Constantine IX Monomachos

Constantine IX Monomachos
   Emperor (q.v.) from 10421055. Later Byzantine (and modern) historians have condemned his disbandment of the border theme of Iberia (qq.v.). He is seen as having further undermined the themes by limiting the civil authority of military governors in favor of appointed judges. His two serious military revolts, by generals George Maniakes and Leo Tornikios (qq.v.), owed something to dissatisfaction over these changes in policy. Nevertheless, Constantine IX was a reformer of the empire's internal administration. He desired a more professional civil bureaucracy, to which end he founded a new school of law, headed by future patriarch John (VIII) Xiphilinos (qq.v.). Xiphilinos was one of a circle of intellectuals who graced Constantine's court who included Michael Psellos, John Mauropous, and yet another future patriarch Constantine (III) Leichoudes (qq.v.). Whatever his good intentions, neglect of the armed forces, indeed their systematic reduction, was foolhardy. The acquisition of Ani from Gagik II (qq.v.) and the defeat of the Rus (q.v.) fleet sent against Constantinople (q.v.) in 1043 by Jaroslav of Kiev (qq.v.) were small victories compared to the threat of new enemies on the empire's borders. In the West, the Normans (q.v.) began their conquest of southern Italy. In the East, the Seljuks under Tughrul Beg (qqv.) raided eastern Asia Minor. In the Balkan Peninsula (q.v.) the Pechenegs (q.v.) crossed the Danube (q.v.) in 1048 and pillaged Thrace (q.v.). The portrait of Constantine IX and Zoe (q.v.) drawn by Michael Psellos in his Chronographia is of an emperor who thought of imperial position as an opportunity for rest and relaxation. He spent lavishly on new monastic endowments (e.g., on the Nea Mone [q.v.]), on his mistress Skleraina (q.v.), and on gifts to curry favor with the great families. Money was obtained by reducing funds for the army (q.v.), and by debasing the nomisma (q.v.). In the church schism of 1054 (q.v.), Constantine had hoped for compromise, for he needed a papal alliance against the Normans in southern Italy. His capitulation to patriarch Michael I Keroularios (q.v.), who resisted any compromise, illustrates Constantine's weakness before the power of the church. Although he tried to be an idealist and reformer, his efforts largely turned to dust when faced with the power of the church and of powerful aristocratic families (dynatoi [q.v.]). All the while, new enemies gathered strength along the borders of Byzantium (q.v.).

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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