Posted by: ken98 | September 28, 2011

Roman Roller Coasters, Emperor Monks, and the Niagara Falls Of History

Day 747 – Ken here (W)(9-28-2011)
(DEF III, v.5, Ch.48, pp.40-50)(pages read: 2080)


WHAT WE ARE DOING TODAY (and for the foreseeable future) - quick, dramatic, high in hormones and energy, low in information and content - photo of Cyclone Roller Coaster at Astroland, Brooklyn New York.

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…

The Story
Constantine VI (780-792)
  • Father Empr Leo + mother Empr Irene
  • Empress Irene battles it out to get Const VI made emp, Const + Irene quarrel, Irene banished to Sicily – she manages to stay and battles for supreme power with her son
  • She is again banished, but raises a rebellion against Const, who has married a second time, Const unpopular escapes from Const
  • Const brought back, imprisoned, blinded, survives many years, is present at wedding of Euphrosyne (his daughter) and Michael II in 811 3 emperors from now
  • Irene rules alone
  • Iconoclasts in retreat

    Irene of Athens (792-802)
  • Rules alone
  • Nicephorus – her treasurer secretly raised to emp (802)

  • Gibbons – hypocritical, avaricious, ungrateful – very VAGUE
  • lost to Arabs, lost to Bulgarians (prob the real reason for bad review of his reign)
  • slain by Bulgarians, his son succeeds him, but is dying of his own wounds

    Stauracius I (811)
  • A 6 months emperor

    Michael Rangabe I(811-813)
  • Michael – Master of the palace – emp for 18 months, is given the purple by Senate and Army as Staur dies
  • NOTE – Michael is one of the 1st people to have both a first and last name – he was Michael Rangabe – the rise opf family names, and the great families
  • Thracian Theme rebels, rather than have civil war, Michael retires – to live out his life in a monastery for 32 years
  • A trio of three men come into power – Leo the Armenian, Michael the Phrygian, Thomas the Cappadocian – LEO is made emperor

    Leo III the Armenian (813-820)
  • ruled with military discipline – crude unlettered – per GIBBON
  • Michael the Phrygian rebels, is captured, brings revolt just as Michael is about to be killed

    Michael II the Stammerer (820-829)
  • 2nd of the troika, he lost provinces –
  • the 3rd of the troika – Thomas rebels, assaults Constantinople, is captured alive by the Bulgarians who is attacking Romans also,has hands and feet cut off by Romans, and paraded backwards on an ass thru the streets

    Theophilus I (829-842)
  • Gibbon – zeal of a heretic and a persecutor, rash and fruitless, justice=arbitrary and cruel
  • Which usually means he managed to lose battles, insult the nobility, and get a bad rep thereby in history
  • A number of legendary injustices are repeated by Gibbon
  • he loses Amorium (838) his birthplace in Asia Minor – Phrygia

    Michael III (842-867)
  • Ascends throne at 5, under his mother’s regency – Theodora
  • Theodora ENDS Iconoclasm – brings back worship of icons for good
  • Supp, Michael lived for the horse races, wine, women, and song
  • Again, Michael was murdered by the founder of a new dynasty – after a 30 year reign – Basil I the Macedonian – so you expect Michael to be painted black


    Barrel, man, and falls - pretty much the Roman Empire in the 700s and 800s

    Photo of the Emperor Michael Rangabe - NO, not really - but the Romans were going over the historical Slavic/Muslim falls in the 800's and barely surviving - (a photo of Bobby Leach, his barrel, and the falls from 1911)


    Last Word…


    A True Man For All Seasons – Michael Rangabe


    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.

    Michael Rangabe being crowned by the Patriarch (811)

    Michael Rangabe being crowned by the Patriarch (811) - he only reigned for 3 years, but managed to live another 32 - a remarkable man and career - and a man that could only have lived and a career that could only have happened in ROME - from an 1100's manuscript of John Skylitzes's Synopsis of History in the National Library of Spain at Madrid - THIS IS ALSO a cover illustration on a very good book of Byzantine History - A history of Byzantius by Timothy Gregory

    Arms - PRIVATE arms of the Rangabe family

    Arms - PRIVATE arms of the Rangabe family - the beginning of the future

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