Michael IV

Michael IV 1034 – 1041

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.

Michael IV – 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.

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.

Michael IV – 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.

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Roman forces in Sicily and it was not long before all Maniaces’ conquests

49. Not strictly correct. John was speaking of his brother-in-law, Stephen, husband of his sister Maria and father of the young Caesar. He was made admiral of the Roman fleet in Sicilian waters in 1035 and suffered heavy defeats there in the war against the Carthaginians. He incurred the righteous indignation of his colleague, George Maniaces, for his inefficiency and it was through his intrigues that Maniaces was recalled (cf. Constantine IX, ch. 76). Subsequently he became commander-in-chief of the Roman forces in Sicily and it was not long before all Maniaces’ conquests were nullified (1040). He undoubtedly owed his position to his brother-in-law.

50. Cf. note 49.

51. St. Cosmas and his brother St. Damian were put to death in the Diocletian persecution at the beginning of the fourth century. They had been physicians and made no charge for their medical services (h

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His respiration was laboured already and he was beginning to breathe his last, so he again went to his couch and lay down. For a little while he was silent, for he had lost the power of speech and his breathing was difficult. Then he gave up his soul to God.

In the course of his reign, Michael had done and planned many things; in few had he met with failure. For my own part, when I examine his deeds and compare successes with failures, I find that the former were more numerous and it does not appear to me that this man failed to attain the higher life. In fact, I am convinced that he did obtain a better lot.

55. So he died, in the moment of great victory, after a reign of seven years, and on the very day when he received the tonsure.**63 Yet there was no magnificent funeral or burial-place for him when his life on earth was done, for he was buried in the church itself, on the left side as you enter, beside the holy altar.

Book Four Notes


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The Emperor’s Tonsure

52. The emperor, before the decease of his body, sought another more spiritual, change. He disdained the imperial rank which he was in so short a time to relinquish, mastered all his natural impulses and turned to God.**61 In order that he might not be interrupted while thus changing has like and making his confession to the Deity, he set out from his palace and retired to the monastery he had built, or rather, he was conveyed thither by his bearers.

Inside this place of meditation, kneeling on the floor of the church, he prayed to God that he might appear a well-pleasing sacrifice and be received pure after his consecration. Thus he conciliated the Almighty and won His favour. Then he put himself in the hands of the priests, asking them to sacrifice a willing victim — auspicious omen — and they, grouped round him on either side, chanted the opening prayers of the Sacrifice to the Lord.

Holy Mantle of Christ

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This proposition being acceptable to the emperor, further communications passed between them, in great secrecy, as Alousianus had desired. In accordance with the terms of agreement, the latter advanced, apparently with the intention of joining battle for a second time, but suddenly abandoned his army and surrendered. Michael treated him with signal honour, and he was sent back to Byzantium. As for his people, now torn asunder with war on all sides and still without a leader, after inflicting a crushing defeat, Michael again made them subject to the Empire from which they had revolted. Then he returned to his palace in glory, with a host of captives, among whom were the most notable men of the Bulgars and the pretender himself, their leader, minus his nose and deprived of his eyes.

Preserved not a trace of its former likeness

50. The entry into the city was a brilliant affair. The whole populace thronged out to meet him. I myself saw him on this occasion, lookin

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He referred to his father in an impersonal way, as though he himself was a member of another family. He then proceeded to speak with pride of his father’s ancestry, and made some tentative inquiries: if any of his sons turned up in the country, would the rebels choose the legitimate heir as their king, rather than the pretender? Or, now that the latter had already assumed the leadership, was the rightful heir completely forgotten ?

48. When it was obvious that the acknowledged son was universally preferred to the doubtful one, he ventured, in a somewhat mysterious way, to reveal his true identity to one of the persons he had consulted, a man of whose warm loyalty to his family he felt reasonably sure.

Covered his breast with kisses

This man, fixing his eyes steadily on Alousianus (he had known him quite well in the past) and recognizing him, fell on his knees and kissed his feet. Then, to avert any possible doubt, he asked him to show a certain

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The Escape Of Alousianus To Bulgaria

45. The war had not yet broken out when a most astonishing thing happened — something nearly as amazing as the emperor’s action.The more agreeable of Aaron’s sons (Aaron had been king of the Bulgars), one Alousianus**58 by name, a man of gentle character, with a fine intellect and a position of considerable distinction, proved chiefly responsible for Michael’s victory.

This was not because of any desire on his part to help the emperor; in fact, it was quite the reverse. The truth is, God moved him to do what he did, and thus brought about the emperor’s triumph, in despite of his enemies.

46. Now this Alousianus was by no means in favour at court. He was neither consulted on matters of policy nor honoured in any way with the others. Indeed, an order was issued that he must remain in his own home and he was forbidden to enter Byzantium except by [78] express command of the emperor. Natur

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The Emperor’s Bulgarian Expedition

43. This thought afflicted the emperor much more than physical suffering, and the harm it produced in him was quite different, for whereas the disease caused his body to swell, the mental agony he endured over this revolt had the opposite effect and wasted him. So he was torn between two evils, which afflicted him in exactly opposite ways.

His first battle, however, — a battle in which he was victorious — was against his own intimate friends, before he ever came to grips with the barbarians, and the first trophy of the war was set up to commemorate his triumph over his own kinsmen and his associates — and himself. Bodily weakness, in his case, was more than compensated by strength of purpose, and in this strength he commited his cause to God. So preparations for the war began.

The move was to take counsel, determine on his objects, and direct his efforts to the attainment of his goal. The ente

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He did not claim to be the legitimate heir of these kings, but he either invented or proved that he was a collateral relation. He readily convinced the people with his story, and they raised him on the shield. He was proclaimed king. From that moment Bulgarian designs became manifest, for they seceded openly. The yoke of Roman domination was hurled from their necks and they made a declaration of independence, emphasizing the fact that they took this course of their own free will. Whereupon they engaged in attacks and plundering expeditions on Roman territory.**56

41. Had the barbarians dared to do a thing so foolish immediately after Michael’s accession, they would very soon have learnt what kind of a sovereign they had assailed. In those days he was strong in [76] body and virile in face of danger. It was nothing at all for him take up arms in a moment, and with the elite of his generals invade their land; it would have been a simple matter to teach them not to revo

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38. I am aware that many chroniclers of his life will, in all probability, give an account differing from mine, for in his time false opinions prevailed. But I took part in these events myself and, besides that, I have acquired information of a more confidential character from men who were his intimate friends. My conclusions, therefore, are fair — unless someone is tempted to quarrel with my interpretation of things that I have myself seen and heard.

Maybe the greater part of my account will present the evil-natured with an opportunity to indulge in their idle chatter, but I do not believe that anyone will dispute the truth of what I am going to say now. It would take a long time to describe in full his various activities and measures in times of civil discord or foreign wars, but I will select one deed alone. I am referring to the struggle he waged against the barbarians. I will run over it in a brief summary.

39. The people of Bulgaria, after many viciss

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A new hospice was built too, called by him the Ptochotropheium,**52 and in this way a mighty stream of gold was poured out for the benefit of those who preferred a life of meditation. One idea followed another, and among other schemes he devised a plan for the salvation of lost souls. Scattered all over the city was a vast multitude of harlots, and without attempting to turn them from their trade by argument — that class of woman is deaf anyway to all advice that would save them, — without even trying to curb their activities by force, lest he should earn the reputation of violence, he built in the Queen of Cities a place of refuge to house them, an edifice of enormous size and very great beauty.

Luxury were to find sanctuary

Then, in the stentorian notes of the public herald, he issued a proclamation: all women who trafficked in their beauty, provided they were willing to renounce their trade and live in luxury were to find sanctuary in this buildi