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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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His accession marks the second victory of the military party. The four years rule of this soldier-emperor ended very tragically for him when he was captured and became a prisoner of the Turkish sultan. Great tumult arose in the capital when it received the news of the Emperor's captivity. After some hesitation a new emperor was proclaimed, the son of Eudocia Macrembolitissa by Constantine Ducas, her first husband, and a pupil of Michael Psellus. He is known in history as Michael VII Ducas, surnamed Parapinakes. Eudocia found protection by assuming the veil. When Romanus had been set free by the Sultan and had returned to the capital, he found the throne occupied by a new ruler, and in spite of the fact that he was given the assurance of personal safety upon his return, he was barbarously blinded and died shortly after.

Michael VII Ducas Parapinakes (1071-78) was fond of learning, scholarly disputes, and verse-writing, and was not at all inclined toward military activity. He restored the bureaucratic regime of his father, Constantine Ducas, which was unsuitable to the external position of the Empire. The new successes of the Turks and Patzinaks were persistently demanding that the Empire be guided by a soldier-emperor supported by the army, which alone could save it from ruin. In this respect the spokesman of popular needs, who gave hopes of fulfilling them was the strategus of one of the themes in Asia Minor, Nicephorus Botaniates. He was proclaimed emperor in Asia Minor and forced Parapinakes to assume the cowl and retire to a monastery. He then entered the capital and was crowned by the patriarch. He remained on the throne from 1078 until 1081, but as a result of old age and physical weakness he was unable to deal with either internal or external difficulties. At the same time the large landowning aristocracy in the provinces did not recognize his rights to the throne, and many pretenders who disputed these rights appeared in various parts of the Empire. One of them, Alexius Comnenus, a nephew of the former Emperor, Isaac Comnenus, who was also related to the ruling family of Ducas, showed much skill in utilizing the existing conditions for reaching his goal, the throne. Botaniates had abdicated and retired to a monastery, where he later took holy orders. In the year 1081 Alexius Comnenus was crowned emperor and put an end to the period of troubles. The accession of this first ruler of the dynasty of the Comneni in the eleventh century marked still another victory of the military party and large provincial landowners, It was very natural that during such frequent changes of rulers and unceasing hidden and open strife for the throne the external policy of the Empire should have suffered greatly and caused Byzantium to descend from the high position it had occupied in the medieval world. This decline was furthered by the complicated and dangerous external conditions brought about by the successful operations of the main enemies of the Empire: the Seljuq Turks in the east, the Patzinaks and Uzes in the north, and the Normans in the west.

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