The history of the Macedonian dynasty falls into two periods, unequal in significance and duration. The first period extends from 867 to 1025, the year of the death of Emperor Basil II; the second, the brief period from 1025 to 1056, when Empress Theodora, the last member of this dynasty, died.
The first period was the most brilliant time of the political existence of the Empire. The struggle in the east and in the north with the Arabs, Bulgarians, and Russians, was crowned with brilliant success for Byzantine arms by the second half of the tenth and the beginning of the eleventh century. This was achieved in spite of some failures at the end of the ninth and in the early part of the tenth century. This triumph of the Byzantine Empire was especially great under Nicephorus Phocas and John Tzimisces, and reached its highest point in the reign of Basil II. In his time the separatist movements in Asia Minor were suppressed; Byzantine influence in Syria was strengthened; Armenia was in part annexed to the Empire and in part reduced to vassal dependence; Bulgaria was transformed into a Byzantine province; and Russia, upon adopting Christianity from Byzantium, entered into closer religious, political, commercial, and cultural relations with the Empire. This was the moment of the highest strength and glory ever attained by the Empire. The intensive legislative work, expressed in the publication of a gigantic code, the Basilics, and a number of famous novels directed against the pernicious growth of large landownership, and the intellectual advance associated with the names of Patriarch Photius and Constantine Porphyrogenitus add further glory and significance to the first period of the Macedonian dynasty.
After the year 1025, when the powerful figure of Basil II disappeared from the historical stage, the Empire entered a time of frequent court revolutions and anarchy which led to the troubled period of 1056-81. With the accession of the first of the Comneni, who seized the throne in 1081, the Empire regained its strength. Internal order was re-established, and for some time intellectual and artistic activity flourished once more
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