Macedonian dynasty

The Macedonian dynasty ruled the Byzantine Empire from 867 to 1056, following the Amorian dynasty. During this period, the Byzantine state reached its greatest expanse since the Muslim conquests, and the Macedonian Renaissance in letters and arts began. The dynasty was named after its founder, Basil I the Macedonian who came from the Theme of Macedonia which at the time was part of Thrace.

Basil I (867-886) from the Chronikon of Ioannis Skylitzes
Basil I on horseback


Claims have been made for the dynasty's founder being of Armenian,[1][2] Slavic,[3][4] or indeed "Armeno-Slavonic"[5] descent. Hence, the dynasty is also referred to by as the Armenian Dynasty by several scholars, such as George Bournoutian[6] and Mack Chahin.[7] Zachary Chitwood suggests it is the term Macedonian dynasty is "something of a misnomer" because of Basil I's Armenian origin.[8]

The author of the only dedicated biography of Basil I in English has concluded that it is impossible to be certain what the ethnic origins of the emperor were, though Basil was definitely reliant on the support of Armenians in prominent positions within the Byzantine Empire.[9]

List of rulers

  • Basil I the Macedonian (Βασίλειος Α') (811–886, ruled 867–886) – married the Varangian Eudokia Ingerina, mistress of Michael III; died in hunting accident
  • Leo VI the Wise (Λέων ΣΤ') (866–912, ruled 886–912) – son of Eudokia Ingerina, legal son and heir of Basil I; possibly the natural son of Michael III
  • Alexander III (Αλέξανδρος) (870–913, ruled 912–913) – son of Basil I, regent for nephew
  • Constantine VII the Purple-born (Κωνσταντῖνος Ζ') (905–959, ruled 913–959) – son of Leo VI
  • Romanos I Lekapenos (Ρωμανός A') (870–948, ruled 919–944) – father-in-law of Constantine VII; co-emperor, attempted to found his own dynasty. Deposed by his sons and entered monastery
  • Romanos II the Purple-born (Ρωμανός Β') (938–963, ruled 959–963) – son of Constantine VII
  • Nikephoros II Phokas (Νικηφόρος Β' Φωκᾶς) (912–969, ruled 963–969) – successful general, married Romanos II's widow, regent for Basil; assassinated (Origin: Cappadocian)
  • John I Tzimiskes (Ιωάννης Α')(925-976, ruled 969–976) – successful general, brother-in-law of Romanos II, lover of Nikephoros's wife but banned from marriage, regent for Basil II and Constantine VIII
  • Basil II (Βασίλειος Β') the Bulgar-slayer (958–1025, ruled 976–1025) – son of Romanos II
  • Constantine VIII (Κωνσταντῖνος Η') (960-1028, ruled 1025–1028) – son of Romanos II; silent co-emperor with Basil II, sole emperor after his brother's death
  • Zoe (Ζωή) (c. 978–1050, ruled 1028–1050) – daughter of Constantine VIII
  • Romanos III Argyros (Ρωμανός Γ')(968–1034, ruled 1028–1034) – eparch of Constantinople; Zoe's first husband, arranged by Constantine VIII; murdered
  • Michael IV the Paphlagonian (Μιχαήλ Δ') (1010–1041, ruled 1034–1041) – Zoe's second husband
  • Michael V the Caulker (Μιχαήλ Ε') (1015–1042, ruled 1041–1042) – Michael IV's nephew, Zoe's adopted son
  • Theodora (Θεοδώρα) (980–1056, ruled 1042) – daughter of Constantine VIII, co-empress with Zoe
  • Constantine IX Monomachos (Κωνσταντῖνος Θ') (1000–1055, ruled 1042–1055) – Zoe's third husband
  • Theodora (Θεοδώρα) (ruled 1055–1056) – restored


  • Michael VI (Μιχαήλ ΣΤ') (ruled 1056–1057) – chosen by Theodora; deposed and entered monastery

Family tree

See also


  1. ^ Treadgold 1997, p. 455
  2. ^ Peter Charanis.Studies on the demography of the Byzantine empire: collected studies Variorum Reprints, 1972 p223(360):"Thus, every emperor who sat on the Byzantine throne the accession of Basil I to the death of Basil II (867—1025) was of Armenian or partially Armenian origin. But besides the emperors there were many others among the military and political leaders of Byzantine during this period who were Armenians or of Armenian descent"
  3. ^ Tobias 2007, p. 20. Tobias is referring to the writings of Hamza al-Isfahani, a 10th-century Persian scholar.
  4. ^ Finlay 1853, p. 213.
  5. ^ Vasiliev 1928–1935, p. 301
  6. ^ Bournoutian, George (2002). A Concise History of the Armenian People. Mazda Publishers. p. 89. ISBN 9781568591414. ....the later Macedonian dynasty, according to most Byzantinists, was of Armenian origin as well. The tenure of that dynasty (9th to the 1 ll centuries) is considered the apex of Armenian dominance in the political and military structure of the empire. Armenian emperors, generals, and military contingents had their greatest military successes against the Arabs, the Slavs, and Bulgars. Ironically, it was this same Armenian dynasty which was chiefly responsible for the breakup of the Bagratuni kingdom.
  7. ^ Chahin, Mack. The Kingdom of Armenia: A History. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2001, p. 232 ISBN 0-7007-1452-9
  8. ^ Chitwood, Zachary (2017). Byzantine Legal Culture and the Roman Legal Tradition, 867-1056. Cambridge University Press. p. 18. ISBN 9781107182561.
  9. ^ Tobias 2007, p. 264


Alexander (Byzantine emperor)

Alexander (Greek: Αλέξανδρος, Alexandros, 870 – 6 June 913), sometimes numbered Alexander III, ruled as Emperor of the Byzantine Empire in 912–913.

Basil I

Basil I, called the Macedonian (Greek: Βασίλειος ὁ Μακεδών, Basíleios ō Makedṓn; 811 – August 29, 886) was a Byzantine Emperor who reigned from 867 to 886. Born a simple peasant in the theme of Macedonia, he rose in the Imperial court. He entered into the service of Theophilitzes, a relative of Emperor Michael III (r. 842–867), and was given a fortune by the wealthy Danielis. He gained the favour of Michael III, whose mistress he married on the emperor's orders, and was proclaimed co-emperor in 866. He ordered the assassination of Michael the next year. Despite his humble origins, he showed great ability in running the affairs of state. He was the founder of the Macedonian dynasty. He was succeeded upon his death by his son (perhaps actually Michael III's son) Leo VI.


The Basilika was a collection of laws completed c. 892 AD in Constantinople by order of the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI the Wise during the Macedonian dynasty. This was a continuation of the efforts of his father, Basil I, to simplify and adapt the Emperor Justinian I's Corpus Juris Civilis code of law issued between 529 and 534 which had become outdated. The term "Basilika" comes not from the Emperor Basil's name, but rather from Greek: τὰ βασιλικά meaning "Royal Laws".

Byzantine Empire under the Macedonian dynasty

The medieval Byzantine Empire underwent a revival during the reign of the Macedonian emperors of the late 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries, when it gained control over the Adriatic Sea, Southern Italy, and all of the territory of the Tsar Samuil of Bulgaria.

The cities of the empire expanded, and affluence spread across the provinces because of the newfound security. The population rose, and production increased, stimulating new demand while also helping to encourage trade.

Culturally, there was considerable growth in education and learning (the "Macedonian Renaissance"). Ancient texts were preserved and patiently recopied. Byzantine art flourished, and brilliant mosaics graced the interiors of the many new churches.Though the empire was significantly smaller than during the reign of Justinian, it was also stronger, as the remaining territories were both less geographically dispersed and more politically and culturally integrated.

Christopher Lekapenos

Christopher Lekapenos or Lecapenus (Greek: Χριστόφορος Λακαπηνός) was the eldest son of Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos (r. 920–944) and co-emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire from 921 until his death in 931. Christopher was given the position of megas hetaireiarches (commander of the palace guard) in spring 919, after Romanos assumed the position of basileopator. Romanos, in order to give his family precedence over the more Macedonian line, raised Christopher to co-emperor on 21 May 921. In 928 Christopher's father-in-law, Niketas, unsuccessfully attempted to incite Christopher to usurp his father, resulting in Niketas being banished. Christopher died in August 931, succeeded by his father and two brothers, Stephen Lekapenos and Constantine Lekapenos, and Constantine VII. In December 944 his brothers overthrew and exiled his father, however they themselves were exiled upon their attempts to oust Constantine VII.

Constantine IX Monomachos

Constantine IX Monomachos, Latinized as Constantine IX Monomachus (Medieval Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος Θ΄ Μονομάχος, translit. Kōnstantinos IX Monomachos; c. 1000 – 11 January 1055), reigned as Byzantine emperor from 11 June 1042 to 11 January 1055. He had been chosen by the Empress Zoë as a husband and co-emperor in 1042, although he had been exiled for conspiring against her previous husband, Emperor Michael IV the Paphlagonian. They ruled together until Zoë died in 1050.

During Constantine's reign, the Byzantine Empire fought wars against groups which included the Kievan Rus' and the Seljuq Turks. In the year before his death, the split between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches took place.

Constantine VII

Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos or Porphyrogenitus ("the Purple-born", that is, born in the porphyry (a hard, purple-colored, decorative stone) paneled imperial bed chambers; Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος Ζ΄ Πορφυρογέννητος, translit. Kōnstantinos VII Porphyrogennētos; 17–18 May 905 – 9 November 959) was the fourth Emperor of the Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, reigning from 913 to 959. He was the son of the emperor Leo VI and his fourth wife, Zoe Karbonopsina, and the nephew of his predecessor, the emperor Alexander.

Most of his reign was dominated by co-regents: from 913 until 919 he was under the regency of his mother, while from 920 until 945 he shared the throne with Romanos Lekapenos, whose daughter Helena he married, and his sons. Constantine VII is best known for his four books, De Administrando Imperio (bearing in Greek the heading Πρὸς τὸν ἴδιον υἱὸν Ῥωμανόν), De Ceremoniis (Περὶ τῆς Βασιλείου Τάξεως), De Thematibus (Περὶ θεμάτων Άνατολῆς καὶ Δύσεως), and Vita Basilii (Βίος Βασιλείου).

His nickname alludes to the Purple Room of the imperial palace, decorated with porphyry, where legitimate children of reigning emperors were normally born. Constantine was also born in this room, although his mother Zoe had not been married to Leo at that time. Nevertheless, the epithet allowed him to underline his position as the legitimized son, as opposed to all others who claimed the throne during his lifetime. Sons born to a reigning Emperor held precedence in the Eastern Roman line of succession over elder sons not born "in the purple".

Constantine VIII

Constantine VIII (Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος Η΄, Kōnstantinos VIII) (960 – 11 November 1028) was the Byzantine Emperor from 15 December 1025 until his death in 1028. He was the son of Emperor Romanos II and Empress Theophano. He was nominal co-emperor for 63 years from 962, successively with his father, his stepfather Nikephoros II Phokas, his uncle John I Tzimiskes, and his elder brother Basil II.

Basil II died childless in 1025 and thus left the rule of the Byzantine Empire in Constantine's hands. Constantine had no interest in politics, statecraft or the military. His brief reign is said to have been "an unmitigated disaster", sparking "a collapse of the military power of the Empire".

John I Tzimiskes

John I Tzimiskes (Greek: Ἰωάννης Α΄ Τζιμισκής, Iōánnēs I Tzimiskēs; c. 925 – 10 January 976) was the senior Byzantine Emperor from 11 December 969 to 10 January 976. An intuitive and successful general, he strengthened the Empire and expanded its borders during his short reign.

Macedonian Renaissance

Macedonian Renaissance is a label sometimes used to describe the period of the Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantine Empire (867–1056), especially the 10th century, which some scholars have seen as a time of increased interest in classical scholarship and the assimilation of classical motifs into Christian artwork.

Macedonian art (Byzantine)

Macedonian art is the art of the Macedonian Renaissance in Byzantine art. The period followed the end of the Byzantine iconoclasm and lasted until the fall of the Macedonian dynasty, which ruled the Byzantine Empire from 867 to 1056, having originated in Macedonia in the Balkans. It coincided with the Ottonian Renaissance in Western Europe. In the 9th and 10th centuries, the Byzantine Empire's military situation improved, and art and architecture revived.

Michael IV the Paphlagonian

Michael IV the Paphlagonian (Greek: Μιχαὴλ (Δ´) ὁ Παφλαγών, Mikhaēl ho Paphlagōn; 1010 – 10 December 1041) was Byzantine Emperor from 11 April 1034 to his death on 10 December 1041. He was the son of a peasant and worked as a money changer until he was found a job at court by his brother John the Orphanotrophos. He caught the eye of the empress Zoë Porphyrogenita and they began a tempestuous and flagrant affair. Michael and Zoë conspired to murder her husband, Emperor Romanos III Argyros, who was found dying in his bath in 1034. Michael and Zoë were married the same day and Michael was crowned emperor the day after.

Michael, handsome and energetic, suffered from poor health and entrusted most of the business of government to his brother. He distrusted Zoë and went to lengths to ensure that he did not suffer the same fate as his predecessor. The fortunes of the Empire under Michael's reign were mixed, with his most triumphant moment coming in 1041 when he led the imperial army against Bulgarian rebels. He returned in triumph from this victory, but died a few months later.

Michael V Kalaphates

Michael V (Greek: Μιχαήλ Ε΄, Mikhaēl V; 1015 – 24 August 1042) was Byzantine emperor for four months in 1041–1042. He was the nephew and successor of Michael IV and the adoptive son of his wife Empress Zoe. He was popularly called "the Caulker" (Καλαφάτης, Kalaphates) in accordance with his father's original occupation.

Romanos II

Romanos (or Romanus) II (Greek: Ρωμανός Β΄, Rōmanos II) (938 – 15 March 963) was a Byzantine Emperor. He succeeded his father Constantine VII in 959 at the age of twenty-one and died suddenly in 963.

Romanos III Argyros

Romanos III Argyros, or Romanus III Argyrus (Greek: Ρωμανός Γ΄ Αργυρός, Rōmanos III Argyros; 968 – 11 April 1034), was Byzantine emperor from 15 November 1028 until his death. He was a Byzantine noble and senior official in Constantinople when the dying Constantine VIII forced him to divorce his wife and marry the emperor's daughter Zoë. Upon Constantine's death three days later, Romanos took the throne.

Romanos has been recorded as a well meaning but ineffective emperor. He disorganised the tax system and undermined the military, personally leading a disastrous military expedition against Aleppo. He fell out with his wife and foiled several attempts on his throne, including two which revolved around his sister-in-law Theodora. He spent large amounts on the construction and repair of churches and monasteries. He died after six years on the throne, allegedly murdered, and was succeeded by his wife's young lover, Michael IV.

Stephen I of Constantinople

Stephen I (Greek: Στέφανος Α΄, Stephanos I) (November 867 – 18 May 893) was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from 886 to 893.

Born at Constantinople, Stephen was the son of Eudokia Ingerina and, officially, Emperor Basil I. However, at the time when he was conceived, Eudokia was the mistress of Emperor Michael III. Consequently, it is possible or even probable that like his older brother Leo VI the Wise, Stephen was Michael's son.

Castrated by Basil I, Stephen became a monk and was designated for a career in the church since his childhood. In 886 his brother, the new Emperor Leo VI, dismissed the Patriarch Photios and appointed the 19-year-old Stephen as patriarch in his stead.As patriarch Stephen participated in the ceremonial reburial of Michael III by Leo VI in the imperial mausoleum attached to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. There are no important events associated with Stephen's patriarchate and the patriarch, who acquired a reputation for piety, died in May 893. His feast day in the Orthodox Church is on May 18.

Theodora Porphyrogenita (11th century)

Theodora Porphyrogenita (Greek: Θεοδώρα, Theodōra; AD 980 – 31 August 1056) was a Byzantine Empress born into the Macedonian dynasty that ruled the Byzantine Empire for almost two hundred years. She was co-empress with her sister Zoë for two months in 1042 and sole empress regnant from 11 January 1055 to 31 August 1056. She was the last ruler of the Macedonian line.

Theodora's life was entwined with that of her older sister Zoë. In 1028 her father, Constantine VIII, attempted to extend the dynasty by marrying Theodora to the urban prefect of Constantinople, Romanos Argyros. Theodora refused, and Zoë was married to him instead; three days later he became emperor. Angry that Theodora had been the first choice to marry Romanos, Zoë had her sister closely watched. After two foiled plots, Theodora was exiled to an island monastery in the Sea of Marmara. Twelve years later, the people of Constantinople rose against Michael V, Zoë's adopted son, and insisted that Theodora return to rule alongside her sister. After 65 days Zoë married again to Constantine IX, who assumed the imperial responsibilities.

When Constantine IX died, the seventy-four-year-old Theodora returned to the throne, in the teeth of fierce opposition from court officials and military claimants. For eighteen months she was a strong empress before being struck down by a sudden illness and dying on 31 August 1056 aged seventy-six.

Theophylact of Constantinople

Theophylact Lekapenos (or Lecapenus) (Greek: Θεοφύλακτος Λακαπηνός, Theophylaktos Lakapenos) (917 – 27 February 956) was Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from 2 February 933 to his death in 956.

Zoë Porphyrogenita

Zoë Porphyrogenita (Greek: Ζωή "life" Medieval Greek: [zo'i]; c. 978 – June 1050) reigned as Byzantine Empress alongside her sister Theodora from 10 April 1042 to June 1050. She was also enthroned as empress consort to a series of co-rulers between 1028 and 1042.

Zoë was born to a nominal co-emperor, Constantine VIII, but lived a life of relative obscurity until the age of 47. Her uncle Basil II then died, leaving the Byzantine throne entirely to her father.

As he had no sons, Constantine hoped to continue the dynasty by marrying off one of his daughters.

Zoë, aged 50, was married to Romanos III Argyros, who became emperor three days later on her father's death. The marriage was troubled and after five years Romanos was found dead in his bath. His death has been variously attributed to Zoë or her young lover. They were married on the same day as the murder, and he was crowned emperor as Michael IV on the following day.Seven years later, Zoë was persuaded to adopt her dying husband's nephew, also named Michael. Once Michael V became emperor, he promptly exiled Zoë. This sparked a popular revolt which dethroned him and installed Zoë and her sister Theodora as joint empresses. After a two-month joint reign Zoë married a former lover, who was installed as Constantine IX Monomachos, transferring power to him. Eight years later, Zoë died aged 72.

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