Michael IV the Paphlagonian (1034-1041)



The Paphlagonians were a family of Western Pontus (Paphlagonia). The first member of the family was the eunuch Ioannes (John) Orphanotrophos, who was a man of great influence and high power in the Holy Palace (Hieron Palation). He brought his brother Michael into contact with the Macedonian empress Zoe Porphyrogenita. Zoe fell in love with Michael and married him the same day she had her husband Romanus III murdered (11 April 1034). Michael IV the Paphlagonian was proclaimed emperor and reigned together with Zoe until his death in 1041.



Michael IV was handsome, smart and generous, but he was of humble origin and uneducated. He also suffered from epilepsy and the government was left in the hands of his brother John. John increased the taxes to the aristocrats and introduced a new tax with the name "aerikon", causing discontent among the citizens of the Greek capital. There were many conspiracies against him, one of which was led by the Empress Zoe herself. However, Michael, who was thirty years younger than Zoe, neglected his wife and had her confined in her rooms (gynaikonitis), not allowing her to go out of the Palace. John, in order to secure his authority, appointed his brothers to high offices. Niketas was appointed duke of Antioch, and after his death this post was given to their brother, Constantine. George received the rank of protovestiarios and Stephanos, husband of their sister Maria, was appointed admiral (droungarios tou ploimou). Michael did not spend much time in Constantinople. Instead, he preferred to stay in the capital of Macedonia Thessalonica, where he believed he could find cure for his epilepsy.

In 1034, the Norwegian prince Harald Sigurdarson arrived in the Greek capital with 500 Varangians (Vikings). He was the son of King Sigurd and brother of King Olaf the Saint. The saga writer Snorri Sturluson has written that Harald went into the Grecian Sea, meaning the Aegean. Harald or Araltes as was his greek name served three emperors and later became the King of Norway.

In 1038, a civil war broke out on Sicily between two Arab leaders. The Greek Emperor took the chance to send his Protospatharios (general) Georgios Maniakes to liberate the island from the muslim invaders. George Maniakes was the most famous Greek general of his time. He had fought against the muslims of Syria and had liberated the hellenistic city of Edessa, which was founded by the Macedonian general Seleucus I. Maniakes and Katakalon Kekaumenos led the Greek army and landed in Sicily. Stephanos the brother-in-law of the emperor was in charge of the Greek fleet. Maniakes was assisted by the Varagians (Vikings) of Harald Hardrada and the Lombard mercenaries under Arduin. There were also Norman mercenaries, under the command of Guillaume de Hauteville, who won his nickname Bras de fer (Iron Arm) by defeating the emir of Syracuse in a single strike. Maniakes defeated the muslims of Sicily at Rometta (near Messine) and at Engyon (Troina). According to Greek sources (Skylitzes), the brave general liberated 13 castles of the island, including the famous city of Archimedes Syracuse. Maniakes had a fort built in the harbour of Syracuse (Castello Maniace), which was extended in 1232 during the rule of Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor.

"No sooner had the patrician George Maniakes reached Sicily than the two Arab brothers who ruled there made peace with each other and turned their attention to chasing him off the island. They summoned five thousand allies from Africa and, when they arrived there was a fierce battle at Rhemata (a fortress near a river =rhema, in the eastern part of the island, in the road from Messina to Syracuse) in which Maniakes most certainly put the Carthaginians to flight. There was so much killing that the river which flowed by overflowed with blood. He proceeded to take thirteen Sicilian towns and then, little by little, to conquer the whole island of Sicily. (Maniakes liberated the whole island from the muslim invaders. That time Sicily had large Greek population)"
John Skylitzes (Translated by John Wortley)


The admiral Stephanos (husband of emperor's sister Maria) failed to prevent the Emir's escape to Africa. Maniakes publicly insulted Stephanos and the incompetent admiral wrote to Parakoimomenos Ioannes Orfanotrofos, accusing Maniakes of planning to overthrow the emperor. In response, Maniakes was recalled by the emperor Michael IV and was sent to jail. After the departure of Maniakes, the muslims recaptured Syracuse and Normans conquered most of the Greek cities of southern Italy. On 3 September 1041 at the Battle of Montepeloso (Irsina at Basilikata), the Normans defeated the Greek Catepano (general) Exaugustus Boioannes who was captured alive during the battle and was imprisoned in Benevento.

"The Emperor ordered Exaugustus Boioannes to undertake this office and lead the Greeks in battle. It was said that his father was the victorious Basil, who had forced the Gauls to flee when Melus had led them. Michael Dokianos meanwhile returned to Sicily. Exaugustus addressed the troops who had been entrusted to him as follows:

'Lads, have pride in your manhood, and donít allow yourselves to have the hearts of women! What cowardice makes you always run away? Remember your forefathers whose courage made the whole world subject to them. Hector, the bravest of men, fell before the arms of Achilles. Troy was reduced to flames by the Mycenean fury. India knew of the gallantry of Philip. Did not his son Alexander through his bravery make the strongest of kingdoms submit to the Greeks? The west and indeed every part of the world was once in fear of us. What people, hearing the name of the Greeks, dared to stand before them in the field? Towns, fortresses and cities could scarcely render their enemies safe from their power. Be valiant, I pray you, remember the courage of your ancestors, and donít disgrace them by placing your trust in your feet [alone]! He who dares to fight like a man will overcome the strength of the enemy. Try to follow in the footsteps of your ancestors, and abandon now any idea of flight. All the world should know that you are men of courage. One should not fear the Frankish people in battle, for they are inferior both in numbers and in courage.'

With these words he kindled the Greeks' spirits, ordering them to march down from the mountains and pitch their camp in the plain. After they had done this the Gauls sent out scouts to see what the Greeks were doing. They reported that they were ready for battle, but that while the general had changed the people had not; [so] they feared nothing. The Greeks had left many allies in the mountains, to the safety of which they could return if it should be necessary. These natives came down to help them. The two peoples encountered each other in the plain. There was then heavy fighting. Both strove to be the victors. First one, then the other, fled and then forced the enemy to flee. After the Gauls had resisted for a long time the Greeks made a fierce attack and had come close to victory, when Walter rushed forward into the midst of the enemy, encouraging the retreating Normans to return to the fight. He was one of the counts who had been elected, the son of a distinguished man, Amicus. The Greeks had certainly never suffered heavier losses, most of their soldiers were killed and many nobles perished as well. The wretched Exaugustus was led in chains to Atenulf's city, walking before the victor's horse, since his enemy wanted to emphasise the scale of his triumph."

William of Apulia (Gesta Roberti Wiscardi - 1090)




"We Icelanders tend to look at the Vikings from this literary perspective, a perspective we might call Calfskin Vikings or Paper Vikings, to adapt a term coined by the great scholar and translator, the late Hermann Palsson. The Icelanders are former Vikings, their feats performed not in reality, but in splendid accounts extending to the boundaries of the known world, and not in the present but in the past, thereby enabling them to draw strength for life's tedious routine from the adventures of their ancestors, and also lending some lustre to themselves. Icelanders preserved memories of adventure in the vast and continuous world picture of the Vikings, a kind of nostalgia that has shaped our nation and became a strong feature of its identity.

The Vikings, these Scandinavian sailors, merchants and warriors, were, in a sense, pioneers in northern cooperation, all the way from Canada in the west to Russia in the east, although the methods they used would not perhaps fit within the limits imposed on international diplomacy today. People from the north penetrated south, east and west, engaging in various sorts of contact with different nations and peoples. They settled down and established kingdoms in Britain, France and Sicily, they sailed up the great rivers of Russia and took part in developing the remarkable urban culture there, and they served as mercenaries in Byzantium. They made their homeson uninhabited islands in the Atlantic, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, they established communities in Greenland that survived for four centuries before vanishing without a trace, and they sailed beyond there westwards, to North America which they called Vinland.

Novgorod, or Holmgarour as the Vikings called it, is often mentioned in medieval Icelandic literature, not least in Heimskringla, "The Orb of the World," which is the great history of the kings of Norway written by Snorri Sturluson - the undisputed master of medieval Icelandic literature - in the first half of the 13th century. Russia also features widely in other Sagas of Icelanders and Legendary Sagas, although exactly where its boundaries lay in the Saga Age is unclear. The Tale of Thorvald the Far-Travelled, part of a genre complementary to the saga tradition, tells how Thorvald Kodransson left Iceland in his youth in search of adventures: he went raiding in Britain with the Danish prince Svein Fork-beard, was converted to Christianity in Saxony, returned to Iceland as a missionary, then "journeyed out into the world all the way to Jerusalem to visit holy places. He went all through the Greek Empire and came to Constantinople. " There, he was honoured "by the emperor in Constantinople himself and all his chieftains and no less by all the bishops and abbots throughout the Greek Empire and Syria. Most of all he was honoured in the eastern Baltic, sent there by the emperor as a leader or ruler appointed over all the kings in Russia and the entire Greek Empire." While it is not certain that everything in this account would stand up to close scrutiny by historians, it is still a fascinating chronicle, presenting a vivid picture of the Viking world.

Harald Sigurdarson, who ruled Norway from 1046-66, was called Harald the Stern in the Sagas and is described in most detail in Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla. He was the younger half-brother of King Olaf the Holy and fought with him at the battle of Stiklestad in 1030. Olaf was killed there but Harald escaped to Sweden and then on to meet King Yaroslav in 1031. Snorri says Harald spent several years at Yaroslavís court and "travelled far and wide in the eastern lands" before setting off with a band of men for Greece, and ending up in Constantinople. Michael IV Catalactus (Paphlagonian) ruled Greece at that time, with the Empress Zoe the Great.

Harald joined the Varangian Guard to enter her service, and sailed with his men on galleys. He led a band of mercenaries from 1034 to 1043, fighting many famous battles in the Aegean, Asia Minor, Jerusalem, Africa and Sicily. In Africa, Snorri says, he won 80 cities, acquiring huge wealth, gold and treasures. Everything surplus to the military costs he sent "north to Novgorod to the command and safekeeping of King Yaroslav, and a huge amount of wealth was accumulated there, as was likely to have happened when he raided in the part of the world that was richest in gold and treasure." In Sicily he was also said to have won four cities, and shown great shrewdness in all his warfare. He then headed back to Constantinople.

When Harald returned to Constantinople in 1042 he announced that he wanted to go back home to Scandinavia. Empress Zoe became so angry at this news that she made the King of Greece, who was now Constantine IX Monomachos, throw him into a dungeon. Harald repaid that deed by breaking out of the dungeon, leading his Varangian Guard in an attack on the king, and blinding him. Then he returned to Novgorod where Yaroslav gave him a warm welcome, and the following winter, 1043-44, Yaroslav married his daughter Elisabeth to Harald."

Ornolfur Thorsson




"At that time the Greek Empire was ruled by the Empress Zoe the Great, and with her husband Michael Catalactus (Paphlagonian). Now when Harald came to Constantinople he presented himself to the empress, and went into her pay; and immediately, in autumn, went on board the galleys manned with troops which went out to the Greek Sea (Aegean Sea). Harald had his own men along with him. Now Harald had been but a short time in the army before all the Varings flocked to him, and they all joined together when there was a battle. It thus came to pass that Harald was made chief of the Vikings. There was a chief over all the troops who was called Gyrger (George Maniakes), and who was a relation of the empress. Gyrger and Harald went round among all the Greek islands, and fought much against the corsairs.

Then it was seen what each could do. Harald always gained victories and booty; but the Greeks went home to Constantinople with their army, all except a few brave men, who, to gain booty and money, joined themselves to Harald, and took him for their leader. He then went with his troops westward to Africa, which the Vikings call Serkland, where he was strengthened with many men. In Serkland (Saracene land) he took eighty castles, some of which surrendered, and others were stormed. He then went to Sicily.

Here it is said that Michael was King of the Greeks at that time. Harald remained many years in Africa, where he gathered great wealth in gold, jewels, and all sorts of precious things; and all the wealth he gathered there which he did not need for his expenses, he sent with trusty men of his own north to Novgorod to King Jarisleif's care and keeping. He gathered together there extraordinary treasure, as is reasonable to suppose; for he had the plundering of the part of the world richest in gold and valuable things, and he had done such great deeds as with truth are related, such as taking eighty strongholds by his valour.

Harald was many years in these campaigns, both in Serkland and in Sicily. Then he came back to Constantinople with his troops and stayed there but a little time before he began his expedition to Jerusalem. There he left the pay he had received from the Greek Emperor and all the Vikings who accompanied him did the same. It is said that on all these expeditions Harald had fought eighteen regular battles."

Heimskringla by Snorri Sturluson (12th century)




"Not all the Normans who came to Italy entered Rainulf's service, numerous parties remaining either in the service of Salerno or in that of Byzantium. The greater number (of Normans) flocked to join the army which the Greek Empire, when threatened by the Sicilian Saracens, determined to dispatch under the command of George Maniaces. During this expedition (1038-1040) difficulties, either with reference to pay or to the division of booty, arose between the Greek general and his Norman and Scandinavian (Vikings) auxiliaries, who finally left the army. The leader of the Norman forces, a Milanese adventurer named Ardoin, joined the Catapan Michael Doceanus.

The Lombard rebellion came near to being crushed when Maniaces was appointed governor of South Italy in the spring of 1042, but, when he fell out of favour in September of the same year, the Byzantine general crossed the Adriatic to march on Constantinople. He took with him some of the Norman adventurers, who after his death entered the service of the Greek Empire. They were the nucleus of the Norman force which was formed in Byzantium, a force swelled every year by the arrival of other adventurers from Italy. Soon Normans were chosen to fill some of the highest offices at court, and a few years later one of them, Roussel de Bailleul, even aspired to mount the throne of Constantinople."

The Cambridge Medieval History, Volume V (1926)




In the Armeniakon theme (region of Pontus) there were reactions against the emperor, led by patrikios Constantine Dalassenos and his son-in-law, the future emperor Constantine X Doukas. A part of Byzantine aristocracy hadn't recognized Michael IV as emperor, because the latter did not belong to an aristocratic family. Michael and his brothers took harsh measures and finally imprisoned or exiled all of their opponents, confiscating their property.

In Lycia the Arabs sacked the ancient Greek city Myra where Saint Nicholas had served as a bishop in 4th century. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors and every Greek island has a church dedicated to his memory. In the Greek-Syrian frontier, a ten years' peace was signed with the Fatimid Caliphate, thus ending a period of hostilities. Greece and Egypt agreed not to aid the other's enemies. The Greek Emperor received permission to renovate the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which had been destructed by the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim (1009). In return, Michael released all muslim prisoners.

On the northern frontier the Serbs revolted successfully in 1040, as did the Bulgarians in Macedonia and Romylia in the same year. This revolt was caused by the heavy taxation imposed on Bulgarian subjects and the attempt of the emperor to pass rule of the land over to Greeks (hellenization of Macedonia). In 1040, Peter Delyan, claiming to be the grandson of Tsar Samuil declared war against the Greek Empire. At the head of a large Bulgarian army, Delyan moved southward toward Ohrid, massacring Greeks along the way. The Bulgarians advanced south and reached even Corinth. Emperor Michael gathered a huge army of Greeks and Norman under Harald and defeated the Bulgarians at the Battle of Ostrovo in 1041.

"Rex Haraldus crudelitate sua omnes tyrannorum excessit furores. Multae ecclesiae per illum virum dirutae, multi christiani ab illo per supplicia sunt necati. Erat vir potens et clarus victoriis, qui prius in Graecia et in Scythiae regionibus multa contra barbaros praelia confecit.

(King Harald stood up in the cruelty of all the tyrants, and he has exceeded the fury of their own. Many of the men of the church demolished and many Christians (Greeks) from the penalties were killed. He was a powerful and decisive in Greece and in Skythia (Bulgaria) and many battles against the barbarians (Bulgarians) achieved.)"

Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum - Adam von Bremen (1070)


Michael returned to Constantinople in triumph but he was very ill. He stepped down in favor of his nephew, Michael V Calaphates (son of Maria and Stephanos), and retired to the monastery of Saints Cosmas and Damian, where he died at the end of the year (December 10, 1041).

Michael Calaphates exiled Zoe and his uncle John. The dethronement of Zoe caused violent reactions on the part of the people. So Michael V had to summon Zoe's sister Theodora and crown her Empress at Hagia Sophia. The mob stormed in the imperial palace and the young emperor escaped and sought asyle in Monastery of Studion. The end of Michael was tragic. After an order given by Theodora and Zoe he was dethroned, blinded and exiled. Zoe and her sister Theodora were proclaimed co-empresses by the people, 21st of April, 1042.



"I must repeat the complaint that the vague and scanty memorials of the times will not afford any just estimate of the taxes, the revenue, and the resources of the Greek Empire. From every province of Europe and Asia the rivulets of gold and silver discharged into the Imperial reservoir a copious and perennial stream. The separation of the branches from the trunk increased the relative magnitude of Constantinople; and the maxims of despotism contracted the state to the capital, the capital to the palace, and the palace to the royal person. A Jewish traveller, who visited the East in the twelfth century, is lost in his admiration of the Byzantine riches. "It is here," says Benjamin of Tudela, "in the queen of cities, that the tributes of the Greek Empire are annually deposited and the lofty towers are filled with precious magazines of silk, purple, and gold. It is said, that Constantinople pays each day to her sovereign twenty thousand pieces of gold; which are levied on the shops, taverns, and markets, on the merchants of Persia and Egypt, of Russia and Hungary, of Italy and Spain, who frequent the capital by sea and land." In all pecuniary matters, the authority of a Jew is doubtless respectable; but as the three hundred and sixty-five days would produce a yearly income exceeding seven millions sterling, I am tempted to retrench at least the numerous festivals of the Greek calendar.

When he perceived the irretrievable decline of his brother's health, he introduced his nephew, another Michael, who derived his surname of Calaphates from his father's occupation in the careening of vessels: at the command of the eunuch, Zoe adopted for her son the son of a mechanic; and this fictitious heir was invested with the title and purple of the Caesars, in the presence of the senate and clergy. So feeble was the character of Zoe, that she was oppressed by the liberty and power which she recovered by the death of the Paphlagonian; and at the end of four days, she placed the crown on the head of Michael the Fifth, who had protested, with tears and oaths, that he should ever reign the first and most obedient of her subjects.

The only act of his short reign was his base ingratitude to his benefactors, the eunuch and the empress. The disgrace of the former was pleasing to the public: but the murmurs, and at length the clamors, of Constantinople deplored the exile of Zoe, the daughter of so many emperors; her vices were forgotten, and Michael was taught, that there is a period in which the patience of the tamest slaves rises into fury and revenge. The citizens of every degree assembled in a formidable tumult which lasted three days; they besieged the palace, forced the gates, recalled their mothers, Zoe from her prison, Theodora from her monastery, and condemned the son of Calaphates to the loss of his eyes or of his life. For the first time the Greeks beheld with surprise the two royal sisters seated on the same throne, presiding in the senate, and giving audience to the ambassadors of the nations. But the singular union subsisted no more than two months; the two sovereigns, their tempers, interests, and adherents, were secretly hostile to each other; and as Theodora was still averse to marriage, the indefatigable Zoe, at the age of sixty, consented, for the public good, to sustain the embraces of a third husband, and the censures of the Greek Church."

Edward Gibbon (1782)




As we read in the european sources, the Byzantines were called Greeks by the Europeans. Byzantium was then called the kingdom of the Greeks in the west. Nowadays, under Turkey's pressure the term "Greeks" has been eliminated, because Turkey stubbornly refuses to admit the genocide that the Turks have commited against the Greek people of Asia Minor, which in the 11th century was 100% Christian and 100% Greek. Now after the genocide committed by the Turks, Asia Minor is 100% muslim and 100% Turkish.