Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos

Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos
   Emperor (q.v.) from 945-959; writer and promoter of artistic and scholarly projects. He was co-emperor with Leo VI (q.v.) in 908, but then bypassed for almost 40 years. At first, due to his youth, his uncle Alexander (q.v.) ran the affairs of state. Subsequently there was a regency headed by Patriarch Nicholas I Mystikos (q.v.), then by the dowager empress Zoe Karbonopsina (q.v.), who was forced to yield to Romanos I (q.v.). As sole ruler, his external policy was dominated by warfare with the Arabs (q.v.), with mixed results. An attempt in 949 to dislodge the Arabs in Crete (q.v.) failed. Germanikeia (q.v.) was captured in the same year, only to be recaptured in 953 by Sayf al-Dawla (q.v.). Generals (and future emperors) Nikephoros (II) Phokas and John (I) Tzimiskes (qq.v.) won victories from 954 to 958, the year Tzimiskes captured Samosata (q.v.). Constantine VII did not significantly modify the basic thrust of Romanos I's (q.v.) agrarian policy. For example, he required the dynatoi (q.v.) to restore all peasant lands acquired since 945 without compensation, and he commanded that soldiers' properties not be alienated. However, for land sales made between 934-945, peasants had to repay the purchase price, which was a concession to the magnates. He received various foreign embassies of note, including one from Olga, princess of Kiev (qq.v.). Embassies were exchanged with the court of Otto I the Great (q.v.), and with the Muslim court at Cordoba (q.v.). Constantine VII is best known for his own literary works, which include De administrando imperio, De thematibus, and De cerimoniis (qq.v.). Also worth noting is his support of the minor arts (e.g., manuscript illustration and carved ivories), and for scholarly compilations and encyclopedias like the Geoponika (q.v.), for his chief interest was cataloging and sorting information. Even his own asekretis (q.v.), Constantine of Rhodes (q.v.), described the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople (qq.v.) by cataloging its elements. However, it is particularly in the realm of historical writing, which had declined during the preceding century, that he created an enduring legacy. Genesios, Theodore Daphnopates, and the author of an anonymous historical work, called "Theophanes Continuatus" (qq.v.), were among the historians associated with his court. Other luminaries he appointed as state officials, or as professors in the palace school. Constantine VII remains Byzantium's preeminent scholar-emperor, as well as one of its great patrons of scholarship. However, not among his legacies is the palace in Constantinople referred to as Tekfur; it is now dated to the Palaiologan (q.v.) period.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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