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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Macedonian epoch (867-1081)

External affairs of the Macedonian emperors 


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Notwithstanding the negative outcome of the western alliance against the Arabs, Basil attempted another alliance wirh the Armenian King Ashot Bagratid (Bagratuni) for the purpose of defeating the eastern Arabs. But at the time of the formation of this union Basil died. In spite of the loss of Syracuse and the unsuccessful campaigns against the Arabs, Basil increased somewhat the extent of Byzantine possessions in Asia Minor, and restored the lost importance of Byzantine rule in southern Italy. The aged Basil, said a recent student of his period, could die in peace. He had fulfilled, both in the east and in the west, a very great military task, which was at the same time a civilizing task. The Empire left by Basil was stronger and more imposing than the one he had received.

The peaceful relations maintained by Basil with all his neighbors, excepting the Arabs, were broken under his successor, Leo VI the Wise (886-912). A war broke out with the Bulgarians, which ended with their victory. It was during this war that the Magyars (Hungarians) appeared in Byzantine history for the first time. Toward the end of Leo's reign the Russians stood near Constantinople. Armenia, the ally of the Byzantine Empire, exposed to incessant Arabian invasions, did not receive the aid she expected from Byzantium. In addition to all this the question of the Emperor's fourth marriage aroused strong internal disturbances. As a result of these external and internal complications the problem of the struggle with Islam became more complex and difficult for the Empire.

The campaigns against the Arabs were generally ineffective in the time of Leo VI. In the military clashes on the eastern borders the Arabs were at times as victorious as the Greeks. Neither side gained much from these collisions. In the west the Muslims occupied the city of Rhegium (Reggio) on the Italian shore of the Strait of Messina and after this the Strait was completely in the hands of the Arabs. In 902 they conquered Tauromenium or Taormina, the last important fortified point of Byzantine Sicily. With the fall of this city Sicily was, so to say, entirely in the hands of the Arabs, for the smaller cities which still belonged to the Greeks were of no importance in the later history of the Empire. The eastern policy of Leo VI during the second half of his reign in no way depended upon his relations with the Sicilian Arabs.

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