Çelebi, who travelled extensively through Turkey in the 17th century states that 7,000 janissaries died during the attack. Even if this number seems too high, it nevertheless suggests that the Turkish army suffered extensive losses. This was due to the high slopes which made the advance difficult and the use of artillery ineffective. In the fifteenth century, the range of effective cannon was limited to 200 meters and the effectivness was reduced if the target was located much higher than the cannon.

The necessity to use artillery more effectively forced Turks to start operations also at the northern side of the plateau along the Hamam-Dere valley during the second stage of the siege. The ruins of the fortress still present evidence of this attack as the 14rth century fortifications were not reconstructed after the Turkish conquest nor used as a source of building material as the fortifications at the southern edge of the plateau were. The site made it possible to assess several details on how the siege took place. Fragments of granite cannonballs were found in the ruins of the fortresswalls. About 20 hit points and even 2 cannonballs stuck in the stone-work were detected. This made it possible to locate the position of the Turkish battery, opposite to the western slope of cape.

The types of artillery used at the northern sector of Mangup siege can be determined based on the arrays of cannonballs found. Basically the Turks used three types of cannons:

  • the small cannons, called by Turks "shaika", with calibres of 8, 9, 11, 14 and 15 cm.;
  • the medium size cannons, called by Turks "shaklos" or "pranka" having a caliber of 26 cm.;
  • large siege cannons, called by Turks "martin", "eiderdehen", "belemez" (the heaviest one also called "shahy") with 35, 40 and 42 centimetres.

Ruins of the citadel of Mangup

Usually the small cannons were used for adjusting the large ones or they formed the batteries for breaking the wall battlements, bringing down defenders or catapults. Then heavy cannons were employed to destroy the walls. This way Turkish artillery was used against Constantinople.

Apparently, the firing at lasted a long time, as due to lack of space for their location probably only a small number of heavy cannons and by huge number of cannonball fragments. The extremely low fire rate of heavy cannons in fifteenth century should also be taken into account: they fired no more than ten shots per day.

Five assaults of Mangup launched by besiegers prove that their artillery had not been able to breach the walls. During these assault both sides suffered considerable losses: the besiegers - from stones, defenders - from arrows. Usually assaults were launched after a preparatory artillery bombardment combined with archery; then storm troops with ladders rushed to the attack, followed by archers.

At the time of the siege of Mangup cannons were a relatively new weapon, and it can be assumed that most of the garrison had never faced cannons before. An important factor in the high moral of the defenders were the troops sent by Stephen III of Moldavia, prince Alexander's brother in law who had experience of fighting Turks and were familiar with artillery which was widely employed at Balkan battlefield.

The final attack took place in December 1475. The first assault failed, forcing Gedik Ahmed Pasha to retreat temporarily, leaving only a relatively small part of his troops to continue the blockade. He returned with reinforcements, feigned an attack and a false retreat. When the defenders came out of the walls, they were ambushed by the Turks who were thus able to enter the city.

After the main defence line has fallen the city was doomed. The palace of prince Alexander located in the citadel became the last stronghold for the defenders of the fortress. The Turkish artillery was brought to a new location on Teshkli-burun cape.

The defendants suffered very high losses. Excavations in the citadel area showed that up to seventeen people were bburied in the same tomb. Many skulls had traces of a blowsh with heavy blunt weapons and many skeletons had limbs cut off. Some victims had been buried in unexpected places, such as hollows of winepresses. Prince Alexander and his male relatives except the youngest one were executed. The women were taken to sultan's harem.

While much of the rest of Crimea remained part of the Crimean Khanate, now an Ottoman vassal, the former lands of Theodoro and southern Crimea were administered directly by the Sublime Porte.

Princes of Theodoro[]


External links[]

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Principality of Theodoro. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.