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.

Michael IV part 6

If he did no harm to a soul, yet in his dealings with the people he assumed a fierce expression which terrified one and all. As far as looks were concerned, he really hurt them. Most of them shuddered at the sight of him — and refrained from their evil practices. Thus John was a veritable bulwark to the emperor and a real brother, for he never relaxed in his vigilance, either by day or by night Even when devoted to pleasure sometimes, or taking part in banquets and public ceremonies and festivals, he never forgot his zeal for duty.

Traversing all the inhabited districts at once

Nothing ever escaped his notice and nobody even so much as tried to elude him, because everyone feared him and trembled at his superintendence, for at untimely hours in the night he would suddenly ride of on his horse and scour every nook and cranny of the metropolis, traversing all the inhabited districts at once, like a flash of lightning. No one would ever know when he would car

Michael IV part 5

11. Not one of the emperors in my time — and I say this with experience of many in my life, for most of them only lasted a year — not one of them, to my knowledge, bore the burden of Empire entirely free from blame to the end. Some were naturally evil, others were evil through their friendship for certain individuals, and others again for some other of the common reasons. So it was with this man, too; in himself he was good, but in the way he treated his brothers he was hard to excess.

Apparently Nature, when she brought them to birth, accorded the nobler qualities to Michael, but in the others she produced characteristics exactly the opposite. Each of them wanted to usurp the place of his brothers, and allowing none of them to live either on sea or even on land, to dwell alone in the whole wide world, as if by some dispensation of God both sea and land were his own inheritance.

Harsh invective angry reprimands

Often Michael tried to restr

Michael IV part 4

9. Clearly it was not a noble beginning for a man promoted to supreme power, as I have shown. Nevertheless, for a short period after he became master of the Empire, he treated the governing of it as a kind of joke. He would put off decisions until some crisis arose or some unexpected turn of events, while he passed the time in amusing his wife and in organizing pleasures and pastimes for her.

Once he saw the magnitude of the Empire, however, and recognized the diverse quality of forethought required for its managing and the multitudinous difficulties involved in the cares of state–difficulties with which a man who is truly an emperor must be faced — then his character was suddenly and radically changed. It was as if he had grown up to manhood, no longer a boy, and from that moment he governed his Empire in a fashion at once more manly and more noble.

10. There is one more trait in the emperor which I cannot refrain from admiring. It is this, that alth

Michael IV part 3

5. So lived Romanus and such was the funeral with which he was honoured. Despite the work and expense involved in the building of his monastery, he himself had joy of only one tiny part of the church — the spot where his body was laid.

6. Till now, Michael had played a part: his attitude and the look in his eyes showed love for the empress. It was not long, though, before all this was changed, and her love, as well as her favours to im, were repaid with base ingratitude. I can neither praise nor blame him for it, for though I can scarcely commend this hatred for his benefactress or his behaviour towards her, yet I cannot fail to applaud his fear of the lady, fear lest he too should be involved in catastrophe, like Romanus.

One crime committed against Romanus

7. The chief objection to any forthright condemnation of the man lies in his own character, for if you acquit him of this one crime committed against Romanus, and acquit him also of the char

Michael IV part 2

3. This proclamation was arranged in the evening by the new emperor’s personal friends. Immediately afterwards, a twofold order was sent to the City Eparchus. He, with all the Senate, was to come to the palace at dawn, and, with them, he was to prostrate himself before Michael; next, he was to carry out, also with their co-operation, the customary obsequies for the deceased Romanus.**44 Accordingly they presented themselves for these duties. Entering one by one they bowed their heads to the ground before the royal pair, who were seated on thrones. To the empress only this homage was rendered; in the emperor’s case, the ceremony of kissing the right hand was carried out as well.

Funeral ceremony for the defunct Romanus

Thereupon Michael was proclaimed emperor and sovereign, and without more ado he set himself to consider the best interests of his Empire. The funeral ceremony for the defunct Romanus, who had been laid out on a magnificent bier, was al

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 peop