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Medieval Sourcebook:

Theodoros Skoutariotes:
from the Synopsis Chronika:

The Emperors of the 11th Century

THEODOROS SKOUTARIOTES was member of a circle of educated men around emperor Theodoros II Laskaris (1254-1258). He was metropolitan (bishop) of Kyzikus and during the reign of Michael VIII Palaiologos (1258-1282) he took to part in the movement for the unification of the churches. Because of his western-oriented beliefs Michael VIII's successor, Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282-1328) removed him from his episcopal throne.

Skoutariotes' work is a chronicle from the creation of the world up to 1261. It survives, without head name, in Codex 487 of the Marcian Library in Venice, and is better known by the name of its publisher as the Synopsis Sathas. The text translated here is from Konstantine Sathas, Messaioniki Bibliothiki, vol. VI , pages 159-167.

The text here consists of a series of short notices on the Roman [Byzantine] emperors from the death of Basil II [1025] until the reign of Romanos IV Diogenes [1067-71]. In other words the period during which the Roman Empire declined from its medieval peak of military power to the point at which it was defeated by the Seljuq Turks at the Battle of Mantzikert in 1071. While the Empire remained politically and militarily significant for another century, and culturally creative long beyond that, 1071 marks a real turning point in Byzantine history. The period is also covered, at more length and more discursively, by Michael Psellos in his Chronographia [published in a translation by E.R.A. Sewter as Fourteen Byzantine Rulers]. Despite its title, Psellos work is an example of the Byzantine genre of history-writing: Skoutariotes' work in contrast belongs to the world-chronicle genre and apart from its intrinsic interest provides a good basis to compare the two approaches.

In addition to the text of Skoutariotes for the period, five passage from Michael Psellos' and Michael Attaliates' accounts of these emperors are appended.

The translator of these texts [for the Internet Medieval Sourcebook] is ©Nikos Koukounas [].

Notes follow each section and are indicated by "*"

When the Emperor Basil [II] [976-1025] died, he was buried in the church of his beloved saint John the Theologian in the Hebdomon area, which he had constructed, and he left as heir his brother Constantine, who was already old.

Constantine [VIII] Porphyrogenitos *1[1025-1028] , the brother of Basil, was emperor by himself for three years*2. He was married and had two daughters named Zoe and Theodora*3. He was a coward and weak in wars but in the vulgar enjoyments he was supreme and whomever he suspected of bad intentions towards his government was immediately blinded. When he understood that he was dying, he choose one of the senators, named Romanos Argyropoulos, to marry his daughter, Zoe, and after he proclaimed Romanos [co-]emperor he died.

*1 "Porphrygenitos" means "born in the purple" and refers to members of a royal family who were born to ruling monarch. The "Purple" in question was not a figurative reference, but a room in the Imperial Palace with purple marble walls. To be able to claim such a birth was a matter of prestige.

*2. Constantine VIII had been co-emperor with Basil II for a long time.

*3. Both Zoe and Theodora were beyond child-bearing age. For reasons as yet unexplained, the Macedonian Dynasty, which had ruled since 867, allowed itself to have no obvious heirs to the throne. The period from 1028 until 1056 was thus one in which various men acquired legitimacy as emperor by marrying the daughters of Constantine VIII . From 1056 until 1081 various families competed for the throne, with the Komnenoi emerging triumphant.

Romanos [III] Argyropoulos [1028-1034] was emperor for five and half years. Though he married a wife from the imperial family - Zoe, the daughter of Constantine [VIII] - she was unable to bear him children. This emperor was wise and respectful to God, and he admired the monks who were famous for their virtue, and, just as Romanos [II] Lekapenos [959-963], who had had the same name, had had great respect for the monk Sergios, so Romanos Argyropoulos gave <great respect> to his spiritual father, the saintly Antony who loved him very much. In his will <Romanos> constructed the church of Theotokos in the famous monastery of Peribleptos where he was buried with royal honors.

Michael [IV] Paphlagon [1034-1041] was emperor for the next seven years, together with his wife Zoe and her sister Theodora who were the daughters of Constantine [VIII] Porphyrogenitos.

**While Romanos [III]was still alive, Michael Paphlagon took Zoe with his side because he loved him for his beauty though that he was coming from low and unknown parents, so that he succeed in his aim. As soon as Romanos died he was proposed for emperor, because he did not have any surname from his ancestors, he took the name of his birth place. He was good and moral, as with all his heart he loved and afraid the God, but he suffered from a secret illness, where many times he fell down without any voice and appeared as dead for one and a half hour each time and then he was raised again and he was coming back in his previous natural condition. For that reason he placed himself in the hands of the God and his main interest was not to left any church or monastery in Constantinople without gift or in the whole Roman Empire. Others he reconstructed because for many years were not renewed. in others he gave yearly donations and lands and not few he rebuild from their foundations as the famous church of Saints Anargyroi in the Kosmodion *. Also he was interested and honoured monks as well as the previous mentioned Antonio (who was founder of a monastery named after his own name in the mountain of Saint Auxentios, as and Romanos previously had honoured him) famous for his virtue and his sacredness where he was ascetic with sacredness in the mountain of Saint Auxentios. The emperor had gathered in his palace many of his relatives, thought nobody of them had his virtue. As much as good he was as bad were his relatives and particularly his brothers and specially those of them that was the most clever, who was monk and eunuch and he decided for all the royal matters, having the presidency of the Senate and his name was John and his title "orphanotrophos". The emperor gave a lot of money in many houses for the old people, hotels and hospitals from the land that he donated to these institutions so the weak and the ill people can be cared without cost. The brother of the emperor, John, chose one of their relatives, the son of his brother who had the same name as the emperor, Michael, who was young in the age. He convinced the emperor to pronounce him Caesar, and before he was adopted by empress Zoe. But not a lot of time has been passed and because of his illness he appeared more rare and became to weaken. For that he left for the monastery in the Kosmodion, who had constructed for regret and since and before he liked the monk's dress, he became suddenly a monk. After a while, since he lived as a monk, that who loved most, he left for the God.

* The "anargyroi", or saints who worked without money was a title applied to a number of sainted doctors, in this case Kosmas and Damian.

Michael V [1041-1042], who was called Kalaphates, was <Michael IV's> nephew, and was emperor for four months. Michael was young and the royal duties were to heavy for his shoulders and the badness has been inside his soul, for that two things he lost the emperorship and his both eyes. As soon as he became imperator, first his uncle, the eunuch John, stripped from all his titles and duties, afterwards using as advisors some young children who had the same mind with him, by force drive Theodora in a monastery, and Zoe who from her the useless had became emperor, drive her with her tears in exile on the opposite inland with monk dresses. As soon the people heard that (because he himself has announced that official through the Eparchos and by royal order) appeared dreadful and immediately with voices and holding in their hands stones and clubs and whatever other handy they had found, they went to the palace and they were as emperor for their empress. The root emperor, closed the doors of the palace and immediately recalled Zoe with many honours and he tried to calm down the people. But the unrest continuously has been spread and by violence the whole Demos tried to break in the Palace, then the Emperor left and he started bargaining for his salvation, since by a ship he went to the sacred monastery of Stoudios. But nobody heard him, as soon the people heard where he went, they went to the monastery, they arrested him and they drive him to a place named Siginas, near the Pege(Spring) where they extract his eyes by knife and together with him they blind and one of his uncles. By this way both empresses they took the royal power [1042].

Understanding the situation, the Zoe, and wanting a husband that he knew well the things or better to marry in order to give birth to children, she recall Constantine Monomachos from exile. (He had been exiled to the island of Mytilini [ie. Lesbos] by the previous emperor Michael, because he had been a threat to his emperorship]. She married him, and she proclaimed him emperor.

Constantine IX Monomachos [1042-1055] was emperor for thirteen years. He was good, he loved and serviced all the people as well in return he was loved and flattered by all. He liked theatres, mimics and jokers and many of them that the were poor they became rich. He constructed the great monastery of Mangana in the name of the great martyr George. During the first year of his emperorship died the Patriarch Constantine because was ill for long time (he had problem with his feet) and he could not make wars and expeditions and many of his brave generals revolted against him but always was victorious. During his emperorship died empress Zoe and was buried with great royal honours in the church of Antiphonetes, constructed by her. The same, and this emperor made a lot of gifts and gave yearly land rents to the God' s churches and the holy monasteries to such a degree that till today they mention. He died and buried in Mangana and he left Theodora as the only empress.

Theodora [1055-1056] that born in purple was empress for one year and seven months and by thin emperor in wisdom she did not married but by the eunuchs she governed and in peace the time has been passed. Because she was going to die, she chose a senator Michael the Gerontas (The Old) and when she surrendered her trusted people to him, she proclaimed him emperor. She died and buried in a monastery that was build by herself named Ecoproastia.

Michel VI Gerontas [or Stratiokos] [1056-1057] was emperor for one year. He had only the name and the title of the emperorship because the state was governed not as he wished but as the trusted people of Theodora, since he had signed and gave oath to govern these people, a thing that he kept. Isaac Komnenos was one of the first in bravery and wisdom and one of the best in warlike deeds. He appeared in the emperor together with other generals, where and was received very well by the emperor himself since he was honoured by him but from the people that they governed he was ignored and offended. For this reason he was very upset, bur thought he had big heart he did not think a lot about it. He gathered the generals and he announced to them his opinion and all of them gave him their support for his plans. When all of them left the Palace, they left Constantinople. Immediately he gathered the people of the East and since he was pronounced by them emperor, together with the people he took over the town of Nikaia.

As soon as emperor Michael heard this, he wanted without any obstacles and wars to surrender to Komnenos his emperorship, but the people that they governed did not wished to surrender without bloods they gathered a lot of people and they gave command to a certain man from them (Theodoros, who was president and domesticus) and they send him away. A civil war was made and a lot of Christian blood has been spelled by Christians, Alas, many blood was spelled and a victory was in the side of Komnenos. Then the people round the emperor decided to agree and they send emissaries to ask for forgiveness, the first of the senators and Michael became monk and Isaac cheered by all arrived in Constantinople and became emperor.

Isaac [I] Komnenos [1057-1059] was emperor for two years and two months. He had wife Katherine [Aikaterina]. He was wise and active in the royal matters. He was convinced easily but he wanted to know the people before he decide to hear them and he did not tolerate kolakeies [?] and titles. For that reason he was disliked by the senators and appeared to them egoist and most was disliked by Patriarch Michael (was named Kiroularios, was a former synkellos, and for that Psellos has made for him a panegyric and an accusation), who wanted to order his will to the emperor. Having the guts, instead to follow the emperor's thought he went against the older Pope of Rome and ignored the royal will. But the emperor did not tolerate to been driven by anybody. He afraid that may be and the other (the Pope of Rome) made him the same, in the second year of his emperorship he expel him from the church and made Patriarch the eunuch Constantine Lichoudis who was president of the Senate and protovestiar, a man active and wise who was Patriarch for four and a half years. The expelled Michael died soon afterwards and was buried in the monastery that he founded and it was called of the patrician or more precise of synkellos Theodosios.

Emperor Isaac when he became ill and afraid that he may die pronounced emperor one of his generals, Constantine Doukas and he became a monk in the monastery of Stoudion where there he died and buried.

Constantine [X (IX)] Doukas [1059-1067] was emperor for seven years and seven months. He had a wife Eudokia Makrembolitissa and sons: Michael, who <was> proclaimed [co-]emperor, Andronikos, and Constantine, who was born in the purple, who was proclaimed <co-emperor> as well; and daughters; Zoe, Eirene, Theodora, and Anna.

In the fourth year of his reign the Patriarch Constantine died and the patriarchal throne was empty for five months. In the fifth month <Constantine> proclaimed John Xiphilinos, who was patriarch for eleven years and seven months. He came from Trebizond, of wealthy and renowned parents…

Emperor Constantine died and left his wife and children. He was buried in the monastery of Molibotos inside the Golden Gate.

Eudokia [1067] together with her children, the emperors Michael, Constantine and Andronikos governed for seven months. She held the imperial office together with her children and she did not want to share it with her husband's brother, John, who had been proclaimed Caesar by Constantine *. but she wanted to govern alone. Somebody of the generals, from Cappadocia, who had the title of vestarch, named Romanos Diogenes made a revolt in some castles of Thrace. Immediately was arrested and from there was send in chains to the empress and to the interrogators and according to the law was condemned to death. But the empress changed her mind for him, she changed the agreements that made with her husband about the safety of their children and became to be in love with Romanos, where in one night change him from a convict condemned to death to emperor since was married with him before.

*. "Caesar": Byzantine imperial titles were complex and changeable. "Caesar" was a title of high prestige, but did not, at this stage, imply a claim to imperial power. The whole title system was revamped, or inflated, in the reign of Alexios I [1081-1118].

Romanos IV Diogenes [1068-1071] together with the empress Eudokia and her children Constantine, Michael, Andronikos and Constantine who were co-emperors together with the other children that he had with her, Nikephoros and Leo, He was emperor for three years and eight months*.

*. Romanos was emperor until his defeat and capture at the Battle of Mantzikert. It is possible that this defeat was engineered by members of the Doukas family seeking to regain power. The results of the defeat were devastating: within a few years Turkish horsemen had reached the Aegean coast. Although Western and Northern Anatolia were regained, the central region of Anatolia, the former heartland of the Empire, never were. The results were incalculable, but led to a gradual dehellenization of Anatolia, the shift of Greek speaking population centers to

Passages to compare with Skoutariotes

1. Michael Psellos, Chronographia, on Romanos III Argyropoulos

The people was divided in two parts: from one part those honest citizens that they preferred to live simple without any interference in the public life and according to the opinion of the governor they were completely unworthy and from the other part were those that they attempted anything easily and were gain from the misfortunes of the others by putting all their badness as oil in the fire which was lighted by the king. Anger and confusion was everywhere and the most dreadful of all most of the citizens were robbed and stripped by that way but the royal treasuries were not gain any income from these acts and whole rivers of money were directed elsewhere.

2. Michael Psellos, Chronographia, on Michael IV Paphlagon

Though I have not see any of the emperors of my times (and since most of them has been in the power no more than one year, I have count a lot of them during the course of my life) to exercise free his kingship: others were chained by the cruelty, others they were driven by their friends, others they had some bad habits and the one that could be by himself the best emperor damaged the state because of his brothers, truly, it appears that the nature that gave birth to them gave all the advances to Michael and kept any of these for the others.

3. Michael Psellos, Chronographia, on Constantine IX Monomachos

As far as concern the expenses for the army changed direction and they were going without need to other persons (and I mean the whole lot of adulators and the followers of the two empresss), as emperor Basil for these people had gathered money in the royal treasure. The people had the impression that suddenly for first time in our days our neighbouring peoples have infiltrated the borders of the Romans and were intruded suddenly in our lands but for me a house is already destroyed as soon as the ties that hold it disappear. That the people did not understood the cause of the misfortune does not mean that has been grow and spread as a result of the first reason: the clouds that were concentrated at that time were preparing the today's cataclysm but it not time yet to talk about it."

For the same:" Since two things are supporting the Roman's Empire, I mean the money and the titles in which both is added and a third from outside, their wise management and mainly their distribution but he undertook to empty the state' s treasuries and as far as the titles concern he gave them in a flash without any logical reason to a bulk of people and particular to those that they press him most or the whisper him in the proper time something that made him laugh."

4. Michael Attaliates, Historia, on Constantine IX Monomachos

from Michael. Attaliates, HISTORIA, ed, E. Bekker, CSHB, (Boon, 1864), 44-45

…this happened because of the venality of the king. It was a large army in Iberia which was sustained from the taxes of those countries, the king grabbed the taxes and by that way he lost a great power because he did not only lost allies but it transformed them to powerful enemies and he added them to the power of his opponents [the Turks] so he made them completely irresistible.

5. Michael Attaliates, Historia, on Isaac I Komnenos

from Michael. Attaliotes, HISTORIA, ed, E. Bekker, CSHB, (Boon, 1864), 60-62

As soon as he seized power he was thinking about the expenses of the empire and for the amount of the salary of the army, since it was going to be occurred a lot of wars and in order the army to be victorious and to protect all the Romans it was need of founds. For that reason he tried to collect money from those that they were rich and he heavily taxed those that they owed to the state. Afterwards he cut off the taxes that several officials collected and particular when some of those were extracting money because of greediness. He gave care to manage wisely and increase the land that was royal property. For that reason has deprived from many citizens of their property without giving any notice of the existing chrysobulls (certificates of holdings without taxation) which are the main reason that creates tyrants. He engaged with the charitable institutions which they were holding large and rich land properties but they were not giving anything to the royal treasury and many of those with various reasons abandoned, particular monasteries and monks and with that amount he increased the money of the treasury. This was an illegal act or better an act of sacrilege for those that they were more respectful who see it with a bird eye but for those who examine things deeper it appeared that it did not have any bad result. It appeared that for both sides was useful since has deprived the monks from acts irreverent with their way of life and the money since they have been teach not to own property and from the other side freed the peasants from hard labour which it was imposed by the monks with their luxurious and rich lands because they have been poses by greediness and by use of this passion were coming to a point that when they went to a court because of their influence (by property and wealth) they gained and forced their adversaries to submit. So by these ways the public treasury was based on many people and was increased thought without to avoid protests that none have been offended.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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Paul Halsall August 1997