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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Macedonian epoch (867-1081)

The time of troubles (1056-1081) 


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All the Emperors of the period of troubles of the eleventh century were of Greek origin. In the year 1056 the aged Empress Theodora was compelled by the court party to select as her successor the aged patrician, Michael Stratioticus. Theodora died soon after her choice had been made, and Michael VI Stratioticus, the candidate of the court party, remained on the throne for about a year (1056-57). Against him an opposition formed, headed by the army of Asia Minor, which proclaimed as emperor their general, Isaac Comnenus, a representative of a large landowning family famous for his struggle with the Turks. This was the first victory of the military party over the central government during the period of troubles. Michael Stratioticus was forced to abdicate and spend the remainder of his days as a private individual.

This victory of the military party was short-lived. Isaac Comnenus ruled only from 1057 to 1059, and then renounced the throne and took holy orders. The reasons for his abdication are still not very clear. It may be that Isaac Comnenus was a victim of skillful plotting on the part of those who were dissatisfied with his independent active rule. It is known that he considered the interests of the treasury of primary importance, and in order to increase its income he laid his hands upon lands illegally acquired by large landowners, secular as well as ecclesiastic, and reduced the salaries of high officials. It seems probable that the famous scholar and statesman, Michael Psellus, had something to do with this conspiracy against Isaac Comnenus.

Isaac was succeeded by Constantine X Ducas (1059-67). This gifted financier and defender of true Justice devoted all his attention to the affairs of civil government. The army and military affairs in general interested him very little. His reign may be characterized as a reaction of the civil administration against the military element which had triumphed in the time of Isaac Comnenus, or as the reaction of the capital against the provinces. It was the unhappy time of the domination of bureaucrats, rhetoricians, and scholars.And yet the threatening advances of the Patzinaks and Uzes from the north and the Seljuq Turks from the east did not justify the antimilitary nature of Constantine's administration. The Empire was urgently in need of a ruler who could organize the necessary resistance to the enemy. Even such an anti-militarist of the eleventh century as Michael Psellus wrote: The army is the backbone of the Roman state. In view of this a strong opposition was formed against the Emperor. When he died in 1067 imperial authority passed for a few months to his wife, Eudocia Macrembolitissa. The military party compelled her to marry the capable general Romanus Diogenes, born in Cappadocia. He ascended the throne as Romanus IV Diogenes and ruled from 1067 to 1071.

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