Day 747 – Ken here (W)(9-28-2011)
(DEF III, v.5, Ch.48, pp.40-50)(pages read: 2080)
We continue with the Reader’s Digest Version of the biographies of Eastern Roman emperors. Again, as all Gibbon had to go on for the most part are monkish chronicles, the biographies read like fairy tales, and without any material, Gibbon is left repeating the odd fable here and there just to have something to say between regnal dates.
Its getting a little old – this running at high speed through centuries of Roman history, glancing only incidentally at minor and fabulous incidents in each emperor’s reign. But then, this IS the 1780’s and Gibbon’s doing a good job of TRYING to summarize.
So, hold onto your hats, because, it’s time to Ride the Roman Roller Coaster…
I like Michael.
For one thing, he is one of the first modern Europeans – he has a last name, a family name (rather than Michael the Constantinopolitan) that we know about and he was known by. It’s a faint 800’s glimmer of private life as we know it.
He also was unfortunately born in a time when the Romans were desperately back-paddling – in a barrel, on the Niagara river, heading towards the falls and the DUSTBIN of HISTORY – Michael is the prototypical Eastern Roman Success Story for the rejuvenated Roman Empire, recovering from Slavic invasions, a horribly divisive religious controversy (Iconoclasm), and of course the Muslims desire to push the Romans into the sea.
He is a navy man.
He fights the Bulgarians.
He is involved in imperial intrigue and forced to the throne, forcing the current emperor to abdicate.
He confronts the Patriarch, supports the Studite monks, famed for his piety.
He RECOGNIZES Charlemagne as emperor (basileus) – a friggin’ big deal to the Byzantines
He loses battles to the Bulgarians, begins to lose hold of the throne, voluntarily abdicates, retires to a monastery, his sons are castrated – after 3 years on the throne.
He lives another 32 quiet years as a monk in a monastery, one of his sons becomes Patriarch
Quite the life.
This from Wiki:
Michael I Rangabes (Greek: Μιχαήλ Α΄ Ραγκαβές, Mikhaēl I Rangabes) (died January 11, 844) was Byzantine Emperor from 811 to 813.
Michael was the son of the patrician Theophylaktos Rangabes, the admiral of the Aegean fleet. He married Prokopia, the daughter of the future Emperor Nikephoros I, and received the high court dignity of kouropalatēs after his father-in-law’s accession in 802.
Michael survived Nikephoros’ disastrous campaign against Krum of Bulgaria, and was considered a more appropriate candidate for the throne than his severely injured brother-in-law Staurakios. When Michael’s wife Prokopia failed to persuade her brother to name Michael as his successor, Michael’s supporters forced Staurakios to abdicate in his favor on October 2, 811.
Michael I attempted to carry out a policy of reconciliation, abandoning the exacting taxation instituted by Nikephoros I. While reducing imperial income, Michael generously distributed money to the army, the bureaucracy, and the Church. Elected with the support of the Orthodox party in the Church, Michael diligently persecuted the iconoclasts and forced the Patriarch Nikephoros to back down in his dispute with Theodore of Stoudios, the influential abbot of the monastery of Stoudios. Michael’s piety won him a very positive estimation in the work of the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor.
In 812 Michael I reopened negotiations with the Franks, and recognized Charlemagne as basileus (emperor) without saying anything else. In exchange for that recognition, Venice was returned to the Byzantine Empire.
However, under the influence of Theodore, Michael rejected the peace terms offered by Krum and provoked the capture of Mesembria (Nesebar) by the Bulgarians. After an initial success in spring 813, Michael’s army prepared for a major engagement at Versinikia near Adrianople in June. The Byzantine army was turned to flight and the emperor’s position was seriously weakened. With conspiracy in the air, Michael preempted events by abdicating in favor of the general Leo the Armenian and becoming a monk (under the name Athanasios). His sons were castrated and relegated into monasteries, one of them, Niketas (renamed Ignatios), eventually becoming Patriarch of Constantinople. Michael died peacefully in January 844.