Alexios V Doukas Mourtzouphlos or Alexius V Ducas Murtzuphlus (Greek: Αλέξιος Ε΄ Δούκας Μούρτζουφλος) (d. December 1205) was Byzantine emperor (February 5–April 12, 1204) during the siege of Constantinople by the participants of the Fourth Crusade. He was somehow related to the imperial Ducas family.
His nickname "Mourtzouphlos" referred to either his bushy, overhanging eyebrows or his sullen character. The term has the meaning of one being crestfallen, depressed, despondent, downcast, gloomy, sullen and evidently frowning, scowling.
A Byzantine nobleman, he had risen to the court position of protovestarios by the time of the Fourth Crusade. He had been married twice but was now allegedly the lover of Eudokia Angelina, a daughter of Emperor Alexios III Angelos. His participation in the attempted usurpation of John Komnenos in 1200 had caused him to be incarcerated until the accession of Isaac II Angelos, who was restored to the throne after having been deposed and imprisoned by his brother Alexios III, and his son Alexios IV Angelos, who were placed on the throne by the intervention of the Fourth Crusade in July 1203.
By the beginning of 1204, Isaac II and Alexios IV had inspired little confidence among the people of Constantinople in their efforts to defend the city from the Latins, who were restless and rioted when the money and aid promised by Alexios IV was not forthcoming. Alexios Doukas emerged as a leader of the anti-Latin movement and personally led some skirmishes against the crusaders. When the populace rebelled in late January 1204, the emperors barricaded themselves in the palace and entrusted Alexios Doukas with a mission to seek help from the crusaders. Instead, Alexios Doukas used his access to the palace to imprison the emperors. The young Alexios IV was strangled in prison, while his father died shortly afterwards, his death variously attirbuted to fright, sorrow, or "artificial inducement." Alexios V Doukas was crowned in early February 1204.
After his coronation, Alexios V began to strengthen the defenses of Constantinople and ended negotiations with the Latins. It was too late, however, for the new Emperor to make much of a difference. An attempted surprise attack against the crusader camp failed despite the emperor's personal leadership. During the ensuing fight, he defended the city with courage and tenacity, beating back the crusader assault of April 9. The crusaders' second attack proved too strong to repel, and Alexios V fled into Thrace on the night of April 12, 1204, accompanied by Eudokia Angelina and her mother Euphrosyne Doukaina Kamaterina. Constantinople was under Latin control by the next day.
The refugees reached Mosynopolis, the base of the deposed emperor Alexios III Angelos, where they were initially well received, and Alexios V married Eudokia Angelina. Later, however, Alexios III arranged for his new son-in-law to be ambushed and blinded, making him ineligible for the imperial throne. Abandoned by his supporters and enemies alike, Alexios V was captured near Mosynopolis by the advancing Latins under Thierry de Loos in November 1204. Brought back to Constantinople, Alexios V was condemned to death for treason against Alexios IV, and was thrown down from the top of the Column of Theodosius. He was the last Byzantine emperor to reign in Constantinople before the establishment of the Latin Empire, which controlled the city for the next 57 years.
- Jonathan Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades (London, 2003)
- The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (Oxford, 1991), 3 vols.
- John Julius Norwich, A Short History of Byzantium (London, 1999).
- Jonathan Phillips, The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople (London and New York, 2004)
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
Isaac II and Alexios IV