OLLI Workshop: History of the Middle East

Leader: Theo Pavlidis (theopav@gmail.com)

Handout No. 6 - November 19, 2012

The Byzantine Empire from 717 to 1057

Isaurian Dynasty - Iconoclasm - Macedonian Dynasty - East/West Schism

Main Sources: Gibbon [EG], Whittow [MW96], Treadgold [WT97]

Iconoclasm - Questions

  • A reaction to the Arab conquest? (80 years after the event)
  • Was cleansing Christianity of Pagan influences the only motive?
  • Was the elimination of monasticism a major motive?
  • How is it related to the Protestant Reformation that took place 700 years later?

Iconoclasm - Notable Facts

  1. Because the Iconoclasts lost, all accounts are by their opponents, so we have no real way to answer the questions.
  2. The emperor took a position and acted on a theological issue.
  3. Because the Pope was beyond the reach of the emperor he led the opposition and that contributed to an increase in his prestige (especially, because three of his main competitors for influence were themselves under Muslim rulers).
  4. The iconoclast emperors did not favor learning, they abolished the royal college and burned its library.

The Macedonian Emperors: The amazing story of Basil I; from stable groom to emperor. - Scandals in the Palace - The Bulgar-Slayer Basil II - The rapid decline of the empire after his death - The Schism between Easter Orthodox and Roman Catholics

Lands of the Roman Empire in 1040 at the end of the Macedonian dynasty. The label on the right spells Manzikert, a place that will play a fateful role 30 years later.
Adapted from http://hobbit.ict.griffith.edu.au/~wiseman/Roman/GreekPerspective.html
ISAURIAN DYNASTY (Iconoclasts in bold)
Name Years of Reign Comments
Leo III 717-741 Capable general of Syrian origin
Constantine V 741-775 Faced revolt by Artavasdes
Leo IV 775-780 (died at the age of 30) Wife Irene (from Athens)
Constantine VI 780-797 (became emperor at age of 9) Irene regent
Irene 797-802 Restored Iconolatry
The following are not descendants of Leo III but they are usually grouped with the Isaurians
Nikephoros I 802-811 (killed fighting the Bulgars) He was finance minister of Irene but he managed to depose her and become himself emperor.
Staurakios July-October 811 (seriously wounded) Son of Nikephoros. Abdicated because of his wounds and died in 812.
Michael I Rangabe 811-813 Brother-in-law of Staurakios. Abdicated and became a monk. His sons were castrated and forced to become monks. One of them became later patriarch under the name Ignatios. Persecuted the Athingans.
Leo V the Armenian 813-820 Restored Iconoclasm but was assassinated by Michael the Amorian.
Michael II the Amorian, ψελλος 820-829 Nicknamed the stammerer. Lost Crete and Sicily to the Arabs. Succeded by his young son.
Theophilos 829-842 (died at age 28) Wife Theodora
Michael III 842-856 (became emperor at age of 2) Theodora regent
Final restoration of the worship of the Icons (March 11, 843) - Sunday of Orthodoxy
Michael III 856-867 emperor alone

Name Years of Reign Comments
Basil I 867-886 Masterful Manipulator
Leo VI 886-912 Officially son of Basil I but more likely son of Michael III.
Alexander 912-913 Undisputed son of Basil I
Constantine VII, Purple-born, Πορφυρογεννητος 913(age 7)-959(age 54) His mother Zoe was regent until 919.
Romanos I, Lekapenos 920-944 Regent 919, then father-in-law of Constan-tine VII, then co-emperor.
Romanos II 959-963 (age 24) Son of Constantine VII. Wife Theophano.
Nikephoros II, Phokas 963-969 Second husband of Theophano
John I, Tzimiskes 969-976 Lover of Theophano, then her third husband.
Basil II 976-1025 Son of Romanos II. Never married.
Constantine VIII 1025-1028 Younger brother of Basil II. He had three daughters, one of them Zoe.
Romanos III, Argyros 1028-1034 First husband of Zoe. Probably killed by his successor.
Michael IV 1034-1041 Lover and then second husband of Zoe.
Michael V, the Caulker 1041-1042 (four months only) Nephew of Michael IV. He was deposed by popular (?) revolt, blinded and castrated.
Constantine IX 1042-1055 Third husband of Zoe.
Theodora 1055-1056 Sister of Zoe.
Michael VI, Bringas 1056-1057 Relative of eunuch Joseph Bringas