Michael IV part 1


    Michael IV 1034 – 1041

    1. Such was the manner of Romanus’s death, after a reign of five and a half years. The empress Zoe, learning of his death — she had not herself been present while he was dying — immediately took control of affairs, apparently under the impression that she was the rightful heir to the throne by divine permission. In point of fact, she was not so much concerned to seize power on her own behalf; all her efforts were directed to securing the crown for Michael, the person I have already described.

    There was opposition,**43 for those courtiers who had been allotted positions of dignity — most of them were old family retainers — joined with her husband’s friends and his retainers, who had served his family ever since his father’s time, in trying to prevent her from any precipitate or drastic action. They advised her to consider the noblest course for herself before making any decisions. One of the people, they said, should be promoted to the crown, some man preeminent among themselves and a man willing to treat her, not as his consort, but as empress in her own right.

    2 All kinds of argument were produced to persuade her. They believed their influence would quickly prevail and she would come over to their point of view. To their surprise, she persisted in her support of Michael, with unwavering loyalty; there was no question of reason in the matter, for her judgment of the man was inspired by sentiment.

    It remained to set a time for the ceremony of coronation and for the assumption of the other insignia of power. Michael’s elder brother approached her on the subject privately (he was the eunuch John, a man of outstanding intellect, as well as a man of action). ‘We shall die,’ he argued, ‘if there is any further delay in promoting Michael.’ Zoe, now completely won over, at once sent for the young man, clothed him in a robe interwoven with gold, placed on his head the imperial crown, and set him down on a magnificent throne, with herself near him in similar dress. She then issued an order that all those who were living in the palace were to prostrate themselves before both of them and hail them both as sovereigns in common.

    Of course, the order was obeyed, but when news of it reached those outside the palace also, all the city wanted to share in the rejoicings at her command. To flatter their new monarch, the majority feigned approval of the proceedings. As for the old emperor, they cast him off as though he were some heavy burden. So, light-hearted and blithe, with pleasure and satisfaction, they acclaimed Michael as emperor.

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