Constantine IX Monomachus (1042-1055)

Constantine Monomachos

Constantine Monomachos was the son of Theodosios Monomachos an important official of the Byzantine Palace during the reign of Basil II. Constantine Monomachos had been exiled for seven years to Lesvos island, for conspiring against emperor Michael IV the Paphlagonian. He was the third choice as a husband and co-emperor of the Empress Zoe after Constantine Dalassenus and Constantine Artoclines. Constantine Monomachus arrived in the Greek capital on June 11, 1042 and on the same day he and Zoe got married without the participation of Patriarch Alexios I of Constantinople, who refused to bless a third marriage for both spouses. The next day Constantine IX Monomachos was formally crowned emperor together with Zoe and her sister Theodora. He was in love with Maria Skleraina, niece of his second wife, and granddaughter of Bardas Skleros. Constantine brought his mistress in the Palace and in his official presentations his wife Zoe stood on his right and his mistress Skleraina on his left.

"After he had buried two wives, he obtained the favour of a beautiful young widow belonging to the powerful and wealthy family of Skleros. She was the granddaughter of that celebrated Bardas, who had disputed the empire with Basil II and the daughter of Romanos Skleros, the brother-in-law of the Emperor Romanus III. The eminence of her family eclipsed the name of her husband, and she was called Skleraina. Infatuated by love for Constantine Monomachos, she openly assumed the position of his mistress, and shared his banishment at Mitylene. It is, however, only justice to the character of the fair Skleraina to observe that, in the opinion of the bigoted members of the Greek Church, her position of mistress, as being less uncanonical, was more respectable than it would have been had she become the third wife of her lover."
George Finlay (1853)


Greek Empire

"Psellos raconte l' anecdote suivante qui se rapporte aux debuts du regne de Constantin Monomaque. 'Une fois que nous autres les asecretis imperiaux, c'est-a-dire les secretaires du basileus, nous etions reunis, nous assistames au spectacle grandiose d'une procession solennelle de toute la cour se rendant a une fonction. En tete du cortege imposant marchaient les deux souverain Zoe et Theodora. Apres celles-ci venait l'Augusta Sklerena, car tel etait son titre officiel. Comme la procession se dirigeait vers le lieu de la fete, la foule urbaine contemplait pour la premiere fois ce spectacle extraordinaire de la maitresse du basileus paraissant en public avec les deux princesses. La stupefaction de tous, pour ne pas dire plus, fut extreme. Soudain on entendit un courtisan, certainement un homme expert dans l'art de flatter, repeter a haute voix les deux premiers mots de deux vers de l'Iliade. Il cria 'oy nemesis Trojans and Achaoi toihd' amfi gunaiki polyn chronon alghea paschein' ( It is not bad for Trojans and Achaioi to suffer because of such a beautiful woman). Or, dit M. Bury, en ces temps si recules qui nous semblent si barbares, Homere etait peut-etre aussi familier parmi les personnes cultivees de la societe byzantine que Shakespeare l'est de nos jours parmi les membres de la societe anglaise la plus raffinee.

(According to Psellos, when Sklerena had publicly appeared next to the Emperor side, someone from the crowd recited verses from Homer's Iliad, about how Helen's beauty made Trojans and Achaioi fight each other, justifying the emperor's choice in this way. It was common in the Greek Empire for everyone to have good knowledge of Homer's famous works Iliad and Odyssey.)"

Gustave Schlumberger (1904)




Church of Haghia Sophia

Romanos Skleros, brother of Emperor's mistress was in dispute with Maniakes over land properties in Cappadokia. Profiting by Maniakes' absence in South Italy, Skleros looted his house and raped his wife. He persuaded the Emperor to release Maniakes from his duties and to recall him to the Greek capital. Maniakes became terribly angry. When Skleros arrived at Hydrous (Otranto) in September, he seized him, and tortured him to death. Then, he was proclaimed Emperor by his soldiers, who raised him on his shield and led his army back to Constantinople, gathering additional forces on his way. Marching on Thessalonici, he defeated the imperial army but fell mortally wounded, at his very moment of victory (1043). The rebel army was routed and the head of Maniakes was exposed in triumph in the hippodrome of Constantinople. If Maniakes had survived, he would have probably become one of the greatest Greek Emperors and the Turks would have never invaded our Asia Minor.

"Zoe then married Constantine Monomarkos (Monomachos). Maniakes was an enemy to him, and he to Maniakes, because one had violated the other's mistress. (Romanos Skleros had raped Maniakes' wife). The accession of the jealous Monomarkos to the imperial throne filled the tyrant's mind with terror. Remembering the outrage he was carried away by his hatred and rage. He ordered the Greeks under his command not to obey Monomarkos but to make him their prince. The traitor took the imperial dress for himself and did not hesitate to usurp the sacred name of emperor."
William of Apulia (Gesta Roberti Wiscardi - 1090)


Church of Haghia Sophia

"Mense Aprilis descendit Manichi in Tarentum, qui et magister, et coadunavit omnem exercitum Graecorum, et fecit suda in loco qui dicitur Tara. Tunc scripsit Argiro in Auersam ad ipsos Normannos, et in Melfiam, et omnes uenientes quasi septem milia in Mutulam... Mense quidem julio miseri Juuenatiennes, peracto federe cum ipsis Grecis manentibus in Trane, ipse princeps Argiro circumededit eandem miseram Juuenatiam cum Normannis et Barensibus...

In the month of April the magister Maniakes landed at Taranto, and gathered together the whole Greek army and made a camp at a place called Tara. Then Argyrus wrote to the Normans at Aversa and Melfi, and they all came, about seven thousand of them, to Mottola. Then that wicked Maniakes and his whole army were absolutely terrified by fear of the enemy, and they fled by night to Taranto. The Normans remained outside the land gate offering battle and there was no one who could resist them. They plundered all the land of Oria and then returned to their homes. In July the wretched inhabitants of Giovenazzo made a treaty with the Greeks who remained in Trani. Prince Argyrus surrounded that same miserable place of Giovenazzo with the Normans and the Bariots, and, to its misfortune, on the third day of his siege he stormed it; all the moveable property was plundered while the Greeks there were killed."

Bari Annals (Annales Barenses - 1100)


Church of Haghia Sophia

"The imperial forces were slow in drawing up their line of battle, and once they were in position, they were much more concerned to watch Maniaces himself than take part in actual fighting, although most of them never had a chance of seeing him, because he moved too fast. Thundering out words of command, riding up and down his ranks, he struck terror at once into the hearts of everyone who saw him, and his proud bearing overwhelmed our vast numbers from the very start. Nevertheless he met his downfall. It was one of those acts of God, the reasons for which are beyond our ken. He was circling round our legions, spreading confusion everywhere: he had only to attack, and the serried ranks gave way, the solid wall of troops withdrew. Indeed, our whole army was being broken up into groups and destroyed. Then, suddenly, he was hit in the right side. It was not a superficial wound, and the blood flowed freely at once from the deep gash. Apparently he was unaware of the blow at first, but when he saw the trickle of blood, he tried to staunch it with his hand. He realized he had been mortally wounded and in sheer desperation tried to regain his own lines. He did, in fact, get some little way from our army, but as he was now unable to turn his horse's head - his body had lost all strength and he was fainting - he gave a gentle moan, a last gesture, dropped his reins and slid out of his saddle to the ground, a pitiable sight."
Michael Psellus (Yale University Press, 1953)


A quarrel between Russians and Greeks in Constantinople and the murder of a prominent Russian merchant was an important reason for the Russian ruler Jaroslav to attack against the Greek Empire. Jaroslav gathered 100000 men and put his son Vladimir in the command of the huge army. In 1043, Vladimir sailed against Constantinople. On their way to the Greek capital, they were defeated by Katakalon Kekaumenos in Varna and they were forced to return to their ships.

The Emperor Constantine Monomachos sent his Varangian guards, who were mostly from Russia to serve in the eastern provinces, so that they wouldn't fight against their compatriots. Then, he gathered all his war ships into the Sea of Marmara (Propontis) and placed his infantry on the coastline. The Russian ships were fast but small in size and were called monoxyla (canoe). The Greek war vessels were larger and they were called dromones.They were equipped with fire-tubes (Greek Fire) and were manned with pikemen and stone-throwers (ballistres).

Greek Fire

Constantine tried to reach a diplomatic solution. He sent emissaries to Jaroslav with messages urging him not to break the long-lasting peace and promising to make amends for the murder of the prominent merchant. But the emissaries were dismissed and the two sides prepared for war. The historian Psellos stood near the emperor, watching the imminent conflict in safe distance. The Russians remained idle for the next day and the Greek Emperor ordered his Protospatharios (general) Basileios Theodorokanos to take three of the warships and launch missiles against the Russians in order to make them fight. Theodorokanos advanced to the enemy lines and burnt seven enemy boats with the Greek Fire. He and his men jumped onto a Russian ship and captured it, killing all the men of the crew. The Russians left their line and retreated while the Greek Fire burnt most of their ships. A sudden storm completed the victory for the imperial army. The Russians, who retreated to the north through land, were met again by Katakalon Kekaumenos along the coast of Varna and were defeated. All the captives were sent to Constantinople and the emperor had their right hand cut off.

"During the reign of Constantine Monomachus, in 1043, the Scythian merchants (Russians) in Constantinople and the Greeks had a quarrel, during which a Russian nobleman was killed. It is very probable that this incident was used by Russia as a sufficient motive for a new campaign against the Byzantine Empire. The Russian Great Prince Iaroslav the Wise sent his older son, Vladimir, with a large army on numerous vessels to Byzantine shores. This Russian fleet was almost demolished by the imperial forces through the use of Greek Fire. The remnants of the Russian army of Vladimir hastened to retreat. This expedition was the last undertaken by the Russians against Constantinople in the Middle Ages."
Alexander Alexandrovich Vasiliev


Constantine Monomachos



"A new war-cloud, however, rose in the south, emanating from a quarrel among Greek and Russian merchants at Constantinople, in which one of the latter was killed. Yaroslav demanded satisfaction from the Greek Emperor, Constantine Monomachus, and not obtaining it, he sent an army against the Greeks, confiding its direction to his eldest son Vladimir and a boyarin named Vyatcha. Scorning the overtures for peace which came at late moment from the frightened Emperor, the Russians met their enemies in a naval fight, wherein the Greek Fire and the inevitable storm played their accustomed parts. Six thousand of Vladimir's men were forced to abandon their damaged vessels and attempt to make good their retreat overland, led by Vyatcha, who would not desert them in their extremity. Constantine, instead of resting content with the victory which fortune had given him, or following it up with a vigorous pursuit, satisfied himself with half-measures, returning in premature triumph to his capital while he sent the remainder of his ships to hunt the Russians out of the Bosphorus. Vladimir meanwhile had rallied his fleet and turned fiercely at bay, destroying twenty-five of the Byzantine vessels and killing their admiral. Consoled by this success he returned home, carrying with him many prisoners. The division which had attempted the land passage was less happy; overpowered by a large Greek force near Varna, the survivors were taken captive to Constantinople, where many of them, including the brave boyarin, were deprived of their eyesight."
The Rise of the Russian Empire (Hector H. Munro 1900)




"Yaroslav sent his son Vladimir to attack Greece, and entrusted him with a large force. He assigned the command to Vyshata, father of Yan. Vladimir set out by ship, arrived at the Danube, and proceeded toward Tsargrad (Constantinople). A great storm arose which broke up the ships of the Russes; the wind damaged even the Prince's vessel, and Ivan, son of Tvorimir, Yaroslav's general, took the Prince into his boat. The other soldiers of Vladimir to the number of six thousand were cast on shore, and desired to return to Rus, but none of the Prince's retainers went with them. Then Vyshata announced that he would accompany them, and disembarked from his vessel to join them, exclaiming, 'If I survive, it will be with the soldiers, and if I perish, it will be with the Prince's retainers.' They thus set out to return to Rus. It now became known to the Greeks how the Russes had suffered from the storm, and the Emperor, who was called Monomakh, sent fourteen ships to pursue them. When Vladimir and his retainers perceived that the Greeks were pursuing them, he wheeled about, dispersed the Greek ships, and returned to Rus on his ships. But the Greeks captured Vyshata, in company with those who had been cast on land, and brought them to Tsargrad, where they blinded many of the captive Russes. After peace had prevailed for three years thereafter, Vyshata was sent back to Yaroslav in Rus."
Russian Primary Chronicle (Nestor 1113)


According to the Byzantine historian Michael Attaleiates, Leo Tornikios was strategos (general) and patrikios of Melitene (Malatia). The Byzantine bureaucracy distrusted the military leaders and was systematically undermining the army by reducing the funds and by replacing the generals with civil magistrates. Emperor Constantine belonged to those bureaucrats and had reduced the size of the army since he had become an emperor. When a revolt broke out in the army at Adrianople of Thrace, the emperor Constantine, fearful of Tornikios' popularity among the army, recalled him to Constantinople and forced him to become a monk. Tornikios with the help of his friend Ioannes Vatatzes and other military officers fled to Adrianople, where he gathered his supporters and claimed that Constantine was dead. The army proclaimed him emperor, and his soldiers raised him on his shield. On September 25 1047, the rebel army marched against the Greek capital and set up a camp opposite the walls of Constantinople.

This movement spread panic among the capital's defenders, who abandoned their posts on the walls and their gates. Tornikios, however, instead of storming the open gates, hesitated and lost his unique chance to take the city. Emperor Constantine managed to restore order and re-occupy the walls and wait the arrival of reinforcements from the eastern frontier with Armenia. Tornikios withdrew his army while Constantine tried to bribe his friends to convince them to desert. Finally, the army of Armenia arrived in Constantinople and Tornikios was arrested at Boulgarophygon (Babaeski) and was transferred to Constantinople. There he was blinded along with John Vatatzes and many of his supporters, ending in this way the last attempt of a military officer to overthrow Constantinos Monomachos.

DuringConstantine Monomachos reign the education was revived and a group of scholars organized a philosophical faculty and a school of law. This group of professors (didaskaloi) was headed by Michael Psellos, and included Ioannes Xiphilinos, Ioannes Mauropous, Niketas Vyzantios, Constantine Leihoudes and Michael Keroularios. The new establishment was founded in April 1047 in the monastery of St. George and the surrounding complex was situated in the district of Maggana of Constantinople. Education was free of charge and the expenses were covered by the Emperor who paid high salaries to the professors and offered them even silk garments and extra gifts at Christmas and Easter. Admission was free for everyone, regardless of social or financial status. Constantine Monomachos appointed Xiphilinos as nomophylax (head of the law school), and Psellos as hypatos ton philosophon (head of the philosophy school).

Psellos had received excellent education and was one of the most influential personalities in the Palace. He was given important offices and high titles in the Greek state. He taught philosophy and rhetoric and he used to say that "We have fascinated the Celts (Latins) and Arabs and they have resorted to our glory even from the two continents". Psellos left many works on theology, platonic philosophy, natural sciences, philology, history and law. His Chronographia covers the reigns of fourteen emperors, beginning with Ioannes Tsimiskes and ending with the reign of Michael VII Doukas.

John Xiphilinos was born at around 1010 in Trebizond of Eyxeinos Pontos (Black Sea). He received the basic education at his home town and then went to Constantinople for higher education. Xiphilinos dedicated himself to law, philosophy, rhetoric and dialectics. He had photographic memory and remembered most of the laws by heart. So, he was more interested in legal studies than philosophy.

In 1048 the Seljuk Turks under Togrul Beg attacked the Greek Empire. This horde was part of a Mongolian state of Central Asia. Stephanos Leihoudes was the first to face them but he was defeated, captured alive by Kutalmus (Kutalmis) and was tortured to death. Katakalon Kekaumenos then governor of Anion (Ani) and Iberia (Georgia) and the katepano (local governor) of Vaspurakan. Aaron led a successful attack against the Turks of Asan (Hasan) the Deaf. According to Skylitzes the battle took place on the bank of the Stragma river in the east of Lake Van. The Greek troops left their camp and waited nearby. When the Turks entered the camp and began to pillage the place, the Greek and Armenian soldiers attacked the barbarians all of a sudden, killing most of them along with their leader.

In the same year the Turks slipped past the Greek-Armenian lines and attacked the great commercial city of Artze, an Armenian city near Theodosiopolis (Erzerum), inflicting thus a mortal blow on the nation of Armenia. The citizens defended their city so successfully that the muslim leader Ibrahem ordered his hordes to put fire and burn the whole city to the grounds. The destruction and loss of life was terrible, considering that in this Armenian city lived 300000 inhabitants. We could say that 1048 marks the begining of the genocide of Armenians and Greeks by the terrible muslim invaders. The Armenians who survived left their homeland and found refuge to Theodosiopolis.

The Georgian leader Liparit arrived with his warriors, but he was reluctant to fight the muslim invaders. Finally, under Katakalon Kekaumenos' pressure, the combined Greek-Armenian-Georgian forces charged against the enemy at Kapetron (Hasankale) in September 1048. Katakalon Kekaumenos and Aaron excelled in the battle and forced the Turks to withdraw to Azarbayjan. Liparit was taken as prisoner and was transferred to the sultan Togrul, who later would release him free.

Next year Togrul decided to lead an invasion himself against the Greek Empire. He defeated the troops of the Armenian state of Kars, he captured and murdered their general Thatoul but fortunately he failed to conquer the imperial fortress of Manzikert. In 1052 there were new Seljuk raids and in 1053 Togrul again invaded Armenia. He massacred the male population, he enslaved the women and children but failed once again to capture Manzikert, which was defended by the Byzantine general Vasileios Apokapes.

Political, cultural and social as well as theological differences along with the loss of Byzantine territory in southern Italy intensified the dispute between the Greek Church and the Roman Church. Communication between the Greek-speaking East and the Latin-speaking West was deteriorated because the leaders and the people couldn't understand each other's language. The mutual excommunications by the Pope Leo IX and the Patriarch Michael Cerularios in 1054 resulted to the Schism of 1054, event that meant the final separation between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Western Catholic Church. The unity of the Christian world was wounded and finally destroyed because of the barbarian invasions in the East which were caused by the rise of Islam in the Arab world and the invasion of Mongolian Turks.

"Les noms de Photius et de Cerularius sont restes attaches au schisme qui separe encore aujourd'hui l'Eglise Grecque de l'Eglise Romaine. Ces deux patriarches en sont, du temoignage des historiens, les principaux acteurs; les adversaires aussi bien que les partisans de leurs idees le reconnaissent. Leur memoire est honoree a Conslantinople ou a Athenes, comme elle est detestee a Rome. Pour les Grecs, ils sont la plus haute expression de l'Orthodoxie, tandis que les historiens catholiques voient en eux comme incarne l'esprit de rebellion envers le Saint-Siege. Ce schisme, il n'en faut pas douter, fut le resultat de tout un ensemble de faits anterieurs qui concoururent pour ainsi dire vers le meme but, la separation des deux Eglises. Une rivalite perpetuelle separa toujours les pays Grecs des pays Latins.

(Photios and Cerularios are the main responsible for the Schism between the Greek Church and the Roman Church. For the Greeks they express the glory of Orthodoxy but for the Latins they represent the revolt against the Holy See - Sancta Sedes. After 1054, the separation between Greeks and Latins would be permanent.) "

L. Brehier, Le Schisme oriental (Paris 1899)


Constantine IX Monomachos died on 11 January 1055 and Theodora remained the sole ruler of the Greek Empire. The 75 year old empress stayed on power for one year. On 31 August 1056 the last ruler of the Macedonian Dynasty passed away and was replaced by Michael VI Bringas or Stratiotikos.

"Bien que divers indices tres positifs, le si curieux recit de la legation de Luitprand en particulier, nous autorisent a croire que, durant le cours du 10me et le debut du 11me siecle, la vieille haine entre Rome et Byzance du temps de Photius s'etait perpetuee d'une facon cachee, mais certaine, il est non moins certain qu'a la veille meme du Schisme, cette espece de tension qui avait existe sous Nicephore Phocas et Basile II, dans les rapports entre l'Occident et l'Orient, avait completement disparu. Le predecesseur immediat de Michel Keroularios, le patriarche Alexios Stoudite, parait n'avoir jamais eu le moindre conflit avec Rome. Sous son pontificat Occidentaux et Orientaux semblerent meme entrer alors dans une periode de rapprochement. D'excellents rapports existaient entre les deux Empires. Ainsi nous voyons le chroniqueur Adam de Breme se feliciter de l'ambassade envoyee en 1049 a son maitre l'empereur Henri III par le puissant empereur Constantin Monomaque, pour le feliciter des succes obtenus par lui, sur les conseils d'Adalbert, archeveque de Breme. Dans sa reponse, Henri, qui se montrait plein de zele pour les Grecs, se vante de descendre des Cesars Byzantins. Successeur du fils de l'imperatrice Theophano il declare que son ardeur est telle qu'il entend desormais adopter les modes et les moeurs Grecques et 'il le fit comme il le dit', ajoute le chroniqueur (Magni Adami Gesta Hammab).

(Before the Schism the relation between the West and East were very good. After Photios the hate between Rome and Byzantion had stopped to exist. The German king Henry III had best relations with Constantine Monomachos and told him that he was proud for his Byzantine ancestors. He descended from the empress Theophano and he already had Greek manners and customs.)"

Gustave Schlumberger (1904)


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.