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Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, Byzantine Emperor


Reigned 908 to Nov. 9, 959; b. Constantinople, probably May 17 or 18, 905. Constantine was the illegitimate son of the emperor Leo VI and his mistress Zoe Karbonopsina ("with the coal-black eyes"); their subsequent marriage (Leo's fourth), caused a doctrinal schism, the Tetragamy conflict. Constantine was crowned Byzantine emperor May 15, 908, but was excluded from power variously by his uncle Alexander, the patriarch I Mystikos, his mother Zoe, and Romanus I Lecapenus, whose daughter he married in 919. It was not until Romanus and his sons had been deposed in January 945 that he assumed sole command.

Constantine promised a break with Romanus' administration, calling his officials, "venal, negligent and unwarlike." He passed legislation to safeguard peasant landowners from powerful magnates, and tried to alleviate the burden of taxation, although Romanus had also been concerned with the protection of the rights of small holders.

Constantine achieved little success in foreign affairs. An expedition to Crete in 949 was a failure, and although Byzantine troops captured Germanikeia in 949 and crossed the Euphrates in 952, they were subsequently defeated by Sayf al-Dawla. However, his brilliant diplomacy maintained peace along the northern border from Hungary to the Caucasus, and it was during this time (955 or 957) that Olga, princess of Kiev, visited Constantinople and was baptized.

Constantine's great contribution was in the realm of learning and preservation of antiquity. Once he became the sole ruler with the treasury at his disposal, he ransacked his dominions for manuscripts, gathered a group of scholars, and published his encyclopedias, collections of excerpts from older works of history; agriculture; medicine; horse doctoring, including an epitome (indirect) of Aristotle's "Animals" with additions; and the lives of saints. Constantine himself wrote hymns and sermons, speeches and letters, as well as a description of the provinces (themes) of medieval Byzantium (de thematibus ). He made substantial contributions to the treatise on statecraft intended for the education of his son, Romanus II, a manual of rubrics for court ceremonies (de ceremoniis ) and a practical handbook of foreign affairs (de administrando imperio ). Constantine's collaborators carried out a new edition of the Basilica, the law code of his father, Leo VI. The emperor also commissioned a history in praise of his grandfather Basil I, the founder of the "Macedonian dynasty" which has been ascribed to Genesios, and the encomium of Basil in the work of The ophanes continuatus was said to have been written by Constantine himself or under his supervision.

Bibliography: constantine, De Administrando Imperio, ed. g. moravcisk, tr. r. j. h. jenkins; commentary f. dvornik et al. (Washington 1985); De Ceremoniis, ed. j. j. reiske (Leipzig 18291830); De Thematibus, tr. and comm. a. pertusi (Vatican City 1953). o. kresten, "Staatsempfänge" im Kaiserpalast von Konstantinopel um die Mitte des 10. Jahrhunderts: Beobachtungen zu Kapitel II 15 des sogenannten "Zeremonienbuches" (Vienna 2000). j. skylitzes, Synopsis historiarum, ed. h. thurn (Berlin 1973). j. becker, ed., Liuprand of Cremona, Antapodosis (Hanover 1915), Eng. tr. f. a. wright (London 1930). i. bekker, ed., Symeon the Logothete (Leo Grammaticus) (Bonn 1842); Theophanes Continuatus, (Bonn 1838). a. kazhdan, Dictionary of the Middle Ages (New York 1983) 3:546548. j. featherstone, "Ol'ga's Visit to Constantinople," Harvard Ukranian Studies 14 (1990) 293312. p. grierson and r. j. h. jenkins, "The Date of Constantine VII's coronation," Byzantion 32 (1962) 133138. j. haldon, Three Treatises on Imperial Military Expeditions (Vienna 1990). h. hunger, Die hochsprachliche profane Literatur der Byzantiner (Munich 1978) 1:3607. p. lemerle, Byzantine Humanism: The First Phase (Canberra 1986). g. ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State (Oxford 1968), passim, esp. 169183. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. a. kazhdan et al. (Oxford 1991) 1:502503. j. ripoche, "Constantin VII Porphyrogénète et sa politique hongroise au milieu du Xe siècle," Südost-Forschungen 36 (1977) 112. a. toynbee, Constantine Porphyrogenitus and His world (London 1973). m. whittow, The Making of Orthodox Byzantium, 6001025 (Basingstoke 1996).

[f. nicks/

m. j. higgins]

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